If you look carefully at the NAEP data for the 8th grade, you see that anybody who thinks that miracles happened DCPS under Michelle Rhee is engaging in wishful thinking.

They aren’t looking at the evidence.

Well, here is some more real data, from the NAEP data that was just released today. These two graphs are for 8th grade math and reading. Take a look for yourself. You do NOT see sudden rises when The Magic Bee-Eater rode into town riding her push broom, fueled by absolute power and the confidence placed in her by billionaires like Michael Bloomberg…

The graph above is for 8th grade math. The reason there are so many blanks in columns three and five is that there weren’t enough white 8th graders tested for the NAEP folks to be able to do accurate and useful calculations. Thus, we really don’t know whether the black-white gap in DC publicly-funded students in the 8th grade is widening or narrowing.

The same lack of white students also created gaps in the NAEP reading scores during most year, as you can see in the following graph.

One big difference is that in DCPS (public and charters) as a whole, in the 8th grade reading scores appear to be exactly the same as they were in 2007, just a couple of months before Fenty announced that he had plucked a justly-unknown but very head-strong neophyte, one Michelle Rhee, to run DC public schools, even though she had never run any school before, at any level, ever.

Keep in mind that Rhee and Henderson have now had more than 4 years of running the show in DCPS. They have continued to bash teachers by using a wildly punitive random-number generator called IMPACT. They have caused education in many or most classes in DCPS to have largely become test-prep. They have failed so miserably at actually improving the real public schools of Washington DC that nearly half of the parents have voted with their kids and put them into charter schools — hoping (but not knowing) that the change will do their own kids good. (Of course, as you can see if you look at the data and charts on my blog many of the charter schools have considerably worse test scores than many of the regular DC public schools. If you put in order the scores of the charter schools in one color on a graph, and then put in order the scores of the regular public scores in the next column, the differences in the two groups of scores are actually fairly small. If you take the averages of the two groups, in some grades the public school students score higher, while in other grades it’s the reverse. (See* this post of mine* for just the 4th grade on the DC-CAS. Browse backwards and forwards by date to see other, similar posts by me.)

Of course, we don’t know exactly why there are such changes. There are lots of variables. One of the strongest of is the composition of the student body. Compare, say, the demographics of Lafayette Elementary in ward 3 with those of MLKing Elementary in ward 8. Look at ** http://www.nclb.osse.dc.gov/** , picking out those two schools by using the drop-down menus on the left-hand side of the OSSE web page, and check out the numbers (and estimate the fractions or percentages) of kids in all of the various reported categories, such as economically deprived, educationally handicapped, and so on. The results will be sobering. Then, if you do, you won’t entirely be surprised that one school routinely scores so much higher than the other.

There are, of course, many other variables. One of them is the quality of the curriculum and how well it gets teachers of all sorts to work well with each other for the benefit of the students. For some really stupid MBA-Inspire-Me-And-Get-Rich-Quick reason, Rhee and other EddieFormer$ have decided that they don’t want teachers to collaborate, and that it’s not necessary to have a curriculum. They feel, first of all, that the tests ARE the curriculum. Yup, that’s right. The idiotic and poorly-written corporate-owned standardized multiple-choice tests, THAT’s the curriculum. Anything you can do to increase your students’ score vis-a-vis the scores of your colleagues, will help you keep your job. Too bad about them. In fact, since the value-added portion IMPACT is supposedly designed to return scores such that half of the teachers are below average, hence lose points, and half are above average, and hence gain points. So, yeah, it’s graded on a curve, and there’s only so much room for so many in the highest group…

They certainly have had great success in having roughly half of the staff and teachers of DCPS either retire, die, quit or get fired. The percentage of teachers who are brand-new or have less than two years of teaching experience is apparently higher than ever in the public schools, particularly in the poorer wards. The rates of teacher turnover and burnout are even greater in the charter schools — where, quite often, students have even less opportunity for things like music, band, orchestra, chorus, painting, sculpting, student government, extracurricular after-school clubs, computer applications of any sort, gym classes or team sports than they do in the regular DC public schools.

Huh? In the 4 years preceding Rhee’s appointment, black 8th grade math scores rose 5 points. In the 4 years after her appointment they rose 11 points. That looks pretty good to me.

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And the flat 8th-grade reading scores might, counterintuitively, actually be a good sign. There are two ways you can raise test scores: 1) by teaching kids the stuff they’re being tested on and 2) by gaming the test, either by outright cheating or by drilling kids on test-taking skills. If Rhee’s efforts had resulted mostly in option (2), we’d expect to see both reading and math scores behaving similarly. We don’t, so maybe DCPS really has gotten better at teaching math. And math knowledge is much more affected by teaching than reading skills: kids’ vocabulary scores (at a given IQ, of course) will vary widely as a function of how much they read on their own, whereas, since basically nobody does math on their own time, their mathematical knowledge will vary mostly as a function of how well they’re taught in school (at a given IQ).

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