Thursday, October 31, 2019

Solnit, Books, Rand, and Young Readers

If you are not a regular follower of Brain Pickings, you should be. Thoughtful and erudite and really, really human, the site has for over a decade presented Maria Popova's essays spun off the works of others. I've met many authors I was glad to know on her site.

This post focuses on author Rebecca Solnit and A Velocity of Being, a collection of 121 illustrated letters written to young readers. Periodically something wakes up my teacher brain, and like an amputees phantom limb it leaps up to say, "Ooo! You should get that for the classroom" before I remember that I know longer have a classroom into which I can out such things (I do, however, have children and grandchildren.) It's about why we read and how books transform us, and Popova quotes from Solnit's letter about how books helped through a difficult childhood.

The books of my childhood were bricks, not for throwing but for building. I piled the books around me for protection and withdrew inside their battlements, building a tower in which I escaped my unhappy circumstances. There I lived for many years, in love with books, taking refuge in books, learning from books a strange data-rich out-of-date version of what it means to be human. Books gave me refuge. Or I built refuge out of them, out of these books that were both bricks and magical spells, protective spells I spun around myself. They can be doorways and ships and fortresses for anyone who loves them.

"A strange data-rich out-of-date version of what it means to be human" might be my new favorite explanation of what literature can offer.

Coincidentally, the other thing I stumbled across the morning was an old National Review reprint of Whittaker Chambers' blistering review of Atlas Shrugged. It's a review that can be enjoyed simply as a writing exercise in excoriation. It's hard to pick from a review that opens by calling the book "remarkably silly," but let's try this:

So much radiant energy might seem to serve a eugenic purpose. For, in this story as in Mark Twain’s, “all the knights marry the princess”–though without benefit of clergy. Yet from the impromptu and surprisingly gymnastic matings of the heroine and three of the heroes, no children–it suddenly strikes you–ever result. The possibility is never entertained. And, indeed, the strenuously sterile world of Atlas Shrugged is scarcely a place for children. You speculate that, in life, children probably irk the author and may make her uneasy. How could it be otherwise when she admiringly names a banker character (by what seems to me a humorless master-stroke): Midas Mulligan? You may fool some adults; you can’t fool little boys and girls with such stuff–not for long. They may not know just what is out of line, but they stir uneasily.

Chambers acknowledges that Rand dislikes much of what he dislikes, yet he shows no mercy for the book. His basic criticism is that Rand populates the book with simplified, unreal flat characters, "without any of those intermediate shades which, in life, complicate reality and perplex the eye that seeks to probe it truly."  In short, there is little to see in Rand's work about what it means to be human.

It is easy in the ed biz to get caught up in things like the reading wars and test results and arguments about whether or not Pat can read and if not why not. And in our very utilitarian reformster-created status quo, some lapse far too quickly to the discussion of reading as a set of Very Useful Skills that will make children employable meat widgets for employers on some future day, and therefor we shall have drill and practice and exercises to build up reading muscles for that far off day.

"But let's not kill the lifelong love of reading," is a common reply, and one that I'm not entirely comfortable with. It's fuzzy and reductive. I can love peanut butter and jelly, but that doesn't really open any windows on the world; I don't love science, but understanding it at least a little has enriched my world. The act of reading is wonderful in a sense, like looking through a pane of glass in an otherwise dull and impenetrable wall. It's magical, yes-- but what's really uplifting and life-changing is what we can see on the other side.

The reading technocrats and pure phonics police are focused on the future, and even the lifelong love of reading camp is looking forward. Both run the risk of forgetting that reading is useful for children right now, this year, this minute, as a way of finding answers to fundamental questions-- how does the world work, and what does it mean to be fully human, and how can I be in the world? Reading gives children access to answers beyond their own immediate experience which is always limited and all-too-often, as in Solnit's case, severely limited by the control of adults who have trouble working out answers of their own. In the crush to provide reading instruction that will benefit children someday, we shouldn't overlook the ways in which reading will benefit them right now. Both reading science and lifelong love camps stand at the window and say some version of, "Let's look at this window. Let's examine it and study it and polish it and enter into a deeper relationship with it," while anxious children hop up and down on their toes and beg to look through it.

Solnit likes the wall metaphor. I'm fond of windows. You can pick your own favorite. I just want to argue that we not get carried away by either the desire to reduce reading instruction to hard science or fuzzy emotions, that we not forget that there's an actual reason for children to read, and that the reason exists today, right now. Don't get caught up on the trees in the larger reading forest. The children are small people, but that doesn't mean they aren't working on big questions. School should help.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

DeVosian NAEP Nonsense

I wasn't going to write about NAEP for any number of reasons, but then I happened to look at Betsy DeVos's comments on this year's results and, well, this whole blood pressure thing happened. So to get my numbers back down, I'm going to talk through the nonsense she issued forth, notable for its disconnection from reality, its devotion to public education bashing, and, most of all, its bizarre display of an amnesia-fueled dismissal of responsibility for any hand in the results of the Nation's Report Card.

DeVos declares that we have a "student achievement crisis" and even if you correctly read "student achievement" as "scores on a single standardized reading and math test," getting to "crisis" is a long leap. Thousands of kids taken from their parents and stuck in cages is a crisis. California on fire is a crisis. Scores on a single standardized math and reading test not going up the way you'd hoped is not a crisis. But then we get this baloney:

For more than three decades, I—and many others—have said that America's antiquated approach to education fails too many kids.

No. For three decades you and many others have used aggressive chicken littling as leverage to remake education in your preferred image. You said, "Let us have our way and NAEP scores will shoot up like daisies in springtime." Do not even pretend to suggest that you have somehow been hammering fruitlessly on the doors of education, wailing your warnings and being ignored. The current status quo in education is yours. You built it and you own it and you don't get to pretend that's not true as a way to avoid accountability for the results.

She tosses out some anecdotes which, who knows, might even be true, illustrating the horrid state of public education and the frustrations of parents.

Blame the "experts" who assure us each year that American education is "doing OK." That our schools are "good enough."

Who are those people? Reformsters have been yammering about these mythical beasts, these Deep State educationers who have been insisting that the state of US education is awesome. I don't know who they are. The closest I can get are the people who have ben saying for decades that we are doing a pretty good job given the lack of support and the inadequacy of funding and the screwing over of schools in poor districts.

Our Nation's Report Card shows that two thirds of American students can't read at grade level. Two out of three!

Nope. The results show that two thirds are not at NAEP proficiency level, which is considerably above grade level. She is simply wrong here, a fairly stunning level of wrong for a US Secretary of Education.

DeVos tosses out some more straw people who, she says, will say the results are super-okay so that she can clap back:

In reality, scores have not improved enough. Achievement has not improved enough. And our children continue to fall further and further behind their international peers.

Let me digress for just a moment to question the notion that school test scores m,ust somehow crawl ever upward like stock prices, as if students steadily evolve and improve year after year, as if our genetic stock is somehow improved. Baloney.

But the assertion that we are falling further behind international peers has no particular support (no other nation is taking America's Report Card tests) but even so, so what? What decline in our natinal fortunes can be traced to low standardized test scores. Do we have high-priced inadequate health care because of test scores? Did we have a corporate-created recesion because of test scores? What the hell difference does it actually make?

She then rattles off a list of school districts that are having troubles, like Harrisburg and Providence, but she has the giant brass ovaries to finish with Detroit, as if Detroit is not a freakin' educational nightmare because of policies that she personally rammed through the Michigan education system. She mentions suing for the right to read which, yeah, three years ago happened and the state successfully argued that they don't have to provide adequate education-- just something called school.

She tells some more stories, including one about a father who discovered that his son was an honored high school grad who couldn't read. N one of these stories feature the kind of details that would allow for fact checking.

Now she will point fingers. Education spending has increased in this country (she knows because, I don't know, avoiding paying taxes gets harder every year). It all goes to bureaucracy and administrators  and assistant superintendents and a list that does not include failed charters or bogus voucher programs or even successful charters that pay administrators far more than public systems do. She cites with horror that taxpayers have spent over a trillion dollars trying to fix public education, which I guess is a more impressive figure than the one billion that taxpayers had wasted on failed and fraudulent charter schools.

So, she concludes, we shouldn't spend any more money on school buildings. She throws out the Einstein insanity, because she still holds to the false belief that US education has stayed in place for a hundred years. Oh, and she wants us to think of how much of this money could have been spent on teacher salaries, because that's a thing she's really keen on.

She does get one thing right:

No amount of spending can bring about good results from bad policy.

Unfortunately, she does not mean all the failed reform ideas of the past twenty-some years, because in Betsy's Bizarro worlds, those policies are the product of the same Deep State "Big ED" group of people, as if everything from NCLB to Common Core to charter baloney and voucher foolishness hasn't been strenuously fought by folks in education, as if ed reform itself hasn't been the product of meddling rich amateurs many of whom are DeVos's friends and one of whom is, in fact, Betsy DeVos. Nope. Somehow, in this new alternate history, they weren't there.

She moves on to positive examples. Mississippi's reading score went up, which could be for any number of reasons but probably just one, and she is soooooooo close to figuring it out.

The idea was simple: students who can't read, can't learn. And if a student can't read by third grade, a student won't learn. So now, all Mississippi's third graders must demonstrate that they can at least read at grade level before advancing to fourth grade.

In other words, students who will do poorly on the NAEP given in fourth grade are kept out of fourth grade.This is like keeping all the short kids hidden in a back room on measuring day and then announcing that your student average height has gone up. This may be the part where my blood pressure medication threw up its hands in defeat.

Then it's Florida.

"Students there outperform nearly every other state," she says, and no, no they don't. Florida uses the same "hide the third grader trick" and has the advantage of starting in the basement for all growth measures. The rest of their policies range from disastrous to damaging. They are well on their way to completely dismantling public education, though, so they will be oft-referenced by folks like DeVos who want to see the same thing. And Florida did not do well this time.

Next comes her pitch for privatization, currently branded as "freedom." She wants to see states flex their ESSA-endowed freedom, and she wants to see the USED go away. She is anti-bulding. She wants to see more of a whole bunch of reformster ideals that have flourished in the past decade, and yet, somehow, here we are with unimpressive NAEP scores and an ever-increasing gap between the top and the bottom and Detroit and Milwaukee, loaded with all her favorite choiciness, bringing up the NAEP rear. None of Big Reform's ideas has panned out, and yet, Betsy "Einstein" DeVos wants us to do more of the same. And here comes the big finish:

If we rediscover that Founding principle, if we embrace education freedom, American students can achieve, American students can compete, American students will lead, and America will win.

Good Lord, what the hell does that even mean? Compete with whom? Win what? And since when were school vouchers a Founding principle? And can we stop pretending that the NAE$P scores aren't related to policies that reformsters have been pushing for the last twenty years? And now I need to take another pill and lie down.

PA: A Chance To Improve Teacher Evaluation

No sooner had I written about taking back teacher evaluation, then a note crossed my desk about SB 751 and HB 1607.

Pennsylvania's teacher evaluation system is currently pretty lousy. There is nominal commitment to the Danielson model, a time-consuming pre- and post- observation process that involves a big bunch of online paperwork and Q & A answering, a cumbersome process involving Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) that-- well, it might be a stretch to say that nobody really understands SLOs, but I think it's fair to say that how SLOs play out for teachers depends an awful lot on how your local administration interprets the process.

And after you suffer through all that, your evaluation score still depends a lot on scores on the Big Standardized Test (in the Commonwealth, that's PSSAs for elementary and Keystones for secondary).  Your school gets a rating (SPP/Future Ready Index) that is about 90% test score based (the numbers are massaged a couple of different ways then added back together). If you teach a tested subject, you get another little jolt of test score magic. After everything is all factored together, you'll find that you are somewhere in the acceptable middle. All PA administrators are apparently required by law to keep repeating, "Nobody lives in distinguished. You just visit." The state doesn't want a whole bunch of awesome teachers for some reason, but the practical result is a bunch of teachers who get to have one or two peak years and thereafter look like they went back to slacking off.

Currently evaluation is about 50% observation, and and the rest a combination of processed and reprocessed test scores (i.e. your SPP), plus, in some cases, your SLO.

Because the testing is weighted so heavily, high-poverty schools are at a disadvantage. And the SPP (which is morphing into the Future Ready PA Index) is largely test-score based, which means math and reading scores, which means every teacher in the system who doesn't teach those subjects is being evaluated on them anyway. Not that the state is very forthcoming about this-- here is how Pennsylvania explain the computing of school ratings on its FAQ:

Q: What is the source of the data used in the calculations? Who performs the calculations?
A: All data comes from PDE’s authoritative data sources such as PSSA results from Data Recognition Corporation, Bureau of Assessment and Accountability, Bureau of Special Education, Bureau of Career and Technical Education, Education Names and Addresses (EdNA), Pennsylvania Information Management System (PIMS), Pennsylvania Value-Added Assessment System (PVAAS) results from SAS, Inc., Advanced Placement (AP), SAT results from the College Board, and ACT results from ACT, Inc.

It's always a bad sign when your own FAQ page is dodging the question. SPP replaces AYP and is becoming Future Ready PA Index, with none of those changes actually involving a change of much more than rhetoric. FRP is more up-to-date gobble-dee-gook, but it's still mostly math and reading scores. Like SPP, it gives a few points for things like AP classes offered and AP tests taken (way to go, College Board marketing department).

SB 751 and HB 1607 would improve this in several ways.

The student scores on a Big Standardized Test (which students have no stake in because the legislature keeps losing its nerve about making test results a student graduation requirement, and may let them substitute something else) would be cut. The observation would be bumped up to 70%. Plus, everyone can be distinguished; no more just visiting for just a few.

The old system said that if you hit two "needs improvement" within a decade, you went to the naughty list; the proposal says it would take two low scores within four years. That maters because PA actually did away with FILO, saying that "unsatisfactory" teachers must be laid off first. The number of unsatisfactory-rated teachers in PA has always been small (usually a couple hundred out of 130,000-ish).

The Senate bill passed in June while the House bill is languishing in committee. If you're in PA, you might want to give someone a holler about that. The proposal is not perfect, and it doesn't solve the "my principal is a jerk" problem, but at least it gets us further away from the foolishness of a science teacher being evaluated on math and reading test results.

For This Blog, Another Mile Marker

Some time in the last couple of days, this blog hit the 8 million views mark.

I mention this mostly to make one point-- if you wonder whether or not anybody else cares about this stuff, the answer is yes-- a whole bunch of people. It has been one of the most common reactions I've had here-- "I thought I was crazy, that I was the only person who could see what was happening." So, again, I say, you are not.

This blog has connected me with a whole country full of people who care about public education and who are upset about the various assaults upon it, a whole world of people who think education is important and that getting it right really matters. And it's another example of how this whole thing works. The corporate disruptors of education are amplified by money--piles of it. The members of the resistance are amplified by each other--I owe my audience to people who have pushed my writing out into the world. I'm grateful and humbled by the audience that has grown for this blog that started mostly so I could blow off steam.

I once wrote that the resistance meets on weekends, and that's still true. It's also true that most on line "communities" have a shelf life of about two years-- many of the people who were writing and reading when I started are now on to other endeavors. And of course there are those whose gift is activism and activation, who get their work done out on the street. It's a big busy group working in a hundred different ways, and it has been having an effect, shaping the conversation about education and creating a landscape in which casual lying about ed reform is no longer easy (when was the last tie someone tried to tell us that teachers wrote the Common Core). The original reformster approach was to try to have this entire conversation without us--without teachers, parents, supporters of pub lic education. While that still may be the dream for some, it's no longer a possibility.

So for me personally, eight million is another mile marker. But for the support of public education, t's just one more small sign that a bunch of committed individuals have stood in the path of mountains of money aimed at changing the whole premise of education in the US, and we've made a difference. So thank you for being part of this, and thank you for making me a part of this as well.

Now back to work.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

CAP Wants The Feds To Boost Charters

The Center for American Progress is supposedly a left-tilted thinky tank, but when it comes to education, they really love corporate reform. Here on this blog, I literally ran out of ways to title sa post "CAP is still working hard to push common core" (seriously-- just use the search bar in that upper left corner).

CAP became a little rudderless when Hillary Clinton's candidacy failed; till then it had served as a holding tank for Clinton staffers. But they're still plugging away to throw their weight behind neoliberal corporate education reform disruption.

Take this recent piece from Neil Campbell. He's a "Director, Innovation" whose expertise is K-12 education. His focus is personalized [sic] learning, charter schools and "effective use of student data." Campbell came from Jeb Bush's Foundation for Excellence in Education (2years) because A) all the best progressives come from the Bush camp and B) in the last decade, roughly three people have become new figures in the corporate reformster movement--everyone else just keeps cycling between the various groups. Campbell also worked at USED under Arne Duncan (3 years), did some consulting free lancing, and further back we find him as a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group. He studied economics, political science, and business administration--oh, and he interned at Lowes. So the basis for his "expertise" in K-12 is... a mystery. Actually, the big mystery is how Duncan hired him with nothing but the BCG gig, the Lowe's internship, and two years as manager at something call (r)evolution under his belt. I'm betting there's a story there.

His role at CAP involves some fancy juggling. On the one hand, he has written some pieces with strong opposition to the Trump/DeVos administration. On the other hand, he's been pushing charters since he arrived at CAP, mostly claiming they'll be the great equalizer.

So here he is last week, sticking up for the federal Charter Schools Program. You may remember the CSP as a long-standing federal program used to give entrepreneurs start-up money to get into the charter school business. You may also remember the CSP as the program that has thrown away a billion dollars on charter waste and fraud, including charter businesses that closed quickly or never even opened. This is a program with some serious oversight and accountability problems.

But Campbell does not want to end the program nor tighten it up. H woiuld like to "modernize" it, by which he appears to mean broaden the sorts of charter business that CSP throws money toward, "to reflect the current strengths and challenges of the charter sector." Yes, "challenges" is a great word when you don't want to admit any failures or weaknesses in your program. But what does Campbell want to see?

In addition to grants to open new schools and facilities financing assistance, the CSP should reflect a balanced approach to charter school policy focused on encouraging the smart growth of excellent schools, improving the quality of existing charter schools, and confronting challenges in the charter sector. Using this approach, federal policymakers can support states and local communities in reaching the goal of public schools having a good seat for every child.

The last sentence makes no sense unless Campbell wants to argue that charter schools are public schools. They aren't. The rest of this... well...

What the heck is "smart growth"?

It appears to involve a couple  of proposed factors. There should be "community-wide analyses" to figure out what kind of programs the community wants or needs. It should apply "an equity lens" in order to provide programs for underserved students--for instance, dual-language or career and technical education, because CAP has been consulting through a time machine and flashing back to the days when we thought CTE programs were for low-achieving students and poor kids.

As further part of smart growth, the CSP should help push unified enrollment systems. One application good for the whole "eco-system," public and charter both. Charters like this for several reasons. It helps foster the perception that they are part of and equal to the public schools, and it automatically gives them a larger pool of customers to select from. The benefits to a public school from such a unified application system are basically non-existent.

Finally, in the smart department Campbell wants--well, it's a little hard to decipher, because he has a great command of bureaucratese. But it looks like he also wants to throw money at fledgling charter management organizations and make existing charters eligible for some more federal largesse. I am not sure why this is smart.

Help existing charter schools improve.

"Researching the impact that charter schools have on student outcomes is challenging." Oh, there's that word again. What he means is that charter supporters are having a ard time coming up with any compelling research to show charters doing any better than public schools. Which has created a real marketing challenge, both in marketing charter businesses and in marketing the policies that support them.

And what he doesn't mention is that virtually nobody is doing the research that matters-- are the results from charter schools worth the many costs to the public schools in the same community?

Charters have "marked variability" in performance, and Campbell notes that one response to that variability has been to invest in the "successful" schools. As a former FEE-ster, he should already know that corporate charter fans consider this a feature, not a bug. Free market competition sorts out the "winners" and "losers," identifiable by how much money they're getting. But what he's proposing doesn't really have anything to do with that.

The CSP should fund special ed consortia between district and charter schools. Which sounds a l;ot like "solve the problem of charters that won't/can't handle students with special needs by 'teaming up' with public schools to manage that load." The CSP should fund charter consortia to help them achieve economies of scale so they can save money ordering stuff. And the CSP should fund dstribution of curricular resources from super duper charters. I'm not sure we need to bother with this one; I have yet to see a charter that had discovered anything about education that folks didn't already know.

Note that there really isn't anything here about strengthening weak charters.

Confronting those darn "challenges" in the charter school biz.

Campbell has noticed that the charter business includes some "bad actors" (go search #anotherdayanothercharterscandal on Twitter) and those bad guys might be sullying the charter brand. So maybe there should be a few more regulations, like banning compensation for student recruitment. Families shouldn't have to pick a school without "receiving high-pressure sales pitches from people with money on the line." Again, a former FEE guy should know better-- everyone involved in a charter has money on the line because a modern corporate charter school is a business. But I think he just means "no working on commission."

There should also be clear rules against self-enrichment through real estate or other self-dealing shenanigans. It is not clear to me how CSP, which is busy handing out money to charters that aren't even operational yet, can enforce such a rule. But he also says the school's board should retain control, not the management organization which--I mean, you're hiring them to manage the school. How does that even work?


"Do that stuff." It's a pretty simple conclusion.

There are two things to notice about this proposal. Okay, three. Four if I remind you that all of this CSP largesse is funded exclusively by public taxpayer dollars.

First, this is from a supposedly lefty thinky tank, but then entire piece would be perfectly at home on the old FEE site or at the uber-righty Center for Education Reform. I can't think of anyone in the reformster biz who would look at this and say, "Wow, that's just too far left for our blood." That's because it's not particularly progressive at all.

Second, this is about widening access at the trough. Why offer free federal money just to start-ups when you can use it to help feed existing charter businesses.

Third, there's something weirdly "full circle" about this piece. When modern charters kicked down the education door, they did so by declaring that students needed to be rescued from failing public schools, and they needed to be rescued Right Now, so let's have no talk about taking measures to improve public education and certainly no more money because we gave you losers enough money already. Now that charters have failed to revolutionize the actual educating of students, it's suddenly  give them more time, give them more money, give them help in dealing with their "challenges," and a dozen other arguments that were soundly rejected back when they were proposed in support of public education.

Finally (this is just a bonus thing), it is past time for professional reformists with no actual education experience but an uncanny ability to bounce from one reformy group to another-- it's past time for these folks to just take a seat and hush. And I don't know what exactly CAP's issues portfolio is aimed at these days, but they need to just back away from education. They've been too wring for too long.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

ICYMI: Nearly Spooky Edition (10/26)

Here's the reading for the week. Remember to pass it on.

School Choice Has Not Cured Philadelphia's Ailing System  

The Inquirer takes a look at choice in Philly and the various problems it hasn't fixed.

The History of Privatization  

Talking Points Memo takes a look a privatization across a series of articles, including public education.

Teach For America Will Not Save Us  

Larry Lee blogs about one of the "solutions" that will not help with Alabama's teacher shortage.

How To Reduce the Toxicity of Teen Girl Social Media Use  

Some good ideas for blunting the impact of social media on teens. Pretty sure this would work for boys, too.

Could Betsy DeVos Cost Trump the Election  

Jennifer  Berkshire has made a few trips to Michigan, and this time she brought back an interesting angle on 2020 elections for the New Republic. To know DeVos is....well, not to love her, exactly, and that could well be cutting into the GOP base.

College Board Under Fire for Selling Student Data  

No this isn't an old article from one of the other six zillion times the College Board has caught grief for monetizing young humans. This time it's Non Profit Quarterly noting their well-earned troubles.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn Pushes for USED To Move To Tennessee  

Okay, it's not going to happen, but it's an intriguing little proposal.

DeVos Held In Contempt By Court  

Yes, you've already heard about this. But don't you want to read about it one more time?

City Fund Looking To Buy Elections  

Chalkbeat reports that one of the newer reformster groups is throwing large piles of money at local school board elections. Because democracy is just so damned inconvenient.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Taking Back Teacher Evaluations

There's a slowly-rising tide of writing out there focusing on principals and evaluations, quietly returning focus to the idea of making evaluations meaningful.

It's a welcome change, because the status quo for the past over-a-decade has been the junk that disruptors stuck us with, in which teacher "evaluation" meant "slap some Big Standardized Test scores together and call that the teacher evaluation." As many folks pointed out repeatedly, this is a super-crappy way to evaluate teachers. And worse, reformsters were insistent that these crappy evaluations should be used to make employment decisions. Fake junk papers like TNTP's oft-referenced "Widget Effect" were used to justify the idea that schools should be firing teachers whose students got low test scores, and only paying good salaries to teachers whose students get high scores,  and if we could get rid of "tenure" and FILO and just fire our way to excellence then education would be saved.

This was a stupid idea. It was always stupid, it's still stupid, and I look forward to the day when it's like polyester bell-bottoms and pet rocks and people look back at it and ask, "How did anyone ever think this was anything except stupid."

Sadly, that day has not yet arrived. Still, some writers are starting to suggest that teacher evaluations could be reclaimed as useful tools for principals to use to help teachers do better work.

Take, for instance, this piece from the ever-stodgy Education Week, supported in part by the ever-reformy John Arnold Foundation and written by Denise Superville, an assistant editor at EdWeek. "8 Ways to Make Teacher Evaluations Meaningful and Low-Stress" is almost like a relic from another time-line where BS Tests aren't fetishized and "getting rid of bad teachers" is not the primary purpose of evaluation. The list has some good advice.

The first one is actually the most important and the most subversive. What she writes is "Understand your evaluation tool" but what she means is "comply with the state's paperwork but otherwise ignore them." Collect data and "use it to devise an action plan that you, as principal, can take to help your teachers move to the next level." Take what you can use for your own purposes; excellent advice even for this list, which includes some clunkers.

Pre-conference with the teacher before evaluation time; good advice and formally by some states. Likewise, post conferencing (and doing it while you can both remember the class that was observed), is a good idea that is built into the system in some states.

Drive-by observations. This belongs to a general category that can be described as knowing what goes on in your building. If all the principal knows about Mrs. McTeachface is what is seen during the forty minutes of formal observation, that principal is doing a lousy job. In fact, I question why we fetishize the formal observation, anyway. Principals should walk the halls daily, and pop into classrooms daily. I know some teachers hate it, and some principals think they're too busy. Everyone needs to get over it. Job Number One for a principal is to know what is going on in the building. If teachers freak out when you're in their room because they see you so rarely, you are doing a bad job of principalling.

Superville gives what could be some good advice, but the elaboration is terrible. Observe everything-- not just teacher. Look at the classroom, look at how the students are reacting, get a feel for the atmosphere of the room. The principal that Superville quotes offers, "Are they using the academic language that is aligned to the content within the standards?" To which I say, "Dear God, I hope not." Nor should the principal be checking dopey things like "are the anchor standards posted on the wall."

Superville suggests "Find a root cause." Struggling teachers have a host of interlocking issues going on in the classroom. Giving them a long list of fixits will not help. Helping them figure out what the root cause of all these various issues might be. Note from me: classroom discipline problems are almost always a symptom of some other problem. Trying to address them without addressing the root issue is a waste of time. And as anyone who has coached a challenged student teacher can tell you, sometimes those root issues get to real fundamentals, like what the person thinks the job of teaching entails, or how they conceive of the whole learning process. In other words, this is not the kind of stuff that will be settled by a paragraph on paperwork and a fifteen minute conference.

Give teachers a voice. It's kind of sad that we've let the disruptors push us to the point where this has to be said, but so much of modern ed reform has been about deliberately silencing teachers, and the evaluation process has turned into something that is done to teachers, not with them. Evaluation should be a conversation, not a lecture. May I suggest that all principals adopt my "Seven most powerful words in education"-- what can I do to help you?

Superville's last item is her most obvious and most sad-we-have-to-even-say-this-- "Provide opportunities to learn and grow." This has been totally lost in test-based evaluations and their premise that we just fire the bad teachers and go pick some good teachers off the good teacher tree that's growing somewhere. It is better, cheaper, less disruptive and more human to help struggling teachers to learn and grow than to simply can them and holler "next." And here's the most important secret-- All good teachers are trying to learn and grow. Every good teacher I've ever known could tell you five things they are trying to get better at. Teaching is a job that will always require more than you have, so you will spend your entire career trying to perfect the art of doing more with what you've got.

The only evaluation method that matters, the only one that's worth a damn, is one that helps you become a better teacher. Spoiler alert: threats and punishment do not help people become better teachers. And scores on a single standardized test that you are not permitted to see, and which may have been the scores of students you don't have in a subject you don't teach-- these are utterly useless in helping teachers do better work. May we please--please--take teacher evaluation from the useless baseless stupid status quo we've been stuck in for more than a decade.

Two important things to remember about taking evaluation back.

First, Rick Hess's Cage Busting Teacher aside, it's almost impossible for teachers to do this. Not completely impossible, but we're talking about convincing our bosses to change the way they evaluate us, and that's tricky in pretty much any job. It requires a level of trust and communication that not everyone enjoys in their school. At any rate, no teachers get to walk into their evaluation and say, "Nah, I don't think I'm doing it that way this year."

Second, no evaluation is jerk-proof. If your principal is a jerk, there is no system that can keep him from being a jerk to you at evaluation time. One of the selling points of BS Test-based evaluations was that it would be objective in ways that human principals could not be, but all that really meant was that good principals had their hands tied and bad principals still found ways to be jerks.

Teacher evaluation cannot be reduced to hard, objective science any more you can objectively measure how good a spouse or parent someone is. Yes, the folks at the extreme ends of the scale might seem objectively awful or wonderful, but that's not where most people are. Plus, human relationships are very much a factor of the two humans involved. The dream of some scientific measure of the objective swellness or awfulness of an individual teacher is just a dream. It can't be done.

But the job of a principal (or any other manager) is to help her people do their best possible work. And the only useful function for a teacher evaluation is the same-- to help teachers do their best work. It's past time to take teacher evaluations back and make them useful again.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Betsy DeVos Enlists Help Of Kellyanne Conway And American Enterprise Institute To Sell $5 Billion School Choice Program

At the beginning of this month, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway sat down with Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute to make one more pitch for DeVos’s Education Freedom Scholarships. The program seems unlikely to succeed on the federal level.
What Is She Selling?
The EFS are what’s known as a tax credit scholarship. Several states have them, and they work like this: a donor gives money to a scholarship organization, then that program issues a scholarship for a student to attend a school, while the government credits some portion of the donation against the donor’s tax bill. In the case of DeVos’s program, the amount would be 100%. If I donate $100,000 to a scholarship organization, I pay $100,000 less in federal taxes.
What Are The Problems With Her Program?
DeVos has been plugging the program with variations of the following quote from the AEI discussion:
“Our Education Freedom Scholarships proposal…doesn’t grow the government bureaucracy one tiny bit…It doesn’t impose any new requirements on states or on families. It doesn’t take a single dollar from public school students, and it doesn’t spend a single dollar of government money. And it doesn’t entangle schools with federal strings or stifling red tape. In fact, it can’t. And that’s by design.”
None of these statements are accurate. The program would certainly not grow the government in a let’s-add-a-whole-new-bureau way, but it would be a government program requiring, at a bare minimum, someone to handle the paperwork. Families would have to apply for the scholarships, and because they would have to deal with the scholarship organization, there would be red tape. True, it might not be federal red tape, but families will still deal with a middleman. Pennsylvania’s version of this is the Opportunity Scholarship program, and that program includes 190 organizations, all of which had to apply to the state in order to be an officially recognized part of the program; a federal program would also need to establish who may or may not start collecting money from donors and handing it to families. While some are organizations that are essentially an extension of one particular private school, some manage a larger territory, and all presumably have costs that they have to cover. Presumably private schools in the program will provide assistance to new students “shopping” for a scholarship organization, but that shopping will still be part of the process. In short, there will still be plenty of bureaucracy; it just won’t all be federal.
As for the oft-repeated assertion that this will not “spend a single dollar of government money,” that is technically true (if we ignore the administrative costs). Since the scholarship money will never make it to the government coffers, it will never become “government money.” But it is also true that the government would, because of this program, have fewer dollars to spend. The would be $5 billion less in those government coffers, which means either the deficit will get bigger, or some programs will be cut. It may not spend government money, but it will certainly cost the government money.
There is another issue with tax credit scholarships. Wealthy donors can target particular schools, opening the door to a system in which wealthy patrons gain a large voice in how particular schools do or do not survive. It creates a whole new avenue to make private schools even more private.
What Are The Prospects For Education Freedom Scholarships?
Poor. It gets little love on the left because it is one more program that whittles away at public education. On the right, there is opposition because it will create another federal program, despite DeVos’s insistence to the contrary. On Tuesday she argued that the program would not expand the federal role, that there would be no “bureaucratic sponge” blocking the flow of money. If that were true, one might wonder about the wisdom of giving up $5 billion of tax revenue with no oversight or accountability in place, but as noted above, it is unlikely to be true.
As noted by Andrew Ujifusa at EdWeek, neither House nor Senate appropriations bills for 2020 have set a cent aside for this program. That is not a good sign for them.
Does DeVos Have Any Tactics Left?
She just wrapped up a national tour that looked to promote the program in select states. She’s working hard to cement the word “freedom” to her program; on Tuesday her opening remarks included the assertion that this program promised freedom for everybody, including students, parents, teachers, schools and states, and the word “freedom” was used many, many times throughout. On Tuesday some of her rhetoric was sharp, calling teachers unions “bullies” and accusing union leaders of putting themselves ahead of students, but some of the speech was tired. She invoked, again, the 1983 report A Nation At Risk, a report that predicted dire consequences just around the corner (and yet, 36 years later, the nation has not collapsed).
Most ironically, in her opening remarks DeVos levelled her usual critique that U.S. education is not working. “There are many who pay lip service to the sorry state of affairs in American education,” she said, “but offer more and more of the same as a solution; more spending, more regulation, more government. They assure us that this time it will work. This time it will be different.”
But the dominant education policy narrative of the past twenty years has been reform crafted by reform activists. If public education really isn’t working today, if tests scores haven’t climbed, if schools are failing, that is due in large part to the efforts of reformers like DeVos who have spent the past two decades trying to fix public education. In Michigan, the leading activist was Betsy DeVos, who for years pushed for more and more of her ideas about freedom, and the results have been consistently dreadful; charters and choice have grown, but test scores and school effectiveness have not boomed.
On Tuesday, DeVos was once again pushing for her old brand of education freedom, assuring her audience that if she could just implement more of the same on a federal level, this time it would work. This time it would be different.
Originally posted at

Thursday, October 24, 2019

NC: When Charters Become Orphans

The TeamCFA website promises that the foundation exists "to promote the academic growth and success of each student in each TeamCFA school as well as the growth of the entire network. Each school in the TeamCFA network receives long term, meaningful partnership and oversight from the TeamCFA Foundation, with specific regard to academics, business, and governance through the Affiliate Agreement." But apparently "long term" does not mean what you think t means, because organization's leaders have bailed on the North Carolina charters that they helped birth.

So long. Good luck.
TeamCFA is itself the offspring of John Bryan, a retired businessman in his mid-80s who wanted to spread some free market libertarian love. He's not a fan of unions and repeats the old talking point about how spending money on education helps.He has contributed to plenty of conservative groups, but for some reason (people keep asking, but I've never seen a real answer) has particularly fixated on North Carolina, where he threw a lot of money at passage of the Innovative School District law, another version of Tennessee's failed Achievement School District, a system in which the state takes over schools with low test scores and tries to turn them around (or gives them to charter management groups to fix). The North Carolina just skips straight to the "give them to a CMO" part, but as one writer noted, it's a sweet deal.

TeamCFA had its own chain of charters which it helped launch with big six-figure "forgivable loans."

Now, the leadership at TeamCFA has bailed.

Some changes were not unexpected. In 2017, Bryan announced that he was retiring, and TeamCFA would need to find another money tree. TeamCFA fiddled with its business model, but they had reportedly depended on Bryan for almost all of their funding. Takes a lot of fiddling to plug that hole. Some its charters struck out on their own and others have been pondering their fate, but meanwhile, TeamCFA appears to have almost entirely evaporated (and not everyone is sad).

The News&Observer reports that C. Bradley Miller, "a member of TeamCFA's board of directors," says they are totally not closing and they keep on "supporting schools." But according to the
TeamCFA website, Miller can more accurately called "half of TeamCFA's board." There are no coming events. There is no contact information. And the directory is empty.

The group has five "pending" schools. Of the five, only Community Public Charter, with dedication of moral character, Core Values and Core Knowledge, seems up and running as expected. TeamCFA's Bonnie Cone Classical Academy was supposed to open this fall; that doesn't seem to have happened. Ditto Abraham Lincoln Preparatory School. Ditto Alexander Hamilton Community School. Carolina Charter Academy is up and running-- but has a header on its home page saying that enrollment for next year won't start till January, and "staff have no other information to provide." What's happening in the seventeen schools already under the TeamCFA banner is a varied work m in progress.

So here we are again, confronting the whimsical comings and goings of charter schools, which may close for business reasons or may be forced to suffer the whims of an octogenarian millionaire. This s a new wrinkle, where the people doing the work in the charter are themselves abandoned by their erstwhile backers. This is one of the fundamental disagreements between fans of modern corporate charters and advocates for public education-- to corporate charter fans, all this coming and going, opening and closing, is a feature, not a bug. But while business churn may make sense in the business world, stability matters in education. Families benefit from knowing that the school will still be there in the fall; students benefit from having a stable community in a familiar setting.

Do public schools ever close. Sure, though not remotely as often as charters. And there's one more important difference. When a public school closes, the district still has the responsibility of making sure those students are provided with an education. When a charter closes, its operators simply wash their hands of any responsibility for former students. Lock the doors, wave goodbye, nwish them good luck.

"We have to find a new school because our wealthy patron decided to stop funding our old one," shouldn't be a sentence that anyone has to say, ever.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

NYC: Testing Is Still Not Teaching

People say dumb things when they're trying to defend bad policy decisions.

Alex Zimmerman at Chalkbeat reports that New York City schools are going to hit third and sixth graders at 76 schools labeled "low performing" by the state with three more tests per year. This is part of a plan to start testing the crap out of students doing formative assessments four times a year. Chancellor Richard Carranza's justification is that the tests are "to help the education department understand whether students are mastering material across the system in 'real time,' allowing officials to direct extra help to schools where students are struggling."

This is a dumb idea. Really dumb. You know what makes students struggle, in "real time"? Having their school year interrupted every other month by days of testing. Having their school year shortened by several weeks that are spent testing instead.

When this dumb plan was initially floated out there, the department didn't offer any details about where the tests would come from, who would create them, or what they would focus on. Mike Mulgrew, president of the city's teacher union, does not always say smart things, but he did this time:

How do you use a standardized formative assessment when you don’t have any sort of standardized curriculum?

Well, you can't, but as it turns out, the district didn't even try.

Instead, they're going to use the NWEA MAP test, an assessment in a box. It's normed (sort of) which means it's "graded" on a curve, and it's adaptive, which means it is different for every student who takes it. My old school used the MAP test, and one of my students explained the adaptive feature this way: "Hey, if you blow the first few questions, it just gives you easy stuff to do." The personalized adaptivity also means that you can't just pull up specific questions and check to see how individual students did-- you have to take the test manufacturer's word for it that they have accurately measure how students did on Standard 4.3-q. But it does come with a cool feature that claims to be able to read students thoughts, attitudes and character based on how long they take to click the next multiple choice answer.

And if you like data, I can tell you that I personally checked MAP results over two years against our state Big Standardized Test results, and the MAP was only slightly more predictive than rolling dice.

I have talked to people who found the MAP useful. I'm not one of them. We also gave the test three times a year, hoping to make use of its promise to show growth in students. But here's the thing-- for that to have any hope of working, the students have to care about this parade of multiple choice baloney testing that has zero stakes for them. Otherwise, you just get a measure of how much they feel like humoring the system on that particular day. The tests are supposed to take 45 minutes. For some students they take much longer, and for some students they take about a minute and a half. Even when taken seriously, they yield no information. Not once did I look at MAP and results and think, "I had no idea this student was struggling this standard!" Nothing that came back was ever a surprise.

You would think that this late in the corporate reform game we'd be smarter about tests, but MAPs give you fun graphics and oodles of data that make pretty charts. And then we get this winner for the Dumb Quote contest from David Hay, the education department deputy chief of stafF:

This isn’t a test — this is actually instruction.

No, no it's not. Testing is not teaching, and multiple choice tests delivered by computer are very especially not teaching. How can anybody working in education who hasn't been asleep or on the Pearson payroll actually say this sentence out loud. Yes, Hay went to Harvard Graduate School of Education, but before that he was a principal, and before that he taught for three whole year after getting a BS is in Marketing Education-- oh, hell, he should still know better. No, testing is not teaching.

Okay, in one respect he's correct. In authentic assessment, we want the assessment to match the actual  desired outcome as closely as possible (if you want to assess a student's ability to shoot foul shots, you have her shoot foul shots and not take a quiz on basketball dimensions). These 76 schools are in trouble mostly because of their standardized test scores, and standardized multiple-choice tests are a good authentic measure of-- taking standardized multiple choice tests. So if we pretend that we're doing authentic assessment, the best preparation for taking a standardized multiple-choice tests is to take standardized multiple-choice tests. So it is learning-- learning how to take the test.

But I'll bet dollars to donuts that NYC will adopt one of the common uses of these practice tests-- help break down students into three groups. The no worries, the hopeless, and the on the cusp so maybe if we test prep the hell out of them we can squeeze them onto the upper side of the cut line.

That's not learning, either.

No, more testing is a lousy idea. Trying to argue that it is actually instruction is just dumb. Because this is the worst part of a move like this-- by identifying the struggling schools, you actually target the students who most need help to have their teaching year cut. No sane district leader would say, "These students are having trouble getting the material, so let's give them less instruction time." This is the education version of the corporate "We're going to have daily meetings to figure out why we're not getting more work done."

CT: Another Way To Privatize Education

To read press accounts, one must conclude that Ray and Barbara Dalio are not exactly like other billionaire dabblers in education.

He is a successful hedge fund manager and the richest guy in Connecticut. She immigrated from Spain fifty-ish years ago and worked at the Whitney before settling into the mom-and-kids track. He has announced that capitalism is  not working, and that income gap is a huge national crisis. When she decided she was interested in working on education, she started visiting actual schools. After a start working with charters and Teach for America, she pulled away and started supporting public schools instead through her philanthropies and organizations like Connecticut RISE. Teachers, even union presidents, describe her as humble, a good listener, "truly a partner."

And yet, in some respects, they are exactly like other members of the wealthy philanthropist club. Ray Dalio thinks that the solution to dysfunctional capitalism and the wealth gap is that there "need to be powerful forces from the top of the country to proclaim the income/wealth/opportunity gap to be a national emergency and take on responsibility for reengineering the system so that it works better." In other words, the same old "empower a visionary CEO" model.

After giving some money here and some money there to public education in Connecticut, the Dalios decided last spring to up the ante, and offered $100 million to the public ed system. The money, they said, will be matched by the state and other philanthropists and "will be used to benefit students in under-resourced communities with a specific focus on communities where there is both a high poverty rate and a high concentration of young people who are showing signs of disengagement or disconnection from high school." The state teacher union president said, "I usually hate public-private partnerships, but this one looks okee dokee."

It seems swell, and yet.

As the New Haven Independent argued, Dalio, whose company Bridgewater Associates has been the recipient of state largesse, was simply returning public money to the public. CT RISE was itself one more example of philanthropic enthusiasm and money misspent.

And it turned out there were conditions. Big conditions, like the panel overseeing this giant pile of money would be exempt from ethics and disclosure rules. The GOP House Minority leader had a reaction that is too good not to share:

"These corporate board-holders are going to go up to the balcony and sprinkle down dollars on, I guess, the peasants of Connecticut, and we’re supposed to be happy about that?” said Deputy House Minority Leader Vincent J. Candelora, R-North Branford.

But that was in June. Last week it became clear that there would be no balcony, and no windows either. The group, now christened the Partnership for Connecticut, met behind closed doors, locking out the public, the press, and five legislators who would have been bound by the Freedom of Information Act.

The Connecticut Mirror was quick to point out an irony-- that Ray Dalio claimed that one secret of his success was "radical transparency." That came on top of more irony; after meeting behind closed doors (with a taped-over window), chair Erik Clemons announced, "In the spirt of transparency, we had a really great discussion on transparency."

The Dalio foundation does hav a representative on the board as an "advisor," because of course te Dalios want to know how their $100 million is spent. Apparently Connecticut taxpayers aren't so lucky, even if they are putting up their own $100 million for the enterprise.

This is the same old privatization baloney. Because privatization isn't just about getting public money into private pockets; it's about taking control. It's about saying, "Let's you and I partner up, but only if we operate according to my rules and not yours." Let's go in together on buying a car-- we'll each put up half the money, but only I can drive and the car stays in my garage and you don't get to know what I'm doing with it when you're riding in it. That sounds like an equal partnership, right?

Modern philanthropists seem really fuzzy on the meaning of "gift." If I present you with a gift, I don't get to control what you do with it or how you use it. If I give it to you, but I still get to act as if it's mine, that's not a gift. It's barely even a loan.

It's even less than a loan because in the case of these public-private "partnerships," the philanthropists  don't just not-really-give something-- they also get something from the public side, which is the legitimacy and power of government. Dalio gets to have the governor and the rest of state government backing his play, and he still gets to play by his rules-- with public money. The argument over how transparent the proceedings need to be is already raging (open up everything, or just votes), though of course there would be no such argument if we were talking about any government agency busy spending taxpayer dollars. It is the same old story-- democracy and all of its processes are just so damned inconvenient. The goals here may be noble and well-intentioned, but this is still how we replace a republic with an oligarchy, and I'm not excited about that, not even if the oligarchs are nice people and we call it a public-private partnership

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Vouchers And Federally-Supported Discrimination

School voucher programs are becoming one of the major fronts in a federal battle to safeguard discrimination by religious organizations.
Some flaps created by private religious schools seem minor, like the pastor at a Catholic school who banned Harry Potter books because he believes the books contain “actual curses and spells.” But earlier this year, the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis touched off a flurry of excitement by requiring Catholics schools in the archdiocese to fire all gay teachers. Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School refused, and was stripped of its Catholic identity. To avoid a similar fate, Cathedral High School terminated a teacher in a decision it called “agonizing.” The teacher settled with the school, but has since sued the archdiocese. 
This might be a matter of Catholic internal business, except that in Indianapolis, as in many areas around the country, the Catholic school system is now funded in part by school vouchers, a system of using public tax dollars for tuition to private schools. Indiana has been aggressive in pursuing school choice policies, particularly under then-Governor Mike Pence, who in his 2013 inaugural addresssaid, “There’s nothing that ails our schools that can’t be fixed by giving parents more choices.” Indiana’s voucher program directs taxpayer dollars primarily to religious schools, and the majority of those are Catholic schools. Cathedral High School participates in both Indiana’s voucher and tax credit scholarship programs
There was a time when private religious schools might have resisted taking government dollars, even indirectly, for fear of having the government push its rules on the institutions. But now we are seeing that the lever can be pushed in the other direction, and it’s the government that may have to bend to the will of private religious institutions.
Just a few weeks ago, the Justice Department filed a statement in the matter of the teacher’s lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indiana, and the federal government came down on the side of the church
“The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of religious institutions and people to decide what their beliefs are, to teach their faith, and to associate with others who share their faith,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “The First Amendment rightly protects the free exercise of religion.” 
This fits in the administration's larger policy profile. In hearings held in May of 2017, Betsy DeVos was pressed to give examples of instances when the federal government might step in because federal money was being used by a school discriminating on the basis of race, religion, sexual preference, or gender orientation. Her performance caused Rep. Katherine Clark to declare, “I am shocked that you cannot come up with one example of discrimination that you would stand up for students.” In that same hearing, DeVos also dodged a question about holding schools accountable for IDEA compliance. And since this story first surfaced, we've seen the Attorney General of the United Damn States declaring that schools are ground zero for an assault on Christian values.
Another version of the same issue is headed to Supreme Court with the case of Espinoza v. Montanaa case that is poised to knock down the wall between church and state when it comes to vouchers. It will come on the heels of 2017’s Trinity Lutheran v. Comer. That simple case over paving a church parking lot was important because, as Bloomberg noted at the time:
It’s the first time the court has used the free exercise clause of the Constitution to require a direct transfer of taxpayers’ money to a church. In other words, the free exercise clause has trumped the establishment clause, which was created precisely to stop government money going to religious purposes.
What we’re seeing across the board is the government working to firmly put the free exercise clause over the establishment clause, including the freedom of taxpayer-funded schools to discriminate in whatever way they see fit, regardless of any government rules and regulations. 
It will be both interesting and frightening to see how far the government is willing to push this issue. Will it similarly stand up for schools that don’t want to hire Black teachers or accept Black students because of religious beliefs? Will it extend this same zealous religious protection to Islamic schools, or schools founded by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? If a school is caught in a conflict between two different religious practices, will the federal government intervene to pick a “winner”? Will taxpayers be required to help fund schools that would not let their own children in the front door? Watch to see just how far the lever will be pushed.