Monday, July 28, 2014

Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League The nation's top colleges are turning our kids into zombies

Don't Send Your Kid to the Ivy League: The nation's top
colleges are turning our kids into zombies

By William Deresiewicz
New Republic
July 21, 2014

...“Super People,” the writer James Atlas has called themthe stereotypical ultra-high-achieving elite college students of today. 

A double major, a sport, a musical instrument, a couple of foreign languages, service work in distant corners of the globe, a few hobbies thrown in for good measure: They have mastered them all, and with a serene self-assurance that leaves adults and peers alike in awe. A friend who teaches at a top university once asked her class to memorize 30 lines of the eighteenth-century poet Alexander Pope. Nearly every single kid got every single line correct. 

It was a thing of wonder, she said, like watching thoroughbreds circle a track.

These enviable youngsters appear to be the winners in the race we have made of childhood. 

But the reality is very different, as I have witnessed in many of my own students and heard from the hundreds of young people whom I have spoken with on campuses or who have written to me over the last few years. 

Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Abused or neglected children have changes to their brains: they don't simply choose to be uncooperative

Effects Of Child Abuse And Neglect On The Brain

Here and Now
July 23, 2014
Click to enlarge. (Source: Pat Levitt, 2009)
Click to enlarge. (Source: Pat Levitt, 2009)
Hundreds of thousands of children suffer from neglect, abuse and trauma during their early years. Many of the psychological consequences are well known, but it’s becoming increasingly clear just how damaging they are to the developing brain.
Today in the final part of our series from WBUR called “Brain Matters: Reporting from the Frontlines of Neuroscience,” Iris Adler looks at a key issue in brain development: the biological consequences of early childhood neglect and trauma.

Why Two Convicted Sweetwater Union High School District Officials Can Run for Re-Election

See updates on South Bay Indictments.

Judge Ana Espana said that 24-year Sweetwater Union High School District trustee Jim Cartmill was among the "least culpable offenders" convicted in the South Bay school official scandal.

He and Bertha Lopez have decided to run for re-election.

It's fine with me. I don't think Jim or Bertha were more harmful to students than the average school official--which is not to say that Jim and Bertha aren't responsible for their support of business-as-usual behavior that keeps schools in failure mode.

Even if the bad behavior that got them in trouble were completely eliminated from every district, I don't think it would make much difference for students.  The most serious problems in school governance were never addressed in the scandal.  In fact, I think the reason there were no trials was that the District Attorney didn't want these small time crooks spilling the beans about how San Diego County Office of Education runs schools for the benefit of those in power.

Why Two Convicted Sweetwater Officials Can Run for Re-Election
Bianca Bruno
Voice of San Diego
July 22, 2014

Former [Sweetwater Union High School District] board president Jim Cartmill filed earlier this month for a spot on the November ballot. Cartmill is running for a seat representing District 3, which includes schools on the east side of Chula Vista. Former trustee Bertha Lopez, one of 18 officials convicted in connection with the scandal, said at a hearing last week that she plans to run for re-election but has not yet filed the official paperwork, according to the Registrar of Voters...
San Diego Superior Court Judge Ana Espana initially ruled that Cartmill and Lopez could continue to serve in their elected positions until the end of their respective terms  but later reversed that based on a California code that suspends public officials from office after they’ve entered a guilty plea.
At Cartmill’s sentencing, the judge ruled he could run for re-election.
Cartmill was sentenced in June to three years’ probation, 40 hours community service and just under $5,000 in fines.

See all posts re South Bay Indictments.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Censorship war: Website unmasks links Google is blocking from search results

Censorship war: Website unmasks links Google is blocking from search results
July 17, 2014
Reuters/Chris Helgren

A subversive website has been launched to keep track of news and other webpages Google has “censored” from the search engine’s index, following the European Court of Justice’s controversial Right to be Forgotten ruling.

The tech giant has reportedly been inundated with 70,000 requests to remove sensitive information from its search results in the aftermath of the ECJ’s decision. While this data may be accurate, it is considered “irrelevant” and possibly defamatory under the EU policy shift.

In a mark of protest against online censorship, a new site ‘Hidden From Google’ has begun archiving links censored by search engines intent on complying with ECJ demands. The site was set up by US web developer and transparency advocate, Afaq Tariq.

The New Jersey developer asserts the removal of links from a search engine’s index amounts to censorship. So in an effort to preserve transparency in Europe’s online realm, he invites visitors to log data that has been removed from Google on the site...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Poor Grades for Encinitas, Julian Schools on Transparency

Poor Grades for Encinitas, Julian Schools on Transparency
Ken Stone
Times of San Diego
July 14, 2014

When it comes to sharing information on how their school bonds are working out, most San Diego County school districts are doing fine, a taxpayer group said Monday — with the San Diego Unified and Sweetwater Union High School districts earning perfect marks.
But a Transparency Scorecard released Monday by the San Diego Taxpayers Educational Foundation found Encinitas and Julian lagging badly. (Complete report is here.)
“Overall, the findings are positive,” the report said. “In fact, there has been marked improvement since the last update to this study in 2011.”
Of the 21 districts examined, only five failed to meet at least half of the criteria examined. Local community college districts were among those surveyed...

Arrogance and carelessness in elite institutions: C.D.C. Closes Anthrax and Flu Labs After Accidents

This story reminds me of UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran. There seems to be a culture of arrogance and carelessness in elite institutions.

C.D.C. Closes Anthrax and Flu Labs After Accidents
New York Times
JULY 11, 2014

A 1975 image of smallpox. Two of six vials of smallpox stored at the National Institutes of Health since 1954 contained live virus capable of infecting people, it was announced Friday. CDC, via Associated Press
After potentially serious back-to-back laboratory accidents, federal health officials announced Friday that they had temporarily closed the flu and anthrax laboratories at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and halted shipments of all infectious agents from the agency’s highest-security labs.
The accidents, and the C.D.C.’s emphatic response to them, could have important consequences for the many laboratories that store high-risk agents and the few that, even more controversially, specialize in making them more dangerous for research purposes.
If the C.D.C. — which the agency’s director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, called “the reference laboratory to the world” — had multiple accidents that could, in theory, have killed both staff members and people outside, there will undoubtedly be calls for stricter controls on other university, military and private laboratories.
In one episode last month, at least 62 C.D.C. employees may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria after potentially infectious samples were sent to laboratories unequipped to handle them. Employees not wearing protective gear worked with bacteria that were supposed to have been killed but may not have been. All were offered a vaccine and antibiotics, and the agency said it believed no one was in danger.

In a second accident, disclosed Friday, a C.D.C. lab accidentally contaminated a relatively benign flu sample with a dangerous H5N1 bird flu strain that has killed 386 people since 2003. Fortunately, a United States Agriculture Department laboratory realized that the strain was more dangerous than expected and alerted the C.D.C.
In addition to those mistakes, Dr. Frieden also announced Friday that two of six vials of smallpox recently found stored in a National Institutes of Health laboratory since 1954 contained live virus capable of infecting people.
All the samples will be destroyed as soon as the genomes of the virus in them can be sequenced. The N.I.H. will scour its freezers and storerooms for other dangerous material, he said.
“These events revealed totally unacceptable behavior,” Dr. Frieden said. “They should never have happened. I’m upset, I’m angry, I’ve lost sleep over this, and I’m working on it until the issue is resolved.”
The anthrax and flu labs will remain closed until new procedures are imposed, Dr. Frieden said. For the flu lab, that will be finished in time for vaccine preparation for next winter’s flu season, he said.
Dr. William Schaffner, the head of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University’s medical school, said he thought all American labs should stop shipping all hazardous agents until they have reviewed their safety procedures. Although there is no obvious way to force them to do that, he said, the federal grants that most labs depend on “could be the stick.”
Dr. Frieden himself suggested that the accidents had implications for labs beyond his agency, arguing that the world needs to reduce to absolute minimums the number of labs handling dangerous agents, the number of staff members involved and the number of agents circulating.
Scientists doing the most controversial work — efforts to make pathogens more lethal or more transmissible — say the research helps predict mutations that might arise in nature so that vaccines can be created. But other scientists feel that creating superstrains is unacceptably dangerous because lab accidents are more common than is often acknowledged, as Dr. Frieden’s announcement indicated.
The revelations at the C.D.C. renewed calls for a moratorium by opponents of such “gain of function” research.
“This has been a nonstop series of bombshells, and this news about contamination with H5N1 is just incredible,” said Peter Hale, founder of the Foundation for Vaccine Research, which lobbies for more funding for vaccines but opposes “gain of function” research. “You can have all the safety procedures in the world, but you can’t provide for human error.”
At the C.D.C. itself, Dr. Frieden said, staff members who knowingly failed to follow procedures or who failed to report dangerous incidents will be disciplined. A committee of experts will be convened to revise procedures.
In the flu-related incident, a C.D.C. lab accidentally contaminated a sample of less-dangerous H9N2 bird flu, which it was preparing for shipment to an Agriculture Department laboratory, with the H5N1 bird flu strain.
Though the contamination was discovered on May 23, Dr. Frieden said that he was dismayed to discover that senior C.D.C. officials were not informed until July 7, and that he was told only 48 hours ago.
Nonetheless, he said, “we have a high degree of confidence that no one was exposed.” The flu material was handled in high-biosafety-level labs in both agencies, and the workers wore breathing apparatuses.
In theory, the flu-related accident could have been much worse than the anthrax one.
Anthrax can kill those who inhale it, but is not normally transmitted between humans, so an infected laboratory worker presumably could not have gone home and passed it on. H5N1 bird flu has killed about 60 percent of those known to have caught it, almost always after contact with poultry. Although it does not easily jump from person to person, it is thought to have done so several times.
The anthrax episode took place on June 5 in the agency’s bioterrorism rapid response lab as part of testing a new mass spectrometry method.
The new C.D.C. report found several errors: A scientist used a dangerous anthrax strain when a safer one would have sufficed, had not read relevant studies and used an unapproved chemical killing method.
The error was discovered by accident. The door to an autoclave that would have sterilized samples taken for safety tests was stuck, so they were left in an incubator for days longer than normal. Only then did a lab technician notice that bacteria believed to be dead were growing.
Later tests done at the C.D.C. and at a Michigan State Health Department lab as part of the investigation confirmed that the chemical method would have killed any live, growing anthrax in the samples that were sent out, but might not have killed all spores, which are surrounded by a hard shell and can also be lethal.
Although anthrax terrifies laymen, “when you work with it day in and day out, you can get a little careless,” Dr. Frieden said. “The culture of safety needs to improve at some C.D.C. laboratories.”

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sweetwater's Steve Rodriguez comes up with a great idea: a special evaluation system to identify "teacher leaders"

Steve Rodriguez writes:

"Teachers should be given the option of either continuing to be evaluated under the current, safe, orthodox process or choosing to be evaluated as teacher-leaders."

 I support his idea of a two-track system for teachers.

It appears that Mr. Rodriquez envisions these "teacher-leaders" continuing to function as they have in the past.

I would like to see a more rigorous system for choosing teacher leaders, and I'd like to give them more responsibility and more money.

But I am thrilled that VOSD has published this opinion piece.  Good for you, editor Sarah Libby!  Also, kudos to Scott and Buzz and Irwin and Rod!

My only concern about the evaluation process that Steve envisions is that it seems too subjective.  Steve suggests:
 " annual daylong symposium in which teachers presented their portfolio findings to other school principals, community leaders, parents and fellow teachers."
We know that the same old power groups are going to be influencing the outcomes of that day-long symposium.  Why not have people from outside the district do the evaluations?

Also, why not have some objective measures along with the totally subjective measures suggested here?

A video of a single lesson doesn't really tell us how a teacher teaches.  Why not have outside evaluators come in to the teacher's classroom and record facts--such as what people are actually doing in the classroom at a given moment?  I would also suggest that critiques of a teacher's instruction NOT be done by principals, teachers or parents who have a personal or professional relationship (either in the school district or in the teachers union) with the teacher.

Time to Rethink Our Less-Than-’Satisfactory’ Teacher Evaluation System
The San Diego County Grand Jury put it bluntly: The teacher evaluation process used throughout California public schools is “broken.”

This comes as no surprise to anyone working on a school campus. Teachers and administrators alike see little value in the current process, which rates nearly everyone “Satisfactory.”  But so far, there’s not much consensus on a viable alternative.
Discussions about designing a new process rarely get beyond the one-dimensional idea of using student test scores to measure teacher performance.
This raises the ire of the California Teachers Association. The union wants no part of a process that might allow principals to use student performance data to unfairly target certain teachers for termination. The recent teacher tenure ruling in Vergara v. California added more fuel to this fire.
READ MORE: The Most Blistering Findings from the Big Teacher Tenure Ruling
We need a new system, one capable of measuring teacher efforts, strengthening the profession and contributing to the mission of every school: greater student achievement.
A new evaluation process must take into consideration all major components of a teacher’s job. These include classroom instruction, planning lessons, grading exams and essays and an invaluable practice of self-reflection. These last three components aren’t easily noticeable during the annual one-hour classroom observation most principals use during the current teacher evaluations. And you definitely won’t find them while looking at student test scores.
The new process should consider highlighting teachers who already play leadership roles on campus, whether they volunteer as a department head or Professional Learning Community team leader, a peer coach or student performance data analyst. These are the teachers who think beyond their own classrooms to help other educators improve.
What these volunteers do as teacher-leaders is rarely used as part of their current evaluations. They get rated the same as everyone else – “Satisfactory” – based on that one-hour classroom observation. But we can use these teacher-leaders as eager test subjects while we try to fix the process.
The transition should be handled carefully. Teachers should be given the option of either continuing to be evaluated under the current, safe, orthodox process or choosing to be evaluated as teacher-leaders.
Under the latter option, teacher-leaders would be evaluated not only for what they did in their respective classrooms, but also for what they did to help other teachers. This would put a much-needed premium on innovation, sharing best practices and collegial teamwork, as well as the development of leadership skills.
Teachers could compile a professional portfolio to submit for review, including things like a video of them instructing class followed by a critique by fellow teachers, or a written self-reflection on the experience of having led a volunteer effort during the school year.
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards already uses similar portfolio requirements to evaluate its board-certified teacher candidates.
Additionally, instead of a traditional two-way dialogue between teacher and principal, districts could expand the evaluation process to include an annual daylong symposium in which teachers presented their portfolio findings to other school principals, community leaders, parents and fellow teachers.
Though teacher-leader evaluations might still yield plenty of “Satisfactory” marks, the additional rigor in this process would make such a rating much more meaningful.
Before we waste any more time or effort touting student test scores as a means to hold teachers accountable, let’s put to use the innovative spirit we should value in teachers, and set a new standard for evaluating our educators.
Steve Rodriguez is an English teacher at Olympian High School in the Sweetwater Union High School District, and is a National Board-certified teacher. 

 I would like to see you address Common Core as part of the issue with grading teachers

Maura Larkins
I looked at the article posted by ksdvm86.  Here's a quote, "Busywork is the name of the game with the Common Core. Kids need to write and rewrite spelling words and sentences until their hands practically fall off..."

The parent who wrote that should be complaining about the teacher, not Common Core.  This teacher isn't doing a good job.  Common Core does NOT require busywork.  We've known for a long time that writing a word more than three times does not improve the child's ability to spell it. 

Any teacher who creates a stressful atmosphere and then blames it on Common Core should be ashamed.  The teacher should teach good lessons and maintain a healthy learning environment.  Kids enjoy taking tests when they aren't stressed. 

Anyone who thinks all the kids are going to know all the answers is just being idiotic.  Some kids will do better than others. That's to be expected.

However, in an ideal world, all kids would have a teacher who does well at teaching.  Teacher quality is the problem, not Common Core.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Voice of San Diego has a great story about Thrive Charter School, a pet project of VOSD's Buzz Woolley

Caught in San Diego Unified’s Crosshairs, a Charter School Lives Up to Its Name
Mario Koran
Voice of San Diego
July 10, 2014

That charter school the San Diego Unified school board tried to kill has roared back to life.

Thrive Public School was approved by the State Board of Education Wednesday night in a unanimous decision. The school will open in September.

Earlier this year, after spending months working with San Diego Unified staff, Thrive’s founder Nicole Tempel Assisi presented the school board her petition to open a charter school.

The petition had been vetted by various district departments, and was recommended for a five-year charter – its highest vote of confidence. The petition was so convincing Superintendent Cindy Marten gave it the thumbs-up.

It wasn’t enough to convince trustee John Lee Evans, however, who first moved to deny the charter. He noted how Thrive had once simultaneously tried to open a charter in San Diego Unified and another district, and said it represented bad faith in the local community.

Assisi had been a founding principal at Los Angeles charter schools, worked at High Tech High in its early years and had been awarded a grant from the Gates and Broad foundations for the innovative model that Thrive promised.

But ultimately Thrive was shot down in a 3-2 vote. Why the board decided to move the goalposts on this particular charter school was hazy.

The vote, and a separate move by the board in which it raised the bar on which charter schools would be eligible for a slice of Prop. Z money, kick-started a new round of debate about the school board’s relationship with charter schools.

Thrive wasn’t finished. It appealed the decision to the County Board of Education. That came with a bizarre twist: The same San Diego Unified staff that once supported the petition argued the County Board should reject it.

Sarah Sutherland, an outside legal consultant who spoke to the county board on the district’s behalf, said Thrive sounds “good in theory,” but had gone through fundamental changes that undermined its chance of success.

It worked. Thrive was denied. Again.

Thrive appealed again, this time to the state. Thrive’s petition faced another review board, another round of vetting, another hearing before the State Board of Education, where it had 10 minutes to make its case. San Diego Unified had the same. And once again, Thrive faced opposition from a onetime supporter: Marten.

Even though Marten, months earlier, had vouched for her staff’s decision to green-light Thrive, she wrote a letter to the State Board asking it to deny the school, citing concerns over its support for English learners. (Read the letter here.)
But this time, Thrive won out.

Thrive is scheduled to open in the fall. Assisi said there are spots for 160 students, half of which are currently filled. Assisi has been interviewing teachers, and has a list of nine finalists – six of whom will get the nod for the fall.

Assisi will soon sign a lease for the school, she said. Even though the school will exist within San Diego Unified boundaries, it will be overseen by the state, which will monitor its test scores and finances.

The state will also visit the school twice a year, over the course of Thrive’s five-year charter.
Of course, because Thrive won’t be part of San Diego Unified, it also won’t see any of the bond money that other charter schools in the district will receive.
For Assisi, that’s a rub, but she said it’s not what matters most.
“We didn’t come to San Diego to have access to bond money,” she said. “We didn’t come to pick a fight. We came to San Diego because there’s need and kids across the city on waiting lists for charter schools – because there are students across the city living in poverty, not meeting their potential.”

Still, it was a fight – one that cost Thrive and San Diego Unified time and money.
Assisi said the process also cost them a grant that they’d won, but ultimately lost because the school’s charter hadn’t been approved on time.

Thrive has a lot of work to do before it’s ready to open in fall, but Assisi said it’s the kind of work she got into the profession to do.
“We have such an expedited timeline now, and that wasn’t necessary. It’s unfortunate that so much time and money was wasted – on both sides. It’s unfortunate that this wasn’t spent on children,” she said.

"Assisi said the process also cost them a grant that they’d won, but ultimately lost because the school’s charter hadn’t been approved on time."
In petition to the state Assisi claims....."Educational experts throughout the country have reviewed Thrive’s educational program, resulting in Thrive being selected over three-hundred school proposals nationwide to win the highly competitive Next Generation Learning Challenge; and receiving grants from the Broad Foundation, the Girard Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Public Charter Schools Grant Program and the Charter School’s Growth Fund. A primary concern of all of these reviewers and entities has been whether Thrive could provide an educationally successful program. Certainly differences of opinion can exist, but in this case, Thrive has raised over a million dollars in grants in support of its educational program and the successful administrative experience of its leadership after thorough vetting, interviews, and competitive processes."
Which grant did Assisi lose the Girard Foundation grant (Buzz Woolley) or some other one?

@Kathy S oh, I see what you did there.

Yes, Mario, we all see what Kathy S "did there":  she listed the five organizations that had given grants to Thrive.  Then she asked a question that brought our attention to the fact that one of those five organizations--the Girard Foundation--is led by Buzz Woolley, founder and donor of Voice of San Diego.  She was being very gentle with her subtle message.  I would have been more direct.  I would have said that this is the sort of information that should be included in a "full disclosure" message attached to your story.
Also, how about you ask Ms. Assisi to tell us in one or two sentences what is the main idea of her educational philosophy?  What is it that makes her plan innovative?

Sure, I could have written about Thrive's educational philosophy -- even though I did link to the presentation the school gave to the state -- but then I would've gotten away from the reasons Thrive was denied by the San Diego Unified school board in the first place. If you weren't at that meeting, you're welcome to check it out on the district's meeting archives. You'll note that Thrive's educational philosophy wasn't really a consideration in the board's decision for voting it down.

As far as your and Kathy's suggestion of my bias, I think, respectfully, it's a red-herring that distracts from the issues at play. I didn't answer Kathy's question because it sounded to me rhetorical. The Girard Foundation wasn't mentioned in the piece, and had nothing to do with my reasons for following the story. Of course, you're entitled to your opinions.

Whether every charter school that's authorized offers an educationally sound and fiscally responsible model is a valid concern. But it's a discussion the district and community should have in the open -- before a charter school is denied. Especially if the charter worked for months with the district, and the district helped shaped that very petition.

Maura Larkins

I think you have a great story here, Mario.  The about-face by Cindy Marten and the district is disgusting.  This charter had no problems until the issue moved into the political arena.

So why not trust your readers to see this?

The fact that Buzz Woolley is a bigshot at both the Girard Foundation and Voice of San Diego doesn't prevent the story from being accurately reported and newsworthy.

You could have avoided the distraction of this issue by doing a full disclosure up front.  A full disclosure is NOT a red herring.  It's an expected practice that allows readers to judge for themselves whether or not the story is biased.  Emily Alpert used to include disclosures when she wrote about Buzz Woolley. 

For the record, I do not think your story is biased. I think you did a public service by writing it.

@richard brick That's why schools should be evaluated not on how well students score on tests but on how much they improve.

Yes, you're right, Derek, and, happily, when people talk about test score results they're very often talking about the amount of improvement by students. There is a commonly-used measure called "value-added" which gives us the average number of months or years of academic improvement by the students of a given teacher.  Here's the Wikipedia article about Value Added Modeling:

It's much easier to improve the scores of average and advanced students than it is to bring up the scores of kids who are behind.  In fact, Michelle Rhee was accused, when she was Superintendent of Washington DC schools, of focusing resources on the more upscale schools in the district, and abandoning the lowest-performing schools. I can understand that Ms. Rhee may have felt that she had to use such tricks in order to have significant increases in test scores.
I agree with Mr. Brick that the Preuss School might not look so great if it accepted any child, perhaps using a lottery system.
I'd like to offer a challenge to the Preuss School: how about you start another campus that accepts students at random, and see if you can also be successful with those kids?

"It's much easier to improve the scores of average and advanced students than it is to bring up the scores of kids who are behind."

When you're using value-added, because it's impossible to improve a student who's at the 100th percentile as there is no 101st percentile, it can only be easier to improve the scores of students who are behind.

Maura Larkins

A student who is at the 99+%ile (there is no 100%ile) can most definitely improve. Let's say you have a third-grader who scores at a ninth-grade reading level. The next year, this child is almost certain to advance to tenth-grade or higher reading level. Of course, his (or her) percentile wouldn't change. If every single child were to improve one grade level each year, then each child would have exactly the same percentile score each year, but would nevertheless be scoring at a higher performance level. Unfortunately, a student who is two years below grade level is much less certain to advance a year or more during a school year. These students are usually not given proper instruction. They are likely to sit in class while everything goes over their heads because teachers "don't have time for the kids who are behind."

 A student who scores at the top of the class one year cannot score higher than the top of the class the next year. So at best, that student can only remain at the same percentile rank from year to year. Do we agree so far?
Now let's say that being two years below grade level puts a student in the 15th percentile. Would it not be easier to increase that student's percentile rank by 5% than it would be to increase a 94.99th percentile student's rank by 5%?

When you talk changing percentiles, you're talking about kids going up or down RELATIVE to other kids. You're NOT talking about how much actual improvement a student makes.

In your scheme of things, a kid who gets the top score in the whole country year after year, and rapidly raises his (or her) level of performance each year, has NOT improved.

You are also saying that a child who is in a low percentile to start with, who improves a little bit--but is still far below grade level--has improved MORE than the first kid!

This makes no sense.

Percentiles only allow you to know which kids are higher and which kids are lower.

Percentiles don't give you information about what kids actually know.  If everyone makes less progress year after year, the percentiles remain the same.  If everyone makes more progress year after year, the percentiles remain the same.

We want to know whether the student population as a whole is getting better, staying the same, or losing ground. This is CRUCIALLY important.

So we're not really much interested in looking at percentiles. Your mom is interested in your percentile, and college admissions departments are interested, but society as a whole is more interested in whether students are raising their grade levels..

The fact is that we ARE able to measure the improvement of the high performers by looking at changes in their grade level, and we know that teachers don't have to put very much effort into getting the high-performer to improve their academic performance.

We are also able to measure the improvement of low performers by looking at changes (or lack of change) in their grade level, and experience shows that teachers have to put a lot more effort to get that improvement.

That's why so many people are furious that low-income schools don't have the very best teachers.  The upscale schools don't need the best teachers; the downscale schools desperately need them.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Former Sweetwater Superintendent Gandara to spend two months in jail

 See all posts on South Bay Indictments.

I was interested in this passage from Susan Luzzaro's story below:

In retrospect, some people still wonder how Gandara was selected back in 2006. The district initially paid a headhunter group $30,000 to select him.
Susan acts as though Gandara is significantly different from most other superintendents.  I would say that Gandara's mistake was getting involved in small-time corruption.  He should have stuck with the corruption that is sanctioned by San Diego County Office of Education.  I myself consider the crimes Gandara was charged with to be less harmful to the public good than the wrongdoing that is considered normal policy by SDCOE.

The fact is, it's both extremely difficult and extremely easy to know what you're getting when you hire a new superintendent.

First, the easy part.  You know you're almost certainly getting someone who goes along to get along because that's how a person becomes a candidate for most big jobs.  Sometimes you get a surprise, like the cardinals got recently when they chose Pope Francis, but usually you get someone who won't rock the boat.

Then there's the difficult part.  Your husband could have told you about this, Susan.  I remember in the eighties at Montgomery Elementary in Chula Vista when I taught with Frank Luzzzaro.  He was on the interview committee that chose a new principal.  The female candidate interviewed well, charming everyone.  But Frank soon regretted his choice, and said that he would never again sit on an interview committee.  He voluntarily transferred to another school.

As Frank learned, it's just not possible to truly know most of the people you meet in this world.  In fact, most of us don't even know how we ourselves will behave until we are tested.    

By the way, kudos to whomever it was who came up with the great headline for this Reader story:

Gandara to go on 60-day lobster fast

Former Sweetwater superintendent “earned the right to go to prison.”

The Sweetwater Union High School District corruption case crescendoed in the South Bay courthouse on June 27. Former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. He was sentenced to 220 days in custody; 60 of those days will be served in jail and the rest under house arrest. In addition, judge Ana España ordered Gandara to pay a $7994 fine and perform 120 hours of community service.
Gandara pleaded guilty to one charge of felony conspiracy and has admitted to accepting gifts of travel, meals, and event tickets in excess of $4000.
Prior to the sentencing, community members advocated for jail time.

Jaime Mercado, who served as a trustee during Gandara’s tenure, accused Gandara of “corruption, intimidation, and reprisal.” He said Gandara had “earned the right to go to prison.”
Frances Brinkman, one of the people who originally took corruption complaints to the district attorney, applauded all of the unsung heroes who dared to speak out while Gandara was superintendent. Brinkman recited names such as Katy Wright, Tony Alfaro, Diana Carberry, Nancy Stubbs, and more…all people, she asserted, were unjustly fired by Gandara.
Kathleen Cheers, another community member who took corruption complaints to the district attorney, said that the majority of Sweetwater students received subsidized meals.
Cheers said she doubted if many of them “had ever tasted lobster.” She reminded the court of the lobster dinners that Gandara and his family enjoyed, paid for by vendors who worked for Sweetwater.
Jesus Gandara and his lawyer, Paul Pfingst
Attorney Paul Pfingst, who represented Gandara, pointed to Gandara’s remarkable career in education and his “commitment to children.” Pfingst lauded Gandara for getting the voters to pass Proposition O and referred to design awards that Proposition O projects received.
On the other side, deputy district attorney Leon Schorr said Gandara’s story was about “greed and ambition” and that Gandara was “hired into a situation that was ripe for corruption.”
Schorr argued that by punishing Gandara, the judge was warning “every other public official in the county.”
España said she had reviewed the material Pfingst submitted about Gandara’s accomplishments. She referred to his earlier career in Texas, then asked, “What happened along the way?”
España said Gandara “used his power to personally insert himself into negotiations with the contractors who were giving gifts to get jobs.”
Perhaps the tipping point for Gandara’s career came in 2011 when the U-T reported that Gandara hosted a wedding shower for his daughter at Murrietta’s restaurant in Bonita. Former Sweetwater trustees Arlie Ricasa and Jim Cartmill and still-current trustee John McCann attended the party. Vendors doing business with the district were also invited. The shower invitation announced there would be a money tree available for those inclined to pin on some greenery.
In retrospect, some people still wonder how Gandara was selected back in 2006. The district initially paid a headhunter group $30,000 to select him. Then the district paid Ricasa and Cartmill, who have both pleaded guilty to misdemeanors in this corruption case, to travel to Texas to vet Gandara.
The curious things is, Gandara hailed from the same little part of Texas where former Sweetwater superintendent Anthony Trujillo had retreated to after Sweetwater gave him his walking papers — and pension. Trujillo left Sweetwater to become superintendent of a small school district in Ysleta Texas and Gandara served as assistant superintendent there for a while. Gandara even acknowledged Trujillo in his doctoral thesis.
Sweetwater’s current superintendent, Ed Brand, is stepping down in October. Turning toward the future, many are already wondering — how will the new superintendent be vetted?..

SDUSD board member Richard Barrera makes a silly--but significant--statement about teacher evaluations

See all posts re evaluating teachers.

San Diego Unified School District Richard Barrera recently talked about the harm that would be done by a teacher evaluation system that "teachers" would see as "unfair or arbitrary."  Interestingly, the problem he presents contains a simple, obvious solution.

“If we replace the seniority system – one which most people tend to see as fair – with one that teachers see as unfair or arbitrary, we’re going to dramatically hurt trust between teachers and their principals,” [Barrera] said.

First of all, Barrera is clearly not talking about ALL teachers--because teachers have varying opinions.  He's talking about the ones whose opinions are expressed by the California Teachers Association.

Barrera is also not talking about the best teachers.  The best teachers are usually too busy to be active in the union.  Only a very small percentage of teachers even vote in union elections.  This lack of involvement is a serious problem and a good reason for retired teachers to assume more responsibility.  When they finally get some extra time, teachers should pay attention to what the union is doing.

But here's the thing.  Barrera is assuming that principals would be the ones to evaluate the teachers.

We need a system in which outsiders evaluate teachers.

It's that simple.

And the job of principals should be to build trust with teachers as they help the teachers do the best job possible.

Ed Brand's replacement as Sweetwater Superintendent is, like Brand, closely connected to SDCOE

See all posts on South Bay Indictments.

Three Hurdles Facing Sweetwater’s New Superintendent

The Sweetwater Union High School District has a new interim superintendent it hopes will represent a clean slate after a seemingly endless scandal that ensnared four school board members and a former superintendent.
In a closed-door session last week, school board president John McCann and four temporary trustees [all of whom are also  board members of SDCOE] picked Tim Glover as interim superintendent after Ed Brand, who took the district helm after former Superintendent Jesus Gandara was indicted in a pay-to-play scheme, was put on paid leave.
Tim Glover:
Board members said putting Brand on leave was not a disciplinary move, the district “just wanted something different.”
Glover has a long-standing relationship with the SUHSD as well as the Chula Vista Elementary School District, having served as principal at multiple schools and in various administrative roles. His most recent job was at the San Diego County Office of Education as assistant superintendent of student services and programs.
Glover will lead as superintendent until December, when five newly elected school board members will hire a full-time leader for the district...

Friday, July 04, 2014

Update: Google resists a recent court decision in Europe ordering Google to remove results from Internet searches


Google reverses decision to delete British newspaper links
Jul 4, 2014

Google Inc on Thursday reversed its decision to remove several links to stories in Britain's Guardian newspaper, underscoring the difficulty the search engine is having implementing Europe's "right to be forgotten" ruling.

The Guardian protested the removal of its stories describing how a soccer referee lied about reversing a penalty decision. It was unclear who asked Google to remove the stories.

Separately, Google has not restored links to a BBC article that described how former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive Officer E. Stanley O'Neal was ousted after the investment bank racked up billions of dollars in losses.

The incidents underscore the uncertainty around how Google intends to adhere to a May European court ruling that gave its citizens the "right to be forgotten:" to request the scrubbing of links to articles that pop up under a name search.

Privacy advocates say the backlash around press censorship highlight the potential dangers of the ruling and its unwieldiness in practice. That in turn may benefit Google by stirring debate about the soundness of the ruling, which the Internet search leader criticized the ruling from the outset.

Google, which has received more than 70,000 requests, began acting upon them in past days. And it notified the BBC and the Guardian, which in turn publicized the moves.

The incidents suggest that requesting removal of a link may actually bring the issue back into the public spotlight, rather than obscure it. That possibility may give people pause before submitting a "right to be forgotten" request.

"At least as it looks now, there are definitely some unworkable components," said Electronic Frontier Foundation activist Parker Higgins. "We've seen a number of situations in the past few days, where somebody in an effort to get a certain thing forgotten has brought more attention to it than ever was there before."

"It does make you think that maybe if you're actually trying to make an episode of your history be forgotten, this channel maybe isn’t the best way."

Google's objective is to protect the reliability and effectiveness of its search franchise. It remains uncertain how it adjudicates requests, or how they intend to carry them out going forward.

"Their current approach appears to be an overly broad interpretation," a spokeswoman for the Guardian said. "If the purpose of the judgment is not to enable censorship of publishers by the back door, then we'd encourage Google to be transparent about the criteria it is using to make these decisions, and how publishers can challenge them."

Google, which controls more than 90 percent of European online searches, said it was a learning process.

“This is a new and evolving process for us. We’ll continue to listen to feedback and will also work with data protection authorities and others as we comply with the ruling,” the company said in a statement.

Notifying media outlets about scrubbed links has the effect of enhancing transparency, privacy advocates say. It might also prompt European courts to re-examine aspects of the ruling, including how it affects media outlets' coverage.

"It’s terra incognito for everyone," said Jonathan Zittrain, co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. "If sites that receive the notices choose to publicize them in ways that end up boomeranging against the people requesting, that might cause the courts to examine what those sites are doing."

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic in San Francisco and Aurindom Mukherjee in Bangalore; Editing by Kirti Pandey and Lisa Shumaker)


Europeans don't have a First Amendment.  Are they losing the right to find relevant information on the Internet?  A recent court decision in Europe is forcing Google to remove results from Internet searches.
But the truth is that Google has already been removing links at the request of public agencies and others in the US.
Right to be forgotten: Google may hate it, but we're dangerously close to making it work
Last month, the right to be forgotten was enshrined in European law, thanks to a ruling by the European Court of Justice. Except it wasn't a right, you weren't forgotten, and it hasn't really been enshrined anywhere. Confused? You're not the only one.
In May, the ECJ ruled on the case of a Spanish national who had, over a decade ago, been involved in an auction of property to settle social security debts. When people Googled his name, newspaper stories about the auction appeared prominently in search results. The man thought that the information about him was outdated, and the court found in his favour, ruling that Google must no longer return links to those newspaper stories when his name is searched for. The newspaper articles remain online, and can be found through Google when other search terms are used.
The mechanism is not an outrageous one, and it has precedents in the offline world. When applying for a job, for example, individuals are often asked about any criminal convictions. They are legally bound to tell their potential employer about them for a certain amount of time, but for many types of conviction that duty will eventually expire and the individual no longer has to disclose it.
Nonetheless, the result of the ruling involving what one Spanish man did in the 1990s has potentially far-reaching consequences for internet use in Europe.
In some quarters, the ruling has been described as giving every European the right to be forgotten, in others, as bringing in a new wave of press censorship. In reality, it does neither.
The ruling allows Europeans to request that data controllers, like Google, remove links to outdated or irrelevant information when searches are performed for their names. In the event the request is found to be justified, links will be removed from results returned for searches on that person's name, but the original source material will remain online and can be found through other queries. Data controllers still have the right to refuse requests when they feel the links in question are still pertinent for searches on an individual's name.
However, since Google opened a web form for people to request search result removal, tens of thousands of people have asked the search firm to do just that.

The first removals

This week, the first such removals began to come to light. Large news organisations like the BBC and The Guardian, along with more smaller B2B outlets, all reported Google had contacted them to let them know they were subject to removals, while Google users began to see messages that certain search results "may have been removed under European data protection legislation".
A handful of recent 'right to be forgotten' removals were highlighted by The Guardian on Thursday. According to the paper, Google had alerted it that six articles would no longer be returned in search results for individuals' names. The names were not disclosed, although three articles referred to a Scottish referree, while another was a sweet story about French office workers making art from Post-It notes on their workplace windows.
Yet both cases illustrate the flaws in the system. Is the information in the story about the referree no longer relevant after three years? Is a system ostensibly meant to protect people's privacy being wasted on individuals who once happily told journalists about their creative ways of wasting office stationery?
It's a similar story over at the BBC. The BBC reports one of its articles involving the former head of Merrill Lynch Stan O'Neal no longer appeared in search results for a certain name. That name isn't, as you might have expected, Stan O'Neal. Instead, it's thought that the request is linked to a name in the comments section.
Was it right to do so?
The wider question is perhaps, when does that information become outdated in relation to its subject...