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Comment Archives: stories: News & Opinion: The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch

Re: “Looking at Tucson Unified's AzMERIT Scores: Another Approach

It occurs to me that David should also look at school districts in California, which are demographically similar to Arizona districts (in terms of ethnic mix and family income), but in which per pupil spending is much higher. That would be an interesting comparison.

0 likes, 6 dislikes
Posted by Nathan K on 09/21/2017 at 8:49 AM

Re: “New TV Ad Asks McCain To Stop Latest GOP Healthcare Disaster

bslap I wonder if you walk your own talk. If you were in a hurricane, would you reject government aid? An earthquake? Do you not use highways or the post office or the telephone system or the internet--all examples of projects either paid for or started by government...? If there is a run on the banks will you allow your deposits to be eaten up? Because that insurance on your deposit is a federal program, and with rhetoric like yours, you damned well better not use it.

That is right, the health care in this country, one of the richest in the world WAS a disaster 6 years ago. And, by the way, the bill also erases Planned Parenthood, which is used by women (you know, that 52% of the population whose plumbing needs regular maintenance?) for basic health care far more than for abortions, which are never paid for anyway by the feds. It is a disastrous bill that will give the state a huge amount of money to sweep and use as they wish, as they have done with so many other designated funds. Oh! Thats it! Maybe you are or are related to one of our illustrious legislators, and looking for a sweet stack of new FEDERAL cash to spend at the state level on corporate giveaways?

9 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Betts Putnam-Hidalgo on 09/21/2017 at 7:56 AM

Re: “New TV Ad Asks McCain To Stop Latest GOP Healthcare Disaster

McCain can't be persuaded by constituent pressure... but some mining companies say he can be persuaded by cash donations...

8 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Cascabel on 09/21/2017 at 7:51 AM

Re: “A Little Late To the 'Patriotically Correct' Party

Totally agree. Left and right both suppress speech and ideas that they disagree with by attacking the messenger.

3 likes, 11 dislikes
Posted by bslap on 09/21/2017 at 6:25 AM

Re: “Grijalva Arrested Protesting Trump's Immigration Policies

What an embarassment.

6 likes, 14 dislikes
Posted by bslap on 09/21/2017 at 6:25 AM

Re: “New TV Ad Asks McCain To Stop Latest GOP Healthcare Disaster

I love how restoring the status quo of 6 years ago is called a "disaster". Americans have the shortest memories. My God, if people have to pay for their own stuff, what will happen?

2 likes, 8 dislikes
Posted by bslap on 09/21/2017 at 6:24 AM

Re: “A Little Late To the 'Patriotically Correct' Party

i like where this is going

9 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Palisades on 09/20/2017 at 9:55 PM

Re: “Looking at Tucson Unified's AzMERIT Scores: Another Approach

I hadn't seen Huppenthal's comment before I responded to Nathan K's.

RE Huppenthal agreeing with the legitimacy of Safier's methods: QED, with respect to much of what is said above about similarities between the (invalid) methods and assumptions of ideologues on both the left and the right.

This must be a proud moment for Safier, rivaled only by the fun moment in a previous comment stream when Matthew Ladner commended him on his laudable support of Prop 123.

2 likes, 5 dislikes
Posted by P. S. from Not the right kind of analysis... on 09/20/2017 at 4:33 PM

Re: “Looking at Tucson Unified's AzMERIT Scores: Another Approach

The notion that genetically inherited (not environmentally conditioned) lower IQs in poor populations CAUSE both lower test scores and poverty is not a new one, and it is no more demonstrable or valid than the notion that poverty CAUSES lower test scores. (Evidently Nathan K did not read the first post in this stream, or if he did, he did not understand the implications.)

No political faction's self-serving and oversimplistic propaganda about the causative factors behind our social ills reflects the complexity of our actual social situation, in which it is obvious that some smart, hard working people are poor and some dumb and lazy people are wealthy, and some students succeed in school and in the work place in spite of growing up in poverty.

We cannot base SOUND public policy on dubious assumptions about causation. What we can and should do as a society in both our schools and our workplaces is provide everyone with the means to succeed, if they apply effort. Unfortunately, we have a lot of empirical, indisputable evidence that we are falling far short of that in our local schools, and we have shockingly few people locally in the media or among the citizenry who are willing and / or able to report on REAL CONDITIONS ON THE GROUND (not distributions of test scores in data bases) and comment in a way that can inform the public about how funding allocations can be improved in massive public districts serving lower-SES populations, so that conditions in the schools will begin to give all Tucson students the means to succeed if they choose to do so. The few reporters and citizens who try to provide this kind of commentary (thinking now of some of Huicochea and Steller's pieces and of the activities of Putnam-Hidalgo, Fox, Morales, and Campoy) most often encounter blocks and / or disparagement, as politically motivated commenters on the right and the left continue to circulate flawed ideologies that both -- not coincidentally -- let public officials at the state and local level off the hook for improving services.

3 likes, 5 dislikes
Posted by Still not the kind of analysis needed... on 09/20/2017 at 1:56 PM

Re: “Looking at Tucson Unified's AzMERIT Scores: Another Approach

There are top flight analysts in school districts replicating your analysis with powerful statistical software. Ed Sloan at Dysart is likely doing it to rank his district. Matt Strom at Chandler is another wizard. I first came across their work when in the Senate. Creighton, Alhambra, Mesa were the top three districts in the stae.

The student growth percentiles should perform the exact same function, wading out the demographic differences.

You enter a twilight zone effect when you compare the two results and observe huge differences in ranking outcomes.

I disagree with the comments above. You could see that the leadership and organization strength at Mesa, Alhambra and Creighton were clearly a cut above.

Quality schools do make a difference.

I think you will find Chandler at the top of the hill this time.

1 like, 8 dislikes
Posted by on 09/20/2017 at 12:58 PM

Re: “Looking at Tucson Unified's AzMERIT Scores: Another Approach

I look forward to the results of Mr. Safier's analysis.

Let me just advance, again, the thought I had last week. Mr. Safier observes, "In Arizona, around the country and around the world, children from higher income families score higher on standardized tests than children from lower income families regardless of the quality of schools they attend."

Maybe this is because children from higher income families have higher IQs than children from lower income families, on average. We might expect this since IQ is correlated with a person's income, and is substantially heritable. There's an assumption underlying much of education policy that all children are blank slates that can be turned into geniuses if we just figure out the educational formula correctly. There's very little data that would support this assumption.

3 likes, 6 dislikes
Posted by Nathan K on 09/20/2017 at 12:16 PM

Re: “Grijalva Arrested Protesting Trump's Immigration Policies

Clown official of Clownworld is arrested for aggravated clownery. Film at 11.

10 likes, 21 dislikes
Posted by Nathan K on 09/20/2017 at 12:07 PM

Re: “Grijalva Arrested Protesting Trump's Immigration Policies

He is as pitiful as Maxine Waters screaming for impeachment. When will these two grow up and display some leadership qualities? Probably never.

8 likes, 19 dislikes
Posted by Wayne Olson on 09/20/2017 at 11:53 AM

Re: “Looking at Tucson Unified's AzMERIT Scores: Another Approach

So what do you think, David? Can Mexican Americans who come here with less educational attainment learn to the greatest extent possible, given their circumstances, in schools like Utterback in TUSD that do not have certified teachers in every classroom, are often lacking basic supplies like textbooks and paper? Or that (last school year, not sure whether the defect has now been remedied) had not used available desegregation funds to hire the social worker the desegregation plan required to work with families and help them learn how to provide support in the home for academic achievement?

Your commentary always avoids the concrete obstacles to achievement in our local schools that can absolutely be remedied by observation in the schools and consistent advocacy with the Board and administration. Why is that, David?

Don't answer. We already know you have no good answer. "That's not the kind of commentary that serves the interests of my political network" won't get you 700+ likes and won't get the arguments that excuse mismanagement more deeply entrenched in the minds of the public than they already are.


3 likes, 6 dislikes
Posted by Still not the kind of analysis needed... on 09/20/2017 at 8:45 AM

Re: “Looking at Tucson Unified's AzMERIT Scores: Another Approach

Doug, I don't know your family's situation, but I do know that all immigrants coming to the U.S. are not created equal from an economic or educational standpoint. Many of the immigrants from Asia come to the U.S. with college degrees, even advanced degrees. I don't know if it's still true, but at one point, Koreans were the most educated immigrants ever to set foot on these shores. So when you see an immigrant struggle to open a small market, for example, and build a family's financial security from there, what you often don't know is, that person came to this country with an MBA.

As for African immigrants, according to the Migration Policy Institute: "Compared to the total foreign-born population, sub-Saharan Africans were among the best educated immigrants as a group and were less likely to be Limited English Proficient (LEP). . . . Sub-Saharan immigrants have much higher educational attainment compared to the overall foreign- and native-born populations. In 2015, 39 percent of sub-Saharan Africans (ages 25 and over) had a bachelors degree or higher, compared to 29 percent of the total foreign-born population and 31 percent of the U.S.-born population. Nigerians and South Africans were the most highly educated, with 57 percent holding at least a bachelors degree, followed by Kenyans (44 percent), Ghanaians (40 percent), Liberians (32 percent), and Ethiopians (29 percent). Meanwhile, Somalis had the lowest educational attainment of all sub-Saharan Africans, with 11 percent having graduated from a four-year college."

An Asian exception is found among immigrants from Hmong communities. Their groups don't have much formal education in their home areas, and they struggle with school when they come to the U.S.

Mexican Americans who come to this country with little formal education are in a different category than immigrants who arrive with significant educational attainment.

5 likes, 8 dislikes
Posted by David Safier on 09/20/2017 at 8:07 AM

Re: “Looking at Tucson Unified's AzMERIT Scores: Another Approach

There still remain, Doug Martin, significant differences between the raw materials for learning available in different neighborhood schools in Tucson. When some schools have qualified teachers in every classroom, readily available textbooks and computers, and ample supplies (perhaps provided by parent fundraising or tax credits which are unavailable in other neighborhoods) and other schools are insufficiently supplied with the basic materials needed for student success to take place, there is not a level playing field. We are not giving every student regardless of income level the means by which they can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, as you recommend. Some of them don't have bootstraps in their schools.

The sad irony of commentators like Safier is that when they focus on the pervasive correlation (and implied causation) between poverty and low test scores, they distract the public from variables we CAN and SHOULD control. We absolutely can and should make sure schools serving lower SES populations have the staffing and supplies needed for student learning to take place. Funding levels are low, but in recent years poor decisions have been made about how to apply available funds and, as a result, conditions have worsened in some schools serving poor neighborhoods. In this context, to use a media platform to feed the public the line that "poverty causes low test scores" risks letting both the district administration and the public off the hook for taking a good hard look at the real conditions that need to change IN THE SCHOOLS (not in the homes, not in the parents' income levels, which are much harder to affect) to give students what they need to succeed.

Safier remarks that his previous article on correlation between poverty and test scores was liked and shared more than any of his other recent pieces. I looked it up and saw over 700 likes. How many people have read it now and, as a result, are going to go around repeating the line we've heard so many times, "poor TUSD (or Tucson "Unified") -- of course they can't do any better when the children in their schools are so disadvantaged."

Imagine, David Safier, what positive changes might occur in local schools if you used your platform to build public pressure for positive change, instead of using it to let people who absolutely could be doing much better for the disadvantaged kids in their schools off the hook.

3 likes, 6 dislikes
Posted by Still not the kind of analysis needed to benefit students on 09/20/2017 at 7:12 AM

Re: “Looking at Tucson Unified's AzMERIT Scores: Another Approach

One of the things that is missed in this discussion is how the affluent, better educated parents got there. For example first generation Asians and Africans come here with nothing, yet their kids are among the highest scoring according to data I have seen at Cradle to Career. Then the second generation becomes affluent and better educated and legacy begins. My family was farmers and we had no one in my family that had a college degree until me. I served in the military and got the GI Bill. That's what makes America great is opportunity not some egalitarian myth or utopian socialism. It is freedom and opportunity to climb the ladder and give your kids a better life than you have. That is what needs to be emphasized.

3 likes, 6 dislikes
Posted by Doug Martin on 09/20/2017 at 6:18 AM

Re: “Looking at Tucson Unified's AzMERIT Scores: Another Approach

David, I don't know what you learned in grad school, but the first thing I learned was a healthy skepticism about our ability to "know" (in the strict sense of the word) what the cause of any given effect may be. "Correlation DOES NOT prove causation" was drilled into us about as much as Strunk drilled "Omit needless words" into EB White and others.

You can compare test scores and break them down according to race, income, parental educational achievement, etc. until the cows come home and you will never be able to demonstrate anything other than that some of the factors you are examining are co-occurring variables. Perhaps one causes the other and perhaps two of them are caused by some third variable not examined in the study. Whatever the case, no causal relationships can be proved. Political writers frequently take advantage of the fact that many members of the general public can be tricked into assuming consistent correlation implies causation. It happens on both sides of the political divide. You're always pulling correlations between poverty and low test scores out of your bag of tricks. Huppenthal regularly mentions correlation between increase in school choice policies in AZ and a drop in the juvenile murder rate.

Given your political affiliations, you no doubt hope to show in your forthcoming study that there is no statistically significant difference between the test score performance of districts serving the same kinds of populations. That proves nothing about what causes similarities in testing outcomes, and, more importantly, it is entirely irrelevant to the main thing worth examining, something that CAN be empirically studied and KNOWN a posteriori, but by means you do not like to employ, i.e. the tedious and maddening job of attending Board meetings, examining budgets, and submitting public records requests. What is that thing you can get at by days and weeks and years of the kind of tiresome work you do not like to do?

HOW THE MONEY ALLOCATED TO EACH DISTRICT IS BEING APPLIED. Is it being applied to benefit students and support teachers, or is it being applied to enrich already overpaid central administrators, lawyers, public relations consultants, and perhaps some private contractors like ESI? It's a simple question, no doubt too simple for a sophisticate like you.

So enjoy noodling around on your computer in the comfort of your home office and best of wishes with the pending analysis of effects and attempts to imply that you are demonstrating something valid about causes. While you work on that, people who care more about improving services to students than they care about making excuses for irresponsible politicians will continue focusing their attention on the differences between how money is being applied (e.g., in Tucson "Unified" (?), on PR and "rebranding") and what funding applications would be if the district's budgeting were prioritizing giving students the basic raw materials needed if optimal learning is to take place (e.g., having adequate supplies, textbooks, and permanent, fully qualified teachers in every classroom).

(And please note that I did not say "give students the things that will cause them to learn optimally." I said "give students the basic raw materials needed if optimal learning is to take place." Some of us try to be cautious not to imply knowledge of causes that we know we can never have. We'd rather focus on advocating that students and teachers receive the support needed to do their respective jobs of teaching and learning as well as they possibly can, given the various circumstances we cannot or should not control. Public budgets, on the other hand, are things that the public can and should control or, at the very least, influence to the greatest extent possible, for the benefit of students enrolled in public schools.)

6 likes, 10 dislikes
Posted by Still not the kind of analysis needed to benefit STUDENTS on 09/19/2017 at 5:15 PM

Re: “It's 'Tucson Unified' Now

Stop giving them good news. It's not what they want.

2 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by Wayne Olson on 09/19/2017 at 3:54 PM

Re: “It's 'Tucson Unified' Now

Response to Constant Voter: you say "At the bottom of all 50 states, our schools continue to sit, a fact"

No, a falsehood. Here are a few facts:

1. In the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress, our 8th grade African Americans scored number one in the nation, up from 6th in 2011 in math.

2. Our Hispanics ranked 11th, up from 35th in 2011.

3. Our white students ranked 6th.

From 2011, 4th grade to 2015 8th grade, Arizona's combined Math and Reading gains on NAEP ranked number one in the nation, primarily because the rest of the nation tanked under the flaws of "Race to the Top."

In the most recent National Center for Education statistics, Arizona ranked first at increasing the number of high school graduates, no other state was even close.

Nationwide, the percentage of parents rating their child's school excellent dropped from 36% to 24%, a point away from a 47 year low. Numerous districts, such as Chandler Unified, hit all-time highs at 75%.

Murders by juveniles in Arizona dropped from 70 in 1992 to 7 in 2012, the largest such drop in the nation.

3 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by on 09/19/2017 at 10:49 AM

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