Unanimous Supreme Court overturns a Gorsuch decision … in the middle of his confirmation hearing

Neil Gorsuch’s belief in reading the law as narrowly as needed to screw ordinary people reared its head again during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing Wednesday, but not because of anything Gorsuch himself said on Wednesday.

No, the issue was something the entire United States Supreme Court said—that Gorsuch was wrong in a 2008 opinion dealing with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE: Unanimous Supreme Court overturns a Gorsuch decision … in the middle of his confirmation hearing

CURMUDGUCATION:  Which Choice Would You Choose?

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Which Choice Would You Choose?

If you were (or are) a parent, which one of the following options would you prefer?

OPTION A

Your neighborhood is served by a single public school.

That school is well-staffed with a range of young and experienced professional educators, well-trained and committed to the needs of their students, and they are well-managed and well-paid so that they stay on as the foundation of a stable school community. The school is a well-maintained facility, clean and safe. It offers a wide variety of quality programs under one roof, with the flexibility for students to explore different educational paths and even change their minds (because young folks sometimes do that), as well as allowing them to enrich one path with samplings from others (in other words, your future biologist won’t have to give up band). The school is fully funded and has a full range of up-to-date quality resources.

The school is transparently managed and controlled by an elected board of local community members who meet in public and are available to be contacted by any resident or taxpayer in the district. The management of the school is nimble, flexible, and open to input from all stakeholders.


OPTION B

In this option, your neighborhood is served by many schools, and you have plenty of choices that you may be able to access by using your voucher or some other sort of choice mechanism.

Choice #1: Never mind. This elite private school is out of your price range, even with your state-issued modest voucher.

Choice #2: This Christ-centered private school will gladly accept your child, as long as that child behaves properly, which includes a properly worshipful attitude in daily devotions and Bible readings. And don’t worry– we won’t be teaching your child any of that foolish evolution-filled “science” stuff.

Choice #3: Our experts have determined that this is the kind of school People Like You need for their children. Strict, no excuses, speak only when spoken to regimentation. It certainly wouldn’t fly over in East Egg, but it’s just what the children of You People need to take your proper place in the world.

Choice #3A: If you’re in the South, there’s also this school, but you can only send your kid here if you’re white. Because Those People need to be kept on their own side of town.

Choice #4: We will provide a program much like a regular public school, except we don’t have any adaptations for students with special needs or English language learners. You’re certainly welcome to send your child with special needs, or who is five years behind in English language acquisition, but understand that we aren’t going to do anything special for them.

Choice #5: We decided to launch a special math-centered school. We make room in the budget for super-math stuff by cutting music, art, sports and history. All students attend the same English class which meets every other day in the auditorium. But our math program is definitely more than adequate.

Choice #6: This school was started by some Very Nice People who thought, “How hard can it be to run a school?” It looks like a nice enough place, but none of the teachers have been paid for a month and it will probably close before Easter.

Choice #7: Big National Chain Charter School. The program is already packaged and all our brand-new staff members need to do (it’s always brand new because no staff stays here for more than a year or two, which is okay because we don’t need to hire actual certified teachers anyway, so they’re easy to replace) is open the binder and follow the program. If you would like to talk about changes to the program, feel free to contact our corporate headquarters, which are not actually in your state.

Choice #8: What do you want? Look at our glossy advertisements! We will promise you all sorts of stuff. We will never deliver any of it, but by the time you figure that out it will be too late– we’ll have your money and you’ll have to decide how badly you want to disrupt your child’s school year in the middle.

Choice #9: Your public school. It still exists, but the other eight schools have drained so much money from it that it is now a sad, limping, underfunded shadow of a real school.

With the exception of Choice #9, none of these schools are managed or operated publicly. You can’t attend the meetings, you can’t see the books, and you can’t contact the board members easily, if at all. You don’t get a voice– the only stakeholders who matter are the people who own and operate the school, and they’ll give you the choice they feel like giving you.

THE PUZZLE

Voucher advocates– particularly the ones who advocate for “parental choice” or “parent rights”– seem to insist that Option 2 is the better one. Their argument is that Option 1 is a choice that only wealthier families get to exercise by virtue of their ability to buy a house in that school’s neighborhood. And they aren’t wrong– linking school funding to the power of the real estate market means that schools in richer neighborhoods get better funding. That is a problem worth addressing.

And yet, Option 2 does not address it. The school in Option 1 is still not available to less wealthy parents. They are presented with only the choices that other choosers choose for them, and in the process, they lose even a limited ability to influence what those choices are going to be. So they lose a shot at improving their public school, and get little-to-nothing in return.

Parent choice advocates might argue that Option 2 is still a better option because choice is such a great value, in and of itself, that providing choice two parents is more important than anything else– including making sure that the available choices are actually any good.

But I keep coming back to the same idea– if we want all students to be able to choose the school in Option A, why not do what it takes to transform every public school into Option A? Option A actually offers more choice, more flexibility, but most of all, more of the things that families actually want. Once upon a time reformsters made noises about charters developing great ideas to create great schools, but we already have a plethora of model public schools– why not use them as a template? Why not muster the sort of “War on Poverty” or “Get To The Moon” or “Endless Battles in Other Countries” willpower we’ve mustered before and direct it toward making all schools great schools?

If I were a cynic, I might conclude that it’s because no private operators can make a bundle under that plan.

Choicers will argue that I’ve stacked the deck, that these aren’t the real options. Real World Option A, they’ll say, is one lousy school, and while that may be true in some communities, how is multiple lousy choices better than one lousy choice– and if you only had so much money, would you rather try to fix up one house or a whole bunch of houses with that money? Real World Option B, they’ll say, has more awesomely wonderful choices than I represent here, and you know, there was a time I believed that might be theoretically possible, but reality seems to be stubborn in this regard. It’s almost as if running a school is hard, and doubly hard if you’re trying to make a business out of it.

But seriously– what parent would choose Option B over Option A? It’s really no choice at all.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION

CURMUDGUCATION: Booking.com and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Ad

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Booking.com and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Ad

The folks at booking.com put out this advertisement.

I’ve never established a Hall of Fame here, but if I did, this letter would go into it:

After watching your ad several times I am moved to do something I’ve never done before- write a company to complain of the image they are portraying of my profession. As a 15 year veteran teacher, I can assure you that my stress does NOT come from the students in my classroom. My stress comes from endless meetings forcing me to enact tactics that do not help my students learn and achieve; my stress comes from not getting a cost of living raise in 10 years; my stress comes from national figures who know nothing of public education working to destabilize our system in favor of private, religious, and for-profit charter schools that are free to discriminate against differently-abled children with no penalties. 

Isn’t there enough teacher bashing without you adding to the myth of the inattentive, non-caring, child-hating teacher? 

If you want to show a teacher needing a vacation, how about showing one burnt out on caring too much? Giving of her own time and money to her kids while an uncaring administration makes ridiculous demands on her? That would be relatable and not turn off the 3.1 million public school teachers in the US. 

Thank you,

That letter is from Alana Milich, God bless her.

Because, yes, it’s absolutely hilarious how this teacher is apparently incapable of doing her job is not very interested in trying, because children are awful wild malevolent creatures and teachers would certainly be doing anything else if they possibly could.

“There’s nothing more important to me than my vacation”??!! Really? I’m pretty sure that teachers have a long list of things that are far more important to them than their vacation. “Now I can start relaxing before the vacation begins.” Sure– that’s what teachers want to do. Anything except our jobs.

Do not tell me that it’s “just a joke” and I shouldn’t take it so seriously. Passive-aggressive attacks masquerading as humor are never funny. “Hey, honey– move your fat ass! Oh, don’t give me that look– I’m just kidding.” Hi-larious.

I’m not sure what makes this okay. If this were a bored, incompetent, slack-eyed housewife dreaming of getting away from her kids, or a husband dreaming of getting away from the wife he hates, or a doctor standing over an open patient on the table while the doctor absently severs organs and dreams of getting away from stupid sick people or a minister who can’t stand his congregation or a national elected politician who can’t stand his job and dreams of going golfing every weekend– well, you get the idea. I know as Americans we get yuks out of people who hate their jobs or their lives or the people around them, but damn– do we really need one more suggestion that teachers really just suck? And if someone were telling you that’s how they see your children, would that be okay with you?

Booking.com sent Milich (and apparently a few other complainants) a tepidly generic response:

Thanks for your feedback.

We’ll be sure to pass it on to those relevant. At Booking.com we value all professions, including teachers, and this ad was only intended as a light-hearted bit of fun. We are passionate about connecting our customers with great stays, empowering them to experience the world in the easiest, most seamless ways possible, which this advert aimed to convey.

Kind regards,

Those relevant what, exactly? “Light-hearted” doesn’t really fit, I’m afraid, unless you’re the kind of person who considers Ann Coulter books a wacky romp. “We were just teasing” is, unfortunately, a whole long distance away from “We are sorry. We respect teachers and should not have treated them so insultingly.”

If you’d like to add to the chorus of unamused audience members, here are some places to try.

Booking.com has a Facebook page. Their twitter handle is @booking.com. You may also be interested to know that they are part of the Priceline group, along with Kayak, Agoda, and Open Table. And while none of the categories is exactly “Complain about our insulting advert,” you can find many customer service contact options here— why not use, well, many?

Join the many folks already complaining. While this is certainly not on the order of, say, threats to gut public education and destroy the teaching profession, these folks deserve to be part of a flap– maybe even a kerfuffle. It would be nice if advert-makers would think two seconds before they used shots at teachers for cheap punchlines. Do better, booking.com.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Booking.com and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Ad

Constituent meeting uncovers lies Rep. Dave Trott has told about GOP healthcare plan | Eclectablog

Eclectablog

Reported here first, U.S. Congressman Dave Trott is caught trying to fool constituents about the American Health Care Act and proves his ignorance about the Affordable Care Act.

Ed Weberman has been trying to get a meeting with his Congressman, Dave Trott, for months.

Thanks to his persistence, Weberman was successful, traveling to Washington, D.C., on March 21 to meet with Rep. Trott. What Weberman learned in the meeting is a bombshell: Congressman Trott has lied to his constituents about the GOP healthcare plan, the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

Weberman has become a champion for protecting the gains made under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare), because his son’s life was saved by access to coverage under his parents’ plan when he was diagnosed with cancer, as I wrote about here.

His son Alex, now 24 years old, is in remission — but what will become of him if the consumer protections under the ACA are repealed, as they would be if Congress passes the AHCA, the GOP plan

READ THE FULL BLOG POST HERE: Constituent meeting uncovers lies Rep. Dave Trott has told about GOP healthcare plan | Eclectablog

This. Is. Not. Normal. | Eclectablog

It is not normal that a candidate for President of the United States of America created childish nicknames for his opponents and political adversaries like “Lyin’ Ted”, “Little Marco”, “Crooked Hillary”, and “Pocahontas”.

It is not normal that a candidate for President of the United States would pause his campaign to go to another country to announce the opening of a business venture.

It is not normal that a candidate for President of the United States would call for his opponent to be put in prison and to promise that if he became the president that he would make sure they were put in prison.

It is not normal for a candidate for President of the United States to make reference to a restroom visit of his opponent and refer to it as “too disgusting”.

It is not normal for a candidate for President of the United States to say his opponent got “schlonged” by another candidate in a previous primary.

It is not normal for a candidate for President of the United States to claim that military…

READ THE FULL BLOG POST HERE: This. Is. Not. Normal. | Eclectablog

Trump’s laptop ban is a giant middle finger to business travelers.

The Trump administration announced on Tuesday its latest effort to make life more difficult for anyone—citizen or noncitizen—who wishes to travel to and from the United States. As of right now, passengers on directs flights leaving 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa on eight non-U.S. airlines are prohibited from bringing electronics larger than a cellphone on board.

The justification given was security grounds, although that sounds dubious. If laptops are dangerous in the cabin, why aren’t they dangerous in the cargo hold? Meanwhile, the list excludes airports in places like Venezuela, a country about which the U.S. government has issued a travel warning. In the Washington Post, Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman smartly unpack some of the trade politics that may be behind the laptop ban. Several of the airlines in questions are either state carriers or enjoy significant government support that puts U.S. carriers at a disadvantage. In other words, this move could be an extension of Trump’s twice-foiled travel ban, but it could also be an outgrowth of his protectionist trade policy.

But on top of all that, the device ban is also the latest in the Trump administration’s efforts at a certain kind of class warfare—business class warfare.

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE: Trump’s laptop ban is a giant middle finger to business travelers.

Donald Trump’s Muslim Laptop Ban Could Be a Protectionist Scheme

U.S. airlines have asked Trump to punish Gulf carriers such as Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways, which they say are unfairly subsidized.

THE DEPARTMENT OF Homeland Security announced an unprecedented new restriction on travelers from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries on Tuesday.

The DHS restriction states “that all personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone or smart phone be placed in checked baggage at 10 airports where flights are departing for the United States.”

It’s a Muslim laptop ban.

The 10 airports are in Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

American-based airlines do not fly directly to the United States from these airports, so these restrictions will not apply to them. The impact of this move will instead fall on nine airlines, including Gulf-based carriers that U.S. airlines have been asking President Trump to punish since the day after his election.

The U.S. carriers have long complained that Gulf carriers such as Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways are unfairly subsidized by their national governments.

Executives at Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and American Airlines met with Trump in early February. The day before the meeting, a group representing these American airlines, called the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies, distributed a slick video using Trump’s own words to argue against the subsidies.

With this new travel impediment, Trump may be throwing these executives a bone.

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE: Donald Trump’s Muslim Laptop Ban Could Be a Protectionist Scheme

CURMUDGUCATION: IN: Vouchers and Changing the System

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

IN: Vouchers and Changing the System

Indy Ed is a website devoted to exploring one idea– “There are so many changes swirling around our schools that it’s hard to get straight answers.” Their focus is Indianapolis, one more urban center suffering from a plethora of education problems, not the lest of which is a government that doesn’t want to spend too many tax dollars on Those People. But Indy Ed seems to prefer focusing on that most magical of solutions– vouchers and choice.

There’s no big scam or fraud or misbehavior here. But in one simple piece, Indy Ed gives us a picture of many of the ways that vouchers open up the market and let profiteers and religious ed folks get past the system that has stood in their way for so long.

Vouchers May Not Be a Panacea But They Are Really Working for Some Families” is the headline for this piece highlighting Oaks Academy, an example of vouchers working for some people.

So before we read the piece, what do we know about Oaks Academy? Well, here’s the pitch at the top of their website:

The Oaks Academy is a Christ-centered school that exists to provide a rich, classical education to children of diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, preparing them to succeed in a rigorous secondary educational program and to demonstrate spiritual, social and emotional maturity.

Indy Ed tells us that the student population of Indianapolis is three-quarters black and brown, but the header photo for OA (which Indy Ed also uses for its piece)shows a group of students who are two-thirds white.

OA has a whole page devoted to Teacher Support which highlights such great features as their outstanding professional development (so much better than public schools). One might think they are really working at recruiting and retaining teachers (you can also do Americorps or VISTA work there). Their student profile shows a blend of socio-economic backgrounds and a racial breakdown closer to 50-50 than 25-75 (Britt actually cites a 30% black population in the school, which is smaller than what the school’s own graph shows). But they do great on that ISTEP (Indiana’s version of the Big Standardized Test). And they’ve been thriving– in the 1998-1999 year they opened with 53 students enrolled. This year they have 732 (pre-K through 8). The material is quiet about students with special needs, but that would seem to be one more area in which The Oaks does not resemble the Indianapolis student population. Reader ocg in the comments below offered this background:

The IDOE’s Compass website tracks demographics, test scores, etc. for every school corporation in the Indiana, public or private. Their data shows that all three Oaks Academy campuses have far fewer rates of students on free or reduced lunch (ranging from 23.6% to 34.4%) as compared to both Indianapolis Public Schools (68.3%) and the state as a whole (45.7%).
Although lunch status is a very rough way of looking at whether a population is “low income” or not, those numbers do make me scratch my head.
Their racial demographics are also not reflective of Indianapolis schools. All three Oaks Academy campuses are about 50-55% white, 30% black, and 15-20% Asian/Hispanic/multiracial. Indianapolis Public Schools have slightly different demographics.

And then there’s special ed numbers. The Oaks Academy with the highest rate of special ed students is their Fall Creek campus, at 8.1%. The other two campuses have special ed rates of 4.1% and 4.7%. The entire state has a rate of 14.5%. IPS’s rate is 17%. Hmm.**

But back to our Indy Ed profile. The writer, Baratto Britt, wants to argue that vouchers are actually a “liberal, almost socialist” thing with the mission of providing poor families with the same choices that rich families enjoy. About half of the students at Oaks are voucher students. 83% get some sort of tuition assistance (the toll is $10,300– so now I’m a little confused because Indiana vouchers only provide about $5K). Board policy reportedly says that 50% of the student body must be from poor families.  But Britt also says that the school attracts hefty philanthropy (“juggernaut” is the word he uses); their website promises “an unmatched philanthropic experience.” Almost 40% of the budget comes from donations; voucher money provides about 20%. Also, Oaks “acquired” a public middle school that had been “underutilized“.

The school was profiled by Ebony last fall as an example of diversity in action as an educational tool, and while The Oaks is diverse, it is far whiter than the Indianapolis public system. According to school CEO Andrew Hart, that takes some deliberate work:

We want to be diligent about maintaining this tricky balance. It’s something so unique to this place but very fragile. “The admissions pool is dominated by white families, who are moving back into the neighborhoods,” Hart added. “It would totally relieve our philanthropic burden, which would be great, but we want to make sure this unique proposition that Oaks is maintained over time

Hart graduated from UNC at Chapel Hill with an MBA, put in four years at Eli Lilly, then came to The Oaks.

Britt wants to suggest that Oaks does not cream or pick only the most-likely-to-be-successful students, but on top of the whole Christ-centered approach (about which the school is not shy, nor should they be) the school also has another requirement that Britt lays out

Additionally, parental involvement is not optional for all Oaks Families, but mandatory as a caring, committed adult must participate in various activities during the admissions cycle and school year to ensure all stakeholders have skin in the game.  

So, Jesus, plus a supportive family both willing and able to contribute work to the school, which is itself supported by extra funding from philanthropists. Is there any school, public or private, that could not achieve success with those advantages?

The Oaks is a private Christian school that self-selects for families with a commitment to their children’s education, all of which is perfectly fine– for a private school. But under Indiana’s system, public tax dollars are being sent to this religious private school (and some of the taxpayers’ buildings as well).

I decided to write about this precisely because The Oaks shows no signs of fraud or scandal or the kinds of egregious abuse of the system that we often see with vouchers. Except, of course, that the vouchers are completely flouting the separation of church and state by sending public dollars to a private Christian school, and that school has shown us nothing about education that we didn’t already know. With a different student body than the parent district, supportive families, free labor, and extra funding you can get good results?! Do tell!

The Oaks’ own history page and several press accounts note that the school was started by neighbors and concerned citizens who wanted an urban alternative, and their first school was in a less-than-stellar neighborhood. Voucher supporters can and do point to The Oaks as the sort of school that can save students. They seem like Very Nice People, and not crooks at all– and yet, they have completely changed the rules of public education, to the point that it’s not public education at all.

But at some point we have to decide if saving only some students (and only those we consider deserving) is good enough. A nationwide voucher system will not be about providing choices for poor families, but about changing the entire purpose of education in this country. Vouchers will shift us from a system whose mission is to do its best for all students– ALL students, no matter what– to a system whose mission is to save some students, the right students, the students with the right kind of families, who belong to the correct faith. Like it or not, it’s a huge mission shift for the country, and the end of public education as we know it. We should be talking about that.

** I’m copying the rest of the reader comments here to preserve the links (which blogger does not do– man, if I had had any idea what this blog was going to be lieke when it grew up, I would have picked a different platform). Here you go::

Finally, their claim that 85% of their students receive tuition assistance is pretty worthless in this state. Another choice school in Indiana, Delaware Christian Academy (godawful website, I know – somehow this school stays open), could not even open its doors in a timely manner last year, and yet they claim that 95% of their students got full scholarships. Either they’re lying, or getting tuition assistance to attend a choice school in this state is, um, extremely easy.

Anyway, the choice climate here in Indiana has very clearly hobbled certain school corporations (like IPS, and especially Gary, whose enrollment has gone from ~16,000 students to ~6,000 students in 12 years). It has also led to some very interesting data sets, like this choice school’s graduate rate trend (look at the bar graph). Wonder what happened there.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: IN: Vouchers and Changing the System

CURMUDGUCATION: Netflix and the Myth of Personalization

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Netflix and the Myth of Personalization

Today Slate has an analysis of how Netflix began the process of personalizing marketing, of using “algorithms to micromanage distribution, not production” in particular in the multi-pronged marketing of House of Cards by creating multiple trailers to appeal to particular slices of the Netflix customer pool, based on their “likes.”

In the middle of the article, we find this paragraph:

House of Cards thus embodies one of the most seductive myths of the algorithmic age: the ideal of personalization, of bespoke content assembled especially for each one of us. In fact, the content, or at least the costly, aesthetically rich content we care about, like Fincher’s show, is still fairly limited. There is only one House of Cards, but there are as many ways to market the show as there are to target Netflix viewers. This is what information theorist Christian Sandvig calls “corrupt personalization”: the ways that algorithmic culture blurs the lines between our genuine interests and a set of commodities that may or may not be genuinely relevant, such as products “liked” by our friends on Facebook even if they did not knowingly endorse them.

The piece on corrupt personalization is worth the side trip, but it’s a bit much to squeeze in here. But let me toss out three context-free quotes that may ring bells.

It’s as if on Facebook, people were using the yellow pages but they thought they were using the white pages. 

In sum this is again a scheme that does not serve your goals, it serves Facebook’s goals at your expense.

Money is used as a proxy for “best” and it does not work. That is, those with the most money to spend can prevail over those with the most useful information. The creation of a salable audience takes priority over your authentic interests.

And I will bring back Greene’s Law– the free market does not foster superior quality; the free market fosters superior marketing.

Personalized learning, whether we’re talking about a tailored-for-you learning program on your computer screen or a choose the school you’d like to go to with your voucher, is not about actual personalization. It’s about another path for marketing, a way of personalizing the marketing of the product, the edu-commodity that someone is already trying to make money from.

We’re being sold (and in many cases are arguing against) an AI that spits out just the digitized worksheet that Student 12-5452 needs to continue studies, but that’s not where we’re headed. Look, for instance, at the new, improved PSAT that returns both a score and some recommendations. “Looks like you need to log in to Khan Academy’s lesson series for calculus.” Or “You would really benefit from the AP Calculus course– talk to your guidance counselor today.”

That’s the personalized learning dream– students with vouchers paying for education one course or micro-credential at a time, and each exercise on the “parent” program ends with, “Good job! You should probably sign up for Edubizwang Corp’s Intro to Pre-Pre-Calculus next– just enter your edu-voucher account number.” Marketing that can be directed with laser-like precision at each individual consumer. Marketing that can tell the consumer, “Yeah, this– this is what you really want.”

It’s not a personalized product, but the personalized marketing will make you think it’s just what you want. Netflix is just the beginning.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Netflix and the Myth of Personalization