Category Archives: policy

Baraki, Caldeira, and Foolish Hysteria

(hey,kinda rhymes)

Back in November, Abigail Shrier, a journalist who achieved notoriety by pointing how much of the trans movement involves girls in their early teens,  revealed, with much fanfare, How Activist Teachers Recruit Kids: (Yes. A while back. I’ll explain the delay.)

Two California middle school teachers, Kelly Baraki and Lori Caldeira, of Spreckels Union School District, gave a presentation at an October union conference about their struggles and triumphs running a gay-straight alliance club. Based on the recordings, though, their primary focus appeared to be helping “trans” kids find themselves. Highlights of their claims:

  • They advised finding alternate club names (UBU instead of GSA) that didn’t alert parents to the club’s purpose.
  • They didn’t keep club meeting rosters to keep parents unaware of their child’s participation.
  • They were concerned about club attrition and their efforts to keep the kids motivated and attending the gender awareness clubs.
  • They described “stalking” kids’ online activity during the pandemic to identify students who expressed interest in exploring sexuality.
  • They discussed the best ways to “integrate” their gender preference instruction into their anti-bullying presentations so the students are less likely to mention it to their parents.
  • They mocked parents who complained about their kids being exposed to sex-ed. They crowed that with tenure,  the principal might “flinch” but couldn’t respond to parents’ concerns.
  • In every way they presented their club as a recruitment project, in which parents were to be ignored and subverted whenever possible.

Shrier, as is evidenced by the title of her piece, characterized their presentation as “insight…into the mindset and tactics of activist teachers themselves.”  She saw this presentation as education and instruction.

I read about this at the time and several things immediately seemed obvious, pointing to a real failure on Shrier’s part to do any reporting or analysis.

First, and this is fairly minor but it speaks to the hysteria: Shrier was reading way too much into “union conference”. She clearly sees it as indoctrination. It’s not. Most teachers are required to document seat time for recertification; all of them have to come up with educational credits to move along the pay scale. These union conferences serve as seat time for recertification and, for extra money, can be converted into credits. Plus, Palm Springs! Take the kids, sit by a pool. Nobody–but nobody–sitting in that conference was being educated, advised, or instructed.

Clearly, Shrier didn’t know enough to ask the right questions. Namely, who was paying? Were teachers listening to this swill on district time? Were Caldeira and Baraki getting paid by the district to present? I did some research on union conferences, and am reasonable satisfied that districts don’t pay for teachers to attend. Someone ought to make sure, though.

Regarding the content of the presentation, I was stunned. Tracking kids’ internet activity? Total control over morning announcements? Not keeping attendance at club meetings? Mocking angry parents and gloating that tenure protects them? Smugly talking about the principal “flinching” but being forced to back them?

Why would anyone believe all this?

Teachers can’t hold club meetings and keep them secret. Morning announcements aren’t the personal domain of a teacher. No teacher is stupid enough to think pissed off parents can’t change her existence, especially with a principal who is privately flinching at her behavior but feels forced to comply. Tracking a student’s internet activity…that was so weird I googled and found out about GoGuardian, which freaked me right out, as I teach for one of the 90% of schools who don’t use it. I think it’s only for Chromebooks? And in the classroom I could see it being useful. But either way, I don’t believe any teacher, even one with the worst intentions in the world, could “stalk” kids internet use without singling them out ahead of time or running reports after the fact. No teacher would brag about the first, and there had to be controls on the second, which meant they were lying.

So most of what Caldeira and Baraki were recorded as saying was utter bullshit and obviously, once the tapes came out, these two tearchers were toast. If their presentation was accurate, they’d be fired now that it was public. If they were lying, as seemed likely, they were going to be fired for embarrassing the district.

I commented to this effect on Shrier’s blog. And I was right.

The district, upon learning from Shrier about the recordings, instantly sent out a response, suspending the club, requiring principals to sign off on announcements, and denying some of the claims the teachers made. As I expected, the district emphasized that Baraka and Caldeira were using personal days and not speaking as school representatives. The two teachers were placed on administrative leave while a formal investigation (done by a lawfirm, not the district) took place.

In early July, the lawfirm released the results of a thorough investigation: 1600 documents reviewed, 21 witnesses. The text of the report is very specific on a key point: Baraki and Caldeira made “harmful and disruptive comments” during the presentation that “were not reliable evidence of their actual conduct.”

That is, they lied.

Baraki and Caldeira never put any gender-related comments in the announcements. They didn’t mislead kids during their lessons. While they generated 30 reports of student activity between 2015 and 2019 (which doesn’t strike me as a lot, but I can’t be sure), but all of them had some other purpose. They did notice a student clicking on a link, but never followed up with that student. The only two kids they invited to the club meetings had first approached their teachers about joining.

Baraki and Caldeira resigned and were not fired. They almost certainly would have been, although it might have taken a couple years. But no administrator or district official would forget the shit those two caused by, let’s not forget, lying.

The details were reported sympathetically by the SF Chronicle which talks of the teachers being cleared but glossing over the fact that they lied. Oddly–or maybe not so oddly–Shrier wrote five stories on this in six weeks last winter but hasn’t mentioned this update in three weeks.

Brief aside: this has to be bad news for Jessica Konnen, mother of a former Caldeira student who went through a phase of believing herself transgender while attending the middle school. Konnen was notified by Caldeira and the principal, where the two made it clear that they’d known about this for a long time. After hearing the tapes, she was convinced that Caldeira had unduly influenced her daughter and got lawyer Harmeet Dhillon taking her case against Caldeira and the district, which was filed in June. The recordings were a key part of the evidence and now a law firm investigation has shown the teachers were lying.

What Shrier et al. see as an appalling example of business as usual in our public schools is, in fact, exaggerated or rule-breaking behavior the teachers are bragging about in order to impress their audience.

Of course, that’s still bad.  Baraki and Caldeira are bragging to make themselves look good The dreary reality, in their minds,  is that school procedures prevent them from finding all the potentially confused kids to straighten out. They don’t have the control they claim to have over morning announcements, student clubs. But they want to project a voice of authority to impress their audience–an audience, they presume, who is excited as they are at finding transgender kids who need their help. You want evidence of a polarized country? There you go. Many people support helping kids find their identities, as they think of it. 

But they aren’t the cause! Yes, Baraki and Caldeira want to “find” (convert, to Shrier et al) more transgender students. Yes, they want to run over the rights of concerned parents. Yes, they want to “educate” (indoctrinate) kids by making their club seem exciting, by normalizing gender issues in school, by growing their club. And yes, the union staff setting up the conference see those goals as admirable. All of these are, in my view, horrible objectives and reflect a terrifying mindset.

Except they can’t achieve their goals. School and district policies prevented it. Parents were leery and districts heeded parents. In fact, when the district learned that Baraki bragged about controlling announcements and not keeping a roster, it instantly created policies forbidding that control–policies that normally wouldn’t be needed, because if Baraki had indeed been sliding in propaganda, someone would have noticed. Doesn’t matter. Avoid the risk, mandate signoff. Mandate attendance lists (something common in high school, anyway).

So if the teachers like Baraki and Caldeira have to lie to pretend to have any power, they certainly aren’t the ones preventing parents from being told their kid is transgender. Who’s doing that? 

State and federal governments, that’s who.

I’m in this weird situation where I get reviled by progressives for being a hateful anti-trans bigot and yelled at by conservatives for being a pedophile groomer. I think  “gender dysphoria” is at best a phase and at worst a mental illness.  I am comfortable with finding adults finding whatever gender solution works for them. I am against younger kids taking medical steps. Use of proper pronouns is polite, but should not be required or forced at risk of social and economic obliteration. Any discussion of gender with young kids is wildly inappropriate, whether it’s a doctor, teacher, librarian, or drag queen raising the subject.  Kids should not be actively taught about sexuality….ever, as far as I’m concerned. Let them figure it out for themselves. All of this is enough to get me reviled by progressives.

But the people, whatever their ideology, who are appalled by this radical ideology and the insistence on demands and requirements that seem to violate the laws of reality seem to have no idea of what’s causing it and the wrong idea on who to blame. Once again they focus on unions, teachers, ed schools. 

Smug parents bragging that they homeschool are fooling themselves. Pediatricians think screening kids for gender is a great idea. If it’s not already a state requirement, just wait. Their churches probably won’t comply but why are so many corporations are coming up with DEI initiatives? 

The institutional capture people need to worry about is not teachers and ed schools but state policy makers and legal overreach. If you want to know why schools take a particular action, don’t look to unions but policy, laws, and accreditation–not just of K-12 schools but also colleges, universities, and every organization you can think of.  If states don’t play along, the feds can just devise some sort of mandate to qualify for funds.

This article is too long already, but in researching this story, I found a very troubling expansion that may illustrate the real perpetrator. From the most recent Chronicle article on Baraki and Caldeira:

The California Department of Education says that school staff should not disclose information about students’ gender identity without student permission under AB1266, which protects transgender students’ rights and went into law in 2014.

The first link goes to the CDoE policy which is a full page of things California schools must do to support transgender students because of AB1266–including restrictions against telling parents. The second is a link to AB1266 which says that California Education Code 221.5 shall be modified. It’s not specific about the modifications, which necessitates a look back to 221.5 as it existed in 2010 to learn that 221.5 had five clauses, a-e, and AB1266 added one more:

(f) A pupil shall be permitted to participate in sex-segregated school programs and activities, including athletic teams and competitions, and use facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.

That’s it. 

Well. That’s enough. That’s the wording, undoubtedly enacted in many states, enabling males to compete as females and the bathroom confusion. But there’s no mention of parents. 

So the CDoE is attributing a near total mandate forbidding schools from notifying parents (with a few weasel words for cover) and using as its rationale legislation changes that don’t mention parents at all. 

Now, go back to the CADoE FAQ and it’s clear that all the legal text added in that section is rationale. Someone took this opportunity to interpret privacy laws and create a whole slew of school mandates that were not in the original legislation. You have to wonder if that’s what Tom Ammiano, the legislative sponsor, had in mind. An attempt to recall the legislation failed. 

By the way, this change to California law happened back in 2014. Long before anyone was paying attention. 

Think it’s only California and those wacky progressives? Trump SecEd Betsy DeVos resisted his order to change policy on transgender students and bathrooms. GOP bastion South Dakota legislators passed a law to force transgender students to use the bathroom matching their biology in 2016, but the governor, a Republican, vetoed it. Even today, Governor Noem was willing to kiss any shot at the presidency goodbye by vetoing a ban on transgender athletes.  I see plenty of GOP opinion folks mocking Rachel Levine; far fewer mocking Dierdre McCloskey.

Understand what forces compelled Noem to veto that law despite the overwhelming support in her state and why DeVos resisted ending transgender access to bathrooms. Accept that people who pushed this started things in motion long before most people were paying attention. Remember  that schools, the institutions most subjected to these pressures, still care about parents and political pressure. Push them hard and they’ll close gaps. Ensure minimum compliance with laws and don’t allow overreach.

Untangling this craziness while still allowing self-determination will be a long process and the other side on this has a head start. But there’s an obvious state law that should be made immediately, one that reporters making their bones on transgender outrage should immediately support:

Mandate  schools to immediately notify parents should their child express a gender identity different from his or her biological one. Specifically: student confides as transgender to school employee, school employee notifies administrator, form letter goes out to parent. If the school’s opinion is the child would be endangered by parental notification, school notifies child protective services who takes it from there. Schools are not allowed to keep this information from parents.

This is a no-brainer. And quite apart from the logical reasons to support this change, there’s one additional positive side effect:  ending or at least wildly curtailing the clubs and activities that seem to encourage student gender confusion. It is perversely easier to force teachers to hide secrets from parents than it is dealing with really pissed off parents blaming the school’s UBU club for their suddenly transgender kid. 

 

 


Continuing Teacher Education

I’ve had some thoughts about the Baraki/Caldeira hooha first reported by Abigail Shrier (it will come as little surprise that I am disgusted by the teachers and rolling my eyes hard at Shrier), but one detail of the story caught my attention and it struck me as an interesting topic to discuss. I do plan on eventually responding to the overall story, but for the impatient you can infer a great deal from this article.

The detail in question: Baraki and Caldeira were presenting at a union conference and I’m like what the hell is a union conference? They have the political shindigs every year but this is clearly something different.  So I dug into union conferences to see where they fit into the teacher education universe.

Despite having chosen a career developing human capital, teachers have much the same attitude towards additional education that layfolk have in their own careers–that is, they don’t think much of it. Doctors and lawyers also have recertification requirements. I suspect doctors really feel they need to be updated on current technology, while lawyers probably view it much the same way as teachers do–an annoyance. But that’s just a guess.

Not all states require recertification education, and some districts ensure that sufficient PD is built into the year so the teachers don’t have to do any extra. But in most states, as the excellent Stephen Sawchuk explains, teachers have to drum up a bunch of hours to prove they’ve done some work, er, professionally developing.

Then there’s the practice of paying teachers for education, which began when unified districts wanted a way to pay high school teachers more than elementary school teachers but has morphed into a pay for play practice. Do not imagine, readers, that teachers fondly look for intellectually exciting courses to build their own human capital. Some teachers want to become principals and so paying for an admin degree is worth it. Others just find the cheapest way to get an MEd. Some–a very small number–want a Master’s degree in their topic–sometimes an intellectual challenge, other times to have access to additional teaching opportunities.  But I’m always amused when some education critic says portentously, “There’s no proof that a master’s degree improves educational outcomes.” Did someone get paid to research that?

Anyway. As you can see, there are two large categories of teacher education that they generally have to fund themselves to keep their job and get more money.  It is in this universe that union conferences exist.  The takeaway for the Baraka/Caldeira story: union conferences are cheap–at least for the teacher. They’re probably in fun locations so that teachers can at least hang out by the pool or take the family for a weekend. They are also attractive to progressive teachers who want to brag about the equity self-improvement they are undertaking. TThey are cheap–unions often give grants to attend them and help fund the CEUs. I have to believe the unions are making bank on it somewhere, although I’m uninterested in the details.

But they aren’t well-regarded.  They are unlikely to be funded by tax dollars in any way (and if Shrier were interested in really making a difference instead of getting credulous parents to hyperventilate, that’s what she’d ask about.) Union conferences are in no way evidence that these organizations are “instructing” and “advising” and “educating” teachers in any serious way, as Shrier charges. They are merely are offering seat time for teachers who need something cheap and easy, and are usually taught by other teachers looking for resume fodder (presented at LBTQwhatever Conference on Engaging Gender Clubs). More on that in my next article.

Take away the pesky policy requirements that union conferences exist to fill and it’s pretty tough to get teachers in the classroom. The two other broad categories are conferences for some sort of district or school mandates, which will in almost every case be offered by consultants–remember, folks, Jo Boaler bills. These will not be union conferences. They’ll be some sort of big picture approach. They will always be the new new thing. Teachers are not paid for attending, but they’ll get a few days off, food money, and people to party with if it’s 50 miles away. The conferences themselves will be very expensive.

The last category of teacher education is the summer fellowship, usually offered by research universities or large companies, often funded by NSF or other government grants. These fellowships do what the professional education requirements are supposed to do–keep teachers aware of modern developments in their field and pay them to engage in research, practice, employment…whatever delivery mechanism they think will work. The pay is usually excellent and teachers are often given money for instruction materials. The teacher deliverables apart from hours worked is almost always curriculum, along with presentations to potential donors to show how successful the program is. Examples: Ignited, RET (Research Experiences for Teachers), various Fulbright Grants, and many others. Also, career-technical teachers usually have to take courses to qualify to teach a given curriculum and if they work for a district they’ll be reimbursed a lot for their time (a few thousand dollars, usually).

So at a high level, teacher education looks something like this:

Description Choice Paid to Paid by How much?
Certification courses (required) Required in many states Varies Teacher or districts Not much
Education for pay increase Required Higher institutions Teacher, usually College tuition rates
District Mandates (optional) Usually optional Consultants District always A Lot
($3500-5000 per person in fees, plus stipend or sub for teacher)
Funded research or initiative Optional Teachers Gov’t Grants, Donors A Lot
($7-9K per summer)
CTE training Optional Teachers District A Lot
($1-2K per course)

So I’m hoping this table reveals something important: first, teachers don’t really want to spend time in education, particularly not education they pay for. The price tag for convincing teachers to give up their summers for education and opportunities that far exceed the crap they pay for is pretty significant. 7-9K is far more than summer school pays.

However, there are well-funded programs eager to reach interested teachers, and it’s clear enticing teachers to sign up for genuine intellectual engagement takes a serious chunk of money for relatively few teachers.  Moreover, these opportunities have a hierarchy, with STEM teachers at the top, other high school academic teachers far below, and all other teachers down at the base with limited options.

In a more properly ordered world, we’d can all the required make-work education and create fellowships or research internships that are available to all teachers, not just those in subjects that feds and donors care about. Pay teachers a good chunk of money for….well, what would probably be the equivalent of good ed school seminars. Let participants talk about teaching, listen to lectures about topics in their field, create curriculum and present it, practice delivery, get feedback. Might be fun.  It might even prevent millions of dollars from going to grifters or ideologues for little more than allowing bored teachers to check off a few hours.

Another suggestion I’ve made before is to offer significant recompense for additional credentials, particularly math, science, and career technical. Give teachers coursework or professional experience to build towards hard to find expertise that won’t only increase them along the pay scale but also work towards a second credential that will increase their pay. Make real education worth achieving for significant pay increases, not a few thousand dollars once they reach 25 units.

(The reason teachers aren’t given incentives to get additional credentials:  the pretense that teachers should be subject matter experts . Can’t have an English teacher doing the coursework to teach algebra if needed because algebra teachers should be real mathematicians! Except you don’t find any, and instead it’s a sub with no teaching experience and in that world an English teacher with some algebra knowledge is a huge step up.)

On the other hand, if that option was made too attractive, who’d be left to teach summer school?


Same Thing All Over Again–But Events Happen

Many, many irritating things happened during the omicron phase, things that sent me into a mild depressive episode. One happy note, however, was that the union obsessive pretense that covid19 is dangerous meant we could have staff and department meetings on Zoom.

Our staff meetings occur before school, so we start the actual school day late. But the meeting start time is half an hour earlier than the normal school day beginning. So I have to get to school half an hour earlier on a day when school starts half an hour late. This induces a cognitive dissonance that eleven years at the same school has never entirely resolved, and every week, I’m at best five minutes late. Zoom meetings allows me to actually leave later in the day and listen to the meeting in my car. On time. Given that two years of school insanity has never once played in my favor, this feels like win.

Anyway.

Our department chair, Benny, was explaining….wait. Before I begin this story, I want to be clear that I’m not really criticizing anyone involved, including Benny. I should also mention, as I have before, that our school is blissfully indifferent to test scores. Admins really don’t care. This exercise I’m about to describe is about as far as we get to caring. Also relevant: since Common Core, juniors take a test that has multiple levels but from a practical standpoint is binary. Students are either “college ready” or they aren’t.

So Benny was asking for volunteers to run brief 30-minute math tutorials designed to help students review topics. We have an intervention time after lunch that can be used for this purpose. Nothing new; we’d done this for the two years pre-pandemic. Except.

“So we’ve identified the kids who failed algebra 1, geometry, and algebra 2 and give them the opportunity to come to tutoring.”

Wait, what? Kids who failed what?

In years past, we had all agreed that kids who failed algebra I and geometry had not a single chance in hell of testing as college ready.  I had argued, unsuccessfully, that we should still tutor those kids and bump their failing grade if they got….better. To use SAT terms: “college ready” is around 600 Math (top 30%). Any junior who was still working on algebra 1 or geometry would be rocking that test at 450.

I know kids in our school who made it to precalc and got a 500 on the SAT math section and did not pass the college readiness standard.

So Benny was suggesting that kids who’d had multiple shots at algebra 1 and geometry would somehow be able to pick up all they’d failed to understand the first time as well as all the topics they needed in algebra 2 in ten 30 minute sessions.

He’s also suggesting we give this tutoring to the kids who failed algebra 2. But in a good year, pre-pandemic, 60-70% of the kids taking and succeeding at algebra 2 don’t test as college-ready. Kids who failed algebra 2 were not good candidates for passing the college readiness marker. And tell them that if they succeed at an impossible task, we’ll change their grade but only if. Not just for trying.

I said nothing. All hail Zoom.

“If they go to all the tutoring sessions and make college-ready on the test, we’ll change their F to Pass.”

“What about the students that are marginal but passed algebra 2, trig, or pre-calc? We should give them the same tutoring. And kids who flunked pre-calc or calculus, they’d be eager for that deal.” suggested Pete.

In a good year, pre-pandemic, these were the kids we tutored. We spent time identifying the students who had it together enough to pass three or four years of math with a C+, a B, or even a shaky A, and gave them support. That’s what you always do, if you’re looking to get maximize kids across a finish line. These were the kids who had a shot at passing the test.

“No,” responded Benny. “The test only goes through algebra 2 material. Kids who’ve passed algebra 2 should be able to pass this test without tutoring or an incentive.” 

I said nothing. I didn’t volunteer, either. All hail Zoom.

*********************************************************

In the early days of my blog I would have immediately documented this craziness to provide some insight into how things work. Benny is, like all my colleagues, a progressive Democrat. But in math teacher typology, I’m the woke-conversant social justice warrior. Benny’s the traditionalist (check out our pass rates in this algebra 2 article). I know for a fact Benny doesn’t think his target group is up to the task he’s set. I know this because four years ago, we all agreed that the tutoring pool should be comprised of strong, motivated juniors taking algebra 2 or trig, along with any pre-calc students with Cs. This was the group whose pass rate we might be able to move from 0-10% to 30-50%.

Even more notably, in years past, I would have spoken up to make this very observation. I wouldn’t have been alone, either. Yet no one spoke up.

I’m not sure which is more worthy of comment: I’ve stopped bothering to write about the crazy unreasonable plans that show up in my teacher life, or I’ve stopped pushing back on crazy unreasonable plans that show up in my teacher life.

The first is easier to explain: events, dear boy, events. Both progressives and education reformers upped the nuttiness. The SAT changed to be a much harder test, then became irrelevant. Common Core spent billions on nothing. Two of education reform’s three legs got chopped off.  There was a pandemic and most of the craziness in that era I couldn’t bitch about because it was more central to my location than I usually allow online. Moreover, I try to say it once or maybe twice and then move on, linking to the original article to say “still this.”

The second question is more interesting because it’s not the usual answer. I’m not burnt out. I’ve not given up. I still care. I gritted my teeth and actually picked up my phone to put an observation in the chat yes, while driving, but Benny had set “Chat to Host Only” and so I didn’t end up driving into a ditch while typing a carefully worded but cynical comment.

If I have one Big Idea on high school math instruction*, it’s this: teach less and learn more. Find your comfort limit and develop your skills. Move on if you’re interested.

Kids who struggle with math could productively learn to apply arithmetic, geometry, and a little bit of algebra. The next group, the bulk of high school students, could do a huge amount of math with all that plus second year algebra, basic trig, and some stats. Top tier really should stop at analytic geometry, functions, and more trig. We could teach so much math that calculus could wait until college.

We will never be able to do this, because everything in education is about race. Astonishing, really, why more people can’t grasp that basic reality. Pick any education proposal you like, apply race, and you’ll realize it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

But individual schools like mine can still focus on helping kids at every point of the spectrum, even if we have to work through the state mandated structures for class sequencing. In terms of test prep, state tests might only focus on how many students were “college ready”, but we could focus on our average score. Maximize everyone’s score and celebrate that our lowest achievers worked hard to get every question right. This is, in fact, what we did the year before the pandemic. Absent that, we could focus solely on the students who are near the line and increase their pass rates, as I mentioned above.

My first five years at this school, I spent hours advocating for my vision. Chuck, the math coach, and I did our best to find a math path in our existing curriculum to route weaker students through. We differed on end goals–Chuck felt students should fall out by failing, I thought any plan that had students getting Fs by design was absurd–but we both shared the goal of homogenizing our classes so we could teach more content to those who were able and willing. In 2019, we took the top half of algebra 2 juniors, along with the non-honors precalc students and gave them prep sessions. This *dramatically* increased our college ready numbers to nearly half, when in prior years, before and after Common Core, we were happy with low 30%.

In early 2020 we had just started our tutoring groups for the state tests. Juniors still in A1, geo, and bottom half of A2 got skill review on the basics, to raise their confidence and willingness to try on the test. We also prepped the A2/Precalc students as described above.

Then the pandemic shut everything down. No tests in 2020, no prep in 2021 because of a different schedule. We get back in 2022, and the policy is now back to “let’s only give tutoring to kids who have no prayer of passing the test and promise them something they really need but only if they pass the test.”

And only as I wrote this did I realize that Chuck retired at the end of 2019.

Chuck, who endlessly advocated and presented at the district and administrative level. Chuck, whose emails reminding me to be sure to fail more kids annoyed me, but who was at least on the same page. Chuck, who was far more successful than I understood until he left.

Personnel matters.

That’s not the reason I originally began writing this, but once again, writing things down helps me find insight. Need to keep that in mind.

A couple other points.

When I mention events in the title, I wasn’t thinking of Chuck’s retirement but two other major ground shifts. For four years or more, major state university systems and their community colleges have completely abandoned remediation (See “Corrupted College” for details). In all the coverage, left and right, approving and disapproving, of the wholesale abandonment of SAT/ACT requirements in college admissions, no one mentions an obvious fact: grades are worthless. If grades are worthless, then schools up and down the selectivity food chain are going to acquire thousands of students whose transcripts say 4.0 but whose abilities are at the ninth grade or lower level. It seems to me that this will necessarily lower standards dramatically for college diplomas.

While improving math achievement for all students is a worthwhile goal and one I sign on to, my original advocacy for tutoring on state standardized tests was sourced in my desire to help students avoid expensive college remediation and for those of those who needed it, give them a better leg up to pass those remediation classes.

That’s pretty clearly  no longer going to be an issue. Thus, while I still think this approach is crazy and cruel, my concerns about their future in a degraded college system is less acute.

The second shift comes in answer to a question some might be wondering about: Why not Ed for Chuck?  Why don’t I volunteer for Chuck’s work?

My first response is hahahahahaha. Chuck’s job not only needed diplomacy and adminspeak, but also organization and focus. I’m 0 for 4. Moreover, Chuck had spent years teaching at an elite local (public) high school and had transferred here specifically to take on this task. He cared about teaching, but wanted to run a program, and taught less as a result. I care about teaching, and don’t like teaching less.

But the second response came a bit more slowly. Over the past five years, I’ve also undergone a shift in teaching topics, one that utterly gobsmacked me. If you’d asked me a decade ago how I would branch out, I’d have said my druthers were to still teach math, but up my quota of history and English. Ideally, say, in an AP Lang/Lit/US History class designed for bright kids who can read well but hate homework. I also predicted I’d be doing more mentoring.

None of that came true. Instead, I’m teaching with no prep (yay! more money, more variety, less boredom!) and running a program that I don’t talk about because it’s too specific**. But I am making a difference at the individual student level (from remedial to excellent) and the school-wide level with tons of money (which I need***) and  visibility (which I don’t).

Now, we can all agree that I’m an ornery cuss who seeks out the hard way every time. But surely, if I’m not looking for something that falls into my lap, I should take it and run with it rather than beat my head against a wall on an issue that is contrary to stated policy, requires endless handling and maintenance, and gives me no visibility except as a troublemaker?

Don’t worry, though. After I began this piece our district ended staff and department zoom meetings. Back to in-person, where I will inevitably mouth off.

*********************
*Actually, all subject instruction.
**Please don’t speculate, particularly to others. Remember how I wear anonymity.
***Not me personally. For the program.


Murray/Sailer on Powerline Podcast

This is more of a comment than a fully-developed article, but I though I’d try to be timely. It refers to part one of Steve Hayward’s conversation with Charles Murray and Steve Sailer for the Power Line podcast.

It was as great (as expected), but Charles Murray had one response that I don’t think Steve Hayward followed up on enough, and it’s important. At one point, Murray says, accurately, that conservatives don’t like to talk about race and cognitive ability. It makes them uncomfortable. He then added that the cognitive ability aspects of education totally mess with the permanent libertarian zeitgeist that says hard work is everything.

As it happens, I’ve written about this a lot. My favorite piece about a conservative who is made uncomfortable by a frank reference to race and education was written in response to a podcast as well: Making Rob Long Uncomfortable in which Heather MacDonald goes off on a rant about black underperformance. Rob’s response is a textbook case of discomfort. He was fine talking about bad schools and lazy teachers, but when MacDonald goes there you can, as I said, practically hear Rob’s toes shrieking across the bathroom tiles. It’s hilarious. I then do some verb conjugation on the hypocrisy of the right on this point. (“They’re reactionary fascists, you’re unreasonably censorious, I’m judicious in setting limits.”) Not, I hasten to add, that the left isn’t in hideous shape on this point.

I also mention the fact that few conservatives, in their review of the craziest of the libertarian batshits, Bryan Caplan, mentioned the obvious racial implications in his book The Case Against Education. Hard to tell whether I was more infuriated by Caplan, who combines “let’s kill public education” with “let’s open the borders”, or the dozens of conservative media reviews that never mentioned the obvious racial implications of his policies. I wrote a whole series on Caplan’s book, as I found it exceptionally dishonest when it wasn’t just being facile: How Did We Get Here?,  Pre-Employment Testing, Toe Fungus Prevention,How Well Are Americans Educated? and the one in which I go through the ramifications of Caplan’s policies on black Americans,  Average Was Always Over.

What Murray didn’t mention, and I was surprised Steve Sailer didn’t, is that there’s a perfectly good political reason why conservatives don’t acknowledge the racial dimensions of cognitive ability. Conservatives and libertarians all want to destroy public schools. And by “conservatives”, I generally mean it’s an openly expressed Republican policy, one that actually isn’t shared by the conservative think tanks that focus in on education in any responsible way. Rick Hess, Robert Pondiscio, and Nat Malkus aren’t thrilled with public schools and they support charters and vouchers (at least I believe they do), but they don’t call for the wholesale elimination of public schools. More importantly, Republican voters don’t share this disdain (check out the EdNext poll–barely 50% of Republicans support charters, for example, and that’s one of the higher numbers.) But among Republican and conservative politicians and media it is entirely normal to hold that public schools are sewers of inadequacy and incompetence. Current buzzwords: “let the funding follow the student not the building”, and all that.

Or there’s this recent example by Governor Ducey of Arizona announcing summer school for low-performing kids:

That’s why the plan is to hire teachers who work in schools currently graded A, B or C, though there may be some outreach to teachers in lower-rated schools who have a proven record of performance.

“We’re going to find a way to take people that are skilled in the profession, allow them to make additional funds, and bring our kids up to grade level,” the governor said.

I could write a whole article on the gefukt thinking behind this comment. Teachers in A, B, or C schools aren’t generally any better; they just have smarter students.  They will be far less able to deal with low-performing students. And oh, by the way, summer school won’t bring kids up to grade level. Behind it all is the assumption that low-performing kids are the result of low-performing teachers.

Needless I totally disagree with this position, and think most of the people espousing an all choice system in which parents spend government dollars on private schools haven’t….quite thought through all the ramifications. Or cost. But leave that aside.

You can’t call schools failing and useless and horrible and all that and then talk about different racial group cognitive abilities.  You can’t rail at teachers for failing to close the achievement gap and then say   yeah, well, some of that gap might be cognitive. Kills the moment.

So politically, in order to keep at playing Charlie Brown to the teachers’ union’s Lucy, the whole conservative political and elite class have to ignore any possibility that schools are, actually, doing a pretty good job once you control for IQ.

Second point: towards the end of the podcast, Steve Hayward asks about the possibility of Asian and Hispanics shifting more towards the GOP, “now that Trump is gone”–which is weird, because Trump did better with Hispanics and blacks than any GOP president since Bush at least, so one would think they’d say “build on Trump’s success”, but ok. The particulars of the Asian vote change revolved around the open discrimination they face in elite school admissions.

I keep meaning to write more about this, but I think Steve Sailer will understand what I mean: Republicans should think carefully about openly courting Asian voters, at least using the rhetoric I keep hearing. As Steve used to say, Republicans could go for increasing the Hispanic vote or increasing their white vote. SImilarly, chasing the Asian vote by pushing for admissions-based testing without fixing the many problems with it might just hurt the GOP percentage of the white vote around the edges.

A while back I almost wrote a piece called Everybody’s Second Favorite, that was going to include this passage:

But a school that’s 50% Asian or black  and the other half majority white will in a few years be 80% Asian or black.  Whites don’t hang around for blacks or Asians, in my experience. (emphasis mine this time round.)

Next, whites do tolerate genuine racial diversity well, probably because there are fewer cultural distortions that arise with both Asians and African Americans.  I can think of a number of 30-30-30-10 schools that hold on to those numbers for a decade or more.

“White flight” from Asians has been around for 20 years or more, long enough for the Wall Street Journal to notice it back in 2005. I wrote recently about the decline in white applications to the eight NYC specialized high schools. Whites and Asians are both about 15% of the NYC public school population, have roughly the same admission rate to the specialized high schools, but Asians apply at twice the rate that whites do. Whites just don’t want to go. Bloomberg’s choice programs allowed people who found the Asian culture at these schools unpleasant to set up their own “soft” choice programs. I found a second dataset for another test-based admissions high school, and will be publishing pretty soon, I hope. (I have a day job, so take “soon” with some salt.) Asian test prep that goes on for years and years, not a few weeks, sets up what I believe are false positives but we can argue that point later.

By all means, Republicans should actively pursue growing their Asian vote, but I don’t advise doing it by giving Asian immigrants what they want in public schools, because what they want generally turns off all American parents, particularly white ones. And one rule of public education that also works with politics is don’t piss off the white folks. There are plenty of ways to improve public education and university admissions without discriminating against Asians or rewarding several years of test prep. Talk about those.

Oh, and by the way, don’t talk to Asians or Hispanics about how stupid the Democrats were to cave to teachers unions to close the schools, since all categories of non-whites were (and probably are) far more supportive of remote education than whites, but that’s another article I’m working on.

Finally, Steve Hayward said they would be talking about college next week. Really? I hope not.

Again, great discussion. Looking forward to next week even if it’s about college.

Hey, got this done in under 24 hours. I should rewrite this but I’m tired, so it will have to do.


Ten Most Read, Ten You Should Read

Eight years ago, on the second anniversary of my blog, I asked, “Am I a hedgehog or a fox?”  Hilarious, that I could ever be so deluded. I understand why my brain thinks itself a hedgehog, but it will just have to cope with reality.

I am a fox. Even at my lowly level of the word, this is a list only a fox could produce.

Ten Most Read Articles:

  1. More than Gotcha: Kamala’s Busing Blunder— June 28, 2019
    The only item past its sell date. Most of my work maintains its relevance. But this article, outdated though it is, has a good number of my strengths on display. First, unlike the entire media class, I know how to search for and use relevant history. No one listening should have thought anything other than “that’s bullshit” when she claimed to have been on the frontlines of segregation in Berkeley, CA. But no journalist bothered to do the research. Next, I understood as no one else seemed to that she was essentially coming out in favor of busing.  At a time when most of the media (and all of Twitter) was wowed, I  pointed out she’d almost certainly have to walk that comment back. The other strength: sometimes I really hate people while many other folks are like, man, why is Ed hating on her and then later they go oh, I get it.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  2. Asian Immigrants and What No One Mentions Aloud–October 8, 2013
    I’ve kind of cornered the market in Asian immigrant criticism–not of the people, but of the culture, which I think is very damaging to American education. I wouldn’t make such a big deal out of it if everyone else weren’t determined not to notice. This was the first time I wrote about it.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  3. Functions vs. Equations: f(x) is y and more — May 24, 2015
    A math curriculum piece in third place? Blew me away. But as I mentioned, curriculum searches are specific and get through Google’s recency bias, so they’re the one article category that still gets fed via search engines. I keep meaning to revisit this article because it had a very bimodal reaction. Mathy readers who didn’t teach were aggravated and confused by the article and told me I didn’t understand the math. On the other hand, a number of professors on Twitter understood my point  instantly and were very appreciative (and some later commented as well). I think the mathy folks thought I was confusing a system with a function, whereas the professors understood I was using an example of multiple equations that wasn’t a system to show students a difference they hadn’t seen before.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  4. Homework and grades–February 6, 2012
    I have relatively few strong views about what teachers should do. Homework is the exception. Homework is insane. Grades are fraud.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  5. Algebra and the Pointlessness of The Whole Damn Thing— August 19, 2012
    My first really huge piece, and one I’m still quite fond of. It’s getting harder to find data easily; more states are hiding racial and economic distinctions. But if you look at current data, you’ll see the same pattern: poor whites do about as well as non-poor blacks and Hispanics. Been like that for decades.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  6. Philip Dick, Preschool and Schrödinger’s Cat — April 5, 2013
    Canonical Ed on IQ.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  7. Binomial Multiplication and Factoring Trinomials with The Rectangle— September 14, 2012
    Another curriculum piece. I took a long time to make sure the figures and explanations were thorough. I hope other teachers get good use from it. Still the best way to teach factoring, even if your kids don’t use it.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  8. The myth of “they weren’t ever taught….”— July 1, 2012
    This is one of my favorite pieces. It’s all true, still. Every word. And new teachers have to come to grips with it every year.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  9. The SAT is Corrupt. No One Wants to Know.–December 31, 2014
    I am adamantly opposed to grades-based college admissions. But the College Board is corrupt. The international SAT is corrupt. And they’ve changed it in ways to make it far less useful, all in the hopes of ending the score gap, which was never going to happen.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  10. The Gap in the GRE–January 28, 2012
    Another of my favorite pieces that asks a very good question: why are genuine high achievers in verbal tests so less frequent than in math tests? Note that in the intervening years, the College Board and the ETS have eliminated all the verbal difficulty in the SAT and the GRE.

So there’s my ten most popular.

Then I just looked over all my articles and looked for favorites that also captured my zeitgeist (can people have zeitgeist?). I was particularly looking for self-contained articles–a lot of time I go down one rabbit hole and then get to the main point. (Yes, I’m thinking of those for my rewrite plans.) I also wanted a good sample.

  1. Teacher Quality Pseudofacts, Part II–January 15, 2012
    This is a top 20 all-time post and was a steady performer for years. I almost didn’t include it; today it seems kind of old hat. But in fairness, that’s like saying 1933’s 42nd Street is cliché because it uses all the old tropes about movie musicals. It didn’t use them. It invented them. When I wrote this article, it was common wisdom that teachers were low-skilled, low-quality, and not very bright. Only the terminally uninformed, the amateurs and the hacks,  have made that claim in four or five years.  I like to think Pseudofacts has had something to do with that change,  because of the very easily found data I brought to light.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  2. The false god of elementary school test scores–July 30, 2012
    Another one I almost didn’t include because it definitely has the rabbit hole problem about Rocket Ship at the beginning. However, like Pseudofacts, it’s an early example of my actually looking at readily available information and pointing out the obvious. Plus, great title.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  3. The Fallacy at the Heart of All Reform–September 7, 2012
    I wrote a history of modern education reform throughout much of 2020-21. This was a history of earlier policy. But the definition of fallacy I include here holds for the entire era.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  4. The Day of Three Miracles— April 28, 2015
    I don’t often talk about colleagues, mainly because for years my relationship with them was….fraught. Not bad, just…there. But this is not only a colleague story, it captures a conundrum that few people in education policy seem to understand. Access or rigor. Not both.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  5. Citizens, Not Americans— June 16, 2016
    I love this piece. By the way, Dwayne is married, has a kid, and is in the military. Abdul went to a top tier school and majored in pharmacy, and when he told me I want “Gack!” and he said “yeah, I know. Stupid move.” and now he’s getting an MA in nurse practitioner, or whatever it’s called. Haven’t heard from Chuy. Wing and Benny still teach. One of them is now department chair, and I had a lot to do with it.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  6. “Get Out” a scathing satire? Get Out.–January 22, 2018
    I love movies, and I know as much about American diversity as anyone in the country, and I think this is a terrific review that isn’t at all what you’ll expect.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  7. Algebra 2, the Gateway Course–January 28, 2018
    Another story about colleagues, students, and really stupid education policy.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  8. Making Rob Long Uncomfortable–December 24, 2018
    Silly title, but you can listen to the podcast and see what I mean. It’s well-written, and captures a certain mindset among the centrist conservative punditocracy. As I wrote: “You could practically hear Rob’s toenails shrieking against the tiles as he braked to a stop.  This was not the conversation he’d signed up for. He was there to lightly mock feminists and social justice nuts, not crack witty, on-the-nose jokes with Heather about the racial skills deficit.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  9. The Students of My Christmas Present— December 25, 2018
    I don’t often get sentimental. And I’ve put up Christmas trees most years since.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  10. Idiosyncratic Explanations for Teacher Shortages–May 31, 2019
    Here I raise an issue that seems quite obvious, but isn’t. We have thousands, if not millions, of unemployed PhDs who will never get a tenured job and work as poorly paid adjuncts. Why don’t they become teachers? After all, everyone says we need smarter teachers, right? There’s a cognitive dissonance revealed in the fact that everyone understands that a poorly paid PhD is acting rationally in refusing to take a better-paid, more secure job with great benefits.
    ignore me, lazy way to space
    I thought I was done, but 2017 spoke up, really pissed off. Why nothing? I tried reassurance. It was nothing personal. I wrote some good shit that year. Besides, 2020 and 2021 aren’t represented either. But it would not be assuaged and as my mother isn’t doing well, and this is a not only an ode to American schools but also a lovely story about my mom, an extra…
    ignore me, lazy way to space
  11. What the Public Means by “Public Education”–March 19, 2017
    When education reformers wonder why everything went wrong, they should think about the thoughts expressed here.

Thanks for reading.


Wise Blue States Take Away Choice

I’ve found this subject entirely too annoying for an article, but anyone who follows me on Twitter knows my counterprogramming.

  1. Schools should never have been closed, and anyone who ever called for their closing loses their right to bitch when they didn’t reopen.
  2. Schools remained closed where a plurality of parents preferred remote education (with a secondary factor being Dem governor restrictions making hybrid the only inperson option)
  3. Teachers went back to work everywhere when schools were opened.
  4. Union rhetoric was offensive but irrelevant to school instruction decisions.

These all seem quite obvious, but apart from Andrew Smarick, fivethirtyeight, Martin West, and anyone else who actually looked at survey data and revealed preferences, most media folks act as if American parents are furious at teachers for keeping schools closed.

But folks who see Randi Weingarten as the all-powerful anti-Christ should wonder why, if politicians and policy folks bend so easily to union will, so many states quickly banned or limited remote education for fall 2021.

California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, Connecticut, Illinois, Oregon, Rhode Island –all blue states, all closed for much of last year, and all placing significant restrictions on remote learning for the new school year.  So far as I can ascertain, union opposition was either muted or non-existent.  Parent (not union) outcry forced most states to back off of “in-person only” and offer some form of virtual instruction. But the virtual offerings were rarely what the parents expected.  Students had to leave their local schools for online academies. No magnet programs, no pull outs for special ed or language help, and most notably, no sports. This restriction alone cooled a lot of the ardor for remote instruction, particularly among high school students with friends and athletic abilities. More importantly, local schools did not have to respond to parent demand for remote instruction. They could return to “normal”, or at least as normal as masks and quarantines allowed.

It’s beyond my scope to do a full comparison, but I first started looking into this when I noticed that a number of states had schools in remote mode already, and none of these states had established strict policies requiring in-person instruction. New Hampshire tried to ban remote learning much later, in September, but met resistance and failed and now many schools are in remote. Colorado deliberately left decisions on remote instruction up to schools, which gave a number of Denver schools the option to switch to remote due to staffing shortages. North Carolina explicitly allowed districts to switch from in-person to remote and a number of schools began fall 2021 in remote.  New Mexico left it up to districts and many are in remote.   (In contrast, a Massachusetts school tried to go to remote for November and was explicitly ordered back to school by the MA BOE.)

These are all blue states, most of whom have Democrat governors, all of whom were routinely blasted by conservative media as in thrall to their lazy teachers unions. But a number of these states took advantage of the hopeful period in the early days of the vaccine to take a strict line on remote education and they did so in a manner that makes it clear they considered parent demands, not union demands, the problematic element.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the blue state push to end remote education is far more consistent with my analysis of school closures. During the 20-21 school year, many blue state governors made the serious mistake of banning in-person instruction or making restrictions for opening schools so onerous that remote instruction was preferable to the hybrid bastardization needed for inperson schooling. When they finally opened schools, they were still bound by their stated deference to parental choice, despite–or perhaps because–surveys showed consistently that 75%  or more of white parents but just half or fewer of non-white parents wanted schools open for instruction. Blue state schools with longer than average closures were almost entirely in majority non-white districts. White parents, who pay most of the taxes in those non-white districts, were apoplectic. 

It’s not terribly good optics to point out, but the simple truth is that remote instruction was bad for the very students whose parents were most likely to support remote instruction. Black and Hispanic parents (as well as a large number of Asian parents) are even now more likely to demand remote instruction. 

The only solution to saving these kids was preventing the parents from making a bad choice by taking away remote education–or at least making it wildly less attractive. Wise were the states that took away parent choice in this matter.

Note again that union opposition to these actions was apparently non-existent, or at least not reported on. The NEA called, unsuccessfully, for student vaccine mandates, but didn’t resist the return to in-person instruction.

In addition to the “Ed was Right About the Pandemic” brownie points factor, I feel that not enough attention has been given to the importance of these legislative mandates. Legislatures so rarely seem to do anything productive, but whether you agree about the parental choice factor or blame the Mean Weingarten for school closure, the legislatures took advantage of a narrow window of opportunity to act.  In that brief period of time when everyone, left and right, thought that the vaccine would end covid19, the state legislatures or departments of education most hamstrung by closed schools made sure that remote education couldn’t easily be re-instated.

I loathe teaching in masks all day. The insane NPI theater we are forced to undergo has caused me possibly permanent hoarseness. But given the resurgence of the Delta virus and the left’s insane obsession with safety theater, those of us who were infuriated by remote education–regardless of who we hold responsible–should be profoundly grateful if we live in those states. I am certain we’d all be back in permanent remote education without their surprisingly decisive action.


White Flight From Admissions-Test High Schools

I’ve written this approximately 5 billion times on Twitter, but Razib Khan’s review of Charles Murray’s new book, coupled with my recent failure to create any articles at all, combined to convince me to put it in essay form.  The point has nothing to do with the book, which I haven’t read yet but is certainly excellent, or the review, which is perceptive, particularly the last bit.

But this part here is often repeated and quite misleading:

In New York City, the elite Stuyvesant public high school illustrates the discrepancy between the quality of our discussions of systemic racism and how race, class, and education actually interact in the real world. Admission to the school is based on a standardized test. The current student body is 73 percent Asian American and 19 percent white. New York City is about 15 percent Asian American and 30 percent white. In other words, white kids are under-represented in the student body (though far less so than blacks and Latinos).

John Podhoretz mentioned the same stat a few months ago:

If you add whites, blacks, and Latinos together, they will constitute around 37 percent of the kids at these eight schools. Now take a wild stab at the ethnic origins of the absolute majority of admits—a stunning 53.7 percent in all. You guessed it. Asian.

This is the case even though Asians make up a little less than 12 percent of New York City’s population. Black people make up 26 percent. White people make up around 26 percent. Latinos make up around 26 percent. And Asians? Around 12 percent.

The stats are all true, but there’s one big problem: both Khan and Podhoretz use the wrong stat. It doesn’t matter how many whites and Asians are in New York City, but how many of them are in public schools. 

White kids are twice the absolute number of Asian kids in the New York City general population, but public school population is a different matter:

    • 40.6 percent Hispanic
    • 25.5 percent black
    • 16.2 percent Asian
    • 15.1 percent white

These stats have been mostly consistent for a decade or so; the NY Times correctly lists the populations back in 2010, when whites were 15% and Asians14%.

So Razib and Pod use the fact that whites are twice as populous as Asians to demonstrate the shocking disparity in the specialized school population. But in fact, whites and Asians are equally represented in the public school population, so the disparity is already half as bad as they say. 

But there’s still more data that is rarely mentioned in the white/Asian disparity debate–Podhoretz does bring it up, but as usual misses the relevance. Given that whites and Asians represent equal populations in public schools, it’s worth looking at the attempts and admit rates:

NYCDOE on 2020 SHSAT results

The dark blue line at the bottom shows the acceptance rate of testers by race. Notice that whites and Asians have basically the same admissions rate (caveat: the thousand multi-racial or unknown race have a very high acceptance rate). Asians probably have higher scores on average than whites, as more of them get into top-ranked Stuyvesant. Given the much higher, one might say obsessive, Asian dedication to test prep, this isn’t surprising. New York City test scores show 3rd through 8th grade white and Asian ELA proficiency rates the same in English, although 77% of Asians test proficient in math and “only” 66% of whites do the same. I couldn’t find granular data for 8th grade in NYC only, but suffice it to guess that they test at roughly parity in ELA and Asians do better in math.

Point being that whites and Asians both have high proficiency levels on state tests and identical admissions rates to the specialized high schools.

However, take a look at the top line of the graph, showing overall testers by race.  Despite their overall population parity, whites and Asians have very different interest level in the schools. Twice as many Asians took the test as whites. 

This reporting tool reveals that in 2019, at least, there were 12,769 Asian and 11,147 white 8th graders.  So about 64% of Asian and 39% of white 8th graders took the SHSAT.

Well, that’s…..weird. 

It’s almost like whites aren’t nearly as interested in attending the “best public schools in New York City”. 

This thoroughly screws with the traditional conservative take on merit-based high schools, which goes like this: “Asians work hard, study hard, care about school, and that’s why they dominate admissions in the best schools.” 

How come whites aren’t testing–that is, applying–to the “best” schools? 

In an article that almost certainly couldn’t be written today, the Atlantic goes through the history that explains why whites are less interested. First, a very interesting graph on Stuyvesant student population over a 20 year period:

Atlantic also did populations for Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech

Notice that black and Hispanic population has been cut in half, but white population has dropped by more than half. If Stuyvesant admissions are truly test-based, as I’m sure they are, that shouldn’t happen. Only at Brooklyn Tech did white population increase, and only slightly.

The Atlantic points out that the drop began in 2002, when mayor Michael Bloomberg instituted school choice:

The white population at Stuyvesant hovered around 40 percent from the late 1980s until the early 2000s, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Around 2003, when Bloomberg became mayor, the number of white kids at these schools dropped as the number of schools that screen for academic criteria like grades or exams, or require an audition or interview, more than doubled.** This selectivity increased the pool of schools that were considered “good,” which diverted many white students away from the specialized schools and into these newly prestigious schools.

So when Bloomberg allowed all public schools to screen for academic criteriam, suddenly, whites weren’t interested in Stuyvesant and the other specialized high schools. (Note: while elite private schools do suck up a lot of bright black and Hispanic kids, a lot of the others attend these “choice” high schools.)

White NYC public school students aren’t failing in their efforts to get into the specialized high schools. They aren’t interested. They aren’t applying. They have schools that are just as good.

While the national status of the specialized high schools is unquestioned, it’s pretty clear that the local status is much diminished. Asian students are overrepresented in these schools not because the schools have high academic standards and desirable status, but because bright white, black, and Hispanic kids have equally good options that they find more attractive. Why bother with obsessive test prep and a school culture that Americans find unpleasant when you can set a perfectly solid standard that keeps out the low-skilled and unengaged? 

Look throughout the country at the test-based schools and you’ll find a similar pattern, although the SHSAT is the only test whose results are readily available online. But in every area with a mostly Asian test-based public high school, look for  an equivalently ranked school that’s mostly white, that also has more blacks and Hispanics. I don’t know enough about Virginia area schools to state this with a certainty, (I’m trying to write more, research picayune yet interesting details less) but this 2019 reporting reveals that whites comprised only 25% of the admissions to Thomas Jefferson High School, while they are surely more than 25% of the population.  In other areas, like San Francisco and Lowell, whites rich enough to live there pay for private school or move south or east in the megalopolis.

It’s simply inaccurate to refer to the specialized high schools as “New York City’s best schools”.  It’s totally wrong to argue, as most conservatives do, that Asian kids are “dominating” academics, or that the lack of black and Hispanic kids at these schools is a mark of a “failed education system” or even “black culture not valuing academia”.

The simple fact is that everyone involved in this debate has no idea what they are talking about. They see the specialized high schools as pure meritocracies. In fact, they are an expensive service NYC provides Asian immigrants who want to get their kids away from black and Hispanic students.

Now, some of this is my interpretation, so I’ll try and break it down.

Fact: white student interest in the NYC specialized schools is far lower than Asian interest, despite similar representation in public school population and similar acceptance rates to the eight schools.

Fact: when Bloomberg allowed public schools to restrict admissions, a large number of prestigious local schools set standards and this led to a drop in white student interest in the eight specialized high schools.

Opinion: whites are uninterested in the NYC specialized high schools because of the Asian immigrant culture.

Opinion: immigrant interest in any “merit-based” institution, coupled with the ability to build less competitive, but still exclusive, institutions leads to reduced white interest. 

Opinion: what the media refers to as “best schools” is not what American parents consider “best schools” if the schools are overwhelmingly populated by Asian immigrants and contain the competitive, grade-obsessed Asian culture.

The white flight away from test schools to public schools with test-in standards explains why white parents were freaked out when di Blasio threatened to end this option. DiBlasio can’t change the specialized high school requirements but he can end white parents’ ability to sculpt their own schools. If diBlasio did end these programs, I’d expect white participation in the specialized high school application process to double.  Alternatively, whites may decide it’s time to leave the city entirely, although that’s a different decision in New York City than it is when moving from San Francisco to, say, Palo Alto.

So the primary rationale for ending or changing test-based high schools is to make public schools more attractive to American (read white) parents.  The real driver isn’t equity. That’s just cover. District leaders might talk about the importance of black and Hispanic achievement, but  (as many have noted) ending test-based admissions always leads to more white students. Most of the parents screaming about the end to test-based schools are Asian parents–most of them immigrants, many making demands that might possibly be considered a tad ungrateful. Given a choice between a school that pleases newly-arrived Asian immigrants and one that pleases their tax base of mostly white but all high-income parents–and also improves black and Hispanic participation–which option is the best political strategy?

As usual, conservatives–and, for that matter, black opponents like Glenn Loury, John McWhorter, and Wilfred Reilly–get it all wrong. They are wailing about the injustice to the Asian immigrants and the threat to merit. They complain that black students aren’t encouraged to compete or achieve. But this is all bullshit. There are smart black kids. They have other options that they find much more attractive.

Asian dominance of specialized public schools has nothing to do with academics or high standards. It’s white flight. Districts are taking action to end white flight. This is unsurprising and something that conservatives would normally support except their loathing of public schools interferes with their ability to notice the obvious. 

I  shouldn’t have to point this out. But there’s one thing that I’ve noticed elites of either party are categorically reluctant to discuss, and it’s something that a (barely) upper middle class white living in extreme diversity is uniquely suited to observe. White people living around huge populations of Asian immigrants aren’t enamored with them. When you read that Asian participation in an institution or activity has soared, start by wondering whether absolute white participation has significantly declined. Then find out why.

Naturally, when elites do discuss this behavior, it is tagged as racism by conservative and progressive alike. Plus ca change, and all that.

*******************************************************

There are many reasons my writing has fallen off a cliff this year, not least of which that remote teaching is far more work. But another key reason that I just figured out recently involves the huge push over the last year to end SAT and other test based admissions policy, an issue that would normally be right in my wheelhouse. But my opinions on all this have grown more complicated in the past five years. 

There are people who think I dislike Asians, and that’s just not true. I do have concerns about the huge influx in Asian immigrants since the 90s. (there’s a clear distinction between them and those who have been in the country for decades and multiple generations.) South and East Asian academic culture is rife with fraud and competition, and I don’t welcome its influence here in America. I grit my teeth and scowl at Americans* who talk about the Asian work ethic, Asian two-parent families, and all the other “positives” that they are just sure lead to Asian success (recently on display in Andrew Sullivan’s podcast with Wesley Yang). It’s all bullshit. Asian immigrants are people, and like all people they range from utter scum to totally amazing. But culturally, they have attitudes and values that are in total conflict with American ones, and Americans should not allow these values to override what makes American education great–and yes, American education is great. Nor has our education system ever been overly obsessed with grades, competition or endless study. We should seek to acculturate Asian immigrant education values, not reward them.

Leaving aside all the value-judgment (theirs and mine), I am also disturbed at the constant confusion between grades and achievement, as well as the utter ignorance of the real problems with the SHSAT scoring that would reward an Asian immigrant (or anyone else) scoring in the high 90s in math and the 40s in verbal while rejecting a black or Hispanic kid (or anyone else) scoring in the high 80s on both.

But none of my distaste leads to approval for college admissions offices discriminating against Asians by using enough of them to boost their metrics and dismissing the rest. Nor does it mean we can ban test prep. And using grades as a proxy for achievement, which is the actual means by which we are eliminating test-based admissions at both college and high school, is utter madness. Not only are grades basically fraud, but a grade-based admission process will encourage segregation, particularly for blacks and Hispanics. Black kids at integrated high schools have better scores than those at majority minority high schools, but lower grades. This is the Big Lie that runs all through the “top students at each school” admissions process. Grades favor low achievers. Tests don’t. 

However, I’m far more skeptical of the value of test scores past a cutoff mark than I was before around 2016. That is, an SAT score of 600 verbal or math has meaning. I’m not sure a 2400 SAT score does anymore. Well, it does, but not reliably. That’s a topic for another article. 

So tests, yes. But cut scores and a lottery, not ranking by score. That’s a topic for another day as well, but I wanted to be clear that I am unhappy–very, very unhappy–with the current move away from test-based college admissions. I believe we are destroying the value of a college diploma beyond redemption. It’s very worrying.

Once again, parts of this are more disjointed but focus is on writing to get past this perfection block, so bear with me.

*I mentioned this throughout, but unlike Asians, who often say American to mean “white”, I mean American as all races. If I mean American whites I usually say so.


Coins Dropping, Lights Dawning, and Other Impossibilities

So I was just snotty to Aaron Sibarium last night and now I feel mean. 

I should be gracious to the guy who took on a topic I’ve been howling about for months. My point: for all the hysteria about “leftists taking over public schools” as the ads on NRO podcasts bleat, parents have far more control over public schools than they do private schools and charters. The real CRT insanity is taking hold at the most elite private schools and is a much bigger problem at charter schools than it is at public schools. (When I was in ed school over a decade ago, one of my adjunct professors was leaving to start an all black charter school that was devoted to critical race theory, although she didn’t call it that).

Not that Sibarium mention charter schools at all, or even correctly identifies the problem with private school wokeness. I mean, he’s completely wrong in arguing that an ideological cartel of gatekeepers is keeping Dalton and other elite private schools from abandoning DIE dogma. That’s hilariously nuts. But he gets closer to the point here:

The challenge for both proposals is the college admissions process. In interviews with the Free Beacon, multiple parents expressed concern that elite universities would not look kindly on schools outside the accreditation establishment, which could handicap their kids’ odds of getting in. “The better the school, the more woke it is,” one mother said—”because all the best colleges are woke.” If Dalton is held hostage by the accreditors, parents are held hostage by the meritocracy.

The last sentence is where he goes wrong: like there are Dalton administrators blinking in code: “Send help. End cartel.” But the rest of it correctly identifies the real problem, which is that parents are more interested in access than education.

But the real reason I approve of Aaron’s article is here:

All this poses a problem for market-based education reform: For many parents, there is no market. Far from offering more choice than public schools, private schools may offer even less.

Hahahaha. Yeah,  no shit, Aaron! Well done!  Seriously–he’s maybe 25 years old and says the unsayable. 

And I was mean to him anyway, because first, he’s wrong about the cartel nonsense, but most importantly because of a tweet comment:

If you want school choice to actually offer choice, you’ve got to go after the woke bureaucracy that stifles market competition.

The sound you hear is the point whizzing over Aaron’s head.

The less important wrongness is, again, that Aaron gets the cause completely backwards. As he already pointed out, parents choose these schools for access, not education. The “woke bureaucracy” isn’t the reason there are no excellent conservative private schools that are a pipeline to the Ivies. Elite colleges manage that gatekeeping all by themselves. The “woke bureaucracies” aren’t gatekeepers. While I haven’t looked into it, my first guess is that the various organizations and consulting groups are full-employment mandates for well-connected spouses, much in the way we pretend that Michelle Obama had an important job at a hospital when in fact she got the job when her husband got important. They aren’t powerful. The jobs aren’t powerful. The jobs are mostly wife sinecures. That’s my guess, anyway.

But the really important issue here is way meta, and it’s in the opener: “If you want school choice to actually offer choice”…

Think about it.

Thirty years. THIRTY YEARS conservatives have been pushing school choice. THIRTY YEARS they’ve been howling about the evil public school cartels. THIRTY YEARS their only solution to any education problem was the wholesale destruction of public schools.

Result? Almost every initiative they won during a 16-year reign of bipartisan state and federal legislation was ripped out and declared a total failure by the voters and general public. If education reform organizations were held to the same criteria they demand for teachers, Rick Hess, Michael Petrilli, Nat Malkus, Matt Chingos, and a host of other think tankers would be on unemployment.

I do believe it’s finally sunk in that the institutions, private schools AND charters, that conservatives have been pushing as the right and proper solution to “government schools” are unrelentingly dedicated to the wholesale destruction of everything conservatives hold dear: free speech, merit, academic achieve ment, high standards. Everything that conservatives held the evil teachers’ unions responsible for is now more present, more powerful, and more destructive than before.

But here’s Aaron, offering a fix: “If you want school choice….”

Dude. Some humility.

If nothing else, the smoking, hulking wreck of conservative dreams should give them all pause. Perhaps–I’m gonna just throw this idea out there–perhaps school choice isn’t going to do a damn thing to achieve your goals. In fact, perhaps school choice is an actively wrong answer. Perhaps, given that the organizations you dreamed of are dedicated to your obliteration, you should stop trying to obliterate public schools.

Just a thought.

But in any case, stop offering fixes, Aaron. and everyone else. It’s time to acknowledge that school choice has failed in critical ways to advance conservative or even Republican agendas.  Be a little less flip with solutions.

As a Republican, if not a conservative, who knows public schools are a lot better and far more responsive to communities than the choice shrines, I have no definitive answers. But I have some thoughts. 

School choice gives power to schools, not parents.

The right to attend a local public school is near absolute. The right to attend charters, magnets, and private schools is non-existent. The school choice movement works on the fringes, appealing to the parents who don’t have the money to choose their kids’ peers. It’s not a serious universal solution. Parents know this very well. Schools of choice can always reject the kids and teachers they don’t want, which allows them to enforce ideological demands.

Public schools respond to community demands. Private schools don’t have to.

Naturally, conservatives get this entirely backwards. Never has this been more obvious than in the recent pandemic year. Yes, private schools were more likely to offer in-person instruction. Duh. Why pay for zoom school when you can get it for free? But charters were as likely to be in hybrid or remote as publics were, and for the same reason: parent demand. It was parents, coupled with idiotic state-wide restriction, that kept schools in remote. Every single take blaming teachers unions is goofy. Don’t believe me? Maybe Andrew Smarick, conservative and choice advocate in good standing, will convince you:

The comfort of citizens and parents in any particular geography—not missives from the CDC, studies from universities, or prodding from politicians—is proving to be the key factor in returning to normal. Indeed, though school systems have gotten lousy press for months on end, there might come a time when we see the behavior of American K-12 education during the COVID era as typifying decentralization and democracy in action.

And remember this: anywhere schools opened, teachers went back to work.

Right now, while private school parents are chafing at the woke theology their kids are subjected to, public school parents are voting out school boards and demanding their legislators ban CRT instruction. Public schools are a hell of a lot more democratic than they’re given credit for.

While I’m supportive of CRT laws, remember they’ll only go so far precisely because of local control. Go into any inner city school and odds are the history teachers are using CRT lessons to keep their kids engaged. Try the same thing in the suburbs of Tennessee or Florida and the teacher will be summarily canned.

1 in 3 teachers are Republicans

Do you know who they are? Have you bothered to talk to them? I don’t mean the Fordham Institute-sponsored puppets who mouth the choice dogma that gets them published, but rather the every day teachers who vote for Republicans but don’t think public schools are irretrievably broken. Like me, except probably in red states where it’s not instant suicide to come forward.

Might want to find out who they are, what they think, and how you could support them and maybe make more of them. Hint: best not talk about how useless teachers are, and “we don’t hate teachers, just teachers unions” line won’t reassure them.

Focus your energy on college, not high school

I have been writing about the wholesale destruction of college diplomas for years. It’s a huge problem. Conservatives correctly complain that college isn’t for everyone, but no one is pushing Congress to do anything about it. 

Weakening private colleges and strengthening state colleges is key to addressing the gatekeeping issues that Aaron correctly observes in his article. 

The best solution: Mandate a minimum demonstrated ability level for college loans (Congress) or state universities (state legislatures): Nothing too high. Something like a 550 SAT section minimum, or a composite 25 ACT. Be flexible–we could use more competition in the test market. This suggestion has HUGE disparate impact problems and will be the subject of endless lawsuits, so get started on it now.

I realize all of these suggestions, as well as a host of others I left off because of time and focus factors, are anathema to the people in a position to work on enacting them.  Because Sibarium’s article makes it clear that no one is rethinking things. The coin ain’t dropping. The light ain’t dawning. Textbook definition of insanity runs all through his piece.

But I’m a teacher in a Title I school, which makes me an expert in teaching people who take a long time to learn.

*********************************************************************************

This the first actual Ed_Realist article I’ve been able to write in months, so I’m not going in depth on these and didn’t have time to support with links to things I consider obvious. Spending time trying to craft this would add it to the large pile of unfinished pieces in my draft folder. So I just decided to put these thoughts out there rather than endlessly mull the best way to write this. 

 


Bush/Obama Ed Reform: Victory over Value Add

(I was writing my final article on this era when I realized I hadn’t really focused completely on the history of Value Added Metrics (VAM) in my original coverage of the Obama years. I am saying this because VAM sprites both pro and con are holding me at gunpoint demanding I write an article all about them.)

In 2009, The New Teacher Project’s The Widget Effect declared that schools treated all teachers as interchangeable units, didn’t bother to train new teachers, refused to fire tenured teachers, and worse, gave all teachers high ratings.  99% of teachers got ratings of Proficient or higher! The shame!

Mind you, none of these are new declarations, but this paper initiated the argument that allowed Obama and Duncan (as I wrote here)  to demand that states evaluate teachers with student achievement, and that achievement must be test scores. Thus, one of the requirements for a Duncan “waiver” from No Child Left Behind school “program improvement penalities”, which by now were affecting over half of all schools, was that the state must begin evaluating teacher effectiveness using data–just another word for VAM.

Put another way, Obama and Duncan allowed states to escape schoolwide accountability for student test scores by forcing them to agree to teacher accountability for student test scores.

In 2009, 10 states required evaluation to include student achievement metrics. By 2015, 43 states required value-added metrics for evaluation. Most courts agreed that the usually hasty and poorly thought through implementation plans were absurd and unfair, but declined to step in. There were some notable exceptions, as you’ll see. (Note: I wrote a longer opinion of VAM that includes more info.)

From 1% Ineffective to…..?

By now, no one should be surprised to learn that these efforts were a spectacular failure, although rarely reported in just those terms. But by 2019, only 34 states required it, and most other states still requiring them on paper had watered down the impact by dramatically reducing the VAM component, making VAM optional, removing the yearly requirement for teacher evaluations, or allowing schools to design their own metrics.

In the definitive evaluation, Harvard researchers studied 24 states that implemented value-added metrics and learned that principals refused to give teachers bad ratings. In fact, principals would rate teachers lower in confidential ratings than in formal ones, although in either method the average score was a positive evaluation.  When asked, principals said that they felt mean giving the bad results (which suggests they didn’t agree with them). Moreover, many principals worried that if they gave a bad review, the teachers might leave–or worse, force the principal to begin firing procedures. Either way, the principal might end up forced to hire a teacher no better or possibly worse.

Brief aside: Hey, that should sound familiar to long-time readers . As I wrote seven years ago: “…most principals don’t fire teachers often because it’s incredibly hard to find new ones.”. Or as I put it on Twitter back when it allowed only 140 characters, “Hiring, not firing, is the pain point.” 

So the Obama administration required an evaluation method that would identify bad teachers for firing or training, and principals are worried that the teachers might leave or get fired. That’s….kind of a problem. 

Overall, the Harvard study found that only two of them gave more than 1% of teachers unsatisfactory ratings.

If you do the math, 100% – 1% = 99% which is exactly what the Widget effect found, so that was a whole bunch of money and energy spent for no results.

New Mexico

The study’s outlier was New Mexico, which forced principals to weight VAM as 50% of the overall evaluation score, courtesy of Hanna Skandera, a committed reform education secretary appointed by a popular Republican governor. As a result, over 1 in 4 teachers were rated unsatisfactory.

But! A 2015 court decision prevented any terminations based on the evaluation system, and the case got delayed until it was irrelevant. In 2017, Governor Martinez agreed to a compromise on the evaluation methodology, increasing permitted absences to six and dropping VAM from 50% to 35%. New Mexico also completed its shift from a purple to blue state, and in 2018 all the Democratic gubernatorial candidates promised they would end the evaluation system. The winner, Michelle Lujan, wasted no time. On January 3, 2019, a perky one-page announcement declared that VAM was ended, absences wouldn’t count on evaluations, and just for good measure she ended PARCC.

So the one state in which principals couldn’t juke the stats to keep teachers they didn’t want to fire, the courts stepped in, the Republican governor backed down, and the new Democrat governor rendered the whole fuss moot.

California

California had always been a VAM outlier, as governor Jerry Brown steadfastly refused the waiver bribes .Students Matter, an organization founded by a tech entrepreneur, engaged in a two-pronged attempt to force California into evaluation compliance–first by suing to end teacher tenure (Vergara) and then by forcing evaluation by student test scores (Doe vs. Antioch).  Triumphalists hailed the original 2014 Vergara decision that overturned the protections of teacher tenure, and even the  more cautiously optimistic believed that the California appeals court might overturn the decision, but the friendlier California Supreme Court would side with the plaintiffs and end tenure. The appeals court did overturn, and the CA Supreme Court….declined to review, letting the appellate ruling stand. 

Welch and Students Matter likewise tried to force California schools to read its 1971 Stull Act as requiring teachers to be evaluated by test scores. That failed, too.  No appeal.

Upshot

“Experts” often talk about forcing education in America to follow market-based principles. But in the VAM failure, the principals are following those principles! (hyuk.) As I’ve also written many times, there is, in fact, a teacher shortage. But at the same time, even the confidential evaluations demonstrate that the vast majority of teachers are doing good work by their manager’s estimation.

As a teacher, I would be interested in learning whether I had an impact on my students’ scores. I’d be more interested, really, in whether my teaching methods were helping all students equally, or if there were useful skews. Were my weakest students, the ones who really weren’t qualified for the math I was teaching, being harmed, unlearning some of the earlier skills that could have been enforced? Was my practice of challenging the strongest students with integrated problem solving and cumulative applications of material keeping them in the game compared to other students whose teachers taught more faster, tested only on new material, and gave out practice tests?

But the idea that any teachers other than, perhaps, reading teachers in elementary school could be accurately assessed on their performance by student learning is just absurd.

Any teacher could have told you that. Many teachers did tell the politicians and lobbyists and billionaires that. But teachers are the peasants and plebes of the cognitive elite, so the country had to waste billions only to get right back to where we started. Worse: they still haven’t learned.

( I swear I began this article as the final one in the series until I realized VAM was pulling focus. I really do have that one almost done. Happy New Year.)


Bush/Obama Ed Reform: Why Didn’t They See Common Core Fail Coming?

Rick Hess’s article, How the Common Core Went Wrong, unerringly dissects the failures of the proponents’ strategy, no small feat for contemporaneous writing. Granted, he goes off the rails when he offers the states a three step way-out: take back control from the feds, form a small coalition of states willing to implement tough standards consistently and test on them, and make sure they implement the “rigorous” Common Core, not the “frivolous” one. Uh, sure.  (I am reminded of Ender’s siblings Valentine and Peter, who never agreed about what the world ought to be, but rarely disagreed about what the world actually was.)

Here Hess is on the world as it actually is.

The crucial compromise [of NCLB] was that states could set their own standards and tests. In fact, NCLB specifically prohibited national testing or a federally controlled curriculum.

What followed was not difficult to anticipate. The possibility of sanctions gave more than a few state leaders reason to adopt easy tests and lower the scores required for proficiency. A “race to the bottom” was soon underway, prompting an effort to combat the gamesmanship.

In December 2008, Achieve, Inc., the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Governors Association issued “Benchmarking for Success,” a report that urged states to develop and adopt common standards; called for federal incentives to promote that effort; and advocated aligning textbooks, curricula, and tests to those standards. If all states played by the same rules, there would be no race to the bottom. (emphasis mine)

Here he is on the world as it ought to be.

A push for a meaningful common measure of educational quality should start with a small number of deeply committed states that choose the rigors of true commonality.

So let’s unpack that.

First, No Child Left Behind set criteria of 100% proficiency with stiff penalties for states that didn’t make progress. In response, states made their tests easier to increase proficiency rates and reduce the noticeable proficiency gap between races, demographics, language status, etc.

Is this true? Yes. Without question, states were lowering cut scores.

So why did they need waivers?

Remember all those media stories recording reformer complaints about low cut scores? Not one reporter asked, “if cut scores were so ridiculously low, why were waivers required? Shouldn’t all the students have been passing?”

Again: The states made the tests easier. They made the tests a lot easier.

And there was still an achievement gap. Not a single state achieved 100% proficiency. 

The Obama administration was able to force states to adopt Common Core because the states needed waivers because various student demographic groups weren’t passing their extremely easy tests.

The governor’s association that dreamed up the need for Common Core didn’t think “Hmm, the states lowered the standards to the point that 10% correct was proficient and still there were kids who didn’t get proficient so maybe we should take a beat and evaluate if perhaps our expectations of all American kids are a tad unrealistic.”

No, what they thought was, “We need to force the states to use a much more difficult common test.”

Now return to the point of my last article, which is that the states are experts at taking federal money without any intention of fulfilling the requirements attached to the largesse (which is only fair, mind you, given the idiotic demands the feds make without anything approaching full funding).

The last law was ignored in everything but spirit and nonetheless drove all the states into non-compliance. The Obama administration used the states’ desperate desire to get a penalty waive to force them to sign up for common standards and collaborate to create really difficult and expensive tests–that they didn’t have to use.

So the states didn’t use them.

The only way you could make states “play by the same rules”, as Hess puts it, is to force them to. He envisioned a voluntary cooperative because, as I said, Hess is better at describing reality than anticipating it. There’s no way states would sign up for tests that would increase their achievement gap. They couldn’t even end the achievement gap by making the tests simple. Why would they sign up for something harder?

Insanity. Also amazingly stupid. And of course, expensive.

At which point you realize that only really unique aspect of Common Core was the redistribution of $345 million  from the federal government to Pearson and other testing companies. Everything else was business as usual: feds hand out money with requirements, the states take the money and ignore the requirements.

Common Core standards survived, sure. But only because the tests didn’t.

Now the standards are just….wallpaper.

Hey, under a thousand.