Clarence Thomas Has His Own Constitution —  By Jeffrey Toobin, in The New Yorker

Thomas is so convinced of the wisdom of his approach to originalism that he rejects practically the whole canon of constitutional law.

Thomas is so cut off on the Court, even from his fellow-conservatives. He doesn’t respect the Court’s precedents. He is so convinced of the wisdom of his approach to the law that he rejects practically the whole canon of constitutional law. It’s an act of startling self-confidence, but a deeply isolating one as well. Even his ideological allies, who mostly come out the same way on cases, recognize that they must dwell within the world that their colleagues and predecessors created. Thomas, in contrast, has his own constitutional law, which he alone honors and applies.

Thomas just turned sixty-eight years old, and reports of his impending retirement briefly surfaced before his wife shot them down as “bogus.” Indeed, it is difficult to imagine that Thomas would allow any Democrat to choose his successor. Shortly after Scalia died, Thomas asked his first question in oral argument in more than a decade, but it’s highly unlikely that he will take on Scalia’s role as the pugnacious conservative in the Court’s public sessions. Rather, Thomas will continue his own way, increasingly alone, as the Court, for the first time in two generations, moves to the left. As for Thomas’s place on the Court, it’s difficult to improve on Scalia’s analysis, which I heard him give at a synagogue a decade ago. Scalia was asked about how his judicial philosophy differed from Thomas’s. “I’m an originalist,” Scalia said, “but I’m not a nut.”

Read the full op-ed here: Clarence Thomas Has His Own Constitution – The New Yorker

Big Education Ape: In Detroit, It’s Charter Schools Gone Wild

Writing in The New York Times, Kate Zernike documents a charter school disaster being perpetuated on Detroit children and families. It is a story of phony “choice,” not better schools.

It is a warning of what can happen to education in the United States if the charter school movement is allowed to grow unchecked and unregulated.Zernike’s opens with a focus on the experience of one family.

Damian and Omar Rivera attended a series of Detroit charter schools as their mother tried to offer them a brighter future.

Damian, the older son, initially was enrolled at a charter school across the street from their home. He earned top grades and dreamed of becoming an engineer, until he was accepted into a special program at the University of Michigan where he discovered he knew far less about almost everything than similar students from Detroit public schools.

Ana Rivera pulled her son out of the charter and sent him to a Catholic school, where charter school A’s suddenly turned into Catholic School D’s. Damian is now a discouraged learner.

According to Zernike…

Follow the link to the full blog post: Big Education Ape: In Detroit, It’s Charter Schools Gone Wild

CURMUDGUCATION: Relatively Pregnant

Relatively Pregnant

Posted by Peter Greene: 29 Jun 2016

New pet peeve: “Relatively unique.” You can no more be “relatively unique” than relatively pregnant.

— Robert Pondiscio (@rpondiscio) June 29, 2016

I totally owe this post to Pondiscio’s tweet.

First, I share his pet peeve (even though I’m not prepared to bet anything valuable that I’ve never violated it). You are unique or you’re not. You are pregnant or you’re not. There is no relatively unique, relatively pregnant.

Put another way, when you got to the doctor to see if you’re pregnant or not, the doctor does not say, “Well, let me draw some blood. As soon as I’ve collected samples from a few hundred other women, I’ll be able to decide whether you’re relatively pregnant or not.”  No, there is no “relatively pregnant.”

You take the test. You find out whether or not you’re pregnant. You are just as pregnant when you take the test alone as you are when you take it at the same time as thousand so of other women.

Yes, this is yet another way to look at the difference between standards-referenced and norm-referenced testing.

If the Big Standardized Test (PARCC, SBA, PSSA, MOUSE, ETC) were truly a standards-referenced test, a student could take the test and know if she were proficient or not. And that is the implied promise of the BS Tests– that they will measure proficiency against a standard.

But if that were true, we would not need thousands of students to take the test. One student, alone, could take the test and be told whether she was proficient or basic or whatever. No test manufacturer, no state would have to say, “Okay, as soon as we have the test results from thousands of other students, we’ll be able to tell you if you’re proficient.”

One student, alone, could take the test and be given the results. We would not need the state government, the federal government, and the testocrats to say, “We can’t have opt out because every child must take the test because if every child doesn’t take the test, we won’t get meaningful results.”

We have been promised a test that tells us whether or not a student is proficient in reading and math. We were promised a test that would tell us whether or not a student is, in absolute terms, proficient, giving us, as Arne Duncan put it, the power to look an eight year old in the face and tell her whether or not she’s on track for college.

What we have instead is a test that tells us if a student is relatively proficient. Which makes no more sense than a test to determine if a woman is relatively pregnant.

Read the full blog post here: CURMUDGUCATION: Relatively Pregnant

CURMUDGUCATION: NJ: A Research Answer to Christie’s Terrible Funding Proposal

NJ: A Research Answer to Christie’s Terrible Funding Proposal

Posted by Peter Greene: 30 Jun 2016

Imagine that a state decides to stop offering any sort of food stamp program. The governor declares, “Everybody in our state deserves to eat, so from now on, instead of any sort of means-tested system, we will just give five bucks per week to every citizen of the state to buy food with. ”

Or a governor from a state like Colorado announces that he’s tired of paying so much more for snow removal on mountain roads than he is for small residential streets. Therefor, in the future, he will set aside $100 bucks for each road in the state and that’s all each roadway, whether it’s a twenty mile road through a mountain pass or a two block street in the suburbs.

Or a parent decides that to be absolutely fair, she will spend exactly the same amount of money on each child, including the youngest one-year-old child, the middle child who has physical issues that confine her to a wheelchair, and the oldest child who has just been diagnosed with cancer. Each one gets ten dollars a week spent on them, and that’s it. Because, fairness.

Regular readers know I am all about the illustrative comparison, but the fact is that I am stumped for examples that really convey just how criminally dumb and destructive Chris Christie’s proposal to spend exactly and only the same amount on each student in New Jersey. The proposal will be a windfall for wealthy districts and leave poor district further impoverished.

Read the full blog post here: CURMUDGUCATION: NJ: A Research Answer to Christie’s Terrible Funding Proposal

Five “Indisputable” Reasons Why VAMs are Good? | from the VAMboozled! blog

Five “Indisputable” Reasons Why VAMs are Good?

Posted: 30 Jun 2016 06:23 PM PDT

Just this week, in Education Week — the field’s leading national newspaper covering K–12 education — a blogger by the name of Matthew Lynchpublished a piece explaining his “Five Indisputable [emphasis added] Reasons Why You Should Be Implementing Value-Added Assessment.”

I’m going to try to stay aboveboard with my critique of this piece, as best I can, as by the title alone you all can infer there are certainly pieces (mainly five) to be seriously criticized about the author’s indisputable take on value-added (and by default value-added models (VAMs)). I examine each of these assertions below, but I will say overall and before we begin, that pretty much everything that is included in this piece is hardly palatable, and tolerable considering that Education Week published it, and by publishing it they quasi-endorsed it, even if in an independent blog post that they likely at minimum reviewed, then made public.

First, the five assertions, along with a simple response per assertion:

Source: Five “Indisputable” Reasons Why VAMs are Good? | VAMboozled!

Supreme Court Eliminates Political Corruption! (By Defining It Out of Existence)

THREE OUT OF FOUR Americans think government corruption is widespread. Donald Trump became the Republican nominee for president in part by claiming he couldn’t be bought. Bernie Sanders almost grabbed the Democratic nomination away from one of the most famous and powerful people on earth by decrying the influence of big money.

Yet by overturning the bribery conviction of Bob McDonnell, the former governor of Virginia, the Supreme Court this week just extended its incredible run of decisions driven by the concern that America has too many restrictions on money in politics.

Back in 2010, the majority held in Citizens United that corruption should be defined only as straightforward bribes. Do big donors to “independent” Super PACs get a receipt saying “Received: $5 Million in Return for Cutting Your Taxes”? No? Then according to the decision, the donation did “not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quocorruption,” and that’s all that matters.

Now in the unanimous McDonnell decision, the Court held that a lower court’s interpretation of quid pro quo defined the quo too broadly, because for McDonnell to run interference for his generous donors with state officials didn’t actually qualify as an “official decision.”

In other words, the Court first decided in 2010 that only out-and-out bribes matter, and now it has decided that only a carefully defined subset of bribes qualify.

Read more by following the link above.

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