Teacher Effects on Student Achievement and Height: A Cautionary Tale | National Bureau of Economic Research

Source: “Teacher Effects on Student Achievement and Height: A Cautionary Tale”, NBER Working Paper No. 26480, by Marianne Bitler, Sean Corcoran, Thurston Domina, Emily Penner
PDF: Teacher Effects on Student Achievement and Height: A Cautionary Tale

Estimates of teacher “value-added” suggest teachers vary substantially in their ability to promote student learning. … In this paper, we conduct a new test of the validity of value-added models. Using administrative student data from New York City, we apply commonly estimated value-added models to an outcome teachers cannot plausibly affect: student height. We find the standard deviation of teacher effects on height is nearly as large as that for math and reading achievement, raising obvious questions about validity.

All Activities Monitored| The New Atlantis

Source: All Activities Monitored | The New Atlantis, by Jon Askonas
RE: Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All,
by Arthur Holland Michel

How military drone technology is quietly creeping into policing, business, and everyday life

The main theme is straightforward: Wide-area persistent surveillance, combined with machine learning and massive storage, is a novel technology that threatens civil liberties, even while it offers a number of new capabilities for serving the common good. But another theme runs obliquely through the book: What capacity do we, as individuals or as a society, have to shape — or prevent — a dangerous technological development?

Gorgon Stare was first developed to disrupt attacks in Iraq by IEDs (improvised explosive devices), which had become the main cause of death among U.S.-led coalition forces. … Like so many other technologies created for war, this type of surveillance has come home, and early adopters have found many inventive uses. Security companies have used it to protect events like NASCAR races — in one case, the surveillance system allowed a security team to quickly track back a hostile fan to his trailer to eject him from the event. The Forest Service deploys wide-area surveillance to monitor potential forest fire zones. And of course, a number of law enforcement agencies, ranging from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to local police departments, have experimented successfully, if controversially, with using the technology to fight crime.

Michel’s story thus displays the ethical problem of technological development in high relief. A small group of engineers came together to build a powerful weapon to meet the needs of war. In so doing, they have shifted, for everyone, the balance of power between citizen and state, between individual and corporation, and have eroded to the point of extinction what little remained of the natural rights of privacy, all around the world.

How America Ends / Moderate Republicans Can Save America | The Atlantic

Source: How America Ends / Moderate Republicans Can Save America | The Atlantic, by Yoni Appelbaum

Democracy depends on the consent of the losers.

What has caused such rancor [in current U.S. politics]? … the biggest driver might be demographic change. … [The United State’s] historically dominant group is on its way to becoming a political minority—and its minority groups are asserting their co-equal rights and interests. If there are precedents for such a transition, they lie here in the United States, where white Englishmen initially predominated, and the boundaries of the dominant group have been under negotiation ever since. Yet those precedents are hardly comforting. Many of these renegotiations sparked political conflict or open violence

For a populist, Trump is remarkably unpopular. But no one should take comfort from that fact. The more he radicalizes his opponents against his agenda, the more he gives his own supporters to fear. The excesses of the left bind his supporters more tightly to him, even as the excesses of the right make it harder for the Republican Party to command majority support, validating the fear that the party is passing into eclipse, in a vicious cycle.

The right, and the country, can come back from this. Our history is rife with influential groups that, after discarding their commitment to democratic principles in an attempt to retain their grasp on power, lost their fight and then discovered they could thrive in the political order they had so feared. The Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, criminalizing criticism of their administration; Redemption-era Democrats stripped black voters of the franchise; and Progressive Republicans wrested municipal governance away from immigrant voters. Each rejected popular democracy out of fear that it would lose at the polls, and terror at what might then result. And in each case democracy eventually prevailed, without tragic effect on the losers. The American system works more often than it doesn’t.

The Democrats lost the presidential race in 1928—but won the next five, in one of the most dominant runs in American political history. The most effective way to protect the things they cherished, Democratic politicians belatedly discovered, wasn’t by locking immigrants out of the party, but by inviting them in.

Whether the American political system today can endure without fracturing further, Daniel Ziblatt’s research suggests, may depend on the choices the center-right now makes. If the center-right decides to accept some electoral defeats and then seeks to gain adherents via argumentation and attraction—and, crucially, eschews making racial heritage its organizing principle—then the GOP can remain vibrant. Its fissures will heal and its prospects will improve, as did those of the Democratic Party in the 1920s, after Wilson. Democracy will be maintained. But if the center-right, surveying demographic upheaval and finding the prospect of electoral losses intolerable, casts its lot with Trumpism and a far right rooted in ethno-nationalism, then it is doomed to an ever smaller proportion of voters, and risks revisiting the ugliest chapters of our history.

The Republican Party faced a choice between these two competing visions in the last presidential election. The post-2012 report defined the GOP ideologically, urging its leaders to reach out to new groups, emphasize the values they had in common, and rebuild the party into an organization capable of winning a majority of the votes in a presidential race. Anton’s essay, by contrast, defined the party as the defender of “a people, a civilization” threatened by America’s growing diversity.

When Trump’s presidency comes to its end, the Republican Party will confront the same choice it faced before his rise, only even more urgently. In 2013, the party’s leaders saw the path that lay before them clearly, and urged Republicans to reach out to voters of diverse backgrounds whose own values matched the “ideals, philosophy and principles” of the GOP. Trumpism deprioritizes conservative ideas and principles in favor of ethno-nationalism.

The conservative strands of America’s political heritage—a bias in favor of continuity, a love for traditions and institutions, a healthy skepticism of sharp departures—provide the nation with a requisite ballast. America is at once a land of continual change and a nation of strong continuities. Each new wave of immigration to the United States has altered its culture, but the immigrants themselves have embraced and thus conserved many of its core traditions. … And all became more American.

If America’s white Judeo-Christian majority is gone, then some new majority is already emerging to take its place—some new, more capacious way of understanding what it is to belong to the American mainstream.

So strong is the attraction of the American idea that it infects even our dissidents. The suffragists at Seneca Falls, Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and Harvey Milk in front of San Francisco’s city hall all quoted the Declaration of Independence. The United States possesses a strong radical tradition, but its most successful social movements have generally adopted the language of conservatism, framing their calls for change as an expression of America’s founding ideals rather than as a rejection of them.

The stakes in this battle on the right are much higher than the next election. If Republican voters can’t be convinced that democratic elections will continue to offer them a viable path to victory, that they can thrive within a diversifying nation, and that even in defeat their basic rights will be protected, then Trumpism will extend long after Trump leaves office—and our democracy will suffer for it.

The Road From Serfdom | The Atlantic

Source: The Road From Serfdom | The Atlantic, by Danielle Allen

The most urgent priority is addressing the corrosion of our democracy itself. If we don’t, we will lose the essence of the American experiment.

When Washington described public liberty as depending on the citizenry’s ability to ward off the despotism of faction, he was offering a profound insight: The precondition of democratic decision making is unity. … a process of mutual consultation—adjusting the interests of various parties in relation to one another—with the aim of achieving “consistent and wholesome plans” that could provide stability of direction over the long haul.

I keep coming back to Washington because his emphasis on collective accomplishment is the forgotten half of America’s constitutional ethos. We all remember what the Founders said about electoral procedures, about checks and balances, about the basic rights of citizens. We forget that all these elements were … supposed to be tools

We have shed the burden of compromise because politics has become factional. This state of affairs was epitomized by a statement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Winners make policy, and losers go home.”

As a measure of human flourishing, empowerment is more important than wealth. Wealth is merely one possible source of empowerment. It cannot buy what makes nations flourish: social cohesion, freedom, and healthy institutions. Social cohesion is created by cooperation, and cooperation occurs only if individuals have equal standing. The role of government is not to stay out of the way of markets. It is to secure the rights that undergird empowerment, cohesion, and participation. Securing these rights requires combatting monopolies. We understand what monopoly power means in the economic sense. But the issue of monopoly power applies to the political and social domains, too. Gerrymandered districts create monopolistic political power. Our current approach to education funding, which tightly links it to property taxes, has allowed the socioeconomically advantaged to establish a near-monopoly on genuine educational opportunities. People with money enjoy a position of privilege in the legal system. Corporations enjoy one when it comes to the quiet tweaking of bureaucracy and regulation. A proper role of government—nearly forgotten today, but the overriding concern of the Founders—is finding ways to prevent undue concentrations of power wherever they occur. Power tends toward self-perpetuation; where it is left undisturbed, it will draw further advantages to itself, shut out rivals, and mete out ever-bolder forms of injustice.

We have come to where we are over the course of decades, and getting someplace else will also take decades.

The way to start is by changing the policy agenda. Two issues should be at the top. The first is reviving our political system. We should direct our efforts powerfully and immediately toward what might be called “participation policy”—an umbrella term for measures and practices designed to increase the degree to which citizens vote and otherwise participate in self-government.

The second issue to put at the top of the agenda is the administration of justice. This is not about reviving the political system—it’s about reviving faith in the political system. Since the beginning of time, and around the globe, government’s first job has been to ensure that disputes and transgressions are justly dealt with. No government successfully secures the rights of the people—or maintains their allegiance—if it fails at the proper administration of justice.

We can debate the specifics. What matters is understanding the nature and scale of the task. Adjusting our directional slope so that it points a few degrees up rather than a few degrees down may seem unsatisfying—and, at the same time, a pipe dream. But small increments of change, multiplied by decades, are what put us where we are. They can also pull us out.

The challenges of participation and justice won’t be met by markets working independently of politics, and they won’t be met by the triumph of one faction over another. No great challenge can be met that way. As a nation, we have been called to be our best and most united selves by inspirational goals. The salvation of the democratic experiment must become such a goal.

The Future is not Retro | Pedestrian Observations

Source: The Future is not Retro | Pedestrian Observations, by Alon Levy

People who dislike the auto-oriented form of cities can easily romanticize how cities looked before mass motorization. … If you want to see what 21st-century [transit-oriented development] looks like, go to the richer parts of East Asia, especially Tokyo, which builds much more housing than Hong Kong and Singapore. … There are clusters of high-rise buildings next to train stations, and lower density further away, even small single-family houses fronting narrow streets far enough from train stations that it’s not economical to redevelop them. … There’s a lot more demand 100 meters from the station than two kilometers away, enough that people pay the construction cost premium for the 20th floor 100 meters from the stations in preference to the third floor two kilometers away.