Standardized tests and teacher evaluation

September 30, 2016 by  
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We have explored previously how an over reliance on standardized tests is contributing to students leaving  high school neither college or career ready. To make matters worse we now are putting in place a teacher evaluation system that also over relies on standardized tests.

As I wrote in my last post we need to give schools management in public schools––they already have it in charters––more ability to replace low quality teachers and other building level professionals. But doing that based on how well a teachers’ students perform on standardized tests is not a good way of assessing the quality of a teacher.

Paul Tough in his must read new book Helping Children Succeed and in an Atlantic article entitled How Kids Learn Resilience writes about research on teacher effectiveness by Northwestern University economist C. Kirabo Jackson. Tough writes:

… Jackson began investigating how to measure educators’ effectiveness. In many school systems these days, teachers are assessed based primarily on one data point: the standardized-test scores of their students. Jackson suspected that the true impact teachers had on their students was more complicated than a single test score could reveal.

… Jackson did something new. He created a proxy measure for students’ noncognitive ability, using just four pieces of existing administrative data: attendance, suspensions, on-time grade progression, and overall GPA. Jackson’s new index measured, in a fairly crude way, how engaged students were in school —whether they showed up, whether they misbehaved, and how hard they worked in their classes. Jackson found that this simple noncognitive proxy was, remarkably, a better predictor than students’ test scores of whether the students would go on to attend college, a better predictor of adult wages, and a better predictor of future arrests. (Emphasis added.)

… Jackson’s proxy measure allowed him to do some intriguing analysis of teachers’ effectiveness. … Jackson found that some teachers were reliably able to raise their students’ standardized-test scores year after year. These are the teachers, in every teacher evaluation system in the country, who are the most valued and most rewarded. But he also found that there was another distinct cohort of teachers who were reliably able to raise their students’ performance on his noncognitive measure. If you were assigned to the class of a teacher in this cohort, you were more likely to show up to school, more likely to avoid suspension, more likely to move on to the next grade. And your overall GPA went up—not just your grades in that particular teacher’s class, but your grades in your other classes, too.

Jackson found that these two groups of successful teachers did not necessarily overlap much; in every school, it seemed, there were certain teachers who were especially good at developing cognitive skills in their students and other teachers who excelled at developing noncognitive skills. But the teachers in the second cohort were not being rewarded for their success with their students—indeed, it seemed likely that no one but Jackson even realized that they were successful. And yet those teachers, according to Jackson’s calculations, were doing more to get their students to college and raise their future wages than were the much celebrated teachers who boosted students’ test scores.

Wow! Research that demonstrates that so called non cognitive skills are a better predictor than standardized test scores of attending college, adult wages, and future arrests. And shows that, by and large, the teachers that are most effective in developing these skills in their students are not the teachers that are best at getting higher test scores.

Obviously we want schools to hire and retain more teachers that are good at developing students skills that lead to students “more likely to show up to school, more likely to avoid suspension, more likely to move on to the next grade. And your overall GPA went up—not just your grades in that particular teacher’s class, but your grades in your other classes, too.” And yet we have a teacher evaluation system––because we have wrongly equated student success with a test score––that as Tough notes does not reward teachers who are good at building these skills, “indeed, it seemed likely that no one but Jackson even realized that they were successful.”

Not smart!

The post Standardized tests and teacher evaluation appeared first on Michigan Future Inc..

Michigan’s school choice is resulting in school segregation

September 29, 2016 by  
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For decades, research has been clear that the second most powerful driver of student achievement—behind parental income—is the socioeconomic status of a student’s school. Creating socioeconomically integrated schools should be a top priority of anyone looking to improve the performance of Michigan’s schools, which, by the way, need some improvement (as a quick example: we’re 41st in the nation in 3rd grade reading achievement).

And yet, recent research shows that Michigan’s school choice regime has exacerbated school segregation.

Comprehensive reporting by Bridge released two weeks ago paints a bleak picture of how schools have become more segregated over the last two decades. Particularly troubling is the rise of “majority-minority schools,” where non-white students are concentrated—and often so is poverty.

Researchers from Wayne State, looking at Census and school enrollment data, found that:

10 school districts that took in the highest number of Detroit students since school choice began saw hundreds of local students leave their districts. And those who left moved to schools with a higher percentage of white students.

The phenomenon that appears to be happening is this: White students who live in diverse communities are using school choice to move to whiter school districts. In schools in diverse communities where the black student population is growing (due to black families from neighboring districts using school choice), white students are also leaving for whiter districts. Schools that are majority-minority are the most likely to have a demographic mismatch with their community—the white students who live there are more likely to be attending school elsewhere.

Michigan continues to struggle with its transition to the 21st century economy, where economic growth follows the presence of college-degree holders. If we do not figure out how to prepare our own kids for the future—and the only way we can do this sufficiently is by educating them to be ready for college—as a state, we will flounder. (Bonus: it’s the ethical thing to do!)

In the future, we at MFI intend to examine and share research that examines whether charters and school choice can, instead of fostering segregation, create integrated schools. For now, it is clear that Michigan’s current system does not.

The post Michigan’s school choice is resulting in school segregation appeared first on Michigan Future Inc..

Creative accounting and Michigan’s weak safety net

September 28, 2016 by  
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This year, as the welfare reforms instituted under President Clinton turned 20, NPR’s Marketplace started a podcast called the Uncertain Hour, which takes a deep look at the consequences of those reforms. And in the fourth episode, Michigan takes a starring role.

First, some background. In 1996, the United States ended Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), otherwise known as welfare, and replaced it with the TANF program we have today, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. While AFDC was an entitlement program (if you qualified, you were entitled to aid), TANF took the form of block grants to states, with aid subjected to lifetime limits and tied to work requirements.

As the podcast notes, one of the problems with the block grants is that they ended up being excessively flexible. So while the block grants are ostensibly given to states in order to help the poor, Michigan uses some of the grants to give college scholarships to middle-class students.

How is that possible? Under the 1996 reforms, state and federal TANF funds could be spent on one of four purposes: (1) cash assistance (2) work-related supports such as job-training or job search programs, (3) preventing out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and (4) encouraging the formation of two-parent families.

It’s these final two categories where Michigan’s welfare spending gets worrisome. Putting aside the debate of whether government promotion of two-parent families is an effective anti-poverty tool, these two purposes can be defined so broadly as to allow seemingly any government expenditure to fall under their classification. The specious reasoning for giving TANF money to middle-class college students, for example, is that since those with college degrees are less likely to have children out of wedlock, this money can be classified as welfare spending. The causal leaps make your head spin.

In actuality, of course, this is simply the state using resources that should be providing a safety net for Michigan families to plug holes in the state budget.

And this is only the beginning. In 1996, at the time of welfare reform, Michigan spent 80% of its TANF funds (roughly $1.2 billion annually in federal and state funds) on core safety-net purposes: cash assistance, work activities, and child care assistance. Michigan now spends only 20% of its annual $1.2 billion on these core safety-net programs, while spending over a third of the funds, about $500 million in 2014, on programs creatively classified under marriage promotion and the prevention of out-of-wedlock pregnancies. In other words, these final two categories became a catchall, allowing the state to use welfare funds to supplant pre-existing state spending, rather than spending those funds on the cash support, work activities, and child care assistance that can help poor Michigan families get back on their feet.

While that’s bad enough, the story only gets worse. In addition to the creative classification of funds described above, the state also began counting spending from non-state entities as TANF spending. What this means is that youth programs in Wayne County, spending by the United Way, and various foundation grants – money that was already being spent on Michigan’s poor by non-governmental organizations – was suddenly counted as a government expenditure.

Through all this, poverty in Michigan hasn’t budged. Welfare reform is often viewed as a success by folks on both sides of the aisle because given a cursory glance, the number of people on the welfare rolls has dropped considerably since 1996. However, when you look deeper you find that there aren’t fewer poor people – we just stopped supporting them. At the time of welfare reform in 1996, 208,200 families with children in Michigan were living in poverty; in 2014, the number was 213,000. If the purpose of our social safety-net is to offer families temporary cash assistance and help them find meaningful work so that they can escape poverty, welfare reform in Michigan has been an abject failure.

So what should we do? What we don’t need is more creative accounting, but an actual investment in Michigan’s poor. For years, Michigan Future has described the shifts in our economy, and the characteristics of the people and places that are successful in this new economy. However, we also need to support those that have not experienced success: those that haven’t amassed the skills and education valued in an increasingly knowledge and service-based economy. Many in that group need exactly what TANF was designed to deliver: temporary cash assistance while they get back on their feet, meaningful activities that will build skill and reduce barriers to employment, and quality child care.

I’m all for college scholarships, but it shouldn’t come out of the money meant to help poor Michiganders back on their feet.

The post Creative accounting and Michigan’s weak safety net appeared first on Michigan Future Inc..

Holding management accountable for school results

September 27, 2016 by  
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One of the main lessons we learned from our Michigan Future Schools initiative is, contrary to conventional wisdom, the core characteristic of pre K-12 schools nationally that are getting breakthrough gains in student achievement is the commitment and capability of the management of schools (the central office of both charter school networks and traditional public school districts), not building level leadership and/or the quality of the teachers.

The quality of the principal; other academic building-level leaders; and teachers, of course, matter, but they, by and large, are a reflection of the quality of the central office both in hiring and developing building-level talent and in providing building-level professionals with a playbook for meeting high student outcome standards.

Figuring out what capacities/skills children need to be college and career ready; designing schools to build those capacities/skills; and then successfully executing that design is really hard work. Expecting principals and teachers to figure that out on top of their daily responsibilities is, to say the least, unrealistic.

Our experience with the schools we worked with––almost all were charter schools––is that principals and teachers were changed regularly and yet student outcomes didn’t change much from year to year. What didn’t change much is the central office design of schools; their ability to build the capacity of the schools they managed to execute their design; or their system for hiring and developing building-level educators. To us these are the levers that matter most to getting the kind of breakthrough gains in student achievement we all say we want.

To make matters worse we have an accountability system for student outcomes that has the most consequences for teachers and principals. They can lose their jobs if student test scores don’t meet standards. Somehow we have decided that if only we could fire more easily low quality principals and teachers we would get big gains in student outcomes. Think again! Yes there are low quality principals and teachers that should be more easy to dismiss in public schools.

But there are no such restrictions to doing that in the charter sector and the absence of those restrictions doesn’t lead to breakthrough student achievement gains in charter schools that don’t have central offices that have designed and implemented systems to prepare students to be college and career ready.

(To see the needed management competencies take a look at the functions of  Uncommon Schools’ central office. They are one of the charter systems that is recognized for moving towards the kind of student outcomes that we all say we want.)

If we want to use accountability as a key lever to drive improvement in student outcomes, the system should be designed to primarily hold those who manage schools accountable. And that accountability system should be based on metrics that predict college and career ready, rather than just standardized test scores that turn out not to be very predictive of either. (For more on the inadequacy of standardized tests see this previous post.)

The hope is when you get the metrics right and the accountability system right you get central offices analyzing student success and redesigning schooling based on that analysis. (For a terrific example of how this can work see this from Yes Prep!)

The post Holding management accountable for school results appeared first on Michigan Future Inc..

Know Better, Do Better

September 25, 2016 by  
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Eddie, Charlie, and Alice,

By the time you are old enough to read these posts, you will already be fully aware of this: Your school different is very different than the one I teach in. At least at the time of my writing this they are very different.

Daddy and I grew up in your same school district. Back then it was even whiter than it is now, and I would argue that it is even more affluent now than it was then, although we weren’t doing so badly for ourselves then either. Living and going to school in such a district comes with lots of privilege.  Because the majority of you and your classmates come from homes with two parents, post-secondary education, and good careers (notice I didn’t say “jobs”), you all have the fortune of having resources like being read to, an adult home with you, a meal without thinking about where it comes from, a steady place to live, and so much more.

This is how I grew up too.

Grandpa and Grandma were not super wealthy by any means, just like your dad and I are not wealthy or part of the 1%. Your uncles and I were not the kids with the latest brands or the latest technology, but we definitely didn’t want for much. Just like you three.

In school we learned about slavery and segregation and how it was all over. We learned that it was done. In our super white community, in our school where I could count the number of kids of color on my hands, we were taught that segregation and racism were a thing of the past, thank Martin Luther King, Jr and Jesus. We were told “don’t say the “N” word,” and “It doesn’t matter what color your skin is.”

This is what we were taught at home too. Grandpa and Grandma grew up during segregation. They grew up with people who were overtly racist, but they learned better and they did better by teaching your uncles and me about it.

They knew better, so they did better.

Fast forward to me as a high school kid in my 98% lilly white affluent school. If someone from a different school that had more minority students than we had told me that some of our traditions or school spirit was racist, I would have told them to quit being so sensitive. We weren’t racist. We weren’t calling any teams the “n” word or burning crosses or using hateful language. We were just having fun.

I was the student who thought that “others” were trying to find racism and hate in innocent things. That because my intentions weren’t to hurt, then they were wrong to feel hurt.

I’ve lived a lot of life in the twenty years since I graduated from that school, and guess what. I know better now. I know better than to point at a person and say their feelings are wrong.

I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut and my mind and ears open when others are saying that something makes them uncomfortable or fearful.

I’ve learned not to brush off someone else’s experience because it is not mine.

I’ve also learned that I can’t be quiet now that my eyes have been opened. Now that I know better, I have to also do better. I have to help others know better so they can do better.

Our extended family is filled with people of color. My students and their families and the staff I work with are filled with people of color. As someone who loves them I simply cannot stand silent if I see people continue with the same mindset I once had. I know better, I need to say something so they can too.

My dear children, it will be easy for you to shelter yourself in your privilege. To remain silent when a comments or actions don’t seem intentionally racist, but are. To shut your eyes to what is happening “out there” and let yourself believe it’s not right here too.

But your dad and I can’t let that happen. Racism in all it’s forms need to not just make you uncomfortable, but make you furious. If you hear someone put down a school district, like the one I teach in, you need to say something. If you witness a tradition in your school that seems like it might make your cousins uncomfortable, you need to say something. If you notice yourself having a judgment about someone and you realize it’s because of the way they look, you need to stop and readjust your thoughts.

You need to do better.

Because now you know better too.

Sluiter Cousins at Justice's Baptism

Sluiter Cousins at Justice’s Baptism

How to Know What and When to Delegate

September 23, 2016 by  
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Have you also noticed that as an entrepreneur and a mother we easily get caught up in doing the same things over and over? We often let our old responsibilities become so engrained in our minds as what “needs to get done” that we just get into a routine to accomplish them.

Unfortunately, over time it can become more evident that you are outgrowing some of those responsibilities or chores. Some of the things you have always done become a waste of time and resources that can easily be delegated to others. Delegation is a skill set that a hear a lot my clients say they don’t think they can efficiently do. They have a fear of losing the control of their work quality and having to trust someone else to do something that they can do and do it as well as they would have.

Many of my clients have told me in the past that they simply don’t believe a leadership comes naturally to them. And, though this is a very understandable concern, it’s also one that proves consistently to be a non-issue. Of course, there are coaches out there (like me) that can and will happily help you to feel confident to grow into a leadership role.

You Already Know How to Lead

But what most of my clients fail to recognize or give themselves proper credit for is that as a mother, you are already a leader! You already successfully delegate things that need to get done to your spouse, your family, and your children. Chores that need done around the house like yard work, laundry, dinner planning and preparation are (hopefully) passed out evenly amongst the others around the house. As a mom, it probably just makes no sense to do everything on your own while everyone else sits watching TV. As as true as this is for your home, it is absolutely just as true for your business..

In order to reach the next level of productivity in your business you really need to consider reaching out and asking for the help you need. Once you determine what you need someone to do, it is also critical to ensure that you organize yourself and your needs so the help you do hire can be as effective as possible for you.

The beauty of having someone who wants to help you is you can rely on them to really step up and step in, just taking some of the easier tasks off your plate that are time consuming. And, as a bonus, just think about how much time delegation will actually give you to spend with your children (or friends, or sleeping).

Baby Steps to Delegation

And remember you don’t have to think on a enormous scale here, either. Think about simply hiring a part-time, capable virtual assistant. VAs can help with so much because of the blessing of new technology. Simple tasks that you spend considerable time on or busy work (think social media, bookkeeping, marketing or even just simple sales follow up for your webinars and program participants). In the long run, it takes so much less money to pay someone who is proficient and professional, particularly if you calculate how much time you spend on the tasks plus your hourly rate.

The fall season is a great time to take a step back and start considering some business areas where you can use some help. You still have time to get organized to implement and hire that out in 2017 and take some of your own time back! Not sure where to start? I can help you! Contact me today for your free Discovery Session.

The post How to Know What and When to Delegate appeared first on Mom Biz Coach—Business Coach for Mom Entrepreneurs.

MCB PICK OF THE WEEK meets FREE VINYL FRIDAY – Stomp Rockets vinyl release show tonight by New Fortune Records – PJs Lager House Detroit – Friday Sept 23rd 8pm

September 23, 2016 by  
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Talk about a BONUS!
It's a Friday night dance party Detroit!


Win a free Stomp Rockets vinyl thanks to the guys and gals over at New Fortune Records!

email now for your chance to win and get to this show!

The Stomp Rockets 45 Record release show featuring 
Michael Hurtt & His Haunted Hearts 
and introducing, 
Heartthrob Chassis!!!

9:00 PM
Heartthrob Chassis 
(debut performance)

10:00 PM
Michael Hurtt & His Haunted Hearts

11:00 PM
The Stomp Rockets


Finally rising household incomes

September 23, 2016 by  
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2015 turns out to be the year that a growing economy finally delivered rising incomes for low and middle income Americans and Michiganders. Median household income nationally rose 5.2 percent. In Michigan 2.4 percent.

Michigan’s median household income in 2015 was $51,084 compared to $56,517 for the nation.

The poverty rate fell nationally from 14.8 to 13.5 percent. In Michigan the decline was from 16.2 to 15.8 percent.

And those without health insurance fell to 9.1 percent nationally and to 6.1 percent in Michigan.

(For a good overview of the Michigan data see this MLive article.)

Beyond the statistics published by the Census Bureau we looked at what happened to average wages in Michigan. What has been holding Michigan back has predominantly been stagnant wages. 2015 delivered good news here as well. With average annual wages corrected for inflation growing 3.1 percent. We also looked at fast food restaurant workers as representative of low wage workers. Here the increase was even more impressive: real annual average wages up in Michigan 7.5 percent. Almost certainly driven, in large part, by a higher minimum wage.

These increases come after real wages did not grow from 2001-2014. From 2001 to 2014 average annual Michigan wages fell from $50,041 to $48,545. In 2015 they rose back to 2001 levels at $50,063. For fast food workers the decline was from $13,615 to $12,598. In 2015 they rose back to 2002 levels at $13,544

Very good news indeed!

But as Eduardo Porter explores in a New York Times column entitled America’s Inequality Problem: Real Income Gains Are Brief and Hard to Find one year does not make a trend. And the long-term trend still is very worrisome. The basic trend Porter writes about is that it is taking longer and longer with subsequent recessions for household income to reach the previous peak.

The nation has not gotten back to the 2007 peak yet. Still 1.7 percent below. Porter writes:

How does that look compared to the nation’s recent history? After the economy slipped into recession in 1969, it took only three years for incomes in the middle to rebound and surpass their previous peak. After the downturn of 1973, it took five; after back-to-back recessions in 1981 and 1982, it took seven.

And, except for the long expansion that ran from 1991 through 2000, it has been getting worse. The economic growth from late 2001 to about the end of 2007 never even managed to deliver incomes above the previous peak for the typical household, reached near the end of Bill Clinton’s presidency. The expansion underway today may not get there, either.

Today, median household incomes are still 2.4 percent below the absolute peak they hit in 1999 — when Facebook had yet to come into existence, the big news in the music business was Napster, and the good times in Silicon Valley were about to come crashing down with the collapse of the dot-com bubble.

At the bottom of the ladder, households at the 10th percentile — those poorer than 90 percent of the population — are still a bit poorer than they were in 1989. Americans have managed to develop an internet economy, invent social media and build driverless cars since then, but not to improve the lot of those at the bottom.

As Porter details, the predominant reason a growing economy is not raising living standards for all is that income gains are concentrating at the top. As he concludes: “The current census data does suggest that growth can ultimately bring prosperity to average Americans. Still, it also points to the persistence of wide inequality as being at the center of the story.”

This is the great challenge going forward for U.S. and Michigan policymakers. Whether you call it shared prosperity or inclusive growth or something else we need to figure out how to recouple economic growth with a rising standard of living for all.

The post Finally rising household incomes appeared first on Michigan Future Inc..

Don’t Miss the Friends & Family Sale at BaubleBar

September 22, 2016 by  
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BaubleBar is a great spot to find affordable and pretty jewelry.  They carry both trendy and timeless styles that you can wear anyplace. This week, take 25% off sitewide when you use YESPLEASE through 9.26. Offer excludes sale, Maya Brenner, bundle sets and BaubleBar Essentials. We’re loving some of the delicate gold pieces for fall and this sale is the perfect time to stock up on our favorites!


y-chain-gold-necklace     initial-bar-bracelet

celestial-drops-gold     mini-pinata-tassel-drops

Disney and Netflix

September 22, 2016 by  
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I have a confession: I love Disney. I do. I know I am not a typical “Disney Mom,” but some of my fondest memories of growing up involve Disney productions. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that my kids are also drawn to anything associated with mouse ears too.

When I was in elementary school, VCRs were the new big technology thing, and my family didn’t have one. It’s a safe statement to say that my parents are not technology bandwagon jumpers. It is 2016 and they both only have flip phones. And my mom has one reluctantly–we had to give it to her for Christmas and switch their landline to it for her.

So in the 80’s the Riemersma family did not have a VCR of their own. However when my parents wanted to treat us to something special, we would go to the local rental shop and rent both a VCR and a few family-friendly (G-rated) videos.  Remember those little local video stores? Not the big box ones, but the little mom & pop ones? The one in our town was actually a repair shop that started renting videos and VCRs on the side. When you found a movie you wanted, you took the little circle tag off the hook in front of it and brought it to the shopkeeper. He would get it for you from the back and you would pay your rental fee.  They also sold microwave popcorn at the counter. But of course, we didn’t have a microwave either.

Anyway, my family always got a few Disney movies. Always. One cartoon and one non-cartoon. Always. I still sing “First you take a rag, put in the bag. BUMP BUMP!” when I am picking up after the kids.

First you pick it up, put it in the bag. Bump Bump!

My kids love Disney too. All three have gone through the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse stage. Alice is in it right now and I admit to loving watching her do the hot dog dance. Eddie has found all the old Mickey cartoons on Netflix and watched them a zillion times. His favorite is the Three Mouseketeers. He once told me that he loves it because “they always work together and the good guys always win….every time I watch it, Mom!”


This past summer I took Eddie to see Zootopia. We both loved it! And guess what! As of September 20 it’s available on Netflix! I know what we are doing this weekend.

If that news isn’t big and exciting enough, maybe this will knock your socks off (it did mine): Netflix is now the exclusive place to stream Disney (THE JUNGLE BOOK!), Lucasfilm (ZOMG STAR WARS!), Marvel (Netflix original shows!), and Pixar (FINDING DORY IS COMING!). THESE ARE ALL OF OUR FAVORITES!

Just in time for the weather to turn cool and to bust out the cuddly blankets for a good movie night! So grab some popcorn and start streaming!


Disclaimer: I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam. I receive free Netflix streaming and a device to watch it on in exchange for a post once a month. All opinions are my own.


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