Category Archives: nclb

Sherman Dorn Asks THE QUESTION and Offers Some Answers

riddler45cover1Longtime readers should know that Sherman Dorn is one of my favorite people in the edusphere. His  recent “How can we use bad measures in decisionmaking?” is a fine example of why I value his contributions so much.

His titular question is THE QUESTION at the heart of so much ed policy action these days.  Nobody who isn’t seeking profits or losing their mind likes the tests being used — not Arne Duncan, not Barack Obama, not the people in Madison poised to build a Gifted Education house of cards on them — but almost nobody wants to give up on the tests and many want to expand their use (Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, those house of card builders in Madison).

Everyone talks of better tests, multimodal assessments, new ways of looking at data….  All this can be good, however we aren’t there yet and the simple-minded attraction of letting the flawed data “drive” education policy is strong (the current draft of the MMSD Strategic Plan has both reasonable  data ” inform[ed]”  and frightening “data driven” language).    Additionally, at least three truths often get lost when better assessments and data are discussed (Dorn hits most of all of these).

  1. All assessments and data are of limited utility.  They are snapshots at best; they are only designed to measure specific things; standard deviations and confidence intervals recognize some of the limits, but are rarely part of “accountability” discussions.  the temptation to use assessments for things they are not designed for is always there.
  2. Because better assessments should mean assessing more things in more ways,fulfilling this promise will result in more time and resources devoted to assessment and analysis and less to teaching and learning.
  3. Employing multiple assessments or sophisticated data analysis (ie Value Added) moves away from transparency in accountability. It already clear that few policy makers, much less members of the public, understand the nature of current assessments and accountability practices.  When you employ Value Added techniques all but the most statistically adept are shut out (some Value Added methods are proprietary and even those who commission the analysis are kept in the dark about the nature of that analysis; others are open, but beyond the understanding of most people).   Combining multiple assessments, including qualitative approaches, produces similar issues.   The MMSD Gifted plan is a perfect illustration.  They promise to identify potential and achievement with referrals and multiple assessments over five domains (academic, creative, leadership, visual and performing arts) and then decide who gets the extra services based on “percentile scores.”  Does anyone think that the promised “transparency” of this exercise will be meaningful to parents and Board members?

This was supposed to be about Sherman Dorn’s post, so back to that (although I think the above — especially the local stuff — is a salient context for what Dorn wrote).

After much good introductory material (including a link to the relatively recent, must read Broader, Bolder Approach Accountability Paper), Dorn explores a variety of positions relative to the problems  of “data that cover too little,” and “data of questionable trustworthiness.”  His presentation of their strengths and weaknesses is insightful and informative.

Dorn himself rejects both the “don’t worry” and “toss” extremes and seeks to extend (begin?) the conversation in pragmatic directions.  Here is how he closes:

Even if you haven’t read Accountability Frankenstein or other entries on this blog, you have probably already sussed out my view that both “don’t worry” and “toss” are poor choices in addressing messy data. All other options should be on the table, usable for different circumstances and in different ways. Least explored? The last idea, modeling trustworthiness problems as formal uncertainty. I’m going to part from measurement researchers and say that the modeling should go beyond standard errors and measurement errors, or rather head in a different direction. There is no way to use standard errors or measurement errors to address issues of trustworthiness that go beyond sampling and reliability issues, or to structure a process to balance the inherently value-laden and political issues involved here.

The difficulty in looking coldly at messy and mediocre data generally revolve around the human tendency to prefer impressions of confidence and certainty over uncertainty, even when a rational examination and background knowledge should lead one to recognize the problems in trusting a set of data. One side of that coin is an emphasis on point estimates and firmly-drawn classification lines. The other side is to decide that one should entirely ignore messy and mediocre data because of the flaws. Neither is an appropriate response to the problem.

I probably don’t do justice to his post.  Read the whole thing.

The reality is that bad data is being used and that the uses are expanding.  I am not as sanguine as Sherman Dorn about the potential for better data and better ways of using it (I’m guessing he’d object to the word sanguine here, and he’d be right because it does not capture where I think he is coming from.  Take it not as an absolute but only as a comparison with me), but I do know that explicit discussions of the issues involved like Dorn’s post are necessary to progress.

Thanks Sherman for the questions and answers.

Thomas J. Mertz

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Race to the Bottom? – Quote of the Day

declineOverall, our results consistently indicate that the increased focus on individual teacher performance caused a sizable and statistically significant decline in student achievement. This decline in achievement is also much more pronounced in the case of national exams with an e ffect of up to 40% of a standard deviation. As in the different effects in terms of internal and external results, our triple-difference evidence also documents a significant increase of grade inflation. In addition, in support of a causal interpretation of our results, we also find that in almost all specifications and dependent variables there are no significant differences between the treatment and control groups over time before the introduction of merit-pay. Finally, the inclusion of different control variables or the consideration of different subsets of the data makes only very minor differences to the size of our estimates, as would be the case if assignment to treatment were random.

Graph and quote from Pedro S.  Martins, “Individual Teacher Incentives, Student Achievement and Grade Inflation,” Institute for the Study of Labor (2009).

In 2007 Portugal instituted a merit pay plan.  Azores and Madeira (the graph above) and private schools were excluded.   Using these as a control, the quoted study found that this merit pay plan resulted in a decline is student achievement.

Arne Duncan and Barack Obama have made incentive pay plans a centerpiece of their “Race to the Top” scheme.  It may be a path to the bottom.

More on the “Race to the Top” later this week.

Thomas J. Mertz

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The Stick — NCLB Sanctions for MMSD

it02It is now official, 7 Madison schools are among the 79 Wisconsin schools that have been “Identified for Improvement” under the No Child Left Behind Act and are now subject to new sanctions and requirements.

Here is the list.

Madison Metropolitan School District Cherokee Heights Middle
Madison Metropolitan School District East High
Madison Metropolitan School District LaFollette High
Madison Metropolitan School District Leopold Elementary
Madison Metropolitan School District Lincoln Elementary
Madison Metropolitan School District Toki Middle
Madison Metropolitan School District West High

One thing about NCLB is that it is all stick and no carrot.  The requirements and restrictions pile up, but the only benefits are maintaining the woefully inadequate level of federal support for federal mandates.

The Madison schools Title I schools (Lincoln and Leopold) will now face new requirements; a more forceful stick.  I can’t find a Wisconsin version of the details of what this means, but here is one from Michigan (Wisconsin page on Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), here).

I know one thing will be that all students at these schools will be offered transfers with the district paying for transport and pay for supplemental services.

Some things about NCLB bear repeating.

The standardized tests that are the basis of Adequate Yearly Progress  are of extremely limited value in assessing learning and school quality.

Eventually all schools will fail to make AYP.

The standards and data approach that President Obama and Secretary Duncan are so eager to continue will not lead to the kind of education we need.

As I’ve said before, performance on the WKCE should be one tool in assessing schools and students to flag successes and failures fro more attention.  It should not be used to make isolated judgments and it should not be the basis for sanctions.

The Wisconsin State Journal has more.

Thomas J. Mertz

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Data Driven Sanity

Image from "Guest Blogger Scott McLeod on Data-Driven Decision Making" on the eduwonkette, click on image for more on D3M from that sorely missed blog.

Image from "Guest Blogger Scott McLeod on Data-Driven Decision Making" on the eduwonkette blog, click on image for more on D3M from that sorely missed blog.

Diane Ravitch has some more words of sanity on Data Driven policy making at the Bridging Differences blog.  Click the link for the entire post; here is an excerpt:

This approach rests squarely on the high-stakes use of testing. One only wishes that the proponents of this mean-spirited approach might themselves be subjected to a high-stakes test about their understanding of children and education! I predict that every one of them would fail and be severely punished.

We agree that a better approach is needed to assess how well students are learning what they are taught. We agree that current standardized tests are not adequate to the task of determining the fate—whether they should be rewarded or punished—of children, teachers, and their schools.

I think that testing is important and can be valuable, as it helps to spotlight problems and individuals in need of help. But the determinative word here is “help.” The so-called reformers want to use accountability to find people in need of termination and schools in need of closure. Let’s hope this punishment-obsessed crowd is never put in charge of hospitals!

Unfortunately, events are not breaking in the direction we both prefer. The stimulus bill includes millions so that every state can create a data system. This system will track the test scores of every student, from pre-K to college, and attribute their test score gains (or lack thereof) to their teachers. When the information is available, it will be used and misused. Every teacher (at least those who teach the tested subjects) will have a public record detailing whether his or her students made gains or not. This information will be used to establish calibrated merit pay schemes, so that each teacher will get more or fewer dollars depending on the scores of the year. Is this piecework?

The federal government seems ready to impose a Dr. Strangelove approach on our schools to turn them into “data-driven systems.” Not, as you suggest, “data-informed” systems, but data-driven systems. Teachers will certainly teach to the tests, since nothing else matters. The only missing ingredient from this grand data-driven scheme will be education.

More on data driven policy on AMPS here.

Thomas J. Mertz

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Obama, Duncan, Gingrich, Bloomberg and Sharpton

sthumb_mega_vomit

First there was “Obama Echoes Bush on Education Ideas,” then “Is Arne Duncan Really Margaret Spellings in Drag?,” followed by a very factually challenged major education speech by the President, reach out from Arne Duncan to Green Dot charter school honcho Steve Barr, the appointment of edu-preneur and Bill Gates bag man James Shelton III as head of the Office of Innovation and Improvement, now comes the news that Obama and Duncan are consulting with Newt “Blame the Unions” Gingrich, Michael “Cook the Books” Bloomberg and Al “Where’s My Check?” Sharpton on education policy (hat tip Peter Rickman, via Facebook).

Education takes some hits in the proposed Federal budget too (DOE Budget Page here).

The image above expresses my feelings better than any words can.

Thomas J. Mertz

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What’s at stake with the standards movement?: “[T]he kind of individuals we are developing and the kind of nation we wish to be”

The titular quote is from a new book by William A. Proefriedt, High Expectations: The Cultural Roots of Standards Reform in American Education; the video is from a review of that book in the Teachers College Record.

Proefriedt reminds us that the quest for quick and easy (or quick and dirty) standards and accountability has steamrolled a long tradition in America of striving for mass education that cultivates democratic ideals and full individual development while working against  “individual economic rapaciousness” as a danger to the Republic.  This is a tradition we don’t want to lose.

All the “business model” reformers and champions of “consumer interest” as a tool of reform (and that includes Sec. Arne Duncan and President Barack Obama) would do well to read Proefriedt and heed the wisdom of those he has written about.

See also: William A. Proefriedt, “Reading Emerson.”

Thomas J. Mertz

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Hit Again (again and again…)

3_21_captain_america

Wisconsin may have dodged the bullet of privatizers in our State Superintendent election, but at the national level the for profit, not the public crowd are going forth with guns blazing.  President Obama, Arne Duncan and their crew are showing themselves to be,  in the words of  Diane Ravitch, “Margaret Spellings in Drag.”

Their latest hire fits the profile.  Education Week is reporting and the the Department of Education site confirms the Broad trained,  former edu-preneur with LearnNow, most recently Bill “Money Talks” Gates bag man, James Shelton III (scroll here for a bio)  is the new head of the Office of Innovation and Improvement.

I guess for at least the next four years “innovation” will continue to mean privatization and profit-seeking and improvement will continue to defined by the Ministry of Truth.

In history, one school of thought holds that industrialists and capitalists came to welcome expanded government when they realized they could “capture” the boards and departments and use them for their own ends.   Think of the fox guarding the hen house.  The Obama crew are not liberators, just a changing of the guard.

As Deborah Meir recently wrote about the mindset that is at work in the corridors of power:

Some combination of Harvard and Wall Street smarts are seen as all-purpose disinterested expertise, fit for any purpose. The master key. While disregard of educators has a long history, and demonizing of teacher organizations is hardly new, it has reached new heights. A mere 20 years ago one could not imagine school systems would be run by people who never practiced or studied schooling or education. The assumption that “smarts” based on hands-on knowledge is valuable has lost its historic place in our view of reality. Law and business and finance smarts have ruled the day for this generation. At a cost. And not just in schools….

Our schools and our economy—and, above all, our democracy—require us to restore the balance.

The Obama permanent campaign will be holding listening sessions in Wisconsin.  It might be worth trying to get in a good word for public education by and for the people, not profit.

Thomas J. Mertz

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New Links (on the Resources Page)

soo-rings72

From the Magicgallery.com, click on image for more.

Most of the links to blogs and other things are on the AMPS Resources page. I just added some new things that I have found interesting or useful.  Here are the links and some descriptions.

Under Wisconsin (for all state and local things) you can now find, the School Finance Network, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction,  the Wisconsin Parent Teacher AssociationWisPoliticsProgressive Dane,  the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families,  and the Institute for One Wisconsin.

The new Wisconsin blogs are MMSD Board Member Maya Cole’s blog and a local Math teacher’s Wit and Wisdom.

New national blogs are Education Notes Online (described as “The education/political scene in New York City and beyond, focusing on the UFT and the NYC Department of Education”); education disinformation de-bunker Gerald Bracey at the Huffington Post, “Education, NCLB, Politics and Humor”  from the Frustrated Teacher; frequent commentator and now occasional blogger John Thompson at This Week in Education; the name says it all for Schools, Society, and the Pursuit of Equity in Education in the U.S;  for the last, three from Education Week, Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch’s Bridging Differences is always enlightening;  NCLB Act II and Politics K-12 are essential for keeping up on the news.

Under the general resources, I’ve added Gerald Bracey’s Education Disinformation Detection and Reporting Agency and the Coalition of  Essential Schools.

Click around, and feel free to make suggestions via the comments.

Thomas J. Mertz

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Quotes of the Day — Standardized Tests “Insensitive to Instruction”

By Ricardo Levins Morales from the Northland Poster Collective, click on image for more information.

By Ricardo Levins Morales from the Northland Poster Collective, click on image for more information.

Most states’ NCLB tests are, sadly, essentially insensitive to instruction, that is, those tests are unable to detect the impact of improved instruction in a school or district even if such improvement is unarguably present. The chief cause for such instructional insensitivity stems directly from the test-construction procedures employed to create almost all NCLB tests. Those procedures turn out to make scores on NCLB tests more directly related to students’ socioeconomic status than to how well those students have been taught. Instructionally insensitive NCLB tests simply can’t distinguish between effective and ineffective instruction. (Emphasis added)

W. James Popham, UCLA, “AN AUTUMNAL MESSAGE: LET FLY THE AYP PIGEONS.

These profiles emerge as an artifact of how items are selected. Test developers include in their respective proprietary item pools only those items shown to sort students in the same relative order in terms of their likeliness of getting an item correct. (In other words, ideally for each item in a given area, Student Q should always be more likely to get it right than Student S.) When high-stakes tests are then assembled using only the items that fit with these internal sorting profiles, the tests themselves also end up being remarkably robust in keeping students in the same relative order in terms of their overall scores (Student Q’s overall test score is very likely to be higher than S’s).

Using this approach, test scores will continue to predict other tests scores in ways that will remain remarkably insensitive to the quality of content-specific instruction. And just one of the unintended consequences of this insensitivity to instruction may be that those schools feeling the most pressure to improve test scores will resort to emphasizing test-taking skills, as opposed to meaningful academic content, as a compelling alternative strategy for attaining immediate, if short-lived, results. (Emphases added)

Walter M. Stroup, “What Bernie Madoff Can Teach Us About Accountability in Education.”

I came across this phrase a few times recently and I really think it captures one huge flaw with the reliance of standardized tests.  By design they do not measure learning, instead they sort into a bell (or other) curve.  If all students learn something, no matter how important that something is, it will not be included on a standardized test because it doesn’t sort.

This inescapable truth seems to be lost on President Obama, Sec.  Arne Duncan and all those in Congress, state legislatures and local school districts who keep calling for more money to be spent on testing and data systems.  Although there is potential for better testing I fear that this will only expand the inappropriate uses of the existing testing, testing that for the most part hinders real accountability by this “insensitivity to instruction,” and harms education by wasting time and money on things that don’t help students be successful in anything but taking tests.  Garbage in, garbage out.

For more, see:

Dick Schutz, “Why Standardized Achievement Tests are Sensitive to Socioeconomic Status Rather than Instruction and What to Do About It.”

Deborah Meier, “‘Data Informed,’ Not ‘Data Driven.'”

Diane Ravitch, “President Obama’s Agenda.”

John Thompson, “God Does Not Play Dice.”

And for a local angle:

Quotes of the Day” June 4, 2008, on the WKCE and Value Added.

Thomas J. Mertz

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How to Spin a Story — Jay Mathews on KIPP Problems

Robert Sollis, "Good News"

Robert Sollis, "Good News"

The short version is that the first step in spinning a story is to ignore any information that undermines your position; the second step is to include information that supports your biases, and throughout use every trick in the book to evoke sympathy for your cause.  This is to be expected from Public Relations flacks and political spokespeople.  It is more problematic when spin of this sort comes from one of the leading educational columnists in the United States, Jay Mathews of the Washington Post.  In a recent post that pretends to explore problems at Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools — including physical and emotional abuse, questionable financial management and insecure testing protocols —, Mathews does all of the above, with the twist of appearing to include and address the negative information.

It is no secret that Mathews is a charter cheerleader and champion of KIPP schools.  His columns and recent book have made that much clear.  Opinions and a viewpoint are to be expected from columnists.  However,  I think an ethical line is crossed when  —  as in Mathews “Turmoil at Two KIPP Schools” — that biased columnist leaves out crucial information while giving the appearance of examining developments contrary to his or her well-established positions.   It is a line of trust that is broken and line between journalist and flack that is crossed.

You can read the piece yourself for the rhetorical tricks like the introductory characterization of KIPP as the  “most educationally successful group of public schools in the country” (note that in the case discussed below, the Board of Education — the public school authority —  was powerless to remove the principal or require training by a psychologist  and that the local Charter Board was told by the KIPP national office that if they acted on their desire to remove the principal as they desired, KIPP would have the school closed, so “public” should probably be in quotes), and closing invocation of the “unrelenting stress” on KIPP “school leaders.”  I want to concentrate on what Mathews does and does not include in his treatment of the disturbing events at KIPP Academy Fresno in California.

Mathews can assume most of his readers are not familiar with the disturbing doings in Fresno and this allows him to pretend that he is giving and objective overview.  The national media has barely touched the story, but the Fresno Bee has been very thorough and Jim Horn at Schools Matter has been posting news and opinion on the case (Schools Matter is how I learned of the situation).

The basic story is that after extensive allegations of abusive discipline, punishments and practices by the principal, Chi Tschang,  and staff dating back to 2004; requests for help by the local Charter Board; the resignation of four of six Charter Board members,  an investigation by the Board of Education that documented many undisputed incidents of what read like psychotic abuses of power by an unstable control freak (the principal has disputed some of the allegations and given a blanket denial of all since the report gives indisputable documentation for many things the blanket denial lacks credibility), uncredentialed teachers, massive violations of mandated testing procedures including open access to tests by students. extra time given and teachers telling students to correct answers, not following rules for student suspensions,  and violations of student and family legal privacy rights;  the principal resigned and under a new KIPP appointed principal the school and KIPP are fighting to avoid closure.

I’m going to skip over most of the gory details (some will be included to document what Jay Mathews left out and you can read rest yourself by clicking the links above), but I do want to echo Jim Horn in noting that much of the abuse and deliberate humiliation reported at the Fresno KIPP school is only an extreme manifestation of the authoritarian KIPP philosphy and add that humiliation as an educational strategy is at the heart of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Early in the Mathews piece (before any details of the titular “turmoil”) we are treated to this report about academic achievement:

At the end of 2007, 80 percent of KIPP Fresno’s seventh-graders scored proficient or advanced in algebra, compared to only 17 percent of students in regular Fresno public schools. In English Language Arts, 81 percent of KIPP seventh-graders scored proficient or advanced while the regular students were at 29 percent.

Nowhere does Mathews even allude to the testing problems found by the Board of Education investigation.  These included (all quotes from the Notice to Cure and Correct issued by the Board of Education).

  • “They stated that tests were not placed in a secure environment.”
  • “Robin Sosa, a teacher at the Charter School, stated in an interview that in the first couple of years, tests may have been left out during the day and the tests were stored in Mr. Tschang’s office, but that they have since corrected this.”
  • “Kim Kutzner and Marcella Mayfield stated that the school adopted a policy that students were required to check their answers again and again after they had finished their tests and were not allowed to do other activities.”
  • “Ms. Kutzner also witnessed teachers record students’ answers during testing, review students’ tests, and tell students which page to correct.”
  • “Mr. Tschang stated that he possibly gave students extra time on more than one day on a test that was to be completed in a single sitting.”
  • “In a staff meeting in May of 2006, Ms. Kutzner, who had five years of experience as a test-site coordinator, reviewed with the entire staff the violations that she had witnessed during testing and presented the written testing protocol materials to Mr. Tschang. The staff actively opposed any changes in procedures which would potentially lower lest scores, and Mr. Tschang and Mr. Hawke slated that the legal and ethical requirements for testing were, in fact, only guidelines that could be ignored”(emphasis added).
  • “The violations were knowingly in disregard of state testing procedures in that Mr. Tschang signed the STAR Test Security Agreement and the Charter School’s teachers signed the STAR Test Security Affidavit in which they agreed to the conditions designed to ensure test security. Mr. Tschang also failed to report the testing irregularities to the District STAR Coordinator.”

Much of the case for KIPP, as made by Mathews and others, rests on standardized test scores (at one point in this piece Mathews writes: “All they have to do is show, with test scores, that their students are showing significant achievement gains that will put them on a path to college”).   If the Fresno KIPP “actively opposed” following the required protocols because of the potential to lower scores then I believe it is inappropriate to use these tests results  in defense of that school and unethical to boast of the test scores without giving this context, as Mathews does.  I’ll also add that when the policy — be it KIPP’s or California’s or the NCLB’s  —  is all about test scores and not education,  that some unscrupulous people would willfully disregard procedures in pursuit of higher scores is to be expected.

I’m going to give Mathews full paragraph on the “turmoil” in Fresno and follow it with some more quotes from the “Notice to Cure and Correct.”

At KIPP Fresno, school leader Chi Tschang, who founded the school in 2004, resigned in January in order, he said, to remove himself as a barrier to the school’s continued operation. Shortly after the Fresno school district released a report based on interviews with current and former parents, students and KIPP board members accusing Tschang—among other things– of making a student crawl on his hands and knees while barking, keeping students outside in the rain as a disciplinary measure and yelling “all day” at students caught shoplifting near the campus. Tschang told me these accusations were either false or ripped out of context. Many of KIPP teachers and parents have backed him up. But national KIPP leaders have not criticized the district’s report and instead have supported the school’s new leader, William Lin. The school district has the power to close the school by refusing to release a letter KIPP Fresno needs to access a state charter school facility grant. As of yesterday, the district had not issued the letter. [Editors Note: The letter has been issued, but it contained “qualifications” that the KIPPsters are not happy with].

Mathews makes it look like the accusations are serious but also raises doubts in numerous ways.  He also does not touch on the actions of the Charter Board (including mass resignation), the questionable financial practices, the interactions with the Board of Education prior to the report, the problems of authority among KIPP, the local Board and the school district or any other of the facts that would reflect badly on KIPP or the idea of charter schools.  He also glosses over much of the abusive behavior.  Here are some allegations Mathews left out (names of students and parents deleted).

  • “In her interview, Kia Spenhoff stated that she witnessed Mr. Tschang put his hands on students. She witnessed Mr. Tschang pick a student up off the ground, hold the student by the neck against a wall, and then drop the student. When asked about this incident Mr. Tschang stated, “I don’t remember picking up and dropping a student, I do remember shaking a kid.”‘
  • “_____ mother of student _____ witnessed Mr. Tschang push her son’s face against a wall.”
  • “_____ also reported witnessing Tschang push another student’s face against the wall and saying, “Put your ugly face against the wall, I don’t want to see your face.”‘
  • “Student reported witnessing Mr. Tschang draw a circle on the ground and force a student to stand in the circle for two hours in the sun during the summertime.”
  • “____ reported that Mr. Ammon admitted to intentionally humiliating her son and that in a meeting between Mr. Ammon, Mr. Tschang, and _____ Mr Ammon said, “I thought he needed to be humiliated, that it is my job to do this.” and “I just really think he needs to be humbled, he reminds me of me at that age, and I know he has no dad at home.” When asked about the incident, Mr. Tschang stated, “No, I don’t remember this. What I do remember is that _____ was repeatedly acting in a defiant and disrespect way [sic] to Mr. Ammon and other teachers.'”
  • “Parent reported that Mr. Tschang took student glasses away from him because _____-was constantly adjusting his glasses. _____-is totally dependent on his glasses and cannot see without them. Mr. Tschang admitted to taking _____-glasses away.”
  • “Vincent Montgomery, former Chief Operating Officer for the school, reported that he observed several incidents in which he felt Chi Tschang was emotionally abusive toward students, such as requiring students to stand outside in the rain. Mr. Montgomery also stated he felt that any gains made by kids were offset by the emotional abuse they experienced.”
  • Student reported witnessing Mr. Tschang draw a circle on the ground and force a student to stand in the circle for two hours in the sun during the summertime.
  • “_____ of _____ stated that _____began to get physically sick from the abusive discipline and a counselor told her to get out of KIPP.”
  • “When asked about his yelling at students Mr. Tschang stated, “If parents are not happy with the school program, it is a school of choice.'”

Mr Tschang is correct that it is “school of choice,” but it is also a school paid for by taxpayers.  These excerpts are just the tip of the iceberg of the allegations in the report.  I don’t know if the allegations are true, but I do know that the School Board thought the evidence was sufficient to demand Mr. Tschang’s removal or that he attend very extensive training in child and adolescent development, psychology, anger management and unlawful harassment  before having any further role in discipline at the school and the Board also required extensive changes in and monitoring of school operations.  You wouldn’t know any of this or the extent of the allegations from Mathews’ spin job.

Instead, Mathews vaguely notes that the Fresno superintendent “has praised KIPP’s achievements” and later falsely asserts that “all sides appear to support what KIPP has been doing to raise student achievement to rare heights” (no one who has read the district report can possibly believe that this is a true statement).

It took almost four years to his rein in the excesses while Tschang resisted the efforts of local Charter authorities and the local school board to exert control and find remedies.  Part of the “public” in public education is public accountability; with Fresno KIPP the only accountability for principals was to the corporate office and all they apparently cared about was test scores (however they were “achieved’).

The press is also part of the system of accountability.  I respect Mr Mathews freedom to make the case for what he believes in (as I make the case for what I believe in here), but I also expect something more than unrelenting spin from a major newspaper columnist.  I guess my expectations are too high.

For the response from the flacks who are actually on KIPP’s payroll, see here (scroll down).  Although basically “no comment,” it is more honest than what Mathews wrote.

Thomas J. Mertz

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