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The Weekly Update: Gates’ test metric is imploding, disappearing students in El Paso, Pearson sells a blank art book and takes down 1.5M ed sites.

Courtesy of EduShyster

The Weekly Update for the news and views you might have missed.

Let’s start with Bill Gates. Posting this article gives me great sadness. I feel no anger and frustration, just sorrow in regards to what Gates has wrought with his millions of dollars. It will take time to turn the tide but it is becoming increasingly apparent that Gates’ way is not the right way. Unfortunately teachers and students have had to suffer much stress and turmoil being a part of Gates’ latest experiment.

Gates Foundation’s MET Project Has Leaped Before Looking

It is especially hard to understand why the Gates Foundation’s opinions about “teacher quality” have already been imposed on urban schools. Three years after the Gates’ theories became law in many states, the MET will issue a final report on “the most vexing question we face [which] is whether or not our results were biased by the exclusion of important student characteristics from the value-added models.” The MET sample of students was only 56% low income with 8% being on special education IEPs, so it is even harder to see how it could provide evidence relevant to schools serving intense concentrations of extreme poverty. Moreover, it seems that the MET’s economists have overlooked the likelihood that value-added will drive the top teaching talent out of the schools where it is harder to meet test score growth targets.

The Measures of Effective Teaching Project (MET) is the Gates Foundation’s flagship effort to fill what they believe is a huge void in the teaching profession. According to them, up until this project, there was no way to know how effective any given teacher is. Their goal has been to develop scientifically accurate means to accomplish this.

I would have no problem with the Gates Foundation’s Measuring Effective Teaching process if it was conducted as pure research. The MET’s Tom Kane, in “Capturing the Dimensions of Effective Teaching,” illustrates the good that could have come from the experiment had “reformers” considered evidence before imposing their theories on teachers across the nation.

The MET is a $45 million component of the “teacher quality” movement which studies test scores, teacher observations, and student survey data to isolate the elements of effective teaching. That’s great. But the MET’s assumptions about the outcomes they anticipated have been the basis for Arne Duncan’s test-driven policies — which require test scores to be a “significant part” of teacher evaluations in order for states to receive waivers for NCLB. Then, as evidence was gathered, preliminary reports noted problems with using test score growth for evaluations. The MET has continued to affirm the need for value-added (VAM) as a necessary component of their unified system of using improved instruction to drive reform, even as it reported disappointing findings.

If the MET had been seen as basic research, as opposed to a rushed set of mandates (that have already been enacted into laws), Kane’s assumptions could have been phrased more precisely. He could have deleted the word “the” and issued the then accurate statement that one “goal of classroom observations is to help teachers improve practice, and thereby improve students ‘outcomes.” Kane could have then acknowledged that, real world, evaluations are also driven by ego, power, vindictiveness, and the full range of human emotions. An academic study, being an academic study, could assume that evaluations would only be used for righteous purposes. Actual policy should have never been built on such a naïve proposition.

Had the Duncan Administration not jumped the gun and forced districts to attach high stakes to not-ready-for-prime-time metrics, Kane could have written, “the shallowness of the items on the test does not necessarily translate into shallow teaching” but we know that it often (or usually) does. He could have then reported:

Our (MET) results did raise concerns about current state tests in English language arts. … Current state ELA assessments overwhelmingly consist of short reading passages, followed by multiple-choice questions that probe reading comprehension. Teachers’ average student-achievement gains based on such tests are more volatile from year to year (which translates to lower reliability) and are only weakly related to other measures, such as classroom observations and student surveys.

It would have been easier to deal with the finding that “state ELA assessments are less reliable and less related to other measures of practice than state math assessments” if districts were not already using those flawed results to sanction ELA teachers and schools. Similarly, if the MET was pure research there would be nothing wrong with waiting until the last year of the project before reporting on the results of the 9th grade value-added experiment. On the contrary, if “reformers” had not leaped before they looked at the evidence, MET scholars would have been free to warn against the dangers of using value-added for schools with large populations of students who are unable to read for comprehension or for high schools.

It is especially hard to understand why the Gates Foundation’s opinions about “teacher quality” have already been imposed on urban schools. Three years after the Gates’ theories became law in many states, the MET will issue a final report on “the most vexing question we face [which] is whether or not our results were biased by the exclusion of important student characteristics from the value-added models.” The MET sample of students was only 56% low income with 8% being on special education IEPs, so it is even harder to see how it could provide evidence relevant to schools serving intense concentrations of extreme poverty. Moreover, it seems that the MET’s economists have overlooked the likelihood that value-added will drive the top teaching talent out of the schools where it is harder to meet test score growth targets.

To read this article in full, go to Living in Dialogue.

Administrators across the country, in public and charter schools, have gone to great lengths to create the impression that students are performing well based on their test scores. This story is one of the worst I have heard of so far. This is what high stakes testing has wrought Mr. Gates.

El Paso Schools Confront Scandal of Students Who ‘Disappeared’ at Test Time

Roger Avalos, a former El Paso student, with his mother, Grisel. He says his principal urged him to drop out and suspects an effort to improve test scores.

It sounded at first like a familiar story: school administrators, seeking to meet state and federal standards, fraudulently raised students’ scores on crucial exams.

But in the cheating scandal that has shaken the 64,000-student school district in this border city, administrators manipulated more than numbers. They are accused of keeping low-performing students out of classrooms altogether by improperly holding some back, accelerating others and preventing many from showing up for the tests or enrolling in school at all.

It led to a dramatic moment at the federal courthouse this month, when a former schools superintendent, Lorenzo Garcia, was sentenced to prison for his role in orchestrating the testing scandal. But for students and parents, the case did not end there. A federal investigation continues, with the likelihood of more arrests of administrators who helped Mr. Garcia.

Federal prosecutors charged Mr. Garcia, 57, with devising an elaborate program to inflate test scores to improve the performance of struggling schools under the federal No Child Left Behind Act and to allow him to collect annual bonuses for meeting district goals.

The scheme, elements of which were carried out for most of Mr. Garcia’s nearly six-year tenure, centered on a state-mandated test taken by sophomores. Known as the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, it measures performance in reading, mathematics and other subjects. The scheme’s objective was to keep low-performing students out of the classroom so they would not take the test and drag scores down, according to prosecutors, former principals and school advocates.

Students identified as low-performing were transferred to charter schools, discouraged from enrolling in school or were visited at home by truant officers and told not to go to school on the test day. For some, credits were deleted from transcripts or grades were changed from passing to failing or from failing to passing so they could be reclassified as freshmen or juniors.

Others intentionally held back were allowed to catch up before graduation with “turbo-mesters,” in which students earned a semester’s worth of credit for a few hours of computer work. A former high school principal said in an interview and in court that one student earned two semester credits in three hours on the last day of school. Still other students who transferred to the district from Mexico were automatically put in the ninth grade, even if they had earned credits for the 10th grade, to keep them from taking the test.

“He essentially treated these students as pawns in a scheme to make it look as though he was achieving the thresholds he needed for his bonuses,” said Robert Pitman, the United States attorney for the Western District of Texas, whose office prosecuted Mr. Garcia.

Another former principal, Lionel Rubio, said he knew of six students who had been pushed out of high school and had not pursued an education since. In 2008, Linda Hernandez-Romero’s daughter repeated her freshman year at Bowie High School after administrators told her she was not allowed to return as a sophomore. Ms. Hernandez-Romero said administrators told her that her daughter was not doing well academically and was not likely to perform well on the test.

Ms. Hernandez-Romero protested the decision, but she said her daughter never followed through with her education, never received a diploma or a G.E.D. and now, at age 21, has three children, is jobless and survives on welfare.

“Her decisions have been very negative after this,” her mother said. “She always tells me: ‘Mom, I got kicked out of school because I wasn’t smart. I guess I’m not, Mom, look at me.’ There’s not a way of expressing how bad it feels, because it’s so bad. Seeing one of your children fail and knowing that it was not all her doing is worse.”

To read this article in full, go to The New York Times.

Fortunately the students get it. Check out this video that was made by students in Georgia.

Go To School On The Georgia Charter School Amendment

Now for the “You gotta’ be kiddin’ me!” stories.

First up, even China is getting into the act with charter schools. From Diane Ravitch’s blog:

The Latest Charter Scam

An earlier post described how Chinese investors can get green cards by funding charter schools. The article linked there said that wealthy Chinese had poured $30 million into charters in Florida.

A reader comments:

A Chinese investor gets a green card for investing $1 million in a project that will “create” ten jobs. The publicly funded charter fraud industry, however, doesn’t create new jobs. It converts well paying public sector jobs, with reasonable benefits, into low paying jobs without benefits. Let’s follow the money through this profit-generating machine.

The investors get 30 green cards, and their profits are guaranteed by the free services of well connected edubusiness lobbyists, working through organizations like ALEC, Students First, and Stand for Children. The US DOE cooperates, through Race to the Top, by requiring states to legally compel local districts to hand over their American tax dollars to private charter operators.

It’s all for the kids, as Jeb Bush likes to say.

And if you think the previous story is out of the realm of what we would consider reality, check this one out, an art book published by Pearson at a cost to students of $180 but…where are the pictures?!

Art School Tells Students to Buy Pictureless $180 Art History Book

What is this, October!? According to a blog post published by a disgruntled parent of a student, the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) is forcing students to buy an art history book for $180 — which wouldn’t be unheard of, but the catch is that the publishers of this book didn’t get any of the image rights for the artwork it includes. To reiterate, that’s an art history survey without any pictures. WTF?

Instead of having pictures of artwork, the book, Global Visual and Material Culture: Prehistory to 1800 (so named for the course it goes with), instead just has placeholders with instructions to see a digital version for the actual image. It’s like a website with only broken image links. Just check out this hilarious sample page from the book:

At first, it seemed that the publisher couldn’t clear the copyright permissions before the book’s print run. But as it turns out, the book is actually a zombie-like combination of parts of three different art history books. A letter from the school’s dean stated that had they decided to clear all the images for copyright to print, the book would have cost a whopping $800.

The disgruntled parent complains, “I’m not particularly interested in paying any amount for an imageless art history textbook.” We’re inclined to agree. In the context, OCAD’s faux-inspiring slogan of “imagination is everything” takes on a whole new meaning. Don’t have any pictures of art? Just imagine them all!

It could also have something to do with the fact that there is an online program that has to be used that goes along with the book. Anyone see dollar signs somewhere?

There were a lot of educators and students who thought they were in the Twilight Zone recently when they discovered that their websites were no longer online.

Textbook Publisher Pearson Takes Down 1.5 Million Teacher And Student Blogs With A Single DMCA Notice

 If there’s one thing we’ve seen plenty of here at Techdirt, it’s the damage a single DMCA takedown notice can do. From shuttering a legitimate ebook lending site to removing negative reviews to destroying a user’s Flickr account to knocking a copyright attorney’s site offline, the DMCA notice continues to be the go-to weapon for copyright defenders. Collateral damage is simply shrugged at and the notices continue to fly at an ever-increasing pace.

Textbook publisher Pearson set off an unfortunate chain of events with a takedown notice issued aimed at a copy of Beck’s Hoplessness Scale posted by a teacher on one of Edublogs’ websites (You may recall Pearson from such other related copyright nonsense as The $180 Art Book With No Pictures and No Free Textbooks Ever!). The end result? Nearly 1.5 million teacher and student blogs taken offline by Edublogs’ host, ServerBeach. James Farmer at wpmu.org fills in the details.

In case you don’t already know, we’re the folks not only behind this site and WPMU DEV, but also Edublogs… the oldest and second largest WordPress Multisite setup on the web, with, as of right now 1,451,943 teacher and student blogs hosted.

And today, our hosting company, ServerBeach, to whom we pay $6,954.37 every month to host Edublogs, turned off our webservers, without notice, less than 12 hours after issuing us with a DMCA email.

Because one of our teachers, in 2007, had shared a copy of Beck’s Hopelessness Scale with his class, a 20 question list, totalling some 279 words, published in 1974, that Pearson would like you to pay $120 for.

Putting aside for a moment the fact that Pearson somehow feels that a 38-year-old questionnaire is worth $120, and the fact that the targeted post was originally published in 2007, there’s still the troubling question as to why ServerBeach felt compelled to take down 1.5 million blogs over a single DMCA notice. There’s nothing in the DMCA process that demands an entire “ecosystem” be killed off to eliminate a single “bad apple.” This sort of egregious overcompliance gives certain copyright holders all the encouragement they need to continue to abuse the DMCA takedown system.

Making this whole catastrophe even worse is the fact that Edublogs already has a system in place to deal with copyright-related complaints. As the frontline for 1.5 million blogs, Edublogs is constantly fighting off scrapers and spam blogs (splogs) who siphon off content. The notice sent to Edublogs had already been dealt with and the offending post removed, but these steps still weren’t enough.

So, yesterday, when we got a DMCA notice from our hosts, we assumed it was probably a splog, but it turned out it wasn’t, rather just a blog from back in 2007 with a teacher sharing some materials with their students…

And the link they complained about specifically is still on Google cache, so you can review it for yourself, until Pearson’s lawyers get Google to take that down… or maybe Google will get shut down themselves ;)

So we looked at it, figured that whether or not we liked it Pearson were probably correct about it, and as it hadn’t been used in the last 5 years ’splogged’ the site so that the content was no longer available and informed ServerBeach.

Clearly though that wasn’t good enough for Serverbeach who detected that we still had the file in our Varnish cache (nevermind that it was now inaccessible to anyone) and decided to shut us down without a word of warning.

To read this article in full, go to techdirt.

Today I will leave you with some additional information about Pearson.

Pearson Corporation (or Race to the Money) (BTW, thanks, Arne)

Noun: Pearson Limited Company is a London-based publishing corporation, although it has a secondary listing on the NYSE due to its financial holdings and operations in North America.  There are several divisions of Pearson, ranging from financial publishing (Financial Times newspapers), Penguin publishing, and education publishing (primarily testing and test design).  Pearson is considered one of the largest book publishers in the world.  In fact, beyond its current operations and holdings, Pearson’s real business acumen in the burgeoning field of educational politics is displayed over and over again in its futuristic projects and plans based upon the movement in education from a public responsibility to a private for-profit enterprise.

As Naomi Klein warned us in Shock Doctrine, private enterprise looks for any opportunity in crisis or sudden change to establish an adaptable revenue source for profit, and nothing was ever so financially fertile as our “great national crisis” in education and the urgent need for political remedies.   

The introduction of Dubya’s NCLB (No Child Left Behind) and the furtherance of Obama’s RttT (Race to the Top) have provided multiple designs to remedy the “national crisis in public education” through the use of standardized testing – testing that measures a school’s effectiveness, a teachers’ effectiveness, and a student’s inabilities through a series of bubble tests which are being administered in increasing numbers of school districts for largely increasing amounts of time during each student’s academic year. 

In fact, in some cases, student testing this next year will double in order that some companies may “field test” the reliability of test questions placed among other questions that will count toward the student’s, teacher’s, and district’s performance ( http://www.parentvoicesny.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/10facts_HST.pdf ).  Of course, no one has suggested that such field-testing of minors without permission of parents might be considered an inappropriate use of instructional time or even illegal; in short, this speaks to the maddening acceptance of standards testing as a primary part of the educational program in our school systems.  Forget the comprehensive program or the variability in region or child: nowadays all good schools should be able to provide a similar sound and ready product measurably alike in specific skill sets determined necessary for the workplace.  And, in fact, there are four large corporations ready and willing to help us all in assessing who makes the grade and who doesn’t.

1.    Harcourt Educational Measurement: London-based developer of the SAT-9, and designer of tests that require passing before graduation in several states.  Standards testing is now 70% of the company’s overall business ($5.6 billion annually in revenue).

2.    CTB McGraw Hill: New York based corporation that developed TerraNova, a norm-referenced test.  Provides testing for 19 states in U.S. and achieves $4.2 billion in revenues per annum.

3.    Riverside Publishing: Developer of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, a norm-referenced test taken by 4-5 million students in the U.S.  Also a major publisher of texts for at least eight states in the U.S.  Parent company was Houghton-Mifflin, acquired by Vivendi, Inc. in 2001 for $2.2 billion.

4.    Pearson: The largest test scorer internationally, and providing testing and scoring services in the largest markets in the U.S., including New York, Texas, Florida.  At this time, moving beyond just testing to other aspects of education.   Revenue = $9 billion in 2010 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/cuomo-common-core-and-pearson_b_1293465.html

Pearson remains most exceptional in its corporate ability and vision to move quickly and prominently to align itself with current political forces to achieve what it and they see as the future of education.  In addition, Pearson has even acquired the kinds of learning institutions that represent what it considers the future of learning, and the company has developed an international plan to do so on a global level.

Pearson now has designs to change the way and manner in which individuals achieve or receive GED’s, one which will become a profit-making enterprise for the company (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/28/opinion/collins-a-very-pricey-pineapple.html). In addition, Pearson has promoted heavily the concept of CCSS (Common Core State Standards) and provided a national summit for educators and politicians in Orlando, Florida, to cement the implementation of services in the coming year(s) (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/cuomo-common-core-and-pearson_b_1293465.html).  In fact, Pearson’s exemplary initiative to influence would-be parties has come under the scrutiny of the New York Attorney General, who questions the relationship between the $32 million contract to provide testing for NY schools and the “free trips” provided across the state to educational officials to visit places like London, Helsinki, Singapore, or even Rio de Janeiro.  ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-singer/cuomo-common-core-and-pearson_b_1293465.html)  And let’s not forget the current lobbyist for Pearson in Washington is the same fellow who helped Congress and Dubya draft legislation for the original NCLB.  ( http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/28/opinion/collins-a-very-pricey-pineapple.html?_r=2&).  Estimates of lobby spending by Pearson on the state level reach nearly $3 million for 2009-2011 ( http://www.parentvoicesny.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/10facts_HST.pdf). 

To read this post in full, go to Pension Education.

Enjoy these days of fall and remember:

I couldn’t resist.

Dora

2 comments on “The Weekly Update: Gates’ test metric is imploding, disappearing students in El Paso, Pearson sells a blank art book and takes down 1.5M ed sites.

  1. John Young
    October 20, 2012

    Reblogged this on Transparent Christina.

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