Rick Hess’s Mistake: Failure of Test-and-Punish Is Not Limited to a Few Districts That Have Disappointed

And my own particular pet peeve is the deliberate and intentional misuse of the words “basic, proficient and advanced” — specifically “proficient” which the public is led to believe means at or even “below grade level.” Thieves and liars. Liars and thieves.


Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, has always been a corporate education reform kind of guy. That is why Hess’s honest analysis this week of the ultimate fraud of a succession of school district miracles—Washington, D.C.’s test score and graduation rate miracle under Michelle Rhee and those who followed her, Alonzo Crim’s Atlanta in the 1980s, Houston’s Texas Miracle under Rod Paige, Arne Duncan’s Chicago, and Beverly Hall’s Atlanta—is so refreshingly candid.

In all of these cases, as Hess points out, there was “a remarkable dearth of attention paid to ensuring that the metrics (were) actually valid and reliable.”  Second, it was “tempting for civic leaders and national advocates to accept happy success stories at face value—especially when they (were) fronted by a charismatic superintendent.” And finally “reformers and reporters (made) things worse with their lust for ‘celebrity superintendents’ and ‘model systems.’…

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Journalist’s Resource:    Research on today’s news

Local news and civic accountability: 5 questions for Setti Warren

Setti Warren, the former mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, is now the executive director of the Shorenstein Center. We sat down with him to get his thoughts on what happens to a community when there aren’t journalists covering city hall. “We are in danger  ,” he said.

Toxic waste sites and environmental justice: Research roundup

Often, those most at risk of living near toxic waste sites are low income or racial or ethnic minorities. Over the past few decades, researchers have looked into exactly where these sites are located, and the demographics of neighboring communities. Check out the latest scholarship.

7 ways to access academic research for free

Journalists sometimes have trouble finding the research they need because many academic journals keep the published work of scholars and research organizations behind paywalls. This new tip sheet
 outlines seven ways reporters can get access to that knowledge without spending any money.

Reporting on immigration? Choose your sources responsibly

Define American is a nonprofit media and culture organization working to change the narrative about immigration in the United States. Their latest campaign, #SourcesMatter, pushes the news media to reconsider the ways they achieve balance

in stories on immigration. The main message of the campaign: Choose your sources responsibly.

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Will New California Law Banning For-Profit Charter Schools Make a Difference?

Let’s go Michigan… follow suit!


Many of the states passed charter school enabling legislation back in the 1990s, before there was any understanding of how these privately operated schools—naively imagined as innocent incubators for innovation—might take advantage of public goodwill and access to pools of tax dollars to find ways to make a profit. By now we ought to have learned a lesson.

There are a few instances of fledgling regulation—notably last week, when California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that is supposed to ban for-profit charter management companies and for-profit “sweeps” management contracts under which for-profit management companies take over and operate charters that are formally not-for-profit.

Living in Ohio, however—where the notorious Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow stole what is now known to be well over a billion dollars over a seventeen year period while legislators and potential state regulators looked the other way as campaign contributions flowed from the school’s founder and…

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New Yorker Profile Warns: When It Comes to Mark Zuckerberg, Be Careful!


Evan Osnos’s extraordinary profile of Mark Zuckerberg, published in the September 17, New Yorker, wouldn’t seem a fitting topic for coverage in this blog about public education. Osnos hardly touches on Mark Zuckerberg’s ventures thus far into education philanthropy—the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, which has made education-based philanthropy one of its primary foci, or the $100,000,000 gift to help Chris Christie and Cory Booker charterize the public schools in Newark, New Jersey, a controversial and poorly conceived initiative that did not improve the education of children in Newark.

Osnos’s profile explores the question of who has the power,”to pull the lever of what we see, hear, and experience.” Osnos is, of course, examining the role of Facebook and whether and how it functions as an arbiter of free speech. The central subject of the profile, however, is Mark Zuckerberg himself and how he thinks and operates.  Continuing to explore the…

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Tax Cuts Part II: What State Tax Cuts Mean for Public Higher Education

There’s a reason for this, there’s a reason education sucks, and it’s the same reason it will never ever ever be fixed. It’s never going to get any better. Don’t look for it. Be happy with what you’ve got… because the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now… the real owners. The big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, the city halls. They got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests…
George Carlin (2005) Life Is Worth Losing.


Across many states in the past decade, especially after the 2008 Great Recession, followed by the Tea Party red-wave 2010 election, politicians in many states have assumed they could cut taxes—thereby curtailing the revenue stream flowing to the state—without its affecting what is the largest financial outlay in any state—the education budget.

Last spring, a wave of walkouts by schoolteachers, in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky and several other states, drew the nation’s attention to the catastrophic consequences of slashing taxes and cutting into state education budgets.  But now in mid-September, we find ourselves barraged by pre-election personal attack ads on television and mired in the scandal-ridden sensationalism of the Trump White House. Two posts on this blog—yesterday and today—review two of the consequences for education of the fiscal crisis in state budgets that schoolteachers brought to our attention last spring.

If tax cutting across many states has dangerously…

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Tax Cuts Part I: What State Tax Cuts Mean for K-12 Public Education


Professor of school law, Derek Black writes: “School funding formulas are one of the most arcane and obscure elements of public policy one can imagine.”  Maybe that’s why most of us lose a sense of the connection of the money to the particulars of what it pays for. When the state cuts school funding—unless our own children lose a teacher, or we see their classes grow over 35 children, or their school loses the counselor or the nurse or the librarian—we aren’t likely to pay attention.

And then there are the totally invisible costs. In a report last summer for In the Public Interest, the political economist Gordon Lafer explains  some of these invisible costs a public school system is required provide in order to serve the community and meet the needs of each of the children—things that a charter school or even charter school chain (which…

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Rising Tide Fails to Lift All Boats; School Test Scores Track Widening Inequality


For anybody who wants to understand the reasons for low academic test sores and to learn why schools cannot quickly institute reforms and turn around lagging school achievement, Matthew Desmond’s extraordinary piece in Sunday’s NY Times Magazine is essential reading.  Desmond is the Princeton University sociologist who authored the 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning Evicted.  Desmond has also founded the Eviction Lab, a team of researchers who are in the process of building an enormous data base to track eviction and extreme poverty in America.

With the headline, Incomes Rose and Poverty Rate Fell for Third Straight Year, last week the Wall Street Journal began its coverage of the new U.S. Census data: “American incomes rose and poverty declined for the third consecutive year in 2017, according to census figures released Wednesday that suggest more Americans are benefiting from the robust economy.”  It sounds as though a rising tide…

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The NAEP proficiency myth

Excellent essay about the manipulation and misappropriation of education assessments to “prove” the public schools are FAILING.
“On May 16, 2016 I got into a Twitter argument with Campbell Brown of The 74, an education website. She released a video on Slate giving advice to the next president. The video begins: “Without question, to me, the issue is education. Two out of three eighth graders in this country cannot read or do math at grade level.” I study student achievement and was curious. I know of no valid evidence to make the claim that two out of three eighth graders are below grade level in reading and math. No evidence was cited in the video. I asked Brown for the evidentiary basis of the assertion. She cited the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
NAEP does not report the percentage of students performing at grade level. NAEP reports the percentage of students reaching a “proficient” level of performance. Here’s the problem. That’s not grade level.
In this post, I hope to convince readers of two things:
1. Proficient on NAEP does not mean grade level performance. It’s significantly above that.
2. Using NAEP’s proficient level as a basis for education policy is a bad idea.
Before going any further, let’s look at some history…”

Journalist’s Resource:Research on today’s news

Facebook and the newsroom: 6 questions for Siva Vaidhyanathan

Media scholar Siva Vaidhyanathan shares his thoughts on how reporters can do a better job covering Facebook and its influence on the lives of billions of people worldwide. In an interview with Journalist’s Resource, he argues that “journalism is feeding the beast that’s starving it — the more that journalists pander to Facebook … the more that Facebook becomes the governing mechanism to journalism.”

3 quick tips for debunking hoaxes in a hurricane

Reporters covering natural disasters can expect to contend not only with the weather, but also an onslaught of mis- and disinformation. We’ve pulled together a few tips and resources  to help sort what’s real and newsworthy from what’s fake.

Hospital mergers may lead to higher health care costs

Research by UCLA economist Matt Schmitt offers new insights
 for policymakers and consumer advocates to consider as an increasing number of local and regional hospitals get gobbled up by larger health care providers based hundreds of miles away. Chris Fleisher of the American Economic Association explains.

Ig Nobel Prizes go to research on employee retaliation, self-colonoscopy

Burning and stabbing voodoo dolls gives employees who’ve been mistreated by their bosses a feeling of justice, according to new research led by Lindie Liang of Wilfrid Laurier University. The study was one of 10 recognized at the 2018 Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, which also honored research on topics such as smelling flies in wine, the nutritional content of human flesh and self-colonoscopies.

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Checks and Balances Help Protect Us from Betsy DeVos


Sam Tanenhaus, the former editor of the NY Times Book Review, is quite a writer, and it is fascinating to contrast the Betsy DeVos we’ve come to know in the months since she became U.S. Secretary of Education with the Betsy DeVos we meet in Tanenhaus’s Vanity Fair profile of the western Michigan DeVos Empire.  Tanenhaus writes: “In the solar system of elite Republican contributors, Richard DeVos Sr., who died Thursday at age 92—one of the two founders of Amway, the direct-sale colossus—occupied an exalted place, and his offspring did too. Since the 1970s, members of the DeVos family had given as much as $200 million to the G.O.P. and been tireless promoters of the modern conservative movement—its ideas, its policies, and its crusades combining free-market economics, a push for privatization of many government functions, and Christian social values. While other far-right mega-donors may have become better known…

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