Thursday, January 27, 2022

Ron Johnson Says It Out Loud: Other People's Children Aren't My Problem

 Senator Ron Johnson started out the old-fashioned way--working at company created and funded by his father-in-law, as an accountant. In 2010, as a previous political virgin, he rode the Tea Party Wave into a Senate seat for Wisconsin (he defeated Russ Feingold). When he ran again in 2016, he was backed by the Club for Growth and won with 50.2% of the vote.

He doesn't believe in climate change (calling it "buillshit"). He has agitated to cut taxes and stop raising the debt ceiling, and he's a sup0porter of tax cuts for the wealthy (trickle down, you know). When John McCain kept Obamacare alive with his vote, Johnson speculated that it was late and McCain had a brain tumor "So some of that might have factored in." As chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, he has held hearings to platform some fringe ideas about COVID, and he has fed a number of baseless rumors, including the vaccinations being fatal; YouTube suspended his account. He supported the end of DACA, and he has been a big Trump supporter, including arguing for the idea that there was a conspiracy against Trump at high levels in the FBI. He was all wrapped up in the Ukraine-Trump scandal as well, and backed several of Trump's fraud claims about the 2020 election. January 6 was, in his estimate, just a bunch of patriotic folks and not as scary as if they had been Black Lives Matter.

There's plenty more, but you get the idea. He's that guy. Not as fringe as you might hope he was (also, he turns out to be about my age, which surprised me--I somehow imagined that he was a much older guy), but definitely over on the Trump-Koch corner of the political spectrum. 

So when Johnson offered this quote--well, it fits with what a certain slice of the political world appears to think. It's the quiet part out loud.

During a tour of a business headquarters in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Johnson offered some thoughts, including blaming the Biden administration for inflation. Then this:

“People decide to have families and become parents, that’s something they need to consider when they make that choice,” Johnson said. “I’ve never really felt it was society’s responsibility to take care of other people’s children.”

Johnson says instead, it’s society’s responsibility to provide the opportunity for people to get good jobs to support their entire families.

Emphasis mine. This was in reference the government helping parents find child care (he doesn't support it) and reducing unemployment benefits to force them back to work (he's all for that), but the principle also applies to education.

When it seems as if certain corners of the conservative world are intent on breaking down and busting up public education, this is the principle--it is not society's responsibility to take care of other people's children. This is behind resisting putting money and support into public ed, and it's also behind voucher systems, because the point of voucher systems is not to finance or "empower" parents, but to cut them loose from government support by making them personally responsible for getting their own kid's education. The voucher is just a small way to make it look pretty. 

But it's that guiding principle that Johnson articulates so clearly-- it's not my responsibility to take care of other people's children, and if they decided to have children without knowing for certain that they would never need help, well, that's their bad choice and not my problem. 

There are layers of irony and sociopathy here, starting with Johnson's personal fortune existing because his father-in-law decided to help support somebody else's child. And we're not even going to get into the "choose to be a parent" piece of this from someone who staunchly opposes any abortion (and who will disinherit his children if they have a child out of wedlock--really). And yes, Johnson opposed the Obamacare birth control mandate. Safe to say that Johnson does not believe it takes a village to raise a child.


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

VA: Youngkin Invites Everyone To Turn In Teachers

 Figuring that pitting parents against schools had won him an election, Governor Glenn Youngkin has made good on his pledge to attack public education and the teachers who work there.

He started right in with an edict that schools should not teach anything "inherently divisive," one more anti-CRT law so fuzzy, subjective, and poorly-conceived that it will chill teaching of any subjects that anybody might object to. The text is spectacularly vague, and though it contains a list of some "divisive concepts" that are specifically naughty, its reliance on that "divisive concept" language guarantees that schools across the state will have no clear idea what exactly is forbidden, and so administrations not in the mood for a fight will simply instruct teachers not to talk about race, gender, or pretty much anything that might upset anybody. Is evolution divisive? History of the Civil War (particularly in Virginia)? My students were pretty divided on whether Lady MacBeth is a redeemable character or not. In fact, we used to stage debates, but I suppose those are inherently divisive, too.

To insure that the decree carries maximum power to intimidate and silence teachers, the governor has followed the lead of states like Texas and Florida and instituted a means for parents and community members to turn in any teachers for being naughty. As he explained in one interview:

For parents to send us any instances where they feel that their fundamental rights are being violated, where their children are not being respected, where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools. We’re asking for input right from parents to make sure we can go right to the source as we continue to work to make sure that Virginia’s education system is on the path to reestablish excellence.

Brown shirts and cultural revolution posters are optional.

James Fedderman, the head of the Virginia Education Association called the tip line "poorly conceived" and "designed to intimidate educators simply trying to do their jobs," which sounds about right.

But of course you know what else happened next. The tip line has apparently been hit with a variety of reports, like a complaint that Albus Dumbledor "was teaching that full blooded wizards discriminated against mudbloods." Some of this has been goaded on Twitter by folks like human rights lawyer Qasim Rasgid. And John Legend correctly pointed out that under the guidelines of the decree, Black parents could legitimately complain about Black history being silenced (because, as sometimes escapes the notice of anti-CRT warriors, some parents are Black). Ditto for LGBTQ parents.




















Also, this has been floating about the interwebz.







Anyone can send their reports to the tip line email:

helpeducation@governor.virginia.gov

So if you have some thoughts about all of this that you would like to share with the governor, just send them to 

helpeducation@governor.virginia.gov

Which is of course only for serious, meaningful, and real complaints about divisive concepts, and not fake racism tips or other things. I certainly wouldn't consult this twitter thread for any ideas, but I would send to 

helpeducation@governor.virginia.gov

only the kind of serious comments that such a state-sponsored attempt to intimidate and silence teachers deserves. 




Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Going To Battle Over 38 Cents

 Parents Defending Education is one of the several totally-not-astroturf groups that has turned up to fight against left-wing indoctrinatin' in schools. They are just regular folks and not at all representative of a conservative attempt to turn school controversy into political power.

PDE's vice president for strategy and investigations Asra Nomani dropped what I think was supposed to be a bombshell (like most PDE leaders, Nomani is a seasoned political operator--she voted for Trump and helped back his Muslim ban). It's those darned Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs.

"The amount of money put into social justice consulting since the tragedy of the George Floyd killing has just exploded," Asra Nomani, the vice president for strategy and investigations at Parents Defending Education, told Newsweek.

The total amount spent on programs "under the DEI umbrella" is $21,812,007 (an impressively exact number). That, I take it, is supposed to be a lot. That was not my reaction, nor the reaction of some others.


I'm not sure that's fair-- with around 54 million K-12 students, that works out to about thirty-eight cents per student, so it's way less than the cost of breakfast. 

Meanwhile, today we also learned that the about ten cyber charter schools in Pennsylvania spent around $35 million over two years--just for marketing.

There are several pieces missing here. For instance, it's an odd choice to start counting "since the George Floyd killing," as if these kinds of programs were just invented after that murder was committed, and yet I could swear these programs, and the concerns the6y address, have been around for a while.

And the huge missing piece here is the explanation of why, exactly, DEI programs are evil and terrible. The theory, per PDE website and many CRT panic folks, is that DEI is obviously just a front for CRT, which imbues DEI with some vaguely second-hand badness. 

Newsweek, which ought to be ashamed of itself for running with this silly story, at least includes some words from one of these evil DEI consultants so we can see just what they're up to:

One of those agencies is Akoben LLC, which says it offers consulting, coaching services, speaking engagements and a variety of workshops meant to "stretch thinking, provoke reflection and stimulate action." Subjects taught include "restorative practices, trauma-informed care, cultural relevancy and agency and assets."

"No significant learning happens outside of a significant relationship—it requires a relationship between teachers and students, and the deeper that is, the more learning and more challenges we can confront," Malik Muhammad, CEO of Akoben, told Newsweek. The vast majority of Akoben's work, 95 percent, is with public schools.

Goodness. And then there's this:

"In all of domains, whether it's a white student chasing sexual identity issues or a poor student who comes from Somalia trying to understand what's going on—oftentimes if we don't find time to talk about the differences we often default to the majority," said Muhammad said. "When we find the opportunity to be more inclusive, those are the environments where [students] want to learn."

Personally, I'd like to see more than 38 cents per student spent on that.

Of course, this is just PDE's estimate. Some other conservative groups are throwing around $25 billion based on this NYT piece, which doesn't really have much to do with education.

Look, I have no doubt that there are some crappy vendors out there cashing on a demand for DEI programming, but the notion that we should tell kids to keep their heads down and focus on reading, writing, and 'rithmetic and just keep quiet about all that race stuff is a bad, unproductive notion.

And if PDE wants to convince anyone that they are not simply political operatives trying to stir up racist anger and discontent to animate their base and score politics, they probably shouldn't try to stir up pretend outrage over what is literally nickel and dime baloney. 


Monday, January 24, 2022

NC: More Bad Ideas (That Will Not Recruit Teachers)

 North Carolina's public education system has been a mess for at least a decade, and some bright lights have another clever idea that will not help. 

North Carolina is tied for #3 on the Public Education Hostility Index.Just to recap where we are, here's a partial listing of all the lousy ideas North Carolina has implemented so far.

NC implemented one of those flunk third graders if they don't as the Big Standardized Reading Test laws. They froze their already-lousy pay schedule for teachers (in NC, the state sets the pay levels) even as that pay was shown to be Very Not Good.. When a report showed charter schools not doing so great, the Lt. Governor ordered it rewritten to look less negative; then a few years later they did the same thing again. Maybe it's because they are a great haven for charter profiteers. They decided to shovel even more public money into the voucher pipeline, while cutting millions from public ed funding (for Democratic areas). They tried to follow the failed Tennessee model of a state-run achievement school district (but it failed). When the legislature tried and failed to end teacher tenure, they told teachers they could have a raise if they gave up their job protections. NC legislature is one of the ones that decided to fight on the hill of denying transgender bathrooms. And last year the Lt. Governor decided to oirganize a task force to catch any schools or teachers doing any naughty indoctrinatin' stuff--a state sponsored with hunt. This in a state where county commissioners can take school districts hostage if they don't like what the schools are teaching.

Periodically, leaders in North Carolina stop to scratch their heads and wonder why their public school system has trouble filling teaching positions.

Last week, the Governor's Teacher Advisory Committee listened to a presentation by the Professional Educator Preparation and Standards Commission about how to attract and retain teachers in North Carolina, and you probably can't guess what the solution is.

Licensure. The "most effective way to get and keep teachers [is] to change North Carolina's licensure process."

Hey--you know this is going to be a good idea because it grew out of discussions at the North Carolina Education Human Capital Roundtable, a group of "state education leaders and practitioners working together to find innovative ways to address the state's teacher shortage issue." 

I'm guessing that "innovative" is the key word here, because ideas like "pay them more" and "treat them and the public education system with respect and support" are pretty inside-the-box old hat. As would be treating them like people and not "human capital."

The Human Capital Roundtable has been kicking this idea around for a while (they presented it to the state board about a year ago and they report that "there is nothing promised from the legislature at this particular point, but they are very interested in our work." 

The proposal has a collection of old familiar reform parts.

Make the pool deeper. Right now, they note, people who want to be teachers go to four year teacher prep programs. So they propose to "widen the entrance" by letting any associate or bachelor degree qualify someone for licensure. I am not sure how this helps--is there a widespread problem with people who get a degree in some other area and are surprised and disappointed to discover that degree doesn't lead to teaching? People who want to be teachers, but who want to go to school for something else--well, I guess Teach for America has sort of introduced this idea? But okay--wider entryway.

Off ramps. The proposal calls for "clear exit points for ineffective teachers," aka the old "it should be easier to fire people from teaching." One reason would be a lack of content or pedagogical skills or competencies; if only they could have gone to college to get that kind of background. 

Then there should be steps, so that there's a professional ladder for teachers to climb, because that will help. somehow. One of the presenters noted that teachers get good around years 5-7 and then plateau, and it's not clear if he thinks there are untapped levels of excellence that could be goosed or what. 

So in this plan there are four "entry-level" certificates. Learning Permit, and Levels 1, 2 and 3. Learner Permits earn a co-teacher salary, while the others get a tad more. All these entry level teachers are paired with an Advanced Teacher mentor.  Then there are three Professional-Level certificates that you can work up to.

The "working up to" part brings back some other old favorites, including getting competency-based micro-certificates. But the real kicker is called out in this quote:

The overarching goal is to create an outcomes-based licensure system.

The grand idea includes references to effective teaching and positive impact on students, which gets us right back to a system in which professional advancement depends on student test scores on the Big Standardized Test, which of course means that teacher's professional future is based on which students you are assigned to or the results of some criminally-inaccurate magic formula. (Oh look--brand new evidence that the popular measures for "effectiveness" are lousy.) If North Carolina officials are interested in outcomes, I'd suggest that the outcome of this idea will not be a bunch more teachers being recruited and retained by the state. 

In their pitch last year, the human capital folks claimed, among other things, that this will restore "the respect the professions deserves," and maybe that's just a passive-aggressive slam about how it doesn't deserve much, because this plan sure doesn't offer any. They also claim to be the first in the nation to innovate this way," but there isn't a single new idea here. 

These folks are also trying to sell this as a money-maker for teachers, saying teachers could "top out" around $70K instead of the current $50K, and that teachers could earn "almost $200,000 over a 30-year career than they do now" which is not impressive (that's $6,666 more per year). Increases would depend on getting through all the hoops, since this system would completely do away with annual steps. Not that North Carolina teachers haven't been left stuck on one step of the pay scale before. Nowhere is there an indication of what the bottom of this new scale looks like, which is an important item to look at, since plans to let teachers climb a ladder to success invariably start by digging a hole and dropping the bottom of the ladder a few feet lower than it currently stands (because part of the goal is always to pull off this triuck without actually spending more money on teachers).

GTAC also heard from BEST NC, which is a business coalition of education meddler/kibbitzers that's also been working on a plan called NC STRIDE that is supposed to help recruit teachers to NC. They've collected data and written recommendations and almost all of it is vague bureaucratic hoop and tape shuffling. They came up with 8 recommendations, 20 strategies, 150 actions, and 5 gateways. 

The five gateways they examined are: interest, licensure, employment, exposure, and preparation. “Somewhere along these five gateways, they hit a wall,” Berg said of potential teacher candidates.

In other words, they don't have a clue what the problem is. 

I can't figure out if all these folks are supremely clueless or are simply trying to paper over North Carolina's decade of unrelenting disrespect and erosion of support for public schools and the people who work in them. Do they really think they're holding a debutante's cotillion, or are they slapping lipstick on this human capital pig and hoping she'll pass? Either way, there will be oinking on the dance floor.

Money and respect, which includes professional autonomy and decent, well-resourced workplaces. It's not that big a mystery, except, apparently, in North Carolina. 


Sunday, January 23, 2022

ICYMI: So Now It's Winter Edition (1/23)

 Well, that was kind of sudden. Just last week we were all cozy and now it's all cold and that thing where the sun comes out and the world calls "Come on out--it's beautiful" and then you succumb to temptation and lose a couple of toes. So here's this week's reading list instead.

I Always Be Sneaky

Your uplift for the week. An eight year old in Boise wrote a book and then snuck it onto the library shelf, because you got to reach your audience whatever it takes. \

Legislator's Guide To Making Useful Education Policy

Ten absolutely useful guidelines from Nancy Flanagan. If only more policy makers followed these.

Judge Issues Stinging Free Speech Ruling Against University of Florida

This is good news. The University wanted to bar professors from serving as expert witnesses against the state. Turns out they can't do that kind of barring. New York Times has the story. "Stop acting like your contemporaries in Hong Kong," the judge told university administrators.

"Our Biggest Nightmare Is Here"

Yes, it's in Education Next, but this story from a school district IT director is an excellent look at the issue of schools suffering cyberattacks.

Why requiring lesson plan submissions from teachers right now is absurd

Angela Barton writes at Bored Teachers, explaining why submitting your detailed lesson plans should be the least of a teacher's problems right now.

One Jeans Day Won't Cut It (and what school leaders can do instead)

From the blog Organized Chaos, a great luck at the Do's and Don't's of raising staff morale right now.

Is "Learning Loss" real, or a function of America's need for speed?

From blogger and teacher Barth Keck, another look at the real issues connected to Learning Loss.

Public School Parents sue to stop West Virgina vouchers

From Public Funds Public Schools, the important information about an important lawsuit to stop vouchers before they get started in WV.

What to know about the charter school debate

Virginia is turning out to be another front in the charter attack on public ed. This explainer from NPR does a good job of laying out the issues in this particular iteration of the oft-repeated conflict.

A short history of Seth Andrews and Seth Andrews pleads guilty to wire fraud

Former Arne Duncan sidekick and charter school founder Seth Andrews is in some trouble with a whole embezzlement thing. Leonie Haimson at NYC Public School Parents and the indispensable Mercedes Schneider both offer useful insights and history on this guy and his current problems.

Kindergarten online data? Teacher observation is safer and better!

Computerized testing for early childhood? Nancy Bailey looks at one more dumb idea being aimed at the littles, and offers a superior alternative.

A Health Screening Questionnaire for Teachers

McSweeney's continues to demonstrate that dark times for regular humans are peak times for satirists.



Friday, January 21, 2022

Koch Education Wing Continues Rebranding

Remember when Charles Koch wrote that he had done an oopsie by being so partisan and dividing the country? That was back in late 2020, and it was followed by the rise of a new Koch Brand--Stand Together--which in turn spawned a new substack about fixing education called "Learning Everywhere." It turns out that the Koch metamorphosis was not done yet.

"Learning Together" was co-hosted by Lisa Snell, director of K-12 education policy for Stand Together, aka the Charles Koch Institute. Previously she spent 23 years as Director of Education at the Reason Foundation. Her co-host is Adam Peshek, who is part of the same Kochtopus, having arrived Jeb Bush's ExcelinEd (formerly FEE). Peshek also works at Yes, Every Kid, a rebranding of some standard reform ideas.

The substack started out playing the reformy hits (did you know schools are built on the factory model? well, they weren't, but did you think so anyway? Snell and Peshek would like you to think so).

So, Charles Koch Institute is now Stand Together Trust, an organization that now has a hip young vibe. Check out the website-- "We help you tackle the roots of America's biggest problems" in bold print over dynamic videos. Hugging! Clapping! Black people! "Everyone is tired of all the fighting over problems with very little focus on real solutions."

Among the issues they want to address is education, and their dynamic new solutions are...well, the same old ones. They insist that education is currently one-size-fits-all (news to teachers in public schools), and they have the same old right-tilted complaints-- we spent more money but test scores didn't go up! Families give education a C (but we're not going to point out that they give far higher grades to the local schools they know). Individualized education is where it's at. 
There's a video in which Sal Khan, promoter of an educational program that involves students sitting and passively watching a video, complains that education involves students sitting passively while listening to a teacher. Other "leaders" they bring up are Diane Tavenner, head of Summit Schools (a school-in-a-box not-great tech product). There are lots of pictures of exciting active learning, all of which could have come from a public school. Aaron Frumin, founder of unCommon Construction, who talks about how frustrated he became "as a teacher" which he was for the two whole years he spent with Teach for America. His program uses students as laborers to build houses, an innovative program pretty much like the one the vocational technical school in my county has had for sixty years. Here's Todd Rose "By any measure, the system doesn't work." Rose was a professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education and founder of the Center for Individual Opportunity and he runs the think tank Populace. And he has a Story, in which he dropped out of high school ("The system failed me.") There's some more talk about believing in students (which, again, is not unheard of in public schools). "Success doesn't have to mean one thing. We need our education system to have a much broader view of success."

That's the pitch. Well, actually, the pitch is use your money to invest in these people doing this stuff. But also, we got 11 major education bills passed in 8 states in 2021, and somehow we don't talk about what those bills did, like pushing privatization of education or gagging of teachers. There are case studies of success, like Cadence Learning, one more cyber-school venture, this one launched by Chris Cerf, Ian Rowe and Steven Wilson--all god privatization champions.

Meanwhile, the known recipients of ST grants are not so much education revolutionaries as the same old Koch style conservative crews. Americans for Prosperity, Bill of Rights Institute, Bellwether Education, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Vela Education Fund. 

The substack has now transformed into a new title-- Permissionless Education. That term has cropped up several places lately, and it really captures the Libertarian mindset of not wanting to have to ask for anyone's permission to do anything ever, a mindset I can recognize immediately because I live with a pair of four-year-old toddlers. 

The announcement of all these name changes on the substack comes with a listing of the priorities, which they assure us remain the same.

Individualized education, one not aimed toward students who "parrot back what they have been told or read" (because one weird recurring theme in reformsters is a desire to reform the schools of the 1960s).

Normalizing unconventional models. Specifically, privately owned and operated ones that involve no government oversight, tax dollars, or responsibility for people who can't pay their own way.

Ending residential assignment. You might think this means "find ways to get kids from poor neighborhoods into the schools that rich kids go to," but that does not seem to be the case.

Modernizing education funding. Vouchers. Just say the word, team. Vouchers. Because vouchers' most important characteristic is that in exchange for cutting parents a small check, the state washes their hands of any responsibility to provide people with an education, which in turn gets rich people out of having to pay taxes to educate Those Peoples' Children. 

There's been a lot of rebranding going on and plenty of tweaking of the message, but at root, this all feels very familiar. Privatize. Shrink government. Let people sink or swim in a free market, just as God intended. But the logo is pretty, and the graphics are great. 



The Search For Computerized Essay Grading Continues

It is the dream that will not die. For some reason, there are still people who think the world would be a better place if student essays could be evaluated by software, because reasons. The problem has remained the same--for decades companies have searched for a software algorithm that can do the job, but other than deciding to call the algorithms "AI," progress has been slim to none.

And yet, the dream will not die. So now we get a competition, mounted by Georgia State University has teamed up with The Learning Agency Lab (a "sister organization" with The Learning Agency).

The Feedback Prize is a coding competition being run through Kaggle, in which competitors are asked to root through a database of just under 26K student argumentative essays that have been previously scored by "experts" as part of state standardized assessments between 2010 and 2020 (which raises a whole other set of issues, but let's skip that for now). The goal is to have your algorithm come close to the human scoring results. Why? Well, they open their case with a sentence that deserves its own award for understatement.

There are currently numerous automated writing feedback tools, but they all have limitations. 

Well, yes. Primarily they are limited because they don't work very well. The contest says the current automated feedback programs is that "many often fail to identify writing structures" like thesis statements of support for claims. Well, yes, because--and I cannot say this hard enough--computer algorithms do not understand anything in the sense that we mean the word. Computer language processing is just weather forecasting--looking at some bank of previous language examples and checking to see if the sample they're examining has superficial characteristics that match what the bank of samples would lead one to expect. But no computer algorithm can, for instance, understand whether or not your supporting evidence provides good, er even accurate, support.

The competition also notes that most current software is proprietary so that A) you don't even know what it's trying to do, or how and B) you can't afford it for your school, particularly if your school is resource-strapped, meaning that poor kids have to depend on regular old humans to grade their writing.

For extra juice, they note that according to NAEP, only a third of students are proficient (without noting that "proficient" on NAEP is a high bar). They do not cite any data showing that automated essay grading helps students write better, because they can't. 

But if you enter this competition, you get access to a large dataset of student writing "in order to test your skills in natural language processing, a fast-growing area of data science."

If successful, you'll make it easier for students to receive feedback on their writing and increase opportunities to improve writing outcomes. Virtual writing tutors and automated writing systems can leverage these algorithms while teachers may use them to reduce grading time. The open-sourced algorithms you come up with will allow any educational organization to better help young writers develop.

902 teams have already entered; you can actually check their current status on a public leader board. There are lots of fun team names like Feedforward, Pomegranate, Zoltan and Fork is all you need. Plus many that are not in English. Poking through the site, you can see how much the writing samples are referred to ad discussed as data rather than writing; many of these folks are conceptualizing the whole process as analyzing data rather than assessing writing, and in fact there don't seem to be any actual writing or teaching experts in sight, which is pretty symptomatic of the whole field of automated essay evaluation. 

Who is in sight?

Well, you'll be unsurprised to find that the competition thanks The Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures, and the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative for their support. Schmidt Futures, the name you might not recognize here, was founded by Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, to technologize the future.

And if we look at the Learning Agency and the Learning Agency Lab, it's more of the same. The Agency is "part consultancy, part service provider," so a consulting outfit that works to "improve education delivery systems." They tout a team of "former academics, technologists, journalists and teachers." Sure. We'll see.

The outfit was founded by Ulrich Boser in 2017, and they partner with the Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures, Georgia State University, and the Center for American Progress, where Boser is a senior fellow. He has also been an advisor to the Gates Foundation, Hillary Clinton's Presidential Campaign, and the Charles Butt Foundation--so a fine list of reform-minded left-leaning outfits. Their team involves former government wonks, non-profit managers, comms people and one woman who used toi teach English at a private K-12 school. The Lab is more of the same; there are more "data scientists" in this outfit than actual teachers.

I'm going out on a limb to predict that this competition, due to wrap up in a couple of months, is not going to revolutionize writing assessment in any way. But the dream won't die, particularly as long as some folks believe that data crunching machines can uplift young humans. 




Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Other Pandemic Unmasking

At first glance, I suppose it seems like a reasonable set of solutions. 

Expand the pool of who can be a substitute teacher. Anyone with a college degree. Anyone who already works in the building or district. Anybody with a high school diploma. 

In Oklahoma, police officers can now step in as substitute teachers (in Moore, they've already done so). In New Mexico, the governor has called in the National Guard to fill the teacher gap. 

It is amazing how quickly some folks have pivoted from "We must insure teacher and educational quality" to "We must get students into a building with the word 'school' in its name no matter what actually happens once we're inside." It turns out that an awful lot of that big talk about educational excellence and quality was insincere posturing and as long as we can get schools open and students stuffed inside with something resembling a probably-responsible adult with a pulse, that's good enough. Oklahoma has been oh so concerned about making sure nobody was in a classroom indoctrinatin' students, but now it turns they mostly just wants someone--anyone--in that classroom so they can keep the building open.

It is the ultimate expression of "anyone can do that job," even, incredibly, dwarfing the old Teach For America line that we can teach an Ivy League grad everything they need to be an awesome teacher in just five weeks. Hell, now we can teach any adult how to be a perfectly adequate teacher in no weeks.

For what other profession would we consider this a solution. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Fleegleman, but Dr. Hergensheimer is not well enough to perform your heart surgery. But don't worry--Sgt. Blinko from the 15th Precinct will handle it." The doctors and nurses are all out sick, so we'll just have the custodians and administrative assistants run the place. The plumber is too ill to fix your clogged sink, but here's a recent high school grad with a piece of wire. The judge is laid up with illness, so we've brought in the kid who delivers the judge's newspaper. In what other profession would we settle for any warm body to step in for the job.

Look, I know that the defining feature of education during the pandemic has been that all available options stink (though with two years to work on it, we should have figured out how to make some, like remote learning, stink much less). I get that all available choices are sub-optimal. And I have respect for those who have struggled to find a path to quality education for students, even when their choices are not the ones I would make.

But at the same time, there's no escaping that when push came to shove, a whole lot of people decided that they were far more worried about making sure school buildings were open than they were about what was going on inside them. Some have revealed that in their list of priorities, teacher safety and teacher quality come in far behind teacher presence and teacher pulse. Education, shmeducation--just get that child car service running again, whatever it takes!

I just want us all to remember this when the day comes for them to start posturing again. Their mask is off, and we can see what's underneath.


The Fallacy In Learning Loss Panic

Back in March of 2021 (roughly a thousand years ago in pandemic time), I made the argument that Learning Loss is educational halitosis; you start with a real thing, dress it up in some faux science, and use the ensuing panic to sell your preferred remedy. 

The tricky thing about Learning Loss panic is that it's not entirely made up--there are certainly some pieces of some sorts of learning that didn't happen when we were all pandemicking around with schools fully closed and half-assed distance learning and all the rest of the pendemess. But as soon as you start claiming that you can measure what has been lost in months or days or liters or cubic centimeters or hectares of learning, you are shoveling fertilizer in hopes of growing an orchard full of money trees. 

But one element of Learning Loss is just plain made up. Let me tell you what it is, and how to respend to people who try to push it on you.

For maximum panic, some folks are claiming that a drop in test scores due to Learning Loss indicates a future loss of earnings for individuals and economic strength for countries (for example, this from one of the leading promoters of test scores = future earnings, Eric Hanushek). All of this is based on a correlation between test score and life outcomes, except that there are problems with using this correlation.

The big one is that it is just a correlation, like noting that kids who wear larger shoes in fourth grade tend to be taller as adults. There is a connection--it's just not cause and effect. Students who come from a wealthier, whiter background tend to do better on tests. Students who come from a wealthier, whiter background tend to do better in life. In fact, let's trot out this old chart:










There has always been a critical piece of proof missing from the test score = life outcomes assertion. Does changing the score change the student's future? In other words, if I make my fourth grader wear larger shoes, will she grow taller as an adult? 

The very reformy Jay Greene, while of the very reformy University of Arkansas Education Reform Department, looked for evidence of that very thing--and found nothing. 

There is no reason to believe that getting Pat to score higher on the Big Standardized Test will earn Pat more money at work and a better life. None. Raising Pat's test score above the score that Pat would have achieved in some other unboosted alternate universe accomplishes nothing except getting Pat a higher score. (Well, unless you impaired the rest of Pat's education to get that score increase). 

By the same token, if Pat gets a lower test score than Pat would have "normally" achieved, there is no reason to believe that Pat will now suffer lower wages and lifetime earnings, an uglier spouse, unhappier children, and a less friendly dog than Pat would otherwise have experienced. The focus should not be on what a score predicts, but what a change in score from the "expected" score predicts.

People like Hanushek (and the sloppy journalists who depend on him) will say, "Research says that people with low test scores have low lifetime earnings."

The response to this is, "What does research say about how getting a lower-than-predicted test score? Is there research to show that lowering the test score lowers lifetime earnings? How does varying from the expected test score affect the student's future?" The answer is that the research says that it doesn't.

Bottom line: there is zero reason to believe that low pandemic-related test scores are indicative of future financial and economic disaster for individuals and countries.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Research: Yes, Common Core Was Bad

Did Common Core fail so badly that its failure is visible from another continent? Did it have negative effects on education as a whole? Can fancy research prove what teachers knew a decade ago? Will economists ever get tired of pretending to be education experts? And can researchers get all of this right and still draw the wrong conclusion?

Let's look at a new working paper from the Leibniz Institute for Economic Research, written by Benjamin W. Arnold at the Liebniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, and M. Danish Shakeel at the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University.  It's entitled "The Unintended Effects of the Common Core State Standards on Non-Targeted Subjects," and as soon as teachers read that title they can already answer that question, but lets see what these scholars come up with.

The early indicators are a little concerning--among the folks thanked for discussions that "greatly benefited" the paper are Eric Hanushek and Paul Peterson, and there is a great deal of baloney in here, like a repetition of the now-much-aged cheese that test scores are "an important predictor of economic outcomes at the individual and societal level." Really? Does Estonia, long eating the world's lunch on the PISA test, the leading economy on the globe? The authors will also throw in with the notion that the differences in test scores by race (the "achievement gap") "have been shown to account for relevant shares of the racial/ethnic gap in adulthood social and economic outcomes." 

Given all this, you will be unsurprised to discover that the authors leaned heavily on data from Achieve Inc, a group that intended to cash in big on the Common Core revolution. They code states based on whether they adopted the core "permanently" without noting the distinction of states that dis-avowed the Core and replaced it with the exact same standards copied over on a different template. And central to the data set are results from the NAEP, the maybe-not-really gold standard of US testing.

The paper does offer some droll statements like noting "anecdotal evidence that the CCSS presented challenges in teaching and testing to schools" and that "CCSS-based standardized tests were not always suitable." And there is some impressive stats-and-economist gobbledeegook formulae.

Yet, despite all that, the result they arrive at is exactly the one that actual classroom teachers predicted four paragraphs ago. Exposure to the Core resulted in no improvement in reading and math. Exposure to the core lowered student achievement in subjects other than reading and math. That effect was worse for disadvantaged students.

Why? Well, you already know. But using NAEP teacher self-reported info, the researchers gleaned that "the adoption of the CCSS has shifted the instructional focus away from the non-targeted subjects." 

This is not news to anyone who has, for instance, been told by administration that the budget only has funds for things that will be On The Test. It will not be news to anyone who watched schools cut electives and the arts and even recess to make room for more test prep. The Common Core-based test and punish movement turned schools upside down; instead of being there to serve the students need for an education, the CCSS policies sent the message that students are there to serve the school's need for scores on the Big Standardized Test. And of course that hit disadvantaged students the hardest, as school used batteries of practice tests to identify students who needed to dragged across the cut score line by stripping everything from their education but reading and math test prep. 

Millions of teachers have stories. In my own district, the middle school principal pulled students from history and science so they could have double-periods of math and reading every day, which not only gutted their education, but installed a deep hatred for math and reading (and testing). 

Set up a system that judges schools and teachers based on scores from narrow tests focused (poorly) on two subjects, and you send a clear message to schools--your primary job is to get students ready to take a test on these two subjects. The results of that message are predictable, which is why so many of us predicted them and why research keeps revealing those exact results.

And yet, just in case you think reform-minded folks have learned a lesson from all this, I present the opening sentence from the writers' concluding paragraph:

In terms of education policy, our results suggest that the CCSS might have been more beneficial if it had been adopted for all school subjects. 

Yeah, that's it. The problem with Common Core was that there wasn't enough of it! Of course, the authors want to add science and history, but what about arts and phys ed and health and a few other subjects? 

It's almost interesting to contemplate an alternate universe where Coleman and Zimba somehow decided that other subjects mattered and also had some buddies who wanted to whip up some standards for those subjects, and then we'd have to get Big Standardized Tests for all those subjects and new "aligned" materials and a magic formula to combine and balance all the scores and--well, it would have been a might cluster-farfignugen that would have collapsed under its own weight, which in many ways would have been better than what we ended up with. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

When You Open Schools To Religion...

 There has been a push for a while now to open public schools to religion, and it has been pushed a variety of ways, such as the case Good News Club v. Milford Central School.

That suit made it all the way to the Supreme Court in 2001. The Good News Club is a program of the Child Evangelism Fellowship, a group founded in 1937 by Jesse Levin Overholtzer with the express purpose of evangelizing children. They claim 109,828 clubs worldwide. In the 90s, a couple decided to establish one of these after-school clubs in Milford, New York, but the school said no based on the stated intent to have  "a fun time of singing songs, hearing a Bible lesson and memorizing scripture." Deeming the club religious instruction (which it totally was) the district said no, and many lower courts agreed. SCOTUS, however, did not. Justices Thomas, Rehnquist, O'Connor, Scalia and Kennedy were okey-doke with this (Breyer concurred in part). 

And so US school have to provide use of the facilities to after school religious groups.

And so, here comes the next obvious step.

Meet the After School Satan Clubs. 

Religious counter-protesting has a fine history in this country, with such notable groups as the Church of the Flying Spagetti Monster. The Satanic Temple is one such group, with their not very diabolical motto "Empathy. Reason. Advocacy." They've run a number of attention-grabbing activities, including declaring abortion a sacred ritual as a direct challenge to the Texas abortion laws.

After School Satan Clubs ("Educatin' with Satan") also seem to be out to make a point. The club is aimed specifically at schools with Good News Club chapters, and as its mission--

Proselytization is not our goal, and we’re not interested in converting children to Satanism. After School Satan Clubs will focus on free inquiry and rationalism, the scientific basis for which we know what we know about the world around us.

We prefer to give children an appreciation of the natural wonders surrounding them, not a fear of everlasting other-worldly horrors.

Their FAQ include an answer to the question why:

The pre-existing presence of evangelical after school clubs not only established a precedent for which school districts must now accept Satanic groups, but the evangelical after school clubs have created the need for Satanic after school clubs to offer a contrasting balance to student’s extracurricular activities.

They have made their point in a handful of districts, where parents have seen info about After School Satan Club and freaked the hell out. 

One Moline parent, who shared a photo of the club's flyer online, received incredulous responses to her post, including this: "Wait what????? How is this even a thing? Who approved this?"

The word "approval" is exactly on point--breaking down the wall between church and school will inexorably lead us to a world in which folks call for government to approve religions. Historically, this has never ended well. Somehow people keep expecting that religious freedom should only mean freedom for their own religion. But when you break down the wall between church and school, you should not be surprised when the Satanic Temple walks through the gap. 

(Someone popping up to explain that this is a super argument for choice in 3.... 2..... 1...........)

ICYMI: It's That Time Again Edition (1/16)

 By "that time" I mean time to once again see who will win the annual contest to twist some MLK quote into the pretzel form needed to support their particular cause. Turns out, every year, that MLK would have supported virtually everything. Yay. Here's your reading list for the week.

In our alarmingly unequal society, public schools by themselves cannot be the great equalizer

Jan Resseger has a look at another chapter from an upcoming anthology about public education. This one's by Kevin Welner and it's a good one.

Sheriff uses grades and abuse history to label schoolchildren as potential criminals

In Florida, they're using a Minority Report style system to violate privacy in the name of catching future criminals

Florida officials tried to steer education contract to former lawmaker's company

Corruption in Florida? I am shocked. Shocked! The Tampa Bay Times has the story

This vested interest in the children's incompetence

Teacher Tom has a particularly insightful post here about how some grown-ups are not great with kids.

Florida bill would allow cameras and microphones in classroom

CBS news reports. Come for the terrible new ideas, and stay to find out what terrible old ideas are already being used in Florida classrooms.

Stitt's education bro tries desperately to repair image

Oklahoma's ed chief is doing poorly. This week he really put his foot in it, and tried some light damage control.

Kids on the "McDonalds track" are living in a rigged system

Laura Bryce writes an op-ed for the Inquirer about the mess that is PA school funding

Down goes Frayser

Gary Rubinstein has long kept an eye on Tennessee's Achievement School District, the special state takeover turnaround system that has never done anything but fail hard. Here's the latest update on this sad history.

The pastor, the speaker of the house--and a Christian Academy educator

Nancy Flanagan looks at the sad, greasy tale of Lee Chatfield

Indiana SB 167

The latest version of one of those bills that wants to make sure that teachers don't teach anything a certain parent might find uncomfortable. Blue Cereal Education takes three posts to break it down-- I'll let you start with the third and work your way backwards.

Meanwhile, over at Forbes, I looked at the special features of South Carolina's voucher bill.





Saturday, January 15, 2022

Should Schools Teach The Success Sequence

You know the "sucess sequence." It's the idea that if Young People just do the right things--finish school, get a job, get married, have a kid--in that order, they are less likely to end up not poor. It has occasionally been oversold ("Follow these three rules and you will join the middle class!") and the "data" used to bolster it is a little suspicious (like claiming that only 2% of people who follow these rules end up poor anyway--2%?! Really?)

But at the same time, it makes a certain sort of sense, and it's hard to argue that dropping out and having out-of-wedlock babies while unemployed are few people's idea of great life choices. But does it follow that we should, as Rick Hess recently suggested, teach the "success sequence" in school?

I have always had issues with the idea of the success sequence, despite the fact that, as Hess would point out, I followed it myself, sort of. My biggest suspicion is that folks are, once again, confusing correlation with causation. I can believe that the sequence and some level of financial stability go together, but I'm not yet convinced that the causation arow runs from sequence to success and not the other way around. 

Nor is history really on the side of the sequence, given that we are only a generation or two away from the days in which a vast number of Americans did not finish school at all, and yet did perfectly fine. There's also a weird disconnect here for women, who were, for many generations, expected NOT to get a job. They may have been expected to land a husband with a good job, but that's not really the same thing. Nor have good jobs always been available to all people; with a stagnant minimum wage, among other factors, we are looking at a large number of working poor in this country--should they simply consign themselves to never getting married or having children because they can't clear the "good job" hurdle? Hess does acknowledge that many parts of the sequence are beyond the individual's control.

That takes us back to the correlation thing again. Currently the average age for a first marriage in the US is close to 30, which means that folks have to be able to get through a decade or so on their own, though that has changed a lot for women, who up through the 1970s had a median first marriage age of around 20, presumably because they did NOT have to follow the sequence (that age has been steadily climbing since). 

How do we move the sequence into schools? I'm trying to imagine what I would have said to my many students for whom working in high school was an economic necessity. I don't want to imagine students going home from school to announce to their family, "I know why we're poor. It's all your fault." 

Hess links to an article by Philip Cohen who makes a case for why the sequence is bad public policy, noting that costly initiatives to sell the redemptive power of marriage have utterly failed. Of the advice to wait, he says

Success sequencers believe it’s hypocritical to hoard this advice and only dispense it to the children of privilege. But you can’t wish away education, career, and marriage uncertainty or impose order on instability by force of will. If we’re not prepared to guarantee all women the same opportunities as those in my classes have, it’s not reasonable to demand the same attachment to the success sequence that those opportunities make feasible. In the absence of that guarantee, you’re simply asking, or requiring, poor people to delay (until “they’re ready,” in Sawhill’s terms, meaning not poor) or forego having children, one of the great joys of life, and something we should consider a human right.

And he points out the connections between the sequence and race and class

Not coincidentally, the history of welfare politics in the United States is intricately bound up with the history of racism against black women, who have been labeled pathological and congenitally dependent. The idea that delaying parenthood until marriage is a choice one makes is highly salient and prized by the white middle class, and the fact that black women often don’t have that choice makes them the objects of scorn for their perceived lax morals. The framing of the success sequence plays into this dynamic. For example, Ron Haskins has argued that welfare reform was needed to “[change] the values and the approach to life of people on welfare that they have to do their part.” The image of the poor welfare “taker” has a race and a gender in America.

Importantly, Cohen also points out that an attempt to sell the sequence assumes that there are a bunch of young folks out there on the fence, thinking, "Hmm, I can't decide whether I want to be an unwed mother or not." 

But beyond all of that, I can tell you why the sequence will never, ever be adopted as a part of formal education in this country.

Birth control.

The clear, logical implication of the sequence is that teenaged girls should be on birth control until they have reached the proper moment in the sequence. Heck, the success sequence is practically a full-on endorsement of the "I'm not ready for a child yet" case for legal abortion. If you are pushing the sequence as a practical plan for success in life, then it only makes sense to allow teenagers the practical tools that will help them postpone having a child until they're at the right point in the sequence.

Yes, many sequencers like to use the idea to sell abstinence, and that tips the hand of the real idea for many sequencers--that the success sequence is not a practical plan to achieve desired outcomes, but a moral test to see who deserves those "success" outcomes. For some it is another way to make the argument that poor folks are poor because of their own lousy choices, and if you don't want to be poor, make better choices.

As a practical, pragmatic plan, the success sequence could be helpful if we were willing to really back it. Free and easily available birth control starting at the onset of puberty. Raise the minimum wage so that anybody who has a real job has an income good enough to get married and start a family. But as a moral test of worthiness, the success sequence is a dead end. 

Hess is not wrong when he suggests that "we need to focus not only on the structures and externalities that can shape students’ lives but also on what students can do to control their own destinies," though I'm betting you'd be hard pressed to find a school in this country that doesn't. But I think he's overly optimistic when he adds "The success sequence is a compelling, evidence-based, broadly appealing way to do both. In our intensely polarized age, it provides a promising path to talk about opportunity, impediments, and responsibility in a way that may help to span some of our bitter divides." I think talking about it will highlight those divides in new ways, but I'm pretty sure we can all predict that the first set of responses to "So how do we help insure that teenaged girls do not have babies before they're ready?" will find us having old familiar arguments.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

VA: Book Burning Fan Now Board Chairman

You may recall the story about Spotsylvania school district in Virginia, where books were being protested and pulled and two board members thought maybe the books should be burned.

Well, one of those guys is now the board chairman, and things are blowing up in a hurry.

The board is a 4-3 board (though those who didn't want to burn the books were supportive of banning them), and the 4-person conservative majority installed Kirk Twigg as the president. 

Scott Baker has been with district in various capacities for years before becoming superintendent in 2012; he won some awards for his superintendenting prowess, but there's a portion of the local populace that are not fans. There's a whole blog devoted to laying out his many alleged sins, but not being hard enough on dirty books has drawn the most criticism in the recent past, along with agitation over school closings.

Baker was on his way out, with departure negotiated for the end of this school year. That was not fast enough for Twigg, who has been vocal in his opposition to various books. The ban was centered on "sexually explicit" books, but Twigg, besides expressing his interest in burning objectionable material also added that he would like to broaden the criteria for rooting through the school libraries, saying, “There are some bad, evil-related material that we have to be careful of and look at."

Twigg promised that, if elected chair of the board, his first action would be to fire Baker effective immediately. Last Monday night, in a meeting characterized as chaotic and contentious, he did just that. He called an unscheduled closed session during the meeting, then came back to announce that Baker had been terminated--before being reminded that the board had to take an actual vote. 

No reason has been given for the firing, but it's Virginia, a right to work state, and no reason has to be given. 

Members voting against the termination were vocal in their opposition. "He has spoken about confidential (human resources) matters in open session. He is constantly using his AOL account to send and read emails throughout school board meetings. He wants to burn books," said former chair Dawn Shelley. Others questioned how this was for the good of students or families in Spotsylvania.

Several news accounts try to capture how off the rails this portion of the meeting was, but you really have to see it to believe it. I'll just put it here.


Talking over each other. No apparent knowledge of any rules of order. It's a mess.

There is, of course, a change.org petition up to remove Twigg, who was elected to the board in 2015 unopposed. In 2019 he ran again, this time with opposition--and a few thousand dollars. He allegedly told a Tea Party gathering that there would be big changes once his "constitutional, conservative, Republican, Christian" majority takes over. His support included $2,204 of his own money, $1,200 from Peter Dechat, and $908 from the Republican Party of Spotsylvania County. (DeChat could be this guy, a Christian motivational speaker, but I can't confirm that for certain).

As you watch the clip above, you'll note that the crowd cheers for Twigg's announcement, and also for the people disagreeing with him. No word yet on the superintendent fill-in. Also no word yet on whether or not the new chair will be scheduling book bonfires any time soon. Interesting days ahead in Virginia. 

Ready for Hologram Teachers?

 One more innovation that nobody asked for, the hologram professor is another idea from the ed tech folks.

Much of the noise seems to be in the post-secondary world where-- well, here's one pitch:

The hologram professor is an innovative educational experience based on “telepresence” and, crucially at this juncture for higher education, it can recreate the natural dynamics of face-to-face environments – by creating a hologram of the lecturer in multiple classrooms at once, offering greater closeness and warmth for distance learners compared with current videoconferencing systems. Knowledge and experiences can be exchanged in real time while students interact and carry out activities in their classrooms.

In this version (from Mexico), the professor stands in front a black background with a standard batch of videoconferencing tools (camera, microphone, speakers)--which is our first clue that we aren't really talking about a hologram at all, but a regular 2D image projected on a "holographic screen." The students sit in their various classrooms, and the professor sees them on monitors. There's also a screen running slides, materials, whatever. This model--a full body live video version of the old videoconference teaching model--is popular in some places.

There are other models out there, most notably models that depend on some sort of augmented reality (AR) headset rig. These could involve actual 3D teachers, the hinted-at catch here being that to actually record a hologram involves multiple camera images being scanned and combined and generally not something that can be done live. So you get a 3D recording, without student interaction.

The first model allows for interactions, sort of, and in one version, the teacher can move around a bit. 

But the bottom line here is that when someone is talking about a hologram teacher they are either talking about A) a fancier version of the same instruction-by-video already available Youtube or B) a version of Zoom with a bigger screen so that you can see the teacher's whole body and not just her face. And to get A, there will be a significant investment in hardware and techs to run the program.

Also, any discussion of this has to include this tweet in response to an article about holoteachers:



So while this is another of those ed tech developments that has been "just around the corner" for twenty-sone years, it doesn't look like anything really useful is showing up any time soon.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

FL: When Compliance Culture Replaces Compassion

I don't usually cover these sorts of stories, but I've seen the body cam footage. The mother of the child is plans to take legal action. I don't blame her.

I'm always cautious about stories centered on student complaints about being mistreated by schools. A school's hands are tied when it comes to responding; a student's records are confidential, and so a fuller picture can't be shared. 

But I've seen the body cam footage.

On September 22, 2021, a fight broke out on the campus of Palm View K-8 School (Palmetto, Manatee County, Florida). One 12-year-old student recorded video of the fight on her phone. The administration wanted to confiscate the phone. The school resource officer, a sheriff's deputy, attempted to take the phone from her, first in the cafeteria and later when the child was being detained. Both times she pushed him away. The second time she was dropped to the floor, cuffed, and arrested. 

That's the basic outline of the story.

Let's talk about what the body cam footage from the deputy shows. The raw footage has been shared with me; for obvious reasons I cannot share it with you.

The footage begins with the officer talking with three female administrators. Early on, the officers indicates that he's ready and willing to cuff her and walk her out. One of the women (identified by the paper as the principal) says, "I don't think I want her in handcuffs, but I do want a severe consequence and I want her off my campus." Another of the women agrees that the girl should be used as an example. The officer indicates that "on the street" he would already have arrested her based on the push she gave him in the cafeteria. There's further discussion about handling the students involved in the fight. Then they're back to discussing the student with the video. The principal wants her gone and asks, "She has an IEP. If I do this [pointing at the officer], is she gone?" They are far more alarmed about "she was recording me without my permission," which they seem to think is illegal (it isn't). The girl does reportedly have both an IEP and a behavioral plan.

The officer clarifies to one of the women that he is not there to make an example "but if she becomes an example, so be it." She underlines that they support law enforcement. "Respect for the badge," she repeats. "Respect for the badge."

The deputy goes to the teacher planning room (apparently used as ISS) where she is being held. Mom is then called, and asked to come get her. For the first of several times on the footage, the girl makes a move toward her pocket and the adults move in to prevent it. 

Now the girl just stews. Head down. She actually does a quick phone check, but the officer is apparently not looking. A moment later, the officer demands to see her other hand. After a few minutes, she walks to the other side of the room. The woman in the room asks if she understands why they have to do this. The officer asks if everything is all right at home. Then it's back to "keep your hands out of your pockets" and "I don't know what you have in there. Do you have a weapon in there?" More silence. The woman tells the girl that she's concerned because "if you videoed one of our staff without their permission, you could be charged, and I don't want that." The girl tries to speak up, but the adults roll over her. "Wasn't even no fight," she finally gets to say. "They was just yelling." Her point- "Ain't nobody going to care." Nothing worth posting. She stays leaned up against a study carrel. Her head stays down all this time. And for almost five minutes nothing happens.

29:48: Officer says "take your hands out of your pockets" and approaches the girl.

29:51: Officer "Why are you manipulating your phone?" He's right up to her now.

29:52: Girl "How am I manipulating my phone?" He's right up on her, and she starts to stand.

29:53: Her hand is still in her pocket. The officer grabs her arm with one hand and tries to pull her hand out of her pocket with the other. "Take your hands out of your pocket. She pulls her hand out of her pocket.

29:54: She pulls her arm away from the officer. At this point, it appears that the phone goes to the floor.

29:55: Girl "You just threw my fucking phone. Move!" The officer pushes her back, one arm on her shoulder, one on her rib cage just under her breast.

29:57: She steps back, pushes one of his hands away. He is standing arms out toward her.

29:58: Two handed push on her shoulder.

29:59: The woman says "Stop, stop, stop." Girl moves toward officer.

30:00: Girl steps back and hollers "Moooove."

30:02: Girl moves in and pushes officer.

30:03: Officer "Stop"

30:04: She pushes again.

30:05: Screen blocked by her body. Sounds of struggle.

30:06: She is on the floor. 

30:09: He is putting cuffs on her. She is crying.

It's that quick. 

The aftermath is hard to watch. Her shorts are pulled down; she's standing in her boxers. She will not stop crying. When the second officer joins (walking past a teacher who's berating her students because "the kindergartners have a better straight line than you"), the girl crying uncontrollably, calling for her Mommy. Before they walk her out, they switch her to a different set of handcuffs, demanding that she turn "all the way around" to face the wall and asking if there's anything in her pants they should know about before they search her. The officer repeats this many times, as if he really, really expects her to be carrying something illegal. And he reminds her, when she's starting to cry again, that he will treat her like an adult when she's acting like an adult. They take off her rings and the whole batch of bracelets. 

Then they walk her out, in cuffs, through the campus. They take her headband off and put her mask on as they load her in the vehicle. The deputy is carrying a Black Lives Matter key chain. It will be another half hour or so before her mother arrives at the school.

I've communicated with some folks close to the case. There are other threads of the story to follow, if we had the time and space here. I'm told that since this incident, the girl has been accused of having drugs in her backpack, which she wouldn't let them search because what she did have was her first tampons. The girl is several achieving many years below grade level; some accuse the school of wanting to get rid of her to improve their numbers. This is apparently the first year Palm View has housed 7th and 8th graders; one wonders if they are simply unprepared to deal with 12 year olds.

The girl may be shuttled off to Horizons Academy, a "recovery" school for warehousing problem students. Horizons' student body is 33% Black. Manatee County Schools student body is 20% Black. You have already guessed that the girl in this story is black, and all of the adults are white. And Manatee Schools have had some issues in the past, but let's just stay focused on this incident.

There are so many bad choices made by adults in this situation.

First and foremost--have the administrators of Palm View used a cell phone any time recently? Because you could smash my phone with a large rock, and every video I've ever taken with it is readily available on line where it is automatically backed up. And while we're in servicing them on how phones work, can we please give them some professional development related to legalities around videos.

This is what happens when compliance culture overwhelms a school. Lots of people made bad choices aimed at forcing a twelve year old girl to knuckle under and do as she was told. At many junctures, some of them split seconds, choices could have been made differently to de-escalate, but instead, a twelve year old girl had to pay for all the choices adults made by being marched out of her school in handcuffs because she wouldn't hand over her phone.

This is also what you get when an administration tries to use SROs as muscle. It has been clarified many times that the video issue was strictly a school disciplinary problem, not a criminal one, and the child's arrest was for "battery" against the officer. That means that if the school has simply handled the video themselves and not called in the officer in order to "make an example" and deliver "serious consequences," the battery would never have happened. The officer notes, more than once in the course of the video, that a call for law enforcement to this school is very unusual--why do it for this instance?

You can tell me there's more context here and as I said at the start, I get that there's context to school issues that the school can't bring up. The girl is clearly not a top scholar and maybe not a model school citizen. But there is no context that makes it okay beat down a child like this over a video on a phone. None. The mother says she's prepared to take legal action, and I don't blame her a bit.

It is hard to watch this girl become increasingly distressed and dismayed. In trouble, with nobody in her corner at all, the adults around her treating her like a problem, the entire process dehumanizing and degrading, leaving a child feel powerless and helpless--powerful feelings for children at that age.

In Classroom Management 101 we all learn that you don't corner a student and leave them with no way out. Apparently all of the adults in this situation skipped that day of class. I don't care if a child has pissed you off a hundred times in the past--once you stop treating them like a real, live human being deserving basic dignity and respect, you have lost the plot. Compliance culture, which values children's compliance over their humanity, is always a bad deal in a school, and it is the children who pay the price.