Links 1/19/17

Links for you. Science:

The passing of Gene Cernan reminds us how far we haven’t come
Senators on key panel reject Donald Trump’s skepticism about vaccines
New rule on clinical trial reporting doesn’t go far enough
House Science Panel Adds Climate-Denying Members: The committee has jurisdiction over $40 billion in federal budgets, and influence on climate research and environmental regulations
Republicans Plan to Roll Back Parts of the Landmark Endangered Species Act


America, America
In the Shopping Cart of a Food Stamp Household: Not What the New York Times Reported
Neo-Nazi Media Outlet Collapses After Fellow Racists Discover the Founder’s Wife Is Jewish
Why the Political Mainstream Keeps Failing America’s Workers
Trump’s nominee to head EPA has opposed the Chesapeake Bay cleanup
We Live Here.
Why Grandpa Is Homeless: A sagging economy, a complex job market, and a lack of social programs have led to an increase in the number of elderly people living—and dying—on the streets
Who Is Killing the Towns of Western Massachusetts? It may be the governor. In the State House. With the lobbyists
Before King Was Pacifist
A Wasted Opportunity: Despite union officials’ post-election justifications, it’s clear Hillary Clinton did not deserve labor’s support
Quote of the Day: Lead? What Lead?
Jewish Centers Across U.S. Evacuated Amid New Wave of Bomb Threats: New threats in 8 states come just over a week after similar calls sparked the evacuated of over 16 Jewish locations across the eastern U.S.
From Headline to Photograph, a Fake News Masterpiece
Lawsuit Alleges That Trump Adviser Hired People to Attack African-Americans in His Clubs
2 U.S. lawmakers want to fix Metro by rewriting its governing charter

Posted in Lotsa Links | 1 Comment

Anonymous On Assange

Apparently, if this thread is to be believed, Anonymous doesn’t care much for Jullian Assange at all. It argues that Assange is a “fascist ideologue” who is using the ‘ideological reputation’ of Wikileaks’ other founders to dupe people.

Put blunty:

Interesting. No idea if this is right, but it is consistent with Assange’s actions.

Posted in Internet | 1 Comment

When Charters Fail To Make The Grade: The KIPP Edition

One of the stupidest education reforms has been the grading of schools on a letter grade. It takes all of the problems with assessment, and then simplifies them, making them worse. But in Texas, it seems to have put the much celebrated KIPP charter schools in an interesting, which is to say bad, place (boldface mine):

Reformers love A-F school ratings. They think that giving a school a single letter grade will inform parents to make the best ‘choice’ of where they should send their child. The idea is that these ratings will improve schools in two ways: 1) When a school gets an F rating, the staff will stop being so lazy and negligent in the future so they can get their rating up to passing, and 2) Parents will ‘vote with their feet’ to ‘escape’ the ‘failing’ school which will cause that school to get closed down for under enrollment….

In 2015 Texas passed something called HB 2804 which said that by 2018 all Texas schools and districts would get A-F ratings on several different categories and also a single letter grade overall. They recently did a ‘test run’ to show what all the schools and districts in Texas would get right now under this system….

Reformers always talk about expanding ‘high quality’ charters. And one of the most famous examples of such a high quality charter chain are the KIPP network of schools. There are about 200 KIPP schools around the country and surely there will be many more now that a very charter friendly president has been elected. KIPP schools are staffed by a large number of Teach For America teachers and alumni and was founded by two TFA alumni.

When I saw that Texas released the trial run of their new A-F system, I checked to see how the KIPP schools did on them, particularly on the ‘Student Progress’ domain. What I found, and you can double check this here, is that out of 37 KIPP schools in Texas that received a grade in this domain, 9 of them or 25%, received an ‘F’ in student progress

I thought that maybe this was one of those things where a lot of schools got an F in this domain so I looked at the 280 Houston Independent School District schools and found that only 34, or about 12.5%, got an F in ‘Student Progress.’ So the percent of ‘failing’ KIPP schools is double the number of ‘failing’ schools in the biggest district in Texas.

I wonder what the reformers would think of this? Would they say that the progress ratings are not accurate, thus disparaging the most powerful tool they have for closing schools and firing teachers? Or would they say that KIPP is not a ‘high quality’ option that deserves to be expanded? Likely they will just ignore it. Things like A-F ratings are good for labeling district schools as failures, not major charter networks.

Maybe they would argue that student characteristics affect student progress? Probably won’t argue that either…

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Links 1/18/17

Links for you. Science:

Behind New Zealand’s wild plan to purge all pests
How the darkness and the cold killed the dinosaurs
Mars is awful
ASM Sends Letter to President-elect Trump on Vaccine Issues (but what would microbiologists know about vaccines, amirite?)
Norovirus Is Coming: And you can’t stave it off by guzzling grape juice (WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS!)


Obama Loved Austerity and the New Democrats Remain Addicted to It
If You Think Chelsea Manning Got Off Easy, You’re Out of Your Mind
Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones Looks Back: ‘It Just Seemed Doomed’
In going after John Lewis, Trump fails another character test
How To Correctly Compare Charter and Public District Schools
How Betsy DeVos Used God and Amway to Take Over Michigan Politics
With All Due Disrespect
Do Nots and Dos When Defending Tenure
When doing data reporting, look at the raw numbers, not just at percentages—and write an accurate headline
Anahad O’Connor at the New York Times has written a shameful news story attacking Americans who receive food assistance from the SNAP (Food Stamps) program
Several Freshman Have Already Proven Themselves To Be Part Of The Republican Wing Of The Democratic Party
Court finds bad street design liable in NYC crash
Under Trump, LGBT Student Rights Could Be in Trouble
Without Obamacare, I Will Get Sicker, Faster, Until I Die

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Flag At Rest

Observed at the corner of Independence and Washington Avenues, Southwest, D.C.:

Flag at rest

Posted in DC | 1 Comment

We Found Trump’s James Watt: It’s Betsy DeVos

While no Secretary of Education in a Republican administration would be to my liking, it’s pretty clear Il Trumpe’s nominee, Betsy DeVos, is unqualified and a theocratic zealot. She’s an advocate of school vouchers, which have always been seen, by their staunchest supporters, as a way to undermine the public school system. But DeVos adds a special twist to this:

Asked whether Christian schools should continue to rely on philanthropic dollars—rather than pushing for taxpayer money through vouchers—Betsy DeVos replied, “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…[versus] what is currently being spent every year on education in this country…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s Kingdom.”

Someone like DeVos would see the Milwaukee school system as a success, where religious schools receive government funding, even as they are unable to meet their students’ basic needs. This problem is only worse in rural areas.

As you might imagine, DeVos has also spent a lot of money trying to bust unions, including teachers unions–and despite whatever failings teachers unions may have (they are no better or worse than their members), they are the voice of teachers.

And while DeVos claimed schools of any type should be held to the same standards*, there’s no reason to believe her: not only do voucher proponents always fail to apply the same standards to private schools that receive public funding, but DeVos doesn’t even understand the very basics of school assessment. Forget about problems of sample size and linear regression, she didn’t even comprehend the difference between achievement and progress. That’s Education 101–the first damn day.

She also doesn’t even know the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act exists.

To top it all off, DeVos has financial ties to an educational debt collection service (and the Office of Governmental Ethics investigation hasn’t even finished yet).

It’s clear DeVos wants to use public funding to promote religious, private schools, and public schools be damned. She has little, if any, comprehension of education policy. She is utterly unqualified, no matter how hard Republicans try to protect her (they only allowed each senator one five minute question period).

Since I live in the mainland colony (aka the District of Columbia**), and suffer taxation without representation, please call your Senators, even if they’re Democrats, and politely ask them not to confirm Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary.

*The accountability standards are themselves problematic, but DeVos is so awful, we don’t even reach that level of discussion.

**D.C. is going to screwed especially hard by DeVos–and there will be little we could do about it.

Posted in Conservatives, Education, Fucking Morons | Leave a comment

Links 1/17/17

Links for you. Science:

Trump Meets With Physicist Who Says ‘Benefits’ Of Climate Change ‘Outweigh Any Harm’: William Happer also compared the “demonization of carbon dioxide” to the Holocaust (“Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews”–last I checked, we’re not all dead yet…)
Scientists don’t have a decade to find a Zika vaccine. They need volunteers now.
Mass. and N.Y.’s rivalry has extended to biotech
Harvester ants farm by planting seeds to eat once they germinate
The price and value of doing a postdoc


Deficits Matter—But Not in the Way Paul Krugman Thinks They Do (must-read)
Changing Perspectives
North Dakota Bill Would Protect Drivers Who ‘Accidentally’ Hit And Kill Protesters
Cory Booker’s Conscience: Cory Booker is no courageous senator. He’s Big Pharma’s favorite Democrat
Plagued by classes too big to manage
Why the Democratic Party Needs to Move Its Headquarters to Detroit (or maybe decentralize the party?)
Trump Team’s Queries About Africa Point to Skepticism About Aid (they’re going to kill PEPFAR)
Democrats Should Follow John Lewis’ Lead: He questioned Trump’s legitimacy, but for too many others the forms of democracy seem to matter more than the thing itself
Why Russia Loves the Idea of California Seceding
One cancer patient shares why she needs the Affordable Care Act
Counter-Sting Catches James O’Keefe Network Attempting To Sow Chaos At Trump’s Inauguration
Women won’t just march to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration. They’re going on strike.
Cory Booker and 12 Other Dems Just Stopped Bernie Sanders’ Amendment to Lower Prescription Drug Costs
The Curse of Econ 101: When it comes to basic policy questions such as the minimum wage, introductory economics can be more misleading than it is helpful
Foiled Coup Plot in US-Allied Montenegro Has Russia’s Fingerprints All Over It
Work, capitalism & retirement
For Russian hold on Trump, follow the Money, not the Sex tapes
An Open Letter to Iowa’s Lawmakers: The Proposal to End Tenure is an Immediate Threat to the Health of Iowans

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