“Schools Matter” on Democrats’ Public School Betrayal

Jim Horn (I think) here excoriates the heads of the AFT, NEA and Diane Ravitch for helping sell out public school students, their families and their teachers to the corporate and financial oligarchs. Is he going overboard?

I know for a fact that Randi Weingarten is playing a very complicated double game: she personally negotiated the terrible contract in DC that started the give-back of pretty much all teacher rights in return for a mythic ally high salary that very, very few teachers will ever stick around to collect.

Is Horn going too far? Read it, and comment. I’m posting the whole thing.

Schools Matter

DeVos Will Make Democrat’s Charter Plan Easier to Sell

Posted: 05 Dec 2016 07:55 AM PST

A few years back Diane Ravitch was forced to admit openly what the opponents of testing accountability knew when No Child Left Behind became law: the ridiculous goal of 100% percent student proficiency in reading and math could never be met, and the fanciful imposition of such a pipe dream would wreak havoc across the entire K-12 education universe.

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By the time Ravitch finally came around to acceding the dangerous fantasy that she had loyally promoted along with her fellow charter and voucher supporters at the Hoover Institution, almost half the schools in the U. S. had already been labeled as failures, and a reckless and corrupt corporate feeding frenzy had been set into motion by Ravitch’s free market chums. Tutoring companies were draining billions in federal dollars by cramming poor children for tests they would never pass; the scandal-ridden Reading First gang was shoving its antiquarian reading techniques nationwide to really bad effect; alternate teacher certification scams had been federally incentivized; charter schools, both virtual and physical, were springing up like mushrooms in cow paddies after a rain, and a whole new industry of sponsored fake education research by corporate foundation “think” tanks had become an acceptable occupation for under-employed academics.

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During the seven years since Ravitch’s lucrative conversion experience, Diane has made it clear that she maintains one foot solidly on the side of the corporate education reformers who brought us the NCLB disaster. It took her until 2013 to admit her stubborn wrongheadedness on Common Core, even while maintaining even today her support for “voluntary” national standards–whatever that means. Today she maintains her enthusiasm for shoveling Core Knowledge into the heads of children, just as she remains a supporter of ridiculously high NAEP standards that have been used by “reformers” for years to bludgeon the public schools for their low scores.

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In early 2015, her crucial support for NCLB 2.0, which is better known as ESSA, made her culpablility undeniable. This was followed by a year of propagandizing for the longtime charter supporter, Hillary Clinton, while pretending to be the most determined foe of school corporatization. Diane’s blog was used to soft-pedal Weingarten’s autocratic choice of Clinton over Sanders, just as it was used to obfuscate Hillary’s supportive position on corporate welfare charters. And it was her political soulmate, Randi Weingarten, who put the final flourishes on the Democratic platform, which clearly supported charter schools while pretending to do the opposite.

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Her recent outlining for Jay Mathews the kind of charter schools she would support signals that she is ready to swing both legs onto the side of the charter fence. Along with the NEA’s Eskelsen, AFT’s Weingarten, and the troglodytes running the DNC, Ravitch is clearly signaling surrender on charters to Team Trump, even before the first inaugural dance.

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Ravitch, as lead propagandist for the corporate unions, will use the Betsy DeVos nomination to make the Dem position of supporting “non-profit” segregated no excuses charters seem most reasonable in comparison. It is not a coincidence that Ravitch is suddenly playing footsie with charter spokesman, Jay Mathews.

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The ESSA, which could not have happened without NPE, NEA, and AFT support, will continue intact, thus allowing Trump, too, to appear reasonable in letting public schools die a slower death than Sister Betsy would have preferred. And thus the bipartisan dismantling of public education is likely to continue on schedule. The biggest change we are likely to see in Washington are the corporate Democrats from the Gates Foundation heavily reinforced by the corporate Republicans from the Walton Foundation.
Oh yes, don’t forget to send your next donation to NPE. Ravitch and the corporate unions need your support to buy a whole new coat of whitewash.

What if Finnish Teachers Taught in the USA?

You have all heard that FInland does the best job in the world at getting high scores on tests like PISA without burdening their students or their teachers with extreme workloads. Finland does not have long hours of homework for elementary kids, and they don’t require the daily filing of rigidly formatted, complex lesson plans for teachers. Finnish teachers are selected from the very best of their university classes, and have enormous amount of control over what they do, which they plan with their peers.

So what if some of these Finnish teachers came and worked here in the US?

Now we know, thanks to an article in The Atlantic.

A couple of quotes, from three such teachers. One said,

“If you asked me now, my answer would be that most likely I would not continue in this career.”

Another:

While teaching in Finnish schools, she had plenty of leeway to plan with colleagues, select curricular materials for the principal to consider purchasing, and influence decisions about schedules and responsibilities.

Today, with 16 years of teaching in U.S. public schools under her belt, this ESL teacher feels that she lacks a career in teaching. She described it as a rote job where she follows a curriculum she didn’t develop herself, keeps a principal-dictated schedule, and sits in meetings where details aren’t debated.

And another:

“I teach six classes a day with a one 45-[minute] ‘planning’ period,” she said. “My classes are at three different proficiency levels, and I have four minutes between classes to prepare for the next class. At the same time, I am expected to stand in the hallways to monitor students as [they] transfer from class to class, and to check my email for last-minute updates and changes because of ongoing testing or other events.”

All of those tasks, and several others, wear her down: “I feel rushed, nothing gets done properly; there is very little joy, and no time for reflection or creative thinking (in order to create meaningful activities for students).”

Muja concluded her response with a quote from one of Pasi Sahlberg’s articles for The Washington Post, “What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools?”

Sahlberg, an education scholar and the author of Finnish Lessons 2.0, answers the theoretical question in his article’s title, writing in part: “I argue that if there were any gains in student achievement they would be marginal. Why? Education policies in Indiana and many other states in the United States create a context for teaching that limits (Finnish) teachers to use their skills, wisdom and shared knowledge for the good of their students’ learning.”

Against Proposed DoE Regulations on ESSA

This is from Monty Neill:

===========

Dear Friends,

The U.S. Department of Education (DoE) has drafted regulations for
implementing the accountability provisions of the Every Student Succeeds
Act (ESSA). The DOE proposals would continue test-and-punish practices
imposed by the failed No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. The draft
over-emphasizes standardized exam scores, mandates punitive
interventions not required in law, and extends federal micro-management.
The draft regulations would also require states to punish schools in
which larger numbers of parents refuse to let their children be tested.
When DoE makes decisions that should have been set locally in
partnership with educators, parents, and students, it takes away local
voices that ESSA tried to restore.

You can help push back against these dangerous proposals in two ways:

First, tell DoE it must drop harmful proposed regulations. You can
simply cut and paste the Comment below into DoE’s website at
https://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=ED-2016-OESE-0032-0001
<https://www.regulations.gov/#%21submitComment;D=ED-2016-OESE-0032-0001>
or adapt it into your own words. (The text below is part of FairTest’s
submission.) You could emphasize that the draft regulations steal the
opportunity ESSA provides for states and districts to control
accountability and thereby silences the voice of educators, parents,
students and others.

Second, urge Congress to monitor the regulations. Many Members have
expressed concern that DoE is trying to rewrite the new law, not draft
appropriate regulations to implement it. Here’s a letter you can easily
send to your Senators and Representative asking them to tell leaders of
Congress’ education committees to block DoE’s proposals:
https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-congress-department-must-drop-proposed-accountability-regulations.

Together, we can stop DoE’s efforts to extend NLCB policies that the
American people and Congress have rejected.

FairTest

Note: DoE website has a character limit; if you add your own comments,
you likely will need to cut some of the text below:

*/You can cut and paste this text into the DoE website:/*

I support the Comments submitted by FairTest on June 15 (Comment #).
Here is a slightly edited version:

While the accountability provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act
(ESSA) are superior to those in No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the
Department of Education’s (DoE) draft regulations intensify ESSA’s worst
aspects and will perpetuate many of NCLB’s most harmful practices. The
draft regulations over-emphasize testing, mandate punishments not
required in law, and continue federal micro-management. When DoE makes
decisions that should be set at the state and local level in partnership
with local educators, parents, and students, it takes away local voices
that ESSA restores. All this will make it harder for states, districts
and schools to recover from the educational damage caused by NLCB – the
very damage that led Congress to fundamentally overhaul NCLB’s
accountability structure and return authority to the states.

The DoE must remove or thoroughly revise five draft regulations:

_DoE draft regulation 200.15_ would require states to lower the ranking
of any school that does not test 95% of its students or to identify it
as needing “targeted support.” No such mandate exists in ESSA. This
provision violates statutory language that ESSA does not override “a
State or local law regarding the decision of a parent to not have the
parent’s child participate in the academic assessments.” This regulation
appears designed primarily to undermine resistance to the overuse and
misuse of standardized exams.

_Recommendation:_ DoE should simply restate ESSA language allowing the
right to opt out as well as its requirements that states test 95% of
students in identified grades and factor low participation rates into
their accountability systems. Alternatively, DoE could write no
regulation at all. In either case, states should decide how to implement
this provision.

_DoE draft regulation 200.18_ transforms ESSA’s requirement for
“meaningful differentiation” among schools into a mandate that states
create “at least three distinct levels of school performance” for each
indicator. ESSA requires states to identify their lowest performing five
percent of schools as well as those in which “subgroups” of students are
doing particularly poorly. Neither provision necessitates creation of
three or more levels. This proposal serves no educationally useful
purpose. Several states have indicated they oppose this provision
because it obscures rather than enhances their ability to precisely
identify problems and misleads the public. This draft regulation would
pressure schools to focus on tests to avoid being placed in a lower
level. Performance levels are also another way to attack schools in
which large numbers of parents opt out, as discussed above.

_DoE draft regulation 200.18_ also mandates that states combine multiple
indicators into a single “summative” score for each school. As Rep. John
Kline, chair of the House Education Committee, pointed out, ESSA
includes no such requirement. Summative scores are simplistically
reductive and opaque. They encourage the flawed school grading schemes
promoted by diehard NCLB defenders.

_Recommendation:_ DoE should drop this draft regulation. It should allow
states to decide how to use their indicators to identify schools and
whether to report a single score. Even better, the DoE should encourage
states to drop their use of levels.

_DoE draft regulation 200.18_ further proposes that a state’s academic
indicators together carry “much greater” weight than its “school
quality” (non-academic) indicators. Members of Congress differ as to the
intent of the relevant ESSA passage. Some say it simply means more than
50%, while others claim it implies much more than 50%. The phrase “much
greater” is likely to push states to minimize the weight of non-academic
factors in order to win plan approval from DOE, especially since the
overall tone of the draft regulations emphasizes testing.

_Recommendation: _The regulations should state that the academic
indicators must count for more than 50% of the weighting in how a state
identifies schools needing support.

_DoE draft regulation 200.18_ also exceeds limits ESSA placed on DoE
actions regarding state accountability plans.

_DoE draft regulation 200.19_ would require states to use 2016-17 data
to select schools for “support and improvement” in 2017-18. This leaves
states barely a year for implementation, too little time to overhaul
accountability systems. It will have the harmful consequence of
encouraging states to keep using a narrow set of test-based indicators
and to select only one additional “non-academic” indicator.

_Recommendation:_ The regulations should allow states to use 2017-18
data to identify schools for 2018-19. This change is entirely consistent
with ESSA’s language.

Lastly, we are concerned that an additional effect of these unwarranted
regulations will be to unhelpfully constrain states that choose to
participate in ESSA’s “innovative assessment” program.


Monty Neill, Ed.D.; Executive Director, FairTest; P.O. Box 300204,
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-477-9792; http://www.fairtest.org; Donate
to FairTest: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/fairtest

Why Does Eva Moskowitz Get to Avoid Following the Rules?

You may know that Eva Moskowitz runs the Success Academies charter school chain in New York City, whose students score extremely well on the mandatory New York state-wide ELA and math tests – better than any schools in the state.

This can only partly be explained by the very high attrition rates from SA schools – many, many students drop out or are pushed out, and not replaced. For example, a class of 73 first graders becomes 26 ninth graders much later on.

However, not a single one of SA graduates has EVER scored well enough for entry into any of the specialized public New York City magnet schools.

In addition, they have refused to release the Regents’ exam scores for any of their students, even though every other school must do so. Even though the students’ OWN TEACHERS at SA get to grade their students’ Regents exams – something no regular public school is ever allowed to do.

Something is extremely fishy, and teacher-blogger Gary Rubinstein is trying to uncover it without much help from anybody.

Read his account here.

 

“Math for America” teachers meet with some members Congress and apparently give them some sound advice

During the First National Math Festival here in DC (which I missed), back in April, some Math for America – DC* teachers I know were invited to speak with some Congressmen and Senators. According to the press release I was recently given, my colleagues appear to have given the elected reps** sound advice that may or may not be heeded.

{** including Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Chuck Shumer, Al Franken, Lamar Alexander, Patty Murray, Steny Hoyer, among others}

I quote from the press release, in green and my own comments in black:

“House and Senate leaders, field experts, and MfA DC teachers spent the first hour and a half engaging in dialogue on how the ESEA reauthorization would affect the classroom. Joe Herbert spoke to the adverse effects standardized tests had had on his school and his classroom. David Tansey, a[n] MfA DC Master Teacher, offered criteria that such tests should meet in order to provide instructional value to the teacher and the student.”

{notice the clear implication, which Tansey has spelled out to me in detail on several occasions, that the standardized tests that he and his school are required to administer many, many times a year are of absolutely no use to teachers in figuring out how to help their students learn more stuff, better.}

“Joe Herbert wrote, ‘I spoke of the harmful effects of standardized testing on K-12 education, and of the complete lack of statistical basis for evaluating teachers based on their students’ test scores.'”

While Max Mikulec, one of the other teachers, was initially somewhat awestruck by listening to amusing anecdotes from Senator Al Franken, he …

“…went on to say, ‘As I reflected on the day, my initial reaction of pride and hope turned into a feeling of skepticism and apprehension. You cannot imagine how great I would feel if the nation spent billions more dollars developing math education and math teachers. However, I do not see this happening in an effective way. There are endless debates over what standards should be taught in our schools and what the kids should be tested on. Amid all of the debates, the ones who are losing here are the nation’s kids. In their most formative years, a time where they struggle to find any consistency in their own lives, they are being let down by an educational system that will change several times before they graduate high school. Ev en though all of these powerful and important people say that they support math education and that [they] see math teaching as a real profession, I will not believe them until something is actually done to show their support.'”

In addition, Joe Herbert wrote me the following:

“Another point I made is just how much money gets wasted on these tests. I don’t remember the exact number now, but I looked up how much is spent annually on testing before I went to the event (I remember the number was in the billions), and I made the point that we could increase spending on education by that much money without raising taxes a penny if we got rid of the annual testing mandate in NCLB.

“I know that many liberal groups have been proponents of annual testing because it sheds light on the achievement gap. I noted that NAEP provides these same types of data, but does so using statistical sampling so that we don’t have to test every kid every year.”

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

*Note: MfA and MfA-DC are as far from the TFA idea as it is possible to be. Unlike ‘Teach for Awhile”, MFA actually gives its members a FULL YEAR of math-content and math-pedagogy classes and student teaching experience, assigns them a mentor, and in return expects them to stay in the city, teaching, in their field for a full five years, and does not pretend to have a one-size-fits-all “no excuses” magic wand that will miraculously reproduce the irreproducible miracle that Michelle Rhree pretended to achieve at Harlem Park Elementary in Baltimore in the early 1990s, magically moving 90% of her students from below the 13th percentile to being over the 90th percentile. Right now, MfA DC teachers are some of the most senior math teachers anywhere in DC, either in the regular public schools or charter schools.

Just how flat ARE those 12th grade NAEP scores?

Perhaps you read or heard that the 12th grade NAEP reading and math scores, which just got reported, were “flat“.

Did you wonder what that meant?

The short answer is: those scores have essentially not changed since they began giving the tests! Not for the kids at the top of the testing heap, not for those at the bottom, not for blacks, not for whites, not for hispanics.

No change, nada, zip.

Not even after a full dozen years of Bush’s looney No Child Left Behind Act, nor its twisted Obama-style descendant, Race to the Trough. Top.

I took a look at the official reports and I’ve plotted them here you can see how little effect all those billions spent on testing;  firing veteran teachers; writing and publishing new tests and standards; and opening thousands of charter schools has had.

Here are the tables:

naep 12th grade reading by percentiles over time

This first graph shows that other than a slight widening of the gap between the kids at the top (at the 90th percentile) and those at the bottom (at the 10th percentile) back in the early 1990s, there has been essentially no change in the average scores over the past two full decades.

I think we can assume that the test makers, who are professional psychometricians and not political appointees, tried their very best to make the test of equal difficulty every year. So those flat lines mean that there has been no change, despite all the efforts of the education secretaries of Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama. And despite the wholesale replacement of an enormous fraction of the nation’s teachers, and the handing over of public education resources to charter school operators.

naep 12th grade reading by group over time

 

This next graph shows much the same thing, but the data is broken down into ethnic/racial groups. Again, these lines are about as flat (horizontal) as you will ever see in the social sciences,

However, I think it’s instructive to note that the gap between, say, Hispanic and Black students on the one hand, and White and Asian students on the other, is much smaller than the gap between the 10th and 90th percentiles we saw in the very first graph: about 30 points as opposed to almost 100 points.
naep 12th grade math by percentiles over time

 

The third graph shows the  NAEP math scores for 12th graders since 2005, since that was the first time that the test was given. The psychometricians atNAEP claim there has been a :statistically significant” change since 2005 in some of those scores, but I don’t really see it. Being “statistically significant’ and being REALLY significant are two different things.

*Note: the 12th grade Math NAEP was given for the first time in 2005, unlike the 12th grade reading test.

naep 12th grade math by group over time

 

And here we have the same data broken down by ethnic/racial groups. Since 2009 there has been essentially no change, and there was precious little before that, except for Asian students.

Diane Ravitch correctly dismissed all of this as a sign that everything that Rod Paige, Margaret Spellings and Arne Duncan have done, is a complete and utter failure. Her conclusion, which I agree with, is that NCLB and RTTT need to be thrown out.

 

Double-Digit Increases and Decreases in NCLB Pass Rates: Real or Fraudulent?

A lot of DC public and charter schools have had a lot of double-digit year-to-year changes in their published proficiency rates from 2008 through 2012.

Of course, that sort of change may be entirely innocent, and even praiseworthy if it’s in a positive direction and is the result of better teaching methods. However, we now know that such changes are sometimes not innocent at all and reflect changes in methods of tampering with students’ answer sheets. (And we also know that DC’s Inspector General and the Chancellors of DCPS are determined NOT to look for any wrong-doing that might make their pet theories look bad.)

Whether these are innocent changes, or not, is for others to decide – but these schools’ scores are worth looking at again, one way or another. If it’s fraud, it needs to be stopped. If double-digit increases in DC-CAS pass rates are due to better teaching, then those methods need to be shared widely!

What I did was examine a spreadsheet published by OSSE and Mayor Gray’s office and examine how the percentages of “proficient” students in reading and math at each school changed one year to the next, or from one year to two years later for the period SY 2007-8 through SY 2011-12, five full years. I then counted how many times a school’s listed percentage of “proficient” students went up, or went down, by ten or more percentage points, from one year to the next, or from one year to two years later.

One charter school, D.C. Preparatory Academy PCS – Edgewood Elementary Campus, had ELEVEN double-digit changes from year to year or from one year to two years later. All were upward changes. Perhaps these are really the results of educational improvements, perhaps not. I have no way of knowing. If it’s really the result of better teaching, great! Let their secrets be shared! If it’s not legitimate, then the fraud needs to end.

Two regular DC public elementary schools, Tyler and Hendley, both had TEN double-digit changes measured in the same way. Both had four increases of 10% or more, and both had six decreases by the same amount.

Six schools had NINE double-digit changes. After the names of each school, I will list how many of these were in the positive and negative directions (i.e., up or down). Here they are:

  1. Burroughs EC (3 up, 6 down)
  2. D.C. Bilingual PCS (8 up, 1 down)
  3. Kimball ES (2 up, 7 down)
  4. Meridian PCS (5 up, 4 down)
  5. Potomac Lighthouse PCS (6 up, 3 down)
  6. Wilson J.O. ES (2 up, 7 down)

Thirteen schools had EIGHT double-digit year-to-year changes in proficiency rates. I will list them similarly:

  1. Aiton ES (0 up, 8 down)
  2. Barnard ES (Lincoln Hill Cluster)  (2 up, 6 down)
  3. Cesar Chavez PCS – Capitol Hill Campus (6 up, 2 down)
  4. Coolidge SHS (3 up, 5 down)
  5. Hospitality PCS (4 up, 4 down)
  6. Houston ES (3 up, 5 down)
  7. Ludlow-Taylor ES (5 up, 3 down)
  8. Noyes ES (1 up, 7 down)
  9. Raymond ES (1 up, 7 down)
  10. Roots PCS- Kennedy Street Campus (5 up, 3 down)
  11. Septima Clark PCS (8 up, 0 down)
  12. Thomas ES (4 up, 4 down)
  13. Washington Math Science Technology (WMST) PCS (4 up, 4 down)

Eighteen schools had SEVEN double-digit year-to-year changes:

  1. Booker T. Washington PCS (4 up, 3 down)
  2. Brent ES (7 up, 0 down)
  3. Community Academy PCS – Butler Bilingual (7 up, 0 down)
  4. Garrison ES (2 up, 5 down)
  5. Hearst ES (0 up, 7 down)
  6. Imagine Southeast PCS (6 up, 1 down)
  7. LaSalle-Backus EC (1 up, 6 down)
  8. Leckie ES (2 up,                 5 down)
  9. Marie Reed ES (2 up, 5 down)
  10. Martin Luther King ES (3 up, 4 down)
  11. McKinley Technology HS (7 up, 0 down)
  12. Payne ES (5 up, 2 down)
  13. Ross ES (6 up, 1 down)
  14. Sharpe Health School (4 up, 3 down)
  15. Takoma EC (0 up, 7 down)
  16. Tree of Life PCS (3 up, 4 down)
  17. Turner  ES at Green (3 up, 4 down)
  18. Two Rivers Elementary PCS (7 up, 0 down)

 

Seventeen schools had SIX double-digit year-to-year changes in proficiency rates:

  1. Bruce-Monroe ES at Park View (2 up, 4 down)
  2. Burrville ES (1 up, 5 down)
  3. C.W. Harris ES (2 up, 4 down)
  4. Center City PCS – Capitol Hill Campus (6 up, 0 down)
  5. Center City PCS – Trinidad Campus (5 up, 1 down)
  6. Cesar Chavez PCS – Bruce Prep Campus (6 up, 0 down)
  7. D.C. Preparatory Academcy PCS – Edgewood Middle Campus (6 up, 0 down)
  8. Ferebee Hope ES (1 up, 5 down)
  9. Friendship PCS – Blow-Pierce (2 up, 4 down)
  10. Friendship PCS – Collegiate (4 up, 2 down)
  11. Kenilworth ES (5 up, 1 down)
  12. Luke C. Moore Academy HS (4 up, 2 down)
  13. Mamie D. Lee School (4 up, 2 down)
  14. Roosevelt SHS (3 up, 3 down)
  15. Simon ES (3 up, 3 down)
  16. Stanton ES (3 up, 3 down)
  17. Winston EC (1 up, 5 down)

Let me caution my readers: Just because there are double-digit changes does not in itself mean there is fraud. Student populations can change in average socioeconomic status or composition for all sorts of reasons. Teaching staff and administrators can also change – and so can teaching methodologies, and sometimes entire schools move from one location to another one, with somewhat unpredictable results for good or for the opposite.

However, documented news articles in USA Today and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which I have referenced in this blog, have shown convincingly that some of the large swings are definitely due to massive amounts of erasures of incorrect answers, or improper coaching of students during the test by administrators or teachers.

If the increases in pass rates are in fact legitimate, then the rest of the teachers in DC need to know what those secrets are!

In any case, there should be further scrutiny to figure out what is causing such large swings in scores at so many schools.

Note: I got my data here: http://osse.dc.gov/release/mayor-vincent-c-gray-announces-2012-dc-cas-results

Published in: on October 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , ,

If you’re keeping score…

A handful of graphs and a bit of analysis of where are the highest and lowest-scoring students: in the regular public schools of Washington, DC, or in the publicly-financed but privately-run charter schools.

If you buy the current “party line” from most newspaper editorial boards and folks like Arne Duncan, Michael Bloomberg, the Koch Brothers, and Michelle Rhee, you would probably conclude that students in the charter schools are wildly outperforming students in the regular DC public schools.

Facts, as someone once wrote, are stubborn things.

It just ain’t so.

Look at these two graphs, which show bars that depict what percent of students in each of the public and charter schools are proficient in math:

The chart shown above is for all of the regular DC Public Schools. Notice that there are 15 schools (out of 117, or about 13% of the total number of schools) with proficiency rates over 80%.

Now let’s look at the graph for the DC charter schools:


Here, there are only four schools (out of 70 charter schools, or about 6%) that have 80% or more of their students scoring at what is called “proficient”.

What about reading? The situation is very similar. For the regular DC public schools, the chart follows here:

Here, there are 14 regular DC public schools out of 117 with student bodies where 80% or more of the students are “proficient” in reading on the DC-CAS. That’s 12% of the schools.

And in the charter schools, in reading, here is the graph for SY 2011-2012:


We see that there are only TWO (2) charter schools out of 70, or about 3%, where 80% or more of the students score “proficient”.

As I’ve written before, the regular DC public schools not only have the lion’s share of the high-flyers, so to speak. They also have the lion’s share of the low-achievers as well.

In math, there are 17 regular public schools, or about 15% of the schools, where less than 20% of the students are proficient in math. In the charter schools, there are only two schools (3%) with such low rates of proficiency.

In reading, there are 19 regular DC Public Schools (about 16%) with less than 20% of the student body proficient. In the charter schools, there are only two such schools (again, 3%).

By the way: none of this data is published at the regular NCLB/OSSE/DCPS data location, at least not yet. There are so far no breakdowns of student populations at each school by gender, race/ethnicity, proficiency in the English language, special education status, family income, AND grade — which is why I haven’t published anything on that. Seems to me that as time goes on, DCPS, charter schools, and OSSE are all releasing less and less information to the public.

I got this data here:

http://osse.dc.gov/release/mayor-vincent-c-gray-announces-2012-dc-cas-results

Published in: on October 4, 2012 at 11:01 am  Comments (10)  
Tags: , , , , ,

A Cartoon On Charter Schools and the G.E.R.M.

Instead of attempting to reproduce the entire cartoon here, let me give you the URL so you can look at it.

The art isn’t perfect, but it does lay out the issues behind NCLB, RTTT, charter schools, TFA, and so on.

Click here to see it.

Published in: on July 14, 2012 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Diane Ravitch Addresses the NCTM, Makes Most of the Points I’ve Been Making

Here is the text of her speech:

“WILL CURRENT SCHOOL REFORMS IMPROVE EDUCATION?”

By

DIANE RAVITCH

 

New York University

 [SEE Dr. Ravitch’s website at http://www.dianeravitch.com/]

 

OPENING SESSION OF THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF TEACHERS OF MATHEMATICS [NCTM]

PHILADELPHIA, PA

APRIL 25, 2012

I am very happy to speak to you today. I have been an admirer of NCTM for twenty years, ever since you took the lead in shaping professional standards for the teaching of mathematics. What was notable about your efforts then and since is that you recognize the importance of putting practitioners in charge. You recognize that those who teach the subject are the greatest experts in determining what is needed to teach it better and what is needed to kindle students’ motivation.

 

Today, students in fourth and eighth grades are learning more mathematics than they were twenty years ago, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. NCTM can take pride in that accomplishment.

 

As a member of the NAEP governing board for seven years, I was always astonished by how demanding the math tests are. Whenever I hear politicians or pundits criticizing American students and teachers, I would like to invite them to take the tests themselves. And be sure to publish the results.

 

I am not a mathematician – I am a historian. One thing our fields have in common is that we believe in evidence. We may speculate, we may theorize, we may even make predictions, but ultimately we must present the evidence. We believe that facts matter. As my math teachers always said, “Getting the right answer is important, but not nearly as important as showing how you got there. Show me your work.”

 

American education is now at a critical juncture. We have a full-blown and powerful reform movement that offers solutions without any evidence. Schools across the nation are adopting remedies that are not only unproven but in some cases have been tried and failed.

 

As a historian of American education, my specialty is writing about the rise and fall of education reforms and fads. Over the twentieth century, reform movements came and went with frequency. By contrast to the many reforms of the past century, the current reform movement is unusual because it did not start with educators. Its leaders are entrepreneurs, economists, foundation leaders, think tank commentators, journalists, and people from the high-tech sector, the big corporations, and Wall Street.

 

I prefer to call it the corporate reform movement because it uses the language of corporate America. It relies on a strategy of competition, choice, testing, and accountability. It believes that teachers must be incentivized with rewards and punishments tied to test scores. It views test scores as profits and losses. It seeks a return on investment in the form of higher test scores. It believes that schools with low scores should be closed in the same way that a chain store would be closed and reopened with a new name. It likes the idea of firing staff that don’t get higher scores. And, of course, it assumes unquestioningly that standardized tests are reliable, valid, infallible measures of not only student performance, but teacher quality and school quality.

 

The corporate reform movement has developed a narrative that is compelling. The media repeats it again and again. They say that American public education is failing.

 

They say that dropout rates are at a crisis point. They say that our international test scores are a national embarrassment. They blame this dire situation on bad teachers and on public education itself. They propose to replace the current system with consumer choice, including privately managed charter schools, whether managed by non-profits or for-profits. Some corporate reformers advocate vouchers, so that students can leave public schools and enroll in private and religious schools with public dollars. They promote for-profit virtual charter schools, which allow students to take their lessons at home on a computer. Providing choice and competition, they argue, will spur innovation. They endorse the idea that teachers should be evaluated by test scores of their students. They recommend incentives and sanctions. They favor merit pay based on test scores. When schools have low test scores they advocate firing the staff and closing the school.

 

Their ideas are now the basis of federal education policy. Their ideas are moving forward like a juggernaut, pushed by bipartisan support and billions of public and private dollars. Many public schools in low-income, high-minority districts like Philadelphia, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Indianapolis, the District of Columbia, and others are being handed over to private control, in keeping with the ideology of corporate reform. Free of government regulation, free of democratic governance, the reformers claim, the free market will accomplish miracles.

In assessing the corporate reform movement, what matters most is evidence, and up to this point, evidence is sorely missing for the reforms it advocates.

 

The two mainstays of the corporate reform movement are the federal law No Child Left Behind and the federal program Race to the Top. When introduced, both were presented as the great levers of school reform. NCLB has been federal policy for a full decade. I think of Race to the Top as NCLB 2.0, because it too relies on test-based accountability and on carrots and sticks to get ever-higher test scores.

 

Consider the origin of NCLB. When Governor George W. Bush ran for president, he said that there had been a “Texas miracle.” He said that the strategy for improving schools was straightforward. Test every child every year; publish the results; reward those that improved; embarrass those that did not improve. Over time, he said, test scores would go up, the dropout rate would go down, and the graduation rate would improve. It was a good story, and Congress bought it. Overwhelming majorities passed NCLB in 2001, and it was signed into law in January 2002.

 

But now we know. The law refers to “evidence-based” strategies, but the law itself was not evidence-based. There was no Texas miracle. On NAEP assessments, Texas—like other states–has shown improvement, but it is not a national leader. It is not a model for the nation. In fact, Texas State Commissioner of Education Robert Scott recently complained that standardized testing had spun out of control; he said it had gotten to be the “be-all and end-all” of education. He said it had become what he called “the heart of the vampire,” and that it was growing because of a “military-industrial complex” that was all about making money, not doing what was right for students or education. In the past few weeks, about 400 of the 1,000 school boards in Texas have passed resolutions against high-stakes testing, and the number is growing.

 

But now the whole nation is stuck with NCLB, and the children who were left behind in 2002 are still left behind.

 

NCLB set an impossible target. It requires that all students must reach proficiency on state tests by the year 2014. No state will meet that goal. No nation in the world has ever achieved 100% proficiency.

 

In trying to reach the target, states and districts are spending billions of dollars on tests and interim assessments and test prep materials; schools have narrowed their curriculum; some have reduced or eliminated the arts or physical education, history and foreign languages; teachers are teaching to standardized tests; college professors complain that their students don’t know how to read or think critically, they want to know what will be on the test.

 

As we get closer to 2014, the consequences of setting an unrealistic goal have been harsh indeed. More than half the public schools in the nation have been labeled failing schools because they haven’t made adequate yearly progress. Schools that repeatedly slip off track are subject to an escalating series of sanctions, ending in firing the staff and closing the school or handing it over to a charter operator. In Massachusetts, the highest performing state in the nation, 80% of the schools are failing schools. In Illinois, New Trier High School failed to make adequate yearly progress this year, because special education students didn’t improve enough. New Trier, the highest performing high school in the state of Illinois, is a failing school. If nothing changes, by 2014 nearly every school in the United States will be a failing school.

 

As the number of failing schools continues to grow every year, so too has the public perception that American education is a failed enterprise. Now we are seeing something that has never happened before in American history. Schools are being closed because of their test scores. Most of the schools that close enroll disproportionate numbers of children who are poor, who have disabilities, and who don’t speak English.

 

No Child Left Behind is the death star of American education, set to label almost every school a failure; Race to the Top is NCLB 2.0.

 

Race to the Top dangled $5 billion before cash-starved states to persuade them to expand the number of privately managed charter schools, to evaluate teachers by the test scores of their students, and to agree to fire principals and staff in the lowest performing schools. NCLB was all sticks and no carrots. Race to the Top is a combination of sticks and carrots. Carrots and sticks are for donkeys, not professionals.

 

But let’s look at what we know so far.

 

The record on charter schools is mixed. According to the pro-charter advocacy group, Center for Education Reform, there are nearly 6,000 charter schools enrolling close to two million students; the number is rising fast because of Race to the Top. There have been many studies of charter schools. By their nature, charters vary widely. Some get high scores, some get low scores. On average, however, charters do not get different results than regular public schools. The most widely cited national study was conducted by economists at Stanford University in 2009 and funded by the pro-charter Walton Family Foundation. It found that students in 17% of charters got higher test scores than those in a matched traditional public school; 37% got worse scores; and in 46%, the scores were no different. In most studies, the typical finding is “no difference.”

 

Some charters get higher test scores by excluding students with special needs or limiting the enrollment of English language learners. Some have very strict discipline policies and suspend or expel students who are troublemakers. Some of the most highly praised charters are known as “no-excuses” schools because of their tough discipline policies. Their ability to remove difficult students maintains order, safety, high scores, and also peer effects—the good result of being surrounded by other well-behaved students. Meanwhile, the public schools cannot refuse those who are rejected or expelled by the charters.

 

New Orleans is often held up by charter advocates as definitive proof that a charter district will get great results. Hurricane Katrina wiped out the public schools of New Orleans. The public schools were replaced by a system in which 70% of the students are enrolled in charters. It is impossible to compare pre-Katrina’s public schools to post-Katrina’s charter schools because a large number of students left New Orleans and never returned. But even without undisputed longitudinal data, this much is clear: New Orleans ranks 71st out of 72 districts on Louisiana state tests. It is a very low-performing district in a very low-performing state. And the New Orleans charter district has the benefit of many millions of dollars poured into the charters of New Orleans by foundations and charters that want to prove the superiority of charters.

 

Aside from New Orleans, the funding for charters inevitably comes right out of the budget for public school districts. The public schools have fixed costs that don’t go down when students leave. Consequently, public schools in some districts are in deep financial distress. A decade ago the public schools of Inglewood, California, were hailed, in the national media and by President George W. Bush, as a great success story, a high-performing district of low-income students. Now the Inglewood district is on the verge of a state takeover and close to bankruptcy; it lost 1/3 of its students to charter schools. Teaching staff has shrunk. In the regular public schools, class sizes are between 40 and 50. The future of public education in the district is in doubt. No wonder parents are bailing out.

 

The public school district of Chester-Upland, here in Pennsylvania, is out of money. The district collects $13,500 for each special education student but must pay the local charter school nearly $24,000 for each special education student it enrolls. The survival of the district is up in the air, especially since the Governor is hostile to public schools and has thus far refused to save the district. In Upper Darby in Pennsylvania, the superintendent has proposed cuts to the arts, physical education, and library services to make up for the state funds diverted to nearby charter schools.

 

Typically, charter schools enroll a very small proportion of students. In New York City, they enroll 3%. In California, they enroll 5%. What sense does it make to jeopardize the education of 95% of public school students so that charters can open for the other 5%? What exactly is the federal government trying to prove? In New York City, many charters have wealthy hedge fund managers on their board who supplement public spending with extra funding so that they have smaller classes, the latest technology, and small classes. Even when charters are sponsored by a billionaire hedge-fund manager, they insist on getting free public space or sharing a building with a public school with less resources.

 

How does this competition improve public schools? To the extent that charters exclude the students who are likely to get low scores, the public schools will enroll disproportionate numbers of those students, making comparisons unfair.

 

The worst of the current corporate reforms are the online charter schools, also known as virtual academies. The largest of them are for-profit corporations. They hire lobbyists to get favorable state legislation, and then locate their headquarters in the poorest district in the state so as to get the maximum state payment for each student. They spend millions to recruit students. The students sit at home in front of a computer with their parent as their learning coach. Their virtual teachers are mostly recent college graduates who monitor 100 or more computer screens. According to investigations by the New York Times and the Washington Post, the online academies get abysmal results. They have a high attrition rate: Typically 50% of the students drop out in their first year, returning to the district public school but leaving the state’s tuition with the corporation. Studies in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Colorado have reported that students in the virtual academies have low test scores and low graduation rates. The Colorado Virtual Academy has a graduation rate of 12%, compared to a statewide graduation rate of 78%. But the schools are very profitable. The CEO of K12, the largest of them, was paid $5 million last year. CEO was founded by former junk bond king Michael Milken and former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett. It trades on the New York Stock Exchange.

 

An organization of conservative state legislators called the American Legislative Exchange Council – or ALEC – has drafted and circulated model laws to promote virtual academies. Nearly 2,000 state legislators belong to ALEC. The co-chair of its Education Task Force is an executive of Connections Academy, another large for-profit virtual charter chains. ALEC promotes legislation to advance privatization in all its forms, not only online virtual academies, but charter schools and vouchers. And of course, ALEC has drafted model laws to roll back collective bargaining, teacher tenure, and test-based evaluation of teachers.

 

Then comes the issue of vouchers. Two states—Indiana and Louisiana–have recently adopted sweeping voucher legislation, and Wisconsin expanded its voucher program. The best evidence we have for the efficacy of vouchers comes from Milwaukee, which has had a voucher program for low-income students since 1990. Twenty-one years is a good long demonstration of vouchers. Advocates say that vouchers enable poor students to escape failing schools. But studies have found little difference between the academic results of voucher schools and public schools. On the last round of state tests, the scores of low-income students in vouchers schools were no different from the scores of low-income students in Milwaukee’s public schools. On the 2011 NAEP for urban districts, Milwaukee was one of the lowest scoring districts in the nation. The other two districts that have vouchers—Cleveland and the District of Columbia—are also at the bottom nationally on NAEP tests of reading and math. And, despite much boasting about test score gains in the District of Columbia, DC has the largest black-white achievement gap in the nation. The gap between black and white students in DC is more than double the gap found in other urban districts by NAEP.

 

On merit pay, the evidence is not mixed, it is clear. Merit pay has been tried again and again since the 1920s. It has never been successful. Economists at the National Center for Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University determined to conduct a rigorous study of merit pay, starting in 2007. They wondered if the reason merit pay had always failed in the past was that the bonus wasn’t big enough. So they offered a bonus of $15,000 to an experimental group of teachers and compared them to a control group. At the end of three years, the economists could find no difference between the two groups. But later that same week, the U.S. Department of Education released $500 million for experiments in performance pay, with another $500 million to be added later. Evidence doesn’t matter.

 

As it happened, in 2007, Mayor Bloomberg in New York City launched a merit pay plan. After a negotiation with the teachers’ union, he established a school-wide plan, so the entire school would share a bonus if scores went up. A committee at each school would decide how to divvy up the money. The program was ended in 2010 after the RAND Corporation concluded it made no difference. So just a few months ago, Mayor Bloomberg announced that he would create a new merit pay program, and this one would be based on the same one that failed in Nashville.

 

Only six weeks ago, Mathematica Policy Research released a four-year study of merit pay in Chicago. It found that merit pay may have increased teacher retention rates, but made no difference in student achievement. Merit pay has an unbroken string of failures, but no one seems to care.

 

The Common Core State Standards are a centerpiece of the current push for school reform. There is no evidence about their efficacy, because they have never been implemented anywhere. They may be good, they may be bad, who knows? They may make a difference, they may make no difference. How can one judge an initiative without field trials? Would the FDA release a new drug without field trials? When I worked on history standards in California many years ago, we had an iterative process. Teachers implemented the standards and told us what was working and what wasn’t working. We learned from teachers that some material was placed in the wrong grades; some grades had too much coverage; some was too hard, and some was too easy. We made changes. Standards must evolve to remain relevant and valuable. The Common Core State Standards will be tried out simultaneously in 45 states. Someday we will have evidence to know whether they made a difference, but no such evidence exists today.

 

The corporate reform movement has strongly advocated the idea that teachers should be evaluated by the test scores of their students. Race to the Top pushed this idea, and many states have written new laws to impose it. Typically, 40-50% of a teacher’s evaluation will depend on whether their students get higher or lower test scores. Where did that number — 40-50%– come from? No one knows. Certainly the legislators in Florida and Tennessee and other states had no evidence for choosing this number. It must have come out of someone’s hat. The now conventional claim that students will learn more if their test scores are used to determine whether their teacher gets fired or promoted has very little — if any — evidence to support it.

 

I know of no district or state that can show that its schools improved because it uses value-added assessment to measure teacher quality. Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford has studied and written about this process extensively, and she says that the teacher ratings tied to value-added assessments are inaccurate, unreliable and unstable. A teacher who is rated ineffective one year is likely to be effective the next year, and vice versa. She reports that Houston fired its Teacher of the Year. She says that those who teach special education students and English language learners are likely to get lower ratings.

 

In January, the New York City Department of Education took the bold step of releasing the ratings of thousands of teachers to the media, in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit. Teachers in grades 4-8 were given a single number from 1-100. The Department warned that the margin of error was huge: 35 points in math, and 53 points in English Language Arts. A teacher of math rated at the 50th percentile might actually be at the 15th percentile or the 85th percentile, while a teacher of reading might be at the -3rd percentile or the +103rd percentile.

 

Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post published a story and a picture of a teacher identified as “the worst teacher in New York City.” Reporters camped outside her door, and she had to call the police to get them away. They went to her father’s home and said, “Do you know your daughter is the worst teacher in the city?” It turned out that the woman teaches English to new immigrant students who cycle in and out of her class all year. The scores were meaningless.

 

Gary Rubinstein, who teaches math at Stuyvesant High School, dug down into the ratings and determined that there was no correlation in the same teacher’s rating from year to year; that there was no correlation if the teacher taught the same subject in different grades; and that there was no correlation between a teacher who taught both reading and math. That raises the interesting question of whether the same teacher might get a bonus in one subject and fired in the other.

 

In 2010, the Los Angeles Times blazed a new trail in creating value-added ratings and publishing them for all to see. At the time, many researchers — including prominent economists who support value-added assessment — criticized the public release of the ratings. They asked how a teacher could be expected to improve if there was no confidentiality in their conversation with their supervisor. But the Los Angeles Times was proud of what it had done.

 

The best commentary about the misuse of value-added assessment — and the public release of these ratings — came from mathematician John Ewing, who is now president of Math for America. Ewing described value-added modeling as “mathematical intimidation,” where data are employed to create an appearance of objectivity where none exists. He wrote, “Most of those promoting value-added modeling are ill-equipped to judge either its effectiveness or its limitations. Some of those who are equipped make extravagant claims without much detail, reassuring us that someone has checked into our concerns and we shouldn’t worry. Value-added modeling is promoted because it has the right pedigree — because it is based on ‘sophisticated mathematics.’ As a consequence, mathematics that ought to be used to illuminate ends up being used to intimidate. When that happens, mathematicians have a responsibility to speak out.”

 

The newspaper, said Ewing, gave the customary caution that teachers should be judged by multiple measures, but its own ratings relied only on standardized test scores. The reporters concluded that experience, education and training had nothing to do with a teacher’s ability to raise test scores. The Times identified an elementary school teacher who was National Board Certified, had written a textbook and had glowing reviews from her principal. Based on the Times methodology, she was identified in print as a bad teacher. When the reporters confronted her, she asked them what she could do to improve. Ewing described this shameful encounter between the journalists and a teacher as reminiscent of the browbeating that occurred during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

 

Certainly teachers should be evaluated, but there is no evidence that changes in student test scores are an appropriate measure of teacher quality, and there is quite a growing body of evidence saying that value-added modeling is fraught with complications and problems. How a teacher performs in the classroom is best determined by other professionals and not by test scores and not by legislators and politicians. The best evaluation systems involve an experienced principal and experienced peer reviewers, like the one now in use in Montgomery County, Maryland. Non-educators look for a simple metric, but there is no simple metric to gauge teacher quality. As any test expert will tell you, tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were designed. A test of fifth grade reading measures whether students are reading at a fifth grade reading level, not teacher quality.

 

The main result of the corporate reform movement, of No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top seems to be the massive demoralization of teachers. The Metlife Survey of the American Teachers, released a few weeks ago, found a dramatic decline in teachers’ job satisfaction since 2009, from 59% to 44%. It also reported that nearly a third of teachers say they are thinking of quitting. This would be a disaster.

 

It is not just the particulars of the corporate reform movement that are shaky. The basic premise of the corporate reform movement — the claim that American education is declining and in crisis — is factually wrong.

 

Do schools need to improve? Of course they do, but the crisis narrative is exaggerated.

 

The latest federal data for dropouts — fall 2011 — show that graduation rates for people between the ages of 18 and 24 are at the highest point since they were first recorded in 1972, for whites, blacks, and Hispanics, for low-income, middle-income and high-income groups. Surely they should be higher than they are now, but they are not declining and they are not at a crisis point. We won’t raise them by adding more tests and making school less engaging but by giving students the experiences and tools that encourage them to stay in school and receive a diploma.

 

What about those terrible international test scores? We are only in the middle; shouldn’t we be number one? We have not declined from first place; we were never in first place.

 

When the first tests were administered in the mid-1960s, twelve nations participated; we came in twelfth out of twelve, dead last. Over the past 50 years, we have typically scored in the bottom quartile or no better than average. Yet, somehow our nation grew and prospered and became the largest economy on the earth. Maybe those scores are not predictors of our economic future.

 

But there’s another point to consider. The latest international assessment, the Program on International Student Assessment or PISA was released in December 2010. It showed that American schools where less than 10% of the students are poor were first in the world, with scores higher than those of Finland, South Korea, and Japan. In American schools where 25% of the students are poor, scores were equal to those of the highest performing nations. As the proportion of poor students rises, the test scores fall. If we reduced poverty, we would see scores rise across the board.

 

Last year, I wrote an article in the New York Times about politicians who made claims about “miracle schools.” They pointed to schools that had seen truly incredible gains in test scores in only a year or two and to schools where, they said, despite abject poverty, nearly 100% of the students graduated and went to college. One school in an impoverished neighborhood in New York City saw its proficiency rate jump from 34% in one year to 83% the next year. In other schools, the transformation occurred by firing the principal, replacing the staff, and starting over. When you do this, said the politicians, scores go through the roof, and nearly every single graduate is accepted into college.

 

The subtext of these claims was that it wasn’t necessary to do anything about poverty because the right kind of school could overcome poverty.

 

I enlisted two allies — Gary Rubinstein, the brilliant high school math teacher I cited earlier and Noel Hammatt, a researcher in Louisiana, to analyze the miracle schools. We learned that the remarkably high graduation rates were the result of high attrition rates, and that students were graduating from miracle schools with remarkably low scores on state tests. In one miracle school in Chicago, the students’ test scores were lower than those of the average Chicago public school. The school whose scores had jumped by 49 points in one year saw an equally steep decline in their test scores in the next few years. A Miami high school hailed as a successful turnaround in 2010 was targeted for closure in 2011 because it had consistently failed to make AYP.

 

Why do politicians play these games? In part, they do it to prove that there are simple answers to hard questions. They do it to prove that whatever their policy is, it’s working, even if they don’t know why and even if it is not true. I guess they think no one will notice and the press won’t ask probing questions.

 

A 49-point jump in test scores should be grounds for skepticism, not celebration. And no one has yet explained the magic that happens simply by firing everyone in a school and starting over. And no one, to my knowledge, has yet found a school where 95% of the students are poor, yet 95% graduate and 90% who graduate go to college. To think that schools can cure all the ills of society defies not only evidence but the experience of other nations that have gone to great lengths to make sure that all children are healthy and well-nourished.

 

Of course, schools provide a route out of poverty, but they are not all by themselves an anti-poverty program. The great sociologist W.E.B. DuBois said in 1935 that schools can teach necessary academic skills but they cannot create jobs or furnish homes or cure the ills of society.

 

There is something to be said for evidence. One piece of missing evidence in current school reform efforts is the major study produced a year ago by a 17-member panel of social scientists assembled by the National Research Council. The study was called “Incentives and Test-Based Accountability.” It concluded that tying bonuses and punishments to test scores is a failed strategy. It said that this approach leads to score inflation, gaming the system and teaching to the test. Our policymakers have chosen to ignore the findings of this distinguished panel of social scientists.

 

So, I conclude with a simple plea: We need evidence-based decision-making and evidence-based policy. We must be guided by knowledge, not by ideology. We must recognize what schools can do and must do, and what social policy must accomplish. We must seek to improve our schools in ways that support the work of educators and avoid policies intended to frighten them into compliance.

 

I see four straightforward lessons as I review the research about educational change:

 

First, the most successful nations in the world, such as Finland, South Korea, and Japan, have built strong public school systems, not systems with large degrees of private management.

 

Second, the most successful nations in the world have diligently improved the education profession, by requiring that recruitment into teaching is rigorous, that preparation to teach is intensive, and that support is available for those who are in the classroom. They have principals who are master teachers, and superintendents who are experienced educators.

 

Third, the most successful nations in the world take care to ensure that all students have a balanced and rich curriculum that include not only reading and mathematics, but the arts, history, civics, foreign languages, science, and physical education.

 

Fourth, the most successful nations in the world pay attention to the health and welfare of children, families and communities.

 

And so I call upon you as mathematicians to help your students think clearly. Help our politicians and policymakers analyze what works and what doesn’t work. Use your skills of analysis and logical thinking to change the narrative that is tearing down public education.

 

Write, blog, speak up, join with others to stop the assault on the public sector, on which 90% of our nation’s students depend. Stand up for professionalism, stand up for your students, and stand up for the future of public education.

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