Reposting the CURMUDGUCATION blog:   Segregation, Choice and Education + Grading Good-faith Gibberish

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



Segregation, Choice and Education

Posted: 07 Apr 2016 11:26 AM PDT

The National Education Policy Center just released a research report from William J. Mathis and Kevin G. Welner on the question, Do Choice Policies Segregate Schools?

Spoiler alert– the short answer is “Yes.”

A review of the research and literature led Mathis and Welner to conclude that while some choice schools are integrated, charters largely are very segregated. That segregation can be by race, poverty, dual language learners (ELL), and students with disabilities. While black students are generally either under-represented or over-represented in charter schools, the researchers found that poor, ELL, and students with disabilities are under-enrolled in charter schools. Within a choice system, both segregation and the achievement gap grow.

However, before charter foes leap on those results, there is this to be considered:

Even without school choice, America’s schools would be shockingly segregated, in large part because of housing policies and school district boundaries. School choice policies that do not have sufficient protections against unconstrained, segregative choices do exacerbate the problem.

In other words, charter-choice systems may be making things worse, but they certainly didn’t create the problem. Or to put it yet another way, when anti-charter folks say that charters are creating massive segregation problems, they are correct. And when charter fans say that housing-based choice is creating segregation problems, they are also correct.

There may be valid arguments in favor of some charters in some situations, but the “we will fix segregation and close the achievement gap” argument is not one of them. Charters clearly do neither of those things.

Public schools aren’t getting it done, either. But in order to look for real solutions, we need to stop pretending that fake solutions are actually working.


Grading Good-faith Gibberish

Posted: 07 Apr 2016 08:55 AM PDT

Les Perelman is one of my heroes for his unflinching exposure, time and time again, of the completely inadequacy of using computers to assess writing.

Perelman and his grad students create BABEL

, (the Basic Automatic B.S. Essay Language Generator) a program that can generate brilliant gibberish. Diane Ravitch, education historian and activist, took a stab at using BABEL and got, in part, this:

Didactics to subjugation will always be an experience of humankind. Human life will always civilize education; many for diagnoses but a few of the amanuensis. Myrmidon at absurd lies in the search for reality and the realm of reality. From the fact that denationalization excommunicates the denouncements involved of civilizations, humanity should propagate absurd immediately.

This scored a mere 4 out of 6. Apparently Ravitch, as an older American, suffers from being the product of our earlier status quo education system. If only she’d been exposed to the Common Core.

The software that scored her essay is PEG writing, and the site has some lovely FAQ items  , one of which Ravitch highlighted.

It is important to note that although PEG software is extremely reliable in terms of producing scores that are comparable to those awarded by human judges, it can be fooled. Computers, like humans, are not perfect.

PEG presumes “good faith” essays authored by “motivated” writers. A “good faith” essay is one that reflects the writer’s best efforts to respond to the assignment and the prompt without trickery or deceit. A “motivated” writer is one who genuinely wants to do well and for whom the assignment has some consequence (a grade, a factor in admissions or hiring, etc.).

Efforts to “spoof” the system by typing in gibberish, repetitive phrases, or off-topic, illogical prose will produce illogical and essentially meaningless results.

In other words, PEG knows it doesn’t work. It also assumes a great deal in assuming that students writing pointless essays on boring subjects for baloney-filled standardized tests are “motivated” writers. Can the software accurately score motivated gibberish? Can the program distinguish between frivolous garbage and well-meant garbage?
Probably not. As noted in PEG’s response to the question of how the software can evaluate content:
However, analyzing the content for “correctness” is a much more complex challenge illustrated by the “Columbus Problem.” Consider the sentence, “Columbus navigated his tiny ships to the shores of Santa Maria.” The sentence, of course, is well framed, grammatically sound, and entirely on topic. It is also incorrect. Without a substantial knowledge base specifically aligned to the question, artificial intelligence (AI) technology will fail to grasp the “meaning” behind the prose. Likewise, evaluating “how well” a student has analyzed a problem or synthesized information from an article or other stimulus is currently beyond the capabilities of today’s state of the art automated scoring technologies.
PEG bills itself as a “trusted” teaching assistant that can help relieve some of the time pressures that come from having many, many essays to grade. But I can’t trust it, and it’s unlikely that I ever will.
This is the flip side of Common Core reading, an approach that assumes that reading is a batch of discrete behaviors and tricks that are unrelated to any content. Here we assume that writing is just a series of tricks, and it doesn’t really matter what you’re writing about, which is a concept so bizarre that I can barely wrap my head around it. Use big words– even if they have nothing to do with the topic of the essay. Use varied sentence lengths– but don’t worry about what the sentences say.
PEG, like other similar services, offers as proof of its reliability its closeness to human-rendered scores. But that happens only because the human-rendered scores come from a rubric designed to resemble the algorithm of a computer, not the evaluative processes of a human writing teacher. In other words, you make the computer look good by dumbing down the humans used for comparison.
Pearson’s continued fascination with AI-directed education, as well as the news that PARCC will use computer essay grading in four of its six states– these are Bad News, because computer software is simply not up to the job of evaluating writing in any meaningful way. BABEL is just one more demonstration of how completely inadequate the software tools are.

P.S. My favorite line from my own BABEL efforts:

Charter, frequently to an accusation, might innumerably be grout for the allocution.

Detroit school board class-action lawsuit maintains Governor Rick Snyder along with his financial managers have “damaged” Detroit students since 2011

Gov. Rick Snyder is a defendant in yet another lawsuit – this time, a federal lawsuit over the state of the Detroit Public Schools.

Members of Detroit’s elected school board and some parents filed the suit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of about 58,000 students who have attended DPS schools since 2011.

The lawsuit alleges that financial, academic, and other conditions in the district have declined so much they violate students’ civil rights.

Read more here: DPS school board lawsuit: Snyder, state have “damaged” Detroit students | Michigan Radio

You might BE or HAVE a Wheat Belly when . . .

As some, (many? most?) who know me personally or who are followers of my Mister Journalism blog may know I’ve been on a grain-free/refined sugar-free lifestyle since last summer when I topped 280 pounds. For years, I’d tried various “diets” from Richard Simmons’ cards system (really a modified Weight Watchers program), to my own “White-Out” diet (nothing white – no rice, bread, potatoes), to being an avid jogger back in the 1970s. Even as a teen, not long after graduating high school (when I tried a one-meal-a-day… huge breakfasts of eggs and meat) and each time I’d lose 20-30 pounds or more and I’d fall off the wagon after a few months and slowly (or not) it would all find me again. But last summer after watching a PBS special “The Wheat Belly Diet – by noted Wisconsin cardiologist, researcher and author Dr. William Davis) I really took a real interest in the human biological basis for going grain- and sugar-free.

I bought his book and slowly but surely became sold on its health benefits and the fact that I didn’t have to count calories, sort cards or (beyond grains and sugars) watch at all what or how much food I was consuming. When I felt certain it was for me (mid-August) I weighed in at 279.9 pounds. I’m 5’11 and on half-dozen drugs for hypertension. My blood pressure always stuck around 160/90 – and sometimes higher. Problematic for a fellow whose father battled that too his whole adult life so far as I can recall and who died of a massive heart attack at age 60 while playing first base on his church softball team. Dead before he hit the ground one paramedic told me at his funeral. So I retired early – age 60 – but still was unable to get either my weight nor my BP numbers down. Not until the last 6 months.

Since August 2015, I’ve dropped from 279.9 to 228.3 just a couple days into April 2016.  My goal weight is 210 – losing the 70 pounds would put me there – 18 pounds to go between now and August 2016 – one year. And once there, I will weigh what I did in October 1968 when my wife Penny and I got married.

I certainly encourage you to do some research on the Wheat Belly Lifestyle – you have nothing to lose but pounds and inches and good health is all you have to gain! Feel free to contact me for more information or if I can answer your questions.

No need to count calories to lose weight.  No need to exercise to lose weight.

As a follower of Dr. Davis’ blog I receive his regular blog posts in my email in-box and I enjoyed this one below. I hope you do too! – Jeff Salisbury

You might be a Wheat Belly when . . .

Time for a little fun. You know comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck when . . . ” you ever cut your grass and found a car. Or you’ve ever financed a tattoo. Or you’ve ever bathed with flea and tick soap. In that same spirit, You might be a Wheat Belly when . . . 

Alright: Stifle your guffaws, because this is serious stuff.

We all know that consumption of modern wheat and grains is associated with an astounding list of health problems, such as acid reflux, joint pains, behavioral and learning difficulties in children with ADHD and autism, depression, eating disorders like bulimia and binge eating, diabetes and pre-diabetes, and on and on. But the signature abnormality, the one clear-cut red flag on the surface: the infamous wheat belly, the probuterant “love handles” or “muffin top” that hints at underlying visceral fat, a hotbed of inflammation.

So how might John or Mary Q. Public know when they’ve got one? Well:

You haven’t been able to look straight down and see your toes since high school.

You thought pizza with low-fat cheese was a perfect healthy meal.

You thought you’d pass some gas quietly and unnoticed, only to realize it was the solid discharge of last night’s pasta dinner.

You can navigate traffic hands-free, maneuvering the steering wheel just by shifting your butt left or right.

You think a dinner of whole grain pasta, Italian bread, and tiramisu is a well balanced diet.

You’ve laughed and popped your jeans open.

You considered shoving a little kid aside so that you could get the last muffin at the breakfast bar.

You have to ask your husband to read your weight on the scale.

You dread putting on socks or pantyhose as much as a colonoscopy.

Your dental hygienist puts on a Haz-Mat suit to clean your teeth.

You believe that sprouting wheat seeds in water and labeling them with a God-like name magically transforms them into a healthy food.

You go to Krispy Kreme and they greet you by your first name.

You thought a bowl of sawdust every morning disguised as bran cereal was essential for healthy bowel movements.

You’ve remarked, “Why eat dinner?” after eating all the bread and rolls the waitress served before the entree.

You think fast food can be healthy if you just don’t eat the fries.

You thought a caramel macchiato with a reduced-fat banana chocolate chip coffee cake at Starbucks was a chic breakfast.

You only have to fill the bathtub halfway.

You thought Lite beer was the greatest invention since sliced bread.

You’ve often thought that McDonalds was underrated.

You ate the last half-donut in the box at work.

Okay, okay. You see that I could go on forever with this. (Thinking about this stuff, I couldn’t help hearing comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s voice: “You might be a redneck when . . . “)

Can you come up with any? If so, please feel free to post them on the Official Wheat Belly Facebook page!

Yours in grainless health,
Dr. William Davis
Davis header

Remembering King: Breaking the Silence | Sojourners

I believe pulpits are supposed to change communities and nations — and history.

Remembering King: Breaking the Silence

By Jim Wallis

Preaching — and honestly just being there — at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, is always a great honor and blessing for me. As pastor Raphael Warnock said in his opening introduction, “When you want to take faith into justice, as Jim Wallis always has, Ebenezer is the right place.” Ebenezer is the right place indeed.

I remember my first time preaching at Ebenezer many years ago for their first “Peace and Justice Service” in honor of the inaugural year that the nation officially celebrated the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was 1986 and I was a young man feeling honored to speak — but overwhelmed to be in such a historic pulpit that had literally changed the world and where a host of movement leaders had preached.

Being so intimidated by the place and the pulpit, I was quite tepid at first, saying something like, “Well, ah … Martin Luther King Jr., well …. he was for peace and justice, and ppppprobably … ah … we should be too.” It was powerful!

All of a sudden, a big booming voice down on the left side of the congregation spoke directly back at me, “Oh come on son, you’re supposed to preach!”

Startled, I started to preach — a little bit.


Source: Remembering King: Breaking the Silence | Sojourners

Holy dog doody DNA Batman!Grand Rapids apartment complex uses DNA technology to manage dog droppings 

A high-end apartment community near Grand Rapids plans to use DNA technology as a way to sniff out dog owners who fail to pick up their pets’ feces.

To get the scoop on this poop go here: Grand Rapids apartment complex uses DNA technology to manage dog droppings | Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio report:   Maryland congressman has grave concerns about Gov. Snyder’s response to Flint crisis 

Gov. Rick Snyder is once again being criticized by a top congressional Democrat.

In a letter sent to the governor this week, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings says he has grave concerns about the governor’s recent congressional testimony on  the crisis. Cummings grilled the governor last month during a hearing into Flint’s lead-tainted tap water.

“You claimed you were working with local leaders rather marginalizing them and you claimed you were being transparent,” Cummings said in his letter to Snyder.

MORE HERE: Maryland congressman says he has grave concerns about governor’s response to Flint crisis | Michigan Radio

Democracy Tree Blog Post: Michigan’s Offshore Corporate Tax Cheats Revealed…


From the Democracy Tree Blog

Michigan’s Offshore Corporate Tax Cheats Revealed…

As reporters pore over the recently leaked “Panama Papers”, searching the massive document dump for names familiar here in the U.S., the Obama administration used the occasion to push for a crackdown on corporate tax inversions — an ongoing problem draining the nation’s economy of revenue by the billions.Inversions are tax avoidance schemes in which corporations affiliate with a foreign holding company as a means to relocate as a phony headquarters overseas to enjoy the benefits of lower tax rates.

Losses to the U.S. tax base are estimated to potentially be well over $100 billion, but GOP defenders of the shell game claim it is necessary because U.S. corporate taxes are too high.

Also in recent news is the story of Johnson Controls, a Wisconsin-based firm that announced earlier this year their intention to merge with Tyco International Ltd. to take advantage of Ireland’s 12.5 percent corporate tax rate. Johnson does plenty of business in Michigan.

For the rest of the story go here> Democrary Tree: Perrigo among Michigan offshore tax cheats |

Home page for Democracy Tree Blog >


Americans for Tax Fairness » Fact Sheet: Corporate Tax Rates

Key Facts:
Corporate share of federal tax revenue has dropped by two-thirds in 60 years — from 32% in 1952 to 10% in 2013.
General Electric, Boeing, Verizon and 23 other profitable Fortune 500 firms paid no federal income taxes from 2008 to 2012.
288 big and profitable Fortune 500 corporations paid an average effective federal tax rate of just 19.4% from 2008 to 2012.
Profitable corporations paid U.S. income taxes amounting to just 12.6% of worldwide income in 2010.
U.S. corporations dodge $90 billion a year in income taxes by shifting profits to subsidiaries — often no more than post office boxes — in tax havens.
U.S. corporations officially hold $2.1 trillion in profits offshore — much of it in tax havens — that have not yet been taxed here.
U.S. effective corporate tax rates are not a burden
Some corporations pay nothing in taxes
Lower tax rates do not boost growth and jobs
Americans don’t want to cut corporate taxes

Source: Americans for Tax Fairness » Fact Sheet: Corporate Tax Rates

Hillary, Hillary, Hillary… “Oh, what a tangled web we weave. When first we practise to deceive!”


Why is the FBI so slow on Clinton e-mail probe?

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 06: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO's Convention on April 6, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Democratic Primary is scheduled for April 26, 2016. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

If FBI Director James Comey feels no deadline pressure to wrap up the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server, he should.


Clinton’s missteps add up to trouble

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign stop, Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Hillary Clinton’s skills as a candidate are in question, measured not just by a lengthening string of losses but by miscues and gaffes.

Government seeks to limit questions in Clinton e-mail case

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, speaks at Carnegie Mellon University on a campaign stop, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Judicial Watch wants to question eight current and former department staffers u


The Panama Papers leak could hand Bernie Sanders the keys to the White House

For some Americans, Hillary Clinton is the embodiment of a global elite which benefits from tax avoidance schemes. Bernie Sanders, her opponent, is its antithesis

The revelation that the rich and wealthy are shovelling money in overseas tax havens is not a particularly surprising one. Nevertheless, the sheer scale of the 11.5 million document leak from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca has whipped up an overdue storm and forced the issue of tax justice back on the agenda. It is likely that the Panama papers is just the tip of the iceberg, and if even more is revealed about the financial affairs of world leaders, the implication for global politics will be huge.

More here: