Walmart gives $8 million to StudentsFirst

If you needed yet more proof that Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst is nothing more than an anti-tax group, consider that Walmart has just given her $8 million to con tinue her corporate education agenda.
A foundation associated with the Wal-Mart family fortune has expanded its support for the education advocacy group run by former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.

The Walton Family Foundation announced Tuesday an $8-million grant over two years to StudentsFirst, which is headquartered in Sacramento but has operations in 18 states.
[...]
The Walton funding is to support such activities as staff costs, lobbying and research. It's not for direct campaign donations, which are made from a separate arm of StudentsFirst.

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The Three Biggest TFA Lies

When I was a kid, around ten years old I guess, my father told me a joke that began with the question “What are the three biggest lies?” I said I didn’t know and he proceeded to tell me that the first biggest lie is “The check is in the mail,” which as a ten year old I really didn’t get. The second biggest lie was, apparently, “Some of my best friends are Black,” which also didn’t make much sense coming from my father, considering that some of his best friends were, in fact, Black. The third, well, was a bit too X-rated for this blog, and definitely for me as a ten year old. Not everyone is a perfect parent, I know, and I don’t hold this against him, though I do try to limit his unsupervised time with my own two kids.

As someone who is, I suppose, a big “friendly critic” (an expression TFA coined as the need to describe the growing number of frustrated alumni) of TFA, I think the biggest problem with TFA is all the lying. Though the individual people I’ve known on staff aren’t huge liars, themselves, the sum of all the lies add up to an organization whose lying is pathological. Really, they’ve elevated the art of lying to new heights, much the way Mozart elevated the concerto. Even people like Bernie Madoff who thought they were great liars can’t help but marvel at TFAs techniques.

[readon2 url="http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2013/04/30/the-three-biggest-tfa-lies/"]Continue reading...[/readon2]

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Republican lawmakers looking to attack working people again

On this day in 1886
350,000 workers staged a nationwide work stoppage to demand the adoption of a standard eight-hour workday. Forty thousand workers struck in Chicago, Illinois; ten thousand struck in New York; eleven thousand struck in Detroit, Michigan. As many as thirty-two thousand workers struck in Cincinnati, Ohio, although some of these workers had been out on strike for several months before May 1.

The purpose of the May Day Strike was to bring pressure on employers and state governments to create an eight-hour workday. During this period, workers commonly spent twelve or more hours of each day at work. Unions, especially the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada -- the predecessor of the American Federation of Labor, encouraged workers to strike on May 1, 1886, to demonstrate the need for an eight-hour day.
Today, Ohio Republican law makers want to go back to a time that predates 1886, by introducing yet more union busting legislation. State Rep. Ron Maag (R) and State Rep. Kristina Roegner (R) are introducing so called "right to work" bills. These bills (Maag's targets public sector workers, while Roegner's target private sectors workers) come less than 2 years after Ohioans rejected SB5, the previous anti-worker legislation aimed at reducing the ability of workers to negotiate safe and fair working conditions, benefits and pay.

Here's a copy of the letter we obtained announcing the introduction of the bill, and a request for legislators to add their names to it.

The introduction of these bills come suspiciously timed - just a day after Governor Kasich met with the tea party funders, the Koch Brothers - who are big proponents of "right to work" legislation and union busting in general.
Phones and electronic devices were banned from some panels, as Koch strategists detailed next year’s electoral battlegrounds and donors committed contributions to particular states or projects.

At least a half-dozen rising Republican stars were also in attendance. They included Dr. Ben Carson, a Baltimore neurosurgeon who has quickly developed a following among grass-roots conservatives, and several members of the Tea Party wing: Govs. Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina and John R. Kasich of Ohio, along with Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
The Tea Party's efforts to push anti-worker legislation has been on-going in Ohio for more than 2 years. Their efforts to collect signatures to place anti-worker legislation on the ballot, by their own accounts has fallen way short
Mr. Littleton said it would be a “long shot” for the group to gather the roughly 380,000 signatures of registered voters needed by July 3, the deadline to qualify for the November ballot.
The effort is a long shot because it has no popular support. The We Are Ohio signature collection effort to repeal the last anti-worker legislation that the Tea Party supported, collected over 1.3 million signatures in just a few months. The current group of people supporting this anti-worker legislation are even more unsympathetic. For just how ugly and bigoted the Tea Party backers of "right to work" are, see here.

In Opposition to this anti-worker effort.

A number of people have come out quickly against this latest anti-worker effort. Ed FitzGerald, candidate for Governor
“I stood against these attacks on our everyday heroes and Ohio’s middle class when I voted against Governor Kasich’s Senate Bill 5,” he said. “As governor, I promise to stand up for the working families in Ohio, and stand behind the middle class that keeps our economy strong.”
David Pepper, candidate for Ohio Attorney General
"I oppose so-called 'right to work' because it hurts families and working people and destroys our middle class. This is a direct attack on our law enforcement officers who keep our communities safe. For these same reasons, I worked with the thousands of volunteers who fought back against Senate Bill 5, the unfair, unsafe attack on us all that voters rejected in 2011.

"But this is also a time when we should be asking all public officials – where do you stand on so-called 'right to work'. Working families and first responders deserve to know, are you with them or against them?"
Rep. Connie Pillich, rumored candidate for Ohio Treasurer
38 people who died on the job last year were remembered Monday at the Cincinnati region Workers Memorial, sponsored by the UAW and AFL-CIO Labor Council. Today, the Ohio GOP introduces legislation that could increase on-the-job deaths by 36%. The So-Called “Right to Work” bills could eliminate workplace safety measures fought for and obtained by labor unions. Dangerous.
Rep. Chris Redfern, Chair of the Ohio Democratic Party
“Here we go again. Apparently Governor Kasich has forgotten what happened the last time he and his Republican allies launched a broadside against the rights of Ohio workers. Ohio was paralyzed and our hard-earned economic recovery, which began a year before Kasich took office, stalled.

Just as SB 5 was soundly rejected by Ohio voters, we expect this unnecessary sideshow – which will do nothing to create more good-paying jobs – to fail, and we intend to hold Governor Kasich accountable for choosing to focus on distractions over Ohio’s middle class. If Kasich doesn’t want this attack on working families to move, he should say so immediately.”
Join the Future opposes these attacks on working people and we call upon our supporters to send a message to their legislators informing them that this legislation is wrong, unfair and unsafe.

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Michelle Rhee and the unproven teacher evaluation

Via the LA Times
The debate -- and that’s putting it nicely -- over the use of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations has always confused me, because the answer seemed so simple. One of the things we ask of teachers -- but just one thing -- is to raise those scores. So they have some place in the evaluation. But how much? Easy. Get some good evidence and base the decisions on that, not on guessing. The quality of education is at stake, as well as people’s livelihoods.

Much to my surprise, at a meeting with the editorial board this week, Michelle Rhee agreed, more or less. As one of the more outspoken voices in the school-reform movement, Rhee is at least as polarizing as the topic of teacher evaluations, and her lobbying organization, Students First, takes the position that the standardized test scores of each teacher’s students should count for no less than 50% of that teacher’s rating on performance evaluations.

But asked where the evidence was to back up that or any other percentage figure, Rhee agreed quite openly that it’s lacking.

[readon2 url="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinion-la/la-ol-michelle-rhee-teachers-20130416,0,4487460.story"]Continue reading...[/readon2]

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The Foolish Endeavor of Rating Ed Schools by Graduates’ Value-Added

Via School Finance 101.

Knowing that I’ve been writing a fair amount about various methods for attributing student achievement to their teachers, several colleagues forwarded to me the recently released standards of the Council For the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, or CAEP. Specifically, several colleagues pointed me toward Standard 4.1 Impact on Student Learning:

4.1.The provider documents, using value-added measures where available, other state-supported P-12 impact measures, and any other measures constructed by the provider, that program completers contribute to an expected level of P-12 student growth.

http://caepnet.org/commission/standards/standard4/

Now, it’s one thing when relatively under-informed pundits, think tankers, politicians and their policy advisors pitch a misguided use of statistical information for immediate policy adoption. It’s yet another when professional organizations are complicit in this misguided use. There’s just no excuse for that! (political pressure, public polling data, or otherwise)

The problems associated with attempting to derive any reasonable conclusions about teacher preparation program quality based on value-added or student growth data (of the students they teach in their first assignments) are insurmountable from a research perspective.

Worse, the perverse incentives likely induced by such a policy are far more likely to do real harm than any good, when it comes to the distribution of teacher and teaching quality across school settings within states.

First and foremost, the idea that we can draw this simple line below between preparation and practice contradicts nearly every reality of modern day teacher credentialing and progress into and through the profession:

one teacher prep institution –> one teacher –> one job in one school –> one representative group of students

The modern day teacher collects multiple credentials from multiple institutions, may switch jobs a handful of times early in his/her career and may serve a very specific type of student, unlike those taught by either peers from the same credentialing program or those from other credentialing programs. This model also relies heavily on minimal to no migration of teachers across state borders (well, either little or none, or a ton of it, so that a state would have a large enough share of teachers from specific out of state institutions to compare). I discuss these issues in earlier posts.

Setting aside that none of the oversimplified assumptions of the linear diagram above hold (a lot to ignore!), let’s probe the more geeky technical issues of trying to use VAM to evaluate ed school effectiveness.

There exist a handful of recent studies which attempt to tease out certification program effects on graduate’s student’s outcomes, most of which encounter the same problems. Here’s a look at one of the better studies on this topic.

  • Mihaly, K., McCaffrey, D. F., Sass, T. R., & Lockwood, J. R. (2012). Where You Come From or Where You Go?

Specifically, this study tries to tease out the problem that arises when graduates of credentialing programs don’t sort evenly across a state. In other words, a problem that ALWAYS occurs in reality!

Researchy language tends to downplay these problems by phrasing them only in technical terms and always assuming there is some way to overcome them with statistical tweak or two. Sometimes there just isn’t and this is one of those times!

[readon2 url="http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/revisiting-the-foolish-endeavor-of-rating-ed-schools-by-graduates-value-added/"]Continue reading...[/readon2]

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Advertorials in standardized tests?

A strange story out of New York
At least a half-dozen companies got an unexpected boost in marketing their brands to New York’s children this week — with free product placement on the state’s English exams.

Teachers and students said yesterday’s multiple-choice section of the eighth-grade tests name-dropped at least a handful of companies or products — including Mug Root Beer, LEGO and that company’s smart robots, Mindstorms.

IBM, the comic book and TV show “Teen Titans” and FIFA — the international soccer federation — were also mentioned in the test booklets, some of them with what educators referred to as out-of-place trademark symbols.

“I’ve been giving this test for eight years and have never seen the test drop trademarked names in passages — let alone note the trademark at the bottom of the page,” said one teacher who administered the exam.
How long before corporate education boosters push for companies to pay for advertising within standardized tests?

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