Wednesday Reading List: Trust, But Verify

Yesterday afternoon I wrote about how to scrutinize testing without undermining the whole project of accountability. In reference to the PARCC test I argued that there has been significant transparency. Jennifer Borgioli Binnis agrees:

With the PARCC test, consider that:
-it’s likely that more adult eyeballs saw PARCC items before students than any other test in history
-teachers reviewed items (at every step)
-teachers sorted through texts in order to find passages that would work
-students across the country piloted the test and their data were analyzed
-the foundations of psychometrics were used in every step of the process
You don’t have to take my word for it. You can read the words of a teacher who was in the room for the work. Or this one.

I've spent a lot of time negotiating contentious policy initiatives; sometimes, when folks don't win the substantive argument, they resort to arguments about "the process" to undermine the results.

In other "trust but verify" news, Southern California Public Radio looked at the LA teachers' union's claims about local spending on charter schools:

If a study commissioned by Los Angeles' teachers union is right — that charter schools cost the L.A. Unified School District more than $591 million annually — it's a big deal ... To fact-check the report's nearly-$600 million estimate, consider the biggest "cost" it identifies: an estimated $508 million due to lost enrollment ...The UTLA report's authors — a consulting group called MGT of America — assume 56 percent of the district's costs are fixed ... The district receives a little more than $8,800 in state funding for the average student. But if 56 percent of the district's costs are fixed, the report figures each departing student leaves behind fixed costs of $4,957. The UTLA report's authors multiplied $4,957 by the enrollment in Los Angeles charter schools — around 102,000 students — to arrive at their estimate of $508.2 million in net revenues charter schools cost L.A. Unified.

The math works out, but two assumptions are worth interrogating. First, the idea that more than half of the district's costs are "fixed" is pretty wild, but that's what happens when you couple huge enrollment losses with increases in central spending, as there is no fixed definition of "fixed." (See what I did there?) Second, and more fundamentally, LAUSD is no longer operating schools for the students that opt into charters. If you're running a housing complex, and a bunch of folks move out, you'd be wise to spend less time complaining about your debt service payments and more time recruiting new tenants. Speaking of spending unconnected to underlying fundamentals, LaTasha Gandy calls out Minnesota for ripping off vulnerable college students:

One in four Minnesota high school graduates — all of whom earned their diplomas — are required to take remedial courses within their first two years of college. These recent high school graduates pay around $10 million for remedial courses, which earn them no credits and actually deter them from completing degrees. Because of the added time and expense, just a third of students taking remedial courses go on to complete a bachelor’s degree, and only 10 percent finish community college. While students of every demographic group are required to enroll in remedial courses, low-income and Black students are more than twice as likely as their peers to have to do so.

This is happening all over the country, and it's a shock that we haven't decided this is not just unethical, but downright fraudulent. Students often use Pell Grants to pay for these non-credit courses, so it could be a federal issue for someone who cares about consumer protection. Paging the junior Senator from Massachusetts ...

While we're in the Bay State, the Atlantic looks at what made Massachusetts the country's educational Goliath for the last two decades. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: good 👏🏻 aggregate 👏🏻 scores 👏🏻  don't 👏🏻 mean 👏🏻 we're 👏🏻 serving 👏🏻 all 👏🏻 kids 👏🏻 well. Erika Sanzi makes the same point with more words and fewer emojis.

Charles Cole has five questions for Black families to ask educators. There's not a question about "Data Walls," but apparently everyone hates them now.

And finally, ladies and gentlemen, your national obsession with elected school boards:

A retired Texas schoolteacher who claims President Barack Obama is a gay prostitute is the front-runner in a Republican primary runoff for a seat on the influential state education board. Mary Lou Bruner is back on the ballot Tuesday after nearly clinching the Republican nomination outright in March. That was despite her lengthy social media history of posting about conspiracy theories, including that Democrats orchestrated John F. Kennedy's assassination.