Sunday, September 25, 2011

Trent England: I don't care if online schools aren't effective, it's all about breaking the unions

From the Freedom Foundations email newsletter:
As both a parent and a taxpayer, I'm excited about the potential for online education. The Freedom Foundation's iLearn Project advances online learning because of its promise to help students, but also because it will help break down union control over schools and school districts. Information technology makes it easier to measure actual student learning, makes seat time and location less important, and can allow teachers to compete worldwide. iLearn is a key to unlocking the union's control over Washington schools.
Yet more explicit messaging from the Freedom Foundation that it doesn't matter how generally poor the online schools are, it's all about trying to find a way to break the WEA.

If the good Mr. England had to choose between sending his kids to a bad charter or a good public school that happened to have union employees, one wonders which option he'd take.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Liv Finne: Knows All, Sees All

Uatu the Watcher

I really wanted to call this post "Liv Finne: Knows Fuck-All, Sees Fuck-All", but blogger doesn't like the strike tag in the header of a post. Which is kind of ironic, considering the topic.

The Tacoma Education Association ended their strike this week (yes, the one I was wrong about), and that gave Liv some brief cause for joy:
The final agreement represents an important victory for students. By gaining flexibility in work assignments district officials will be better able to place the best teachers in the classroom, not just the ones with the most seniority. But the entire conflict could have been avoided.
Note that this was posted on Thursday at about 5:30 in the morning, according to the tagging on Google Reader. Later that day The News Tribune offered that they didn't have any details to share yet, meaning that the paper of record for Tacoma was either scooped by Liv Finne or that Liv was talking out of her ass.

Later on Thursday the teachers of Tacoma voted to ratify the contract by a margin of 1,683 yes to 15 no, so either 99%+ of the members of the TEA voted for a contract that isn't in their best interests, or Liv was talking out of her ass.

King 5 TV provided the final piece of the puzzle Thursday evening:
The way the district reassigns teachers, which was the main point of contention for many teachers, will not change in the current school year. But starting this year a committee of teachers and school district officials will look at potential changes for next year. The union originally wanted to maintain the current system based on a teacher’s seniority. Under the contract, any changes in the policy would need a two-thirds majority.
So that flexibility, that important victory? It's in a committee that needs a super-super-majority to effect change. Liv's post makes no sense, unless you look at it through the lens of "Anything to make teachers look bad".

This isn't a first for Liv. It was about this time last year that we talked about her being lead around by the nose by the since-disgraced Maria Goodloe-Johnson during the negotiations between the Seattle Schools and their teachers. Liv loves her administrators; the teachers in the classrooms, not so much.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

How Did the On-Line Schools Do This Year?

Long-time readers have seen a lot from me about on-line schools here in Washington State, including a comparison of test scores that I did last fall. The whole series can be found here.

What's changed in the last year? Not much. If anything, on-line schools are doing worse than ever when compared to their brick and mortar counterparts. You can see a spreadsheet that I made here; the general upshot is:
  • Out of 111 tested areas, on-line schools were better than the state average 12 times.
  • On-line highschools fared extremely poorly--in 29 attempts, they didn't beat the state average a single time. It's the same for 5th grade (0 for 12).
  • The brightest spots were 6th grade math (2 school out of 5 beat the state average) and the third grade tests (3 of 8).
In the interim since I worked on this year's spreadsheet and got around to finally putting it up on the blog I also received the September edition of the Freedom Foundation's Living Liberty newsletter. Within there's a column from their lead education analyst Diana Moore where she once again overstates the case for on-line schools. For example:
Like the mythical king Sisyphus, reformers seemed doomed to roll a heavy rock up a hill for eternity. Yet online learning might just be the lever to heave that rock to the other side.
That lever was better than the existing system about 11% of the time. In some cases those lever schools had scores less than half those of the state average. On-line schools aren't excelling.
The groundswell of online learning is growing. If this continues at the same pace, it will be hard for status quo protectors to stop.
Not really--you'll just have to look at the results and say, "Wow, those schools have problems."
With online learning, we have the historic ability to reclaim the mission of public education from the statists and interest groups who have perverted it. It is possible to offer access to a world class education to every child. Every child.
And this is when I get pissy. Those statists that Diana slags on here are beating the online schools regularly and thoroughly. This call that she makes here, to some bygone era where learning was somehow better, doesn't match up with the data owned by the schools that she's pushing. For certain kids online education may well be a better option, but instead of focusing on the micro aspect she tries to take it into a macro argument about the school system in general, and she's a lesser person for it. We should have online programs, but let's make sure the conversation about them stays honest. What I get thrown back at me fairly regularly is "But Ryan, the mission of the on-line schools is different!", and that may well be true, but consider--if I made that argument about a public school like Wellpinit, or a program from downtown Seattle, Spokane, or Tacoma, if I showed you a "failing" public school and said to you "But those kids are different!", do you think that those in the ed reform movement would grant the point or accuse me of embracing the soft bigotry of low expectations and giving up on kids? When the data is this overwhelming you have to ask yourself what the Freedom Foundation gets out of it, and they've made that clear: the important thing is to screw the WEA. This isn't about freedom, the free market, or conservative principles--it's about the agenda, and that agenda has absolutely nothing to do with students.

A new year begins. Online schools have been poor for two consecutive years. Is there any reason to believe that will change?

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's On the Internet, So It Must Be True

Area Liquor Store Manager Always Knows When It's Revenue Forecast Week

(Olympia) Fred Graves, the manager of the liquor store located at 417 Plum Street here in the state's capital, reported record profits today as another depressed revenue forecast was released showing a $1.4 billion dollar hole in the state budget.

"Every time Arun Raha has one of those presentations, my sales spike higher than Mount Rainier!" shared a visibly giddy Graves, who has worked at the state-run liqor store since 1988. "If the money keeps flowing in like this, I just might solve the projected deficit all by myself."

Continued the shopkeeper, "After they release the forecast, I can count on the legislators coming in like clockwork. Craig Pridemore heads right for the hard stuff--that rut in the floor you see in front of the scotch? Alex Wood made that, years ago--and I can always count on Joe Zarelli to get a couple bottles of champaign to celebrate."

"Then there's the Governor. Usually sends Mike in for the foo-foo mixes for Daquiris, stuff like that. Back in 2004 she was a teetotaler. Been a hard couple years on her."

When reached for further comment, the Comedy Writers of America said, "The joke you want to tell about Tomiko-Santos? Just don't."

Members of Roadkill Caucus Meet and Congratulate Selves Over Hilarious "Sure, We Might Raise Revenue" Gag They Played on Sen. Ed Murray

(Secret Headquarters, Olympia Brewing Company) The Roadkill Caucus, a group of moderate Democrats in Olympia that exercised near-total control over the Senate last session, held their bi-monthly secret meeting recently in a festive mood as they celebrated the success of their "Revenue Could Be the Answer!" prank pulled on Senator Ed Murray, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

"Did you see the look on his face when Craig (Pridemore) was talking about how sad cuts to school funding made him?" chortled Sen. Steve Hobbs, also a candidate for Congress in the seat being vacated by Jay Inslee. "I knew I couldn't make eye contact with Brian (Hatfield), or we'd both lose our shit."

Murray was apparently so excited over a vote count showing the potential to raise revenue that he issued a press release, further adding to the sense of glee in the room.

"God, this is going to be great!" added Sen. Rodney Tom. "I'll allow some stupid loophole worth $50 million to be closed, and in return I'll get right to work laws, charter schools, and merit pay for teachers, and I'll still get to be called a moderate. Hot damn, happy days are here again!"

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane could not be reached for comment, as a year-long problem with electricity has left her powerless.

Rich Semler Drinks Coffee, Reads Newspaper, Enjoys Quiet Day At Home

Rich Semler, a former Superintendent in the Richland School District who was forced to withdraw from the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2008 after a family illness, had a nice day yesterday according to sources close to the Semler family.

"He got up early and took a little walk around the neighborhood, then went home and read the new George R.R. Martin book instead of struggling in vain to try and find a way to preserve levy equalization," reported the source. "Around noon he and Mrs. Semler went out to lunch at a little Mexican place in Pasco instead of attending an Education Appropriations subcommittee meeting, and then they stopped for a dessert at the Cold Stone Creamery instead of giving a minute's worth of thought to the Common Core standards."

"Then last night, instead of getting reamed on a conference call about the achievement gap, he played around on Reddit for a while before going to bed early, since they're driving over to Redmond tomorrow to see their grandkids instead of to Olympia for an emergency cabinet meeting about the revenue forecast."

"Randy Dorn is doing an excellent job," offered Doctor Semler from his easy chair. "I wish him all the success in the world. Job's all yours, Randy!"


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