Saturday, January 26, 2013

Steve Litzow: Tool of the Ed Reformers

Senate Bill 5328, the one that would give most every public school a grade?

It's copied pretty much whole cloth from this legislation in Florida.

And similar wording also shows up in this bill from New York State.

For example, this wording from 5238 (page 2 line 7):
(b) An alternative school may choose to receive a school or a school improvement rating
(ibid, by the way--it's an absolutely terrible cut and paste job)

 ....look like this in the Florida legislation:
2.  An alternative school may choose to receive a school grade under this section or a school improvement rating under s. 1008.341. 
 ....and makes an awful lot more sense, given that there really isn't a context for the idea of a "school improvement rating" for Washington State schools.  My guess is that when Senator Litzow had the bill written for him, he didn't bother to make sure it was really written to match what we do here.

One can't help but detect the hand of ALEC in all this.

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Accountability for Thee, But Not for Me! Charter School Edition.

First, let's review:
....and numerous other editorials, letters, Facebook posts, and pretty much everywhere else you looked.

Contrast that with this language from Senate Bill 5328, prime sponsored by Steve Litzow and co-sponsored by 7 others.  The effect of the bill would be to give every school a letter grade from A to F, of course based off of test scores.  Actually, not every school:
(3) Each school that has students who are tested using the assessments administered statewide in reading, writing, mathematics, and science required under RCW 28A.655.061, 28A.655.066, and 28A.655.070 shall earn a school grade, except as follows:
(a) To protect the privacy of students, schools, and district testing fewer than ten students in a grade level;
(b) An alternative school may choose to receive a school or a school improvement rating;
(c) Charter schools, unless the charter school governing board chooses to earn a school grade;
 There is absolutely no legitimate excuse for this.

"They're new, it's not fair to grade them!"  High turnover schools are practically new every year.
"They work with high-need populations!"  So do all of our alternative high schools.
"They have their own accountability!"  So does my public school, through the State Board of Education's Achievement Index.

This is what those who were against I1240 were talking about when they worried that the initiative would create a two track system of public schools that were accountable and charter schools that are not.  In the coming years, when the test scores tank because of the switch to the Common Core State Standards, this bill would create a reality where most every real public school had a scarlet F attached to them while the "public" charter schools could opt out and avoid the consequences.

There are other problem with the bill--the incentive piece is simply insulting, and this would be another layer of accountability bureaucracy on top of what the Board of Education is already doing--and I can't imagine it would pass the House.  It's simply sad to see just how little Senator Litzow and the rest of the Majority Coalition Caucus think of public schools.

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

One Last Research Thought to Close the Day....

When I was trying to take care of some link rot in the last post, I noticed that the link to the CRPE report on the Master's bump needed to be changed, so I found the new one. Finding that, in turn, lead me to an updated version of the report put out by the Center for American Progress, here, and that lead to this interesting finding:

 In the July 2009 report, the average Masters bump for Washington State was reported to be $10,777 dollars.

Three years later, that number had been revised to an even $5,000.


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Repost: How a Lie Becomes a Law

I'm working on another post regarding Marguerite Roza's testimony to the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee earlier this week, but I thought I might bring back this oldie from late 2010 regarding when she was wrong about teacher salaries.

Last Friday, November 19th, Bill Gates was in Kentucky giving a speech on education. The PI had the AP summary the next day:
On Friday, billionaire Bill Gates took aim at school budgets and the master's degree bonus.

"My own state of Washington has an average salary bump of nearly $11,000 for a master's degree - and more than half of our teachers get it. That's more than $300 million every year that doesn't help kids," he said.

"And that's one state," said Gates, the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a speech Friday in Louisville to the Council of Chief State School Officers. Gates also took aim at pensions and seniority.
Also picking up the lede were KOMO TV in Seattle, along with the Seattle Times.

Today, the WashACE blog picked up on the story, calling Gates' comments "perceptive insights" in the broader context of how to handle the state budget crisis.

Bill Gates says it, the media repeats it, it becomes the groupthink of the ed reform class, and merrily we go on our way.

The trouble is, what Gates is saying is flat-out wrong. You can see for yourself by going to the OSPI website and looking at this year's salary schedule. Look at the column for BA+0, then look in the same row at the column for MA+0. The result? A $6,800 difference. Move down to the row for 8 years of experience, and you'll get to about a $7,000 difference. Neither is the $11,000 difference that Gates cited.

How was the lie born? Gates didn't just pull those numbers out of the ether; instead, he's quoting a study done by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at our own University of Washington. The lead researcher is my old friend Marguerite Roza, and the germ of the lie can be found in the appendix:

This analysis used data from two sources. The 2003-­‐04 Schools and Staffing Survey from the National Center for Education Statistics provided state-by-­state figures for both the percentage of teachers with masters degrees, and the average salary of teachers at each degree level—bachelor’s or below, master’s, to name a few—for given years of longevity. This analysis used these data to compute the average percentage salary increase awarded for education credits earned beyond a bachelor’s degree. The analysis then applied the percentage increases to the more recent state-­by-­state average salary figures and total number of teachers from the National Educators Association’s 2008-­‐09 Salary Survey, in order to compute the dollar value of the master’s bump in each state.
(Personal aside: National Educators Association? You're an expert on reforming public schools, and you can't even get the name of the frackin' teacher's union right?)

Look at the process here: using data from 2003, published in 2004, then refracted again through the lens of a different study from 2008, this final product was made. Common sense tells us that the more you play with any set of numbers the farther away from their original meaning they're going to get, and that's exactly what you're seeing here. Instead of using the salary schedule--the simplest, clearest data--Dr. Roza decided to do data gymnastics instead. It calls her results into question.

Things get worse. Quite a bit worse, to my mind. The 2003-2004 Schools and Staffing Survey that the report mentions is available online, and one of the tables that you'll find is the pithily named "Percentage of public school districts and private schools that had salary schedules for teachers and among those that had salary schedules, the average yearly base teacher salary, by various levels of degrees and experience and selected public school district and private school characteristics: 2003–04." Their numbers?

In 2003-2004, the average salary for a teacher with a bachelor's degree and no experience: $29,100
In 2003-2004, the average salary for a teacher with a master's degree and no experience: $31,900.

That's a difference of only $2,800.

So let's look at this lie again: the numbers had to be processed more than the "meat" that makes the average hotdog, and there was a perfectly good data set in the report that was ignored in the process of making the larger point. There were two easy ways to get to the heart of the question, and the CRPE ignored both of them. That's either driven by an agenda or rank laziness; neither is particularly appealing.

So Bill tells this lie. He may even believe the lie, but it's a lie in spirit and in fact because of the absolute crap job that the CRPE did in getting those numbers. The real pisser, if you're Bill Gates and have been made into a liar by this "research", is found on the very last page of the report:
Funding for this work was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Money well spent, Bill.

Why let the truth get in the way of a good lie, though? It's much easier to just repeat what Bill said. He's got a foundation, after all, and he talks a lot about education, not to mention the whole billionaire thing, so he must be right. Just watch--in the coming months you'll hear this lie repeated with vigor by people who heard the soundbyte and nothing else and figured "Hell, Gates said it, and there's real University-backed research, so it must be true!"

And that, my friends, is how a lie becomes a law.

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Congratulations to Senator Rodney Tom on Breaking the World Record Time for Shitting the Bed After Taking Power

I'm not even talking about all the nonsense with Pam Roach, although that is a fun side story that gives the press corp something to do in this week where every committee meeting begins with 30 minutes of "I'm Representative Jones, I love kids, and my district is awesome!"

Remember last month, when the Majority Coalition Caucus came into being in the Washington State Senate and released their five governing principles?

We, the members of the Coalition Caucus, come together behind the principles of:
  • budget sustainability and living within our means;
  • creating an economic environment where jobs are plentiful and small businesses thrive;
  • providing a world-class education system through reforms and enhancements;
  • governing collaboratively to protect our most vulnerable while prioritizing the needs of middle-class Washingtonians;
  • and setting priorities for state government and holding it accountable.
How do you reconcile those principles, then, with Senator Tom's insistence on destroying the Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Program, our pre-paid tuition program here in Washington State? Those families that buy the GET credits are budgeting for the future and making sure that their kids are taken care of. They're doing their best to help their children access a world-class education system without having to start their adult lives $50,000 or more in the hole. They're prioritizing education by accessing a program that's great for middle-class Washingtonians. The families using GET are doing the exact right thing.

In return Senator Tom, who worries about the middle class in the same way that a hawk worries about the number of mice in a field, calls GET a Ponzi scheme (horseshit--the money is always there for those who pay into it) and tries to argue that GET is somehow driving tuition costs when it's the legislature and the directives that they've given to the colleges that's making that happen, not GET. Senator Tom is the former chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee--he knows full well why tuition has become what it has become. I mean, really:  

Tom said it's unclear exactly who the GET program helps.

It's clear as day, unless you really don't want to see.  It helps middle class families, like mine.  Someone who literally lives off of a trust fund may not get that, but our reality is different than his.  It is heartening to see that the House Republicans, most notably Gary Alexander, have already come out against eliminating GET, and I applaud them for it.

It only took five days, out of 105 in the session, for Senator Tom to have his first several screw-ups.  Here's to more of the same next week.

Other reading:

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Highlights From Today's Appropriations Committee Meeting

Every bit of testimony boiled down to "We know the Governor's budget doesn't look anything like what you'll be passing in April, but damn it's good!" Worth watching for the WSSDA defense of levy equalization--always good to hear it spoken for--and to hear the 4-year institutions making their case to be protected in this year's budget. Also, Ross Hunter knows how to keep a meeting moving, and Timm Ormsby has low tolerance for bad handwriting.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Inside Olympia with Rodney Tom (Abridged Version)

 With Austin Jenkins, Rodney Tom, and Mark Schoesler

AJ:  I'm joined by a Republican and a Democrat, I guess.  Is Ed Murray done hating you yet?

RT:  I'm so fucking bipartisan it hurts, and I don't understand why the Democrats over there won't take me up on my generous offer.

AJ:  Will you negotiate with them at all on the committees or the structure?

RT:  Fuck that, I'm a winner!  Right, Mark?  I'm giving them no strings attached chairs!

AJ:  What will day one look like?

MS:  I will bathe in the blood of the Democrats, and my God will it ever be glorious.

AJ:  Ed Murray read a history book, and he says that you're both so full of shit that you cry brown tears?

RT:  My constituents really want this.  Last year, we passed the budget 44-2!

AJ:  Wasn't that mainly Ed Murray's budget?

RT:  Oh, fuck off.  There are serious issues, and I'm a serious man!

AJ:  Kevin Ranker also says that this notion of power sharing is a total crock under a cloak of bipartisanship and that this is more to the right than it is the middle.

MS:  FUSE is the Washington version of ACORN.  Transportation, Higher Education, and Environment are all really, really neat committees that anyone would want to chair!

RT:  I chaired Higher Ed last year.  It was great.
RT:  I can't believe Kevin Ranker would say such a horrible thing, because me and Mark basically copied all of that off of Jay Inslee's website.  Me and Mark are just like Jay Inslee!

MS:  Easy, Tiger.

RT:  I don't want us to be like DC, so that's why I'm just like Joe Lieberman.

AJ:  So, social issues?

MS:  Jobs, education, and budget.  Period!  That's what people are concerned about.

AJ:  So, no social issues?

MS:  Didn't say that.

AJ:  But Steve Hobbes wants insurance providers to have to pay for abortions, and Republican Steve Litzow agrees.  Does that bill have a chance?

RT:  I totally support that legislation, but that witch Lisa Brown didn't pass it last year when she was the majority leader.  People hate those political games!

AJ:  So you'll pass it this year, since you're the majority leader?

RT:  Oh hell no.  Val Stevens would kill me.  We're going to have a laser focus, absolutely!

AJ:  Do you think you have control, or is that tenuous?

MS:  In 1963 Big Daddy Day did things.

RT:  But we haven't put a lock on any ideas.  Legislation will be introduced, and if I have to give Janea Holmquist Right to Work in order to get her vote for my Screw All the Teachers Bill, I'll do it.

AJ:  So what will you guy do when you have different opinions?

RT:  (looks at MS)

MS:  That's all you need to know, right there.

RT:  I'm thoughtful!

AJ:  Senator Schoesler, how dead is gun control?

MS:  BWAHAHAHAHAHA!  Oh so fucking dead.

AJ:  The Associated Press said this week that Pam Roach is still beating staff.  Is she a reliable vote?

MS:  I never got to see that report that said she's nuts.  I mean, I spend a lot of time with her in meetings, but I dunno.  Also, we're all going to have training.  Training is the cure, here!  And I can find one staffer who she hasn't abused yet, so really I think everything is just swell.

AJ:  But are there any restriction on her?

RT:  Jesus, no.  I need her like oxygen.

MS:  I really need a committee meeting so that I can know what's going on.

AJ:  McCleary will cost eleventy bazillion dollars.  What do?

RT:  The internet sales tax will make everything better.

AJ:  I thought you said you were against raising taxes?

RT:  Shut up.  I'm going to fund the classroom of the future, where the teachers are terrified and have no health insurance.

AJ:  But reform isn't money, and local school districts are having to make up the difference with local levies.  Why am I having to patiently explain the McCleary decision to you?

RT:  I want STEM to emphasize science, technology, engineering, and math.

AJ:  What?

RT:  A PE teacher and a math teacher make the same amount of money.  Who fucking needs PE teachers, anyways?

AJ:  Fat kids?

RT:  Microsoft can go out and hire a great math and science teacher for a lot more than someone who is a great PE teacher can get another job.  I'm going to attract the best and brightest by calling a lot of teacher slugs.

AJ:  So no more money?

RT:  Oh, eventually, after everything else I want is done.

AJ:  Senator Hewitt was kind of, "Yeah, taxes, maybe?"

MS:  We can't just throw money at the problem.  Our think tank said so!

RT:  I love output measures.  They can be used to make teachers look bad.

AJ:  I'm still hearing "no taxes", yes?

MS:  Ask me after the March revenue and caseload forecasts.  Progress might be anywhere between $0 and a billion.

RT:  I really hate all day kindergarten.

AJ:  Have Governor Inslee and Speaker Chopp told you to go to hell yet?

MS:  Well, they've talked to me......

AJ:  Please come back soon!

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What's Going On in Olympia This Week?

I write these things more for me than anyone else, so that I can know when to turn on TVW, but just in case there's someone else in the state who would find it interesting.....

You'll note that the Senate committees don't start until Wednesday, which I'd guess is a side effect of all the nonsense around the new Majority Caucus.


The fun will be in the morning, when we see if any Democrats took Dear Leader Tom's offer to allow them to chair a committee or two.  The Senate is scheduled to convene at 12:00, and it could be one of the funnest thing you've ever seen.

At 1:30 Reuven Carlyle's new House Finance committee meets for the first time, which is immediately followed by....

At 3:30 the House Appropriations Committee will have their first hearing of the year to take a look at the Governor's budget proposal.  Her budget is fairly meaningless, but it's the beginning of the discussion, and it will be interesting to see how splitting the single Ways and Means Committee into Appropriations (chaired by Rep. Hunter) and Finance (chaired by Rep. Carlyle) changes the dynamic.


The House Higher Education Committee is up at 8:00, followed by a work session of the Early Learning Committee at 1:30, the Education Committee talking about the Quality Education Council report at 1:30, and the Appropriations Committee discussing the education section of Governor Gregoire's budget at 3:30.

At 10:30 Governor Gregoire will give her last State of the State address.


At 10:30 Jay Inslee gets sworn in, followed by the other new statewide elected officials.

The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee has their first meeting at 1:30, to talk about McCleary and an interesting agenda item called "Staring at a decade of budget gaps: How can state finance policy drive productivity gains in education?"  The fun will be when old committee chair Rosemary McAuliffe interacts with new committee chair Steve Litzow and it's very literally the WEA Avatar vs. the Stand for Children stand-in.

At the same time the House Higher Education Committee will be meeting in a work session to talk about their policy priorities for 2013.  The unions are on the agenda, so solidarity!

Meeting of the day might be at 3:30, when the Senate Ways and Means Committee meets for the first time.  Two of the big power players, Joe Zarelli and Lisa Brown, are gone, previous committee chair Ed Murray no longer has the gavel, and Republican Senator Andy Hill has the power.  I believe this is the year that the Senate goes first in presenting a budget, and it'll be interesting to see how bipartisan or not their proposal is.


The House Education Committee has a joint meeting at 8:00 with the Early Learning and Human Services Committee to talk about the WaKids kindergarten assessment,  then a regular meeting at 9:00 to have more discussion about data.  Early Learning will also be having a 9:00 work session to get an overview of early learning programs, which are meetings that I've always found interesting for the 10,000 foot overview of what's going on in the state.

Higher Education has another work session to talk about policy at 10:00.

At 3:30 House Appropriations is talking about pensions, and planning for the rest of the session.


The Finance Committee has their second meeting at 8:00.  The Early Learning and Education Committees are both meeting at 1:30 (I'm personally interested in something that's being said about military kids during the Education Committee meeting).  That's pretty much it for the day as they break for the MLK Jr. Day Weekend.

Here on day 1 the probability of a special session is 20%, and I'll raise that number up or down as things go along.  It's going to be fun!

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