CURMUDGUCATION: A Lesson from China

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

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: A Lesson from China

A Lesson from China

We’re witnessing another lesson in how free market forces work, and how business interests often run contrary to the public interest. And the lesson is coming from China, of all places.

This is a lesson that started with Google, way back in 2006. That was the year that Google set aside the motto “don’t be evil” for the more pragmatic “don’t be shut out of the enormous Chinese market,” and willingly provided the Chinese with a censored version of Google. The official rationale was something along the lines of “they’re censoring us anyway,” but it seemed more likely that the rationale was “do you have any idea how much money there is to be made, because, damn, it’s a lot.”

Google pulled out in 2010, over a Chinese attempt to hack gmail and other pieces of Google. That response (Google actually called it “retaliation”) was remarkable, and it didn’t last. Google is set to re-enter the Chinese market.

Businesses looking to operate in countries with repressive, censorship-prone laws face a question– do they change their basic mission to follow the repressive local laws, or do they pass up the giant piles of money as a matter of principle?

Google, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the tech giants are dealing with that question and while they consider the moral and ethical considerations of modifying their basic mission so– look, do you have any idea of how much money there is to be made??

The modifications and concessions come in bits and pieces. What attracted my attention today was Apple’s decision to remove the New York Times app from the Chinese Apple store. Because the Chinese don’t like the NYT, believe it’s violating some local law, and Apple wants to stay in China. So the principle of transparency or free speech or access to the press or just the supposedly bedrock internet principle that information should be spread far and wide– all of that can go out the window if the corporate access to the highly lucrative Chinese market is threatened.

I have said it repeatedly: the business mindset, the profit motive– these are not inherently evil things. But the business approach has priorities that are not always in tune with larger social principles. And if a business entity is run by people with no scruples or ethical standards of their own, the problem is even worse.

Businesses will put business first, even ahead of supposedly bedrock social and moral principles. That does not make them evil, but it makes them very bad stewards of the public interest. If we turn schools into businesses, business interests will come ahead of student interests, parent interests, and community interests.

And if you imagine that a business approach somehow frees folks from government control– well, look back at China. There is no such thing as a free market; all markets operate under whatever rules the government sets for them.

If you believe that allowing a bunch of business-run charter schools to open up and compete will somehow give students a more excellent education, you are kidding yourself (and, perhaps, others). The education-flavored businesses will compete to make money under whatever rules the government subjects them to, and actually educating students will be far, far down on their list of priorities.

University of Arkansas Researchers Recycle Debunked Voucher Claims Regarding Crime Reduction | National Education Policy Center

Key Takeaway: Report uses unwarranted causal language throughout, while cheerleading for “Education Savings Account” legislation.

BOULDER, CO (January 4, 2017) – A new report from the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform claims that Texas voucher legislation would reduce crime and thereby save the state a cumulative $194 million by the end of 2035. This claim is not warranted and has, in fact, already been discredited.

The report’s calculations arise from another University of Arkansas analysis, by the same authors. The Arkansas researchers had argued that some subgroups of voucher-receiving students in Milwaukee, Wisconsin were less likely to commit crimes as adults. That earlier analysis was reviewed in April 2016 by Clive Belfield, Professor of Economics at Queens College, City University of New York.

There exist multiple errors and limitations in the two Arkansas analyses, but perhaps the most important are the poorly grounded claims regarding causation. As Professor Belfield explained, no causal inferences can be drawn from the type of data and analyses used by the researchers. This means that the researchers cannot responsibly make claims about “results” and “impacts”, as they do in their Texas report.

Professor Belfield observed that, far from establishing a causal relationship between voucher program participation and a reduction in criminal behavior, the Arkansas researchers had not even established meaningful and consistent correlations. As Belfield pointed out, one valid interpretation of the data and analyses presented in the earlier report is that vouchers and crime are, in fact, not correlated.

Instead of engaging with Professor Belfield’s critique of their Milwaukee report, the Arkansas authors used the unconvincing results of that study, plugged in crime numbers from Texas, and estimated that if that state’s legislators were to create a type of voucher program called “Education Savings Accounts” they would (19 years from now) have, in the aggregate, saved their state almost two-hundred million dollars.

“This is a textbook example of garbage-in, garbage-out,” said Professor Kevin Welner of the University of Colorado Boulder, who directs the National Education Policy Center. “A figure derived from a study that does not allow for causal inference cannot then be brought back from the dead and magically support a causal inference in another study six months later. This sort of zombie causation could not possibly be of use to lawmakers looking for trustworthy information.”

Find Professor Belfield’s review on the web at:

Find the recent Arkansas report on the web at:

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at:

Source: University of Arkansas Researchers Recycle Debunked Voucher Claims Regarding Crime Reduction | National Education Policy Center



Student bullying on school buses: Comparing teen boys and girls – Journalist’s Resource Journalist’s Resource

Teenage boys who take the bus to school have a greater chance of being bullied than those who use other types of transportation, according to a recent study that also suggests girls generally are more likely to be bullied than boys.

The issue: Bullying has long been a problem in schools in the United States. But campus administrators have become more aggressive in their attempts to control bullying in recent years, as research has confirmed a link between bullying and poor mental health and the media has forced a national spotlight on student violence.

Brandy Vela, a high school senior from Texas, is among the latest in a series of bullying victims who have taken their own lives. In late 2016, Congressman Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania introduced a bill requiring U.S. schools to begin tracking and publishing quarterly reports on bullying among their students.

A study worth reading: “School Bus Travel is Associated with Bullying Victimization among Canadian Male, but not Female, Middle and High School Students,” published in Child Abuse & Neglect, 2016.

Study summary: A study led by Hugues Sampasa-Kanyinga, an epidemiologist at Ottawa Public Health in Canada, looks at the relationship between bullying and the type of transportation children use to get to and from school. He and his colleagues analyzed a sample of 10,272 students in grades 7-12 who attended Canadian public schools and participated in the 2013 Ontario Students Drug Use and Health Survey. As a part of the survey, students were asked a range of questions, including how they usually travelled between school and home and how often they were bullied. The authors note that their study is the first to investigate the relationship between school travel and reports of bullying among middle school and high school students.

Key takeaways:

  • School bullying is common. One-fourth of students (24.7 percent) reported they had been bullied in the past 12 months.
  • Girls were more likely than boys to be bullied. About 27 percent of girls reported being bullied compared to about 22 percent of boys.
  • Low-income students – especially low-income girls — were more likely to report being bullied than children with higher family incomes. Students whose parents did not go to college were more likely to be bullied than students whose parents had some level of college education. About 34 percent of girls whose parents did not go to college reported being bullied compared to about 23 percent of boys.
  • For boys, traveling on a school bus was associated with a greater likelihood of being bullied. More than 29 percent of boys who rode the bus home from school reported being bullied compared to 16 percent of boys who traveled home in a car, 24 percent who took public transportation and 20 percent who walked or rode bikes.
  • For girls, walking or riding a bike to school was associated with a higher chance of being bullied. Almost 33 percent of girls who walked or rode bikes reported bullying compared to 31 percent who took the bus, 24 percent who traveled by car and 19 percent who used public transportation.

Helpful resources for journalists:

  • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) publishes data on bullying, broken down by the type of bullying experienced by students. A 2015 NCES report shows that 21.5 percent of students aged 12 to 18 reported being bullied in 2012-13 and another nearly 7 percent reported being the victims of cyberbullying either on campus or off campus.
  •, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, offers information on bullying, including tips for identifying children who are at risk of being bullied and those who are more likely to be bullies.
  • A 2013 report from the Congressional Research Service looks at, among other things, state anti-bullying legislation and the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs.

More research on this topic:


Keywords: cyberbullying, crime, school violence, anti-bullying, bus stop, zero tolerance


Writer: | Last updated: December 15, 2016

Citation: Sampasa-Kanyinga, Hugues; Chaput, Jean-Philippe; Hamilton, Hayley A.; Larouche, Richard. “School Bus Travel is Associated with Bullying Victimization among Canadian Male, but not Female, Middle and High School Students,” Child Abuse & Neglect, 2016, Vol. 58.

Source: Student bullying on school buses: Comparing teen boys and girls – Journalist’s Resource Journalist’s Resource


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

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Test Prep Abroad

Test Prep Abroad

Because I search for a wide assortment of education-related stuff on line, the cookie-bot dance often brings me strange, new advertisements. Like a link to, an test prep outfit in Nungambakka, Chennai, which is on the southwest side of India. Just up the street from Pizza Hut.

Right there in the world.
Just up the street from Pizza Hut

I wish I had saved their ad, but some copy from their website gives you a taste of Scoregetter’s almost-but-not-quite-there appeal:

A student, for us, is not a client, but a chance to showcase our proven ability all over again. We have, over the years, understood what it takes for students to achieve a good score.

Scoregetters will help you prep for any of the major standardized tests in Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, and the USA. Germany’s appeal is “zero tuition fees” while New Zealand “has a global recognition as a contributor of excellent education. It has a progressive education system with many state of the art conveniences.” So there’s that. The USA is, of course, the “dream destination for higher studies.”

And if that sounds appealing, you can see about opening a ScoreGetter franchise of your own.

Of course, there are many folks working the same industry. In fact, Chennai also hosts the unfortunately named CrackSAT. There is no indication on their website, where, exactly, the crack is involved, not even on their FAQ page where we learn that the SAT “is a test that has to be taken for admission into any undergraduate degree Program in America. SAT is an aptitude test administered by The College Board in order to have a standardized format that measures the skill sets required for entering a college.”

Also, if you’re wondering about taking the ACT, CrackSAT says “The basic premise on which the test must be chosen is the requirement of the college that the student plans to apply to.”

None of this is “All your base are belong to us,” and my point here is not to pick on non-native English speakers. It’s just one more kind of sad face of the test prep industry.

That industry goes back away, with Stanley Kaplan founding his test tutoring company in 1938 (in his parents’ basement in Brooklyn), when he was nineteen years old. Kaplan was rejected by medical schools because he was Jewish; he never forgot. Kaplan was an outsider beating on the SAT door for decades until the 1980s when the Federal Trade Commission itself established that Kaplan really could raise scores; soon after, the SAT folks invited him to come speak. Why the change of heart? Perhaps they realized that SAT test prep was hope, and the more people had hope, the more people would take the test. Fun fact: Kaplan was more recently been bought by Washington Post, Inc, for whom they were a huge money maker.

Reuters has covered at considerable length how China’s massive test prep industry has pushed the SAT folks hard with security assaults. New Orient is just one of the huge companies making a bundle by cracking the SAT code and leaking test materials and just generally committing fraud.

None of this should be a surprise. When you reduce the process of determining whether or not someone has a future as a college student and has the potential to grow and develop in an environment of higher learning while maturing as both a person and a scholar– when you reduce all that to a single score churned out by a mass-produced test, it seems inevitable that people will crop up who are more focused on gaming that single score. No test prep– domestic or foreign– offers to make okay students into better students, to make them wiser, smarter, or more packed with potential. They all just promise to get a better score. It’s just a little more obvious when the company can’t come up with the smooth native-English polish and spin of American marketing.

That is changing. One of the big dogs (if not the biggest) in international US test prep is Veritas Prep, a company founded in 2002 by two Yale grads who hatched the plan in their enterpreneurial planning class. Veritas is now in twenty-two countries, prepping for every under grad and grad school test an aspiring US-bound student could need to pass. Their SAT prep is aimed at students who want to be in the top 10%, and their selling point is a raft of tutors who are almost all members of the SAT perfect score club. For just $5,400, you can have 36 hours of their time and attention.

You may be reading this and thinking, “Yeah. So?” And I get that– we have become so fully adjusted to the notion that a single standardized test should somehow be the arbiter of a student’s future worth, to the point that we have made the SAT one of the gatekeepers to entering this country. How did we become so resolutely focused on the wrong thing that we have managed to export our twisted vision across the globe, like bad, mass-produced pizza.

CURMUDGUCATION: Six Reasons To Oppose Betsy DeVos

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

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Six Reasons To Oppose Betsy DeVos

Six Reasons To Oppose Betsy DeVos

Senate hearings on Herr Trump’s cabinet picks are coming up soon, and you should be calling your Senator. There are many good reasons for opposing Betsy DeVos as a Secretary of Education.

1) No experience with public education.

This is not like appointing someone to the post of Attorney General who is not a lawyer– this is like appointing someone Attorney General who has never been to court. DeVos grew up in private school, sent her kids to private school, and has spent her adult life advocating for private schools. She has literally no first hand knowledge of how the public education system works, for better or worse.

2) No organizational experience.

DeVos’s experience is strictly in philanthropic advocacy, a sort of checkbook lobbying that has never required her to work with people with whom she disagrees. As Secretary of Education, she will need to work with governors, congresspersons, and the sprawling USED staff, many of whom are going to disagree with her in matters of policy and philosophy. As a philanthropic advocate, she has been able to surround herself with people who are like-minded and/or beholden to her. That would not be her situation as Secretary; she would have to build coalitions, reach compromise, earne trust and cooperation, and all without the use of her checkbook. One of the great criticisms of Arne Duncan was that he could not play well with Congress, instead insisting on dictating as if he were The Boss. Everything in DeVos’s background, including her dismissal of both political parties as failures, suggests that she would be even worse.

3) No administrative experience.

DeVos has never run an organization or corporation close to the size of the Department of Education. The department has 5,000 employees and oversees a budget of around $73 billion. Windquest, the energy investment she runs with her husband, has ten employees with revenue around $15 million.Her husband helped fund the 2012 Broadway production Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, which closed after twenty-nine days. She was chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party for four years, and she has been a successful fund-raiser for many GOP candidates, as witnessed by her group American Federation for Children, a group that exists primarily as a funnel for dark money.  But she has never run a company and never managed a business. Given her belief that “government sucks,” it seems unlikely that she will be a quick study in how to manage a sprawling government department– particularly if she has manage some combination of holdovers from previous administrations and newbies just learning the ropes.

4) Vouchers are bad news for everybody.

Whether we are talking about the traditional school vouchers that DeVos has long advocated for, or newer Education Savings Accounts, there is much for both the left and the right to fear. For the left, vouchers represent a financial attack on public schools. The first moment vouchers go into effect, before a single child leaves a public school, millions of tax dollars will go out of the public system and into private schools. For the right, vouchers are a trojan horse. Where government money goes, government regulations follow. Maybe not today– but some day, inevitably, every school that accepts federal education money will feel the hand of federal regulation.

5) Nobody voted for Jeb Bush or the Common Core

DeVos is a long-time supporter of Jeb Bush and a partner in his Foundation for Excellence in Education, one of the leading think tanks for Common Core promotion. Nobody was fooled when Candidate Jeb tried to disown the Core, and nobody on either the left or the right should be fooled when DeVos does the same. She would have made a great Bush USED pick, but as you may recall, Jeb Bush didn’t win much of anything or anyone in his sad Presidential campaign. We didn’t elect Bush or his failed education policies– why should we get a cabinet pick that is just what he would have wanted?

6) Her track record is terrible.

DeVos has used her family’s financial muscle to push Detroit schools to try most of her favorite, favored reform ideas, and the result has been a disaster. The big-money reformers have abandoned it, and Doug Harris, who has done extensive research in New Orleans (the other haven for educational disaster capitalism)  where he finds the results of a total charter conversion “impressive”– that Doug Harris declares DeVosified Detroit an educational disaster area.  DeVos’s educational ideas have been field-tested, and they have failed.

Contact your Senator— by email, letter, or (best of all) phone. Make sure they understand that this is a mistake.

Yes, a candidate who had positives in place of DeVos’s negatives could still be a terrible Secretary of Education. There is no guarantee that another candidate with better qualifications would not be terrible; however, someone whose qualification deficit is this large certainly will be terrible.

It is hard to imagine a worse choice than Betsy DeVos. Make sure your Senator hears that, many times.

Bill Cobbs for Governor Official Announcement, Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 4:00 PM


Bill Cobbs cares about what all Michigan families care about:

Clean Affordable Water,

Safe Roads & Bridges,

and Quality Schools.

The Emergency Manager Law, and other policies have caused a hardship to our state. Our freeways are flooding, our infrastructure is crumbling, and our schools are threatened with being defunded.

Our cities have less money to work with from the State. It is time for a real leader to restore trust in Government.

Join us on Wednesday, January 11, 2018 as we embark on a journey to make history, and restore good Governance to the State of Michigan.

Go here to register to attend this event: Bill Cobbs for Governor Official Announcement Tickets, Wed, Jan 11, 2017 at 4:00 PM | Eventbrite