Latest News and Comment from Education

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Alarming use of Tasers in public schools

Set to stun:

Set to stun

Children are being Tasered by school-based police officers. No one knows how often it’s happening or what impact it’s having on students

Knightdale, N.C. — It was just a dumb fight. Two boys, both juniors, stood in the hallway discussing a classic teenage hypothetical: whether one of them could win in a fight against another student. But when one of the teens, Scott, said he didn’t think his friend could win, things turned personal.

They flung curse words back and forth that Thursday morning in March, lurching through the hallway of Knightdale High School, slamming into a row of lockers and tripping over a trashcan. A video shot by another student shows a teacher breaking up the fight after a few seconds, and both teens ending up on the ground, hurt only in pride.
One student was ushered away. But 17-year-old Scott, whose name has been changed to protect his privacy, didn’t have a chance to get up. A school police officer rushed over, and pinned one of Scott’s arms behind his back. The student stopped filming the fight at this point. Scott says the police officer then sat on him and ordered him to place his other hand behind his back. He tried to comply, he says, but the officer was holding him down.
Seconds later, Scott felt a piercing electric jolt in his right shoulder that sent convulsions running through the rest of his body. The officer Tasered Scott once, according to Lawrence Capps, the chief of police in Knightdale who supervises police in the high school. The five-second zap sent thousands of volts through Scott’s body.
“I was going to get back up after the fight,” Scott recalled of the moment that defined his junior year.
Months later, on a hot July day in this small town in North Carolina, Scott was watching the news with his mother, Stephanie Grice. Three days earlier, Alton Sterling had been fatally shot by a police officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Two days earlier, police in Minnesota had Set to stun:
Take Two | Alarming use of Tasers in public schools | 89.3 KPCC -

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Why the UK Department for Education is wrong on promoting OECD Pisa | Pace N.Ireland Education Weblog

Why the UK Department for Education is wrong on promoting OECD Pisa | Pace N.Ireland Education Weblog:

Why the UK Department for Education is wrong on promoting OECD Pisa

 Why PISA ranks are founded on a methodological thought disorder

Dr Hugh Morrison
(The Queen’s University of Belfast [retired])
When psychometricians claimed to be able to measure, they used the term ‘measurement’ not just for political reasons but also for commercial ones. … Those who support scientific research economically, socially and politically have a manifest interest in knowing that the scientists they support work to advance science, not subvert it.  And those whose lives are affected by the application of what are claimed to be ‘scientific findings’ also have an interest in knowing that these ‘findings’ have been seriously investigated and are supported by evidence. (Michell, 2000, p. 660)
This essay is a response to the claim by the Department of Education that: “The OECD is at the forefront of the academic debate regarding item response theory [and] the OECD is using what is acknowledged as the best available methodology [for international comparison studies].”
Item Response Theory plays a pivotal role in the methodology of the PISA international league table.  This essay refutes the claim that item response theory is a settled, well-reasoned approach to educational measurement.  It may well be settled amongst quantitative psychologists, but I doubt if there is a natural scientist on the planet who would accept that one can measure mental attributes in a manner which is independent of the measuring instrument (a central claim of item response theory).  It will be argued below that psychology’s approach to the twin notions of “quantity” and “measurement” has been controversial (and entirely erroneous) since its earliest days.  It will be claimed that the item response methodolology, in effect, misuses the two fundamental concepts of quantity and measurement by re-defining them for its own purposes.  In fact, the case will be made that PISA ranks are founded on a “methodological thought disorder” (Michell, 1997).
Given the concerns of such a distinguished statistician as Professor David Spiegelhalter, the Department of Education’s continued endorsement of PISA is difficult to understand.  This essay extends the critique of PISA and item response theory beyond the concerns of Spiegelhalter to the very data from which the statistics are generated.  Frederick Lord (1980, p. 227-228), the father of modern psychological measurement, warned psychologists that when applied to the individual test-taker, item response theory produces “absurd” and “paradoxical” results.  Given that Lord is one of the architects of item response theory, it is surprising that this admission provoked little or no debate among quantitative psychologists.  Are politicians and the general public aware that item response theory breaks down when applied to the individual?
In order to protect the item response model from damaging criticism, Lord proposed what physicists call a “hidden variables” ensemble model when interpreting the role probability plays in item response theory.  As a consequence item response models are deterministic and draw on Newtonian measurement principles. “Ability” is construed as a measurement-independent “state” of the individual which is the source of the responses made to test items (Borsboom, Mellenbergh, & van Heerden, 2003).  Furthermore, item response theory is incapable of taking account of the fact that the psychologistparticipates in what he or she observe.  Richardson (1999) writes: “[W]e find that the IQ-testing movement is not merely describing properties of people: rather, the IQ test has largely created them” (p. 40).  The participative nature Why the UK Department for Education is wrong on promoting OECD Pisa | Pace N.Ireland Education Weblog:

Seattle Schools Community Forum: Feeling a Charter School "Distraction"

Seattle Schools Community Forum: Feeling a "Distraction":

Feeling a "Distraction"

There are many who are unhappy about the new lawsuit against the new charter school law.  This includes several editorial boards across the state with some exceptions.  What's quite telling about their arguments are three things.

Their arguments seem to be on the notion that this is a frivolous lawsuit and we should just leave the charter schools to do their thing.   

Another tissue I found is that some of these editorials so closely mirror each other (down the the use of the word "distraction" in two headlines) that you would think someone faxed out talking points.  The Times uses the word four times.  

Still another issue is that some of them are saying it's the teachers union and"a coalition of groups."  Why wouldn't they acknowledge who is in that group which includes parents and solid citizen, non-union groups like League of Women Voters and El Centro de la Raza?  Why? Because they know it would not  serve their viewpoint to be honest on who stood up to put their names on the lawsuit.

It's also of interest that some editorials leave out that there appear to be a couple of constitutional issues and instead, tell their readers it's about"thwarting the will of the voters."  The Times goes so far as to say it's an"intimidation tactic." 

It's a sad day when trying to stand up for the constitution is considered a bad 
Seattle Schools Community Forum: Feeling a "Distraction":


Audio: Want to address teachers' biases? First, talk about race | 89.3 KPCC

Audio: Want to address teachers' biases? First, talk about race | 89.3 KPCC:

Want to address teachers' biases? First, talk about race

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As Ayana Coles gazes at the 20 teachers gathered in her classroom, she knows the conversation could get uncomfortable. And she's prepared.
"We are going to experience discomfort — well, we may or may not experience it — but if we have it that's OK," says Coles, a third-grade teacher at Eagle Creek Elementary School in Indianapolis.
Coles is black, one of just four teachers of color among Eagle Creek Elementary's 37 staff. Throughout last year she gathered co-workers in her classroom for after-school discussions about race.
Her goal? Create a common understanding of race and power, with hopes that teachers acknowledge, then address, how that plays out in the school.
Coles says her son's schools have left him behind. That he's been suspended for minor reasons. That his teachers have never really connected with him. She wants teachers here to do better.
First, that means exploring often-taboo topics: race, power and teachers' biases.


According to study after study after study, teachers' behaviors — often directed by conscious or unconscious biases — affect students' lives, from passing students to the next grade, to discipline.
Different biases affect us in different ways:
  • We may pay attention to things that justify preexisting beliefs — confirmation bias.
  • We may favor people like us — ingroup bias.
  • We may expect members of a group to act a certain way — stereotyping.
But what happens when these, or other biases, are implicit? In other words, they're unconscious but still affect our outlook and behaviors?
Nationally, black students are suspended at almost four times the rate of their white peers. Often for non-violent reasons like "non-compliance" or "disrespect." Situations that require a judgment call.
And in U.S. schools, where 82 percent of educators are white, that's important to acknowledge.
Because what happens if a teacher's attitude towards race unconsciously clouds that judgment?


Ayana Cole's meetings aren't part of any formal program. The 20 teachers gathered, including speech pathologist Dorothy Gerve, came on their own time.
"I actually had someone ask me, 'Why don't black people speak right?'" says Gerve, the only other black teacher in the room. "And it threw me."
So, Coles steers the group toward a discussion about ebonics. Language alone, she says, can trigger biases: Who's smart? Who's not?
"I can remember being younger and if I used standard English I'd feel like I was acting white," she explains. "And so I was opposed to it because I wanted to embrace my culture and heritage."
Coles hopes understanding cultural differences and privilege might get teachers to think about how that affects students' educations.
Jason Coons, who teaches music, told the group he feels bias can be a two-way street. In a school where most students are students of color, he feels some don't Audio: Want to address teachers' biases? First, talk about race | 89.3 KPCC:

John Thompson: How suburban sprawl divides OKCPS from its peers - NonDoc

How suburban sprawl divides OKCPS from its peers - NonDoc:

How suburban sprawl divides OKCPS from its peers

suburban sprawl
A dilapidated sign stands July 29 outside F.D. Moon Elementary School in Northeast Oklahoma City. White flight following desegregation and the ensuing suburban sprawl contributed to the disparities now observable between OKCPS and Edmond schools. (Josh McBee)

Steve Lackmeyer’s excellent analysis of suburban sprawl, Unsustainable, warns, “After decades of sprawl, Oklahoma City officials know something must change.”
Uncontrolled growth is a threat to the city’s economic well-being as well as our physical health and the environment. To paraphrase a developer, apartment growth “on the fringe” prompts expansion “beyond the fringe.” That makes it even more impossible for Oklahoma City to update its infrastructure, fill potholes and maintain water and sewage systems.
Lackmeyer also reviews the damage suburbanization did to the Oklahoma City Public School System (OKCPS). Before desegregation, the OKCPS served more than 75,000 students, but “white flight” quickly reduced the student population by nearly one half. The more complex process of suburban flight followed. While personal racism was a huge factor in that tragedy, it was the combination of developers’ undue influence, institutional racism and personal choices that put the sprawl on steroids. Segregation by personal preferences (known as the Big Sort) further frayed our city’s social fabric, wrecked our neighborhood schools and put us on the crosstown expressway to years of stagnation.
Twenty-six other school districts surround the OKCPS. The over-proliferation of magnet and charter schools has left behind many schools that served kids who were unable to How suburban sprawl divides OKCPS from its peers - NonDoc:

Ed Notes Online: Jeff Bryant: Is Tim Kaine a Sign Democrats Are Leaving the 'Education Reform Camp?'

Ed Notes Online: Jeff Bryant: Is Tim Kaine a Sign Democrats Are Leaving the 'Education Reform Camp?':

Jeff Bryant: Is Tim Kaine a Sign Democrats Are Leaving the 'Education Reform Camp?'

Don't Be Fooled -  Vote for Real Democrats reviewing Kaine’s education policy chops, what’s in his record may not be as important as what isn’t: the current education establishment’s policy checklist of standardization, high-stakes testing, allowing charter schools to sort students by income and ability, and keeping teachers under the authoritative thumb of test-based evaluations – there’s none of that.... The years progressives have put into organizing, voicing opposition to current education policies, and calling for new directions in education are likely having an effect on “this new Democratic Party” too. No wonder people who’ve enjoyed their cushy places at the top are nervous. --- Jeff Bryant
DFED - Democrats for Education Deform
Hmmm. On the surface there is something I like about Tim Kaine though I don't know much. His wife was Virginia education commissioner and supposedly not a heavy ed deformer. Despite claims that   supporters of Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders have substantially altered how public education is framed in the Democratic Party platform, I don't trust platforms, especially since Randi Weingarten is being given credit for some of the language in the platform. Ed issues were basically absent from any of the debates between Hillary and Bernie.

So I'm pretty disappointed that the pro-Bernie educators has very little impact on him in relation to education issues, which were practically buried in the primaries. As for Hillary -- there this comment from Michael Fiorillo who sent us the Jeff Bryant piece. 

We'll see... I'm inclined to think Hillary will betray us, since as a general rule that's what she does... Michael Fiorillo
Jeff Bryant is a reliable reporter on ed issues, lining up against the ed deformers so I find this an interesting piece. 

Is Tim Kaine a Sign Democrats Are Leaving the 'Education Reform Camp?'

Kaine is not a fan of high stakes testing, charter schools, or other pillars of reform orthodoxy.

Catch up with CURMUDGUCATION: FL: Attacking Children and Teachers


Catch up with CURMUDGUCATION: 

FL: Attacking Children and Teachers
AP reporter Gary Fineout did yeoman's work yesterday, live tweeting the Florida hearing about the retention, in some districts, of third grade students who passed their courses but didn't take Florida's Big Standardized Test (the FSA). There were many low-lights as the hearing unfolded, but this had to be the lowest: Lawyer for @EducationFL said that reports card are meaningless and don't show if
MA: The Swift Boating of Public Schools
Massachusetts is heating up. Perhaps no state has better exemplified the fierce debate between public school advocates and fans of modern education reform. Ed reformers captured the governor's seat, the mayoral position of Boston, commissioner of education, and the secretary of education offices, and yet have consistently run into trouble since the day they convinced the commonwealth to abandon it
Effect and Effect
One of the linchpinny foundational keystones of education reform is a confusion between correlation and causation. Sometimes correlations are random and freakishly mysterious. For examples, check out the collected and recollected Spurious Correlations , by which we learn, among other things, that the divorce rate in Maine correlates with the amount of margarine consumed. But often the correlation-


CO: Damn, PAARC-- You Had One Job
Well, the lead from this Chalkbeat article gets it. For a second year in a row, schools across Colorado are back in session and principals are empty-handed. Somehow the Colorado Department of Education has statewide results, but districts and schools and teachers will have to wait a few more months, because those results will be released "later." And how is that even possible? The articl
To Save the Village...
There's a new documentary out dealing with the history of the Cabrini Green project in Chicago. 70 Acres in Chicago deals with the many complicated issues of race and urban poverty. But as the Slate article about the documentary notes, it underlines another huge issue with the "improvement" of some urban neighborhoods. Cabrini building demolition. (Photo: MJ Rizk) The idea behind these h
Resolve To Breathe
For the next couple of weeks, as the beginning of my school year approaches. I'm going to write to renew my resolve to keep focus in my practice. This is one of that series of posts. Years ago, when I would take a long trip either by myself or with family, my focus stayed on the destination, the goal. Drive-through restaurants so that we wouldn't "lose" time stopping to eat. No more res

AUG 11

FL: Test Fetish on Trial
You may recall that last spring, some school district officials in Florida lost their damn minds . Florida's test fetish became so advanced, so completely divorced from any understanding of the actual mission of schools and education and, hell, behaving like a grown human adult with responsibility for looking after children, that some district leaders interpreted state law to mean that a student w

AUG 10

ACLU: Illegal California Charter Practices
The ACLU recently issued a report outlining a variety of widespread illegal practices among California charter schools. The report is worth reading in detail because it gives an impression of just how widespread these practices of restricting student enrollment are, creating one more situation in which "school choice" means that schools get to choose students. California law is pretty cl
Refresh the Resolve
Of course, we're all on different schedules across the country, but here in NW PA, it's a little under three weeks till school gets started. (Boy, shouldn't we do something about that? I mean, a student moving from PA to TN would find themselves suddenly several days behind, or one moving the other way would have to do the first day all over again, so we probably need a Common Core School Calendar
The Global Agenda for Monetizing Education
In today's USNews, education historian and activist Diane Ravitch talks about the worldwide movement to buy and sell education, to privatize it, to attack "the very concept of public education." You don't have to look hard to find some of the folks who are heavily invested in driving what some call the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM). Take for instance this white paper presented

AUG 08

Summative School Ratings: Not So Great
Chad Aldeman took to the Bellwether blog to make his case for summative school ratings (grades) under the loaded headline " Summative Ratings Are All Around Us. Why Are We Afraid of Them in K-12 Education? " Of course, plenty of us, maybe even most of us, are not "afraid" of slapping a grade on schools. There just don't appear to be many benefits, and plenty of harm done. Aldem
Standardized Character
Here we go again. Eight states are going to launch a program for social and emotional learning in their classrooms. A collaborative group has been put together to craft the whole business. I'm going to get in early here with a prediction that nothing good will come of this. I understand the impulse. On top of the usual rantings about Kids These Days, we see the references to research that today's

AUG 07

Reuters: SAT, ACT, and Test Insecurity
A Reuters investigative team has been taking a look at the ACT and SAT testing industry, and finding a huge mess. We had already seen hints of the problems with, among other things, whistleblowing posts from SAT insider Manuel Alfaro . But this Reuters series, now at five articles plus sidebars, is sort of jawdropping. The articles have maintained a remarkably low profile, so I'm going to give you
ICYMI Hooray for August
Plenty of goodies for you this week. Snuffing Out Democracy Out in Seattle, the battle is on over mayoral control, because if the school board won't follow the policies you want them to, can't you just get rid of the whole elected mess? Bless Your Heart, Stand for Children Dad Gone Wild provides a good summary of what happened in Tennessee and how Nashville thoroughly humiliated outsiders trying t

AUG 06

MI: Charter Demonstrates Need for Tenure
Charters are fond of at-will staffing, where all teachers may be hired or fired at any time, for any reason. Sort of the exact opposite of tenure or due process. Here's a story out of Detroit of just how bad that can be-- not just for teachers, but for students and community. Michigan has been a playland for charters. There are well over 300 charter schools operating in Michigan (the number varies
Big Money Loses, But Doesn't Give Up
This story has been covered extensively, but it's one of those stories that needs to be covered extensively, so if this post seems a little redundant, that's okay. As teachers and marketers both learn, if you really wnat a message to get through,