Even the Best “Game Theory” Algorithm Cannot Ensure Justice via School Choice

School district strategies based on universal school improvement and on choice and competition represent two very different values. One seeks the larger goal of serving all children; the other is directed at a select group of children who are thought most likely to succeed.


The NY Times just explained the sophisticated school-choice matching system that places students in New York City’s high schools.  The city’s  formula models econometric “game theory” to provide, it is said, optimal choices both for the students submitting applications to the city’s high schools and for the schools seeking the students they want:

“Students list their favorite schools, in order of preference (they can now list up to 12).  The algorithm allows students to ‘propose’ to their favorite school, which accepts or rejects the proposal.  In the case of rejection, the algorithm looks to make a match with a student’s second-choice school, and so on… In 2004, the first year that students were sorted in this way, the number who went unmatched plummeted, from 31,000 in 2003 to about 3,000—still a lot of disappointed teenagers.  That year, and every year since, the algorithm has assigned roughly half of all students…

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Teaching Academic Tenacity: Why the SAT, Pearson and PARCC tests Are Poor Predictors of College/Career Readiness and Why Non-Cognitive Skills Trump Faulty Exams.

Challenging content, rigorous curriculum and pedagogy combined with the teaching skills that promote academic tenacity is the path to creating successful schools and college and/or career ready students.

Ed In The Apple

We are obsessed with judging teacher quality by measuring student achievement. To make it even more complex we are measuring student achievement by a brand new yardstick, the Common Core State Standards.

Parents, educators and the New York State governor are confused, two-thirds of students scored “below proficient” on the latest tests, which the State Education Department now defines as “approaching proficiency.” (smile) and half of all teachers scored “highly effective” and less than 1% scored “ineffective” on the extremely complex APPR teacher evaluation metric.

The governor asks: if two-thirds of kids are failing state tests how can teachers score so highly on the teacher evaluation tool? How can principals give teachers high grades on the 60% lesson assessment section of the teacher evaluation tool when so many kids doing so poorly on the tests?

Unfortunately we are using the wrong tools to measure the wrong outcomes.

We base a…

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The Logic of Stupid Poor People

If you change the conditions of your not-poor status, you change everything you know as a result of being a not-poor. You have no idea what you would do if you were poor until you are poor. And not intermittently poor or formerly not-poor, but born poor, expected to be poor and treated by bureaucracies, gatekeepers and well-meaning respectability authorities as inherently poor.


We hates us some poor people. First, they insist on being poor when it is so easy to not be poor. They do things like buy expensive designer belts and $2500 luxury handbags.

Screen shot 2013-10-29 at 12.11.13 PMTo be fair, this isn’t about Eroll Louis. His is a belief held by many people, including lots of black people, poor people, formerly poor people, etc. It is, I suspect, an honest expression of incredulity. If you are poor, why do you spend money on useless status symbols like handbags and belts and clothes and shoes and televisions and cars?

One thing I’ve learned is that one person’s illogical belief is another person’s survival skill. And nothing is more logical than trying to survive.

My family is a classic black American migration family. We have rural Southern roots, moved north and almost all have returned. I grew up watching my great-grandmother, and later my…

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The Rebirth of Cool: Trust, Tech, and Dystopias

They don’t much like your top-down ed-tech tools. They use the tools they already have in service of what they need and want. They are making spaces that institutions do not provide them.


I did a cool thing today. I MOOC’d.

That is, I joined Justin Reich’s massive open online course “Massive: The Future of Learning at Scale“. Justin is a guru at Harvard’s EdX and the class was being hosted on MIT’s “unHangout” platform. I don’t know exactly where the course is housed. I visited a class and I cannot tell you where the class is. Whoa, the future.

I can tell you that despite being the “guest pessimist”, I think the unHangout platform is cool. The integration with google’s hangout was seamless, even on my macbook. The production value was good and the engagement with Justin on video, in real time, worked well.

I kid Justin about calling me the guest pessimist. He had me visit because I’ve talked a bit about the course’s theme for the day: dystopian futures of online education.

The students made some…

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NJ Governor’s Task Force: Take the PARCC, I Did

The horrors of high stakes tests for children.


Dear Members of Governor Christie’s PARCC Task Force:

I was one of those kids who always performed well on standardized tests. As a result of my scores, I was placed in gifted and talented programs, tracked into the honors and AP tracks (with their added boosts of inflated GPAs), and ultimately accepted to a highly selective liberal arts college. I wasn’t a particularly conscientious student, and I brought all sorts of hangups to my classwork (Carol Dweck is my hero, as I was definitely one of those kids who often didn’t complete assignments at all out of what I now believe was fear that I wouldn’t measure up to my “smart” reputation). But standardized tests saved me, and gave me a chance to “prove” my worth. You’d think I’d be the biggest cheerleader out there for our new, next-generation standardized tests. After all, standardized tests enabled me to…

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Yes, teachers are the primary target, the scapegoats, for all of the damage done by the political theft and corruption that is strangling people who work for a living. But the target area has widened and continues to widen.

Reclaim Reform

Active and retired teachers are being told about the local problems that are making it necessary to steal their wages* and raid their earned compensation (pensions**).

What we are being told are lies, distortions, untruths, spun data, etc. meant to shame teachers and distract every citizen who believes the propaganda.

Like all well-made lies, some basic original truths are used to spin the added misinformation and disinformation that become the lies.

The biggest lie of all is that this massive pillage and theft is local.
Here are a few glaring proofs on state levels.

The final example proves the national (probably multinational) level of this massive theft via paid and/or propagandized legislators.

The Chief Legal Counsel to the President of the Illinois Senate actually explained in writing the theft procedure to President John Cullerton. It was publicly printed on the official state site but has subsequently disappeared from that source…

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Deep Structural Financial Crisis Continues in School District of Philadelphia

Equitable and sufficient public school funding is a critical issue everywhere!


Did you watch the puff pieces John Merrow put together for the News Hour on PBS for the past two evenings? They were about Philadelphia—the first about Science Leadership Academy, a collaboration between the School District of Philadelphia and the Franklin Institute and a highly selective school where students must submit applications to be accepted—and the second about several schools with open enrollment that, like the Science Leadership Academy, feature project-based learning.  According to Merrow’s report, the school district is opening such institutions to compete with charter schools.  The series of reports made the future of public education in Philadelphia look bright.

The reality is far more sober.  This blog has covered the ongoing financial crisis here and here.  In Philadelphia, Dale Mezzacappa just published a post-election update about the continuation of the dire financial crisis, a subject glossed over in Merrow’s report for PBS.  According to…

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