What About those NAEP TUDA Scores for DC?

You may have read the article in today’s Washington Post where Education DEformer-in-chief Arne Duncan claimed that the DC NAEP TUDA scores were “great examples for the rest of the country of what can happen when schools embrace innovative reforms and do the hard work necessary to ensure that all students graduate ready for college and careers.”

Oh, really?

Let’s remember that those “innovative reforms” started with the 2009-10 school year, though Chancellor Rhee took over at the beginning of the 2007-8 school year and fired a few hundred teachers the next school year.

Whichever date you use, a casual glance at the graphs published by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in their Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA) shows that all those expensive billionaire-directed reforms have had nearly no effect in the District of Columbia, except for one: gap between the haves and have-nots is growing wider, not smaller. Otherwise, trends that began in 2002 or 2003 have pretty much continued.

It makes me wonder: Is Arne Duncan merely stupid and can’t even read simple graphs, or is he just a highly-paid liar and shill for the billionaires who have succeeded in hijacking our school system and in eliminating tenure for teachers, eliminating art, recess, PE and music for millions of inner-city students?

You decide, after looking at these graphs which I lifted from the NAEP TUDA website. The “Pre-Rhee” and “Post-Rhee” markers and some color and labels for clarity were added by me. Otherwise, I didn’t change a thing, and I didn’t have to do any complicated digging or perform any statistical tricks whatsoever to find these graphs.

First, let’s look at how students in DC Public Schools fared at the fourth and eighth grade, in reading and math, as compared with each other. Meaning, how did kids at the 75th percentile (top quartile) do, compared to the kids at the median (50th percentile), and compared to the kids at the 25th quartile (bottom quartile), over the past decade or so.

4th grade naep dcps math tuda 2003-2013 by quartile

That was for fourth-grade math. All three of the green lines slant mostly up to the right, meaning their scores are improving, which is generally a good thing. But do you honestly see any big difference between the pre-Rhee years and the post-Rhee years? The only real difference I see is that the gap between the top scorers is getting gradually wider, which is NOT a good thing. The gap used to be about 39 points but is now 52 points.

The next one is for fourth-grade reading.

4th grade naep dcps reading tuda 2003-13 by quartile

I’m not even going to complain that the bottom-quartile students are now scoring slightly lower than they were in 2009, since I know there is a lot of small random variation from one year to year because of the small sample sizes. However, NAEP themselves claim that the reading scores for the 25h- and 50th-percentile kids this year are NOT significantly different from what they were going back 6 to 8 years. And we can see that the gap between the top scorers and  bottom scorers seems to be a lot wider now.

Some great progress, huh? Definitely worth subjecting teachers to a random-number-generator called IVA in order to fire them randomly for that!

Now let’s look at 8th graders:

8th grade naep dcps math tuda 2003-2013 by quartile


That previous graph was for 8th grade math students in DC public schools. Do you see any great changes in trends from the pre-Rhee era to the post-Rhee era. I surely don’t. Was this “change” worth getting rid of democratic local control of the school system?

Lastly, in this post, let’s look at the same sort of graph for 8th grade reading:

8th grade naep dcps reading tuda 2003-13 by quartile

Here, the big trend seems to have been a fairly large drop-off in scores for the bottom quartile right after Rhee was anointed Chancellor, but those scores have almost reached the levels of 2002. Otherwise, no significant changes.

So, let me repeat the question:

Is Arne Duncan merely stupid, or just a liar?


Published in: on December 19, 2013 at 11:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Arne Duncan as a Ridiculous Spin-Meister

From EduSanity comes a finely crafted response to last week’s attempts by Arne Duncan to belittle and denigrate his critics. Here is an excerpt:

In the “real world” Minister Duncan doesn’t even have a background in education.  Duncan became CEO of the Chicago Public Schools because he’s from Chicago and played basketball with Barack Obama back in the day.  He hasn’t taught a single public school child – rich or poor – in his life. It takes some serious gumption to stand on his soapbox filled with no experience and tell others like me what the “real world” of education is like.

Duncan then takes hypocrisy to all new heights when he accuses us of focusing on “false debates”, because as Education Secretary he doesn’t actually engage ANYBODY in a substantive debate.  He appears on friendly television shows and fields softball questions from fawning reporters.   He answers questions on Twitter for an hour each week – picking only those questions that allow him to spew his rhetorical propaganda while he ignores questions that require substance.  He stands behind the podium and laughs like Baghdad Bob at the silliness of those who oppose him and the power of the federal government. He refuses to actually engage in any sort of substantive debate with anybody who is actually qualified to question his reforms.  This I can promise you:  Put Arne Duncan on camera with me and a moderator and this armchair pundit would make him look like Sarah Palin looking for Russia out her window.  It will never happen.

Arne the Education Secretary is playing the role of Arne the politician.  If you look at his quotes above with a critical rhetorical eye you will see that Arne is not trying to bring American citizens and American educators together, he is trying to divide us.  Many of the so-called “armchair pundits” he is referring to are practicing classroom teachers.  These are the “courageous” educators who risk their jobs to stand up to the classist, racist and divisive education policies that Duncan and his corporate cronies have foisted on American school children.  These “armchair pundits” are busy filling backpacks with bags of cereal and granola bars on Friday afternoons because their students may not get a meal over the weekend.  These “armchair pundits” know that poverty is not an excuse – it is a reason. 

Published in: on October 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm  Comments (3)  
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More signs of the bankruptcy of the current edu-DEformers

Two news articles show the desperation and moral and spiritual bankruptcy of the current crop of educational deformers.

(No, not their bank accounts: those are doing just fine.)


Arne Duncan says that we who criticize his utterly disastrous educational blunders are armchair pundits who are destroying everything he stands for. I would retort that I have more DECADES in the classroom than he has actual weeks teaching school, and I think he is referring to me and the vast majority of other teachers who vehemently disagree with his take on what good education is like; many of us are highly critical, in writing, of his misguided faith-based goofball ideas.

If an unstandardized, rich, full education with lots of arts, music, sports, and foreign languages, led by teachers who are trusted is good enough for him, his kids, the children of the 1%, and the Obama kids, then it’s good enough for the kids who live in poverty. Test prep is not education. Yet what Duncan is promoting is impoverishing the education that our browner and poorer kids are getting.

I recommend reading Anthony Cody’s transcription of Duncan’s remarks, and what Cody has to say about them.


The leadership of the ‘oldest charter school in Washington DC’ has been indicted for scamming the public and their students out of some three million dollars.

Here are a few paragraphs from the City Paper blog by Loose Lips:

The scheme allegedly centered around two for-profit companies: Exceptional Education Management Corporation (EEMC), which was owned and incorporated by Options CEO Donna D. Montgomery, and Exceptional Education Services at Options Public Charter School (EES), a company that was incorporated by Hayward, the chair of Options’ board of trustees. The companies had other ties to the school, too—Options paid for their office space, which they shared, according to the attorney general.

At one point in April 2012, according to the attorney general’s complaint (embedded below), Hayward signed off on a $159,000 loan to EES. Later that year, she allegedly agreed to a $981,250 transportation agreement between the school and EES—a hefty deal for the latter, considering that another company had been paid only $70,000 for a similar contract a year before.

The largest unusual contract Hayward was allegedly involved in went to EEMC. In February 2013, Hayward agreed to a $2,801,721 payment to EEMC as a “management fee,” according to the attorney general’s complaint, even though the contract had not been open for competitive bidding.

Options was expected to receive around $13.5 million last fiscal year, with most of it coming from the District, according to Nathan. Hayward, like Options’ administration, didn’t respond to LL’s request for comment.

While Hayward is named in the lawsuit, her alleged involvement pales to that of her co-defendants. Jeremy L. Williams, a member of the school’s board of trustees, is accused of sending confidential emails to warn the school’s officials of incoming inspections while he was still employed as the chief financial officer of the Public Charter School Board. Another, Options CEO Montgomery, was allegedly paid $425,000 in one year. By comparison, the CEO of D.C. Prep,  ranked as one of the city’s top charter schools, made $142,162 in 2012. Nathan’s complaint also points out that $425,000 is more than twice Mayor Vince Gray‘s salary.

You can also read about it elsewhere, such as in the Washington Post, whose editorial staff is trying to figure out whom to throw under the bus and how to whitewash the whole thing.

Let me also add that it is utterly typical of many, many charter schools that their executives and boards of directors receive unbelievable salaries, equal to those of 5 to 10 teachers. For doing what? Radiating “excellence” a couple of times a week while they steer sweetheart contracts to their friends and cronies?

And why do ‘hostile takeover’ specialists like Carl Icahn get to run charter schools?

Published in: on October 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm  Comments (2)  
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Ravitch Critiques the Current Education Privatization Movement and Offers Suggestions for a Different Way

For a clear summary of the evidence showing that not a single one of the currently fashionable methods of ‘reforming’ public education has worked, then read the first twenty chapters of the latest book by Diane Ravitch, “Reign of Error”, published today by A.A. Knopf.

This book gratifies me because it lays out in a concise and organized manner much of what I and a number of other education bloggers have been trying to point out for the last four or five years. Ravitch’s clear prose is a masterful summary of the evidence that the bipartisan “reforms” being committed against public education are not only ineffective by the yardsticks held up by these ‘reformers’, but are also resegregating our schools and foisting an inferior education onto our poorest kids.

On the other hand, if you prefer to see a clearly-laid out set of suggestions for a more sensible way to fix our school system, then this is still the right book to read! In chapters 21 through 33, she lays out a logical and sensible way to really fix our schools.

Keep in mind, as you read the book, that the “reformers” of public education have been in charge in some of our largest cities for about 20 years now. For example, Paul Vallas ran Chicago Public Schools from 1995-2001, and Arne Duncan ran them from 2001-2009; since then they are under the control of mayor Rahm Emanuel. They did such a WONDERFUL job that Chicago just found it necessary to close down dozens of schools and fire thousands of teachers and other employees. Joel Klein ran New York City’s public schools from 2002 to his departure to head Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp. Michelle Rhee and her crony Kaya Henderson have run DC Public Schools since 2007.

Those school systems remain in crisis, despite the claims of our wealthiest citizens (Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, the Walton family and a bevy of hedge fund managers) that those leaders were producing piles of ‘excellence’ while having almost no teaching experience or school leadership credentials.

If you doubt my claims, all you need to do is look at the graphs and tables in Ravitch’s appendices.

It stokes by own vanity to find a couple of my own blog columns cited on pages 150-151, wherein I had delved into the data on Michelle Rhee’s mythical successes in Baltimore from 1992-1995.

(Rhee has since admitted making the numbers up, but chuckled that they didn’t matter. She has no shame! I also discovered that a possible reason for the increases that were noted at her school and grade level may have been due to two facts: (1) Her school and her grade had one of the greatest attrition rates over those two years of any of the schools in the study; and (2) her grade at her school also had one of the largest percentages of students who scored so low on the CTBS that their scores weren’t even counted!)

Here are the headings and summaries for chapters 5 – 20 of Reign of Error:

5: The Facts About Test Scores

Claim: Test scores are falling, and the educational system is broken and obsolete.

Reality: Test scores are a their highest point ever recorded.

6: The Facts About the Achievement Gap

Claim: The achievement gaps are large and getting worse.

Reality: We have made genuine progress in narrowing the achievement gap, but they will remain large if we do nothing about the causes of the gaps.

7. The Facts About the International Test Scores

Claim: We are falling behind other nations, putting our economy and our national economy at risk.

Reality: An old lament, not true then, not true now.

8. The Facts About High School Graduation Rates

Claim: The nation has a dropout crisis, and high school graduation rates are falling.

Reality: High school dropouts are at an all-time low, and high school graduation rates are at an all-time high.

9. The Facts About College Graduation Rates

Claim: Our economy will suffer unless we have the highest college graduation rates in the world.

Reality: There is no basis for this claim.

10. How Poverty Affects Academic Achievement

Claim: Poverty is an excuse for ineffective teaching and failing schools.

Reality: Poverty is highly correlated with low academic achievement.

11. The Facts About Teachers and Test Scores

Claim: Teachers determine student test scores, and test scores may be used to identify and reward effective teachers and to fire those who are not effective.

Reality: Test scores are not the best way to identify the best teachers.

12. Why Merit Pay Fails

Claim: Merit pay will improve achievement.

Reality: Merit pay has never improved achievement.

13. Do Teachers Need Tenure and Seniority?

Claim: Schools will improve if tenure and seniority are abolished.

Reality: There is no basis for this claim.

14. The Problem with Teach for America

Claim: Teach for America recruits teachers and leaders whose high expectations will one day ensure that every child has an excellent education.

Reality: Teach for America sends bright young people into tough classrooms where they get about the same results as other bright young people in similar classrooms but leave the profession sooner.

15. The Mystery of Michelle Rhee

(no sub-headings for this chapter)

16. The Contradictions of Charters

Claim: Charter schools will revolutionize American education by thei freedom to innovate and produce dramatically better results.

Reality: Charter schools run the gamut from excellent to awful and are, on average, no more innovative or successful than public schools.

17. Trouble in E-Land

Claim: Virtual schools will the promise of personalized, customized learning to every student and usher in an age of educational excellence for all.

Reality: Virtual schools are cash cows for their owners but poor substitutes for real teachers and real schools.

18. Parent Trigger, Parent Tricker

Claim: If parents seize control of their school, they can make it better.

Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.

19. The Failure of Vouchers

Claim: Students who receive vouchers for private and religious schools will experience dramatic success.

Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.

20. Schools Don’t Improve if They Are Closed

Claim: Schools can be dramatically improved by firing the principal, firing half or all of the teaches, or closing the school and starting fresh.

Reality: There is no evidence for this claim.

Next, I’ll give the headings of the chapters laying out solutions.

Reactions to John Merrow’s recent piece on E.D. Hirsch

It is an odd mixture, but I hope you will glance at the short post, on the occasion of Don’s 85th birthday.

Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/Yr6hEI


Thanks for this, John.

I have very mixed reactions to EDHirsch — not all necessarily at the same time.

About a decade or so, I thought EDH was just plain wrong, but decided I should read what he had to say, so I did just that. It was a painful experience, but I had to admit he made a lot of very convincing points. I wrote an op-ed published in the Washington Post about that time, in an article that was mostly critical of what I saw a poorly-thought-out and clearly never-tried out math curriculum  that was being foisted on the students of DC by administrators who had no clue. I think I concluded by endorsing his effort over what was being tried in DCPS at the time – long before charter schools started spreading like fungus or mushrooms.

In any case, my opinion is that Hirsch is worth reading, but he’s a very powerful, logical, and persuasive writer, and if you immerse yourself in his work without having time to discuss it with friends or acquaintances or colleagues or students, you may find yourself being won over by Hirsch, simply because you were unable to argue back with actual data and facts (not just rhetoric). Some of what he argues is correct, but I disagree with him that it is really possible to come up with a single, standard curriculum for everyone, and I also think that a number of educational experiments that he condemns as utter, outright failures have actually been successful at times.

(I should go back and look at my copy and see if I write any comments in the margin. )

In any case, if I had it to do today, I would probably withdraw the endorsement I made at the time, unless I had a chance to visit one of the Core Knowledge schools myself and see how they do it. CK schools may not be perfect, and probably wouldn’t suit me or my wife or my kids, but it might be a pretty good.way of teaching that doesn’t do too much harm, and produces some good results. It seems from your piece, John, that the CK model seems to be working at the schools you visited, and seems well-organized and providing a reasonable education.

Which is about the best one can hope for!

We are not all going to agree  on one and only one perfect way of raising or educating children. Disagreements on what should be emphasized and what should be discouraged are part of what make us human.

That’s fine.

However, what’s not fine is to cheat and abuse kids, and, unfortunately, that’s happening a lot. It should not be the case that the children of the rich and near-rich get an excellent education, with small classes, teachers who aren’t being micro-managed, and lots of ‘extras’ like art, music, sports, drama, and project, but the children of the poor and near-poor, particularly but not exclusively minorities, get a lousy one. Irony of ironies, those ‘extras’ are being removed from the education of those poor students — in the name of improving it! Influential “reformers” like Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg say it’s a wonderful idea to have 50 to 100 students in a room with a single, inexperienced and untrained teacher who has no plans to stick around in the teaching profession. What planet do these nuts come from? Have they ever taught a class themselves?

Oh. They never have. That explains a lot. Neither did Arne Duncan.

Unfortunately, it appears from the objective facts that a good number of organizations that claim to be all for the children seem to be mostly focused on increasing profits for a tiny handful of corporate billionaires, following some arbitrary educational philosophy that has exactly ZERO experimental support and which has FAILED to achieve any of the miraculous results they boasted they would achieve, not even raising test scores. In other words, kind of like latterday, educational snake-oil salesmen, and what they are proposing is quite demonstrably NOT WORKING. If you want examples, look at my blog as well of those by Valerie Strauss, Diane Ravitch, EduShyster, and anybody else we point to on our blogs.

And one of their biggest pitch-ladies, Michelle Rhee, who actually did teach for a while in Baltimore, has been proven to be a serial fabricator of facts. Or, in plain English, a big fat liar, as I and you, John, and many other people have repeatedly shown. Every claim Rhee made about her supposed successes in Baltimore are demonstrably false. (Whether she ate a bee or not, I don’t know and I don’t care.)

I don’t put E.D.Hirsch into that category of Rhee-ly big liars, because I have no evidence of any phoniness or fraudulence on his part. (Then again, I haven’t looked. Has anyone?)

But I have one big question, the answer to which I have no clue, again because I’ve never looked:

What kind of attrition rates for cohorts are there at the schools modeled by EDH? 

(That’s an enormous indictment of even the highest-flying charter schools: they find that they have the exact same difficulty that the regular, urban public schools (RUPS) have been increasingly unable to solve: RUPS are forbidden from expelling, suspending, or otherwise sanctioning in any way the most difficult-to-handle, violent, mentally disturbed students. Teachers have in fact been disarmed of the weapons they need in the classroom: the promise that if a student is seriously disruptive, the student will be removed by another adult and will face very unpleasant consequences that the kid and his/her family actually care about, up to and including removal to another institution that’s much less free. There is absolutely no disciplinary support behind teachers in most non-magnet public schools. And, sorry, NRA, a teacher carrying a gun is the absolutely worst solution I can think of for this problem. I mean, a teacher is ALWAYS considered to be in the wrong if he/she happens to come into any physical contact whatsoever with a student – whether to straighten a collar, remove a “kick me” sign from the back of an unsuspecting patsy, congratulating a student with a pat on the back or head, god-forbid! actually hugging a student for ANY reason, or trying to stop a fight. I know of a number of cases just like this, and could give you lots of details if you cared to listen for a few hours. What the charter schools DO have, and here in DC they use it liberallty, is the right to get rid of students. They have many subtle and not-so-subtle ways of doing it; if public schools could do it, they would be a lot more orderly than they are today. It’s quite difficult to manage a class with just one or two out-of-control students when you have neither administrative nor family support. I honestly assure you that this happens in many public schools and also in some charter schools I have visited.)

So, if a charter or alternative school claims that they are achieving superior results in test scores and attendance and graduation and college acceptance rates, in comparison with the exact same population that’s in the regular public schools, they are simply lying. For one thing, you have to look at the attrition rates. I know a little bit about my few  strengths and many weaknesses as a teacher over my 30 years teaching in public schools in DC. You may find it hard to believe that a lot of my students actually went on to college, even Ivy League in a number of cases I know about — and some went on to jail. Some went on to productive lives doing all sorts of things. Most, of course, I have no idea, but I do run across some of them from time to time.


Guess what, no surprises: a strong correlation between family income & education on the one hand and student achievement on the other. (Academic achievement and actual smarts for life are two different things: many of my kids were way smarter than I was at many things — some that I know of even ended up doing much more mathematics or sciences than I ever did, at much deeper levels, so that I can’t follow what they are doing at all. Others were soooo good at emotionally manipulating a situation in ways I seldom could anticipate.


Teaching in south Anacostia (DC) is quite different from teaching in Chevy Chase (DC) – and that was as true 35 years ago when I started as it is today. You don’t think I tried to overcome that? I did, I tried as hard as I possibly could, and I failed.

We’ve all failed. Nobody has won.


Any “reformer” who claims that the gap has been overcome that gap is probably referring to a charter or private school where the truly emotionally disturbed kids, the ones most affected by what it means to be poor and black or Hispanic in America, the violent and disruptive crazies, have been either made to shape up or ship out. Or never entered in the first place.

We in the public schools have lost the “ship out” solution.

Why? Is it the intention of the today’s ruling class — as publicly advocated by wingnuts like Jerry Fallwell — that the public schools must fail?


To restate my question, what in fact do they do at Core Knowledge schools about the attrition problem?

Guy Brandenburg, Washington, DC 

From: John Merrow <jmerrow@learningmatters.tv>
To: John Merrow <jmerrow@learningmatters.tv>
Sent: Thursday, March 21, 2013 12:26 PM
Subject: Some thoughts about E.D. Hirsch, Jr and the randomness of life–an odd mixture

It is an odd mixture, but I hope you will glance at the short post, on the occasion of Don’s 85th birthday.

Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/Yr6hEI
John Merrow
Education Correspondent,
PBS NewsHour, and President,
Learning Matters, Inc.
My blog:
The Influence of Teachers:
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If the tests by which all of education is to be measured by are garbage, then so are the results

On this blog I have reprinted examples of what I see are crappy test items and dissected them, hoping to show readers that those items neither made sense nor measured what they are purported to measure.

However, I never worked inside the testing industry itself, so I don’t have direct experience of making up BS test items on an industrial scale.* My own experience, however, is that EVERY test — no matter how good — has validity and reliability problems. This passage shows that the tests on which all US educational decisions are supposed to be based are, in fact, ridiculously badly made from the beginning, and cannot possibly measure what they pretend to measure, are unreliable, and thus utterly invalid.  (Plus the tests are snatching at least potentially valuable class time away from our students, while enabling a handful of big corporations like Pearson (more on which below) are raking in huge dividends because they control almost the entire education market.)


This comes from an interview published by Diane Ravitch ( http://dianeravitch.net/2012/12/27/11990/ )

Rebecca Rubenstein: Since your book was published in 2009, has the “standardized” testing industry improved?

Todd Farley: Not the slightest bit. There was a story in The New York Times in 2001 about how test-scoring was a wildly out-of-control industry, which quotes various employees—not me!—as saying that they faced “too little time, too much to do, not enough people.” It implies the industry was doing a terribly suspect job. Since then, the industry is about a hundred times bigger, but those problems mentioned in the Times article or in my book have never been addressed. The industry has simply grown exponentially, and there are hundreds of millions of dollars to be earned by companies that are completely unregulated—to repeat, completely unregulated, so whatever Pearson et. al. tell us, we’re supposed to say “thank you very much” and just write them a staggeringly large check—but of course things haven’t gotten any better.

In my time in test-scoring, we never had enough temporary employees to do the work; we always had too much to do and too little time to do it; and there were always financial punishments looming over our heads if we didn’t get things done. We cut whatever corners we could to get it done (I’m sorry to say). Today the work load is a hundred times bigger and the money to be made is a hundred times bigger, but the system didn’t work to begin with and of course it doesn’t work now.

The same is true in the test development business. When I worked for one publisher as a test developer, it was always a madcap race to get tests written on time, and we faced absurd deadlines and pressure to do so. The reality is that quality was always secondary to the bottom line when developing tests, and then when the Common Core standards were introduced, and tests and products needed to be written for them, our deadlines became laughably absurd; I was once involved in the development of 200 tests in two months, which I think is literally more tests than ETS has produced in its entire existence. With the Common Core standards released, all the companies knew all the other companies were racing to finish their tests and products first, so quality became even worse than secondary. It became tertiary, or “fourthiary,” or whatever. Subcontractors who had been fired for poor work were rehired; item writers were hired off Craigslist; test developers with neither teaching experience nor test development experience were given full-time jobs. It’s important to remember that at the end of the day, companies like Pearson are for-profit enterprises. They want to make money. They want to make money, so of course they do a crappy job, because the quality of the work is never anywhere near as important as their desire to make a profit, and there’s always too much work and too little time to do it.

continue reading …

A comment: I was at first skeptical of the “200 tests” mentioned being more that the ETS has created in its entire existence. But I think he may be right: The SAT is essentially one, or two, or three tests, depending on how you look at it; it just gets revised a little bit each year. Reading, Math, and Writing. Plus, there perhaps a couple of score different Advanced Placement (AP) tests and Achievement tests in different subjects; they get revised every year, at least they do in the field of math (which I follow, of course) and others.

But what Pearson is doing now is essentially trying to replace the teacher in every single grade level, for every single course, by making the entire curriculum driven by the tests and pre-tests and practice tests and test prep material provided by them.  Yes, I do mean all of third grade. Yes, I do mean 6th grade science, music appreciation, and geography and PE. Every class. And if you count every single course or subject area that a student might be measured by from Pre-K-3 all the way up to graduating from high school, that might in fact be roughly 200 brand-new test series! Not just end-of-course tests, by no means. A different corporate multiple-choice test every month or two!

All this corporate educa-crap is just that: crap forced down the throat of public school kids and ONLY kids in public schools.

And it won’t improve a damned thing. Except for corporate bottom lines.

Of course the children or grandchildren of Michelle Rhee, Michael Bloomberg, Arne Duncan, Eli Broad, Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, and Barack Obama will never, ever be subjected to such a poor excuse for an education.

Oh, no.

That’s just for the poor black and latino and white kids who are in high-poverty regions; the only way they can opt out is to go to a charter school which might be doing any damned thing and is almost sure to be even more segregated than the nearest public school, if that’s even possible.

This is progress?


* My students and I often found mistakes on tests and quizzes and assignments I made up. I used to congratulate the student and give him/her/them a point when they pointed out an error. ETS and Pearson’s responses have been rather different. Remember the famous talking pineapple question? And do you recall that essentially no-one has ever been able to explain, line by line, number by number, exactly how ANY single teacher’s VAM numbers were calculated? Has any school district ever released data showing how well VAM and supposedly ‘scientific’ classroom observation data correlate with each other? (Hint: they don’t!!)

Once again, let me urge the leadership of the Washington Teachers’ Union, and teacher unions elsewhere, to enlist a good statistician with his/her feet on the ground, and poke holes in VAM. It’s all a tissue of fabrications.

Duncan Thinks Students Don’t Take Enough Standardized Tests

Just when you though too much time in the school year is already being taken up by testing, Arne Duncan is planning even more.  Sheesh. When will the madness end?

An excerpt:

“Dr. Stephen Krashen offered a cogent rebuttal to Duncan on the Answer Sheet,where he pointed out:

The plan presented in the Department of Education’s Blueprint for Reform calls for an astonishing amount of testing, far more than we have now with No Child Left Behind. The only people I know who support the testing plan have spent very little time in schools, haven’t read the Blueprint, or just aren’t listening to real education professions or students. Or all three.

We are about to make a mistake that will cost billions and make school life (even more) miserable for millions of teachers and students. The only ones who will profit are the testing companies. We should be talking about reducing testing, not increasing it.


Inequality, Segregation and Education in America vs. the World

This is an excellent analysis of the PISA results, not written by me. It was published in Valerie Strauss’ column in the Washington Post.

What international test scores really tell us:

Lessons buried in PISA report

By Valerie Strauss

This was written by William J. Mathis of Goshen, Vermont. He is the managing director of the National Education Policy Center.. and a former Vermont superintendent. The views expressed are his own.

By William J. Mathis

For the 27th, government officials have yet again been surprised, shocked and dismayed over the latest international test score rankings. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “We have to see this as a very serious wake-up call.” Former Reagan education official Chester E. Finn Jr. reported that he was “kind of stunned” by the results of the Program for International Student Achievement (PISA) results. In hyperbolic overdrive, he compared the results to Pearl Harbor and Sputnik.

The PISA tests were given to 15-year-old students by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 65 nations and educational systems. Nine had higher average scores in reading, 17 in math, and 12 in science.

While ranking nations on test scores is a pretty sorry way to evaluate education systems, there is simply no reason to expect the results to have been any better than they were the last time we heard from this same chorus of surprised, shocked and dismayed pundits and politicians.

The reason is simple. Federal and state policymakers continue to embrace reforms that have little positive effect (if not downright negative effects) while ignoring reforms that make a difference. Buried within the PISA report is an analysis of educational systems that registered high test scores. Here are some of the less-reported findings:·

*The best performing school systems manage to provide high-quality education to all children.

· *Students from low socio-economic backgrounds score a year behind their more affluent classmates. However, poorer students who are integrated with their more affluent classmates score strikingly higher. The difference is worth more than a year’s education.

· *In schools where students are required to repeat grades (such as with promotion requirements), the test scores are lower and the achievement gap is larger.

· *Tracking students (“ability grouping”) results in the gap becoming wider. The earlier the practice begins, the greater the gap. Poor children are more frequently shunted into the lower tracks.

· *Systems that transfer weak or disruptive students score lower on tests and on equity. One-third of the differences in national performance can be ascribed to this one factor.

· *Schools that have autonomy over curriculum, finances and assessment score higher.

· *Schools that compete for students (vouchers, charters, etc.) show no achievement score advantage.

· *Private schools do no better once family wealth factors are considered.

· *Students that attended pre-school score higher, even after more than 10 years.

As OECD Paris-based official Michael Davidson said in National Public Radio comments, “One of the striking things is the impact of social background on (U.S.) success.”

Twenty percent of U.S. performance was attributed to social background, which is far higher than in other nations. Davidson went on to point out that the United States just does not distribute financial resources or quality teachers equally. In a related finding, students from single-parent homes score much lower in the United States than they do in other countries. The 23-point difference is almost a year’s lack of growth.

Our Educational Policies

Unfortunately, federal and state policies do little to adopt these factors that other nations have found so successful. Countless finance studies show that funding across our schools is inequitable and inadequate. Federal and state governments vaguely note this concern but actions do not match the rhetoric. Our treatment of economically deprived students is to house them in segregated schools and shunt them into tracked programs.

A number of “get tough” social promotion policies have been adopted in states even though we know they are harmful. Despite a clear research consensus, early education is still politically disputed. Tracking students still remains the national norm even as we know it increases the achievement gap.

As the federal government (under both Republican and Democratic administrations) has become even more top-down and prescriptive, local schools become less autonomous and less like our successful international counterparts. Finally, the push for privatizing public education through charters, tuition tax credits, vouchers and the like does not result in better test scores and has the effect of increasing segregation, and the inequalities that lead to low test scores.

The American Dream

The American dream is that all children have an opportunity to be successful no matter how humble their roots. Thus, the most troubling finding in the PISA results is the lack of “resilience” among our children.

OECD measured resilience by looking at the scores of the least wealthy 25% of students and seeing what proportion of these students have academic scores in the top 25% of countries with similar socio-economic levels. In the highest scoring nations, 70 percent of the students are rated resilient.

The U. S. figure is less than 30%. In a nation which sees the top 1% controlling more than 50% of the nation’s wealth and the collapse of middle class jobs, we face the specter of building a country of social, economic and educational apartheid.

Secretary Duncan calls the PISA scores a serious wake-up call for our economy and “international competitiveness.” But that is merely to misunderstand economics and global competitiveness. Due to our pursuit of ineffective and ill-focused educational and economic reforms , the rude disturbance of our slumbers is the slamming of the door on the American dream.

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