Curmudgucation on the NAEP rollout

If you’ve noticed, I’m a great admirer of blogger and retired teacher Peter Greene and his column, Curmudgucation. He has a great column today (as he does nearly every day) on the foolishness of Betsy Devos’ statements about the NAEP results. I urge you to read it. He points out that if anything, the current year’s results, which aren’t good, are in great part the responsibility of DeVos herself and her policies!

A couple of excerpts:

“I wasn’t going to write about NAEP for any number of reasons, but then I happened to look at Betsy DeVos’s comments on this year’s results and, well, this whole blood pressure thing happened. So to get my numbers back down, I’m going to talk through the nonsense she issued forth, notable for its disconnection from reality, its devotion to public education bashing, and, most of all, its bizarre display of an amnesia-fueled dismissal of responsibility for any hand in the results of the Nation’s Report Card. …

“[then a quote from DeVos:]… For more than three decades, I—and many others—have said that America’s antiquated approach to education fails too many kids.

“No. For three decades you and many others have used aggressive chicken littling as leverage to remake education in your preferred image. You said, “Let us have our way and NAEP scores will shoot up like daisies in springtime.” Do not even pretend to suggest that you have somehow been hammering fruitlessly on the doors of education, wailing your warnings and being ignored. The current status quo in education is yours. You built it and you own it and you don’t get to pretend that’s not true as a way to avoid accountability for the results.

Not So Fast, Betsy DeVos!

I attended the official roll-out of the results of the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) a couple of days ago at the National Press Club here in DC on 14th Street NW, and listened to the current education secretary, Betsy Devos, slam public schools and their administrators as having accomplished nothing while spending tons of money. She and other speakers held up DC, Mississippi, and Florida as examples to follow. Devos basically advocated abandoning public schools altogether, in favor of giving each parent a “backpack full of cash” to do whatever they want with.

Some other education activists I know here in DC shared their thoughts with me, and I decided to look at the results for DC’s white, black, and Hispanic students over time as reported on the NAEP’s official site. (You can find them here, but be prepared to do quite a bit of work to get them and make sense out of them!)

I found that it is true that DC’s recent increases in scores on the NAEP for all students, and for black and Hispanic students, are higher than in other jurisdictions.

However, I also found that those increases were happening at a HIGHER rate BEFORE DC’s mayor was given total control of DC’s public schools; BEFORE the appointment of Michelle Rhee; and BEFORE the massive DC expansion of charter schools.

Here are two graphs (which I think show a lot more than a table does) which give ‘average scale scores’ for black students in math at grades 4 and 8 in DC, in all large US cities, and in the nation as a whole. I have drawn a vertical red line at the year 2008, separating the era before mayoral control of schools (when we had an elected school board) and the era afterwards (starting with appointed chancellor Michelle Rhee and including a massive expansion of the charter school sector). These results include both regular DC Public School students and the charter school sector, but not the private schools.

I asked Excel to produce linear correlations of the average scale scores for black students in DC starting in 1996 through 2007, and also for 2009 through 2019. It wasn’t obvious to my naked eye, but the improvement rates, or slopes of those lines, were TWICE AS HIGH before mayoral control. At the 4th grade level, the improvement rate was 2.69 points per year BEFORE mayoral control, but only 1.34 points per year afterwards.

Yes, that is a two-to-one ratio AGAINST mayoral control & massive charter expansion.

At the 8th grade level, same time span, the slope was 1.53 points per year before mayoral control, but 0.77 points per year afterwards.

Again, just about exactly a two-to-one ratio AGAINST the status quo that we have today.

pre and post Rhee, 4th grade NAEP, black students in DC, nation, large cities

pre and post Rhee, 8th grade NAEP, black students in DC, large cities, and nation

No Progress on NAEP Scores

Except in DC, Mississippi! I’m copying this from Education Week, and plan on attending the public release of these scores this afternoon at the National Press Club.

‘No Progress’ Seen in Reading or Math on Nation’s Report Card

The latest results of the tests known as the Nation’s Report Card offer a mostly grim view of academic progress in U.S. schools.

“Over the past decade, there has been no progress in either mathematics or reading performance, and the lowest-performing students are doing worse,” said Peggy Carr, the associate commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the NAEP. “In fact, over the long term in reading, the lowest-performing students—those readers who struggle the most—have made no progress from the first NAEP administration almost 30 years ago.” 

Since 2017, reading performance has dropped significantly across grades 4 and 8, with math performance mixed, based on results of the 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progressreleased Wednesday. Some racial achievement gaps closed—in part because of falling scores among white students—and gaps between struggling and high-achieving students continued to widen. 

naep achievement.JPG

Nationwide, students’ reading performance fell by 4 scale-score points, to 263, in 8th grade, and by 2 scale points, to 220, in 4th grade, on a 500-point scale. The top-performing 10 percent of 4thgraders were the only group to hold steady in reading; all other students performed worse, and the lowest-performing 10 percent of students declined the most. In grade 8, students of every performance decile performed worse in 2019 than 2017. 

In reading, Mississippi was the only state to improve in 2019 in 4th grade and Washington, D.C. (as a state) was the only one to improve in 8thgrade. (The District of Columbia, in fact, showed the fastest gains this year of any state or large school district.) 

In math, students were more likely to hold their ground or improve: 4th graders scored on average 241 on a 500-point scale in 2019, 1 scale point higher than in 2017, while 8th graders performed 282 in the subject, 1 point lower than the last test administration. There was no change in the percentage of 4th or 8th graders who scored at or above the proficient benchmark in math, though 1 percentage point more 4th graders scored at the advanced level in 2019. 

Nine states improved in 4th grade math and three states saw gains in 8th grade math. 

States, districts and schools across America have worked hard over the last decade to raise the bar in classrooms with higher quality standards and aligned assessments to help all students succeed,”said Carissa Moffat Miller, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, in a statement. 

CCSSO was “encouraged” by growth in 4th-grade math, Miller said, but later added, “Students nationally are performing better in reading and math today than in the early 1990s, though reading is clearly not increasing at the rate we would hope and this deserves special attention. We recognize the urgency of improving outcomes for all students.” The group pledged to gather a summit of state chiefs, educators, and national experts to discuss how to improve literacy. 

Florida, considered a “bright spot” during the last NAEP for significant gains, made no progress in math and saw a significant reversal this time around in reading. The state’s 4th graders dropped 4 scale points and 8th graders dropped 3 scale points since 2017. 

Students of different racial and ethnic groups mostly held their ground in math, save that Native American 8th graders declined and Hispanic 4th graders improved from 2017. By contrast, white and black 4th graders students lost ground in reading in 2019, and only Asian students maintained their reading performance in 8th grade. White, black, Hispanic, Native American, and multiracial 8th graders all performed worse in 2019 than in 2017. 

“Every American family needs to open The Nation’s Report Card this year and think about what it means for their child and for our country’s future,” said U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. “The results are, frankly, devastating. This country is in a student achievement crisis, and over the past decade it has continued to worsen, especially for our most vulnerable students.” 

DeVos called the results a “wakeup call,” arguing, “We can neither excuse them away nor simply throw more money at the problem.” 

Instead, DeVos seems to be doubling down on expanding school choice. She pledged a “transformational plan” by the administration to help students “escape failing schools.” 

However, NCES found that in more than half of states and systems tested in math, 6 percent to 14 percent of students had teachers who reported “serious problems” with inadequate classroom supplies. 

The 2019 NAEP included 300,000 4th graders and 290,000 8th graders across all states, the Department of Defense schools, and the District of Columbia. The assessment also includes representative samples of students in 27 large urban school districts. For more on how to dig into NAEP data, see this explainer on avoiding “misNAEPery.” 

Problematic NAEP Trends

In the longer term, NCES finds the top 10 percent highest performing students improved in both grades and both subjects in the past decade. By contrast, the most struggling 10 percent of students performed worse during the same time.

The 2019 results do not show why performance continues to split, but a separate August analysis of 2015 NAEP results may provide a hint. NCES researchers found teachers of low-performing students in reading, math, and science that year were significantly less likely than their peers teaching high-performing students to report that they engaged their classes in higher-order thinking or offered students advanced work. 

For example, 8th graders who scored below basic, the lowest proficiency level in reading, were more likely to have teachers who always or almost always asked students to summarize reading passages to improve comprehension skills, and less likely to ask students to analyze characters’ motivations or identify themes within the texts. For students who performed at proficient or advanced reading levels, that pattern was reversed. 

And a separate report out this week suggests another possible cause of the decline in reading performance. The nonprofit Common Sense Media’s census of media use among children ages 8 to 17 found fewer children in that age group are developing a habit of reading. Only about 40 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds said they enjoyed reading “a lot,” and more than one- third of them say they read daily. By the teen years, only 22 percent reported reading every day, and fewer than 1 in 4 reported really enjoying reading. 

Big Districts Improve

The 27 large districts participating in NAEP’s Trial Urban District Assessment—who altogether represent more than half of all U.S. students in grades 4 and 8–provide one clear bright spot in this year’s findings. The TUDA districts continue to improve significantly faster than the nation. On average, the districts improved 5 scale points in 4th grade math and 4 points in 8th grade. In reading, they held steady in 4th grade and improved by 1 scale point in 8th grade. 

Even in reading, the large urban districts’ performance declined since 2017 by the same or fewer scale points than the national average in 4th and 8th grades. Since TUDA first started nearly two decades ago, the large districts halved the gaps between their students’ math and reading performances and the national averages, though they remain 5 to 8 scale points below the average in those subjects. 

“We still have more to do, but the era of poor performance in our nation’s urban public schools has ended, and it has been replaced by results, accountability, and promise,” said Michael Casserly, the executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, a group that represents the nation’s largest school districts.

Chart Source: NCES

Published in: on October 30, 2019 at 9:06 am  Comments (1)  

Teachers Quitting In DC

Valerie Jablow points out that there is an enormous problem with DC public and charter teachers being so harassed that they quit: around 70% of them quit by their 5th year of employment. (She adds that this is probably not a bug, but a feature of the DC teacher evaluation program.) I am reprinting her entire column, but you should subscribe to it yourself.



Let’s Be Clear: DC Teacher Retention Isn’t Just A Problem. It’s A Crisis.

by Valerie Jablow

This Wednesday evening, October 23, at 5:30 pm, the DC state board of education (SBOE), DC’s only elected body with a direct (if relatively powerless) voice on our schools, will take public testimony on teacher retention in DC’s publicly funded schools. (See more information here.)

While public voice is sorely needed in every conversation about our public schools, in this case it’s a bit akin to choosing wallpaper for a burning building.

But that’s hardly SBOE’s fault.

In the wake of years of testimony about horrific treatment of DC teachers, SBOE last year commissioned a study by DC schools expert Mary Levy, which showed terrible attrition of teachers at our publicly funded schools, dwarfing attrition rates nationally.

An update to that 2018 study was just made available by SBOE and will be discussed at the meeting this week.

The update shows that while DCPS teacher and principal attrition rates have dropped slightly recently, they remain very high, with 70% of teachers leaving entirely by the 5-year mark (p. 32). Retention rates for DC’s charter schools are similar to those at DCPS–with the caveat that not only are they self-reported, but they are also not as complete and likely contain errors.

Perhaps the most stunning data point is that more than half of DCPS teachers leaving after 6 years are highly rated (p. 24). This suggests that the exodus of teachers from DC’s publicly funded schools is not merely a matter of weeding out poor performers (as DCPS’s response after p. 70 of this report suggests). Rather, it gives data credence to the terrifying possibility that good teachers are being relentlessly harassed until they give up and leave.

Sadly, that conclusion is the only one that makes sense to me, given that most of my kids’ teachers in my 14 years as a DCPS parent have left their schools–with only a few retiring after many years of service. Most of my kids’ teachers were both competent and caring. Perhaps not coincidentally, they almost always also lacked basic supplies that they ended up buying with their own money; were pressured to teach to tests that would be the basis of their and their principals’ evaluations; and feared reprisal for saying any of that.

(I’m hardly alone in that observation–read some teacher testimony for the SBOE meeting here, including that of a special education teacher, who notes that overwork with caseloads; lack of supplies; and increased class sizes for kids with disabilities are recurring factors at her school that directly lead to teacher burnout.)

In other words, high teacher attrition in DC’s publicly funded schools isn’t a bug but a feature.

Now the real question is why is SBOE apparently the only school leadership body undertaking this work in this manner?

To be fair, DC’s office of the state superintendent of education (OSSE) recently commissioned a report, which showed even higher rates of attrition in DC’s publicly funded schools.

Yet, despite a situation that resembles a full-blown crisis of longstanding proportions, OSSE’s report was weirdly anodyne.

For instance, only 50 of 68 LEAs participated and then, even after citing horrific retention rates, OSSE’s report noted (boldface mine) that “some evidence suggests that DC teacher retention rates may be slightly lower than other cities across the country.”

The report went on to note that “a study of 16 large urban districts found that 81 percent of teachers remained at their schools after one year, compared to 70 percent in DC. National figures suggest that about 84 percent of public school teachers remained at the same school between 2011-12 and the 2012-13 school year.”

Gotta ask:

Is anyone at OSSE at all given pause by the fact that their own citation shows that DC’s teachers are leaving at annual rates more than 10% higher than in comparable urban areas? Or that DC’s 70% annual retention figure above means that a third of DC’s teachers are leaving every year?

Or how about the fact that OSSE’s collaborator on this study, TNTP (founded by former DCPS chancellor Michelle Rhee), has long been the beneficiary of DCPS contracts on teacher performance and training–as well as one of the cheerleaders for rating schools and teachers with test scores, while a former staffer for TNTP recently co-authored a report on DC teacher retention that happily concluded that high teacher turnover can actually increase test scores?

(Yeah–but only for students with teachers receiving the lowest ratings. Yay for us! Oh, and no worries about those kids with those low-rated teachers! Despite the fact that both recent OSSE and SBOE retention reports show that at risk kids in DC are much more likely to have less effective and less experienced teachers who stay for shorter terms, if churning teachers makes for good test scores, perhaps we shouldn’t worry about the collateral damage of taking away the little stability that these kids might otherwise have in their lives. Outcomes, baby, outcomes!)

In fact, OSSE’s recent report on teacher retention appears to be an outgrowth of its recent collaboration with TNTP, the stated goal of which is to “help LEAs develop effective strategies to attract, develop, and retain great teachers to serve their students through robust analysis of staffing data from across the District.”

Of course, that “robust analysis” is only with “LEAs who opt to participate”–which is a charming way to say that whatever OSSE and TNTP have together done on this subject is all, well, voluntary.

Which is kind of like seeing the burning building that is DC teacher retention and not worrying whether everyone has evacuated because choices!

(Or freedom? Hard sometimes to suss out right-wing talking points.)

Indeed, the charter board’s response to the latest SBOE report echoed this (see response after p. 70), noting that “each school pursues its own approach, including its own human capital strategies. In this context, there is no universal “right” rate of attrition, just as there is no universal rate that is too high or too low. The right attrition rate for each school will depend on that school’s approach, their needs and their situation in any given year.”

Despite such official unconcern with the recurring devastation of human capital in our schools, the SBOE is now undertaking to get the council to legislate standardized reporting for teacher attrition, given that we don’t have any standards.

Think about this for a second:

SBOE is asking the council, another elected body with only indirect oversight of schools, to enact legislation to force OSSE to ensure all schools report teacher attrition and retention in a standardized way because we have an emergency here already and no one is telling OSSE to do this. Come to think of it, given the subject matter and its emergency status, you would THINK all this is already OSSE’s obligation (you know, because of  that whole mayoral control thingy).

And yet, right now, there is literally only one person in DC who is doing any fulsome reporting of this emergency–and she doesn’t work for OSSE, despite being twice hired by SBOE to report an emergency situation that city education leaders outside SBOE seem to regard as, well, the price of doing business.

So, to recap:

–Horrific teacher retention in all publicly funded schools in DC;
–No standardized and/or mandated reporting of teacher retention in all DC publicly funded schools;
–Teacher harassment and blame for student and school success;
–No official connection of that to poor teacher retention in DC;
–At risk kids bearing the brunt of teacher mobility, including less experienced and effective teachers;
–DC education leaders begging to differ with all of that; and
–A dis-empowered SBOE trying to get both the council and OSSE to actually fix all of that while the mayor is . . . .

Uh, where IS the mayor, anyway?


Insect & Bird Apocalypse from Neonics

Enormous recent decreases in butterflies, bees, and birds due to vast increases in the use of systemic neonicotinoid poisons in commercial agriculture over the past few decades.

Very scary: without insects, humans themselves cannot survive.

Published in: on August 16, 2019 at 10:29 am  Leave a Comment  

TFA and TNTP don’t understand how to teach math

Veteran math teacher Gary Rubinstein explains how the reformster organization TNTP has no clue about the teaching of mathematics. As a retired math teacher, I very much enjoyed this dissection of the concept of slope.

Published in: on July 31, 2019 at 6:46 am  Leave a Comment  

When is technology useful in the classroom?

The answer is, “That depends.”

Larry Cuban analyzes when it’s helpful and when it’s just a waste of time and money.

Published in: on July 28, 2019 at 11:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Thought question on abortion, fetuses, and children

 “Say you are in a fertility clinic. The reason why you’re there doesn’t matter. The fire alarm goes off and you run to the exit. You get to a hall where you hear a child crying behind a door and when you enter the room you find a 5-year-old child in one corner and a container with ‘1000 viable human embryos’ written on it in another corner. The fire around you is getting worse, and you know you can only save one of the two: the child, or the container. If you try to save both, you will perish and so will the child and the embryos. So what do you do?”

According to Tomlinson, he has never received a clear answer from the pro-life camp. Why not? “Simply because everyone instinctively knows that the only right choice is to save the 5-year-old child”, he says. That child is worth more than 1000 embryos.

Now take a look at the way the American conservative right treats children on the border. You have a lawyer representing the trump administration going in front of judges to defend not providing children with good food, toothbrushes, a place to shower, beds, etc. Still, they claim to be pro-life! How is that even possible?

The truth is, foetuses and children are not the same. Not morally, not ethically and not biologically. Even people who are against abortion and claim that a foetus has just as much value and rights as a living child know that a foetus and a child are not the same. The pro-life claim is nonsense and more importantly insincere. It is insincere because, ultimately, the purpose of the anti-abortion movement is not to protect life but to dominate and oppress women.



Copied shamelessly from here:

Published in: on July 17, 2019 at 2:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Anti-Abortion Hypocrisy

Donald Trump is held up as a wonderful leader of the “Pro-Life” cause.

Do those pro-lifers ever wonder how many abortions playboy Trump has paid for in his life?


Published in: on July 12, 2019 at 9:16 pm  Comments (1)  

Why Does Jo-Ann Armao Still Express Love For the “Reformed” status quo in education?

I really don’t know where she gets the idea that Michelle Rhee’s “Reign of Error” was a wonderful success.

Is she personally paid by the Broad, Arnold, Gates and Walton foundations? Her position of support for everything “reformista” in education sounds like the derangement of Trump supporters. It certainly predates Jeff Bezos’ purchase of the Post, so he can’t be credited with her stance. Then again, he can hire and fire anybody he wants.

It pays to read what a veteran education reporter had to say about JAA a few years ago.

Published in: on July 6, 2019 at 7:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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