Thursday, August 25, 2016

Students Lose, Liberals Elated

The WSJ with a spot-on editorial on the CA Supreme Court's narrow (4-3), unfortunate decision:

Students Lose, Liberals Elated

California denies a constitutional challenge to failing schools.

Aug. 22, 2016 6:56 p.m. ET

Remember when progressives worked to break down the barriers to minority education? You know, Brown v. Board and all that. Well, nowadays good liberals rejoice when their judicial friends deny upward mobility to poor black and Hispanic children.

That's how the left reacted to http://airmail.calendar/2016-08-29%2012:00:00%20EDT decision by the California Supreme Court not to hear an appeal of the Vergara v. California case charging that the Golden State has systematically denied minority kids trapped in failing schools their constitutional right to an education. The plaintiffs, backed by some public-spirited donors, had won in lower court but lost on appeal and now the state Supreme Court has doomed tens of thousands to lives of diminished possibility, if not poverty.

"I am relieved by the court's decision declining an appeal of the unanimous California Court of Appeal ruling upholding California educators' due process rights," declared Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. At issue were the contractual powers of teachers that denied the due-process rights of students, but facts must be distorted when your first priority is protecting failure factories.

The plaintiffs in Vergara showed that 98% of teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District are guaranteed a job for life after only 18 months on the job. Over a decade only 91 teachers in California had been fired, only 19 for subpar performance. Meanwhile, California students rank near the bottom in the country in reading and math.

The defeat for the students is also a victory for Governor Jerry Brown, who along with most of the state's Democratic establishment sided with the unions. Congratulations, Governor, on another triumph for educational opportunity denied.

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Students Matter

Good to see the CA setback hasn't deterred Students Matter:

Students Matter just filed Martinez v. Malloy, a new federal lawsuit on behalf of a group of Connecticut students and their parents challenging state laws and policies that actively prevent students from accessing quality public schools.

This is Students Matter's third education equality case, and our first in federal court. The lawsuit targets a set of state laws and policies that limit access to quality public school options — including magnet, traditional and charter public schools — that are delivering a world-class education to students of all backgrounds. These unnecessary restrictions have created a system in which zip code and luck of the draw determine whether students have a shot at a quality education and, we believe, violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection and due process.

We know what works. It's time to cut through unnecessary and harmful red tape and make sure all students have access to great public schools. Click now to learn more aboutMartinez v. Malloy.

If this case is successful, it will not only have a tremendous impact on thousands of public school students across Connecticut, but it will also reaffirm our nation's commitment to providing every child, regardless of race or family background, with an equal shot at the American Dream.

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Vergara’s dissenting justices write for history

The decision is even more of a disgrace since the court didn't even hear (much less rule on) the case. Nevertheless, two courageous justices wrote scathing dissents:

Unfortunately, Liu and Cuellar were not given the chance. In a shameful abdication of duty, 4 of the 7 California Justices refused to even listen to the arguments of Beatriz Vergara and her fellow plaintiffs. Those four justices, Carol Corrigan, Kathryn Werdegar, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and Leondra Kruger, thus join the ranks of names such as those of Roger Taney and Henry Brown that will be forever tainted by their defense of a brutal and discriminatory system.

Fortunately, California's rules allow dissents even in cases of accepting or denying a petition for review. Thus, Justices Liu and Cuéllar, had the opportunity to keep hope alive for future petitioners. Justice Liu's dissent included the following language:

"One of our criteria for review is whether we are being asked "to settle an important question of law." Under any ordinary understanding of that criterion, our review is warranted in this case. … The trial court found, and the Court of Appeal did not dispute, that the evidence in this case demonstrates serious harms. The nine schoolchildren who brought this action, along with the millions of children whose educational opportunities are affected every day by the challenged statutes, deserve to have their claims heard by this state's highest court. … [The case asks] whether the education clauses of our state Constitution guarantee a minimum level of quality below which our public schools cannot be permitted to fall. This issue is surely one of the most consequential to the future of California. Despite the gravity of the trial court's findings, despite the apparent error in the Court of Appeal's equal protection analysis, and despite the undeniable statewide importance of the issues presented, the court decides that the serious claims raised by Beatriz Vergara and her eight student peers do not warrant our review. I disagree."

For his part, Justice Cuéllar wrote:

"What Beatriz Vergara and eight of her fellow public school students allege in this case is that they, and vast numbers of children in our state's public schools, are burdened by certain statutes governing teacher dismissal, retention, and tenure that create a surplus of grossly ineffective teachers. … Nothing in California's Constitution or any other law supports the Court of Appeal's reasoning. … Even if one ignores the appellate court's inconsistency with settled law, the question its approach begs is as simple as it is important: Why? … Beatriz Vergara and her fellow plaintiffs raise profound questions with implications for millions of students across California. They deserve an answer from this court. Difficult as it is to embrace the logic of the appellate court on this issue, it is even more difficult to allow that court's decision to stay on the books without review in a case of enormous statewide importance. … There is a difference between the usual blemishes in governance left as institutions implement statutes or engage in routine trade-offs and those staggering failures that threaten to turn the right to education for California schoolchildren into an empty promise. Knowing the difference is as fundamental as education itself. Which is why I would grant review."

Beatriz Vergara has reached the end of her K-12 career, and thus the damage to her (and millions of other students) has already been done. For future students, however, Justices Liu and Cuéllar have done a vital service. For all the hundreds of millions of dollars that education bureaucrats spend every year to lobby against education reform, they cannot win if they keep losing the moral high ground. When justices such as Liu and Cuéllar, who have been known throughout their careers as among the most inspiring, moral, and thoughtful members of the bar write such compelling dissents, other courts in other states will take notice. The first legal victory for these students will not come in California, but it will come.


Vergara's dissenting justices write for history

Posted on August 24, 2016 8:30 am by Dmitri Mehlhorn

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Train Teachers Like Doctors

Shael Polakow-Suransky and two others with an insightful NYT op ed entitled, "Train Teachers Like Doctors":

Our nation has faced — and solved — a similar problem before. In medicine, we long ago recognized that significant study and practice under the guidance of a skilled practitioner are necessary to ensure that doctors are qualified to serve the public. After World War II, we increasingly invested public money in a range of efforts to strengthen doctors' preparation, including stipends for training. We now spend $11.5 billion a year on medical education, roughly $500,000 for every new doctor. For a fraction of that cost we can build a strong system of teacher preparation — good residency programs cost about $65,000 per candidate, including tuition and stipends, according to our calculations.

Much of the money could come from reallocating current resources. States and school districts need to do the tough, detailed work to redirect and focus funds that are not being used well. For example, nationally we spend 7 percent of our instructional budget on substitute teachers, 12 percent on teaching assistants and between $6,000 and $18,000 annually per teacher on professional development that many teachers describe as ineffective. Redirecting a portion of these budgets could help us transform teacher preparation.

Minimal training for teachers is simply not good enough. Legislatures and school districts have proven, affordable options at their disposal.If we are serious about improving public education, we need to invest in our aspiring teachers and ensure they get sustained practice with real coaching and support. The nation will need more than a million new teachers in the next decade. They will be teaching our future doctors, engineers and pilots — all of whom will have high-quality professional training at the side of experts in their field. Our teachers deserve the same.

Train Teachers Like Doctors

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Conquering the Freshman Fear of Failure

Two easy interventions help at-risk students from dropping out of college:

Regardless of their credentials, many freshmen doubt that they have the necessary brainpower or social adeptness to succeed in college. This fear of failing hits poor, minority and first-generation college students especially hard. If they flunk an exam, or a professor doesn't call on them, their fears about whether they belong may well be confirmed. The cycle of doubt becomes self-reinforcing, and students are more likely to drop out.

The good news is that this dismal script can be rewritten. Several recent research projects show that, with the right nudge, students can acquire ways of thinking that helps them thrive.

In a large-scale experiment at an unnamed school I'll call Flagship State, incoming freshmen read upperclassmen's accounts of how they navigated the shoals of university life. The accounts explained that, while the upperclassmen initially felt snubbed by their classmates and intimidated by their professors, their lives started turning around when they reached out to their instructors and began to make friends.

…Other freshmen were introduced to research online showing that intelligence isn't a static trait or the luck of the genetic draw, but can grow through hard work. They were exposed to what the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck describes as a growth, rather than a fixed, mind-set. This shift can be transformative; as Dr. Dweck explained, "the view of intelligence that you adopt for yourself shapes your educational experience."

…What's more, the impact of this brief intervention may be lifelong. A follow-up investigation, still in the works, finds that in the initial stage of their careers these students are faring better professionally and personally.

The field of education is littered with fine ideas that never go beyond the hothouse of the lab. But this simple strategy has been shown to work wholesale. What's more, it's cheap. The experience takes place online, and so it costs next to nothing to have students go through it.

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Rising income inequality in recent decades, which has led to rising educational inequality

Interesting and troubling research on rising income inequality in recent decades, which has led to rising educational inequality:

Duncan and Murnane make the case that the ability of the affluent to invest in their children has contributed to the "growth in the income-based gaps in children's reading and mathematics achievement" which, in turn, has "contributed to a growing gap in the rate of college completion." The two authors also document the growing disparity of parental financial investment in "child-enrichment goods and services." In 1972-73

high-income families spent about $2,850 more per year per child on child enrichment than low-income families did. By the 2005–2006 school year, this gap had nearly tripled, to $8,000

in inflation-adjusted dollars. While several of the Russell Sage authors cite the success of a few specialized education programs in raising the academic achievement levels of low-income students, the report suggests that given unequal circumstances at birth, over which children have no control, traditional schooling may be aggravating pre-existing disadvantage.

Two report authors, Isabel Sawhill and Richard Reeves, both of Brookings, found that:

among children born of normal birth weight to married mothers who were not poor and had at least a high school education at the time of their child's birth (advantaged-at-birth), 66 percent can be expected to be ready to start kindergarten, versus only 46 percent otherwise. This gap never narrows.

Citing the work of Sean Reardon of Stanford, Duncan and Murnane point to a substantial increase in the test score gap between low and high income students taking the SAT:

In the late 1960s, test scores in reading of low-income children lagged behind those of their better-off peers by four-fifths of a standard deviation — about 80 points on an SAT-type test. Forty years later, this gap was 50 percent larger, amounting to nearly 125 SAT-type points.

Bradbury and Triest, the Boston Federal Reserve economists, follow up by drawing attention to the inexorable disadvantages accruing to already disadvantaged kids:

A 40 percentage-point gap in college enrollment of students born in the early 1960s between poorest-quartile and richest-quartile students expanded to a 51 point gap for the later cohort; similarly, the earlier cohort's 31 point gap in college completion between rich and poor grew to a 45 point gap for the later cohort.

Bradbury and Triest put forward a bleak assessment of the options available to young people born into the poorest families, even children who possess considerable native gifts:

A key question is whether primary schools, once children come under their care, level the playing field and reduce these disparities. Most research findings suggest that they do not.

Not only do "children of affluent parents graduate from college at substantially higher rates than children of low-income parents," according to Bradbury and Triest, "the gap persists even when controlling for ability in the form of test scores."

They cite data showing that

a child's earnings in adulthood reflect parental investments in his/her human capital (education) as well as his/her endowment of earnings capacity and market luck. That endowment, in turn, is determined by the reputation and "connections" of their families, the contribution to the ability, race, and other characteristics of children from the genetic constitutions of their families, and the learning, skills, goals, and other "family commodities" acquired through belonging to a particular family culture.

Four key factors or mechanisms of intergenerational earnings persistence "that are related to family incomes and that have a return" in the labor market play an outsize role in determining the fate of American children, according to studies cited by Bradbury and Triest: "noncognitive skills, cognitive ability, early labor market experiences, and educational attainment."

Separated at Birth

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Why American Schools Are Even More Unequal Than We Thought

Another troubling study about "persistently disadvantaged" children (in Michigan) – defined as 8th graders to qualified for free or reduced-price lunch every year since kindergarten – which concludes that "American Schools Are Even More Unequal Than We Thought":

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the, publishes student scores by eligibility for subsidized meals. Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act and its successor, the Every Student Succeeds Act, districts have reported scores separately for disadvantaged children, with eligibility for subsidized meals serving as the standard measure of disadvantage.

With Katherine Michelmore, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Michigan, I have analyzed data held by the Michigan Consortium for Educational Research and found that this measure substantially understates the achievement gap.

In Michigan, as in the rest of the country, about half of eighth graders in public schools receive a free or reduced-price lunch. But when we look more closely, we see that just 14 percent have been eligible for subsidized meals every year since kindergarten. These children are the poorest of the poor — the persistently disadvantaged.

The math scores of these poorest children are far lower than predicted by the standard measure of economic disadvantage. The achievement gap between persistently disadvantaged children and those who were never disadvantaged is about a third larger than the gap that is typically measured.

Education researchers often express test score differences in standard deviations, which allows for a consistent measure of gaps across different tests, populations and contexts. Measured using that conventional approach, the gap in math scores between disadvantaged eighth graders and their classmates in Michigan is 0.69 standard deviations. This places disadvantaged children roughly two grades behind their classmates. By contrast, the gap based on persistent disadvantage is much wider: 0.94 standard deviations, or nearly three grades of learning.

Why American Schools Are Even More Unequal Than We Thought

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How Kids Learn Resilience

Paul Tough with an in-depth article in the The Atlantic about "How Kids Learn Resilience":

But here's the problem: For all our talk about noncognitive skills, nobody has yet found a reliable way to teach kids to be grittier or more resilient. And it has become clear, at the same time, that the educators who are best able to engender noncognitive abilities in their students often do so without really "teaching" these capacities the way one might teach math or reading—indeed, they often do so without ever saying a word about them in the classroom. This paradox has raised a pressing question for a new generation of researchers: Is the teaching paradigm the right one to use when it comes to helping young people develop noncognitive capacities?

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Monday, August 08, 2016

Thank you for visiting my blog

Thank you for visiting my blog. I sometimes don't have time to post here everything that I send to my school reform email list, so if you want to receive my regular (approximately once a week) email updates, please email me at WTilson at In addition, in between emails, I regularly tweet the most interesting articles I come across, so please sign up to follow me on Twitter at:


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Pics, video and description of summiting the Matterhorn for KIPP

I've posted a pdf with my pics, video and description of summiting the Matterhorn for KIPP at:

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