Saturday, November 29, 2008

Faux Teachers

The Dallas Daily News in Texas is exposing a Dallas school district that is supplying phony Social security numbers for foreigners being hired by the district to teach bilingual classes:
"There's no way we should be doing that kind of stuff," Ms. Olson said. "Even if your intention is good to help employees get paid, you can't use inappropriate procedures to do that."

Stopgap approach

The investigative report, obtained by The News through a records request, found "that the inappropriate procedure of assigning false SSNs has been systemic for several years" within DISD's alternative certification program, which prepares new teachers for state certification when they don't have traditional credentials.

A call Thursday to DISD's alternative certification office was not returned. In recent years, DISD has hired people from various countries, including Mexico and Spain, to deal with a shortage of bilingual teachers.

The fake numbers were assigned as a stopgap to expedite the hiring process, the report says. The numbers were supposed to serve as temporary identification numbers until employees received real Social Security numbers. Once employees got the real numbers, they were supposed to tell district officials so the fake ones could be replaced.

The investigation found no indication that the fake numbers were provided to the Teacher Retirement System, the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration.

However, according to the report, a sampling of several fake numbers showed that they had been included in a July quarterly report sent to the Texas Workforce Commission.

Also, when investigators reviewed a sampling of personnel files, they learned that the fake numbers were entered on Department of Homeland Security and IRS forms. The forms are not transmitted outside the district but are made available to the appropriate federal agency upon request.

In July, the district discovered that 26 of the false numbers were in use after matching DISD employee Social Security numbers with the Social Security Administration database. The numbers were already being used in Pennsylvania. DISD officials did not know Thursday whether the practice had caused problems for anyone holding the legitimate numbers.

The district's investigative unit, called the Office of Professional Responsibility, began looking into the fake numbers after the Texas Education Agency's division of educator investigations advised the unit in July that it had discovered the district issuing false numbers in 2004.

That year, the TEA division became aware of the practice when DISD faxed copies of about 100 new Social Security Administration cards for foreign citizens – most of whom had been assigned district-issued numbers – and asked TEA to replace the old numbers, according to the investigative report. The state office told DISD at the time that it's illegal to make up Social Security numbers and pass them off as legitimate, the report says.

'A mess'

Doug Phillips, TEA's director of investigations and fingerprinting, said his office believed the district had stopped the practice because there was no evidence that it continued. He said Thursday that he didn't know which laws forbid issuing fake Social Security numbers.

"We just knew it looked bad and smelled bad," Mr. Phillips said. "That was the first time we'd ever heard of that one."
Ah, but it gets even better...

A research service has found another link to social security tampering from within the education system...
For the past year more than 2,000 New York children have been interacting with online tutors who claimed to be from Texas but were actually based in India. The 250 tutors were hired by a private company under the federal No Child Left Behind program.

An investigation by the U.S. Department of Education revealed the tutors were never screened with required fingerprint and background checks before they began working with the children, according to a report by the Special Commissioner of Investigation, Richard Condon.

Mythili Sridhar, a co-owner of Socratic Learning Inc, the company that supplied the offshore tutors, admitted in a letter that the tutors did not live in Texas. Ms. Sridhar, who trains the tutors, wrote that they "tutor from there homes," failing to correctly spell the word "their," according to the New York Sun.

"Socratic blatantly violated its contract and we are suspending their contract pending further action by the state," a Department of Education spokesman, Andrew Jacob, said. "We will notify parents of any students who enrolled with Socratic Learning this fall they should select" a new provider.

The company's Web site advertises its primary service as "online one-on-one tutoring with highly qualified college degreed instructors." Last year, the department reminded the company to send a list of its online tutors but it never did so, the report said. Outside providers of tutoring services are required to submit a list of their employees to an electronic database maintained by the Department of Education, which then conducts the background checks.

In November, Carmela Cuddy, an official from the education department's Office of Personnel Investigation, advised Socratic Learning that it would not grant security clearance to any staff members who didn't have Social Security numbers.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Bush Depression Saves CT Schools From State 'Reform'

Yesterday, the Courant reported that the State is far too broke to spend any more money on bad ideas the State's Department of Education reforms.

The much-touted effort to improve quality and standards at high schools across Connecticut has fallen victim to the state's dismal economy.

Bowing to financial pressures, state Education Commissioner Mark K. McQuillan said officials will put off implementing the changes for another two years.

As recently as last month, officials had hoped to move forward with the reform effort, and planned to begin implementing the changes next fall, starting with 20 to 25 school districts at a two-year cost of $16 million. They argued that the tough economy made it even more important to invest in changes to make high school students better prepared for higher education and the workforce.

But as state budget projections grew bleaker, McQuillan said it became clear that any costly new initiatives would not be viable.

"That $16 million is simply out of reach now," he said.
Thank God. The only thing better would be the complete dissolution of the State Department of Malfeasant Education. These bastards having been screwing up Connecticut Education expensively, publicly, and embarrassingly for far too long.

Time for the State to really save money and get rid of these parasites.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Julie Amero is Free!

After 534 days of waiting for a decision, Julie Amero's sentence has been reduced from the original, potential 40 year prison sentence to a $100 misdemeanor.

The belated arrival of justice is a welcome relief for all of us who have supported Julie's innocence. She and her husband Wes can now, finally, begin life anew.

But in those 534 days, Julie was treated like sex criminal and lost a job at a local Hardware supply chain when the employees of that store decided to presume guilt instead of innocence. And Julie's life was a life of fear that some irrational soul might attempt to cause physical harm.

Justice is just a reminder that innocence exists. But it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that Julie's life is made whole after the ravages false witness and the effects of that on her pregnancy, self-worth, and livelihood.

See: Rick Green's blog.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Education in an Economic Depression

The Boston Globe is running an interesting speculative article about how the next economic depression will differ from the last century. Called Depression 2009: What would it look like?
Higher education, another big expense, would probably take a hit as well. Students unable to afford private universities would opt for public universities, students unable to afford four-year colleges would opt for community colleges, and students unable to afford community college wouldn't go at all. With fewer applicants, admissions standards would drop, with spots that once would have been filled by more qualified, poorer students going instead to wealthier applicants who before would not have made the cut. Some universities would simply shrink. In Boston, a city almost uniquely dependent on higher education, the results - fewer students renting apartments, going to restaurants and bars, opening bank accounts, buying books, taking taxis - would be particularly acute.

A depression would last too long for unemployed college graduates to ride out the downturn in business or law school, so people would have to change career plans entirely. One place that could see an uptick in applications and interest is government work: Its relative stability, combined with a suspicion of free-market ideology that would accompany a truly disastrous downturn, could attract more people and even help the public sector shake off its image as a redoubt for the mediocre and the unambitious.

. . .

In many ways, though, today's depression would not look like the last one because it would not look like much at all. As Warren wrote in an e-mail, "The New Depression would be largely invisible because people would experience loss privately, not publicly."

In the public imagination, the Depression was a galvanizing time, the crucible in which the Greatest Generation came of age and came together. That is, at best, only partly true. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam has found that, for many, the Depression was isolating: Kiwanis clubs, PTAs, and other social groups lost around half their members from 1930 to 1935. And other studies on economic hardship suggest that it tends to sap people's civic engagement, often permanently.

"When people become unemployed in the Great Depression, they hunker down, they pull in from everybody." Putnam says.

That effect, Putnam believes, would only be more pronounced today. The Depression was, famously, a boom time for movies - people flocked to cheap double features to escape the dreariness of their everyday poverty. Today, however, movies are no longer cheap. Nor is a day at the ballpark.

Much of a modern depression would unfold in the domestic sphere: people driving less, shopping less, and eating in their houses more. They would watch television at home; unemployed parents would watch over their own kids instead of taking them to day care. With online banking, it would even be possible to have a bank run in which no one leaves the comfort of their home.

There would be darker effects, as well. Depression, unsurprisingly, is higher in economically distressed households; so is domestic violence. Suicide rates go up in tough times, marriage rates and birthrates go down. And while divorce rates usually rise in recessions, they dropped during the Great Depression, in part because unhappy couples found they simply couldn't afford separation.

In precarious times, hunkering down can become not simply a defense mechanism, but a worldview. Grant McCracken, an anthropologist affiliated with MIT who studies consumer behavior, calls this distinction "surging" vs. "dwelling" - the difference, as he wrote recently on his blog, between believing that the world "teems with new features, new things, new opportunities, new excitement" and thinking that life's pleasures come from counting one's blessings and appreciating and holding onto what one already has. Economic uncertainty, he argues, drives us toward the latter.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gates Education Foundation 1.0 Fails, What Next? You'll Be Sorry You Asked.

Chester E. Finn, Jr. writing in Forbes magazine updates us on the thinking of the Gates Foundation and gives us some insight into their failure to make a difference (aside from spending big bucks on a lot of dubious programs). Was the Gates Foundation interested in education or just indoctrinating more schools with Windows based systems? The question is worth asking because the outcomes are so weak that the only measurable effect is publicity for the Gates brand name.
There's much to like in the new plan, beginning with the foundation's confession that version 1.0, focused on creation of small high schools, didn't turn out very well, save for several networks of high-performance charters such as KIPP, Yes-Prep and Achievement First.

Version 2.0 continues the Gates emphasis on successful high-school completion and college-readiness for disadvantaged young people and adds a parallel thrust toward college completion. It features laudable--and measurable--targets for both.

It includes welcome attention to developing national standards and tests, markedly strengthening education data (stay tuned for the Fordham Institute's own contribution on that front next week), enhancing research into "what works," accelerating the development and use of education technology and strengthening teachers across multiple fronts. Incorporated therein is piloting of performance-related pay and tenure systems.

Two cheers are surely deserved. It's too early to know, however, whether a third is warranted. For what was emphasized in Seattle, and in the materials released so far, is mostly an educator's (and student's) version of education reform, not a parent's, taxpayer's or policymaker's version. Indeed, the word "parent" scarcely appears, nor "choice," "charter" or "governance," nor much by way of politics, policy or finance.

Though Version 2.0 includes a few controversial items--national standards and performance pay foremost among them--it's generally non-confrontational and educator-pleasing, even teacher-centric. (It seemed particularly odd, given the praise lavished on KIPP et al, to find no mention in the documents of building more high-quality charter networks or the policy surroundings and human-capital arrangements in which these can flourish.)
Yet again, schools are being corrupted by the infusion of high-rolling foundations financing national testing schemes that have yet to produce an iota of improved educational practice. And performance pay plans? Come on. If Gates can't release bug-free software with performance pay, waht are the chances...?

I'd call the new initiative Dumb Ideas 2.0.

While it is their money to burn, it is our schools and children used as sacrificial lambs. I'd rather suffer with creative under-funded schools than luxury, centralized memorization boot camps, but that's just the educator in me talking.

The Fordham Institute is a neo-con -cough- "think-tank" artifact of the bad-old Bush administration's policies that Gates helped finance. It will be interesting to see if Obama embraces the urban education myths of NCLB that institutions like this hood-winked the public with for the past twenty years or if Obama steers into programs that actually meet the needs of children.

I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Along Came Bob Rose

In my education reading I include a visit to the Courant's Education section and I browse and sometimes contribute to the readers comments.

Recently I came across an interesting entry and received permission to reproduce it here. Here is our correspondence in full.
Would you mind if I blogged about your recent Hartford Courant response about the Montessori results?


I would be delighted! I've been trying to get someone interested in this for years. On my listserv we are in the process of proving the idea once again.

FYI, I will append a three-page description of our original study below, and I'll also attach the same document as an MS Word attachment. (In case the number columns in the Table don't print out straight in the email version.

It's almost unbelievable that no one has ever checked out this simple idea!



In 2002-2003 I did on on-line survey of “Teachers Applying Whole Language” to test my belief that teaching children to write the alphabet to a definable level of fluency (incorporating both rate and legibility), and to my pleasure, I found an overwhelmingly positive correlation. The following school year (2003-2004) I started my own Internet listserv, and recruited five kindergarten teachers who wanted to help me reproduce the findings. The results were just as positive.

I wrote to the editors of about a dozen education and educational psychology journals, describing our controlled study and the only positive request for a manuscript submission was from the manuscript editor of the Harvard Educational Review. (The assistant editor of one well known journal simply emailed me, “That couldn’t possibly be true!”)

I immediately submitted a slightly different draft from the one that follows, but it was summarily rejected by the referees of the H.E.R.

As far as I know, this is (surprisingly) the only study of a possible relationship between early practice printing alphabet letters and subsequent reading success. The five kindergarten teachers involved are trying to spread word of this method privately, but so far with no success. Between the five, they have over a century of classroom experience, and I could share their email addresses with you, if you like.

Most K-1 teachers are aware that their students who are best at reading are also best at printing. However, they are not aware of the causal relationship between early printing practice and the avoidance of subsequent reading problems.

I believe the general public believes that school curricula already have fluency criteria for printing letters in K-1, and would be surprised to learn the fact that they do not.

I hope you will post the following study in the hopes someone will attempt to reproduce it. If there is truly a massive positive correlation between early printing fluency and subsequent reading success (as long as “dyslexia” has not already supervened), I believe it will be one of the most important social science discoveries in history.


By Robert V. Rose, MD (retired)

Submitted March 15, 2004


The possible relationship between practice printing alphabet letters and learning to read in the earliest grades has not been adequately explored. The present article describes preliminary evidence that this relationship may be important, and that reading difficulties may relate directly to inadequate printing practice in kindergarten and first-grade

Historically, many authorities on the subject of literacy instruction have stressed the importance of adequate practice in printing alphabet letters. The first-century Roman writer and rhetorician, Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (ca A.D. 35-98?) wrote that with regard to becoming literate, “Too slow a hand impedes the mind.”

In 1912, Maria Montessori wrote, in effect, that teaching young children to print letters is easy, that it is easy to teach children to read after they have practiced printing alphabet letters, but that it is difficult to teach children to read if they have not practiced writing them. 1

Marilyn Jager Adams noted that prior to the onset of the twentieth century the “spelling drill” was the principal means of inducing literacy for several millennia. 2

More recently, several published authors have called attention to the dearth of research on the possible link between printing practice and the acquisition of literacy in young children, but objective studies of the relationship are still lacking.3, 4

This author has made the assumption that emphasis on practicing printing alphabet letters increases the fluency with which children can print them. It was therefore decided to examine the relationship between fluency at printing the alphabet in preliterate children, and their subsequent success in learning to read well.

This method suffers the disadvantage of requiring children to be able to recite the alphabet in order to print the different letters both legibly and at a rate sufficient to demonstrate that they have practiced enough to have become “printing fluent.” However, it was considered superior to other methods of assessing fluency in printing alphabet letters in young children.

Such children have limited attention spans. It was therefore decided to measure the number of alphabet letters children write during a timed twenty-second interval, and multiply that number by three in order to obtain a “letters-per-minute,” or “LPM,” value for each child.

During the early months of 2002, five first-grade (second year of school) teachers were enlisted from teacher-related internet listservs, to do a cooperative study of the relationship between fluency in writing the alphabet, and concomitant reading skill.

The printing rate of each child was listed by teachers submitting classroom data, and each was matched by the subjective teacher assessment of the child’s relative reading skill. The assessments were A, B, C, D and E, to designate “excellent”, “above average”, “average”, “below average” and “possible reading problem”, respectively.

A total of 94 children in five first-grade classrooms were studied. When the letter grades were converted to numbers (4, 3, 2, 1, 0), “average relative reading ability” could be determined for subgroups of students, defined as printing at different rates.

Among the sixteen children who printed faster than 40 LPM, the average reading score was 3.6. Among the 33 children who printed from 30 to 39 LPM, the average was 2.9. For the 26 children writing at 20-29 LPM, it was 2.3. For the 21 children who wrote more slowly than 20 LPM, it was 1.6.

During this current school year, a number of kindergarten (first year of school) teachers have submitted series of similar studies on their classrooms to the k1writing listserv, accessible at By the end of February, 2004, a total of five teachers had submitted serial data on a total of 106 kindergarten students, including data for the month of February.

The relative reading skills of the kindergartners were ranked according to a three-level system: “reading better than grade level”, “doing well at grade level” and “lagging behind expectations”. In the opinions of their teachers, six children were already reading at second-grade level or above.

Statistical analysis of the correlation again yielded similar results. Among the eighteen children who printed the alphabet faster than 40 LPM, 72% were “above grade level,” and only one was “lagging.” Among the eighteen children who wrote more slowly than 20 LPM, none was above grade level in reading skill, and half of them were “lagging” in this regard.

A tabulation of these findings is revealing. It is informative to look down the column of LPM figures for these 106 children, and observe the correlations. These data are presented in Table One.

The correlation between reading skill and fluency at printing alphabet letters in kindergarten and first-grade is readily apparent. This correlation was known to each of the experienced [kindergarten] teachers participating in this study even before the study was done. The experiment, then, was designed to answer the question as to whether this correlation is one of causation, or merely coincident with some other unidentified factor.

The kindergarten teachers involved have each been able to achieve a level of printing fluency that is considerably above what is generally achieved by American kindergarten students. The printing rates of their kindergarten children are comparable to the rates of the first-grade students in the original study, whose teachers had NOT been previously monitoring printing rate. If the cause of the correlation were in the opposite direction, and it is having learned to read which drives printing fluency, then one would expect the correlation to weaken in classrooms where printing fluency has been intentionally contrived. However, we here see the correlation has persisted intact.

This year, each of the kindergarten teachers has been making a dedicated effort to induce objectively measurable printing fluency in the students as the school year progresses. Each of the five kindergarten teachers has emphatically proclaimed that this practice is found to be immensely helpful in turning young children into readers.

A number of the classrooms have high percentages of poverty and minority children, and none of the children could read at the beginning of the kindergarten school year. It was found that printing fluency, which we arbitrarily defined as 40 LPM or faster, is achieved at different times by different children, and that such fluency is an excellent indicator of when children will learn to read, as well as indicating which children have become successful at reading at any particular point in time.

It was also observed that printing fluency gradually improves in almost all cases with continued practice writing the alphabet letters. Failure to cooperate during the time allocated by teachers for dedicated printing practice seems to be the main limiting factor in the development of printing skill.

None-the-less, our data suggest that fluency in writing the letters of the alphabet is a reasonable goal for all normal children by the end of first-grade.

But it appears that printing fluency does not at all correlate with reading ability much beyond the first-grade level. One teacher submitted data on 54 fourth-graders (fifth year of school), demonstrating no difference at all in the median alphabet-printing rates between children who had been formally identified as reading below grade level, and the other students.5

It is also apparent that printing skill is by no means a necessary prerequisite for literacy. Many children learn to read before they are fluent at printing alphabet letters. On the other hand, virtually all children who lag in reading skill in K-1 are dysfluent printers. That this lack of skill is remediable through continued dedicated practice, extended over time, appears to be of fundamental importance.

If the attainment of fluent ability to print alphabet letters in the earliest grades generally assures early success in reading, this fact challenges some current theoretical conceptions regarding the nature of reading disabilities.

Our evidence suggests both that printing fluency confers the ability to name random letters more rapidly than 40 per minute6, and that the ability to phonetically write words fluently, possible only after the attainment of fluency in printing letters, confers phonemic awareness.

Adams wrote, “It has been shown that the act of writing newly learned words results in a significant strengthening of their perceptual integrity in recognition. This is surely a factor underlying the documented advantages of programs that emphasize writing and spelling activities.”7

Montessori also considered practice writing alphabet letters to be crucial, and wrote, “We shall soon see that the child, on hearing the word, or on thinking of a word he already knows, will see, in his mind’s eye, all the letters, necessary to compose the word, arrange themselves. He will reproduce this vision with a facility most surprising to us.”8

While such rhetorical explanations of the value of writing practice have been seen as nebulous in the past, converging advances in the fields of pattern recognition by artificial intelligence and of the cerebral physiology involved in visual pattern recognition and categorization may render them more plausible.

It is emphasized that these studies are limited and preliminary, but their results underscore the pressing need to either confirm or disaffirm their apparent implications.

The author wishes to acknowledge the participation of the classroom teachers who did and submitted these comparison studies on their students. They are Libby Rhoden, Pasadena, Texas; Sue Fisher, Kailua Kona, Hawaii; Ann Vasconcellos, Homewood, Illinois; Helen Wilder, Middlesboro, Kentucky; Nancy Creech, Eastpointe, Michigan; Ruby Clayton, Indianapolis, Indiana; Alice A. Pickel, Phoenix, Arizona; Lori Jackson, Mission, South Dakota; Lalia Kerr, Nova Scotia; Jennifer Runkle, Ohio.


Kindergarten Students Printing Level in Letters Per Minute (LPM)

LPM rate:

> 40 LPM 30-39 LPM 20-29 LPM < 20 LPM

78** 39** 33** 27** 24* 18*

72** 39** 33** 27** 24* 18*

66** 39** 33** 27** 24* 18*

60** 39** 33* 27** 24o 18*

60* 39** 33* 27** 24o 18*

57** 39** 33* 27** 24* 18*

54** 39* 33* 27* 21* 18 o

54** 39 o 33 o 27* 21* 15*

51** 36** 30** 27* 21* 15*

51** 36** 30** 27* 21* 15 o

48** 36** 30** 27* 21* 15 o

48** 36** 30** 27o 21* 15 o

48** 36** 30** 27o 21* 12*

48* 36* 30* 24** 21* 12 o

48* 36* 30* 24* 21* 12 o

42** 36* 30* 24* 21 o 6 o

42* 36 o 30* 24* 21 o 3 o

42 o 30* 3 o


In the opinion of respective classroom teachers:

KEY: o lagging in reading skill

* on level

** above level in reading


1. Montessori, Maria. The Montessori Method, Dover Publications, 2002, pp.266-7

2. Adams, Marilyn Jager. Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print, MIT Press, 1990, p.388

3. Sofia Vernon and Emilia Ferreiro. "Writing Development: A Neglected Variable in the Consideration of Phonological Awareness." Harvard Educational Review 69:4 (1999): pp.395-415.

4. Groff, Patrick. "Teaching Phonics: Letter-to-phoneme, Phoneme-to-letter, or Both?” Reading and Writing Quarterly 17 (fall, 2001): pp.291-306.

5. Data provided by Marianne Morin, Watkins Glen, New York.

6. Data on kindergarten classroom correlation between letter-naming and printing fluency provided by Sue Fisher, Hawaii.

7. Adams, Op. cit., pp.230-231


Bob Rose

151 Sharp View Lane

Jasper, Georgia, USA 30143

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mr. Obvious Endorses...

I assume the people who read my blog are intelligent so I suspect I'm preaching to the choir but here are my endorsements nonetheless.

It is hard to imagine anyone voting for the McCain/Palin ticket. I can't fathom the kind of self-inflicted masochism that could make sense of the inane buffoonery that Palin has brought to American politics.

This celebration of ignorance and flat-out stupidity is the antithesis of what American education is supposed to prevent yet this woman somehow was granted a 4-year college degree. This is alarming on many levels. First, that degrees come this cheaply and secondly that there is a voting constituency that "thinks" that utter nonsense is knowledge.

Obama is a clear winner though I still have serious reservations about his education policy. NCLB must end. Period.


I started supporting Joe Courtney when I met him at a fund-raiser after he had lost a congressional election against Rob Simmons. At that time, Joe had published a scathing article explaining what was wrong with the Bush administration at a time when the country was in love with Bush.

Since then Joe came back to unseat Simmons and is a strong, successful congressman for Eastern Connecticut. His background in the Connecticut legislature on health care will become invaluable as the Democrats work to make sense of such legislation.

Joe is the only choice on the ballot. The republican challenger is a throwback to the Bush years. Good riddance to them.

Vote Joe.


Bryan Hurlburt is just so damned squeaky clean and smart that it makes a city raised boy like myself want to dishevel his hair just once. Bryan and I have become friends after I campaigned hard for Susan Eastwood.

Bryan has done a great job in the Connecticut legislature for the area and deserves re-election. He's far better qualified than the republican challenger so that makes the choice even easier.

Now the fact that I like Bryan doesn't preclude the fact that I petition him at every chance I get to make CT government smaller and to have CT government spend less on Ct government. Nothing is more important to sustainability over time.


Finally, good luck to Al Franken in Minnesota.

May Elizabeth Dole and every other idiot complicit in the Bush reign of terror lose big.

And may the rat-bastard Joe Lieberman forever remain a pariah to the Democratic party. Rot in hell, Joe. May your cellmates be Bush, Cheney, and Rice.