Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Times Article Weighs In On Value-Added

This seems to me a fair article about the value-added jive:

A growing number of school districts have adopted a system called value-added modeling to answer that question, provoking battles from Washington to Los Angeles — with some saying it is an effective method for increasing teacher accountability, and others arguing that it can give an inaccurate picture of teachers’ work.

The system calculates the value teachers add to their students’ achievement, based on changes in test scores from year to year and how the students perform compared with others in their grade.

People who analyze the data, making a few statistical assumptions, can produce a list ranking teachers from best to worst.

Use of value-added modeling is exploding nationwide. Hundreds of school systems, including those in Chicago, New York and Washington, are already using it to measure the performance of schools or teachers. Many more are expected to join them, partly because the Obama administration has prodded states and districts to develop more effective teacher-evaluation systems than traditional classroom observation by administrators.


A report released this month by several education researchers warned that the value-added methodology can be unreliable.

“If these teachers were measured in a different year, or a different model were used, the rankings might bounce around quite a bit,” said Edward Haertel, a Stanford professor who was a co-author of the report. “People are going to treat these scores as if they were reflections on the effectiveness of the teachers without any appreciation of how unstable they are.”

Other experts disagree.

William L. Sanders, a senior research manager for a North Carolina company, SAS, that does value-added estimates for districts in North Carolina, Tennessee and other states, said that “if you use rigorous, robust methods and surround them with safeguards, you can reliably distinguish highly effective teachers from average teachers and from ineffective teachers.”

Dr. Sanders helped develop value-added methods to evaluate teachers in Tennessee in the 1990s. Their use spread after the 2002 No Child Left Behind law required states to test in third to eighth grades every year, giving school districts mountains of test data that are the raw material for value-added analysis.


Even critics acknowledge that the method can be more accurate for rating schools than the system now required by federal law, which compares test scores of succeeding classes, for instance this year’s fifth graders with last year’s fifth graders.

But when the method is used to evaluate individual teachers, many factors can lead to inaccuracies. Different people crunching the numbers can get different results, said Douglas N. Harris, an education professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. For example, two analysts might rank teachers in a district differently if one analyst took into account certain student characteristics, like which students were eligible for free lunch, and the other did not.

Millions of students change classes or schools each year, so teachers can be evaluated on the performance of students they have taught only briefly, after students’ records were linked to them in the fall.

In many schools, students receive instruction from multiple teachers, or from after-school tutors, making it difficult to attribute learning gains to a specific instructor. Another problem is known as the ceiling effect. Advanced students can score so highly one year that standardized state tests are not sensitive enough to measure their learning gains a year later.

In Houston, a district that uses value-added methods to allocate teacher bonuses, Darilyn Krieger said she had seen the ceiling effect as a physics teacher at Carnegie Vanguard High School.

“My kids come in at a very high level of competence,” Ms. Krieger said.

After she teaches them for a year, most score highly on a state science test but show little gains, so her bonus is often small compared with those of other teachers, she said.

The Houston Chronicle reports teacher bonuses each year in a database, and readers view the size of the bonus as an indicator of teacher effectiveness, Ms. Krieger said.

“I have students in class ask me why I didn’t earn a higher bonus,” Ms. Krieger said. “I say: ‘Because the system decided I wasn’t doing a good enough job. But the system is flawed.’ ”

This year, the federal Department of Education’s own research arm warned in a study that value-added estimates “are subject to a considerable degree of random error.”

And last October, the Board on Testing and Assessments of the National Academies, a panel of 13 researchers led by Dr. Haertel, wrote to Mr. Duncan warning of “significant concerns” that the Race to the Top grant competition was placing “too much emphasis on measures of growth in student achievement that have not yet been adequately studied for the purposes of evaluating teachers and principals.”

“Value-added methodologies should be used only after careful consideration of their appropriateness for the data that are available, and if used, should be subjected to rigorous evaluation,” the panel wrote. “At present, the best use of VAM techniques is in closely studied pilot projects.”

Despite those warnings, the Department of Education made states with laws prohibiting linkages between student data and teachers ineligible to compete in Race to the Top, and it designed its scoring system to reward states that use value-added calculations in teacher evaluations.

“I’m uncomfortable with how fast a number of states are moving to develop teacher-evaluation systems that will make important decisions about teachers based on value-added results,” said Robert L. Linn, a testing expert who is an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“They haven’t taken caution into account as much as they need to,” Professor Linn said.

Indeed they haven't.

I wish the writers at the op-ed page of the Times would read the news section of the paper and learn how the VAM jive they are cheering for is full of problems.

And I REALLY wish the know-it-alls in the administration would do the same thing.

More on this tomorrow.

I think maybe VAM should be applied to the Obama administration data.

And the revenue and readership numbers of the Times.

Will Mistress Eva Give A Day Off For A Hurricane?

Or will the Harlem Success Academy students be trekking through 8o mph winds in order to get their Saturday morning test prep?

Secretary Duncan Praises Bloomberg And Klein

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan arrived in New York yesterday on his Race to the Top promotion tour and said New York deserved its share of the RttT boondoggle prize money because we are so "reformy."

In other words, we lifted the charter cap, agreed to tie teacher evaluations to test scores and fire teachers and close schools when they do not add enough "value" to student scores.

These are unproven or disproven methods for reform, but nonetheless they are the ones being pushed by this administration.

In addition, Duncan praised Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein for their record of education reform here in New York City.

Looking at the "data" that deformers like Duncan, Bloomberg and Klein adore so much, I wonder just what record Duncan is talking about?

Because the record Juan Gonzalez wrote about on Friday July 30th wasn't so good:

For years, Mayor Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and top education officials in Albany touted big jumps in math and reading scores statewide - and skyrocketing results among New York City's pupils.

The scores, they said, were proof that mayoral control and Klein's data-driven version of school reform had succeeded.

Schools were winning the "civil rights battle of our time," the chancellor claimed, by closing the racial "achievement gap."

To promote his reforms nationwide, Klein even founded a nonprofit group last year with the Rev. Al Sharpton. They called it the Education Equality Project.

Now, state officials have revealed a startling nosedive in test scores. Admitting that results from previous years had been inflated, the state announced tougher standards this year - resulting in the lower scores. Thousands of parents who had been told their children were at grade level are suddenly learning they aren't.

Even worse, the new scores show the racial "achievement gap" has increased.

Back in 2003, 73.3% of white fourth-grade students met state standards, compared with only 46.3% of black pupils. The gap between the two groups was 26.9 points. This year, the gap between black and white fourth-graders increased to 31.7 points.

For Hispanic fourth-graders, there was a smaller rise, from 29.7 points in 2003 to 30.3 this year - but a rise nonetheless.

Comparisons aren't possible for all grades because the state only tested fourth- and eighth-graders until 2006.

More than 15% of the 400,000 students who took this year's reading test registered at Level 1 - the lowest possible level - while only 2.8% did last year. An astonishing 85% of those lowest achievers were African-American and Hispanic.

The new scores are so bad Sharpton has begun to distance himself from Klein. "I'm very disturbed and concerned by these scores," Sharpton said.

"We were told students were improving, but it seems our kids were victims of dumbed-down tests to make the administration look good."

"We've been warning for years that passing levels had been lowered," said Victoria Bousquet, a member of the Coalition for Educational Justice.

The mother of two children at Medgar Evers Preparatory School in Brooklyn, Bousquet was stunned when she read the new test scores for their school.

"We went from 95% of the children meeting standards last year to 67% this year," she said.

Klein and Bloomberg dared to claim this week that the sky had not really fallen on their reforms. Test scores have continued to climb under their watch, they claimed. It's just that standards are getting tougher.

Well, ask any baseball fan about all those balls rocketing out of stadiums in the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa era. At first the numbers looked amazing, and everyone was happy. Then the investigations started, and McGwire is no longer anyone's hero.

The era of school scores on steroids is coming to an end. Let's see who survives this scandal.

The steroid analogy for the Bloomberg/Klein "record" of achievement is perfect.

The "data" looked great until you realized they were "juicing" it with dumbed down tests, easy testing rubrics and other kinds of jive.

Now we know that the Bloomberg/Klein record is a miserable failure.

It is plain to see - right there in the data.

And yet, the New York media and Klein and Bloomberg themselves refuse to acknowledge this.

They continue to insist city students have made huge gains on scores since they took over and the achievement gaps between white and Asian and black and Hispanic students has decreased. They same the same is true of student in schools with higher income populations and students in schools with lower income populations.

But this is NOT true.

It is right there, in black and white.

Right in the data.

Yet Secretary Arne, a basketball player by trade, insists that the Klein and Bloomberg record is stellar.

Perhaps this is because his own record as steward of the Chicago school system was also an abject failure.

Perhaps it's because ed deformers stick together and besides, the deform movement isn't about improving student performance but rather about closing schools, firing teachers, opening for-profit charters, busting the teachers union and privatizing the school system so that hedge fund criminals like Whitney Tilson can make money.

Or perhaps it's because Duncan, like the baseball players of yore we used to admire before it became clear they were taking performance-enhancing drugs, is himself on drugs.

UPDATE: Last night, Chancellor Klein heard sharp criticism and anger from parents over test scores and the chancellor's education "record" at the PEP meeting:

On Monday night, the Department of Education was prepared to hear from angry parents --- and there were plenty.

The meeting, held on Manhattan's Upper West Side, started quietly, as DOE officials explained that the state raised the bar for proficiency this year, which is why so many fewer city students passed. But when the public comment period began, the auditorium got louder. Forty people signed up for two minutes at the microphone, and they were angry.

"Real harm has been caused. Testing-Gate has caused harm to students, parents and tax payers," said David Bloomfield of the College of Staten Island.

"Pretty much we feel that we've been lied to in terms of the score of the test. They were saying that we had a higher score and then we find out that isn't true and a lot of schools have been closed because of that," said parent Elbibio Molina.

This was the second time the DOE had tried to address this issue. The first time, two weeks ago, angry parents shut down the meeting when the panel refused to even consider a motion to hear public comment.

Only half the panel members showed up for the rescheduled meeting Monday and parents said that was another indication of how little their voices are heard. By the time Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and his deputies spoke, parents shouted over them, walked out en masse, and turned their backs to the stage. In the end, both officials and audience members claimed the other side just wouldn't listen.

DOE officials say students have still made progress even though according to the new standards, many fewer students are proficient. But parents who attended the meeting say they want a better explanation for the lower scores.

I guess Arne Duncan didn't hear about this meeting.

And why would he?

Other than NY1's coverage of the meeting, none of the New York papers covered the story.

In fact, the Daily News covered the "Arne Give An A+ To Bloomberg and Klein" story, but not the angry parents at the PEP meeting.

The Times didn't bother to cover it.

And the Post, well, it's the Post.

So the New York media continues to make believe that the Bloomberg/Klein "record" is some magnificent achievement and Obama and Duncan continue to make believe the same thing.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Obama Health Care Law Forces Local Governments To Sell Hospitals To For-Profits

This should be put under the "Heckuva job, Barack!!!" category:

Faced with mounting debt and looming costs from the new federal health-care law, many local governments are leaving the hospital business, shedding public facilities that can be the caregiver of last resort.

Officials in Lauderdale County, Ala., this spring opted to transfer their 91-year-old Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital and other properties to a for-profit company after struggling to satisfy an angry bond insurer.

"We were next to knocking on bankruptcy's door,'' said Rhea Fulmer, a Lauderdale County commissioner who approved the deal with RegionalCare Hospital Partners, of Brentwood, Tenn, but with trepidation. She said the county had no guarantee the company would improve care in the decades to come. "Time will tell.''

Clinton County, Ohio, in May sold its hospital to the same company. Officials in Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska, are weighing a joint venture with a for-profit company, similar to one the same company made with Bannock County, Idaho. And Prince George's County, Md., is seeking a buyer for its medical complex.

More than a fifth of the nation's 5,000 hospitals are owned by governments and many are drowning in debt caused by rising health-care costs, a spike in uninsured patients, cuts in Medicare and Medicaid and payments on construction bonds sold in fatter times. Because most public hospitals tend to be solo operations, they don't enjoy the economies of scale, or more generous insurance contracts, which bolster revenue at many larger nonprofit and for-profit systems.

Local officials also predict an expensive future as new requirements—for technology, quality accounting and care coordination—start under the overhaul, which became law in March.

Moody's Investors Service said in April that many standalone hospitals won't have the resources to invest in information technology or manage bundled payments well. Many nonprofits have bad credit ratings and in a tight credit market cannot borrow money, either. Meantime, the federal government is expected to cut aid to hospitals.


Health-care consultants and financial analysts say the pace of all hospital sales is picking up at a rate not seen since the 1990s, the dawn of managed care. James Burgdorfer, a partner with investment banker Juniper Advisory LLC in Chicago, said most public systems would end in the next two decades because the industry has become too complex for local politicians. "By the nature of their small size, their independence and their political entanglements, they are poorly equipped to survive,'' Mr. Burgdorfer said.

Great - every facility in health care will be for-profit.

I'm sure that will work out well.

And of course Obamacare forces people who don't have insurance to purchase it from for-profit companies or get hit with a 2.5% income tax bill.

That's going to bring in lots of new customers for the insurance industry.

It's like President Obama is a Manchurian Candidate - for corporations.

Helping to completely privatize the health industry, pushing for the privatization of the public school system, forcing UAW members to take 50% pay cuts, helping the bank industry get another 6-9 months of payments out of underwater homeowners before foreclosure...

This guy gives liberalism a bad name.

There is nothing "liberal" about him.

He is a corporate whore through and through.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weingarten Was Horrible On "This Week"

Jesus, she's not even trying to push back against the test score nonsense.

Somebody stop her.


She goes on these programs with Michelle Rhee and Arne Duncan and allows them to frame the issue as "Bad Teachers Won't Allow Themselves To Be Fired" rather than by pushing back with the kind of critique Valerie Strauss at the Answer Sheet posted today:

Student standardized test scores are not reliable indicators of how effective any teacher is in the classroom, not even with the addition of new “value-added” methods, according to a study released today. It calls on policymakers and educators to stop using test scores as a central factor in holding teachers accountable.

“Value-added modeling” is indeed all the rage in teacher evaluation: The Obama administration supports it, and the Los Angeles Times used it to grade more than 6,000 California teachers in a controversial project. States are changing laws in order to make standardized tests an important part of teacher evaluation.

Unfortunately, this rush is being done without evidence that it works well. The study, by the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan nonprofit think tank based in Washington, concludes that heavy reliance on VAM methods should not dominate high-stakes decisions about teacher evaluation and pay.

Value-added measures use test scores to track the growth of individual students as they progress through the grades and see how much “value” a teacher has added. They do not include other factors that affect students, and can skew results by giving better scores to teachers who “teach to the test” and lesser scores to teachers who are assigned students with the greatest educational needs.

As much as we’d like a simple way to identify and remove bad teachers, the study concludes that “there is simply no shortcut.”

The authors of the study, called, “Problems with the Use of Student Test Scores to Evaluate Teachers,” give it unusual credibility: It was written by four former presidents of the American Educational Research Association; two former presidents of the National Council on Measurement in Education; the current and two former chairs of the Board of Testing and Assessment of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences; the president-elect of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management; the former director of the Educational Testing Service’s Policy Information Center; a former associate director of the National Assessment of Educational Progress; a former assistant U.S. secretary of education; a member of the National Assessment Governing Board; and the vice president, a former president, and three other members of the National Academy of Education.

Read the whole post.

Using this kind of study to push back against the crap Rhee/Duncan/Obama/Bloomberg/Klein/Gates are pushing would be SO MUCH MORE effective than than the shit Randi mumbles.

But then again, as my friend Norm from Ed Notes always says, that would mean Randi would actually WANT to push back against the test score nonsense.

And of course she doesn't.

She wants to be feted on shows Like This Week by Arne Duncan.

She wants to be kissed by Joel Klein at press conferences after she sells her membership down the river.

Oh, and I think she wants to replace Whoopi on The View.

People In D.C. Think Adrian Fenty Is A Dishonest, Arrogant, Corporate Sell-Out

If this Kaplan Test Prep/Washington Post poll is accurate, buh-buy Adrian Fenty:

Poll shows D.C. Mayor Fenty getting more credit than support in primary race against Gray

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty is foundering in his reelection bid against his chief opponent, D.C. Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray, despite a widespread sense that the city is heading in the right direction, according to a new Washington Post poll.

With early voting beginning Monday in the Sept. 14 primary, Gray is clearly ahead, leading Fenty 49 to 36 percent among all Democratic voters surveyed. Gray's advantage swells to 17 points, 53 to 36 percent, among those most likely to vote in the primary.

Although most of those Democrats polled credit the mayor with a record of accomplishment and say he brought needed change to the District, many doubt his honesty, his willingness to listen to different points of view and his ability to understand their problems. The criticisms are especially deep-seated among African Americans, who are likely to make up a majority of primary voters.

Nearly six in 10 black Democrats see Fenty as caring primarily about upper-income residents; more than four in 10 see him as disproportionately concerned about whites in the District. In predominantly black Wards 7 & 8, east of the Anacostia River, where Fenty carried 54 percent of the primary vote four years ago, just 14 percent of all Democratic voters there now back him against Gray.

Citywide, most black voters doubt Fenty's honesty and say he doesn't understand their problems. Four years ago, just 17 percent of African Americans expressed unfavorable views of Fenty; now, that number has leapt to 56 percent.

The poll results show not only a dramatic drop in support for the mayor, but also the steep climb he faces in the two weeks left before the primary. Despite a recent promise to be more inclusive and more attentive to residents, Fenty's last-minute appeal may have come too late to change the minds of voters.

The mayor appears to have lost considerable ground to Gray, who entered the race at the end of March and only recently started running television ads. Gray, 67, who has run on a theme of "One City," says he is better suited to overcome the city's racial and class divides. In the poll, Gray is broadly seen as honest, open to various viewpoints and empathetic, all areas of perceived weakness for Fenty. Overall, Democratic voters give Gray the edge when it comes to being an effective leader and divide about evenly on which of the two candidates has a clearer vision for the District's future.


This race WAS close and given how people genuinely think the city is heading in the right direction (unlike most Americans in most other places around the country), Fenty should be winning in a walk.

But people see through his jive.

And black people especially seem to be able to see though his jive.

Many see him as a corporate (i.e., white) sell-out looking to help his hedge fundie friends.

Here's a sample:

The perception that Fenty favors wealthier and predominantly white neighborhoods persists despite his administration's efforts to build or renovate schools, parks and recreations centers across the city.

Danielle McDonald, who lives off East Capitol Street in Ward 7, said the mayor was too focused on "putting up high-rises and condominiums" and has not done enough to improve life in her neighborhood.

"The big bucks go downtown where the rich people are," said McDonald, 66. "He's for all that, and then throws a little something on the side to us and says, 'Oh, we gave you this.' "

McDonald said she likes Gray because he performs well in the council sessions she watches on the government cable access channel. "He seems to be for neighborhoods and was always willing to question what the mayor was doing to hold him accountable," she said.

Here's more:

The number of Democrats holding favorable views of Gray has moved higher since the beginning of the year; public assessments of Fenty's trustworthiness have not improved since a Post survey in January. In the latest poll, 39 percent of Democrats say Fenty is honest and trustworthy, compared with 61 percent who say so about Gray.

Thelma Harris, who lives in Michigan Park, in Northeast, said she recently decided that "Fenty hasn't been honest from the get go" and that she will vote for Gray. Fenty "seems to represent the interest of only a select few, and he is arrogant," said Harris, 52, a social worker at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "I know his commercials say he appears arrogant. Well, he is arrogant."

Elsewhere in Northeast, Carol Holston, 52, who lives in Benning Heights, credited Fenty with providing recreational centers and football fields, but she said they remind her of the ongoing investigation into whether the administration unfairly awarded tens of millions in construction contracts to his friends and fraternity brothers.

Harry Gates, 71, a resident of the Palisades, in Northwest, is a defector from the Fenty camp who said he volunteered for Fenty's 2006 mayoral run. "We did have a team, but there was always a wall up between the rest of the team and Adrian. I always wondered if he was listening," Gates said. "The pat answer everyone has is the day he moved into the Wilson Building, he turned his back on everyone who put him there."

Traditionally, 6o% of voters in the D.C. Democratic primary are black.

Only 19% of Democratic black voters support Fenty.

Unless Fenty turns things around awfully fast, he is done.

How Fortunate For New Jersey

This sounds pretty good to me:

Almost lost in the blame game over the state’s bungled chance to get up to $400 million in federal education dollars is what the money might have bought to help New Jersey’s children.

More frequent testing to gauge student progress. Computer databases for tracking academic performance. Support for turning the worst schools into charter schools.

After a week consumed by political turmoil and administration in-fighting, education experts and elected officials said those goals are in jeopardy.

The week started with controversy over a botched answer in the state’s 1,000-page application for Race to the Top funding. It ended with Gov. Chris Christie’s messy firing of Education Commissioner Bret Schundler.

Now the governor will try to get his agenda back on track without the money he needs and the man who was leading the effort.

Of the total amount requested in its application, New Jersey wanted $47.7 million to complete development of a computer program to track student academic progress and another $63.5 million for merit pay for teachers. But unless the state finds a new source of funding for these initiatives, it’s unlikely the governor will be able to enact them, education policy experts said.

"Without the money on the table, it’s going to take something pretty extraordinary to get those pieces in place," said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based education think tank.

Unlike in New York where there will be RttT money to add more tests to every grade in every subject, to buy computer tracking programs to track those stats, to use those stats to fire teachers, close schools and continue to make an even worse mess of things in public education, New Jersey will NOT have the money to do those things.

Which probably means most of them won't get done.

Also, the blustering bully governor has been exposed as a lying twerp.

He demanded an apology from the Obama administration for the RttT screw-up, then fired his ed chief for that screw-up, when apparently that screw-up was his alone.

So it's a win-win this weekend for New Jersey public education - no money to do the "needed" reforms and a governor with a big gaping wound in the side of his oversized ego.

UPDATE: I should add that I would not be happy to see Jersey lose out on that education money if they could have used to hire more teachers, reduce class size, buy books and materials, etc.

But the point is, RttT money CANNOT be used for those things.

It can only be used to fire teachers, close schools, add tests, buy test tracking programs and create test stat tracking data bases in order to fire teachers, close schools, etc.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Chris Christie Should Fire Himself

Chris Christie fired New Jersey Education Commissioner Bret Schundler today for allegedly lying to Christie about an incident during the state's in-person presentation to Race to the Top judges earlier this month:

Gov. Chris Christie fired state education commissioner Bret Schundler this morning after Schundler refused to resign in the wake of the controversy over the state's loss of up to $400 million in federal school funding.

"I was extremely disappointed to learn that the videotape of the Race to the Top presentation was not consistent with the information provided to me," Christie said in a press release. "As a result, I ordered an end to Bret Schundler’s service as New Jersey’s Education Commissioner and as a member of my administration."

Rich Bagger, Christie's chief of staff, asked Schundler to resign on Thursday evening because he "misled" the governor and senior staff about what happened during a presentation in Washington, D.C., the officials said.

On Wednesday, Christie publicly said Schundler had tried to give the correct information to a bungled question during the presentation, but video from the U.S. Department of Education released Thursday proved that did not happen.


But after Christie and other top officials on Thursday watched the video of Schundler and other officials' presentation to the U.S. Department of Education, and the video contradicted Schundler's explanation, the governor said, "He can't lie to me," the source said.

Ah, but it gets better. Much better.

Earlier this week, Christie blamed the Obama administration for New Jersey's not winning any RttT money and said this incident was just another example of why government doesn't work:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie blasted the Department of Education and its Race to the Top program on Wednesday after the department rejected his state's application for up to $400 million in grants —because of what amounted to a clerical error.

New Jersey was in the running for up to $400 million in grants, but walked away empty-handed in part because the state was docked 5 points for an error in their application — and the penalty put them below the 440-point threshold to qualify for the money.

"This is the stuff, candidly, that drives people crazy about government and crazy about Washington," Christie said on Tuesday. "Does anybody in Washington, D.C., have a lick of common sense?"


States earn points in a 500- point system for submitting a variety of information on their reform plans in their grant applications. Many states frantically sought to boost their point totals, sometimes by rushing to pass needed legislation before the June 1 deadline.

New Jersey lost points for providing incorrect information in response to a question about the state’s funding levels. Instead of providing information about the 2008-09 school year, as the application question asked, state administrators provided information about their budgets for the upcoming 2011 school year.

Christie conceded that his state made a mistake, but argued that an administrative error — one page in a 1,000-page document — should not be used to deny his state millions in federal funding for schools.

But the Department of Education maintains that they have to stick to a very strict application deadline in order to keep the system fair for all of the other state applicants.

Want to know why the information on the New Jersey application was wrong?

It wasn't wrong because of the unions.

It wasn't wrong because of mid-level bureaucrats (as Christie said.)

It was wrong because Chris Christie HIMSELF changed it:

The New Jersey Teachers Association produced a version as of May 27 of the bungled answer — from a draft including compromises later jettisoned — that included information for the correct budget years. The NJEA said the paper proved the administration had changed it in the process of re-writing the application to take out the compromises with the state's largest teachers union, which has been Christie's most vocal combatant during his first year as governor. The application was submitted June 1.

The reason the information was changed is because Christie didn't like a compromise forged between the NJEA and Education Commissioner Schundler on merit pay.

Here is a story from back in May on the merit pay compromise and why Christie rejected it:

Gov. Chris Christie continued to publicly criticize his own education commissioner today, ignoring the teachers’ union’s claim that he is undermining the credibility of one of the state’s most important officers.

The governor also renewed his attacks on New Jersey Education Association, and said he doesn’t believe his rejection of an agreement worked out by Commissioner Bret Schundler and the union will endanger the state’s application for up to $400 million in federal school funding.

“I made the choice to be bold,” Christie said, “not only because I want it to be successful but it’s because that’s what I agree with.”

But Christie said the deal Schundler worked out with the teachers last Thursday was one-way in favor of the NJEA. “That’s why I rejected it.”

Christie made his comments a day after publicly scolding Schundler for agreeing to compromises on teacher tenure and merit pay - which were to be part of the application for $400,000 in Race to the Top funding from the Obama administration.

During an exclusive interview, Christie said Schundler was never empowered to negotiate away key provisions of the governor’s education agenda and any impression to the contrary was wrong. The governor said the deal Schundler reached with the union did nothing but cave in to the NJEA and gut his plan for improving state schools. Christie said he heard Thursday night that an accord had been reached but knew no details.

“I did not hear any of the specifics of what Bret suggested we agree to until Friday morning. I called him and told him that was unacceptable to me,” the governor said.

The governor ordered the state education department to rewrite the part of the application that pertained to the compromise reached between Schundler and the NJEA that Christie ultimately overruled.

The only problem - the governor screwed up the numbers.

And rather than accept the blame and responsibility that this was HIS screw-up, he first blamed the mistake on the Obama administration, then a mid-level bureaucrat, and now Bret Schundler.

Is Schundler a lying weasel for allegedly telling Christie he corrected the mistake on the application at the in-person presentation when the video tape clearly shows he did no such thing.


Should he lose his job for that lie?


But Chris Christie, who is very big on pointing fingers and holding teachers and union members "responsible," is shirking the responsibility he bears for screwing up the application.

State Dems are going to investigate how the mistake was made and hold the people responsible accountable.

Well, let the investigation lead where it may, the facts available publicly clearly show where the responsibility lies - on Chris Christie.

How's That Economic Data Looking, Obama?

Barack Obama has a data fetish.

Outside of smoking cigarettes and playing basketball with Arne Duncan, there is nothing in this world Barack Obama likes better than looking over some data.

There has been a lot of economic data released this week that shows how well or not-so-well Obama has been doing as a steward of the nation's economy.

Let's take a look at some of that data:

More bad news hit the U.S. economy Friday as the Commerce Department released a revised forecast of economic growth that shows a decline to 1.6%.

The second-quarter numbers were initially forecasted to be 2.4%.

The economy grew at 3.7% rate in the first quarter.

This comes as Wall Street closed below 10,000 Thursday, a first since the beginning of July.

The dismal data has led to fears the country is headed for another recession.

"The economy is going to limp along for the next few months," Gus Faucher, an economist at Moody's Analytics, told The Associated Press. "There's even a one in three chance it could slip back into recession," he said.

The outlook for the third quarter isn't much better with economists expecting just a 1.7% growth.

Also, the private sector is not adding enough jobs to dent the unemployment rate, which remains stuck at 9.5%.

The sagging housing market has also been a drag on economic growth. Earlier this week, new home sales sunk to a record low in July and existing homes sales fell 27%.

Consumer spending in the second quarter grew 2%, from 1.9% in the first quarter.

The somber news comes as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will give a key speech to bankers Friday that will be aimed at restoring confidence in the economy.

"While we don't expect the chairman to brace the nation for a 'double dip,' he may warn that near-term growth could be insufficient to promote a sustained reduction in the country's 9.5% unemployment rate," Neal Soss of Credit Suisse Group, told the Wall Street Journal.

Keep in mind that Ben Bernanke was wrong about the housing market, wrong about the '08 recession and wrong about pretty much everything else, so just because Ben Bernanke doesn't think the economy is heading for recession doesn't mean it isn't heading for recession.

Mark Zandi says there is now a 33% chance of recession. A few weeks ago he said the chance of recession was 20%.

Nouriel Roubini says the chance of recession is 40%.

And Robert Schiller says the chance of recession is greater than 50%.

Yeah, the "data" is bad.

And yet somehow, President Data Fetish, so happy to use data to fire teachers, close schools and shame people publicly, doesn't want to take responsibility for his own miserable record on the economy and the "proof" we have in the form of the data.

Let me repeat:

9.5% unemployment.

19% underemployment.

Both heading higher.

1.6% GDP for Q2.

There will be one more revision for this number, so it could go even lower.

The number of home foreclosures in July actually fell for the first time since 2006, but the number of homeowners behind on payments has increased, meaning foreclosures are likely to increase again in the coming months.

And now the problem is people with prime loans, not people with subprime or Alt-A loans.

See, when people are unemployed or underemployed, they can't pay their mortgages or spend money to buy things.

This would be bad for the overall health of the economy.

But President Data Fetish, on his sixth vacation this year, seems wholly unconcerned about the situation.

He did have a conference call with his economic advisers about the weak economic data, but they decided not to change course on any of their policies.

And of course the financial "reforms" Obama touted as a major accomplishment of his have been a sham.

Banks are engaging in the exact same risky ventures and bets they did before the '08 financial crisis.

So don't look to Wall Street to stabilize this mess.

If Obama was a teacher in the LA school system, he'd see his name in the paper on Sunday under the heading "Bad President."

And while I am NOT a fan of value-added analysis of teachers or of publicly naming names in the paper in order to shame people to quit their jobs, in Obama's case, I think both are warranted.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Paterson Perjured Himself

Liar, liar, beard on fire:

Gov. David A. Paterson misled investigators for the state ethics commission when he testified that he had intended to pay for free tickets he obtained to last year’s World Series, according to a report issued on Thursday by an independent counsel investigating the matter.

But the independent counsel, Judith Kaye, said it was up to the local district attorney in Albany, P. David Soares, to decide whether Mr. Paterson should be prosecuted for perjury.

Aides to Mr. Paterson obtained five tickets to the first game of the 2009 World Series, which Mr. Paterson attended along with two aides, his son, Alex, and a friend of his son.

The tickets eventually came under the scrutiny of the state Commission on Public Integrity, which found that Mr. Paterson had never intended to pay for his own ticket and only paid for his son and son’s friend after media inquiries on the matter.

The commission also concluded that Mr. Paterson had lied during his testimony about the tickets, a matter the commission referred last spring to Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, who in turn asked Ms. Kaye to investigate.


“Evidence developed in the investigation indicates that, contrary to the Governor’s testimony, he had not formed an intent prior to the game that the tickets other than his own would be paid for,” Ms. Kaye found.

“Evidence indicates that his decision to pay for the tickets for his son and his son’s friend was made following a press inquiry the day after the game. In addition, evidence indicates that, contrary to the Governor’s testimony, he did not partially prepare and bring a check for $850 to the game to pay for tickets for his son and his son’s friend.”

At a minimum, portions of Mr. Paterson’s testimony “were inaccurate and misleading,” the report concluded, and “warrants consideration of possible criminal charges by the District Attorney, who will make the ultimate decision regarding whether or not charges should be brought.”

Nothing will happen to him, of course.

Cuomo has already decided to stay as far away from Paterson scandals as possible in order to keep the way to his election to the governor's mansion clear.

And Paterson is beyond shame.

He "persuaded" a woman beaten by his chief aide to not follow through on criminal charges.

The same investigator looking into the ticket matter said Paterson was guilty of an "error in judgment" in the domestic abuse case, though she did not recommend criminal charges be filed against the governor.

Paterson himself thinks he did nothing wrong in either case.

As Arlo Guthrie noted so many years ago, this is just another case of American blind justice.

Politicians can scheme and steal and get away with it.

So can hedge fund managers and CEO"s and Wall Streeters.

Ah, but the rest of us, we need to be held "accountable," as Arne Duncan said this week.

So Much For Rigorous Financial Reform

Back in July:

Hailing the new Wall Street reform bill as one that will "empower consumers and investors, bring the shadowy deals that caused this crisis into the light of day, and put a stop to taxpayer bailouts once and for all," President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed into law the nation's broadest financial regulations since the Great Depression.


Following months of contentious debate, Wednesday's signing provided a moment for the White House to bask in another major legislative victory as the president announced, "The fact is, every American -- from Main Street to Wall Street -- has a stake in our financial system. . . . That's why we all stand to gain from these reforms. We all win when investors around the world have confidence in our markets. We all win when shareholders have more power and information. We all win when consumers are protected against abuse. And we all win when folks are rewarded based on how well they perform, not how well they evade accountability."

Ah, yes, "accountability."

That's President Accountability's favorite word.

How's that accountability thing going for the financial industry, President Obama?

Have you held accountable the "folks" who nearly brought down the economy back in 2008?

Are the new financial regulations and "reforms" you promoted and signed into law going to keep those same "folks" from bringing the economy down again?

Judging by the front page Times article
that relates how the same "folks" who nearly brought the economy to collapse in 2008 are STILL engaging in risky Big Casino Wall Street bets, it doesn't look like much has changed:

When Congress passed a new financial regulation bill last month, it sought to prevent federally insured banks from making speculative bets using their own money. But that will not stop banks from making bets that some critics deem risky, even as the rules go into effect over the next few years.

That is because many such bets — on the direction of the stock market or the price of coal, for example — are done on behalf of clients. So, the banks say, they will continue to be allowable despite the new restrictions.

Indeed, several trades that were made on behalf of clients went bad for the banks even as the new rules were being debated in Washington this year. JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, for example, each lost more than $100 million on transactions handled for customers in the period from April to July.

Blowups like these, only larger, contributed to the financial crisis and forced the federal government to spend billions of dollars to bail out financial institutions. Yet analysts are quick to point out that many of those transactions were handled by the banks, ostensibly to serve clients.

“You can use client activity as a cover for basically anything you are doing,” said Janet Tavakoli, who runs her own structured finance consulting firm. “It’s very problematic that losses like this are showing up. It’s a prime example of what the financial reform bill doesn’t address.”

That ambiguity could have broad consequences for the future of trading on Wall Street.

Given the size of the banks, these recent losses were relatively small. But they highlight how banks will continue to be able to make bets where their own money is at risk — a practice that has yielded huge profits on Wall Street in recent years.

Though these trades were made on behalf of clients, they subjected the banks to the kind of risk that Congress sought to curtail when it devised the Volcker Rule, which banned banks from speculating with their own money. That practice is known as proprietary trading.

Even before the new rules were passed, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan began dismantling their stand-alone “prop desks” and shifting those traders into client-related businesses. Goldman is considering changes that could turn some of its star proprietary traders into asset managers who rely on capital from outside investors.

But for all the talk of shutting down trading desks and reassigning employees to prepare for the Volcker Rule, proprietary-style trading will probably survive, if under a different name.

The administration told us yesterday, through Arne Duncan's "Naming Names" speech, that

"The truth is always hard to swallow, but it can only make us better, stronger and smarter," according to remarks he plans to deliver in Little Rock, Ark. "That's what accountability is all about — facing the truth and taking responsibility."

Fair enough, Arne.

Here's some truth for the "folks" in the Obama administration.

The financial "reform" bill does NOTHING to keep the same "folks" who stole billions then came to the federal government for billions more in bailouts to CONTINUE TO STEAL BILLIONS and come back to the federal government or the Federal Reserve for more free money when the deals go sour again.

Which means what happened in 2008-2009 will happen AGAIN.

Maybe soon.

Hell, the Times says it is ALREADY happening.

And rather than actually hold the "folks" who brought the economy either to the brink of or to complete collapse, Obama will blame the education system and say public schools just aren't educating people with the 21st century skills they need to succeed.


You want to hold somebody accountable, Mr. President?

Take a look around at your economic advisers - Treasury Timmeh and Leisure Suit Larry.

Then take a look at the hedge fundies and other Wall Street criminals you're vacationing with on Marthas's Vineyard.

Finally, take a look in the mirror.

Those are the people they need to be held accountable for the economic mess we are in.

Instead you blame teachers and send your secretary of education out to give speeches about how names need to be named and teachers need to be fired.

Yeah, that'll keep the next market plunge and economic collapse from happening.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

They Have No Idea What To Do

Clearly our data-loving president is getting the idea that economic data isn't looking so hot and he just might have to fire himself, close down the White House and re-open it as a charter school:

VINEYARD HAVEN, Mass., Aug 25 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama held a conference call with top economic advisers on Wednesday to discuss newly released grim data that has raised fears the economy is at risk of a new downturn.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House advisers Christy Romer and Larry Summers took part in the call with the president, who is vacationing on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard.

Government reports on Wednesday showed new single-family home sales slumped to the slowest pace on record in July and orders for costly durable goods were soft, heightening fears about the economy's direction. [N25121445]

"The discussion focused on recent data reports, global markets and economic growth," the White House said in a statement describing the call.

"The economic team provided an update on the next steps to keep the economy growing, including assistance to small businesses and the extension of tax cuts to the middle class," it said.

Yeah, they have not freaking clue what to do.

And maybe there is nothing that can be done to keep the economy from sliding back into recession and unemployment from hitting double digits again.

The time to do something was in 2009 when they could have REALLY done some stimulus - put people on the payroll, trained them for jobs, sent them out to rebuild roads, bridges, infrastructure, subways, light rail, high speed rail, and the electrical grid.

But instead we got Race to the Top.

And talk about deficit reduction.

So now here we are, with Obama breaking up Vacation # 6 for a call with his economic team to hear them all say "I dunno...what do you want to do?"

Heckuva job, Barack.

It's a good thing accountability is only for teachers.

If Arne Duncan was your boss, you'd be called out as a "bad president" in the LA Times and put on a list to be fired.

Duncan Calls For Naming Names

Now we know where Obama stands on naming names - he just sent his secretary of education out to say what the LA Times did by ranking teachers by how their students did on test scores should be done all across the nation:
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will call for all states and school districts to make public whether their instructors are doing enough to raise students' test scores and to share other school-level information with parents, according to a text of a speech he is scheduled to make Wednesday.

"The truth is always hard to swallow, but it can only make us better, stronger and smarter," according to remarks he plans to deliver in Little Rock, Ark. "That's what accountability is all about — facing the truth and taking responsibility."

I love being lectured about accountability from an administration that hasn't held ANYBODY accountable for the mess they created with the HAMP mortgage relief program, hasn't held ANY of the Wall Street criminals who nearly brought the economy down accountable, hasn't held either Larry Summers or Timmeh Geithner accountable for the mess they have made of the economy, and didn't hold BP accountable for the mess they created in the Gulf.

You know what, Arne?

Fuck you.

And you know what President Obama?

Fuck you too.

You want to push for the disclosure of data?

How about this data?

Unemployment stands at 9.5%.

Unemployment is heading back to 10% before the end of the year.

You guys said it would never get above 8%
if your stimulus bill was passed and only hit 9% even if it wasn't.

Underemployment is currently at 19%

Underemployment is expected to hit 25% by next year.

GDP for Q2 is expected to fall to 1.3%

GDP for Q3 is expected to be somewhere between 0% and 1.2%.

The economy is heading back into NEGATIVE GDP territory.

Foreclosures have increased every month for the last 13 months and more than 1 million homes will be repossessed by banks this year.

Your HAMP mortgage relief program made the problems WORSE.

Existing home sales fell the largest ever in the month of July.

Home values are dropping again.

Bankruptcy levels are the highest they have been since the bankruptcy laws were rewritten back in 2005.

The economic news these days is quite literally ALL BAD.

Well, not ALL the economic news is bad.

Barack Obama and family are on their SIXTH vacation this year.

But other than the vacationing Obama's the news is ALL bad.

So you want accountability from data disclosure?

Fine, there you go.

More accountability will be coming in November.

And the final measure of accountability will come in November 2012.

See you then, scumbags.

Mission Accomplished?

Barack Obama on August 2, 2010:

As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. (Applause.) Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31st, 2010, America’s combat mission in Iraq would end. (Applause.) And that is exactly what we are doing -- as promised and on schedule. (Applause.)


Today -- even as terrorists try to derail Iraq’s progress -- because of the sacrifices of our troops and their Iraqi partners, violence in Iraq continues to be near the lowest it’s been in years. And next month, we will change our military mission from combat to supporting and training Iraqi security forces. (Applause.) In fact, in many parts of the country, Iraqis have already taken the lead for security.

The NY Times today:

BAGHDAD — In one of the broadest assaults on Iraq’s security forces, insurgents unleashed a wave of roadside mines and a more than a dozen car bombings across Iraq on Wednesday, killing dozens, toppling a police station in the capital and sowing chaos and confusion among the soldiers and police officers who responded.

The withering two-hour assault in 13 towns and cities, from southernmost Basra to restive Mosul in the north, was as symbolic as it was deadly, coming a week before the United States declares the end of combat operations here. Wednesday was seemingly the insurgents’ reply: Despite suggestions otherwise, they proved their ability to launch coordinated attacks virtually anywhere in Iraq, capitalizing on the government’s dysfunction and perceptions of American vulnerability.

For weeks, there had been sense of inevitability to the assaults, which killed at least 51 people, many of them police officers. From the American military to residents here, virtually everyone seemed to expect insurgents to seek to demonstrate their prowess as the United States brings its number of troops below 50,000 here. But the anticipation did little to prepare security forces for the breadth of the assault. Iraqi soldiers and police officers brawled at the site of the biggest bombing in Baghdad, and residents heckled them for their impotence in stopping a blast that cut like a scythe through the neighborhood.

“A bloody day,” Khalil Ahmed, a 30-year-old engineer, said simply, as he stared at the cranes and bulldozers trying to rescue victims buried under the police station.

“From the day of the fall of Saddam until now, this is what we have — explosions, killing and looting,” he said. “This is our destiny. It’s already written for us.”

I'm not saying combat troops should stay or anything, but I'd go light on the "Iraqi security forces are up to the task" jive.

Iraq is a mess. It will be worse as we continue to disentangle from it. We caused that mess, we have made it worse over the course of the years we were there, and we are not taking moral responsibility for our actions.

Now President Accountability has no intention of doing anything about Iraq because he has staked HIS legacy on Afghanistan.

Unfortunately for President Accountability, the situation in Afghanistan is worsening even as he puts more troops and resources into that war.

Here is an update of THAT situation:

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan — As the Taliban spread their tentacles across the formerly peaceful north of Afghanistan, upcoming elections are proving a target for the insurgents.

Across the northern provinces of the war-torn country, Afghans doubt the country can hold free and fair parliamentary polls on September 18 in a rapidly deteriorating security situation.

Worst affected is Kunduz, in the northeast, though authorities in Balkh, Faryab and Jawzjan provinces noted the encroachment of Taliban insurgents who are trying to create a battleline marking their area of control.

According to people in the region, the Taliban are on the march.

"Taliban fighters are no longer just in limited numbers in our village, they are now in their hundreds," said Mohammad Feda, 22, from Boka village in Balkh.

Sitting in front of his shop on the Balkh-Jawzjan highway, Feda said Taliban numbers had grown so much in recent months they now had a visible presence in many villages in the area, day and night.

People in Balkh, Chimtal, Chahar Bolak and Sholgara districts in Balkh province told AFP the Taliban were regrouping ahead of the elections, causing concern about how safe they will be in casting their votes.

"Elections can't be held, no one can go to polling stations because the Taliban have warned people not to participate," said an official in Chahar Bolak with the Independent Election Commission (IEC), which oversees the polls.

"I have lived in Chahar Bolak all my life, but now sometimes I cannot go there due to the insecurity," he said, speaking on condition he not be named.

Yeah, heckuva job you're doing with YOUR war, Barack.

Sounds almost as bad as the one your running from in Iraq.

Can you write how the rest of the war plays out?

I can.

Obama and company stay in Afghanistan for as long as they can politically, then point to some jive ass propaganda as "proof" of stability and announce a slow withdrawal.

And the next day insurgents will kill and maim hundreds of people.

But we leave anyway.

Leaving the joint worse than before we went in.

That's the American way.

Most Americans Do NOT Support Obama's Education Policies

Psst, President Accountability and Secretary Duncan, most Americans do NOT like your education policies:

Support for President Barack Obama’s education agenda is slipping among Americans, according to a poll released today of the public’s attitude toward public schooling.

The survey, conducted by Phi Delta Kappa International and the Gallup Organization, reports that just 34 percent of those polled would give the president an A or B when grading his performance on education during his first 17 months in office, compared with 45 percent in last year’s poll, which covered the president’s first six months in office. ("Obama School Ideas Getting Good Grades," Sept. 2, 2009.) The president’s grades fell not just among Republicans surveyed, but also among Democrats and Independents, who increasingly gave Mr. Obama grades of C or lower.

Poll respondents, for example, took a decidedly different tack than the president and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when it comes to turning around low-performing schools. When asked what was the best solution, 54 percent said the school should remain open with the existing teachers and principal and receive outside support.

The administration’s models for school turnarounds have been criticized because they often require the replacement of the principal and other school staff members, and questions have been raised about whether the approach is based in research.


The president’s lower numbers on education mirror the overall decline in his approval rating, said Shane Lopez, a senior scientist in residence at Gallup and the co-director of the poll. Mr. Obama’s present overall approval rating is 44 percent, compared with 52 percent at this time last year, Mr. Lopez said.

“Despite all of the time and attention that has been devoted to school improvement over the past year and half, we haven’t won over the hearts and minds of the American people,” said Patrick R. Riccards, the chief executive officer of Exemplar Strategic Communications, a Virginia-based communications firm and the author of the education reform blog Eduflack. “They aren’t feeling the impact of the stimulus. They aren’t seeing the role of the federal government in school reform.”

In fact, just two in 10 of those surveyed said they were aware that any of the economic-stimulus funding passed by Congress last year helped pay for education expenses in their communities­—despite the fact some $100 billion over two years was allocated for education in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

That's because as I noted yesterday, most of the money Obama handed out for education has NOT been used in actual classrooms by actual teachers to educate actual students.

It's been handed to education deform shills and bureaucrats to create standardized tests, buy data tracking computer programs, track data, and fire teachers and close schools.

The pushback on Obama's education policies is beginning to reach a crescendo.

It is true in certain ed deform circles like the op-ed pages of the New York papers or the set of Morning Joe and other MSNBC programs, the administration is applauded for their efforts to tie teacher pay and evaluations to test scores, add additional tests to every grade at every level in order to get the data to do the teacher pay/evals, and then close schools and fire teachers according to that data.

It is also true that in certain ed deform circles, the naming of names of "bad teachers" in the newspaper using deeply flawed models of value-added assessment is also cheered.

But in the REAL world where people actually work for a living (and I'm not talking about running a hedge fund during the day and dabbling in some education deform at night like Whitney Tilson - I'm talking about people who ACTUALLY work and do NOT steal for a living), people can see that the problems in the public education system are much more complex than "end teacher tenure/all education problems solved."

With so many Americans suffering from unemployment or underemployment, from excessive levels of debt, stress, and other problems, they know that kids are ALSO suffering from these problems and they bring them with them to school.

They also know that when teachers have 170 students a day, they cannot possibly address every academic and emotional problem every student is suffering from. It's just not possible, not even in the Mistress Eva world where teachers are expected to work 16 hour days.

Finally they know that teachers are NOT the only determinant of student test scores and achievement, that kids themselves along with families play a much larger role in those.

Now does any of this mean that Obama and Duncan will stop plunging ahead with their campaign to fire as many teachers as possible, close as many schools as possible, open as many for-profit charter schools as possible and add as many additional standardized tests to the curriculum as they can?

No, of course not.

As I have written before President Obama is a very stubborn and stupid man. As stubborn and stupid as President Bush was, in actuality.

Evidence abounds that the stimulus package was nowhere near enough to take the economy out of recession and put it on a healthy road to recovery.

Rather than add more stimulus, Obama continues to listen to the deficit hawks who say spending must be cut NOW.

He does this even though the same austerity measures in Greece and Ireland have brought about steep economic declines.

Evidence abounds that Obama's HAMP mortgage program is making things worse for homeowners, extending out the period of their payments without actually saving them from foreclosure.

Rather than fix the program, Obama defends it, saying through Treasury officials that the program was never meant to save individual homeowners from foreclosure anyway, just extend the period of foreclosures out so that a bunch of homes don't get dumped onto the market all at once.

Evidence abounds that the administration's strategy for the war in Afghanistan is a miserable failure, that we will be there for years without ever achieving any tangible measure of "success," even as we toss more money and lives into it.

Rather than change course, Obama has doubled down on it.

So there is no reason to think Obama will change his malicious education policies or stop blaming teachers for all the ills of the public education system or society (he STILL says the economic collapse was due to poor public education, not greedy Wall Street criminals.)

Once he decides on a course of action or policy, he does NOT change it.

That's why Geithner, Summers and Bernanke STILL have their jobs.

But there is plenty of reason to believe if Randi and Dennis would just stop allowing the ed deformers to frame the issues and let people see the challenges that teachers face EVERY day trying to educate 170 students a semester (340 a year for high school teachers), we can win these battles over policy.

It is true that there is support for tying teacher pay to "effectiveness" and for expanding charter schools in this poll.

But it is also true that when you educate people on what these things mean (firing teachers after two years when scores do NOT improve, closing neighborhood schools and reopening them as charters and stealing resources from traditional public schools to give to charters run by for-profit companies), people can and will modify their support for them.

The point is, we in the education field and those running the unions have to stop allowing the ed deformers to frame the issues themselves with lies and half-truths.

Even after Klein and Bloomberg were exposed as failures when NY State admitted the test scores were inflated and that the achievement gaps for race and class are higher now than before Klein and Bloomberg took over, the ed deformers continue to lie and mislead and say "On, no - up is down, black is white and the achievement gap is smaller now than before Klein and Bloomberg took the reins."

These are Orwellian deceptions and we must continue to call them out for it. It is hard, because the ed deformers are well funded (that's what happens when you take most of your funding from a criminal class like the hedge fund industry) and they quite literally own most of the media.

But the results of the ed deformers' work is becoming more and more clear. Chaos in the schools, corruption by the for-profit charter industry, but no improvement in the education levels of many students, especially students of color.

And as it becomes clear to Americans that in order to tie teacher pay and jobs to "effectiveness," new standardized tests must be added to every class at every grade level at least twice a year, I think people will begin to push back against that "reform" mechanism too.

Again, we need to frame the issue that way.

When the issues are framed right, we win many of these debates.

Now how do we get Randi and Company to frame the issues the right way rather than allow Duncan, Obama, Bloomberg, Rhee et al. to frame them?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

States Plan To Use Teacher Jobs Bill Money For Non Education Expenses

It is a given that Race to the Top money cannot be used for classroom expenses like hiring/rehiring teachers, reducing class sizes, buying books, etc.

The RttT money can only be used to create new standardized tests, purchase data tracking systems for those tests and close schools and fire teachers based upon the test results.

But now it seems that $10 billion in teacher jobs bill money that President Accountability signed into law earlier this month that is supposed to be used to hire/rehire teachers won't be used for classroom expenses either - it may not even be used for education:

Crippled by budget deficits, states officials have been eying money in the $26 billion federal jobs bill that's intended for schools. State leaders in California and Oregon have expressed interest in taking their fraction of the federal money from the $10 billion Education Jobs Fund and stashing it away for rainy day funds or using it to retire state debt.


Although states are not allowed to use the federal money to reduce or retire debt obligations incurred by the state, a House Democratic Aide tells the Huffington Post, there are ways around rules, and some lawmakers are eager to skirt them.

In California, legislators, including state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, have proposed using the $1.2 billion in federal money designated for the schools to help offset the state's $19 billion deficit. Steinberg has since backed off those statements under public pressure.

"With the new school year already underway and students facing unprecedented larger class sizes due to $17 billion in cuts to public schools over the past two years, California's lawmakers need to take urgent action to ensure that federal funding passed by Congress is distributed to schools immediately and not used to fix the state's budget crisis," wrote Robin Swanson, spokeswoman for Education Coalition, a 2.5 million-member group that includes teachers, parents and other school officials.

In Oregon, Governor Ted Kulongoski told superintendents to be "judicious and prudent" with the $118 million expected from the federal-aid bill, as the state's deficit has grown an estimated $200 million to $500 million this year, according to The Oregonian. A superintendent quoted in the The Mail Tribune said the budget shortfall "effectively erases the federal funds."

"I will be working with legislative leadership on how we can resolve the deficit if the forecast materializes as expected," Kulongoski wrote. "If I am required to use my allotment authority to bring the state budget for this biennium (2009-11) back into balance, it will require another round of budget cuts, including cuts to the state's allocation for schools."

So between the $4.3 billion from Race to the Top and the $10 billion from the teacher jobs bill, President Accountability has increased education spending by $14.3 billion dollars at the federal level it is quite possible that NOT ONE THIN DIME of that money will be used to save teacher jobs, reduce class sizes or buy books.

Just amazing.

And let's remember that Obama insisted that the teacher jobs money come from $12 billion in food stamp cuts to poor people.

So less food, larger classes, fewer teachers - but more tests and central office bureaucrats to collate, collect and analyze that data.

Truly we live in a third world country where the ruling classes steal every bit they can and leave just crumbs for the rest.

And sometimes they don't even leave crumbs.

Bloomberg and Klein Claim RttT Award "Vindicates" Their Education Policies

Seriously, that's what they said in a statement:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein said in a statement that the awarding of the money was a vindication of their efforts.

“This win is a testament to what we’ve accomplished in the New York City schools over the last eight years, and we are going to work with our teachers and schools to raise the bar once again,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a statement.

Chancellor Klein said: “Race to the Top has been a tremendous catalyst for precisely the kind of education reform we’ve supported and implemented in New York City; now it is up to all of us to live up to this commitment and continue the important work that got us here.”
They used phonied test scores to rave about how they had closed the achievement gap between white and Asian students and black and Hispanic students.

That gap stands larger now than before they took over.

Same for the gap between students in schools with higher income populations and students in schools with lower income populations.

Meantime they close hundreds of schools, reopen them as charters but only take the cream of the crop into those schools while shunting the rest off to neighborhood schools which themselves are eventually declared "failing" and closed.

And the three card monte game of school closures continues ad infinitum, though somehow Bloomberg and Klein, now running the system for almost ten years, never take the blame for any of it.

And Bloomberg and Klein say the failed policies they have been pushing have been vindicated by their education deform cronies from the Gates and the Broad Foundations in the Obama administration handing them money for more of the same failed reforms?


The RttT boondoggle will be about as successful in education as Obama's HAMP mortgage plan has been at saving people from foreclosure.

Or his stimulus package has been at reducing the unemployment and underemployment rates.

Or his economic team has been at getting the economy revving again.

Or his foreign policy team has been at winding down the war in Afghanistan (now the longest war in U.S. history - even longer than Vietnam.)

Seriously, when the president has failed at almost everything else he has touched policy-wise, why should it be any different in education?

But the shills in the papers and on TV and at the ed deform blogs will wave their pom-poms and parrot the Bloomberg/Klein press releases.

Just wait until all of the children unfortunate enough to be in school during the Bush/Obama/Bloomberg years come of age.

What Will The RttT Money Be Used For?

NY won $700 million in the Obama/Duncan Race to the Top boondoggle.

Will that money be used to hire teachers, reduce class size, purchase new books, or otehrwise enrich the education experiences of students?


It will be used for data tracking:

The state is also expected to use the money to improve tracking systems to better measure how students improve from kindergarten through college. Officials have also vowed to improve state tests, which have become steadily easier to pass in the last several years.

So when the shills at the Times op-ed page write an editorial tomorrow hailing the RttT "victory" and say how it will have a positive impact on students, remember that the money is going to be used to create more standardized tests for every grade at every level and data systems to track and analyze that data.

And of course fire teachers and close schools with it too.


That's change I can believe in.


We Live In A Third World Country

Here's more evidence of that:

Thousands of commuters into New York City confronted another round of potentially heavy delays on the Long Island Rail Road on Tuesday morning, a day after an electrical short in a pair of cables sparked a fire in a control tower, causing an almost total shutdown of train traffic for part of the day.

The railroad canceled 33 westbound trains into the city from Long Island — about one-fourth of its normal morning rush-hour traffic — and warned of “significant schedule changes and delays” for the morning and evening rushes.

Rail service was also temporarily suspended along the busy Northeast Corridor for the second time in less than two weeks because of an Amtrak power problem. New Jersey Transit officials said the problem was affecting Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast Line and Midtown Direct trains.

Infrastructure is falling to pieces and instead of using stimulus money to rebuild it, they used it to fire teachers, close schools and open charters.

And the economy is tanking anyway - here's the latest evidence of that:

Housing sales in July plunged to their lowest level in more than a decade, exceeding even the grimmest forecasts.

The National Association of Realtors said Tuesday that the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 3.83 million was 25.5 percent below the level of July a year ago.

July was the first month that buyers could not qualify for a tax credit of up to $8,000, so analysts were expecting weak results. But their consensus called for a decline of about 13 percent.

“Truly gut-wrenching,” said Jennifer H. Lee, senior economist for BMO Capital Markets.

July sales were down 27.2 percent from June. It was the lowest rate for existing-home sales, which include houses, condos, co-ops and town houses, since 1999. For sales of single-family homes, it was the lowest rate since 1995.

The number of homes on the market increased only slightly but the large drop in sales was enough to push inventory levels up to 12.5 months. A normal market has an inventory level of about six months.

Higher inventories tend to cause prices to decline, as many sellers compete to take advantage of fewer buyers.

The drop in sales came despite the lowest mortgage rates in decades.

Foreclosures continuing to rise, 13 months of inventory already on the market, lots more "shadow inventory" of foreclosed properties and homes not yet put on the market - whew!

Look out below!

Well, at least NY State won money to fire teachers, close schools and open up charters.

Race to the Top Boondoggle Results

After all the criticism President Obama and Secretary Duncan have taken over Race to the Top, there was no way they weren't going to make sure that New York was on the list of winners.

That way, the ed deform shills at the Times, Post, and News (as well as NBC and MSNBC) can wave their pom-poms and talk up the "extra" money New York received for education and how it is going to make things so much better for students.

Good public relations for the Obama agenda, especially going into the fight over the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind after the November midterms.

So - surprise, surprise - New York is a "winner."

It will be interesting to see if the "award" the state received covers the price of all the changes school districts had to make to "win" it - including adding new standardized tests to every grade at every level in order to get "value added assessments" of teachers, track that data, and fire supposedly "bad" teachers using it.

Creating all those tests, adding them to every subject at every level AT LEAST twice a year, buying computer programs to track the data - that will cost a pretty penny.

The rest of the money will be used to close schools, fire teachers and principals and reopen the schools as for-profit charters with non-unionized staff.

Seems like the real winners in the RttT boondoggle were the states that stayed out of it.

When this year's midterm elections come around, make sure you remember the changes brought as a DIRECT result of Obama's RttT program - teacher evals tied to test scores, additional standardized added to every subject at every grade twice a year or more, teachers fired and schools closed as a result of test scores - AND VOTE ACCORDINGLY.

Looks like one politician is saying pretty much the same thing I'm saying:

President Obama's education initiative, "Race to the Top," has been criticized by some who say it unwisely requires states to follow specific educational reforms, rather than letting them set their own agenda. Now, Georgia's two Republican gubernatorial candidates are taking opposing views over whether their state -- facing massive budget shortfalls -- should accept potential funding from the program.

Former Rep. Nathan Deal said today that if elected governor he would decline Race to the Top money, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

"Race to the Top has standardized curriculum," Deal said. "I do not agree with anything that has strings attached."


Deal reportedly said that implementing the Obama administration's preferred reforms is "probably not worth the money."

"In the overall scheme of things it's not that much money," he said. "It sounds big, but when you distribute it across every level of the education system, it's not that big."

Indeed, the award is NOT that much money when you take into account the entire education budget of the state of New York and the strings that are coming attached TO the award.

Yet the shills at the Times, Post, News et al. will write this thing up like it is a huge deal.

The only thing huge about the deal is all the changes Obama and Duncan got states, districts and unions to agree for cash awards that amount to chump change when you take into account the entire education budgets of the states.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Obama's Abusive Marriage With Teachers

Politico has some crap up today about how the war between teachers and the Obama administration is over:

In the past few weeks, President Barack Obama delivered two major speeches touting education reforms. He invited teachers to the Rose Garden and pushed the House to pass an emergency spending bill saving thousands of school jobs. This week, his education chief is traveling on a cross-country bus tour to highlight school success stories.


The White House says it’s a back-to-school message that fits squarely into the president’s plan for economic recovery, stressing the role of educators in shaping a competitive American work force.

But all this apple-polishing hasn’t gone unnoticed by teachers unions, which have had a rocky relationship with the White House from the start over Obama’s unflinching support for reforms that unions view as an affront. After 18 months of frosty relations that at times bordered on outright hostility, it seems that Obama has called a truce — one that several education experts noted comes just in time for the midterm elections, when teachers unions can be a powerful Democratic ally.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan disputed that there’s any political motivation. “This is part of that continued outreach,” he told POLITICO. “That’s the furthest thing from our mind.”

Sure that's the furthest thing from their minds.

With Obama's support level now at 42%
, with Dems about to get hammered in the midterm elections and lose at least the House and perhaps the Senate too, and with the economy turning back toward recession and unemployment, underemployment, foreclosures, and personal bankruptcies all rising to Herbert Hoover levels, suddenly the Obama administration is using the shills at Politico to put out the message that they're making nice with teachers again.

And they're saying it has NOTHING to do with the midterm elections being right around the corner and the administration needing the teachers unions' turnout operations to get people out to vote.

And of course the union heads at the AFT and the NEA are willing to play along like some abused housewife with blackened eyes and broken bones - oh sure, everything in this sham marriage of convenience is A-OK!!!

But this is all bullshit.

As Fred Klonsky points out here
, Arne Duncan just gave administration approval to the McCarthyesque tactics the LA Times is using to "name names" and out supposedly "bad teachers" by using some jive ass value added assessment that is full of flaws.

And Obama is NOT backing down on Race to the Top or any of the other failed reforms he has backed like adding standardized tests to every grade at every level, tying teacher pay and evals to those tests, and closing schools and firing teachers based upon those tests.

All of those "reforms" will be in the NCLB Jr. re-authorization Obama plans for the post-midterm period.

Not to mention that Obama only signed the teacher jobs bill because the money was NOT taken from his Race to the Top/Fire Teachers/Close Schools program but instead was taken from the mouths of hungry poor families with children.

In fact, he vowed to veto any bill that took money from RttT instead of from some other program - like food stamps (which the administration itself suggested.)

And then he got allies like Katie Haycock at the Education Trust to put out the meme that teachers unions were responsible the food stamp cuts.

Except that she was lying - Obama was responsible for those cuts.

That's Barack Obama with a "B".

The man Dana Milbank called a bully in last week's Kaplan Test Prep Post:

"There's an attitude that if you aren't with us, you are against us -- and therefore against children and reform," a Democratic friend of mine who runs an education advocacy group in Washington told me. The administration, she said, "tries to bully and condemn any opposition, even if it is from groups that should be their allies."

I don't know what the writer in Politico is talking about.

The war between the Obama administration and teachers continues unabated, the abusive relationship continues, and as soon as the midterm are over, Obama will be punching teachers in the face once again and knocking their teeth out just like he has done since he got elected.

So enough with the jive ass propaganda put out by the administration and happily published by Politico.

You can support Barack Obama and ed deform Dems this November because you're afraid that the Republican alternative is even worse.

But DON'T make believe that Barack Obama or the Obama administration have suddenly changed their tunes and are friends of the teacher.

Once a wife-beater, ALWAYS a wife-beater.

And when it comes to education policies and teachers, Barack Obama is one nasty, vicious wife-beater.