Charter Schools vs. SPED – seems like same accountability as Wall St.

This blog is dedicated to Tres Whitlock in Florida. Due to confidentiality issues, I could only use his name if he and his family chose to come forward with using it.  Thank you Tres for going public!

Sometimes even when you watch a magic trick 100 times, you don’t catch the nuance of what is going on and that is what makes magic cool, fun and exciting. Clearly most of us would rather watch Criss Angel, Cirque Du Soleil, etc. than attend a meeting as our brains enjoy this brief time away from reality.  When the artifice of ‘magic’ is used to balance the books, it is still time away from reality. The difference is what happens on Wall St. and in schools should not be ‘magical’ and should not require hundreds of observations to understand. REIT’s, reverse whatevers, funky non-descript mutual funds,  Ponzi Schemes and so forth should not be allowed and yet Wall St. persists in just finding new and different ways to develop mysterious/magical money-making behavior. Alas, so do charter schools.  The magic is in just making something tricky enough to over-ride logic in the brain.  On Wall St. people merely lose money – in charter schools, children lose an education. There is a fair degree of difference.

This morning on NPR I listened to and then read about a  bit of ‘magic’ in  some Mimi-Dade, Florida charter schools and then decided to match up my own past experiences.  I have complained about the absence of special ed services at charter schools since I taught at one and the ‘magical’ absence of services did not appeal to me (my undergrad is speech pathology).  When I addressed the discrepancy (sorry, confidentiality rules do not allow me to use the child’s name), my principal was upset but tried to explain it as a kink that would later get fixed and for now, just focus on test scores. You catch the drift of the experience.

I looked up the NPR piece first and then decided to just do a random search to see if the topic was being covered in the news beyond NPR. NPR is an arbiter of high quality journalism so I always look to support the research and appeal to as many people as possible.

NPR had some interesting information based on some interesting people who had been interviewed.

The Florida Department of Education, citing privacy concerns, declined to provide statewide data of students with severe disabilities. But the agency said their analysis shows 86 percent of charter schools statewide had no students with severe disabilities.

It’s a trend repeated in California, Louisiana, New York and Texas, according to researchers from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Harvard University researcher Thomas Hehir calls it a “pattern of exclusion” among charter schools nationally. Hehir was the top special education official during the Clinton administration and played a leading role in rewriting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

He says it comes down to money.

“That is unfortunately what we find in altogether too many places,” Hehir said. “I think that there is a disincentive to enroll these kids because they cost more money to educate.”

The Miami Herald had more and different details:

My look at gave another view. I was looking to see if all the SPED services necessary were being provided to students at charter schools in my area. I know that SPED services are lacking in all the regular public schools, however, the regular public schools educate everyone.   It would seem some one should be monitoring the charter schools in my area and declining payment as was done in Miami-Dade yet the lobbying group named Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools does not believe money should be denied for non-compliance.  This is called the joy of magical thinking without repercussions.

Without these monthly payments, the charter schools will likely struggle to  keep the doors open, said Lynn Norman Teck, a spokeswoman for the Florida  Consortium of Public Charter Schools, a lobbying group and membership  association. She said some Florida charter schools have had compliance issues in  the past, but continued receiving their monthly checks.

“The consortium wants its member schools to do things right,” she said. “But  we don’t feel that funds should be withheld.”

Read more:  14 December 2011  10:25 AM viewing

SPED open positions with Aspire Public Schools in bay area of N. Ca:

12/7/2011 full-time SPED teacher mild/moderate,  full-time speech pathologist, part-time SPED teacher mild/moderate, 12/6/2011 SPED instructional assistant, 8/2/2011  counseling intern  14 December 2011  10:25 AM viewing

SPED position with KIPP in bay area of N. Ca:

12/6/2011 director of SPED  14 December 2011  10:25 AM viewing

SPED position with Leadership Public Schools in bay area of N. Ca:

10/27/2011 RSP teacher

In Tres’ case, he needs supervision to attend to bodily functions and is cognitively able to perform and function.  He may seem to be on the outer ‘extreme’ of SPED and yet the reality is that charter schools have a special loophole to deny any SPED kid an education (quotes are from NPR):

But there’s a loophole. Where special education students attend school is determined by their Individual Education Plan (IEP). That plan is developed by the student, parents, school officials and therapists.

The IEP team won’t send that student to a charter school that isn’t set up to serve disabled students.

School districts design a systemic plan to educate students with disabilities. Charter schools do not. Their solution is often to refer students back to the traditional public schools — as happened to Tres Whitlock.

If parents choose to decline the IEP, a child can and often does go to a charter school because charter schools have a habit of marketing their magical miracles.  In my experience, SPED students had ‘modified’ IEP’s…..which is kind of like a modified REIT on Wall St.

No, education for ‘all’ in charter schools is not equal nor fair but it is magical (thinking).  When the data is evaluated on an even playing field, even the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is able to observe the disparity.

NB: Charter schools are public, not for profit (unless noted as for profit) corporations. They must abide by all local, state and federal education laws and they receive ADA (our tax dollars) to run. Charter schools may do fund-raising and write grants, however this does not make them a magnet school or preclude them to be selective in the students which attend.  Since charter schools do not educate ‘all types’ of children, they are not actually public schools. Charter schools complain as they must rely on district resources so they are not able to comply due to being a small school, etc……if they can not measure up to being a public school and serve all students, they should not be called a public school, no matter how they market themselves.

Update on 2 April 2012:   please read to end to see details regarding SPED students.


My looks at data are deceiving even to me…….

I could not resist reading the above article when it inadvertently popped on my computer screen as I was rabbit holing for something else.  Typically I don’t have to do much in the way of actively looking for education news – it is just ‘there’ to be read by myself and anyone else.  Reading the article is one aspect; the second part is analyzing what I read as I am always on the search for news which will show me education in America is improving.  It is not satisfying when articles such as this  one actually confirm what I may have thought – there is no challenge in viewing an alternate possibility of success and celebrating how change actually happened.

Newsweek selected some heavy hitters with Wendy Kopp, Linda Darling-Hammond and Tom Vander Ark to create the metrics for assessing the schools.

…….each school’s score is comprised of six components: graduation rate (25%), college matriculation rate (25%), AP tests taken per graduate (25%), average SAT/ACT scores (10%), average AP/IB/AICE scores (10%), and AP courses offered (5%).

In light of the people and metrics, I found it difficult to believe not one Aspire Public Schools campus made the list nor KIPP in the State of CA or TX (where KIPP heralds from).  My shock is related to these  two charter school foundations which publicly state they are changing the face of education, put out tons of statistics and test score improvements, yet failed to make the cut.  Something had to be wrong with this picture.

In its six years of operation, CAL Prep has surpassed California standards for excellence on the Academic Performance Index, according to Christine Schneider, a spokesperson for Aspire Public Schools.

This is where the research begins:

I was trying to figure out how schools with outstanding scores did not make it to the top.  AP/IB/AICE scores were averaged and weighted at 10%. Assuming any school which calls itself ‘college prep’ offers these classes, that could not be a problem. Maybe it was the number of students taking those classes.  Again, a school which calls itself college prep should have students attending these classes, most especially when the campus has high test scores. Number of AP courses offered  was only 5% of the total so again, this should not be at issue.  I know that Aspire Public Schools occassionaly gets professors from community colleges to teach courses which would be at least college level where students can obtain college credit (this should be AP).

Graduation rate……hmm, now there is a stinker.   I know when I taught Grade 8 for Aspire Public Schools, there were almost 60 students in my two science classes. The school moved to Berkeley (I will not address the reasons the school felt a need to leave Oakland, but they did).  The graduating class was 17 students.  Perhaps the graduation rate was a problem.  When you loose  about 2/3 of your students in  four years, there is a problem.

College matriculation rate – according to the below, all 17 students were accepted to four year colleges and universities.!/note.php?note_id=384702101385

At a minimum, this school- by all rights, should have been on the Newsweek list……what went wrong and why did Aspire Public Schools not cry foul?

Some one  had been reading my blog and they were searching blogs regarding Aspire Public Schools. I went and did the same and started reading the blog listed below.

It is clear, Gloria Lee knows the value of a college education as she noted she loves data. So why is there no data on the approximately 2/3 of the class who did not graduate and why is Aspire Public Schools not addressing that issue?

Graduating 1/3 of your student population in four years is not even as good as the success rate of day traders in the stock market and we all know they have angles. Once again I am wondering what happens to the real data, the truly ‘realized’ losses which seem to be occurring but are not talked about. Here is a school which SHOULD be at the top of its game.  These inconsistencies of data are troubling simply because of the advent of “Waiting for Superman” and Michelle Rhee…..could it be charter schools actually are not out doing their regular public school brethren?  Could it just be charter school marketing hype?

Addendum:  I am looking forward to the analysis of this information by Aspire, KIPP, etc. in CA


Equity is Bi-polar in Alameda

Within the Friday 27 May 2011 Alameda Journal (far from the front page…) was an article by Shelly Meron titled Alameda still fighting ‘achievement gap’ on page A5.  The basis of the article is from various work produced at Education Trust-West, most notably the link above.   I read the article and was not even surprised – in fact it completely met up with what I know of Alameda USD (please see my previous blogs on this  school district) both from being a teacher in AUSD and continuing to be involved in the community.  What SHOCKED me was page A6, far right column of letters to the editor.

Literally and figuratively the letter to the editor by Gloria Lightfoot was on the other side of the page.  It was as if Gloria had never exposed her mind to anything other than what she wishes to see, which is pretty much how most of AUSD operates.   Her final snub to those who take time to vote and support our public schools was a bit more than I could stomach.   Clearly the impoverished part of the community is most likely not to vote, not be able to afford the tax increase (they don’t own property) and the least engaged at the school as noted by information from Education Trust-West.

Once again, Alameda can take pride in its myopic view of things – choosing not to ever see reality.  It is this lack of expansive view which scares me about how AUSD will spend the new parcel tax money. In addition, I continue to wonder  how schools such as Franklin Elementary and Lincoln Middle are allowed to have ‘privately funded’ asset allocation via PTA and it terrifies me that a community which has so much potential is so equity (read color and poverty) blind.

Thank goodness Carrie Hahnel, the director of policy and research at Ed Trust and co-author of the aforementioned study pointed out a way for AUSD to use the data instead of the blather usually found in letters to the editor:

I just hope that this prompts people to ask more questions of their district, and cause people to peel back the layer of the onion a little bit – not just look at the number that rates the district.           If nothing else, we’d be delighted if this is a conversation starter.

Note:  This blog was written months before the article here


Observations – Parity Across the States (NAEP)

The past four months provided a very interesting job opportunity in a way I was not expecting.  I was hired by Westat to help administer the ‘national’ exam.   While this position requires a great deal of organizational capacity, it also taught me so much about those who ‘know’ and don’t really know what is involved in educational reform.   In my mind, NAEP is a giant scientific experiment extremely well thought out as well as planned and executed for optimum good statistical analysis.  NAEP is the real deal of data.

My first observation was how many teachers and administrators in public schools (including charter) did not know what NAEP was about.

Example:  Spoke with a principal who, when asked by another principal why his school was participating in NAEP answered he ‘guessed’ he drew the short stick. (I completely understood the humor, however, I was sad he truly did not know what it was about.) We talked on the phone and I asked him why he thought the school was participating (aha – a bit of Socratic methodology) and he answered the following three items (1) his school improved test scores by 17 points (2) his school has the youngest teachers in the district/area (3) this had something to do with spring testing but he was not sure. 

 I replied that while I like his answers, the reason behind national testing was to have some test scores to provide parity  between the various states which have different state standards and different ways of measuring educational success.

Parity in sports is defined as attempting to make an equal playing field for all participants, specifically with regard to financial issues. When parity in a sports league is achieved, all participating teams enjoy roughly equivalent levels of talent. In such a league, the “best” team is not significantly better than the “worst” team. This leads to more competitive contests where the winner cannot be easily predicted in advance. Such games are more entertaining and captivating for the spectators. The opposite condition, which could be considered “disparity” between teams, is a condition where the elite teams are so much more talented that the lesser teams are hopelessly outmatched. – Wikipedia/ January 2011

 I further explained that schools which received federal funds w  ere required to participate if the necessary sample of student attributes was at their school.  We talked for a few more minutes so I could answer some paperwork questions and we each went off on our own separate journey through the day.

In a different phone call with another principal the day before, I was asked about how the school would access these test scores so they could use them to compare with their API and AYP since other schools in the district were not taking this special test. I had to explain the scores were not disaggregated down to the district level.  This particular issue kept cropping up with teachers as well, especially on assessment day. Teachers asked if they would have the scores to use by Spring……

In  the above scenarios, I was talking to people who could speak clearly about certain aspects of educational reform, albeit only those minimal measures which had been drummed into them through some grad school program/administrative credentialling program/school district.   My shock was that these were ‘good’ schools in so called ‘good’ districts so how could these administrators not have run across NAEP?  I actually asked a couple administrators where they attended graduate school.

Along the way there were also some funny stories – a school which is in a very wealthy area had a substitute teacher’s aide show up with alcohol on their breath and the principal had to deal with that issue; another school had some students order a pizza via their cell phone, except when it was delivered, the office staff realized no ‘individual’ student would order a 2 L bottle of coke.  I had a colleague talk to a custodian in Spanish, only to have the principal state the man understands and speaks English…..

In my mind I was surprised as I have known about NAEP since I was a child – I went through at least one of the testing sessions in Grade 4, possibly Grade 8.  I read about NAEP and went to a lecture regarding The Nation’s Report Card when I was in graduate school.  NAEP was the organization where  the National Science Standards were related so people could discuss trends in science ed ucation.  I was beginning to feel as if I had entered some alternate universe where educational reform happened on a different planet on an alternate flat plane.

On a more personal note, I noticed (part of the script I read requires me to ask a few questions) there is not a category for people(s) of Middle East origin.  I am not sure if this was intentional, as in who really cares what those students do (even though we seem to care about Asians) or some one with far more wisdom then myself decided these people are, well, white.  Since I do not know specifically what NAEP is looking for, I can only speculate on a ‘forced’ selection of race/ethnicity.  One question asks students to delineate Latino/Hispanic and then the next question is everything else.  I feel bad for the Philipino’s who actually know their history as they are Latino (Spain) and Asian, not either or.

I have never looked at the test questions as I continue to have a teaching credential and this, in my mind is inappropriate.  I have looked at the release questions published in booklets for parents and/or teachers and administrators who may have questions.  Not much was gleened from this process as I do not support the efficacy of multiple choice exams since there is always an inherent 25% of accuracy by randon choice on a four answer question.   As is the case with SAT prep, it is not about the right answer so much as the ability to use your mind to reason ‘out’ what are the wrong answers.  The SAT is in no way indicative of much, my favorite examples being people who bucked the system and did not complete college, such as Bill Gates or people who did poorly on the SAT and succeeded far more than anyone would have guessed, Timothy Ferriss. 

NAEP allows educators and statisticians to peer into the minds of students to take a peak at how various curriculums play out across the U.S.  Our ‘Nation’s Report Card’  is just that, a report.  In a broad way we are able to see where education seems to have traction (typically, in places with low socioeconomic distress) and where no amount of money seems to change the consequences of childhood poverty. 

I have been to schools with views which certainly must prevent even a lax daydreamer from focusing and I have been to schools which remind me all too often of things I have seen in Peace Corps and traveling various third world countries.  This previous sentence is a different kind of parity – until we have PARITY, we will not change education in any formidable manner.  It takes an abundant amount of community involvement, parental education and literacy resources (notice I did not say monetary resources) to overcome poverty.  No amount of well constructed testing is needed to prove this out – rather, we just need to travel outside our own familiar community.


Race Reflections

As far back as 2001, when Bryan Sykes wrote The Seven Daughters of Eve, science has known about mitochondrial DNA and how all of us as humans are related.  Although 2011 brings the current spin of ‘when’ we migrated out of Africa, we know by mitochondrial DNA we did actually leave Africa and spread.  Thankfully the scientists busy researching (including Craig Venter)  are completely in love with what they do and persist despite the varying political climates relating to genetics and, heaven help us, evolution (it is raining so I am waiting for the lightening bolt to reach in and zap me).

Proof  (theory, fact) is a tenuous and slippery thing to scientists – not because they don’t wish to believe, rather good scientists are always up for new data and an open discussion.  Although there is proof about mitochondrial DNA and Mr. Venter has been able to assay genes, there is room for discussion with these people and, interestingly, they look for it – so they can improve on what they know! 

 In spite of what the scientists attempt to tell the rest of the known world, there seems to be great puzzlement in what the various findings of DNA mean.  In some ways, we continue to use DNA data to practice something akin to phrenology( …or  maybe something even more discerning like psychognomy ( popular with Hitler and crew).  Examples of this include the 2000 Census and the 2010 Census questions regarding race and ethnicity – very touchy subjects (read your not too distant history to remember when Ivy League Universities did not particularly want Jews on campus

They are also using the strength in their growing numbers to affirm roots that were once portrayed as tragic or pitiable.

and you will see the issue of race/ethnicity/religion really messed up in the stew pot).   The Census, for all of the good intentions behind it, does not quite have the race/ethnicity thing down – you can be a Latino Brazilian and Black……but not on the Census apparently

It was the census enumerator who decided.

“Where will I fit in?” recalled Ms. Garcia, who is Palestinian and Salvadoran.

 (think back seven months ago to the kind people who came to the door and asked you questions which were challenging to navigate in race/ethnicity) . 

 Ask Michelle López-Mullins, a 20-year-old junior and the president of the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association, how she marks her race on forms like the census, and she says, “It depends on the day, and it depends on the options.”

 In addition, NAEP has a default of Latino/Hispanic, which means you have to decide if you are Latino/Hispanic or  all the other possibilities….which is wacky if you are Philipino. There is no category for middle eastern anything.

The conclusion I have made is that race/ethnicity is less indicative of ability and intelligence and more indicative of your mitochondrial DNA and so using it to interpret anything data related is a bit beyond what they teach in stats 101 for undergrads.  When our young adults ( answer ‘all of the above’ , you have to wonder what they know compared to all the statisticians looking for data.

Second to the issue of race and ethnicity is the issue of poverty.  If you remove the race/ethnicity line entirely from a questionnaire and go straight to the meat, your parents education level and their income as well as your grandparents education level and income, you actually pull out the relevant data about which students are consistently failing in American Education.  It is irrelevant that green, blue, black, red, brown, yellow live in particular clusters – it matters whether those clusters have access to quality education and productive lives where they can earn an income. 

Long ago, the nation saw itself in more hues than black and white: the 1890 census included categories for racial mixtures such as quadroon (one-fourth black) and octoroon (one-eighth black). With the exception of one survey from 1850 to 1920, the census included a mulatto category, which was for people who had any perceptible trace of African blood.

So, I am puzzled by the questions of race/ethnicity – I would love to know what it is for when asked on job applications, Census documents, NAEP studies……how on earth do I explain that both sets of my grandparents were from the ever switching border in Russia and Poland (depended on the ruler and war in process), I was raised reform Jewish but now practice Buddhism, I look exactly like my Namibian Grandmother (Peace Corps) – including hair texture, skin color and body shape and yet I am ‘caucasian’ or white.  

“Now when people ask what I am, I say, ‘How much time do you have?’ ” she said. “Race will not automatically tell you my story.”

 All I know for certain is that my mitochondrial DNA states I am related to one of Eve’s seven daughters and so I am, in effect, related to all of you.  There is nothing in all of this which tells you my income potential (2010 was a bad earnings year for me personally), my education level (graduate degree) and/or anything which would be meaningful in determining how I  contribute  or detract from being a U.S. Citizen.

This piece was written due to the intersection of a New York Times article, reading The Seven Daughters of Eve, working for NAEP (and previously the Census Bureau), listening to Snap Judgement and all the recent pieces on NPR about people who gave up children for adoption.  Most importantly, this is for all the times I attempted to ask about race in the training for being a Census Enumerator and/or NAEP Assessment Coordinator and was shut down AND for my past principal at Wood Middle School in Alameda, CA who had the gall to ask teachers (in regards to upping our AYP and API scores) what we were going to do to help all the black and brown kids.



2009 Science Data by NAEP… the good, bad, ugly and true.

Many people are amazed when I relate why I left teaching science in the classroom – as if it was the most ridiculous decision I could have made – job security was ‘everything’.   I  try to explain  I was using my feet to cast my vote against what I believe to be vapid.  I left the classroom four years ago after teaching science at a charter school – the final frontier for teaching to the test and only knowing about API and AYP in California.   I knew about and followed NAEP which meant API and AYP were only one piece of a larger and more complex puzzle regarding the process of  education. 

Interestingly, most teachers at any school and a fair amount of  principals are inadequately aware of what NAEP is to even have a quality education reform conversation, at least in California.  Education reform centered around such items as question banks for pre/post assessment and data collection (CST’s).  I can not even remember the last time I heard a teacher state the idea of anecdotal evidence.  Part of me felt overpaid for the job I was doing since I sure was not allowed to teach science in the manner which mattered (NAEP results as of Tuesday are indicative of this feeling ). 

At some point that last year in the classroom, it occurred to me I had not gone to graduate school to teach from a text book or kit -as the kind people of Lawrence Hall of Srecience – UC Berkeley (FOSS Kit) were trying to convince me to teach Gr 7 photosynthesis while writing the chemical equation on  paper with paper atoms!    When I discussed the possibilities of using various other hands on methods of exploring the concept of photosynthesis (Elodea in a test tube with indicator fluid – blow in CO2 and cap, allow to photosynthesize in sunlight outside and see the gas on the pond plant leaves and so forth), it was made clear to me ‘this was not what was on the test’ and therefore my students needed to do/study the lessons Lawrence Hall of Science constructed.  I accidentally on purpose cited the infamous Harvard Study (along with The Smithsonian Institution as part of my point of reference), to no avail.  Apparently what was found out all those years ago regarding science misconceptions never quite translated itself from the right coast to the left coast. 

I was caught between a rock and just a place – it was not a hard/difficult place, it was just a place.  Just teach science as you are told and follow the text book.  The rock was my conscience and my better sense of what a quality education could be.  There was nothing compelling about teaching science from a textbook.

The stage for my decision to leave the classroom was set by President Bush as he pushed  NCLB through Congress on an express plane to hell.  NAEP  (National Assessment of Educational Progress) was just beginning to be read/heard and appreciated by a broader group of educators. Although The  National Assessment of Educational Progress has been around since 1969, it seems only professors in the field of education paid attention.  Although NAEP had great data, it could not get traction with an administration which believed evolution was one of the signs of the second coming (NAEP uses scientific methods to obtain data).   It is difficult to refer to the above scenario as few people even understand NAEP.

 Grad schools these days do not discuss NAEP – very few people know what it is when I reference it as its name, the acronym or The Nation’s Report Card.    Apparently the idea of parity across the states is taboo since each state managed to carve out a special meaning for highly qualified teachers.

The NAEP science assessment is not specifically aligned to California’s science content standards. There is no national science curriculum and each state sets its own standards. California’s own science assessment system, as it has for other subjects, shows students making steady progress. – Mr. Torlakson

  This inability to discuss the larger idea of a national curriculum and parity is also part of why the data released 25 January 2011 was so unsettling.  People don’t really know what the data means, so they belittle it.

“As a science teacher, these results are troubling. Despite the enormous efforts being made by educators, we’re seeing the consequences of lagging behind other states in investing in education,” Torlakson said. “This test is a less-than-precise measure of student performance in California, but it is one more signal about where we stand and where we’re headed.

The good part is it is ‘NOT TOO LATE’ for the U.S. to regroup and actually do something about our shoddy education system as it relates to science. The bad is it will be costly since there are many wonderful undereducated and/or poorly educated students laden with misconceptions which must be dealt with.  The ugly is it will be difficult to recruit the people with both the expertise in science/math and the mastery of educational process without the dollars.  Teach for America may have their grant – they are horrible at retention.  The true (truth) is, I left at just the right time – when nothing was happening.  There is hope things will turn around in the not too distant future.  I believe it would be great to teach science again – in a manner which matters.


Tests, Tests, Tests and More Tests – Results??? Who Knows….


This blog was started three weeks ago when I first captured the headlines.  I needed time to process what it was about the article that was necessarily disturbing, discomforting and revealing of how little the data in education seems to point in a meaningful direction.

At the same time this article was written, I had just begun reading the book The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, ISBN 978-0-1410-3459-1.  What I began to realize is that the test  results, while based on PAST notions of what children need to learn to be successful, are not predictive in a linear fashion of student success or even a reasonable measure of progress towards college.

If, as is pointed out in The Black Swan,  this type of data that is based on bell curve scenarios is not a quality predictive indicator, why do we persist in using it and what do we hope to obtain from the data?  If we are looking for a predictive indicator, we will most certainly be let down.  If we are looking for a measure of individual success, we will be even more let down as student learning is not linear, rather it occurs in bursts as the brain acquires enough experiences to process the over all schema.  If we are looking for qualitative measures to substantiate what we do as educators, we are applying narrative, retrospective distortion and Platonifying (over evaluating  factual information) and we will find exactly what we are seeking through interpretation.

This, in my mind, does not mean we should immediately stop all testing of students or using tests as an evaluative technique, but it should not be the exacting measure of all success or failure as indicated in the case example of Malcolm X Academy in San Francisco.   ‘

What I am understanding about myself is that I most definitely believe in Black Swans, know they exist and although we try to plan around them, realize we are victims of the perception that we can avoid what we don’t know is possible.  It is this very part of myself that quite possibly drives others crazy, much in the same way Mr. Taleb explains it in his book.

If tests are the end all of predictive value, there needs to be more than a correlation in the evidence and yet, that is all there is at this time.  I have yet to see conclusive evidence (even by the most hard core believers out there – charter schools such as KIPP and Aspire) which supports test scores translating into something such as the ability to complete/graduate college.  There are so many black swans for students who come from poverty that even the best education can not guarantee success in college – nor should that be the only outcome of an education (thank you Bill Gates). No, Bill Gates was not poor, however, he did not finish college.

There are no studies which definitively indicate a college degree will help you obtain more money during your life time, be rich, be famous, be popular.  The studies I have read indicate there is greater potentiality/possibility for some one to earn more money over their lifetime by having higher education (the higher you go, potentially the more money you can obtain).   All of this is in naught as I have close friends with a PhD who do not have the earning potential they should right now as as it is cheaper to hire a lecturer than a bona fide PhD person to place on tenure track.  I have friends who have taken a royal bath with the fall out of Wall Street even though they have an Ivy Education, including MBA degrees.  There are other friends of mine who were or had been doing moderately well except for the housing mortgage meltdown.  Most of the friends who were ensnared in this debacle would have been fine if they could wait out 10 or 15 years for the economy to right itself and housing to regain momentum instead of moving for a job.  Each item I wrote about in the last four sentences was a Black Swan none of us saw coming when we were undergrads or graduate students.

Which means, all those great grades we  (the people talked about above – and they know who they are if they are reading this blog) obtained in elementary, middle and high school, the SAT’s, GRE’s, etc. were never predictive of our success, rather all those grades and scores were predictive of our future potential.

So, my question remains, what do the results mean?  How should we use these test results to improve education? How should we deliver tests (multiple choice/written, etc.) to obtain results with more predictive value?  Can testing provide predictive value?  The questions are endless.  All I know is education has become something completely counterintuitive to what we know from Piaget, Montessori, etc.   If we really want results, we need to be more longitudinal in our thinking and cope up to the Black Swans out there which will always change the penultimate outcome of our best written and delivered lessons.