Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Say Yes To Education-- The E-mails: Part 3

If you haven't read them already I recommend you start with Say Yes To Education-- The E-mails: Part 1 and follow the linked articles back to here.

Before I begin with Part 3, allow me to tell you about George Hartzman, the man who is blowing the whistle on Say Yes To Education.

George Hartzman correctly predicted the last recession long before others saw it coming. At Wells Fargo, he blew the whistle on Wells Fargo for cheating their customers out of their retirement savings by telling them they are doing better than they actually are.

Matt Tabbi of Rolling Stone Magazine was quoted in Mr Hartzman's suit against Wells Fargo.
Say Yes To Education was founded in 1987 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Apparently they ran out of money in 2013.

Say Yes, Hartford, Connecticut was founded in 1990. It closed in 2005 having only sent 58 students to college.

Even the nice folks at Wikipedia have issues with Say Yes history.

On November 17, 2012, in an article entitled, Say Yes, Too Good To Be True, Buffalo News reporter Mary Pasciak wrote:

"It sounds almost miraculous in the landscape of urban education, where change is arduous and slow.

And Say Yes has, indeed, helped the Syracuse schools make significant strides in just a few years.

Ninth-grade scores on one Regents exam went up 10 points in a single year. Hundreds more high school graduates are attending community colleges. Enrollment in the city schools increased for the first time in a decade.

The trouble is, Say Yes exaggerated many of its claims.

And in some cases, Say Yes takes credit for improvements in Syracuse that it is – at best – only partially responsible for."

Say Yes was selling themselves as the greatest thing for education since the pencil sharpener but according to Mary Pasciak the pencils weren't all that sharp:

"Asked for a detailed breakdown of the results that Say Yes has achieved in Syracuse, Eugene Chasin, chief operating officer of Say Yes, provided a copy of a study by Steven M. Ross, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, and Laura Rodriguez, a Syracuse University graduate student.

Ross and Rodriguez magnified that 10.3 percentage point gain by calculating it as an increase of 27.2 percent over the original passing rate. 

What’s more, according to Ross and Rodriguez’s own data, over the longer term, the ninth-grade algebra results were improving much more slowly. Over three years, the schools posted a three-point increase in the percentage of ninth-graders passing the algebra exam.

Say Yes officials generally don’t talk about results on other Regents exams.

The Buffalo News conducted its own review of Syracuse students’ performance on Regents exams in eight courses, based on data made available through the state Education Department.

Using the base year of 2007-08, the year before Say Yes began rolling out support services for Syracuse students, the results were a mixed bag. Students did better on half of the exams – math and science – four years later, but fared worse on the other half – primarily social studies and English."

Ouch! Folks in Greensboro and Guilford County were reading this too. Just not the folks in charge of spending your money. Apparently Google is beyond most of them. And while Say Yes in Syracuse was claiming big numbers they had no way to verify them.

"But the increase was not as impressive as the 60 to 70 percent increase that Ross and Rodriguez cited.
That’s because instead of comparing the freshman college class each year, they were counting the freshman plus the sophomore class in the second year of their study.
And there is another caveat. Say Yes officials concede that they do not know how many Syracuse high school graduates in total actually enroll in college in any given year – they only count those who file papers with Say Yes.
The district does not track student enrollment in college – so there’s no way to know whether the increase means more students are actually enrolling in college, or more students are filing papers with Say Yes.
Before Say Yes came to Syracuse, nobody had ever counted how many high school graduates in that city enrolled in college."

And then there's this:

"Say Yes contends that the group’s college tuition guarantee has started to reverse the steady drop in enrollment of Syracuse public schools by drawing middle-class families back to the city.

“After declining enrollment over 10 years prior, now there is stability and some increase,” Chasin said.

There was, in fact, a one-year enrollment increase in Syracuse – an overall increase of almost 2 percent, or 383 students.

It was driven almost entirely by an increase in students of Asian descent.

A study by two Syracuse University professors, Robert Bifulco and Ross Rubenstein, last year found that after annual enrollment declines for 10 years, the Syracuse schools experienced an increase in enrollment in 2009, the year after Say Yes came to town.

The number of Asian students increased by more than one-third, to 1,034, building on a similar increase the year before.

The white student population grew as well – by exactly eight students, to 5,823. The increase is minimal, Rubenstein said, but significant after losing 200 or more white students annually for many years.

But the study pointed out that there are many possible factors – including changes in birth rates and an improved city economy – that may have contributed to the overall enrollment increase.

“A more plausible competing explanation is that the city experienced a large and sudden increase in immigration from Asian countries unrelated to the Say Yes program,” Bifulco and Rubenstein wrote."

In 2015 people in Greensboro and Guilford County were asking questions about Say Yes. They had read this same article and others like this one from the Buffalo News that points out:

"In addition, the organization counts all students who receive enough federal and state tuition grants to cover their tuition costs, even if Say Yes contributes none of its own scholarship money toward the student’s tuition."

But no one from Say Yes was talking. For example: On Tuesday December 29, 2015 I was forwarded the following e-mail. Honestly, I'm not sure who Conzswella Collins is but as my e-mail address is at the top of every page of this website, I'm never surprised when inquiring minds seek our assistance.

"On Tue, Dec 29, 2015 at 6:59 PM, Conzswella Collins
For Say Yes to be in partnership with so many public organizations like City and County I was shocked to receive this inquiry back.  This concerns me that in lieu of being transparent and openly sharing information with a Guilford County resident this type of reply would be received after requesting Say Yes committee meeting minutes.

While I have not responded back yet this only peaks my interest of who and what will be unfolded from SAY YES 

On Tuesday, December 29, 2015 5:35 PM, Richard Moore <rmooregso@me.com> wrote:

Ms. Collins: your email to Abbey Johnson concerning meeting minutes was forwarded to me as President of the scholarship nonprofit. Would you mind telling me how you are connected to the program and what your interest in seeing the minutes is?


Richard (Skip) Moore

Sent from my iPad"

I would have been shocked too. Ms Collins and I exchanged several more e-mails and on January 6, 2016 she wrote:

"I have not received any committee meeting minutes from any of the Say Yes Committees nor the one scholarship committee."

Yes, it does appear that transparency is a problem. Now please allow me to 'splain' something to all you backwater jerks: My name is Billy Jones and I am a Candidate for Mayor of Greensboro in 2017. And I happen to know for a fact that when your non profit is funded by the city, county, state, school board, federal government or any other means that provides you with tax freaking dollars you no longer have any right to keep secrets I don't care if the freaking Communist Chinese are asking you for information. They're called public records for a reason.

Because that's the law and that's what you will do. And when I'm elected Mayor of Greensboro you risk losing your City funding for failing to do so. All of it.

Stay tuned for Say Yes To Education-- The E-mails: Part 4