Monday, August 30, 2010

The Tao of the ELA Common Core

The first step to the Tao of the ELA Common Core is Reading standard number one.

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

The Teacher said to the True Student of the Common Core, "Agree or disagree with the following statement: The wise soul does without doing, teaches without talking.' Use at least three pieces of textual evidence from the Tao Te Ching to support an original thesis."

And the True Student said, "A thesis is no more a part of the Tao of the Common Core than a pebble is part of a stream. I will cite three pieces of textual evidence that the wise soul does without doing and three showing that he does by doing; three that he teaches without talking, and also three by talking."

Enough Cheerleading, We Need Some Reporting and Context

I think I'd like Brearn Wright and agree with him on a number of things, but we're really past the point in this whole reform agenda where it is ok to write a newspaper profile of a new "turnaround" principal from another city without addressing his track record of data.

I mean, two years after this, their scores crashed:

Truesdell is a restructuring school. So all of the staff at Truesdell have to reapply for their jobs. My biggest focus was to staff a good school, and find good teachers. We had an interview process where staff were interviewed by students, teachers, and they engaged in role-playing scenarios. So, in one room, students came up with questions for the candidates. In one room, they had a team of teachers asking them questions. And in another room, they engaged in a role-playing exercises...

[In the room with the teachers], we started out with Clark teachers who were going with me to Truesdell. Once we decided what Truesdell staff were going to stay, they became involved in the process. Then, we used our connection with New Leaders for New Schools and Center for Inspired Teaching, and I asked them point-blank: Who are some of the best teachers in the city? And from there, we made phone calls. Also, we contacted Teach for America, 'Give me the best teachers in your program.'

That's kind of relevant to the discussion in Providence right now. What happened?

We Meant We'll Close the Figurative Achievement Gap

Jonathan Chait:

Turque's article makes a big deal about Rhee's determination to eliminate the black-white acheivement gap. Taken literally, it's bad news when whites pull ahead faster than blacks. But nobody actually takes it that literally. Blacks and whites are not engaged in some zero sum education contest. The point is to raise everybody's scores, wtih a special emphasis on bringing up the scores of African-Americans, who trail badly. The high scores of white students in D.C. are not actually a problem.

Well, if you go to the website of the Education Equality Project, of which Michelle Rhee is a director, it says in big letters:

The huge difference in academic performance between students from different economic circumstances and racial/ethnic backgrounds.

Am I supposed to be reading that figuratively?

If I pick up a copy of a random DCPS document it says right on the cover, amid other exhortations, "We have the power and responsibility to close the achievement gap." Am I supposed to know that this is a noble lie?

This is 100% the reformers own framing. It is idiotic, yes, but it was not foisted upon them, and they can't weasel out when they have to start living up to their own hype.

Neighborhood Schools for Me, Magnets for Thee

I don't understand all the local particulars of the DC public school's drive to "woo white parents," but I think there are subtle differences between real and bogus desegregation initiatives.

In the traditional model you:

  • Let some kids from poor neighborhoods go to schools in rich neighborhoods, which have inherent advantages due to being sited in rich neighborhoods.
  • Give schools in poor neighborhoods some other advantage as magnets to draw in rich students who would otherwise not want to leave their neighborhood.

But you can't really vary that much without achieving a completely different result. If you stop letting outside kids into the rich neighborhood school, but still let rich kids come into the poor neighborhood's magnet school, you're just doubly screwing the poor kids.

And some of the stories from DC seem to be more complicated variations, like an arts magnet in a gentrifying neighborhood that has traditionally served an African American student body being changed to be more appealing to the neighborhood.

Desegregation requires a comprehensive approach.

PPSD's Argument Re: Hope High School

Linda Borg for the ProJo:

On Friday, Anthony Cottone, the lawyer for the School Board, did not present any witnesses as expected. Instead, he told Avila that Deputy Commissioner David Abbott told the district’s chief academic officer, Sharon Contreras, that the regulations regarding common planning time did not apply to Hope. Since Abbott arguably is Avila’s boss (at least one of them), Cottone wondered whether Avila could remain impartial.

That is apparently their whole argument for reducing common planning time in violation of the Basic Education Plan: "Someone told us it was ok and aren't you violating the chain of command?"

Typical for an interaction with the Brady administration, but surprising they'd try it in this context. Kind of an impressive display of consistency, in its own way.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What Got Me Into The Data Business

Anne O'Brien at Public School Insights:

...when teachers have the data, they can become much more attuned to the personal needs of their students.

Also, good luck Claus!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Guest Post at The Line

For reasons known only to her, Dina asked me for a guest post on the whole value added thing right after it blew up. After rejecting my first attempt out of hand, and running my second submission through the phalanx of lawyers, fact-checkers and psychometricians, she keeps on retainer, the final result is here.

If you too would like a guest post, I'll be happy to fax you my rate card.

Full Disclosure: some of the above is not true.

How This Plays Out

Based on the Gates-funded Common Core Curriculum Maps, and the general reaction to them thus far, at the high school level these standards won't be taken much more seriously than any other set of high school standards at first.

What's going to come down the pipe shortly thereafter, however, will be a generation of very consistent, narrowly-focused and predictable high school tests, end of course tests, formative assessments, etc., which are exactly aligned to the standards as written, as I'm reading them here. They will also be fairly hard.

So, while schools that aren't really worried about passing the tests thanks to their affluent population can afford to follow, say, this Common Core Curriculum Map, since it is rather loosely aligned with the CCSSI standards, schools with students at risk of not passing the tests will experience a whole new paradigm of rigorous test prep in the high school ELA classroom. A paradigm well suited to hybrid and online instruction.

Why do you think Tom Vander Ark is so excited?

11th Grade is More Aligned

Common Core Curriculum Map, Grade 11, Unit 5:

What are the effects of the shifting point of view on the reader’s understanding of events in As I Lay Dying. Why do you think Faulkner chose to tell the story from different points of view? Use at least three pieces of textual evidence to support an original thesis. (RL.11-12.3, RL.11-12.5, W.11-12.2, W.11-12.9a, L.11-12.5)


Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).


Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.

So, pretty well aligned, except that why Faulkner might have made this decision is outside the scope of the standard.

There is no reason every question of this type should not be worded in exactly this format:

How does [FAULKNER]'s choice concerning the [SHIFTING POINT OF VIEW] in [AS I LAY DYING] contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact?

Now that's aligned!

Common Core Curriculum Map, Grade 11, Unit 5:

Agree or disagree with the following statement: “Prufrock and Gatsby have similar characters.” Use at least three pieces of textual evidence to support an original thesis. (RL.11-12.1, RL.11-12.5, SL.11-12.4, W.11-12.9a)


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Close! You don't need an original thesis, though.

Fundamental Mis-alignment

Alice Mercer:

Our reform program, interestingly enough, will be centered on student writing. Why is that interesting? Well, it’s not currently a tested subject. It used to be tested in fourth grade, but with budget cuts, they eliminated the test because it’s more expensive to grade than multiple-choice.

I, of course, have no problem with this general concept pedagogically, but... wtf? As far as school accountability goes, you might as well focus on gym class. When they come to shut down your school and/or fire you, writing is not even part of the conversation. At all. When they publish your value-added scores in the paper, they ain't going to be writing scores.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Common Core Curriculum Map, Grade 9 Unit 3, first sample activity:

Write an essay that compares and contrasts aspects of the use of a literary device in two different poems. Discuss at least three aspects. (RL.9-10.4, W.9-10.2)


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of several word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

RL.9-10.4 is not about literary devices. The phrase "literary device(s)" does not appear in the Common Core standards. Nor, for that matter does it require you to make a comparison between texts. The standard does not ask you to do an open ended analysis of the "aspects of use" of language.

It asks you to do two very specific tasks, and that's it. The rude awakening is going to come when high school principals start looking at each class's scores on RL.9-10.4 every six weeks, and they realize that their 9th grade teachers are using a completely misaligned in-class assessment. Or, based on this month's buzz, when teachers start not getting their performance bonuses because the school's assessments are significantly more difficult than those specified in the standards.

An analogy to a similar sloppy hypothetical alignment in early elementary literacy or math in general would be helpful here, but I can't really generate one.

RIFT and NEA RI Heads Go There

Linda Borg for the ProJo:

SMITHFIELD — The leaders of the state’s two teachers’ unions said that they would not be opposed to consolidating Rhode Island’s 36 school districts into one big district.

Although they cautioned that they were speaking as private citizens, Marcia Reback, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, and Robert A. Walsh Jr., executive director of the National Education Association, Rhode Island, offered the most radical suggestions about how to fix public education. The two made their remarks at a morning-long forum in Smithfield sponsored by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council.

Reback said a statewide school district might be the only way to level the playing field between rich and poor students in Rhode Island, where the vast majority of poor, urban students attend schools that are largely isolated from their white middle-class peers.

“Desegregation works,” Reback told 200 educators, community leaders and public officials gathered Tuesday at Fidelity Investments. “We need to create opportunities for students of color and those with limited English language skills to go to school with kids who aren’t like them.”

What, she asked, would close the gaps between poor children and privileged ones? Combining the Central Falls and the Cumberland school districts. Joining Lincoln and Pawtucket.

This, she said, is what Rhode Island needs: all-day kindergarten in every city and town, high-quality preschool for children and fresh opportunities to offer vocational education to students who aren’t college-bound.

Extra points for bringing this up on a panel with Commissioner Gist. Make her defend the status quo or advocate for desegregation.

Nobody Could Have Predicted

Palo Alto Online:

California Star Test results shot up this spring for students in the Stanford-sponsored charter school, East Palo Alto Academy Elementary School.

But results of the May test, posted last week, were too late to save the three-year-old school.

Citing poor academic performance, trustees of East Palo Alto's Ravenswood City School District voted April 22 to shut down the charter school. It closed its doors in June.

Watch out for the torrent of apologies and condolences from the right side of the ed reform blogosphere.

Perhaps They Haven't Been Told About "The Secret of Total Student Load"

Will Fitzhugh:

At lunch on the last day, however, I discovered that Florida is a “right to work” state, and that their local union is rather weak, so they each have six classes of 30 or more students (180 students). One teacher is being asked to teach seven classes this year, with 30 or more students in each (210).

After absorbing the fact of this shameful and irresponsible number of assigned students, I realized that if these teachers were to ask for the 20-page history research paper which is typical of the ones I publish in The Concord Review, they would have 3,600 pages to read, correct, and comment on when they were turned in, not to mention the extra hours guiding students through their research and writing efforts. The one teacher with 210 students would have 4,200 pages of papers presented to him at the end of term

You know what would solve this problem? Mayoral control.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wait, What's a Standard?

What you need to know about the Common Core Common Core State Standards Initiative ELA Curriculum maps is that for each unit they list both:

Focus standards. These standards are taken directly from the CCSS and have been identified as especially important for the unit. Other standards are covered in each unit as well, but the focus standards are the ones that the unit has been designed to address specifically. Each grade includes a standards checklist that can be linked to from any unit in the grade. The checklist indicates which standards are covered in which unit—allowing teachers to overview standards coverage for the entire school year. 

Student objectives. These are the main goals for student learning and student work in the unit. They describe what students should know and be able to do when the unit is completed. It is not an exhaustive list; it is meant to provide focus and clarity for teacher planning purposes.

That is, they yadda yadda the CCSSI standards, but what the students should actually "know and be able to do" is entirely different. I don't know what the fuck anybody actually thinks standards are for. I have no idea. What are we even talking about?

For example, in grade 9, Epic Poetry, Heroism, focus standards:

  • RL.9-10.2: Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • RL.9-10.3: Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
  • RI.9-10.7: Analyze various accounts of a subject in different mediums (e.g., a person’s life story told in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.
  • W.9-10.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • SL.9-10.3: Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.
  • L.9-10.1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

And the student outcomes:

  • Identify and explain the elements of an epic poem.
  • Identify and explain the characteristics of an epic hero.
  • Analyze the relationship between myths and legends and epic poetry.
  • Examine the historical context of literary works.
  • Compare and contrast how related themes may be treated in different genres (here, epic poetry and contemporary nonfiction).
  • Hone effective listening skills during oral presentations and class discussions.

The outcomes don't follow from the standards at all. They're a completely different set of standards.

OK, sample activities and assessments:


Write an essay in which you take a position on whether or not Aeneas or Odysseus (or a contemporary soldier from another reading) exhibits the characteristics of an epic hero. State your thesis clearly and include at least three pieces of evidence to support the thesis.  (W.9-10.1)


Write a poem or prose narrative about a journey you or someone you know has taken, using epic similes, epithets, and allusions. (W.9-10.3)


Write an essay in which you compare the ways in which the theme of heroism is treated in The Aeneid or The Odyssey and one of the contemporary nonfiction accounts. State thesis clearly and include at least three pieces of evidence to support the thesis. (RL.9-10.2, RI.9-10.7, W.9-10.2)

Oral Presentation/Class Discussion

Play excerpts from Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas and lead the class in a discussion on whether this rendering of an epic in another medium is or is not “faithful” to the original. Discuss why or why not. Ask classmates to provide specific evidence for their opinions. (RL.9-10.7, SL.9-10.2, SL.9-10.3, SL.9-10.4)


Select a one-minute passage from The Odyssey or The Aeneid and recite it from memory. Include an introduction that states:

  • What the excerpt is.
  • Who wrote it.
  • Why it is significant as an example of an important literary tradition. (RL.9-10.6, SL9-10.6)
Seminar Question

“Is Aeneas/Odysseus courageous?” The seminar question may also be used as an essay topic. (RL.9-10.3 and SL.9-10.1, SL.9-10.4, and SL.9-10.6)

Those are nice enough assignments, but look this isn't mysterious. That's not based on the standards. A curriculum aligned to the CCSSI standards would look more like this:

Determine the theme or central idea of [THE ODYSSEY] and analyze in detail its development over the course of [THE ODYSSEY], including how it emerges and is refined and shaped by specific details; provide an objective summary of [THE ODYSSEY]. In an essay, s'il vous plaît.

Analyze how [ODYSSEUS] develops over the course of [THE ODYSSEY], interacts with [TELEMACHUS and PENELOPE], and advances the plot or develops the themes of [THE ODYSSEY] (as you described above). In an essay, s'il vous plaît.

That's what's in the standards. They weren't written that way by accident.

L.A. Times Skewers Last Decade of Ed Reform

I've not seen as much comment about the second article in the LA Post's series on value-added analysis as we did for the first. This one, LA's Leaders in Learning, focuses on school-level analysis, and with a change in framing would serve as a blistering critique of No Child Left Behind's accountability regime. It turns out that using value-added analysis, one finds that many low poverty schools with low absolute scores identified as failing under NCLB are actually achieving greater growth, more learning, than many other schools with more affluent student bodies and higher scores.

It is, of course, not particularly surprising. This is presented in a rather muddy fashion. On one hand, there's too much casting about for blame, when the fact of the matter is districts have had to focus on NCLB style accountability because that's the federal law, and while the Obama administration professes to want to change, their actions up through the latest round of mandated school restructurings, have maintained the same system. Also, getting too wound up about the availability of school-level growth data in elementary school is a bit of a show. The kids are tested every year, so one can pretty clearly see even by looking at one year where the kids are starting and finishing in a given school, and to be honest, it isn't clear to me that it is a more accurate evaluation of a school to look at, say, where this year's fifth graders started six years ago, since it is fairly likely the school has been extensively reorganized at least once in that span of time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Will the LA Times Publish Value-Added Analysis of Software?

Walt Gardner:

The irony is that reformers demand evidence-based solutions, and yet they are quite willing to sign contracts with groups devoid of any such data to support their proposals. If this policy is to continue, then at least let's adopt the American Enterprise Institute's recommendation that school districts demand performance guarantees. This would make contractors forfeit payments when they fail to achieve their goals.

Will the Amazon for education?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

21st Century Skillz

A discussion this afternoon between me and a SchoolTool developer in El Salvador:

The American Way of Breaking Down a Child

Michael Ruhlman:

An artisan butcher is one who makes the best possible use of each animal he puts hand and knife to, and, importantly, one who wastes as little of that animal as possible. How an animal is to be used should determine the way it is broken down. The American way of breaking down a pig is very American, in my opinion, a kind of brutal sectioning off into rectangles, without regard to the noble beast itself (pretty much what we did to the country itself). It’s not without reason—the method is to maximize the middle of the pig which are it’s most lucrative parts. In Italy—as we learned recently from Kentucky chef Jay Denham, whom I wouldn’t hesitate to call an artisan butcher and who staged for many weeks under various butchers in Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna—when the pig will be turned into salumi, the butchery is designed to maximize that salumi. In the photo that leads this post, the butcher is cutting straight through the coppa, the neck-shoulder muscle that is one of the best for dry-curing. You wouldn’t see a shoulder handled this way in Italy, but in America, it’s perfect for Carolina barbecue.

Seriously, though, I'm pleased to see this:

Chef Champe Speidel of Persimmon in RI is set to open in the fall Persimmon Provisions, an artisan butcher shop in Barrington.

Also, a not directly related quote I read last night that reminded me of Doyle:

In 1724 seven hundred thousand bass were taken from a single pond in New Jersey, loading fifty carts, a thousand horses, and several boats.

The Path Not Taken (in Education)

Andy Oram:

VistA (the Veteran's Administration's health care) software was most decidedly a bazaar, not a cathedral. It was conceived by doctors in the late 1970s, and built either by health care providers or by programmers working closely (sometimes having chairs literally side by side) with health care providers. VistA is actually a loosely interconnected system containing over 100 integrated, patient-focused applications.

Distributed development started because many different doctors had bright ideas at about the same time. The distributed approach continued despite (perhaps even because of) overt persecution. When the developers tried to get together to formalize their relationships, they were discovered and disciplined (through firings or having their computers confiscated) because they were bucking the official mainframe-based IT team. The developers' tenuous position was reflected in the name they picked for themselves, the Hard Hats, and even more in the name attributed to them later by the head of the VA: the Underground Railroad.

Conceptually, VistA also emerged in a bazaar-like fashion. No one originally thought of the comprehensive life-long health management system VistA has become. Rather, each piece of the system emerged from a narrow need recognized by a health care provider: keeping track of diagnoses, analyzing diabetic nutrition, ensuring that medicine was administered to patients properly, and so on. Eventually, once the VA administration got on board the railroad, everything was linked together.

It's a truism that open source software development (and perhaps all software development ) is best driven by the people who will ultimately use it. So we can understand why VistA meets certain essential needs -- such as allowing an emergency room doctor enter an order within a few seconds -- that are missed by most proprietary software in the health care field. But I find it surprising that the system could work so well when each piece was developed in isolation. Perhaps the software used can provide a clue.

FELCH: Knows What He's Talking About, Whether or Not it is True


But education's not Felch's beat, as is apparent from yesterday's All Things Considered, in which he makes the outdated assertion that districts know or do nothing to distinguish between high and low classroom performers:

"Schools around the country do nothing to study these highly effective teachers, do nothing to reward them or recognize them...For years, we have known nothing about this." ('L.A. Times' Series Examines Teacher Ratings)

That's no longer the case, I would argue, given the spread of various performance pay and value-added initiatives -- and ignores the key distinction between using the data and broadcasting it publicly.

Felch and Song, October 18, 2009:

North Carolina has... adopted value-added statewide.

Not to mention Race to the Top, of course.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Why Teachers Unions are Weak

Doug Henwood:

There are many ways to measure the death of organized labor as a social force in the U.S. Here’s what might be the most objective one: the virtual disappearance of labor’s ultimate weapon, the strike.

The graph above shows the annual number of major strikes, as tallied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (The front page for all their strike/lockout stats is here: Work Stoppages Home Page.) The figure for 2010 annualizes what we’ve experienced so far this year. The little uptick, from a total of 5 in 2009 to 20 in 2010, was boosted by a strike by 15,000 public sector construction workers in Chicago in July. Their strike produced 180,000 lost workdays last month, the highest total since 600,000 in October 2008. These numbers are nothing when compared to the peak of labor’s power, from the 1950s through the 1970s, when we saw as much as 60 million lost workdays a year, or 0.4% of the total number worked economy-wide (the record, set in 1959). Heck, it’s nothing compared even to 2000’s 20 million lost days, or 0.06% of the total.

That is, they are weak because the labor movement as a whole is weak.

SchoolToolBox SMS

This is the favela chic version of the SchoolToolBox I've been working on to demo using SMS text messages as a data bus to send school data from the hinterlands back to the Ministry of Education (or whatever) when you don't have landlines (and probably never will).

So it is a SheevaPlug (via Tonido), with a little four-port USB hub stuck on one side (this should be less necessary as newer versions sprout more ports) with a USB stick for extra data storage. Velcro-ed to the other side is an old Nokia 6021, a model I picked out because it seemed to be highly compatible with Linux. The phone is connected to the plug server via USB, and it is also plugged into the same extension cord as the server. Finally, there's an ethernet cable also ostensibly connecting the server to the school's LAN, or at least a computer with a web browser.

I got the phone on eBay and wondered why it was taking so long to get here; when I checked the auction I realized I'd bought it from someone in Israel! So shipping took an extra ten days or so, and it has nice Hebrew letters (and English) on the keypad (and in a few left over messages and contacts). When I put my T-Mobile SIM card in, I had to do some crazy unlock code hacking, but got that to work before I bricked the phone.

Now I just have to get the blasted thing to talk to my computer, particularly before the Rhode Island Mini Maker Faire at the end of the month, where I've committed myself to demo-ing it. At the moment I seem to be stuck with the wrong version of the data cable for the phone (doesn't work under Linux or Windows), or perhaps just an overly cheap knockoff, so I'm waiting for what will hopefully be an official Nokia CA-42 cable that will solve all my problems.

In the meantime, bluetooth on the phone seems to be broken, it just doesn't turn on when you select it in the phone menu, but I can control the phone over the good old infra-red irda port using Gammu. So that's something, although not actually practical for sending and receiving data from a server.


Sherman Dorn:

I've never had Saul Alinsky-like organizing training, so I'm sure there are some additional, more creative approaches (to protesting the LA Times publishing value-added analyses of individual teachers).

I have, and I'd suggest starting with making fun of the name of one of the Times' reporters.

Whether or not the title of Dorn's post, "Not exactly covered with glory in L.A." is an oblique reference to this practice, I cannot say.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hope High Students Win a Round

Linda Borg for the ProJo:

PROVIDENCE — Hope High School students on Monday won a preliminary round in their fight to preserve one of the reforms they say has been crucial to the school’s dramatic turnaround.

Forest Avila, a lawyer with the state Department of Education, denied the Providence School Board’s motion to dismiss the appeal brought by several Hope High School students and their parents. In his decision, Avila ruled that the students do have standing in this case because the regulations regarding common planning time directly affect them.

“We therefore find that these students will be aggrieved by any reduction of common planning time at Hope High School,” Avila wrote, “and that they therefore have standing to bring the petition now before us.”

This decision, which was signed by state Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist, clears the way for the students’ case to go forward. Avila is expected to schedule a hearing to take testimony from the Providence School Board.

“This is proof of what happens when an entire community — students, parents, teachers and members of the community — comes together,” said Erin Regunberg, one of the Brown students who organized the Hope youth.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Crown Jewels

Tom Geoghegan (following this quote in the full book version):

At the SPD headquarters I met people on the left, the best and brightest, who can at least think in this framework. They grasp what their job is: to protect the way of life of a largely high school-educated middle class. That way of life is what constitutes the crown jewels. The protection of the crown jewels is a fiduciary responsibility. I hate to say so, but Democrats and Kennedy School-types (with honorable exceptions)--certainly Democratic politicians--really do not think seriously about how, in a practical way, to raise the standard of living of the non-college grad population. Look, I like Larry Summers in some ways: at least he is willing to blush about the shameful number of people we have locked up in prison. But he would never be in the SPD. He could never relate to the striking kids under twenty-seven rapping in German on YouTube. If I ask most Democrats and their think-tank minions how to help the middle class, they have no real answer except to tell them to do to college. But for most Americans that's no answer, so essentially we Democrats are telling them to pound sand. If they didn't go to college, their lives are over.

Sunday's News, On Wednesday

I apparently forgot to hit Publish Post on this when I wrote it Monday afternoon...

If for some reason you haven't read Dana Milbank's column in Kaplan Test Prep Daily, On education policy, Obama is like Bush, you should. Milbank is a douche, but this piece is impressively on-point.

And I can't improve on Corey Bunje Bower's analysis of The Great LA Time Value Added Kerfuffle of Ought-Ten:

*Teacher quality varies widely within schools -- just as with test scores, there's far more variation within schools than across schools ("Teachers are slightly more effective in high- than in low-API schools, but the gap is small, and the variance across schools is large"). Which means that the highest performing schools don't have all the best teachers and the lowest performing schools don't have all the worst teachers. Which means that something other than teacher quality is causing schools to be low and high performing. Which means we should probably focus our attention on more than just teacher quality.

*There's an extremely weak correlation between how the schools fare in the state API rating system and how they fare in a measure of "school effects" that controls for all sorts of factors. As Buddin writes, "About a fourth of low-API schools have above average school value added relative to other elementary schools in the district. Similarly, about a fourth of the highest-quartile API schools have below average school effectiveness. The overall message is that many schools with low achievement levels are producing strong achievement gains and many schools with high achievement levels are producing weak achievement gains for their students."

*I'm not sure exactly how large the teacher effects are, but looking at the info they provide, with the exception of a few outliers, they don't appear to be earth-shatterlingly huge. The methodology paper says that a student with a teacher one standard deviation above normal would move from the 50th to 58th percentile in ELA. If I'm doing my math right (which I might not be -- it's late), that means that 2/3 of teachers, on average, move their students up or down less than one-fifth of a standard deviation each year. The article mentions a teacher who's ranked among the top 5% of all elementary school teachers whose students gain, on average, 4 and 5 percentile points in ELA and math in a given year.

*The article mentions a teacher held in high-esteem at one of the highest scoring schools who performs far below average according to the value-added scores. According to the article, her principal thinks she's a great teacher as do the kids and parents in her school. This means that either a.) principals, kids, and parents aren't good judges of teacher quality (at least sometimes), and/or b.) what people define as a good teacher only somewhat overlaps with what teachers can do to boost value-added scores

Who will be surprised if sometime around 2018 the Gates Foundation announces that, surprise, while teachers vary in quality, teacher quality is not actually responsible for or the solution to the achievement gap.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Get In The Van Girls, We're Going On a Punk Rock Field Trip!

Why Be Something That You're Not: Detroit Hardcore 1979 - 1985:

Tesco Vee: -- The Necros were supposed to play but they got stopped at the border because of all the studs and chains they were wearing. I was teaching school at the time and I remember I had my pants down and the microphone stuck up my butt at one point during the show and I was like, "I don't think I should mention this at school tomorrow."

Mr. Vee is going to be at Knight Memorial Library in sunny Elmwood tomorrow at 1:00 to talk and sign copies of Touch and Go: The Complete Hardcore Punk Zine '79-'83.

I saw Tesco and The Meatmen in State College circa 1986, didn't get the joke, and to be honest, still don't. But having him show up in Elmwood in a Saturday afternoon is to weird not to pass up.

Who Cares? Habits of Mind and Standards

For whatever stupid reason, I've found myself thinking about how an analysis of last weeks WSJ article, Some Firms Struggle to Hire Despite High Unemployment, would fit in with the Common Core ELA standards.

In case there's any confusion about where I'm starting from, the best description of what I do and what I would want my children or students to do while reading this texts comes from the old Mission Hill habits of mind:

  • How do you know?
  • Whose point of view are you seeing?
  • What causes what?
  • How might things have been different?
  • Who cares?

Although those aren't standards, per se except insofar as you would require a student demonstrate their use of the above.

England's Programme of Study in English is, compared to most countries, fairly similar in approach to the Common Core. Under "Reading for meaning" they have "Students should be able to:

  • f reflect on the origin and purpose of texts and assess their usefulness, recognising bias, opinion, implicit meaning and abuse of evidence
  • g relate texts to their social and historical contexts and to the literary traditions of which they are a part
  • h recognise and evaluate the ways in which texts may be interpreted differently according to the perspective of the reader

I would consider those sufficient tools to understand what is going on in the WSJ article.

The American Diploma Project's "Logic" section shows how we now start to wander off the path. It deals pretty well with rhetoric as argument, but isn't adequate for the WSJ article, because the article isn't an argument. It is informational, but part of a larger implicit argument, dependent on the class context of its writer, publisher and readers for its ultimate meaning. For example, an unemployed person should not conclude from reading the article that he or she should pursue training as an "industrial hygienist."

Anyhow, let's get down to nuts and bolts and relevant Common Core standards.

Let's look at 9th and 10th grade standards because the 11th and 12th grade standards focus on specific texts like "seminal U.S. documents" and "a text in which the rhetoric is particularly effective," so... I don't know what to do... So we'll just do 9-10. Under Reading: Informational Text: Craft and Structure we have:

6. Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.

But that's not right is it? If I'm thinking about the author's point of view or purpose I'm losing the track compared to focusing on The Wall Street Journal's point of view and purpose. And does "how an author uses rhetoric" get at the substance of a critical analysis?

In the "Integration of Knowledge and Ideas" section we also have:

8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.

Now, this is confusing because in the writing standards "argument" and "informative/explanatory" are separate, but in reading, argument is part of "informational?" Anyhow, this text isn't explicitly an argument, except insofar as it claims that "some firms struggle to hire," which is true, if weak, depending on your definition of "struggle." It isn't wrong because it is false or fallacious.

There are some variations on these in the science and history/social studies literacy standards, including in 11th and 12th grade:

  • 8. Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
  • 9. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

These kind of jump in out of nowhere, and leave one puzzled over the relationship between, um, ELA informational text and History/Social Studies informational text since the ELA analogue standards in those years are specifically about historical documents. The History version has a bit more spunk, but isn't the kind of analytical frame England sets up.

And... that's it. It may be true that most other current state standards don't give readers any more powerful tools, but beyond logical analysis of arguments, there's not much there in the Common Core.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Turning Good Jobs Into Bad Jobs

Ann Hood:

When I began my career as a flight attendant, I was a 21-year-old with a B.A. in English and stars in her eyes. I wanted to see every city in the world. I wanted to have adventures that, I hoped, would fuel a writing career some day. Flying was glamorous then, and as I wheeled my suitcase through airports from Chicago to Cairo, kids still pointed and adults still smiled at me. Deregulation had just passed, and I watched as fares began to drop and flying became more accessible to everyone. Yet that did not change our level of service or the passengers' attitude. A mutual respect existed, and despite the occasional grumpy businessman or harried mother or someone who was just a jerk, I went to work eagerly and left happy. I think it's fair for me to say the passengers felt the same way.

By the time I hung up my wings in 1986, change had begun. Corporate raiders were buying up airlines, slashing salaries and fares, and cutting amenities. Carl Icahn, who took over TWA, announced he was going to "de-cunt" and "re-cunt" the airline. His plan was to get rid of the flight attendants whom he saw as too old and overpaid and replace them with young, pretty ones who would work for half the amount and double the hours. Even the airlines that avoided the raiders followed them in changing compensation and workloads. I cannot deny that a job that combines physical labor, standing up for long hours, dealing with people, and jet lag is tiring. But the changes in work rules turned tired into exhausted, and the changes in pay turned comfortable into barely able to make mortgage and car payments. Smiling became harder.

But passengers still expected the service they'd grown used to. Simple pleasures like cream for their coffee and pillows on their seats disappeared. Before long, they were paying for food and to check their luggage. They sat in seats with less leg room and had fewer choices of flights, and those flights had more connections than ever before. Flight attendants stopped smiling and passengers started grumbling.

Remind you of anything?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"...had I read it then, I would probably be a better person than the one I am today and certainly a better educator."

I skipped commenting on Beth Aviv's (nee Beth Greenbaum) Salon essay, The hot young teacher they hired instead, because it hit a little too close to home right now, and I didn't want Jennifer to read it. It depressed me enough as it was.

But I hit the roof when I read Martha Infante's sanctimonious response:

Professional development may or may not be the focus of a school’s principal, or district. In lean budget times, a teacher wanting to make an impact will pay out of pocket to find the right training, read the right book, talk to the expert in the field to make sure they are professionally ready to meet the needs of that classroom’s students, no matter what they are. And it never ends; the students are different from class to class, year to year, school by school, state by state. An exemplary teacher will never stop training.

An exemplary teacher’s resume would contain lists of workshops, conferences, and trainings they have attended. It would show a depth of knowledge in a couple of fields, because knowledge a mile wide and an inch deep does no one much good. As a content expert then, the teacher would have shared their knowledge in a professional learning community. The resume would show local, state, and national conferences in which they have shared their expertise with other educators. Fellowships, Fulbrights, awards and recognitions would demonstrate a teacher like this was determined to acquire unique learning experiences with educators at an international level.

Returning to the school, the teacher would be an innovator and a leader who would identify areas of need in the school community, and galvanize support to form clubs, programs, or initiatives that help students directly. Are students hungry? They acquire donations from the community. Are they eating unhealthy food? Lobby the district to eliminate junk food from schools. Are there to many crimes committed against students on the way home? Work with parents to organize a safe walk home program. You get the picture.

In short, it is unlikely that an accomplished teacher like this would be allowed to be fired from the school to be replaced by a rookie who cannot yet provide the same depth of contribution as the veteran, no matter what kind of shoes they wear (the author lamented having to wear comfort shoes instead of more appealing shoes due to her age.)

I invested the ten frickin' seconds it took to look up Ms. Aviv's book, Bearing Witness: Teaching About the Holocaust, on Amazon, which has some illuminating quotes.

Moshe Sokolow of Yeshiva University in Columbia University Teachers College Record:

Had BEARING WITNESS been written 30 years ago as the tide of Holocaust studies was rising, rather than at its crest, and had I read it then, I would probably be a better person than the one I am today and certainly a better educator. This is the power of Beth Aviv Greenbaum's narrative of her experience, along with her students', in developing, delivering and assessing a course in Holocaust literature.

Far from being a narrow, parochial presentation of a particularistic subject, the book is a paradigm of multi-media, multi-sensory, multi-intelligenced and multi-faceted pedagogy. While it may appear oxymoronic (or, at least ironic), I enjoyed reading the book. As familiar as I was with the plot and the characters, as much as I knew the outcome at the outset, I looked forward to each consecutive chapter. That is memorable, and memorable, in pedagogy, is effective.

Gerda Weissman Klein and Kurt Klein:

What is most striking about Beth Greenbaum's method of teaching is that she is not content to merely present the facts to her students, but manages to engage them until they literally walk in the shoes of the victims, and to some extent in those of the perpetrators. Lengthy discussions follow the presentation of the material, and by challenging her students to face the moral dilemmas the victims were confronted with almost daily, she brings as much reality to the events as is possible from this distance in time and location. The effectiveness of her teaching is evidenced in the countless perceptive reactions on the part of her students, be it in their verbal analyses or in the essays they ware compelled to write. It seems that no one leaves her course without an entirely different perspective on that world that was than when they began those sessions.

Look, I don't know Beth Aviv, but in addition to the above she's got an Ed.M. from Harvard and 30 years experience teaching English. She doesn't need PD, and she shouldn't have to moonlight as a community organizer (not that she ever implies she's teaching in a disadvantaged school).

Right now, experience isn't valued by schools enough for them to pay for it if they can avoid doing so. That's it.

Interoperability and Rent Seeking

Zone Integration Server Blog:

We have just discovered that PowerSchool’s 6.0 version will no longer embeds the SIF Agent for free. Edustructures seems to be charging a significant amount of money to use the SIF Agent.

It is interesting that Pearson would start charging for a feature which was free and embedded prior to version 6.0. Additionally it appears that at first glance the Agent’s capability has not changed.

If You'd Told Me Fifteen Years Ago Merge Would Have the #1 Album on the Billboard Charts I'd Have Said You Were High as a Kite

Merge Blog:

Arcade Fire will appear on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart tonight. They’ll perform “Ready to Start” from their new album The Suburbs which is currently the # 1 record in the country!

Although to be honest, I don't even think this is the first time it has happened.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Crowdsourcing Turnaround Coverage

When I read Database on Schools Slated for Turnaround Coming Soon, courtesy of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform I apparently took it a little too literally. There is a handy list of the designated schools in their report, but not a publicly-facing database.

What would be great would be a website which included a wiki where narrative descriptions and histories of the schools and their turnarounds could be contributed, as well as a more structured component that would allow people to contribute all the various quantitative data that Annenberg probably doesn't have the interns to gather themselves.

Who knows how many Elmhurst Community Preps are out there (this is a pretty good profile of one of our "persistently lowest performing")?

These People are Seriously Confused

Deborah Gist:

RT @angusdav: Unemployment to persist because "U.S. education system hasn't been producing enough people with ... skills"

First off, the whole quote is:

...the U.S. education system hasn't been producing enough people with the highly specialized skills that many companies, particularly in manufacturing, require to keep driving productivity gains.

So, our Commissioner of Education and a member of our Board of Regents think that our education system should be turning out people with highly specialized skills needed by manufacturing companies? Never mind that in this context "productivity gains" also means "fewer total workers?"

That's a switch. I thought we were sending everyone to college.

Anyway, let's look at the examples in the article:

  • Flying J Truck stop is having trouble finding food servers. Not a skilled job.
  • Mechanical Devices machine shop can't find enough skilled high-tech machinists willing to work as temps for $13 an hour, or $26,000 a year. This is a job that requires 10 weeks training.
  • Emirates airline gets fewer people at its job fair than it would like for jobs that pay $30,000 and are based in Dubai. This is not considered a skilled job.
  • Apex Companies got five qualified applicants for an "industrial hygienist" supervisory job which requires specialized training, is dirty and dangerous, and pays $47,000 a year. This is not actually a problem.
  • The Mower Shop in Fishers, Ind. is having trouble finding someone to do repair piece work that might pay $40,000 if you're fast, and they've got enough broken mowers to keep you busy all year. I couldn't do it, but I don't think this is a "skilled" job in the technical sense.

They also point out that one former truck driver dropped out of a training program for the machine shop job because he found another job that required less training. Both his former and current jobs paid over $20,000 more a year than the machine shop, practically twice as much.

What is the point of having a "skilled" job if it pays the same or less than an "unskilled" one?


Companies offering middle-skilled jobs can be flooded with applicants. Laquita Stribling, a senior area vice president in Nashville for staffing firm Randstad, says she received several hundred applications for a branch manager job that might have attracted a few dozen candidates before the recession.

"The talent pool has swollen to the point where it's almost overwhelming," says Ms. Stribling.

This is simply not an educational issue. Companies are not offering high enough pay to attract workers whose mobility is restricted because of the housing crisis to specialized but low-skill jobs. The "middle skill" jobs that most upwardly mobile disadvantaged students would use to move up the ladder are hopelessly glutted for the moment.

Waiting for Hope...

I wonder if one reason RIDE hasn't ruled on the Hope High School students' appeal to maintain their school's block schedule, and the various other reforms it enables, is that they were waiting to see if the city would be getting last-minute edujobs money that could cover the additional positions needed.

Either that or they're just running out the clock on the kids.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Ushra'Khan -> Damu'Khonde

Since Stephen brings it up, I'll update you on the status of Ushra'Khan, post-betrayal. Basically, our name and space was taken from us; everyone kicked out of the alliance.

However, neither our longstanding nemesis, CVA, nor the perpetrators of this act, Hydra, were in a position to take advantage of our discombobulation. In fact, we and our allies continued ongoing mop-up operations against CVA's remaining holdings in Providence throughout this episode. We formed a new alliance named Damu'Khonde and re-took some key systems (9UY and KPB).

After it was apparent that we weren't going to "failcascade" as we say in EVE, the thief who took our alliance gave it back to Karn Mithralia, the U'K executor at the time of the theft. Karn had effectively resigned and had supported but not actively participated in the formation of Damu'Khonde.

So anyway, for a variety of reasons, both practical and ideological, it was decided to keep Damu'Khonde going forward and mothball Ushra'Khan.

At this point, Damu'Khonde is consolidating Ushra'Khan's assets and moving forward with Karn's assent. But Karn and his corporation are staying in Ushra'Khan, and reserving the right to re-activate it at a later date. Which I just love because it couldn't be more like an end of season cliffhanger...

Checking In On RI's Ed Reform Imports

ProJo, June 29:

Brearn Wright Jr. will head Roger Williams Middle School. Wright has been a principal or assistant principal in the Washington, D.C., schools since 2005, most recently at the George A. Truesdale(sic) Educational Center, where he hired all new staff and divided the school into four smaller units, from early childhood to middle school.

So, how'd Truesdell do on the latest DC CAS scores released this morning?


The green area is the DC "state" average, which presumably includes charters and isn't particularly different from the "LEA" proficiency rates. It is actually worse than it looks from those simple graphs, as the percentage at the advanced level in math went from 20.18 to 2.7%, while below basic in math went from 10.6 to 22.8% and below basic in reading went from 12.3 to 21.2%.

But Truesdell isn't a no-excuses charter. Surely Democracy Prep NYC, the model for our first mayoral academy that plays such a prominent role in RIDE's reform plans is still looming over the competition?


Apologies for switching graph designs on you, I just base these on the most convenient data I can find and make things as clear as I can. So here the grade levels are on the X-axis (6, 7, 8). Democracy Prep is in blue with the dots for data points. The dotted lines are last years DP and NYC reading scores, now regarded as inflated, for comparison. The solid lines are various city and state scores from this year. Basically, in 2010 Democracy Prep never got above the city average, and was only three points higher than the NYC New York state rate for economically disadvantaged students (in 8th grade).

I'm not saying these are schools that should be closed or anything, but Deb Gist might:

“We cannot have charter schools — whose whole purpose for existence is to demonstrate innovation that shows significant results — with performance levels that are lower than other schools that don’t have the kind of autonomy and flexibility that charters have,” Gist said. “If their performance isn’t where it should be, it’s an indication that the model they are using didn’t work.

LOL! Just kidding, these are schools run by reformers!

At least we can take some solace in the fact we didn't hire Michael Bennet as our CFO.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Check the Comments Section of Your Local Paper

Tim Daly:

Strangely, nobody can credibly identify any members of this nefarious ("blame the teacher") crowd.

Um... even if you accept that no major Democratic politician is a member of this crowd, it is not exactly hard to find people out in the hinterlands ready to blame the teacher.


Will Pearson Eat Us All?

Over at Core Knowledge, beneath a little discussion of the nature of Finland's standards between Diana Senechal and me -- best conclusion, Finland doesn't have "standards" in the sense we use it now in the US -- "A Student of History" throws in:

Is anyone else concerned that yesterday’s announcement that Pearson is acquiring Americas Choice for $80 million coupled with Americas Choice having received the franchise to develop the high school assessments for Common Core means we have a de facto national curriculum now

Will the Pearson math textbooks and the Americas Choice ELA products be the national curriculum under Common Core?

Can anyone come up with a better explanation for this acquisition and the timing?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Standards, Curriculum, Constitutions, Laws...

One good analogy is that standards are like a constitution whereas curricula is like laws. There may be no objective dividing line between what can go in an constitutional amendment and a law, but at some point if you pile too much stuff (or not enough) into the constitution, your system stops working well. And if you put the national speed limit in the constitution and the right to free speech in a law, you're really screwed up. Especially if when people point out that the speed limit doesn't belong in the constitution they are accused of not wanting what's best for kids.


Mark Bernstein obliquely reminds me to mention that the Woman's Christian Temperance Union's national conference starts in just one week in Warwick, RI!

I know this because one of their members showed up for a recent Grays vs. Olneyville Temperance Cadets game. Unfortunately, the Cadet's (historically accurate) name is pretty much an oxymoron in their case, so I doubt a long term relationship between the team and their sisters in temperance will come of it.

It is the Crazy-Making Part that is Making Me Crazy

Anthony Cody:

The crazy-making part of the whole education reform debate is that we will hear Obama and Duncan praise the sort of professional development we are advocating. The problem is that the thrust of the reforms being inspired by Race to the Top actively undermines this work. You cannot build the sort of sustained collaborative community of teachers, students and parents that is essential to turning around a struggling school by firing half the staff. In Oakland, schools that were shut down four years ago are now once again under the hammer, and effective principals and teachers are demoralized or even forced out.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Shorter Pallas/Hess

Aaron Pallas:

The way DCPS tells teachers it assesses their "value-added" contribution is idiotic!

Rick Hess:

If Aaron Pallas doesn't know that the actual assessment is completely different than what is described to teachers, he's an idiot!

Or, to go back to an earlier post by Pallas on the subject:

What is troubling to me is that, to date, districts using these complex value-added systems to evaluate teacher performance haven’t made the methodologies known to the general public.

Hess's "rebuttal" only confirms Pallas's actual point. Pallas set a rhetorical trap, and Hess fell right in.

RIDE's Approved Definition of "Persistently Lowest-Achieving Schools"

RI SIG SEA Application (FINAL):

Element 1: School-wide Performance in Reading and Mathematics

Element 1 is based on school-wide student performance, (all students) in mathematics and reading for the 2008-09 school year. Element 1 identifies those schools with reading and math proficiency rates significantly below respective state-wide average performance. This element uses one and two standard deviation units below the state average to determine each school‘s score points as follows:

  • 8 points were assigned when overall school performance was more than two standard deviations below the state average. Schools more than two standard deviations below in math had between 0% and 6.6% proficient students and in reading between 0% and 34.4% proficient.
  • 4 points were assigned when overall school performance was between one and two standard deviations below the state average. These schools‘ proficiency rates in math ranged between 6.6% and 29.5% and in reading between 34.4% and 51.2% proficient.
  • 0 points were assigned when overall school performance was less than one standard deviation below the state average.

Element 2: NCLB Classification

Element 2 identifies schools based on 2008-09 AYP classifications. Schools were assigned score points as follows:

  • 2 points were assigned to schools under restructuring
  • 1 point was assigned when schools failed to meet AYP for two or more consecutive years
  • 0 points were assigned when schools either met AYP or failed to meet AYP for less than two consecutive years

Element 3: Student Growth or Graduation

Element 3 is based on a Student Growth Percentile to measure individual student progress for elementary and middle schools. For high schools, graduation rates were used in lieu of student growth percentiles because growth measures were not possible. Student growth and graduation rates are based on data from the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years for all students. This element identifies those schools whose median percentile growth is typical or lower than the state average. Elementary and middle schools were assigned the following score points in reading and math:

  • 2 points were assigned when median growth was below the 40th percentile.
  • 1 point was assigned when median growth was between the 40th and 60th percentiles.
  • 0 points were assigned when median growth was above the 60th percentile or when the school proficiency rates for math or reading were above state averages of 52% and 68% respectively.

Rhode Island was able to use its two most recent years of graduation results to contribute to this element. This is because it moved to the NGA cohort formula and was able to calculate this rate for the first time with the graduating class of 2007. Rhode Island has no Title I eligible high school with a graduation rate below 60%. High schools were assigned the following score points based on 2007-08 graduation rates:

  • 2 points were assigned when the school‘s graduation rate was more than one standard deviation below the overall state average of 73.9%. Schools more than one standard deviation below the state average had graduation rates that ranged from 0% to 57.4%
  • 1 point was assigned when the school‘s graduation rate was between the overall state average and one standard deviation.
  • 0 points were assigned when the school‘s graduation rate was higher than the overall state average or when the school proficiency rates for math or reading were above state averages of 52% and 68% respectively.

Element 4: School-wide Improvement in Reading and Mathematics

Element 4 is based on differences in school-wide student performance for all students in mathematics and reading between the 2005-06 (Test results for high schools were not available for the 2005-06 school year. For high schools, therefore, results from 2007-08 were used in lieu of the 2005-06 results.) and the 2008-09 school years. Element 4 identifies those schools with improvement in reading and math proficiency rates significantly below respective state-wide average improvement. This element uses one and two standard deviation units below the state average improvement (State average improvement was determined by calculating the difference between 2005-06 and 2008-09 school- wide percent proficient in math and reading.) (Math = 6.6, Reading = 8.6) to determine each school‘s score points as follows:

  • 2 points were assigned when the difference in school performance from 2005-06 to 2008- 09 was more than two standard deviations below the state average. Schools more than two standard deviations below in math had a decrease in performance greater than 8.7 percentage points and in reading had a decrease in performance greater than 8.1.
  • 1 point was assigned when the difference in school performance from 2005-06 to 2008-09 was between one and two standard deviations below the state average. These schools‘ decrease in performance in math ranged between 1.1 and 8.7 percentage points and in reading between 0 and 8.1 percentage points.
  • 0 points were assigned when the difference in school performance from 2005-06 to 2008- 09 was less than one standard deviation below the state average or when the school proficiency rates for math or reading were above state averages of 52% and 68% respectively.

I've avoided opening a new obsession in trying to reproduce the calculations used to designate our "lowest-achieving schools," as it would be an easy way to lose a week of my life, raise my blood pressure, and achieve nothing else. Nonetheless, having tracked down at least a description of the process in RI's SIG grant application a few weeks ago, I might as well make it a little easier to find.

I could try to nit-pick this, but it isn't really detailed enough. I would say that while it does a reasonable job of figuring out what the low-performing schools are generally (hint: their students are poor), it doesn't seem to be designed to pull out fine-grained distinctions about which of the low-income schools would benefit most from restructuring. And it is weighted toward old data.

And really, from my perspective, all you really need to know is that we were one of the first states, if not the first, to pick their "lowest," on January 11, 2010, which was only three weeks before we had "new" data from tests given in October 2009, primarily reflecting teaching and learning from the 2008-2009 school year and before.

To me, that just reflects a fundamental disinterest in accurate, timely data.

And by the way, if you look at the SIG grant proposal, they do use the data from the "2009 - 2010" school year as the baseline for improvement, so if like Central Falls you went up in the latest data, that didn't help your rating as "lowest-achieving" but you're stuck with a higher baseline. On the other hand, if you went down last year, like Cooley High School, that makes it easier for you going forward.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Why I Won't Be Voting for Angel Taveras for Providence Mayor


Providence can learn from the best practices at work in different cities across America. I will name here just a few...

  • New York City, New York: New York City is a national leader in education reform. Under the leadership of School Chancellor Joel Klein, the NYC DOE has dramatically increased student achievement by creating small schools, focusing on teacher recruitment, training, evaluation and development and by supporting high performing urban charter schools.

Paging Dr. Fryer, Mr. Brooks, Dr. Whitehurst -- You're Needed in Rewrite


At the main campus of the Harlem Promise Academy, one of the city’s top-ranked charter schools, proficiency in third-grade math dropped from 100 percent to 56 percent.

Anyone know were all the scores are? I couldn't find them on Friday anywhere.

Also, I love this infographic.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

One of Many Great Lines

Tom Geoghegan:

Pick up a skill other than learning how to submit.