CURMUDGUCATION: Home Stretch (7/26)

Posted by Peter Greene

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Home Stretch (7/26)

I am on a two-week vacation, driving cross-country with my wife to spend time with family in Seattle. In my absence, I have dug into the archives and pulled up some reruns for you. Though what I most suggest is that you check out the blogroll on the right side of the page. There are some outstanding bloggers, and if there are some folks you’ve never sampled, there’s no day like today.

If everything went according to plan, I should be getting home today. So let’s wrap up this rerun festival with a random assortment.

Stop Defending Music

The most viewed post here on the mother ship, as well as the one that has brought the most requests for reprints. Why we should stop trying to make excuses for music education.

Teacher Diversity Matters

The teaching field is mostly white ladies. That needs to change.

The Myth of the Hero Teacher

Larger than life. Leaping tall filing cabinets with a single bound. Taking a few moments out of every day to personally reach out to every single student and making that child feel special, while at the same time inspiring greater levels of smartitude just by sheer force of teacherly awesomeness. The Hero Teacher shoots expectation rays at students, making them all instant geniuses.

River To Classroom 

One of the privileges of living in a small town on the river.

Deaths in police custody in the United States: Research review – Journalist’s Resource Journalist’s Resource

The deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers in recent years have raised a number of questions about the treatment of racial minorities within the criminal justice system, as well as about patterns of arrest-related deaths more generally. Some researchers are calling for Congressional-mandated government databases to be more thorough so they can better find patterns in the violent interactions between police and civilians.

The Baltimore Sun‘s 2014 investigation of these issues in that city revealed that “over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations.” Other outlets, such as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have pursued similar investigations in their region. Still, it remains unclear how much these stark events and figures are characteristic of larger patterns across American society.

The limited data available do not suggest a recent overall increase in the number of homicides by police or the racial composition of those killed, despite the high-profile cases and controversies of 2014-2015, according to a New York Times analysis.

But a January 2015 report published in the Harvard Public Health Review, “Trends in U.S. Deaths due to Legal Intervention among Black and White men, Age 15-34 Years, by County Income Level: 1960-2010,” suggests persistent differences in risks for violent encounters with police:

“The rate ratio for black vs. white men for death due to legal intervention always exceeded 2.5 (median: 4.5) and ranged from 2.6 (95 percent confidence interval [CI] 2.1, 3.1) in 2001 to 10.1 (95 percent CI 8.7, 11.7) in 1969, with the relative and absolute excess evident in all county income quintiles.”

Arrest-related deaths

The case of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Baltimore man who died in police custody on April 19, 2015 — now ruled a homicide — raises questions specifically about treatment during and immediately after initial arrest.

A March 2015 report from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) concludes that the current Arrest-Related Death (ARD) program — which aims to track persons who die in custody in America at the state level — typically only counts about half, at best, of all deaths in police custody, and the coverage rate may be as low as 36 percent.

Although that estimate increased in 2011 to somewhere between 59 percent and 69 percent, the “current ARD program methodology does not allow a census of all law enforcement homicides in the United States,” researchers conclude.

The BJS’s 2015 “Data Quality Profile” report shows that some states have not reported statistics to the federal government in a given year between 2003 and 2011, and a few states have not participated at all.

That said, the federal government has nevertheless attempted to collect as much state-level data as possible in the past:

A federal census between 2003 and 2005 found there were 2,002 arrest-related deaths, and “homicides by state and local law enforcement officers were the leading cause of such deaths during this period (55 percent).” (There is no available statistical breakdown of how many of these homicides are the result of involuntary manslaughter versus intentional acts that might fall into the category of murder — issues that might be settled years later in the courts.)

For the most recent period where statistics are available (2003-2009), the BJS found that 4,813 persons “died during or shortly after law enforcement personnel attempted to arrest or restrain them… About 60 percent of arrest-related deaths (2,931) were classified as homicides by law enforcement personnel.”

However, among these 2,931 homicides by law enforcement personnel, 75.3 percent were reported to have taken place in response to a violent offense — constituting a force-on-force situation, such as an intervention with an ongoing assault, robbery or murder:

“Arrests for alleged violent crimes were involved in three of every four reported homicides by law enforcement personnel.” Still, 7.9 percent took place in the context of a public-order offense, 2.7 percent involved a drug offense, and among 9.2 percent of all homicides by police no specific context was reported.

Other factors implicated in deaths at the state level are as follows, according to BJS:

Death in custody (BJS)

Death in custody (BJS)

Further, from 2003 to 2009:

Of reported arrest-related deaths, 45 percent of persons allegedly engaged in assault immediately prior to or during the arrest…. Of reported persons who died during the process of arrest, 95 percent were male. About 42 percent were white, 32 percent were black/African American and 20 percent were Hispanic or Latino. More than half (55 percent) were between ages 25 and 44, and juveniles (persons under age 18) were about 3 percent of all arrest-related deaths.

The federal government also tracks fatalities in jails and prisons through its Deaths in Custody Reporting Program (DCRP); typically, the vast majority of deaths result from illness or suicide, with homicides and unnatural deaths attributed in only a few percent of cases. The state-level requirements for that reporting program expired in 2006, but a new bill was signed into law in 2014. (It is worth pointing out that jails — which see all manner of persons, from those right off the street to those awaiting trial — and prisons — where those convicted of crimes are deliberately and systematically placed — are quite different in their population and environment.)

Reporting on incidents

Experts involved in analysis of these incidents caution that the numbers can often hide meaningful context, and reporters would be well served to go beneath the surface and ask about how data is collected — and any potential holes or weaknesses in the data. Overall, states have varied in their methods of reporting law enforcement-related incidents of many kinds to the federal government, an issue recently addressed by FBI Director James Comey.

For an example of how data, or the lack of it, can matter — and mislead — see the series on prison rape written by David Kaiser for The New York Review of Books. Finally, for news reporters covering individual incidents, context can be crucially important, from the degree to which a neighborhood is a high-crime area, or where assaults on officers are common; to the level of police training to deal with, for example, violent and mentally ill persons; to the precise nature of the incident and whether it involved a suspect threatening public safety at the time of a violent intervention by authorities.

There is also a substantial body of government and academic research on these issues, including on the uses of restraints and other law enforcement practices that may be employed to manage persons detained:

Source: Deaths in police custody in the United States: Research review – Journalist’s Resource Journalist’s Resource

Role of party nominating conventions in the presidential election cycle:   Research roundup – from the Journalist’s Resource 

The 2016 presidential election cycle has been filled with speculation about what could happen at the Republican and Democratic party conventions this summer, given the highly contested nature of both primaries.

There is lengthy research literature on the role that the party nominating conventions typically play in the election cycle, and while each cycle is different, there are some historical patterns that are worth considering.

For example, the phenomenon of the post-convention “bump” or “bounce” has received attention both in the scholarly literature and by data journalists, although it is worth noting that the effect is not always reliable.

The Pew Research Center offers a concise look at brokered conventions over time, as well as how candidates fare as convention balloting takes place during contested conventions.

Scholars and commentators have been weighing in on the potential dynamics.

For example: Princeton’s Julian Zelizer has pointed to the 1976 GOP Convention as a useful precedent to consider, while Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings Institution has spelled out some hypothetical scenarios for 2016.

For a deep dive into the history and relevant political science, see Before the Convention, by Duke’s John Aldrich, as well as Kamarck’s Party Politics.


The following are other papers and reports that journalists might find useful as they think about, plan for and cover the conventions:

Source: Role of party nominating conventions in the presidential election cycle: Research roundup – Journalist’s Resource Journalist’s Resource

Progressive Policy Institute calls for aggressively closing more public schools and expanding charters HOWEVER: Report they cite falsely portrays Denver Schools as reform exemplar

BOULDER, CO (July 26, 2016) – A report published by the Progressive Policy Institute calls for aggressively closing more public schools and expanding charter schools and charter networks.

It highlights reforms adopted by Denver Public Schools, notably a “portfolio model” of school governance, and argues that these reforms positively impacted student test scores.

The new report is the latest attempt to paint a narrative of Denver as an exemplar – a success story that can and should be copied elsewhere.

However, a review finds that the report’s data do not support the weight of its conclusions.

Key Review Takeaway: Report is based on weak data and fails to explain how “successful” reform is associated with widening achievement gaps.

Assistant Professor Terrenda White of the University of Colorado Boulder reviewed A 21st Century School System in the Mile-High City for the Think Twice Think Tank Review Project at the National Education Policy Center, housed at CU Boulder’s School of Education.

As Professor White explains, the report is written in a reportorial voice, and the only data presented are in the form of simple charts.

The report did not attempt to isolate the effect of a multitude of reforms—including charters, performance pay, and a new performance framework—from larger complex forces shaping student demographics in the city.

The lack of conventional statistical analyses thwarts the reader’s understanding, and causality cannot be determined.The report also characterizes the reform’s adoption as a “political success” born of a healthily contentious electoral process, White explains.

In doing so, it downplays the role of outside forces and moneyed groups that influenced the nature of reforms, and it disregards missed opportunities for meaningful engagement with community stakeholders.

Finally, Professor White raises the concern that, while the report acknowledges the district’s failure to close achievement gaps and admits limitations with the evaluation system, it never explains how a successful reform could be associated with a widening gap in performance between student groups by race and class.

Find Terrenda White’s review at:

Find A 21st Century School System in the Mile-High City, by David Osborne, published by Progressive Policy Institute, at:

Click to access 2016.05-Osborne_A-21st-Century-School-System-in-the-Mile-High-City.pdf


47 Teachers To Be Stripped of Tenure in Denver | Reblogged from VAMboozled!

47 Teachers To Be Stripped of Tenure in Denver

Posted: 25 Jul 2016 08:54 AM PDT

As per a recent article by Chalkbeat Colorado, “Denver Public Schools [is] Set to Strip Nearly 50 Teachers of Tenure Protections after [two-years of consecutive] Poor Evaluations.” This will make Denver Public Schools — Colorado’s largest school district — the district with the highest relative proportion of teachers to lose tenure, which demotes teachers to probationary status, which also causes them to lose their due process rights.

  • The majority of the 47 teachers — 26 of them — are white. Another 14 are Latino, four are African-American, two are multi-racial and one is Asian.
  • Thirty-one of the 47 teachers set to lose tenure — or 66 percent — teach in “green” or “blue” schools, the two highest ratings on Denver’s color-coded School Performance Framework. Only three — or 6 percent — teach in “red” schools, the lowest rating.
  • Thirty-eight of the 47 teachers — or 81 percent — teach at schools where more than half of the students qualify for federally subsidized lunches, an indicator of poverty.

Elsewhere, in Douglas County 24, in Aurora 12, in Cherry Creek one, and in Jefferson County, the state’s second largest district, zero teachers teachers are set to lose their tenure status. This all occurred provided a sweeping educator effectiveness law — Senate Bill 191 — passed throughout Colorado six years ago. As per this law, “at least 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation [must] be based on student academic growth.”

“Because this is the first year teachers can lose that status…[however]…officials said it’s difficult to know why the numbers differ from district to district.” This, of course, is an issue with fairness whereby a court, for example, could find that if a teacher is teaching in District X versus District Y, and (s)he had an different probability of losing tenure due only to the District in which (s)he taught, this could be quite easily argued as an arbitrary component of the law, not to mention an arbitrary component of its implementation. If I was advising these districts on these matters, I would certainly advise them to tread lightly.

However, apparently many districts throughout Colorado use a state-developed and endorsed model to evaluate their teachers, but Denver uses its own model; hence, this would likely take some of the pressure off of the state, should this end up in court, and place it more so upon the district. That is, the burden of proof would likely rest on Denver Public School officials to evidence that they are no only complying with the state law but that they are doing so in sound, evidence-based, and rational/reasonable ways.

Citation: Amar, M. (2016, July 15). Denver Public Schools set to strip nearly 50 teachers of tenure protections after poor evaluations. Chalkbeat Colorado. Retrieved from

Source: 47 Teachers To Be Stripped of Tenure in Denver | VAMboozled!