I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Marooned In a Blizzard of Lies

Once, again, I sense a pattern:

Gary Rubinstein takes on the claims of Wendy Kopp [all emphases mine unless noted]:   

So it was with great surprise that I read an interview with Wendy in The Huffington Post where she said “On average, our corps members stay in the classroom for eight years.”  When I first read this, I assumed that she simply misspoke, like when she said in a speech at Harvard that only 3% of alumni are in the private sector, while that number, according to one of my TFA contacts (who is probably deflating the number his/herself) says that Wendy should have said it was 16% with 3% being specifically in business.
But reading over the reaction to this claim and also her responses on Twitter, she is standing by it (read from bottom to top).


So this claim is truly outrageous and, even for me, disappointing.  There is so much dishonesty in ed reform.  There are the charters who boast that 100% of their students get accepted to college, with no mention that half their students disappeared before senior year.  There are the claims, now even TFA admits they were inflated, that a large percent of first year corps members get a year and a half of ‘gains.’  And now add this new one about TFA retention.  How can we ever figure out what is working in education when PR contaminates the truth we need? 
Some good commentary on this 8 year claim:
The Jersey Jazzman blogs about it. [Thanks Gary!-JJ]
Anthony Cody Part IAnthony Cody Part II 
Here's PURE, the parent advocate group in Chicago, on Urban Prep:
The Urban Prep Charter School marketing band wagon rolls on. 
Once again, the school is pulling out all the stops (and, apparently, Governor Quinn) to congratulate itself for having once more gotten “100%” of its students into college. 
Problem is, Urban Prep once more forgot to mention that it lost about half of its students along the way. This class started out with 165 students freshman year and yet only 85 are graduating. 
At least this year some in the media are asking the question I first asked two years ago, when Urban Prep started this marketing campaign. In fact, this year’s results at the school are even worse than they were that first year, when 107 graduated in a class that started out with 166 freshmen. 
It’s great that Urban Prep works to prepare mostly low-income, mostly African-American young men to go to college. It’s great that, as they report, 83% of the graduates from last year are still in college. 
But it’s really lousy that they can’t be honest about how many students disappear from their rolls. It’s a fraudulent marketing practice and bad education to mislead people into believing that your school can create miracles where regular schools have failed. It’s part of the terrible problem in public education today, where the lies are standing in the way of making schools work for every student.
There's the Gates Foundation:
The New York Times reported on these findings Friday and repeated the following strong claim:
But now some 20 states are overhauling their evaluation systems, and many policymakers involved in those efforts have been asking the Gates Foundation for suggestions on what measures of teacher effectiveness to use, said Vicki L. Phillips, a director of education at the foundation.
One notable early finding, Ms. Phillips said, is that teachers who incessantly drill their students to prepare for standardized tests tend to have lower value-added learning gains than those who simply work their way methodically through the key concepts of literacy and mathematics. (emphasis added) 
I looked through the report for evidence that supported this claim and could not find it.  Instead, the report actually shows a positive correlation between student reports of “test prep” and value added on standardized tests, not a negative correlation as the statement above suggests.  (See for example Appendix 1 on p. 34.) 
I don’t know whether something got lost in the translation between the researchers and Gates education chief, Vicki Phillips, or between her and Sam Dillon at the New York Times, but the article contains a false claim that needs to be corrected before it is used to push changes in education policy and practice.
And, of course, Michelle Rhee:
G.F. Brandenburg, a retired D.C. math teacher with an irresistible blog, has done it again. If he had chosen a career in journalism instead of teaching, no U.S. president would have finished out his first term. He has found the missing test score data from former D.C. schools chancellor's early years as a classroom teacher, something I did not think was possible.
He has proved that Rhee's results weren't nearly as good as she said they were. (To see Rhee's response, which calls Brandenburg's criticism "unfounded," click here.)
You can find Brandenburg's revelations in this Jan. 31 post, "The Rhee Miracle Examined Again--By Cohort." Then go back further for other recent pieces he has done, with many charts, to make his findings clear. You may also be enlightened by his most recent Feb. 8 item, "The Cluelessness of Rhee, Kopp and Mathews," which finds fault with my Feb. 3 column on Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp's new book. It is an honor, of a sort, to be mentioned by Brandenburg in the same headline as Rhee, who has been his prime target for years.
 How about KIPP?
Contrary to the profile often portrayed in the media, by some policymakers, and by some charter school proponents (including some charter CEOs), the high-profile/high-enrollment CMOs in Texas enrolled groups of students that would arguably be easier to teach and would be more likely to exhibit high levels of achievement and greater growth on state achievement tests. Indeed, the above analyses showed that, relative to comparison schools, CMOs had:
  • Entering students with greater prior TAKS scores in both mathematics and reading;
  • Entering economically disadvantaged students with substantially greater prior TAKS scores in both mathematics and reading;
  • Lower percentages of incoming students designated as ELL;
  • Lower percentages of incoming students identified as special needs; and,
  • Only slightly greater percentages of incoming students identified as economically disadvantaged.
In other words, rather than serving more disadvantaged students, the findings of this study suggest that the high-profile/high-enrollment CMOs actually served a more advantaged clientele relative to comparison schools—especially as compared to schools in the same zip code as the CMO schools. This is often referred to as the “skimming” of more advantaged students from other schools. While CMOs may not intentionally skim, the skimming of students may simply be an artifact of the policies and procedures surrounding entrance into these CMOs.
And Marguerite Roza:
But this new graph, sent to me from a colleague who had to suffer through this presentation, really takes the cake. This new graph comes to us from Marguerite Roza, from a presentation to the New York Board of Regents in September. And this one rises above all of these previous graphs because IT IS ENTIRELY FABRICATED. IT IS BASED ON NOTHING.
Perhaps even worse than that, the fabricated information on this illustrative graph suggests that its author does not have even the slightest grip on a) statistics, b) graphing, c) how one might measure effects of school reforms (and how large or small they might be) or d) basic economics.
Here’s the graph:
But most importantly, even if there was a clear definition of either, THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO EVIDENCE TO BACK THIS UP. IT IS ENTIRELY FABRICATED.  Now, I’ve previously picked on Marguerite Roza for here work with Mike Petrilli on the Stretching the School Dollar policy brief. Specifically, I raised significant concern that Petrilli and Roza provide all sorts of recommendations for how to stretch the school dollar but PROVIDE NO ACTUAL COST/EFFECTIVENESS ANALYSIS. 
In a typically insouciant editorial about the problems with one of Chris Christie's "reform" schemes, the S-L writes:
But it’s not just school buildings that are needed. The instructional programs in the Camden schools are disastrous failures, too.
At Camden Street Elementary, just 10 percent of third-graders read at grade level. At Camden High School, fewer than 17 percent of juniors are proficient in math. [emphasis mine]
Here's the problem: Camden Street Elementary is not in Camden. As the Camden City Public Schools website shows, there isn't a school even remotely named Camden Street Elementary. (It took me all of 30 seconds to find this through Google, Tom).
Joel Klein:

So Klein’s entire autobiography is a sleight of hand.
He was not a child of the streets. He was not an academically unmotivated student. He did not come from a deprived family background. He did not grow up in public housing as we understand it today.  

It would be obscene for me to claim I overcame severe hardship and was rescued from deprivation by schoolteachers. It is more obscene for Klein to do so, because his claim supports attacks on contemporary teachers and a refusal to acknowledge impediments teachers face because of their students’ social and economic deprivation. It’s a deprivation that he never suffered but that many children from public housing do today.
Steve Perry:
But then, that's what Perry does best:

Capital Preparatory Magnet School is considered one of the best high schools in the nation with a zero dropout rate. It has sent 100% of its seniors, who are mostly low- income, minority, first-generation high school graduates, to four-year colleges every year since 2004.
Hartford is similar to Milwaukee in that it has one of the lowest-performing districts in Connecticut, and the state has one of the largest achievement gaps between black and white students in the nation. Perry's school is no different from any of the other successful schools in the country in that it stresses high expectations for everyone and high accountability. [emphasis mine]
Capital Prep may be no different that other "successful" schools, but it's very different from the schools in Hartford when it comes to student population:

Look at that: Perry's school serves less than half as many kids living in poverty than the neighboring public schools. It's ridiculous to pretend that Perry has some secret formula for success without mentioning this salient fact. Capital Prep also serves far fewer kids who have disabilities or speak a language other than English at home.

And as for that dropout rate: if a kid transfers from Capital Prep back to a neighborhood school, is that counted against Perry as a dropout or a transfer? In Chicago, Nobel Charter claims a low dropout rate, but that's because the kids who are ushered out the door wind up in a public school, so it's considered a transfer. Is Perry playing the same game here?

In spite of all this, Perry loves to jet around the country and pop up on the TV, spewing invective against teachers unions and accusing anyone who calls him out of being a racist:

Saying that a child can't learn because he or she is black, Hispanic, poor or comes from a single-parent home is racist, Perry said. I'd have to agree with that.
And this: If schools demand the best out of their kids, chances are they will get the best.
If Perry is so damn sure of himself, why doesn't he take the same kids into Capital Prep as the schools down the street? Why waste time accusing everyone else of racism, or classism; why not just prove what you're saying, Steve?

I could go on all day, but I think you get my point:

The reformy agenda is built on a foundation of falsehoods, mistruths, half-truths, distortions, and outright lies.

Some suggest we should have a honest dialog about the "reforms" these people propose. I'm all for that; but how do you have an honest dialog with people who have such a casual relationship with the truth?

No comments: