Montana Teacher: Questions About AP Courses

This comment by a reader called amontana Teacger continues a discussion of the value of AP courses. My observation: AP courses are a big money-maker for the College Board, which on its face is nonprofit, but aggressively pursues opportunities to generate revenues, like claiming that access to AP courses promotes equity.

Other posts are here and here.

Montana Teacher writes:

“Thank you for all of your comments on AP. I have several observations from my experience in our high school:

–The AP curricula is strong; however, it is not the ONLY curricula. For example, what the College Board has chosen to emphasize in English (such as tone or rhetorical devices) is perfectly fine, but this is just one way to teach English. I find that, in our school, the weight given to AP squelches our abilities to teach in other, creative ways. At my liberal arts college, the beauty was that each professor was stunningly unique, and that made learning so exciting. It makes teaching exciting, too.

–If the AP course is truly being taught at a college level, then the teacher should have a college-type schedule in order to handle the preparation and paper grading. In other words, how can a true college-level course be taught by someone who is teaching six periods, five days a week? This isn’t fair to the students if the teacher can’t keep up–or it’s not fair to the teacher, who is asked to do too much.

–If the AP course is truly being taught at the college level, then these high school kids who take many AP classes are being overloaded and over-stressed. To not be overloaded, students are forced to choose between too-easy classes or too-rigorous classes. Why not have just-the-right-amount-of-rigor classes so students can take every subject at that level, and not be forced to sacrifice one subject for another?

–How can college credit be given in courses that are taught by people who do not have master’s or doctorate degrees?

–Why do colleges accept AP credit? Isn’t this a money-losing proposition for them? How did this ever get started? I suppose that colleges fear losing students.

–The two-for-the-price-of-one mentality is permeating everything. It seems that everyone I know is in favor of dual credit classes, often to improve economic outcomes, not educational outcomes. This must be due to the high price of college . . .

–Lastly, where is the discussion on what is developmentally appropriate for our youth? Freshman English was a marvelous time in my day to read, discuss, and explore at a time when one was away from parents in a new place with a real professor–we were developmentally ready to read and write and wonder and grow. I am saddened that many students will not have this opportunity because they took “college” English as a 16-year-old.”

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Tomorrow Is My Birthday!

Tomorrow I will be 79!

My older sister says that it’s all downhill from here, but I’m not going anywhere, not without raising a ruckus.

Carol Burris has created a giant birthday card for me. I hope you will consider signing it.

This will be the first time in my life that I ever asked anyone to sign a birthday card that was not for someone else.

From the number of posts you get every day, you know that I work full-time to keep you informed about attacks on our schools and our educators.

No one pays me to do it. I do it because I believe that privatization of public schools is wrong. Attacking teachers is wrong. Attacking the teaching profession is wrong.

If you agree, help me by joining and supporting the Network for Public Education.

We have more than 350,000 members spread across every state. We have the capacity to generate thousands of emails to legislators and members of Congress. We exist to stop Betsy DeVos and her cronies and to fight for better public education for every child.

Join us. That will make me very happy on my birthday!

from novemoore

Trump Plans Giveaways to His Buddy Putin

If Donald Trump were smart, he’d be listening to his advisors. He’s not.

As President Donald Trump lashes out at former President Barack Obama for failing to take a harder line against Russia for election meddling, Trump’s own advisers are struggling to convince him that Russia still poses a threat, according to multiple senior administration officials…

But the Trump administration has taken no public steps to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 election. Multiple senior administration officials said there are few signs the President is devoting his time or attention to the ongoing election-related cyber threat from Russia.

But according to Julian Borger, he’s doing more than simply ignoring the cyber threat posed by Russia.

Donald Trump has told White House aides to come up with possible concessions to offer as bargaining chips in his planned meeting next week with Vladimir Putin, according to two former officials familiar with the preparations.

National security council staff have been tasked with proposing “deliverables” for the first Trump-Putin encounter, including the return of two diplomatic compounds Russians were ordered to vacate by the Obama administration in response to Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election, the former officials said. It is not clear what Putin would be asked to give in return.

Not only is Trump ignoring the cyber threat, he is considering the possibility of returning two diplomatic compounds to Putin—the very ones that Obama ordered vacated in response to Russia’s interference in the election.

Trying to follow any logic associated with Trump’s behavior is a fool’s errand. He just went on a twitter tirade last week about how Obama did nothing in response to Russia’s behavior. Simultaneously, he was asking his national security staff to propose “deliverables” he could give to Putin, including the reversal of what Obama did in response to Russia’s behavior. This is precisely why I never assume that there is any method to the madness of his twitter tirades. They are simply the rantings of someone with no impulse control.

The overall idea that this president is looking for deliverables to propose in his first meeting with Putin, while asking nothing in return, is remarkable. The two words that come to mind to describe it are (1) stupid and (2) guilty.

A competent strategist would find a way to at least appear neutral about Russia (if not a bit aggressive) in order to diminish the appearance of collusion. Trump isn’t even trying. That’s what makes him look guilty. During a time when we know that Russia mounted their most aggressive attempt to undermine our democracy, this president is considering giveaways to the guy who orchestrated it all. Why else would he do that unless Putin had something on him? I don’t know about you, but I can’t come up with any other justification.

If Trump set out to prove himself guilty, I can’t imagine how he could do a better job than this.

from novemoore

Urgent Note to Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan: Hands Off Our Schools and Our Children!

Education Week reports on the plans of billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan to redesign American education. They have launched something called the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative–or CZI Initiative–to carry out their plan for “personalized learning”‘( I.e., “depersonalized learning”) to remake education into whatever they think in their limited experience is best. They have hired James Shelton–formerly of the Gates Foundation, formerly in charge of Arne Duncan’s failed SIG program (the School Improvement Grants part of Race to the Top, which federal evaluations found produced nothing of value).

What’s wrong with CZI? First, neither of its founders understands that public education is a democratic institution, in which parents and communities make decisions about their children’s education. It is not a start-up or a venture fund or an app. Did someone elect them to redesign American education without telling the public? What arrogance! Why don’t they pick a District and ask for permission to demonstrate their vision before they spend hundreds of millions to lobby for it?

Second, if they want to help children, why don’t they open a health clinic in proximity to every school that needs one? Dr. Chan is a pediatrician. Children’s health is something she knows about. Mark knows code. Children don’t need code. They need care.

Third, the article describes this as a “high-stakes venture,” but there are zero stakes for Chan and Zuckerberg. If they drop $5 billion, so what? Who will hold them accountable when they get bored and move on?

Why don’t they do what is needed, instead of foisting their half-baked ideas on the nation’s children?

And last, it is beyond obnoxious that they dare to call their tech-based approach “whole-child personalized learning,” which is an oxymoron. What part of “whole-child learning” happens on a computer?

Where are their plans to feed the hungry, heal the sick, create opportunities for play and imagination to run free?

Sad to say, this is a vainglorious and anti-democratic imposition of C and Z’s ideas on people who have nothing to say about it. The one-tenth of 1% toying with our children and our schools, for their enjoyment.

An excerpt from the Education Week article?:

“Pediatrician Priscilla Chan and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg are gearing up to invest hundreds of millions of dollars a year in a new vision of “whole-child personalized learning,” with the aim of dramatically expanding the scope and scale of efforts to provide every student with a customized education.

“The emerging strategy represents a high-stakes effort to bridge longstanding divides between competing visions for improving the nation’s schools. Through their recently established Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the billionaire couple intends to support the development of software that might help teachers better recognize and respond to each student’s academic needs-while also supporting a holistic approach to nurturing children’s social, emotional, and physical development.

“The man charged with marrying those two philosophies is former Deputy U.S. Secretary of Education James H. Shelton, now the initiative’s president of education.

“We’ve got to dispel this notion that personalized learning is just about technology,” Shelton said in an exclusive interview with Education Week. “In fact, it is about understanding students, giving them agency, and letting them do work that is engaging and exciting.”

“To advance that vision, Shelton has at his disposal a massive fortune and a wide array of levers to pull.

“Chan and Zuckerberg created CZI as a vehicle for directing 99 percent of their Facebook shares-worth an estimated $45 billion-to causes related to education and science, through a combination of charitable giving and investment.

“The initiative is structured as a limited-liability corporation, rather than a traditional foundation. That means CZI will be able to make philanthropic donations, invest in for-profit companies, lobby for favored policies and legislation, and directly support candidates for elected office ­ ­-all with minimal public-reporting requirements.

“For now, Shelton said, CZI is “one of the best-resourced startups in the world, but still a startup,” with fewer than 20 people on its education team.

“In the near future, though, he expects the initiative to give out “hundreds of millions of dollars per year” for education-related causes. Such a figure would place the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative among the highest-giving education-focused philanthropies in the country.

“Within five years, Shelton said in the June 22 interview, CZI’s work should have helped launch a “meaningful number” of schools and learning environments “where kids are performing dramatically better, and feel more engaged, and teachers feel more engaged in the work that they’re doing.”

“Chan, 32, and Zuckerberg, 33, also have embraced the idea of a long horizon for the initiative’s work, saying their support for personalized learning will extend over decades.

“From the outset, however, the couple’s attempt to engineer big changes in the U.S. education system faces significant obstacles.

“Personalized learning” was an amorphous concept even before this new attempt to integrate it with equally hard-to-define “whole child” strategies. It remains unclear how Chan, Zuckerberg, and Shelton intend to balance the organization’s support for research and development with their desire to quickly bring to scale new products and approaches, many of which have limited or no evidence to support their effectiveness.

“And CZI won’t commit to publicly disclosing all of its financial and political activity or to making the source code for its software open and accessible to the larger education community. That stance has stirred complaints about a lack of transparency.”

from novemoore

June 30: Join Student Data Deletion Day!

Today is the first Student Data Deletion Day.

This is a parent’s response to the obscene amounts of personal data collected about every child. Why do they do it? Because they can, and because you let them.

Please open to see the many links.

As usual, this is an excerpt:

“Our K-12 public schools are collecting an enormous amount of data about our kids that will pre-determine whether their dream schools will give their applications a fair assessment and if prospective employers will give them a chance to interview for an opening.

“The type and amount of data being accumulated and stored by our public schools and third-party vendors is staggering. For example, some elementary schools deploy identification cards with RFID chips that track when and how many times our kids go to the bathroom, how long they spend inside a bathroom stall while taking care of their personal business, and how many times they go to the water fountain along with all of their daily movements in and within the school’s property. Other schools utilize biometric palm readers that scan our kids’ hand or fingerprints to track everything our kids buy in the school cafeteria. All of this cumulative data is a honey pot for colleges, employers, insurance companies, data brokers, cyber criminals, foreign governments, etc…

“Every time our kids may be admonished for talking out of turn or texting in class they may receive a permanent demerit in Class Dojo. In the near future, classrooms may be filled with cameras and other tracking technologies that also analyze our kids every interaction with their teachers and class mates. This is not some type of crazy prediction; in China, this Orwellian future is already a reality.

“Multiple companies in the educational technology space have intentionally misled students, parents, teachers, administrators, and lawmakers about how they are using the personal data they are collecting about our kids in school. For example, Google was caught intentionally scanning student emails for advertising and other troubling purposes despite prior promises it was not. ConnectEDU tried to sell personal student data for profit when it went bankrupt despite promising not to do so. Edmodo, another educational technology company, was recently caught surreptitiously tracking students online to monetize their web surfing habits despite promises to the contrary.

“As a parent and privacy advocate, I have come to the realization that more needs to be done to raise awareness about these issues and to effectuate change. Therefore, I am calling for all K-12 public schools to automatically delete the following data points each and every June 30th after the school year has ended:

-All student Internet browsing history
-All student school work saved on platforms such as the Google G Suite
-All student created emails (and all other digital communications)
-All behavioral data points/saved class interactions (e.g. Class Dojo data points)
-All student physical location data points (e.g. obtained via RFID tags)
-All biometric data collected and tied to a student account (e.g. meal purchase information)
–An Easy To Follow School-Data-Deletion-Request-Template

“This is just the beginning of the conversation and as our schools collect more data points on our kids more data will need to be automatically deleted at the end of each school year. Each public school system and their vendors must be required to certify in writing that the requested data deletion has occurred.

“None of these above data points were kept on the Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, or Generation X so they are not needed to be collected and saved for future generations. If we really want to make “America Great Again,” kids should be allowed to be kids without the fear that their every move is tied to them for the rest of their lives.

“Some educational technology vendors, industry funded think tanks/associations, and academics (e.g. George Mason University’s Law & Economics Center) may falsely claim deleting this data will harm our children and deprive parents and teachers of the knowledge they need to make more informed choices. Some arguments against automatic data deletion may include: it should be the parents choice, the data is needed for personalization, the information is needed to help improve the service offering so it will help better educate our kids, etc…

“None of these arguments are valid and should not be believed. Parents should not have to opt into protecting their children’s privacy, safety, security, and future. If a parent doesn’t want their child’s data deleted then they have the right to opt out of automatic data deletion.

“Privacy is the corner stone of a free and vibrant democracy. Therefore, we need to start by better protecting our kids in school. The amount of data being collected on our children is staggering and no matter how hard I have advocated for stronger student data privacy laws and for stronger digital privacy laws, I have been out gunned by lobbyists funded by companies that relish an Orwellian society they can easily monetize.

“As a parent, for the sake of our kids and future generations, I ask that you support National Student Data Deletion Day on June 30th by sending in an email or snail mail demanding that your public school system and their vendors start an annual purge of all the unnecessary data points collected about our kids.

“Before our kids email and other school provided digital accounts are set up for the following school year, all prior non-essential data (most of the data is non-essential) should be deleted. Our children should be given a fresh start every school year just like we were when we attended school.

“Data discrimination is real and to help prevent it now is the time to act before its too late! Please HELP OUR KIDS BE KIDS IN THE DIGITAL AGE! — Bradley Shear”

from novemoore

Quick Takes: CBO Score Was a Devastating Blow to McConnell

* In their behind-the-scenes recap on what happened to McConnell’s health care bill, the Washington Post reports this:

A lobbyist close to Senate Republicans said the [CBO] score was a devastating blow to McConnell. Senators felt they had been “sold a bill of goods,” the lobbyist said, and had expected the Senate bill to have greater distance from the House bill.

“It knocked the wind out of all the sails,” said a GOP aide.

Why did the scoring come as such a shock? Because McConnell thought he could use some complicated math to stall reductions in Medicaid spending so that the hits would come more dramatically outside the 10 year CBO scoring window. Obviously that trick didn’t work as well as McConnell had hoped. But Sen. Ron Wyden asked CBO to score the cuts for an additional 10 years to capture what would happen. That report was released today and things get even worse. By 2036 Medicaid would be reduced by a third.

* For years Republicans struggled with a replacement plan for Obamacare because the only thing that would work as well as Obamacare was something very similar to Obamacare. Now, as they struggle to negotiate towards a bill that doesn’t decimate the health insurance of millions of Americans, they’re considering things that make BCRA more like Obamacare.

Republican Senator Bob Corker said Thursday that he expects GOP leaders to scrap a provision in their health bill that would repeal a tax on investment income that affects high-income earners.

The Tennessee Republican said the decision to retain Obamacare’s 3.8 percent tax on net investment income would help Republicans boost subsidies for low-income people in the individual exchanges. Some other Republicans said they were willing to at least consider the idea.

* Remember ISIS?

After eight months of grinding urban warfare, Iraqi government troops on Thursday captured the ruined mosque at the heart of Islamic State’s de facto capital Mosul, and the prime minister declared the group’s self-styled caliphate at an end.

Iraqi authorities expect the long battle for Mosul to end in coming days as remaining Islamic State fighters are bottled up in just a handful of neighborhoods of the Old City.

The seizure of the nearly 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque — from where Islamic State proclaimed the caliphate nearly three years ago to the day — is a huge symbolic victory.

* Speaking of ISIS

The Pentagon is putting the final touches on a promised new counter-Islamic State strategy for Syria and Iraq, and it looks very much like the one the Obama administration pursued, according to senior defense officials.

The core of the strategy is to deny territory to the militants and ultimately defeat them, and to stay out of Syria’s civil war pitting the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, Iran and Russia against domestic opposition forces.

* Charles Blow says that Trump is obsessed with Obama.

Trump wants to be Obama — held in high esteem. But, alas, Trump is Trump, and that is now and has always been trashy. Trump accrued financial wealth, but he never accrued cultural capital, at least not among the people from whom he most wanted it.

Therefore, Trump is constantly whining about not being sufficiently applauded, commended, thanked, liked. His emotional injury is measured in his mind against Obama. How could Obama have been so celebrated while he is so reviled?

While he makes a great point, I might have written that a bit differently. Trump is obsessed with himself. Obama is someone who—simply by being who is he is—poses a threat to Trump’s ego. You can read what Joshua Grubbs says about how narcissists handle ego threats. Here is the heart of it:

All available evidence suggests that narcissist are quite literally incapable of ignoring ego threat. They literally can’t let it go. (16/?)

— Josh Grubbs (@JoshuaGrubbsPhD) June 29, 2017

* Finally, my latest favorite in the garden is Lantana because of their multi-colored bursts. Here are the first blooms on a plant I potted last week.

from novemoore

How Trump Lost His Natural Congressional Power Bloc

I was admittedly stunned when Donald Trump won the presidency on Election Day, but by November 17th I had recovered enough to begin making an effort to see into the future. I began by looking at how the House Freedom Caucus would behave and what kind of choices they would face.

Trump wants to immediately do away with the Defense sequester, which the American Enterprise Institute estimates will allow him to spend about $300 billion extra over the next four years. The Wall Street Journal thinks that Trump’s proposed tax cuts will result in “$6 trillion in lost revenue over the next decade.” The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget looked at Trump’s proposals in the Spring and came up with this handy chart:


Now, you might wonder how you can increase the debt by 12 trillion in ten years without raising the borrowing limit of the U.S. government. Sure, you can sprinkle some magic fairy dust around that will assume economic growth will exceed 10% annually, but that seems rather extreme even for committed supply-siders. Will the Freedom Caucus laugh in Trump’s face, as Paul Ryan did in September, when asked to pass his $550 billion unpaid-for infrastructure bill?

You might think that these folks will simply adjust to their new situation and go along to get along. And many of them will do just that. But they won’t be able to avoid breaking pledges or casting votes to raise the debt ceiling every five minutes.

And, that, in a sense, is having their wings clipped.

As you can see, my starting point was trying to figure out how a group of lawmakers who had become habituated to voting against raising the debt ceiling could be convinced to blow up the deficit to anything approximating the degree to which Donald Trump was proposing.

As I explored this further, the outlines of my future analysis started to emerge:

Now, when it comes time to vote on huge budget-busting bills, it may be that the Democrats will be there ready to lend a hand. But they’ll have conditions, and those conditions will grow more demanding to the exact degree that the Freedom Caucus refuses to supply the votes themselves. In other words, the more intransigent they are on blowing up the debt and deficit, the more power the Democrats get to shape legislation.

Will they learn their lesson from this?

If they do, it will be something new because they continually forced Boehner into the arms of Pelosi over the last six years until it frustrated them so badly that they essentially forced Boehner’s resignation.

It’s a no win situation for the Freedom Caucus because Trump will go around them if he needs to. But they could still cannibalize their own leadership. At least, for now, they seem content with Paul Ryan as their speaker, but there could come a day that Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon (an avowed enemy of Ryan) asks them to defenestrate him. Or they could decide to do it wholly on their own as a way to push back against the White House’s big spending and reliance on Democrats.

There isn’t really a coherent strategy for them going forward, though. They can demand a total root-and-branch repeal of Obamacare but that’s probably not going to be possible on the terms they desire. But mostly, they’ll find themselves being whipped to vote for things that aren’t even remotely paid for, which will require them to up the debt ceiling repeatedly.

And if they refuse, the Democrats can hold the administration hostage in a fair bit of turnabout.

I had not yet anticipated how Trump would proceed and was still thinking that he might truly “clip the wings” of the Freedom Caucus as Jennifer Rubin was reporting he would at the time. I did not yet know that he would sign off on a plan to use a dual budget reconciliation process to in an effort to both repeal Obamacare and enact tax reform with only fifty votes in the Senate. By pursuing a plan maximally offensive to Democrats at the outset we also inadvertently gave veto power to both the Freedom Caucus and the moderate wing of the GOP to veto anything they didn’t like. And since they can’t agree with each other, he put his entire agenda at risk. But, more than that, he pushed off dealing with some of his other budget-busting ideas, like increased defense spending and a big infrastructure bill.

So, things didn’t unfold the way I anticipated but the structural logic of the conundrum remained in place and actually came out worse for the president. Trump hasn’t even gotten around to whipping House conservatives to vote for things that aren’t even remotely paid for and yet he’s still going to have trouble getting them to raise the debt ceiling. He should have made them walk that plank after he forced them to sign off on his big spending.

More than this, though, the dual budget reconciliation plan compounded the problem where the Freedom Caucus’s refusal to sign off on Trump’s campaign promises meant that the congressional leadership would have to go in search of Democratic votes that would not be forthcoming without painful conditions. This was both because the plan alienated the Democrats and because it gave the Trump administration the false impression that they would never need Democratic support.

I actually gave Trump too much credit back in November. I thought he’d realize that the most fruitful way forward  would be to cut the Freedom Caucus out and seek the votes he needed for things like defense spending and infrastructure from the middle. But he let the Republicans hijack his presidency and convince him to make Obamacare repeal and huge deficit busting tax cuts his top priorities.

Maybe this was driven by the fact that his most ardent supporters came from the far right. But it missed the reality he would face as president, the fact that he didn’t run as an orthodox tea partying conservative Republican on infrastructure, health care and entitlements, and that his most crucial supporters were actually longtime Democrats in the Rust Belt who had supported Barack Obama.

His natural congressional power bloc was actually a bipartisan one that would jettison Republican orthodoxy in the interest of building lots of roads and bridges, increasing defense spending, protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, dealing with the opioid crisis, and (yes) taking a hardline on immigration.

He pushed that group aside and followed a plan laid out by McConnell and Ryan that would have been fitting for any Republican president, including Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. Except Jeb and Marco would have been smart enough to realize that that kind of plan would never work.

from novemoore