Part Two: Cheating in DCPS

DC Education Reform Ten Years After, 

Part 2: Test Cheats

Richard P Phelps

Ten years ago, I worked as the Director of Assessments for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). For temporal context, I arrived after the first of the infamous test cheating scandals and left just before the incident that spawned a second. Indeed, I filled a new position created to both manage test security and design an expanded testing program. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray, who opposed an expanded testing program, defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary. My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as Chancellor. 

The recurring test cheating scandals of the Rhee-Henderson years may seem extraordinary but, in fairness, DCPS was more likely than the average US school district to be caught because it received a much higher degree of scrutiny. Given how tests are typically administered in this country, the incidence of cheating is likely far greater than news accounts suggest, for several reasons: 

·      in most cases, those who administer tests—schoolteachers and administrators—have an interest in their results;

·      test security protocols are numerous and complicated yet, nonetheless, the responsibility of non-expert ordinary school personnel, guaranteeing their inconsistent application across schools and over time; 

·      after-the-fact statistical analyses are not legal proof—the odds of a certain amount of wrong-to-right erasures in a single classroom on a paper-and-pencil test being coincidental may be a thousand to one, but one-in-a-thousand is still legally plausible; and

·      after-the-fact investigations based on interviews are time-consuming, scattershot, and uneven. 

Still, there were measures that the Rhee-Henderson administrations could have adopted to substantially reduce the incidence of cheating, but they chose none that might have been effective. Rather, they dug in their heels, insisted that only a few schools had issues, which they thoroughly resolved, and repeatedly denied any systematic problem.  

Cheating scandals

From 2007 to 2009 rumors percolated of an extraordinary level of wrong-to-right erasures on the test answer sheets at many DCPS schools. “Erasure analysis” is one among several “red flag” indicators that testing contractors calculate to monitor cheating. The testing companies take no responsibility for investigating suspected test cheating, however; that is the customer’s, the local or state education agency. 

In her autobiographical account of her time as DCPS Chancellor, Michelle Johnson (nee Rhee), wrote (p. 197)

“For the first time in the history of DCPS, we brought in an outside expert to examine and audit our system. Caveon Test Security – the leading expert in the field at the time – assessed our tests, results, and security measures. Their investigators interviewed teachers, principals, and administrators.

“Caveon found no evidence of systematic cheating. None.”

Caveon, however, had not looked for “systematic” cheating. All they did was interview a few people at several schools where the statistical anomalies were more extraordinary than at others. As none of those individuals would admit to knowingly cheating, Caveon branded all their excuses as “plausible” explanations. That’s it; that is all that Caveon did. But, Caveon’s statement that they found no evidence of “widespread” cheating—despite not having looked for it—would be frequently invoked by DCPS leaders over the next several years.[1]

Incidentally, prior to the revelation of its infamous decades-long, systematic test cheating, the Atlanta Public Schools had similarly retained Caveon Test Security and was, likewise, granted a clean bill of health. Only later did the Georgia state attorney general swoop in and reveal the truth. 

In its defense, Caveon would note that several cheating prevention measures it had recommended to DCPS were never adopted.[2] None of the cheating prevention measures that I recommended were adopted, either.

The single most effective means for reducing in-classroom cheating would have been to rotate teachers on test days so that no teacher administered a test to his or her own students. It would not have been that difficult to randomly assign teachers to different classrooms on test days.

The single most effective means for reducing school administratorcheating would have been to rotate test administrators on test days so that none managed the test materials for their own schools. The visiting test administrators would have been responsible for keeping test materials away from the school until test day, distributing sealed test booklets to the rotated teachers on test day, and for collecting re-sealed test booklets at the end of testing and immediately removing them from the school. 

Instead of implementing these, or a number of other feasible and effective test security measures, DCPS leaders increased the number of test proctors, assigning each of a few dozen or so central office staff a school to monitor. Those proctors could not reasonably manage the volume of oversight required. A single DC test administration could encompass a hundred schools and a thousand classrooms.

Investigations

So, what effort, if any, did DCPS make to counter test cheating? They hired me, but then rejected all my suggestions for increasing security. Also, they established a telephone tip line. Anyone who suspected cheating could report it, even anonymously, and, allegedly, their tip would be investigated. 

Some forms of cheating are best investigated through interviews. Probably the most frequent forms of cheating at DCPS—teachers helping students during test administrations and school administrators looking at test forms prior to administration—leave no statistical residue. Eyewitness testimony is the only type of legal evidence available in such cases, but it is not just inconsistent, it may be socially destructive. 

I remember two investigations best: one occurred in a relatively well-to-do neighborhood with well-educated parents active in school affairs; the other in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Superficially, the cases were similar—an individual teacher was accused of helping his or her own students with answers during test administrations. Making a case against either elementary school teacher required sworn testimony from eyewitnesses, that is, students—eight-to-ten-year olds. 

My investigations, then, consisted of calling children into the principal’s office one-by-one to be questioned about their teacher’s behavior. We couldn’t hide the reason we were asking the questions. And, even though each student agreed not to tell others what had occurred in their visit to the principal’s office, we knew we had only one shot at an uncorrupted jury pool. 

Though the accusations against the two teachers were similar and the cases against them equally strong, the outcomes could not have been more different. In the high-poverty neighborhood, the students seemed suspicious and said little; none would implicate the teacher, whom they all seemed to like. 

In the more prosperous neighborhood, students were more outgoing, freely divulging what they had witnessed. The students had discussed the alleged coaching with their parents who, in turn, urged them to tell investigators what they knew. During his turn in the principal’s office, the accused teacher denied any wrongdoing. I wrote up each interview, then requested that each student read and sign. 

Thankfully, that accused teacher made a deal and left the school system a few weeks later. Had he not, we would have required the presence in court of the eight-to-ten-year olds to testify under oath against their former teacher, who taught multi-grade classes. Had that prosecution not succeeded, the eyewitness students could have been routinely assigned to his classroom the following school year.

My conclusion? Only in certain schools is the successful prosecution of a cheating teacher through eyewitness testimony even possible. But, even where possible, it consumes inordinate amounts of time and, otherwise, comes at a high price, turning young innocents against authority figures they naturally trusted. 

Cheating blueprints

Arguably the most widespread and persistent testing malfeasance in DCPS received little attention from the press. Moreover, it was directly propagated by District leaders, who published test blueprints on the web. Put simply, test “blueprints” are lists of the curricular standards (e.g., “student shall correctly add two-digit numbers”) and the number of test items included in an upcoming test related to each standard. DC had been advance publishing its blueprints for years.

I argued that the way DC did it was unethical. The head of the Division of Data & Accountability, Erin McGoldrick, however, defended the practice, claimed it was common, and cited its existence in the state of California as precedent. The next time she and I met for a conference call with one of DCPS’s test providers, Discover Education, I asked their sales agent how many of their hundreds of other customers advance-published blueprints. His answer: none.

In the state of California, the location of McGoldrick’s only prior professional experience, blueprints were, indeed, published in advance of test administrations. But their tests were longer than DC’s and all standards were tested. Publication of California’s blueprints served more to remind the populace what the standards were in advance of each test administration. Occasionally, a standard considered to be of unusual importance might be assigned a greater number of test items than the average, and the California blueprints signaled that emphasis. 

In Washington, DC, the tests used in judging teacher performance were shorter, covering only some of each year’s standards. So, DC’s blueprints showed everyone well in advance of the test dates exactly which standards would be tested and which would not. For each teacher, this posed an ethical dilemma: should they “narrow the curriculum” by teaching only that content they knew would be tested? Or, should they do the right thing and teach all the standards, as they were legally and ethically bound to, even though it meant spending less time on the to-be-tested content? It’s quite a conundrum when one risks punishment for behaving ethically.

Monthly meetings convened to discuss issues with the districtwide testing program, the DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS)—administered to comply with the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. All public schools, both DCPS and charters, administered those tests. At one of these regular meetings, two representatives from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) announced plans to repair the broken blueprint process.[3]

The State Office employees argued thoughtfully and reasonably that it was professionally unethical to advance publish DC test blueprints. Moreover, they had surveyed other US jurisdictions in an effort to find others that followed DC’s practice and found none. I was the highest-ranking DCPS employee at the meeting and I expressed my support, congratulating them for doing the right thing. I assumed that their decision was final.

I mentioned the decision to McGoldrick, who expressed surprise and speculation that it might have not been made at the highest level in the organizational hierarchy. Wasting no time, she met with other DCPS senior managers and the proposed change was forthwith shelved. In that, and other ways, the DCPS tail wagged the OSSE dog. 

* * *

It may be too easy to finger ethical deficits for the recalcitrant attitude toward test security of the Rhee-Henderson era ed reformers. The columnist Peter Greene insists that knowledge deficits among self-appointed education reformers also matter: 

“… the reformistan bubble … has been built from Day One without any actual educators inside it. Instead, the bubble is populated by rich people, people who want rich people’s money, people who think they have great ideas about education, and even people who sincerely want to make education better. The bubble does not include people who can turn to an Arne Duncan or a Betsy DeVos or a Bill Gates and say, ‘Based on my years of experience in a classroom, I’d have to say that idea is ridiculous bullshit.’”

“There are a tiny handful of people within the bubble who will occasionally act as bullshit detectors, but they are not enough. The ed reform movement has gathered power and money and set up a parallel education system even as it has managed to capture leadership roles within public education, but the ed reform movement still lacks what it has always lacked–actual teachers and experienced educators who know what the hell they’re talking about.”

In my twenties, I worked for several years in the research department of a state education agency. My primary political lesson from that experience, consistently reinforced subsequently, is that most education bureaucrats tell the public that the system they manage works just fine, no matter what the reality. They can get away with this because they control most of the evidence and can suppress it or spin it to their advantage.

In this proclivity, the DCPS central office leaders of the Rhee-Henderson era proved themselves to be no different than the traditional public-school educators they so casually demonized. 

US school systems are structured to be opaque and, it seems, both educators and testing contractors like it that way. For their part, and contrary to their rhetoric, Rhee, Henderson, and McGoldrick passed on many opportunities to make their system more transparent and accountable.

Education policy will not improve until control of the evidence is ceded to genuinely independent third parties, hired neither by the public education establishment nor by the education reform club.

The author gratefully acknowledges the fact-checking assistance of Erich Martel and Mary Levy.

Access this testimonial in .pdf format

Citation:  Phelps, R. P. (2020, September). Looking Back on DC Education Reform 10 Years After, Part 2: Test Cheats. Nonpartisan Education Review / Testimonials. https://nonpartisaneducation.org/Review/Testimonials/v16n3.htm


[1] A perusal of Caveon’s website clarifies that their mission is to help their clients–state and local education departments–not get caught. Sometimes this means not cheating in the first place; other times it might mean something else. One might argue that, ironically, Caveon could be helping its clients to cheat in more sophisticated ways and cover their tracks better.

[2] Among them: test booklets should be sealed until the students open them and resealed by the students immediately after; and students should be assigned seats on test day and a seating chart submitted to test coordinators (necessary for verifying cluster patterns in student responses that would suggest answer copying).

[3] Yes, for those new to the area, the District of Columbia has an Office of the “State” Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Its domain of relationships includes not just the regular public schools (i.e., DCPS), but also other public schools (i.e., charters) and private schools. Practically, it primarily serves as a conduit for funneling money from a menagerie of federal education-related grant and aid programs

What did Education Reform in DC Actually Mean?

Short answer: nothing that would actually help students or teachers. But it’s made for well-padded resumes for a handful of insiders.

This is an important review, by the then-director of assessment. His criticisms echo the points that I have been making along with Mary Levy, Erich Martel, Adell Cothorne, and many others.

Nonpartisan Education Review / Testimonials

Access this testimonial in .pdf format

Looking Back on DC Education Reform 10 Years After, 

Part 1: The Grand Tour

Richard P Phelps

Ten years ago, I worked as the Director of Assessments for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS). My tenure coincided with Michelle Rhee’s last nine months as Chancellor. I departed shortly after Vincent Gray defeated Adrian Fenty in the September 2010 DC mayoral primary

My primary task was to design an expansion of that testing program that served the IMPACT teacher evaluation system to include all core subjects and all grade levels. Despite its fame (or infamy), the test score aspect of the IMPACT program affected only 13% of teachers, those teaching either reading or math in grades four through eight. Only those subjects and grade levels included the requisite pre- and post-tests required for teacher “value added” measurements (VAM). Not included were most subjects (e.g., science, social studies, art, music, physical education), grades kindergarten to two, and high school.

Chancellor Rhee wanted many more teachers included. So, I designed a system that would cover more than half the DCPS teacher force, from kindergarten through high school. You haven’t heard about it because it never happened. The newly elected Vincent Gray had promised during his mayoral campaign to reduce the amount of testing; the proposed expansion would have increased it fourfold.

VAM affected teachers’ jobs. A low value-added score could lead to termination; a high score, to promotion and a cash bonus. VAM as it was then structured was obviously, glaringly flawed,[1] as anyone with a strong background in educational testing could have seen. Unfortunately, among the many new central office hires from the elite of ed reform circles, none had such a background.

Before posting a request for proposals from commercial test developers for the testing expansion plan, I was instructed to survey two groups of stakeholders—central office managers and school-level teachers and administrators.

Not surprisingly, some of the central office managers consulted requested additions or changes to the proposed testing program where they thought it would benefit their domain of responsibility. The net effect on school-level personnel would have been to add to their administrative burden. Nonetheless, all requests from central office managers would be honored. 

The Grand Tour

At about the same time, over several weeks of the late Spring and early Summer of 2010, along with a bright summer intern, I visited a dozen DCPS schools. The alleged purpose was to collect feedback on the design of the expanded testing program. I enjoyed these meetings. They were informative, animated, and very well attended. School staff appreciated the apparent opportunity to contribute to policy decisions and tried to make the most of it.

Each school greeted us with a full complement of faculty and staff on their days off, numbering a several dozen educators at some venues. They believed what we had told them: that we were in the process of redesigning the DCPS assessment program and were genuinely interested in their suggestions for how best to do it. 

At no venue did we encounter stand-pat knee-jerk rejection of education reform efforts. Some educators were avowed advocates for the Rhee administration’s reform policies, but most were basically dedicated educators determined to do what was best for their community within the current context. 

The Grand Tour was insightful, too. I learned for the first time of certain aspects of DCPS’s assessment system that were essential to consider in its proper design, aspects of which the higher-ups in the DCPS Central Office either were not aware or did not consider relevant. 

The group of visited schools represented DCPS as a whole in appropriate proportions geographically, ethnically, and by education level (i.e., primary, middle, and high). Within those parameters, however, only schools with “friendly” administrations were chosen. That is, we only visited schools with principals and staff openly supportive of the Rhee-Henderson agenda. 

But even they desired changes to the testing program, whether or not it was expanded. Their suggestions covered both the annual districtwide DC-CAS (or “comprehensive” assessment system), on which the teacher evaluation system was based, and the DC-BAS (or “benchmarking” assessment system), a series of four annual “no-stakes” interim tests unique to DCPS, ostensibly offered to help prepare students and teachers for the consequential-for-some-school-staff DC-CAS.[2]

At each staff meeting I asked for a show of hands on several issues of interest that I thought were actionable. Some suggestions for program changes received close to unanimous support. Allow me to describe several.

1. Move DC-CAS test administration later in the school year. Many citizens may have logically assumed that the IMPACT teacher evaluation numbers were calculated from a standard pre-post test schedule, testing a teacher’s students at the beginning of their academic year together and then again at the end. In 2010, however, the DC-CAS was administered in March, three months before school year end. Moreover, that single administration of the test served as both pre- and post-test, posttest for the current school year and pretest for the following school year. Thus, before a teacher even met their new students in late August or early September, almost half of the year for which teachers were judged had already transpired—the three months in the Spring spent with the previous year’s teacher and almost three months of summer vacation. 

School staff recommended pushing DC-CAS administration to later in the school year. Furthermore, they advocated a genuine pre-post-test administration schedule—pre-test the students in late August–early September and post-test them in late-May–early June—to cover a teacher’s actual span of time with the students.

This suggestion was rejected because the test development firm with the DC-CAS contract required three months to score some portions of the test in time for the IMPACT teacher ratings scheduled for early July delivery, before the start of the new school year. Some small number of teachers would be terminated based on their IMPACT scores, so management demanded those scores be available before preparations for the new school year began.[3] The tail wagged the dog.

2. Add some stakes to the DC-CAS in the upper grades. Because DC-CAS test scores portended consequences for teachers but none for students, some students expended little effort on the test. Indeed, extensive research on “no-stakes” (for students) tests reveal that motivation and effort vary by a range of factors including gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, the weather, and age. Generally, the older the student, the lower the test-taking effort. This disadvantaged some teachers in the IMPACT ratings for circumstances beyond their control: unlucky student demographics. 

Central office management rejected this suggestion to add even modest stakes to the upper grades’ DC-CAS; no reason given. 

3. Move one of the DC-BAS tests to year end. If management rejected the suggestion to move DC-CAS test administration to the end of the school year, school staff suggested scheduling one of the no-stakes DC-BAS benchmarking tests for late May–early June. As it was, the schedule squeezed all four benchmarking test administrations between early September and mid-February. Moving just one of them to the end of the year would give the following year’s teachers a more recent reading (by more than three months) of their new students’ academic levels and needs.

Central Office management rejected this suggestion probably because the real purpose of the DC-BAS was not to help teachers understand their students’ academic levels and needs, as the following will explain.

4. Change DC-BAS tests so they cover recently taught content. Many DC citizens probably assumed that, like most tests, the DC-BAS interim tests covered recently taught content, such as that covered since the previous test administration. Not so in 2010. The first annual DC-BAS was administered in early September, just after the year’s courses commenced. Moreover, it covered the same content domain—that for the entirety of the school year—as each of the next three DC-BAS tests. 

School staff proposed changing the full-year “comprehensive” content coverage of each DC-BAS test to partial-year “cumulative” coverage, so students would only be tested on what they had been taught prior to each test administration.

This suggestion, too, was rejected. Testing the same full-year comprehensive content domain produced a predictable, flattering score rise. With each DC-BAS test administration, students recognized more of the content, because they had just been exposed to more of it, so average scores predictably rose. With test scores always rising, it looked like student achievement improved steadily each year. Achieving this contrived score increase required testing students on some material to which they had not yet been exposed, both a violation of professional testing standards and a poor method for instilling student confidence. (Of course, it was also less expensive to administer essentially the same test four times a year than to develop four genuinely different tests.)

5. Synchronize the sequencing of curricular content across the District. DCPS management rhetoric circa 2010 attributed classroom-level benefits to the testing program. Teachers would know more about their students’ levels and needs and could also learn from each other. Yet, the only student test results teachers received at the beginning of each school year was half-a-year old, and most of the information they received over the course of four DC-BAS test administrations was based on not-yet-taught content.

As for cross-district teacher cooperation, unfortunately there was no cross-District coordination of common curricular sequences. Each teacher paced their subject matter however they wished and varied topical emphases according to their own personal preference.

It took DCPS’s Chief Academic Officer, Carey Wright, and her chief of staff, Dan Gordon, less than a minute to reject the suggestion to standardize topical sequencing across schools so that teachers could consult with one another in real time. Tallying up the votes: several hundred school-level District educators favored the proposal, two of Rhee’s trusted lieutenants opposed it. It lost.

6. Offer and require a keyboarding course in the early grades. DCPS was planning to convert all its testing from paper-and-pencil mode to computer delivery within a few years. Yet, keyboarding courses were rare in the early grades. Obviously, without systemwide keyboarding training in computer use some students would be at a disadvantage in computer testing.

Suggestion rejected.

In all, I had polled over 500 DCPS school staff. Not only were all of their suggestions reasonable, some were essential in order to comply with professional assessment standards and ethics. 

Nonetheless, back at DCPS’ Central Office, each suggestion was rejected without, to my observation, any serious consideration. The rejecters included Chancellor Rhee, the head of the office of Data and Accountability—the self-titled “Data Lady,” Erin McGoldrick—and the head of the curriculum and instruction division, Carey Wright, and her chief deputy, Dan Gordon. 

Four central office staff outvoted several-hundred school staff (and my recommendations as assessment director). In each case, the changes recommended would have meant some additional work on their parts, but in return for substantial improvements in the testing program. Their rhetoric was all about helping teachers and students; but the facts were that the testing program wasn’t structured to help them.

What was the purpose of my several weeks of school visits and staff polling? To solicit “buy in” from school level staff, not feedback.

Ultimately, the new testing program proposal would incorporate all the new features requested by senior Central Office staff, no matter how burdensome, and not a single feature requested by several hundred supportive school-level staff, no matter how helpful. Like many others, I had hoped that the education reform intention of the Rhee-Henderson years was genuine. DCPS could certainly have benefitted from some genuine reform. 

Alas, much of the activity labelled “reform” was just for show, and for padding resumes. Numerous central office managers would later work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Numerous others would work for entities supported by the Gates or aligned foundations, or in jurisdictions such as Louisiana, where ed reformers held political power. Most would be well paid. 

Their genuine accomplishments, or lack thereof, while at DCPS seemed to matter little. What mattered was the appearance of accomplishment and, above all, loyalty to the group. That loyalty required going along to get along: complicity in maintaining the façade of success while withholding any public criticism of or disagreement with other in-group members.

Unfortunately, in the United States what is commonly showcased as education reform is neither a civic enterprise nor a popular movement. Neither parents, the public, nor school-level educators have any direct influence. Rather, at the national level, US education reform is an elite, private club—a small group of tightly-connected politicos and academicsa mutual admiration society dedicated to the career advancement, political influence, and financial benefit of its members, supported by a gaggle of wealthy foundations (e.g., Gates, Walton, Broad, Wallace, Hewlett, Smith-Richardson). 

For over a decade, The Ed Reform Club exploited DC for its own benefit. Local elite formed the DC Public Education Fund (DCPEF) to sponsor education projects, such as IMPACT, which they deemed worthy. In the negotiations between the Washington Teachers’ Union and DCPS concluded in 2010, DCPEF arranged a 3 year grant of $64.5M from the Arnold, Broad, Robertson and Walton Foundations to fund a 5-year retroactive teacher pay raise in return for contract language allowing teacher excessing tied to IMPACT, which Rhee promised would lead to annual student test score increases by 2012. Projected goals were not metfoundation support continued nonetheless.

Michelle Johnson (nee Rhee) now chairs the board of a charter school chain in California and occasionally collects $30,000+ in speaker fees but, otherwise, seems to have deliberately withdrawn from the limelight. Despite contributing her own additional scandalsafter she assumed the DCPS Chancellorship, Kaya Henderson ascended to great fame and glory with a “distinguished professorship” at Georgetown; honorary degrees from Georgetown and Catholic Universities; gigs with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Broad Leadership Academy, and Teach for All; and board memberships with The Aspen Institute, The College Board, Robin Hood NYC, and Teach For America. Carey Wright is now state superintendent in Mississippi. Dan Gordon runs a 30-person consulting firm, Education Counsel that strategically partners with major players in US education policy. The manager of the IMPACT teacher evaluation program, Jason Kamras, now works as Superintendent of the Richmond, VA public schools. 

Arguably the person most directly responsible for the recurring assessment system fiascos of the Rhee-Henderson years, then Chief of Data and Accountability Erin McGoldrick, now specializes in “data innovation” as partner and chief operating officer at an education management consulting firm. Her firm, Kitamba, strategically partners with its own panoply of major players in US education policy. Its list of recent clients includes the DC Public Charter School Board and DCPS.

If the ambitious DC central office folk who gaudily declared themselves leading education reformers were not really, who were the genuine education reformers during the Rhee-Henderson decade of massive upheaval and per-student expenditures three times those in the state of Utah? They were the school principals and staff whose practical suggestions were ignored by central office glitterati. They were whistleblowers like history teacher Erich Martel who had documented DCPS’ student records’ manipulation and phony graduation rates years before the Washington Post’s celebrated investigation of Ballou High School, and was demoted and then “excessed” by Henderson. Or, school principal Adell Cothorne, who spilled the beans on test answer sheet “erasure parties” at Noyes Education Campus and lost her job under Rhee. 

Real reformers with “skin in the game” can’t play it safe.

The author appreciates the helpful comments of Mary Levy and Erich Martel in researching this article. 

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Progress (or Not) for DC’s 8th Graders on the Math NAEP?

8th grade naep math, DC, w + H + B

Here we have the average scale scores on the math NAEP for 8th grade students in Washington, DC.* You will notice that we don’t have data for 8th grade white students in DC in math for the years 2003, 2007, and 2009, because there weren’t enough white students taking the test in those years for the statisticians at NCES to be confident in their data.

The vertical, dashed, red line near the middle of the graph represents the date when the old, elected, DC school board was replaced by Chancellors Rhee, Henderson, and Wilson, directly appointed by the various mayors. That year (2007) was also when Rhee and her underlings instituted brand-new teacher evaluation systems like IMPACT and VAM and new curricula and testing regimes known as Common Core, PARCC, and so on. Hundreds, if not thousands, of teachers were either fired or resigned or took early retirement. If these reforms had been as successful as Rhee promised in writing, then the lines representing scores for white, black, and hispanic students in DC would go slanting strongly up and to the right after that 2007 change.

I don’t see it.

Do you?

In fact, let’s look carefully at the slopes of the lines pre-Rheeform and post-Rheeform.

For black 8th grade students, scores went from 231 to 245 in the years 2000 to 2007, or 14 points in 7 years, which is a  rise of 2.0 points per year. After mayoral control, the scores for black students went from 245 to 257, or 12 points in 10 years. That’s rise of 1.2 points per year.

Worse, not better.

For Hispanic students, scores went from 236 in the year 2000 to 251 in 2007, a rise of 15 points in 7 years, or a rise of about 2.1 points per year. After mayoral control, their scores went from 251 to 263 in 10 years, which is a rise of 1.2 points per year.

Again: Worse, not better.

With the white students, a lot of data is missing, but I’ll compare what we have. Their scores went from 300 in year 2000 to 317 in the year 2005, which is an increase of 3.4 points per year. After mayoral control, their scores went from 319 in 2011 to 323, in 2017 or a rise of four (4!) points in 6 years, which works out to about 0.6 points per year.

Once again, Worse, not better.

Voters, you have the power to stop this nonsense, if you get organized!

—————————————————-

* Note that I’m using the numbers for Washington DC as a whole – which includes the regular DC Public School system, all the charter schools, as well as private (aka ‘independent’) and parochial schools. At one point, NAEP divided the DC scores into those for DCPS only (on the one hand) and for everybody else. In addition, they began to make it possible to separate out charter schools. However, since the regular public schools and the charter schools together educate the vast majority of students in DC, and the DCPS-only score-keeping started well after 2007, I decided to use the scores for all of DC because there was a much longer baseline of data, going back about twenty years.

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Here are my previous posts on this matter:

  1. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/just-how-much-success-has-there-been-with-the-reformista-drive-to-improve-scores-over-the-past-20-years/
  2. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/maybe-there-was-progress-with-hispanic-students-in-dc-and-elsewhere/
  3. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/progress-perhaps-with-8th-grade-white-students-in-dc-on-naep-after-mayoral-control/
  4. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/was-there-any-progress-in-8th-grade-math-on-the-naep-in-dc-or-elsewhere/
  5. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/one-area-with-a-bit-of-improvement-4th-grade-math-for-black-students-on-the-naep/
  6. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/more-flat-lines-4th-grade-reading-for-hispanic-and-white-students-dc-and-nationwide/
  7. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/the-one-area-where-some-dc-students-improved-under-mayoral-control-of-education/
  8. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/how-dcs-black-white-and-hispanic-students-compare-with-each-other-on-the-naep-over-the-past-20-years/
  9. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/comparing-dcs-4th-grade-white-black-and-hispanic-students-in-the-math-naep/
  10. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/dcs-black-hispanic-and-white-students-progress-on-the-naep-under-mayoral-control-and-before-8th-grade-reading/

DC’s Black, Hispanic and White Students Progress on the NAEP Under Mayoral Control and Before – 8th Grade Reading

8th grade naep reading, DC, B + W + H

We are looking at the average scale scores for 8th grade black, Hispanic, and white students in DC on the NAEP reading tests over the past two decades. Ten years ago, Washington DC made the transition from a popularly-elected school board to direct mayoral control of the school system. Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson, our first and second Chancellors under the new system, promised some pretty amazing gains if they were given all that power and many millions of dollars from the Walton, Arnold, and Broad foundations, and I showed that almost none of their promises worked out.

In the graph above, the vertical, dashed, green line shows when mayoral control was imposed, shortly after the end of school in 2007, so it marks a convenient end-point for school board control and a baseline for measuring the effects of mayoral control.

For 8th grade black students in reading in DC, their average scale scores went from 233 in 1998 to 238 in 2007, under the elected school board, which is a (very small) rise of 5 points in 9 years, or about 0.6 points per year. Under mayoral control, their scores went from 238 to 240, which is an even tinier increase of 2 points in 10 years, or 0.2 points per year.

Worse, not better.

For the Hispanic students, scores only increased from 246 to 249 before we had chancellors, or 3 points in 9 years, or about 0.3 points per year. After mayoral control, their scores went DOWN from 249 to 242 in 10 years, or a decrease of 0.7 points per year.

Again, worse, not better: going in the wrong direction entirely.

For white DC 8th graders, it’s not possible to make the same types of comparisons, because there were not sufficient numbers of white eighth-grade students in DC taking the test during five of the last ten test administrations for the NCES statisticians to give reliable results. However, we do know that in 2005 (pre-mayoral control) white 8th graders in DC scored 301 points. And since the mayors and the chancellors took over direct control of education in DC, not once have white students scored that high.

Again, worse, not better.

Why do we keep doing the same things that keep making things worse?

==============================================

My previous posts on this topic:

  1. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/comparing-dcs-4th-grade-white-black-and-hispanic-students-in-the-math-naep/
  2. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/the-one-area-where-some-dc-students-improved-under-mayoral-control-of-education/
  3. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/more-flat-lines-4th-grade-reading-for-hispanic-and-white-students-dc-and-nationwide/
  4. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/one-area-with-a-bit-of-improvement-4th-grade-math-for-black-students-on-the-naep/
  5. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/was-there-any-progress-in-8th-grade-math-on-the-naep-in-dc-or-elsewhere/
  6. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/progress-perhaps-with-8th-grade-white-students-in-dc-on-naep-after-mayoral-control/
  7. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/maybe-there-was-progress-with-hispanic-students-in-dc-and-elsewhere/
  8. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/just-how-much-success-has-there-been-with-the-reformista-drive-to-improve-scores-over-the-past-20-years/

 

Comparing DC’s 4th Grade White, Black, and Hispanic Students in the Math NAEP

4th grade math naep, DC, w + B + H

Here we have the average scale scores for DC’s white, black, and Hispanic fourth graders in math on the National Assessment for Educational Progress, prompted by the data rollout earlier this week of the 2017 results.

The vertical, blue, dashed line at the year 2007 shows where DC changed from having an elected school board with real power, to having a mayor who sets educational policy on his/her own, appointing a Chancellor (starting with the serial fabulist, Michelle Rhee).

If mayoral control of the schools, along with the firing or forcing out of hundreds or thousands of teachers, and all the other ‘reforms’ that have been instituted since 2007, were such a great success, then you would see the purple, orange, and green lines going sharply upwards to the right after the year 2007.

But you don’t.

In fact, let’s do a little math here, and look at rates of change pre- and post-mayoral control

For black 4th graders in math in DC, under the elected school board, the average scale scores went from 188 in the year 2000 to 209 in the year 2007. That is an increase of 21 points in 7 years, or about 3.0 points per year. After mayoral control, those scores went from 209 in year 2007 to 224 in year 2017. That is a rise of 15 points in 10 years, or a rate of change of 1.5 points per year.

That’s worse, not better.

For Hispanic students, during period under the school board, the scores went from 190 to 220 in 7 years, which is a growth of about 4.3 points per year. After mayoral control, their scores went from 220 to 230, which is an increase of 1.0 points per year.

Once again, that’s worse under mayoral control, not better.

For white students in DC, pre-Rhee, the scores went from 254 to 262 in 7 years, or a growth of  roughly 1.1 points per year. After mayoral control (and under Rhee and her successors), their scores went from 262 to 273 in 10 years, which is exactly 1.1 points per year.

No change.

So, to sum things up: for black and Hispanic students, who are obviously the two main groups of economically-deprived students in DC, if we look at scores on the NAEP over the past 20 years, there has been LESS improvement under mayoral control (and under IMPACT, VAM, PARCC and everything else) than there was before.

Is anybody paying any attention to this?

Or will the beatings continue and intensify until morale somehow, miraculously, improves?

==============================================================

You can see my previous posts on this topic at these links:

  1. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/20/how-dcs-black-white-and-hispanic-students-compare-with-each-other-on-the-naep-over-the-past-20-years/
  2. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/the-one-area-where-some-dc-students-improved-under-mayoral-control-of-education/
  3. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/more-flat-lines-4th-grade-reading-for-hispanic-and-white-students-dc-and-nationwide/
  4. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/17/one-area-with-a-bit-of-improvement-4th-grade-math-for-black-students-on-the-naep/
  5. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/was-there-any-progress-in-8th-grade-math-on-the-naep-in-dc-or-elsewhere/
  6. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/progress-perhaps-with-8th-grade-white-students-in-dc-on-naep-after-mayoral-control/
  7. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/maybe-there-was-progress-with-hispanic-students-in-dc-and-elsewhere/
  8. https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/just-how-much-success-has-there-been-with-the-reformista-drive-to-improve-scores-over-the-past-20-years/

 

 

Has Mayoral Control of Schools in DC Succeeded or Failed? A 10-year Record of Data

In the past few posts, (#1, #2, #3) I’ve merely cut-and-pasted graphs or text that the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCESpublished two days ago on their website as part of what has become a very widespread, longitudinal survey of statistics illustrating educational progress or problems in the large urban school systems of the USA; this one was called the NAEP TUDA.

The only modifications I did to the graphs were cutting out the ‘fine print’ that few of my readers would look at anyway, and adding some notations and color for clarity.

(BTW, if you want to look at the fine print, go right ahead! It’s all findable at that same website.)

This time, I actually lifted a few digital fingers and asked the NCES web site to produce some simple tables of longitudinal and cross-sectional data for DCPS and a few other cities. Nothing complicated: I just wanted to see how black, white, and Hispanic  students have been faring, along with those in special education and immigrant kids learning English for the first time, compared with ‘regular’ kids, and compared with tbejr counterparts among alloother large public urban school systems. Then I had Excel plot the data. Here are my first two such graphs, exploring whether mayoral control of schools (and all that went along with that, such as eliminating tenure and turning education over to private corporations) helped or hurt.

I think the results are obvious.

Here goes:

4TH GRADE math naep tuda scale scores for black, white, hisp - nation + DCPS

 

Lots of information in this first graph, but you have to pay a little attention.

(1)    Notice how high white students in DCPS score on this graph (solid red line, at the top). Those students, some of whose siblings I’ve taught at Alice Deal JHS/MS, are the highest-scoring subgroup that I know of in the entire NAEP/NCES/TUDA database. Overall, they continue to do well, and in the fourth grade, for math, the only departure from a straight-line trend was 2007. Their rate of growth in test scores exceeds that of white kids in all urban public school systems, probably because white kids in DC overwhelmingly come from professional, educated families. We don’t have any trailer parks or other sizable population of white working-class kids in DC, ever since the massive “white flight” of the 1960s. (You have to go elsewhere to find characters like those on “Honey Boo Boo”!)  In any case, overall, no real change pre-Rhee to post-Rhee, other than the fact (not apparent in this graph) that the proportion of white students at most grades has vastly increased in DCPS: in a word, because of gentrification. In any case, white kids in DC continue to score a lot higher in 4th grade NAEP math than white kids in other public urban school systems (dotted green line near the top).

(2)    Among Hispanic students, it appears that the trends after 2008 in DCPS for fourth-grade math students aren’t so favorable to the pro-mayoral-control side of the argument: from 2003 through 2009, their scores were increasing at a pretty amazing rate (solid purple line) until they matched the scores of Hispanic students in all US urban school systems (dotted purple line). After that year, those scores went down or leveled off. Again, no miracle.

(3)    Among black students at this grade level, if the trends for 2003-2007 had continued, the bottom orange line for black 4th-graders in math would be a bit higher than it is now, largely because there was in fact no growth from 2009 to 2011.

(4) It’s a bit harder to see, but the hispanic-white and black-white achievement gaps at this grade level continues to be a lot larger in DC than it is in the nation’s urban school systems. Twice as wide, in fact. So, again, no sign of success.

Overall: no evidence here whatsoever of any of the promised miracles. In fact, if anything, growth was a little worse, overall, after Rhee, than it was before Rhee.

Now let’s look at achievement levels for 4th grade math students with disabilities (ie special education), ELLs (English Language Learners) and those in regular education, both here in DC and in all US urban public school systems. Here, I chose to plot the percentages of students who are “Basic” or above, rather than the average scale score. You could plot scale scores yourself, if you like.

pct students basic or above DCPS and nation by disability - 4th grade math NAEP TUDA

(A score of “Basic” on the NAEP corresponds to “Proficient” on the DC-CAS and other state-administered NCLB and RttT tests.)

Notice that most of these lines show an overall upward trend for this period. The top line (dotted, green) is the percent of all public-school, regular-education students in urban public school systems who score “Basic” or above on the fourth-grade math NAEP. The  solid, maroon/brown line represents the same measurement for regular 4th-grade math students here in DC. Notice that both the dotted green and solid brown lines are going up pretty steadily, with no particular change in trend on either side of the vertical orange line. Which means that mayoral control seems not to have changed  to past trends one way or the other.

The olive-colored, dotted line represents percentages of fourth-grade students of English as a second language in all of our urban public schools. As you can see, the trend is a slow but steady increase. However, in DC public schools, since 2009, the corresponding line (solid, sky blue) is trending downwards. Why? I have no idea, but it’s not a favorable argument for continued mayoral control, since before Fenty and Rhee took over DCPS, the trend was certainly upwards.

With special education students, I used a dotted purple line for all national urban public school students, and a solid orange lines for those in DC public schools. I have no idea why the percentage of 4th-grade math students scoring “Basic” or above went down across the nation’s cities after 2008, while it had been going up modestly but steadily before that date. Clearly, the trends in special-education scores in DCPS are even more mysterious: a continuation of past trends in 2009, a fairly large drop in 2011, and a fairly large increase in 2013. In any case, if you were to extrapolate the orange pre-Rhee line past the central line, I suspect you’d come to about  the same place we are in right now (2013).

Again, this is evidence that all the churn, upheaval, anguish, money, and curriculum impoverishment of the past 6 years in the District of Columbia has all been for naught. We would have gotten the same results with the system we had in place beforehand.

 

My conclusion: any progress in DCPS appears to be a continuation of trends that show up very clearly as going back ten years, well before the DC city council, with the blessing of Congress, abolished the school board and handed control of the public schools over to a chancellor appointed and responsible to a mayor.

Published in: on December 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Graphs and Analysis of Trends in DC (regular and charters) from EdCORE to the DC Auditor

When the DC Mayor and City Council passed the law that got rid of the DC Board of Education and turned over the schools to the Mayor and his Chancellor, they also required there to be an audit, supposedly to see if things improved.

An audit has now been prepared by a group called EdCORE and submitted to the DC Auditor for the years 2006-7 through 2010-11, and it’s not very pretty.

So you won’t hear much about it, except, probably, from me.

Basically it shows that overall, there has been very little progress, even though the EduDeformers have been very successful in getting their way:

  •  Constant churn of teachers and administrators;
  •  Wholesale elimination of experienced personnel;
  •  Both parents and teachers have lost any ability to fight back against what they perceive as bad ideas;
  •  Near-collapse of regular public school system as parents, seeing no options, flee to charters that advertise constantly.

After six years now of the Rhee-Fenty-Henderson-Gray regime, let’s see what we get. Not much.

First, let’s look at the overall percentages of students scoring at or above the proficient level in both reading and math, as reported on the DC-CAS. The authors of the report caution repeatedly and strongly that since we know that there has been a lot of cheating by adults on the DC-CAS, these numbers may not be reliable at all.

I would also like to add that the very first year that DCPS used the DC-CAS was during SY 2006-7, at which point scores dropped drastically from previous years, when we had been using a different test altogether (The Stanford-9). It is common knowledge that when a school system starts using a new test, scores drop across the board, until teachers have learned how to prepare students for the new test; after a year or two, the scores rise a bit, then often stabilize.

That looks like what’s happened in DC, both in the regular public schools and in the charter schools.

In any case, there is no evidence of enormous progress in either one of these graphs; note that scores are essentially flat for the last three reported years. (Kind of a pity that they didn’t report on 2011-12.)

overall bb and P or A on dc-cas 2006 to 2011

The second graph shows the percentage of students scoring in the Below Basic category, which is the lowest level. Since 2008-9, there has essentially been no significant progress…

BY WARD

I’ve tried to make the next two graphs clearer than the ones given in the report. They show what percentage of students scored ‘proficient’ or better in the various wards of the city. If you know anything about Washington DC, you know that it’s mostly a very segregated town, both by income and by race. The very poorest students live in Wards 7 and 8, on the east bank of the Anacostia River, and are almost 100% African-American. The wealthiest and whitest and best-educated families live in wards 3 and 2.  (I live in Ward 5, which currently has no public middle schools at all!)

Since Rhee & Henderson and their cronies have replaced the vast majority of teachers and administrators in DC, replacing all of us with inexperienced, untrained, but “excellent” Teach for America temps and so on, then they must have CRUSHED that achievement gap between Ward Three and Ward Eight (i.e., between Spring Valley & Chevy CVhase DC on the one hand, and Barry Farms and Congress Heights on the other)?

Nope. See for yourself. I color-coded the wards. Do you see any real narrowing of those gaps? I don’t.

percentage of students at or above prof in reading by WARD

The next graph shows the percentage of students who are at the lowest reading level, “Below Basic”. If you understand real estate values, it is no surprise that the ward with the most expensive homes (Ward 3) continues to have the smallest fraction of students at the bottom reading level. And no surprise that the ward with the least expensive houses and apartments (ward 8) has the highest percentages of students at the bottom reading level.

It’s the same pattern all over the world, not just here in the US.percent below basic - reading - by ward

Next: teacher and administrator churn…

Report from EdCORE to DC Auditor’s Office Gives More Evidence that the Emperor (the EduDeformers) wear no clothes

I began looking at the  EdCORE report {GWU, Mathematica, A.I.R. et al} to the DC Auditor’s Office on the DCPS system from 2006 up until 2011 on my iphone while I was riding the subway late last night, and found evidence that if a teacher is unfortunate enough to teach in a high-poverty school, they are much, much more likely to get low IMPACT and IVA scores, get fired, transfer out, and/or quit.

Couldn’t get much more than a peek, however.

I also noticed that brand-new teachers generally get lower IMPACT scores and so on, no matter where they teach.  And that huge numbers of DC teachers and administrators now have 3 years or less of actual teaching experience.

While scores are pretty much flat.

But remember the Educational Deformista’s own argument: after all, it’s not poverty or distressed family life or anything else that is causing record chronic unemployment and the de-industrialization of America along with those pesky record profits and wealth increases for the rich.

No, it was supposedly us veteran teachers who had all conspired to go into teaching precisely so we could be lazy, get cushy no-work jobs, get rich with our extravagant pension funds and health benefits, though in fact we supposedly do our best to hold poor kids back. {according to the Deformistas and their allies in the media}

{Actually, that’s what bank presidents and such do, innit? While they claim they are hard at work, they are sitting around in splendid offices either playing with a computer or schmoozing with others in their stratum or out having fabulously expensive vacations — which of course are written off as business expenses, because they continue to play around on their computers and schmooze with other wealthy types, planning on how to bend or make the rules so they become even richer… And when they quit one company to go to another one, they bget tens or hundreds of millions of dollars and stock options and so on as a ‘platinum parachute’…. The ratio of income and wealth in the world and in the US between the captains of finance and the common people is higher now than ever before — Third World standards.

But supposedly, Gates and Jobs were worth every penny, right? We must certainly agree that none of the rest of us have any creativity. Only a handful of people had the smarts to build successful bandwagons by guessing which way they could steer public opinion towards their inventions… (sarcasm implied) While there are lots and lots of people inventing stuff and trying to keep poor kids and widows and orphans out of misery by either educating them or making sure they get social services or medical services — we don’t count. If we have poor clients, it’s because we made them poor. Right? (sarcasm again)}

And according to that brave billionaire’s saga, if we veteran teachers and social workers were all were replaced by Teach For America and its clones (dc teaching fellows, NTP, “Broad jump academy” etc) with absolutely no training or experience, and if sufficiently many DC and other urban public schools are closed down, denigrated, starved, and disorganized rapidly enough to force most of the kids into the [almost-equally-unsuccessful-by-their-own-measuring-srick charter schools [remember, the ones that are supposedly successful have absolutely astronomical pushout or dropout or attrition rates, as has been abundantly documented)] …. well, if the Deformistas like Henderson, Rhee, Kopp, the Koch Brothers, various hedge fund managers like DFER, the Waltons, and Bill Gates got their way like that, the prediction by Erik Hanushek and others was that all of the scores for poor urban kids of color would go up like crazy. Why, don’t you know, since they had at least three years in a row of brand-new, inexperienced but ‘excellent’ teachers (since their previous veteran, un-excellent teachers generally retired, quit, or got fired based on a random-number-generating scheme, then poor black and hispanic kids would completely crush that achievement gap between then and the kids attending St. Albans or Sidwell or Maret or Groton or Phillips Exeter or TJ Science Academy in Arlington or the Bronx HS of Science, and we would see enormous numbers of poor urban HS grads would now entering the Ivy Leagues on full scholarships in record numbers.

Isn’t that right?

No?

It ain’t happening?

Yes, but scores for black and hispanic kids are increasing, in general!!

— True, they’ve been generally going up since the mid-1970s, when the government first started measuring this. The gaps have grown a LOT smaller in that time, especially right up to the year when “A Nation At Risk” was published — 1983. At that point, the gaps between poor kids and the non-poor stopped narrowing, pretty much. At some grade levels and subjects, black and hispanic kids are now scoring higher than non-poor white kids back in the 1970 or 80s, which is a signicant amount of progress.

BUT all the good trends happened WAY before the billionaires started trying to control public education in an utterly undemocratic manner, completely bypassing any public input.

These days, as the report noted, the only way for the public to change education policy is to vote out a mayor or a president.

Unfortunately for that argument, both parties, once they get into power, follow almost exactly the same policies on education. Show me how Gray and Henderson have differed in anything except abrasive rhetoric from Fenty and Rhee when it comes to education. Hated NCLB under Bush and that education fraud from Texas? Vote them out, and you get even morer of the same, four times as badly, under Obama and Duncan!

Percentages of poor urban kids at first-tier universities continues to slide, you say? It’s more of the kids of the wealthy there, partly because of certain financial changes …. while college loan debt is actually now LARGER than ordinary credit card debt? And it can essentially NEVER be written off, even if you file for bankruptcy? (said in a fake-naive voice)

Say it ain’t so, Joe! (fake-naive, sarcasm)

But none of those rosy predictions by the Deformista that has come true. Scores are flat. And profits and wealth for the 1% of 1% are way, way up. And so are futures in EduBusiness shares and funds in general…

When the DCAuditor site comes back up I’ll have more to say.

More on Gaps – This Time, 8th Grade Math NAEP TUDA

This year, the 8th grade math NAEP TUDA results are the only place where the scores in DCPS appear to be going up, but the gap between the top students and bottom students is getting significantly larger.

(Wait until we look at the reading results…)

If you need a little background information, take a look at yesterday’s post for a bit of explanation of what the percentiles mean.

I begin with a graph and table of the gaps in 8th grade math for all US public school students from 2003 to 2011.

As you can see, these scores, which are for all US 8th grade students in public schools, have been slowly but steadily rising since 2003. The gaps between the highest-achieving and lowest-achieving students have been fairly steady or else getting a bit smaller, if you look at the gap between those at the 75th percentile and those at the 25th percentile.

Now let’s look at a similar graph for students in large cities:

While these scores are also rising, I notice one thing that’s different from the previous graph: the kids at the 10th percentile in US large cities score extremely low. That’s the dark blue line at the bottom of the graph, separated from the other lines by a much larger gap than any I’ve noticed before. This phenomenon also shows up because the “90-10 gap” is much larger in this graph than in the previous one.

Now let’s look at the graph and table for Washington DC public schools. Recall that charter school students are excluded from this data starting in 2009.

Quite a different-looking graph, don’t you think? It’s almost like it’s beginning to open up to the right like a fan, because the top teal-colored line, which represents scores of the students at the top of the achievement scale (those at the 90th percentile), and the purple one just below it, are going up faster and faster, leaving the others behind. In 2009, after two years of Rhee, students at the 25th and 10th percentile dropped. To be fair, we don’t know if that drop is real, or is a result of the fact that so many students migrated to charter schools.

We do see that students at the 10th and 25th percentiles had their scores rise significantly in 2011 over 2009, so now they are a couple of points higher than they were in 2007, but that change is not statistically significant.

However, it is clear that overall, the gap in DCPS between the top scorers and the lowest scorers is widening. The 90-10 gap used to be 90 points back in 2003, but has risen to a new high of 107 points in 2011. The 75-25 gap has also reached a new high of 55 points, climbing from 48 points.

Now let’s look at the large city 200 miles to our northeast. I am referring to New York City, of course.

Unlike in DC, where we saw the lines getting farther apart as we move towards the present, in NYC the lines get closer together, which means that the gap between the high-achievers and low-achievers is getting smaller.

But not in a good way.

What is happening in New York’s public schools is that the scores of the students at the top and middle actually dropped over the past 2 years, while the scores of the students at the very bottom (10th percentile) continued to rise. That’s one way to narrow the gap, but it’s the wrong way.

So much for educational miracles happening under undemocratic control of the schools by Mayor Bloomberg! (Remember please that Bloomberg was the person who recommended Michelle Rhee to Adrian Fenty as another miracle-maker.)

Finally, let’s look at Atlanta.

Here we see a pattern that’s different from what we saw elsewhere. The various colored lines seem to be moving just about in lockstep with each other. The gap between the highest and lowest achievers hasn’t changed by much.

—————

Now go back and look at all of those scores.

Have the students in DC miraculously overtaken students in other large cities, or the nation, as essentially promised by the education DEform crowd? No.

Are they on the road to doing so? Heck, no.

Have Rhee, Fenty, Henderson, Bloomberg, Joel Klein, and Vincent Gray delivered any educational miracles in DC or New York? Definitely not.

Published in: on December 9, 2011 at 11:02 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Spirited Demonstration In Favor of Public Schools, Against Vouchers

About 100 to 150 folks from the DC area, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and elsewhere demonstrated at the Marriott Hotel at 22nd and M Street NW today, because of a convention of the pro-voucher, anti-union, anti-public-education group “American Federation for Children” paid for and sponsored by the billionaire DeVos family. (also Govrnors Walker and Corbett were there – neither of them nice guys, as well as Michelle Rhee — not a nice woman.)

Our crowd included parents, teachers, and others. There were way more folks than I expected, since this demonstration was only announced last week!

However, we need to do an even better job at organizing and getting folks out on the street, so that we can begin to turn around the political momentum in this country. Right now, there is a dangerous right-wing trend of abolishing public schools, worker pensions, and basic civil rights. These Educational Deformers also are the folks who are currently well on their way towards making all public schools, especially those that educate the poor and our minorities, into nothing but test prep factories. If they are successful, school will be nothing but a mindless, rote-infested, data-drivel place where kids hate to go because it’s so mindless and stupid and all of the interesting and fun things about education have been left out. (The words “rote” and “drivel” in the last sentence were NOT typos.) What’s more, under our defacto right-wing regime, while workers are losing their pensions and their life savings and their jobs and their health care plans, and have to pay more and more money for pretty much EVERYTHING they buy, at the same time, the billionaires who run this country are making MORE money than they ever have; the incompetent, greedy plutocrats who empty out American factories and send the work to be done overseas by workers who have no choice but to work for much lower wages, and under much worse conditions – why, these corporate thieves are making out like bandits. If they are caught red-handed looting the entire company or the nation, they get not a golden parachute, but a platinum one, plus many tens of millions in severance pay, plus perhaps billions in stock options, and then get invited back into the government as a regulator.

So, while this was a good step, it should only redouble our resolve to act further.

I watched Rachel Maddow on TV for the first time a few weeks ago at my daughter’s place, and RM was claiming (and it appeared, proving) in that show that the anti-Tea-Party, pro-democracy, pro-public-school, pro-union, progressive demonstrators all over the US **right now** – just like us -are actually more numerous than the Tea Party crowds were AT THEIR PEAK — but get no press coverage. I seem to remember RM showing clips of a tiny gathering of half a dozen Tea Party types that was attended by so many media folks that the TPers were outnumbered, while nearly simultaneous, large demonstrations against folks like Rhee, Fenty, and so on get ignored.

I think I counted six to ten pro-voucher folks demonstrating against us pro-public school types. At first I was a bit upset that we had any opposition at all. After all, aren’t we the good guys?

But then again, this was THEIR anti-voucher meeting at the Marriott that we were opposing. We were sort of going into THEIR lair. Kinda sad (for them) that they could only muster six to ten voucher supporters from this ‘enormous’ convention. I think you will have a hard time finding these pro-voucher types in my photos, except for the fact that they were all white and fat and had identical red signs.

I didn’t think to go in to ask some of the employees at the hotel how many of these DeVossers showed up. Since I don’t watch TV news at all, some of you will need to tell me what you see — if anything.

I didn’t make any actual attempt at a crowd size estimate, because I had my hands full with a sign around my neck, a bag at my side, taking a few photos, giving out leaflets, and attempting to talk to passersby and explain briefly what we were doing and see what they thought. Responses were mostly favorable, but not all. Our crowd was strung out so far along the  sidewalk, and on both sides of the street, and across alleys, that no single photo that I took could get them all. I need to figure out what I did wrong with the focus on some of these.

Published in: on May 9, 2011 at 9:05 pm  Comments (5)  
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