Monday, December 26, 2016

Carl Paladino: Worst School Board Member of the Year

December started well for Carl Paladino. A member of the Buffalo, New York school board, co-chair of Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in the state, Paladino met with the president-elect and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, just before Christmas. He told reporters afterward that the question of “whether he would be interested and/or willing to serve in the administration in some capacity did come up. By December 21 the presents at the Paladino home were all nicely wrapped and snug under the tree. 

We might even guess there was a “Make America Great Again” hat for Mrs. P. and “Jail Hillary” t-shirts for all the grand kids.

 
That same day the Buffalo News reported on Paladino’s formal request, during a school board meeting, that once President Trump took office his picture might be placed prominently in every city school.

“Other board members responded to Paladino’s request,” the News continued, “by noting it is at the discretion of principals to decide what they display in their schools. ‘I think this is problematic,’ said board member Theresa Harris-Tigg. ‘Now we are going to mandate, and force something, when it has been their prerogative.’”

“‘Why do we care?’ Paladino responded. ‘Why do we care what their prerogative is?’”

In the end, a compromise was reached, with board members agreeing to put up posters of all former and current U. S. presidents in the schools. Sadly, there was no mention whether or not Paladino would have liked to see Mr. Obama’s picture crossed out.

We don’t know if he was satisfied with the decision. We do know, two days later, he was up to his knees in feces of his own creation. Trouble began brewing when Artvoice, a local weekly, asked city leaders to answer four questions. 

For current purposes only the first two matter:

 

1. What would you most like to happen in 2017?

2. What would you like to see go away in 2017?



Most city leaders responded in predictable fashion. Sue Marfino, a businesswoman, answered #1: “A return to shopping in communities and at brick & mortar stores.”

Jeff Mucciarelli, co-owner of 31 Club, offered up a wish with which almost everyone in the world might agree: “ISIS removed from this earth.”

 

Mr. Paladino went for what he later insisted was a humorous approach:

#1: Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Herford. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to Valerie Jarret, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her.

#2: Michelle Obama. I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.

Well, what could be funnier, especially in a school district which serves a majority minority population, than wishing the current First Lady might spend the rest of her days in a cave with a gorilla?

And what kindergartner or fifth grader or high school senior wouldn’t be bent double laughing at images of President Obama having sex with a cow and dying as a result?

(Hey, kids, don’t worry! If Carl Paladino has his way, you might have a chance to salute a portrait of President Trump as you goosestep down the hall on the way to your next social studies class.)

Several local leaders called on Paladino to resign his seat. “These comments harken back to the darkest days of racism in our nation’s history,” said one. By afternoon on December 26 more than 11,000 people had signed an online petition calling for this Trump fan to be removed from office.

Paladino tried but failed to clean the feces off his shoes in a series of bumbling interviews. At one point he explained to the New York Times that he was “not politically correct.” A reporter asked why he wanted to see the first lady live with a gorilla. Paladino paused a long time and then said, “What’s wrong with that?”

Sadly, the clueless Paladino has traveled the racist road before. During an abortive campaign for New York governor in 2009, a trove of his emails came to light. They included a photo of President Obama dressed like a pimp, Michelle Obama as a whore:

Paladino claims to have many black friends.
No doubt they would "appreciate" his sharp sense of humor.


Another email in July 2009 showed a photograph of an airplane landing directly behind a group of black men. The caption read: “Holy Sh*t. run ni**ers, run!”

Oh, what scintillating humor!

As a bonus, in September 2009, Paladino forwarded an email entitled: “Easy Steady Big Fella.... XXXX,” including a graphic photograph of a horse and a woman having sex.

(If you’d like to see other examples of Mr. Paladino’s emails, and you have a strong enough stomach, you can click here.)

Paladino, later claimed in a radio interview that he had done nothing wrong, but only managed to step in his own poop again. “It’s only these retarded liberal people that’ll find it necessary to come out and call me names and not really listen to the issues,” he whined. He couldn’t possibly be racist. He had “many, many friends in the black community” and we might guess even a few horses who were good and loyal friends.

He went on to air a string of grievances against President Obama and claimed his answers and emails were all in good fun. “And yes,” he told the interviewer, “it’s about a little deprecating humor which America lost for a long time. Merry Christmas and tough luck if you don’t like my answer.”

Tough luck, indeed.

In honor of both his racism and his clueless stupidity we nominate Carl Paladino “Worst School Member of the Year.”

Saturday, December 17, 2016

School Reform: Fifteen Years of "Diet Plans" That Couldn't Fail

If you were grading school reform, what grade would you give it? I have updated this post to reflect a new rash of national test scores.

“Rash” seems like a good word in this context.


IMAGINE YOU WANTED to lose a few pounds. Most Americans do. (So this might not be hard to imagine.) Now picture some svelte fitness guru. He promises: “Follow my plan and you cannot go wrong. You will lose all the pounds you want. You will end up looking like a bikini model!”

You excitedly try the plan for six months and gain seven pounds. You waste $1500 dollars on diet supplements, too.

A second weight-loss guru comes your way. “Follow my plan and you cannot go wrong,” she insists. “You will lose all the pounds you want.”

You do as told again, and put on ten pounds. Even your “fat pants” no longer fit. (Not that I would know from bitter experience.) You wasted $1200 on diet shakes and motivational videos.

Eventually, you try a third, fourth and fifth diet plan. Every time, the gurus promise you cannot go wrong.

Not one plan works as promised. 


WELL, AFTER FIFTEEN YEARS of school reform that’s where we find ourselves, as a nation.

You may not recall, but the push to “fix” U.S. education began in earnest in 2001, in large part due to test results from countries round the world. These results came from a test that had not existed until 2000: the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. In the spring of that year, 15-year-olds from 32 nations, mostly first-world countries, took the test for the first time. U.S. students finished fifteenth in reading, with an average score of 504. In math we finished eighteenth with an average score of 493. In science, America’s teens were fourteenth with a score of 499.

Reporters took a quick glance at results and wrote fevered stories about how the United States was doomed! Talking heads on cable news saw the scores and decided it might make compelling viewing to blame teachers for everything that had gone wrong. School reformers, safely ensconced in think tanks far from the educational front lines, studied and analyzed and promised—if we would only listen to them—that they knew exactly how to get those PISA scores up! Finally, politicians decided they had to be involved. Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001.

So keep those first PISA scores in mind:

Reading: 504
Math: 493
Science: 499


IN 2003 THE TEST WAS administered again. This time, students from 41 countries were involved. In reading, U.S. scores fell to 495. America’s teens dipped in math to 483. Science scores were down, with the average 15-year-old scoring 491. After two years of reform scores were down twenty-seven points.

The politicians and reformers were puzzled. But they never doubted their great plans. They were absolutely going to work in the end. Just keep listening to us, they reassured millions of real educators, who were starting to wonder. In 2006 PISA was given again. U.S. reading scores were thrown out. In math, however, our kids scored 498; in science they averaged 489. In other words, reform was working! Math scores were up five points! Oh, wait, science scores were down ten.

Overall: down five!

In a vain effort to improve standardized scores of all kinds, schools across the nation cut back time spent on “non-essential” learning, like music, art and physical education. School reformers (again: people who never actually teach) promised all these sacrifices would be worth it in the end.

Like the seventeen-year locusts, only appearing far more often, PISA returned in 2009. Reading results for U.S. teens: 500; math: 487; science: 502. Scores were still down a total of seven points since 2003.


Scores for U. S. students still looked bad in 2009!
They would look even worse in years ahead.


With the years flying by—and scores refusing to rise—more and more changes were forced upon administrators, teachers and students. Charter schools spread like kudzu because charter schools couldn’t fail! Teach for America was going to work because everyone knew smarter teachers would be a thousand times more effective than the nincompoops we had in the classrooms now. Tens of thousands of teachers and administrators were axed under state laws when test scores didn’t rise. Others earned fat bonuses when scores did. (See: Atlanta cheating scandal.By 2012 testing was costing states and the federal government $1.7 billion per year. Surely, by then, reform had to have worked!

Or not.

On the PISA test administered in 2012, U.S. students averaged 498 in reading, 481 in math and 497 in science.

Our teens were twenty points down, despite following a decade of surefire educational reform diet plans.

Twelve years of abject failure didn’t faze arrogant reformers and pompous politicians. Sure, SAT scores were down too. Sure ACT scores remained flat (that was good news compared to the rest). And, yes, reading and math scores for seniors on the National Assessment for Education Progress hardly budged or fell.

The gurus kept telling everyone how great their plans were. By 2015 No Child Left Behind had morphed into “Race to the Top.” Common Core had come along. After dithering for years, Congress phased out NCLB and replaced it with the Every Child Succeeds Act. Soon we were sure to see all the great results of a decade-and-a-half of top-down school reform.

For a sixth time the PISA test was administered in 2015.

Now, 15-year-olds from seventy countries and educational systems took the test. How did U.S. students fare?

THE ENVELOPE PLEASE

In reading our students scored 497. After fifteen years of reform and tens of billions wasted, scores were down seven points.

Fifteen years of listening to blowhard politicians—and students averaged 470 in math, a depressing 23-point skid.

Science scores averaged 496, still down three points.

The idea of raising PISA scores had been the foundation on which reform was built and after fifteen years America’s teens were scoring 33 points worse.

Teachers were left to ponder several questions. First, and foremost, had real harm been done to students, all in the name of reform? Second, did the reformers really know what they were doing? Third, had all the changes, particularly the insane focus on data collection, even to the point of curtailing actual time-on-task working with students, made the job so much more frustrating and so much less rewarding that perhaps they might not want to remain in the field much longer?

THE ANSWERS, from this retired educator’s perspective being, yesno, and yes for too many young teachers, should send a chill through the education community.


*

I DECIDED to update this article when I saw that average ACT scores this year were the lowest in two decades. Only 40% of seniors this year “met the College Readiness Benchmark in math.” That’s the lowest level since 2004. The average math score was 20.5, the lowest mark in twenty years.

Good job school reformers, who never taught.

But wait, there’s more: College Readiness levels in reading also declined to the lowest levels since current benchmarks were instituted.

Good job school reformers who never teach!

You can find plenty of other evidence that the diet plans we’ve been spending billions on annually aren’t working, plus, as a bonus, you now see teacher shortages as the real joys of learning are destroyed. In 2000 the average college bound student scored a 514 in reading on the SAT’s and a 505 in mathematics. A new writing test was implemented in 2006; and the average score was a 497.

By 2016 average SAT scores had fallen to 508 in reading, 494 in math and 482 in writing, a cumulative 30-point decline. You could almost argue that “school reform” was making our students dumber.

(The 2017 SAT was totally restructured and scores cannot be compared with previous test results.)

You could think of all those billions of dollars spent on testing annually. You could think of all the anguish inflicted on students, teachers and administrators in the process. You could think, if you were a dedicated educator, as most educators are, of what you and your peers could have done with all the money wasted to improve the lives of children. And then you could look at all the “progress” reflected in the national test results. Compare results on the ACT from 2000 and 2016:

                        2000               2016

English            20.5               20.3
Math               20.7               20.7
Reading          21.4               21.4
Science               21                    21
Writing*          7.7                  6.5

Composite         21                   21

*The writing section on the ACT’s was implemented in 2006 and, like scores on the SATs, declined precipitously.

So: sixteen years of academic “dieting,” and scores were down slightly.

Well, then, one last hope remained to prove that “school reform” was actually working. You could look at scores for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Average math scores for seniors went up three points, between 2005 and 2009, from 150 to 153. The last math test for seniors was in 2015 and the score had dropped a point. Two points up over a decade.

The NAEP reading test dates from 1992, when the average score for seniors was 292. In 2002 the average score was 287. (The test is not given every year; so we have no score for 2000.)

Thirteen years later the average score was 287 still.


Yes, good job, indeed, school reformers.