Revised HS PARCC ‘pass’ rates in English and Math in DC public and charter schools

My original graphs on the ‘pass’ rates for all DC publicly-funded high schools were incomplete, because I was using OSSE data only (Office of the State Superintendent of Education). A reader showed me where the DC charter school board (DC PCSB) posted their PARCC statistics and that gave me the pass rates for a couple of additional schools (Maya Angelou and BASIS IIRC). So here are the revised graphs which you can click on to enlarge:

2015 Math PARCC 'pass' rates, both public and charter schools in DC

2015 Math PARCC ‘pass’ rates, both public and charter schools in DC

2015 'pass' rates, public and charter high school math, PARCC, DC, 2015

2015 ‘pass’ rates, public and charter high school math, PARCC, DC, 2015

Note how many fewer students passed the PARCC math test than the reading test in DC. I haven’t yet seen any of the actual questions on either of the tests. But if these were tests that I had written and was using as a teacher with my students, I would likely conclude that the one with the much-lower scores was simply a much harder test, and I would probably do one of the following:

(A) “scale” the scores so that more students would pass, or else

(B) throw out the test results and try teaching with a different approach altogether, or else

(C) throw out the test and make one that at least a majority of students could pass if they’ve been paying attention.

{At my last school, if f I failed 80 to 90% of my students, I would have gotten an unsatisfactory evaluation and probably have gotten fired.}

Of course, this being the era when multi-billionaires who hate the very idea of public schools are in charge of said public schools, neither A, B or C will happen. In fact, my understanding is that the ‘cut’ scores for each of the categories of grades (meets expectations and so on) were set AFTER the students took the test, not in advance. So it was very much a politico-social decision that the vast majority of students were SUPPOSED to fail the math test.

Let me note strongly that by far the most effective way to have really good test scores for your school is to let in ONLY students who already get strong test scores. That’s how Phillips Exeter or Andover Academies or Riverdale or Sidwell Friends or or the Chicago Lab or Lakeside private schools do it, and that’s how Banneker, School Without Walls, Washington Latin, and BASIS do it. (Partial disclosure: I and some of my immediate family either went to, or worked at, some of those schools.) Teachers who are successful at those elite schools have a MUCH easier time teaching those students than do those who try to teach at school with large numbers of at-risk students, like Washington Metropolitan, Ballou, Cardozo, Maya Angelou, or Options public or charter schools. Idealistic teachers from elite schools who do transfer to tough inner-city public schools generally crash and burn, and I would predict that one of the easiest ways to lose your teaching job these days is to volunteer to teach at any one of the five latter schools.

Trends on the NAEP give a clue as to why Arne Duncan quit

Seeing the rather large drop on the NAEP scores for students across the nation – results released at midnight last night – gives me the idea that Arne Duncan (secretary of education for the past 7 years) quit rather than face the blame for his failed policies. After all, he (and the rest of the billionaire deformer class) have been promising that if you open tons of unregulated charter schools, use numerology to fire many of the remaining veteran teachers, and make education into little more than test prep for all students of color or those who come from poor families, then the test results will improve.

Well, they didn’t improve.

I will let you see for yourself how the percentages of students deemed ‘proficient’ in 4th grade and 8th grade on the NAEP at the national level generally dropped. I include DC (where I come from), and in five other states – two that are high-performing (NH and Massachusetts) and three that are low-performing (CA, AL and NM).

The one bright spot for District residents is that DC is no longer the last in the nation in every category! DC students now have slightly higher percentages proficient in certain categories than two other impoverished states – New Mexico and Alabama, as you can see in the graphs below. (The graph for the District of Columbia is the light blue one at the bottom,)

On the other hand, the increases in percentages of students ‘proficient’ in DC since 2008, the first year after mayoral control was imposed and the elected school board was neutralized, are nothing but a continuation of previous trends.

As usual, if you want to take a closer look, click on the graphs.

% Proficient in 4th Grade Math: DC, Nation, MA, CA, NH, NM, AL through 2015

% Proficient in 4th Grade Math: DC, Nation, MA, CA, NH, NM, AL through 2015

Percentage 'Proficient' or Above on 4th grade NAEP reading through 2015, DC, Nation, AL, CA, MA, NH, NM

Percentage ‘Proficient’ or Above on 4th grade NAEP reading through 2015, DC, Nation, AL, CA, MA, NH, NM

8th grade math NAEP

8th grade math NAEP

8th grade reading

8th grade reading

The Harm Done by TFA – According to its own Alumni

Here is an article which points out the negative impact of Teach for America, as described by two of its own former members. It’s in a magazine called Jacobin. I recommend it highly.

Here are a few quotes:

In stark contrast to the harsh and constant criticism that TFA doles out to its corps members and staff members, much of what the organization has been doing in recent years — creating its own public relations machine — suggests a desire to be above criticism itself. During my tenure on staff, the organization created a national communications team whose job was to get positive press out about TFA and to swiftly address any negative press. My sense was, and still is, that TFA cares more about the public perception of what it is doing than about what it is actually doing to improve educational outcomes and opportunities for low-income students throughout the United States.

For an organization that describes itself as “data-driven,” it is interesting that TFA does not collect data on how their corps members are impacted by their TFA commitments. While working in racially segregated and under-resourced schools, 35 percent of the corps members in this study began professional counseling; 27 percent began taking prescription medications to address depression, anxiety, and trauma; 38 percent experienced increased alcohol consumption and dependency; 42 percent experienced major weight changes; 46 percent experienced strained relationships; and 73 percent experienced physical fatigue, some to the point of requiring medical attention.

After years of uncritical praise, TFA has started receiving less favorable media coverage and more public discontent from alumni. One corps member in your book, Jameson, writes about viewing her time in TFA as “almost a guilty secret.” Why has there been this sort of shift in how TFA is viewed by corps members and the broader public, and how has TFA as an organization handled this uptick in public criticism?


TFA controlled the rhetoric about TFA for the first twenty-three of its twenty-five years. Critique has always been there but only in the last two years has that critique started to come together and find outlets. That was a fundamental aim of our book: providing an outlet for discussion where it was historically absent.

TFA has been forced to include defensive measures to combat negative press. And while any company would likely engage in a public relations campaign, TFA is determined to undermine any and all dissent ranging from nationally syndicated columns to obscure blogs.

Peter Greene of Curmudgucation takes on the Social Justice Argument about Education Reform

Peter Greene may be the best blogger in America. Please read his latest post on how education reform deals with social justice. It’s long but, as always, excellent.

Arne Duncan is Leaving

I am pleased to report that Arne Duncan is stepping down as the US Secretary of Education. I wish he was being fired and disgraced, because he has done more to destroy and resegregate public education than any other individual. Except Barack Obama, who appointed him.

Good riddance. But his replacement is not likely to be better: John King, who was utterly indifferent to parent complaints about over-testing.

(PS – sorry for the original typos. Trying to write a post via my iPhone is asking for errors galore.)

See Jersey Jazzman use the Gaussian Distribution to Show that Arne Duncan and Mike Petrilli are full of it

Excellent lesson from Jersey Jazzman showing that the old tests produce pretty much the same distribution of scores as the new tests.

old and new tests

He has superimposed the green scores from 2008 on top of the 2014 scores for New York state in 8th grade reading, and basically they have almost the same distribution. Furthermore, a scatter plot shows nearly the same thing, and that there is a nearly perfect correlation between the old scores and the new scores, by school.

old and new tests again

Read his article, which is clear and concise. I don’t have time to go into this in depth.

Where have all the teachers gone?

A lot of them have retired (like me) or quit in disgust. This writer collected comments from dozens of teachers around the nation who explained why they retired early or quit teaching altogether because they could not stand the direction that American education has taken.

Very worthwhile reading.

Freeloaders – a couple of well-financed anti-union teachers

Recently the NYT had an interview with two anti-union teachers in California, who are the faces (but not the funders) of the lawsuit before the Supreme Court on whether unions can charge their members ‘agency fees’.

If the wrong side wins this case, it will have a devastating impact on what remains of the pitifully small American labor movement.

Jersey Jazzman has a good article summarizing and demolishing the arguments made by those two right-wing teachers.

By the way, nearly everything Mark Weber (Jersey Jazzman) writes is excellent. (My goof: for some reason I imagined that the article was by Arthur Goldstein, another excellent writer and teacher.)

Published in: on August 12, 2015 at 7:06 pm  Comments (1)  
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From Mark Naison – Parent Strike!

 This is from Mark Naison, an author and professor at Fordham in NYC — gfb
Mark Naison
July 23 at 4:51pm
What Our Children and Grandchildren Deserve: No Compromise With Current Education Policies

Every post I get from around the country suggests that the attack on teachers, students and public education shows no sign of letting up. Students are being tested more than ever; great teachers are being given low ratings and driven out of the profession; and whole cities are being turned into all charter districts without evidence that this will do anything to empower students, while at the same time funneling profits to consulting firms and real estate developers. While the worst of the attacks are hitting high poverty schools, no districts are immune from the scripting, the micromanagement and the obsession with test results. This nightmare is occurring in states with Republican governors and states with Democratic governors.

Anyone who thinks that the new ECAA legislation being passed by Congress is going to bring relief is being extremely naive. Those who think than any Presidential candidate will make things better is living in Never Never Land. The momentum of current policies on the state and local level is powerful because it is driven by Billionaire dollars. The same people who are controlling the political process in DC are driving privatization and profiteering in public education at the local level.

The only way to fight back against this is civil disobedience. Parent strikes, Student strikes. Teachers strikes. Test Refusal. And innovative tactics to bring the pressure on those who would destroy students lives and teachers careers. Disrupt meetings. Picket peoples houses. Make those who would make students and families pay the price pay a price themselves.

This is why I am very excited about the formation of the group ParentStrike. And the refusal of United Opt Out to compromise at all with ANY federal legislation that uses standardized testing as the basis of school evaluation and uses federal funds to punish schools, school districts and entire states on the basis of test scores.

Now is not the time to compromise. We are already losing badly. It is the time to disrupt. To confuse. To undermine, To resist

Our children and grandchildren deserve better. Much better.

With Friends Like These …

With Friends Like These…

(public education doesn’t need enemies!)

An assessment by Ken Derstine of the overhaul of ESEA / NCLB / ECAA act. Here is the link:


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