How DC’s Black, White, and Hispanic Students Compare With Each Other on the NAEP Over the Past 20 Years

I will present here four graphs and tables showing how DC’s three main ethnic/racial groups performed on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in math and reading at the 4th and 8th grade levels, as far back as I could find data on the NAEP Data Explorer web page. This time, I will compare the average scale scores for each group with each other.

4th grade naep reading, DC's W, B, H

The vertical, dashed, purple line in the middle of the graph shows the division between the era when we DC citizens could elect our own school board (to the left) and the era when the mayor had unilateral control over education, which he or she implemented by appointing a Chancellor and a Deputy Mayor for Education. That change occurred right after the end of school in 2007.

If direct mayoral control of education in DC were such a wonderful reform, then you would see those lines for black and hispanic students start going sharply up and to the right after they passed that purple line.

I see no such dramatic change. Do you? In fact, do you see any change in trends at all?

In fact, for both white and Hispanic fourth-graders, the average scale score in 2017 is slightly LOWER than it was in 2007.

For black 4th graders, there has been an increase in scores since 2007, but those scores were also increasing before 2007. In fact, if we start at 1998 and go to 2007, the average scale score in reading for black students went from 174 to 192, which is an increase of 18 points in 9 years, or about 2.0 points per year. If we follow the same group  from 2007 to 2017, their scores went from 192 to 207, which is an increase of 15 points in 10 years. Divide those two numbers and you get a rate of increase of 1.5 points per year.

That’s worse.

Not better.

(Anybody familiar with Washington, DC knows that there is essentially no working-class white population inside the city limits — they all moved away during the 1950s, 60s and 70s rather than live in integrated or expensive neighborhoods. A very large fraction of the white families still living in DC have either graduate or professional degrees (lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc.). I  don’t know of any other city in the US which has shed its entire white working class. We know from all educational research that parental education and income are extremely strong influences on how their children perform on standardized tests (because that’s how the tests are constructed). White children in DC, as a result, whether they attend regular public schools, charter schools, or private schools, are the highest-performing group of white students of any state or city for which we have statistics.)


Was There Any Progress in 8th Grade Math on the NAEP in DC or Elsewhere?

The answer is, basically, no.

You can see for yourself. This time I am posting a graph and table for average math NAEP scale scores for 8th graders who were black, Hispanic, or white. Honestly, they show that billions of dollars spent in dubious schemes such as having students spend an enormous fraction of the school year doing test prep, firing teachers based on students’ test scores (either their own students or those whom they’ve never met) and turning over much of our public educational system over to billionaires and profiteers — it’s all been a failure. Based on their own yardstick — test scores.

Here are the graphs. Read them and either weep or get determined to do something better about this ‘reformster’ charade.

8th grade math naep black students 1996-2017

8th grade math naep hispanic students 1996-2917

8th grade math Naep scores, white students, 1996-2017

Why is it that we keep on testing?

The only actual impact it’s had has been to distort education in a top-down manner, and that’s not exactly a good thing, as Peter Greene points out at Curmudgucation.

A few excerpts, concerning the reasons we were given for all this testing, and how that excuse turned out:

Address Inequity

We would find where non-wealthy non-white student populations were being ill-served. Anyone who can’t figure that out without the BS Test is a dope. And as with the last point, the problem has been that the data hasn’t so much been used to find schools that need help as it has been used to find schools that are vulnerable and ready to be turned into somebody’s business opportunity. Instead of focusing our will to address educational inequity, test-based accountability has highlighted our lack of will (and wasted the good intentions of some folks).

Informing Instruction

Teachers were going to get their data spreadsheets and figure out, with laser-like precision, who they needed to change their instruction. But right off the bat it became clear that data about students in your class would only arrive long after the students had departed for their next classroom. Then the security issue reared its stupid head– I can see student scores, but I am forbidden to see the test itself. (For that matter, students who are so inclined are unable to see their specific results to ask “What exactly did I get wrong here?”) This means I can tell that Pat only got an okayish score, based on some questions that might have asked about something about reading that Pat apparently answered incorrectly. How can that inform my instruction? It can’t. It doesn’t. The BS Tests “inform instruction” mostly by encouraging teachers to spend more time on test prep. That’s not a good thing.

Letting Parents Know How Their Children Are Doing

Under this theory, parents have no idea how their children are doing in school until the BS Test results appear. Assuming for the moment that the parents are that disconnected, the information provided is minimal, scoring a few categories on a 1-3 or 1-4 scale. A BS Test provides very non-granular data, less nuanced than a report card– and based on just one test. There is nothing for parents to learn here.”


Even Big Edu-‘Reformers’ Can See That Their Plan Has Failed

I’m cutting and pasting one of Peter Greene’s latest columns:

AEI: Voiding the Choice Warrantee

Posted: 20 Mar 2018 11:38 AM PDT

The American Enterprise Institute has a new report  that calls into question one of the foundational fallacies of the entire reform movement. Think of it as the latest entry in the Reformster Apostasy movement.

Do Impacts on Test Scores Even Matter? Lessons from Long-Run Outcomes in School Choice Research asks some important questions. We know they are important questions because some of us have been asking and answering them for twenty years.

Here are the key points as AEI lists them:

For the past 20 years, almost every major education reform has rested on a common assumption: Standardized test scores are an accurate and appropriate measure of success and failure.

This study is a meta-analysis on the effect that school choice has on educational attainment and shows that, at least for school choice programs, there is a weak relationship between impacts on test scores and later attainment outcomes.

Policymakers need to be much more humble in what they believe that test scores tell them about the performance of schools of choice: Test scores should not automatically occupy a privileged place over parental demand and satisfaction as short-term measures of school choice success or failure.

Yup. That’s just about it. The entire reformster movement is based on the premise that Big Standardized Test results are a reliable proxy for educational achievement. They are not. They never have been, and some of us have been saying so all along. Read Daniel Koretz’s book The Testing Charade: Pretending To Make Schools Better for a detailed look at how this has all gone wrong, but the short answer is that when you use narrow unvalidated badly designed tests to measure things they were never meant to measure, you end up with junk.

AEI is not the first reform outfit to question the BS Tests’ value. Jay Greene was beating this drum a year and a half ago:

But what if changing test scores does not regularly correspond with changing life outcomes?  What if schools can do things to change scores without actually changing lives?  What evidence do we actually have to support the assumption that changing test scores is a reliable indicator of changing later life outcomes?

Greene concluded that tests had no real connection to student later-in-life outcomes and were therefor not a useful tool for policy direction. Again, he was saying what teachers and other education professionals had been saying since the invention of dirt, but to no avail.

In fact, if you are of a Certain Age, you may well remember the authentic assessment movement, which declared that the only way to measure any student knowledge and skill was by having the student demonstrate something as close to the actual skill in question. IOW, if you want to see if the student can write an essay, have her write an essay. Authentic assessment frowned on multiple choice testing, because it involves a task that is not anything like any real skill we’re trying to teach. But ed reform and the cult of testing swept the authentic assessment movement away.

Really, AEI’s third paragraph of findings is weak sauce. “Policymakers should be much more humble” about test scores? No, they should be apologetic and remorseful that they ever foisted this tool on education and demanded it be attached to stern consequences, because in doing so the wrought a great deal of damage on US education. “Test scores should not automatically occupy a privileged place…”? No, test scores should automatically occupy a highly unprivileged place. They should be treated as junk unless and until someone can convincingly argue otherwise.

But I am reading into this report a wholesale rejection of the BS Test as a measure of student, teacher, or school success, and that’s not really what AEI is here to do. This paper is focused on school choice programs, and it sets out to void the warrantee on school choice as a policy.

Choice fans, up to and including education secretary Betsy DeVos, have pitched choice in terms of its positive effects on educational achievement. As DeVos claimed, the presence of choice will not even create choice schools that outperform public schools, but the public schools themselves will have their performance elevated. The reality, of course, is that it simply doesn’t happen.The research continues to mount that vouchers, choice, charters– none of them significantly move the needle on school achievement. And “educational achievement” and “school achievement” all really only mean one thing– test scores.

Choice was going to guarantee higher test scores. They have had years and years to raise test scores. They have failed. If charters and choice were going to usher in an era of test score awesomeness, we’d be there by now. We aren’t.

So what’s a reformster to do?

Simple. Announce that test scores don’t really matter. That’s this report.

There are several ways to read this report, depending on your level of cynicism. Take your pick.

Hardly cynical at all. Reformsters have finally realized what education professionals have known all along– that the BS Tests are a lousy measure of educational achievement. They, like others before them,  may be late to enlightenment, but at least they got there, so let’s welcome them and their newly-illuminated light epiphanic light bulbs.

Kind of Cynical. Reformsters are realizing that the BS Tests are hurting the efforts to market choice, and so they are trying to shed the test as a measure of choice success because it clearly isn’t working and they need reduce the damage to the choice brand being done.

Supremely Cynical. Reformsters always knew that the BS Test was a sham and a fraud, but it was useful for a while, just as Common Core was in its day. But just as Common Core was jettisoned as a strategic argument when it was no longer useful, the BS Test will now be tossed aside like a used-up Handi Wipe. The goal of free market corporate reformsters has always been to crack open the vast funding egg of public education and make it accessible to free marketeers with their education-flavored business models. Reformsters would have said that choice clears up your complexion and gives you a free pony if they thought it would sell the market based business model of schooling, and they’ll continue to say– or stop saying– anything as long as it helps break up public ed and makes the pieces available for corporate use.

Bottom line. Having failed to raise BS Test scores, some reformsters would now like to promote the entirely correct idea that BS Tests are terrible measures of school success, and so, hey, let’s judge choice programs some other way. I would add, hey, let’s judge ALL schools some other way, because BS Testing is the single most toxic legacy of modern ed reform.

What A Joke DC Education Chancellor Kaya Henderson Was – City Paper

Very detailed article in the Washington City Paper showing how our recently-resigned Chancellor, Kaya Henderson, failed to do much of anything to narrow DC’s extremely-high gap between high-achieving and low-achieving students, even though she had oodles of money, complete control over resources, and the ability to fire teachers and administrators almost at will.

As I have shown repeatedly (see here, here, here, here, and here for starters. Or else here) DC has the widest gap of the entire USA between the scores of poor kids vs the non-poor, between white kids and black or hispanic kids, and between those in Special Ed and those who are not. This article shows how the Henderson and Rhee administrations failed to do pretty much anything to improve conditions at schools where there were large concentrations of ‘at risk’ kids, other than saying that by some miracle, they would improve scores by 40 percentage points at all of the schools where 40% of the kids were ‘at risk’.

(A quote from the article: ‘ “No school in the history of time has achieved such goals,” counters a D.C. Council staffer familiar with DCPS school reform. “On its face, the concept of this as a reachable goal was ridiculous.” ‘)

And of course, it never happened. No extra resources, and no miraculous gains.

But according to the article, Kaya has an excuse – just the sort of thing that she and Michelle Rhee used to berate actual, um, educators for saying:

‘ when Payne persisted with a question about Henderson’s “personal goal of closing achievement gaps,” the chancellor explained: “I am not exactly convinced that schools alone can close the achievement gap. I think about the fact that in Washington, D.C., we have the greatest income inequality in the country. That gap is only growing, and the fact that our achievement gap is growing in a similar way shouldn’t be baffling. But I think what we’ve learned is that equity is really more appropriate, giving different people different kinds of support…And for different groups and different kids that means different things.”

My friends and colleagues Elizabeth Davis and Mary Levy are quoted. It’s a long article, but well worth reading.

How Well are Charter Schools in DC Educating Students Who are Officially At-Risk?

The results may surprise you.

To answer this question, I used some recent data. I just found out that the DC City Council has begun requiring that schools enumerate the number of students who are officially At-Risk. They define this as students who are

“homeless, in the District’s foster care system, qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or high school students that are one year older, or more, than the expected age for the grade in which the students are enrolled.” (That last group is high school students who have been held back at least one time at some point in their school career.)

So, it’s a simple (but tedious) affair for me to plot the percentage of such at risk students, at each of the roughly 200 publicly-funded schools in Washington, DC, versus the average percentage of students who were proficient or advanced in math and reading on the 2014 DC-CAS.

I was rather shocked by the results. Here are my main conclusions:

1. For almost all of the schools, to get a rough idea of the percent of students passing the DC-CAS, simply subtract 90% minus the number of students ‘At-Risk’. The correlation is very, very strong.

2. There are only THREE DC charter schools with 70% or more of their students At-Risk, whereas there are THIRTY-ONE such regular public schools. So much for the idea that the charter schools would do a better job of educating the hardest-to-reach students (the homeless, those on food stamps, those who have already failed one or more grades, etc).

3. The only schools that have more than 90% of their students ‘passing’ the DC-CAS standardized tests remain, to this day, the small handful of schools in relatively-affluent upper Northwest DC with relatively high percentages of white and Asian students..(Unless you include Sharpe Health school, where students who cannot feed or dress themselves or hold a pencil are somehow deemed ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’ by methods I can only guess at…)

4. As I’ve indicated before, it appears that for the most part, DC’s charter schools are mostly enrolling smaller percentages of At-Risk, high-poverty students but higher fractions of the students in the middle of the wealth/family-cohesion spectrum than the regular DC public schools. There are a few exceptions among the charter schools: BASIS, Yu Ying, Washington Latin and a few others are succeeding in attracting families and students at the high end of the socio-economic and academic scales.

5. It looks like we are now turning into a tripartite school system: one for affluent and well-educated familes (relatively high fractions of whites and Asians; mostly but not all in regular Ward 3 public schools); one for those in the middle (mostly blacks and hispanics, many enrolled in charter schools), and one for those at the seriously low end of the socio-economic spectrum, overwhelmingly African-American, largely At Risk, and mostly in highly-segregated regular public schools.

Very, very sad.

Here is the graph that sums it all up. Click on it to see a larger version.

bicolor, at risk vs average dc cas 2014 proficiency, both regular public and charter, dc

In blue we have the regular public schools of Washington DC for which I have DC-CAS data for 2014, from grades 3 through 8 and grade 10. In red we have the privately-run but publicly-funded charter schools. Along the horizontal axis, we have the percentage of students who are officially At Risk as defined by the DC CIty Council. Along the vertical axis, we have the average percentage of students who scored ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’ in math and reading on the DC-CAS at those schools. The green line is the line of best fit as calculated by Excel. Notice that the data points pretty much follow that green line, slanting down and to the right.

To nobody’s surprise, at both the charter and regular public schools, on the whole, the greater the percentage of students at a school who are At Risk, the smaller the percentage of students who ‘pass’ the DC-CAS standardized tests.

The colors do help us see that at the far right-hand end of the graph, there are lots of blue dots and only a small number of red ones. This means that the vast majority of schools with high percentages of At Risk students are regular DC public schools. You could interpret that to mean that parents in more stable families in those neighborhoods are fleeing from what they see as the bad influence of potential classmates who are extremely poor, homeless, have already repeated a grade, and so on, and are flocking to charter schools who have the freedom to expel or ‘counsel out’ such students and to impose a relatively strict behavior code that the DC Council forbids the regular public schools from using. (Their latest initiative is to forbit ALL out-of-school suspensions, no matter what…)

Dots that are above the slanted green line supposedly represent schools that are doing a better job at teaching to the tests than would be predicted by the At-Risk status alone. Dots below the line are doing a worse job than would be predicted. Notice that there are dots of both colors both above and below the line.


I wish to thank the indefatigable Mary Levy for collecting and passing on this data. You can find the original data source at the OSSE website, but I’ve saved the larger table (all 2008-2014 DC-CAS data) on Google Drive at this link. I took the average of the percentage of students ‘passing’ the DC-CAS in math and in reading as the proficiency rate. The note on the at-risk data table reads as follows:

Data Source: SY2013-14 student-level data from OSSE. The list includes DCPS traditional, DCPS citywide specialized, DCPS selective schools, and public charter schools, but excludes any DCPS or public charter adult education or alternative school. The definition of at risk students includes students who are homeless, in the District’s foster care system, qualify for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or high school students that are one year older, or more, than the expected age for the grade in which the students are enrolled.

My Predictions for the 2014 DC-CAS Scores

Sometime this month, the Mayor of DC and the Chancellor of the DC Public Schools will make some sort of announcement on how DC public and charter school students did on the DC-CAS (Comprehensive Assessment System) – the test required by Federal law to be given to every single kid in grades 3 through 8 and in grade 10.

I don’t have a crystal ball, and I haven’t developed any sources willing to risk their jobs by leaking the results to me in advance, but I can make a few predictions:

1. If the results look bad, they will be released right before a holiday or a weekend (a basic public-relations tactic that all public officials learn).

2. If the scores as a whole look good, or if there is some part of the trends that look good, that will be highlighted heavily.

3. There won’t be much of a correlation between the trends on the DC-CAS scores and the National Assessment of Ednucational Progress, which has been measuring student achievement in grades 4 and 8 in reading and math since the 1970s by giving a carefully-selected sample of students in DC and across the nation a variety of different test items in math, reading, and a number of other areas.

4. Even though the DC-CAS results won’t be released to the public for a couple more weeks, clearly DCPS officials and Mathematica staff already have them; they have been firing teachers and principals and “adjusting” – with the benefit of hindsight – the rest of their evaluations to fit the DC-CAS scores and the magic secret formula called “Value Added Magic Measurement”.

You may ask, how can GFBrandenburg predict not much of a match between the DC-CAS and the NAEP?

By looking at the track record, which I will share with you.

I present the average scores of all DC students on both the DC-CAS and on the NAEP over the past quarter-century. The NAEP scores for the District of Columbia have either been pretty steady or have been rising slightly.

As far as I can tell, the statisticians at the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) who design, administer, and score the NAEP do a fine job of

A. making sure that there is no cheating by either students or adults,

B.  making up good questions that measure important topics, and

C. gathering, collating, and reporting the data in an honest manner.

On the DC -CAS, however, we have had many documented cases of cheating (see point A), I have shown that many of the questions are ridiculous and don’t measure what we teachers were supposed to be teaching (see point B), and I hope to show you that whatever they are doing with the scores does not seem to be trustworthy.

Exhibit number one is a graph where I plot the average scale scores of the students in Washington DC on both the NAEP and on the DC-CAS for fourth grade math:

naep + dccas 4th grade math comparison

Allow me to explain.

The bottom blue curve is what DC’s fourth-graders average scale scores were on the NAEP starting in 1992 and going on through 2013. As you can see, since 1996, there has been what appears like more-or-less steady improvement.

(It is very hard, in fact, to see much of a difference in trends before mayoral control over the DC schools and after that time. I drew a vertical black line to separate the ‘Pre-Rhee” era from the “Post-Rhee” era, since Michelle Rhee was the very first Chancellor installed in the DC schools, after the annual tests were given in 2007.)

(As noted,  the NAEP scale scores go from 0 to 500, but the DC-CAS scores go from 0 to 100. I decided that the easiest way to have them both fit on the same graph would simply be to divide the NAEP scores by 5. The actual reported NAEP scores are in the little table, if you want to examine them for yourself. You can double-check my numbers by looking around at the NAEP and DC OSSE websites — which are unfortunately not easy to navigate, so good luck, and be persistent! You will also find that some years have two different scores reported, which is why I put those double asterisks at a couple of places on those curves.)

But here’s what’s really suspicious: the DC-CAS scores, shown in red, seem to jump around wildly and appear to show tremendous progress overall but also utterly un-heralded drops.

Which is it?

Slow, steady progress since 1996, or an amazing jump as soon as Wonder Woman Rhee comes on the scene?

In my opinion, I’d much rather trust the feds on this. We know that there has been all sorts of hanky-panky with the DC-CAS, as repeatedly documented in many places. I know for a fact that we math teachers have been changing the ways that we teach, to be more in line with the 1989 NCTM standards and the ways that math is tested on the NAEP. It’s also the case that there has been significant gentrification in DC, with the proportion of white kids with highly educated parents rising fairly steadily.

Slow improvement in math scores, going back a quarter of a century, makes sense.

Wild jumps don’t seem reasonable to me at all.

On the contrary, besides the known mass cheating episodes, it almost seems like DC education officials get together with McGraw-Hill CTB, which manufactures the DC-CAS, and decide how they want to get the scores to come out. THEN they decide which questions to count and which ones NOT to count, and what the cut-off scores will be for ‘advanced’, ‘proficient’ and so on.

Next time: 8th grade math; and 4th and 8th grade reading.


Links to my other articles on this:

Part One  (fourth grade math)— this one right here

Part Two (8th grade math)

Part Three (all reading)

Test Scores

You may have noticed that while we were told that DC’s local NCLB/RTTT test scores went up a little bit this year, we were also told that NYState’s and city local NCLB/RTTT test scores went down tremendously.


What gives?

Both systems and city schools have been under the sway of charter-school privatizers and DEformistas for many years now. There has been an unbelievable, unprecedented turnover in the national cohort of school teachers. The DEformistas and privatizers have been dictating policy. The Deformistas (and their billionaire backers) ARE the educational establishment, and they have themselves hired the vast majority of teachers here in DC and NY.

So how come scores are supposedly way down in one place and a tiny up in the other?

The ‘old school’ type of allegedly “union-stifled” education is out: Big Data and Big Billionaires Rule, and have been doing so for some years now, with mostly brand-new teachers, but with kids who are not so different from their slightly older siblings and cousins and community members….

Plus they instituted Common Core, which is supposed to bring about more creative thinking in our teachers and students.
However, my friends who are still teaching tell me that their principals and other administrators require that each teacher follow a very strict, regimented script that allows for no creativity at all. Every single thought, every single teacher question, and every other detail that teachers are supposed to do, is spelled out. And, of course, the kids had better be able to follow the same script by answering the idiotic, long-winded test items correctly, if the teachers want to keep their jobs.

(But as far as I or others can actually see, the test questions given to the kids don’t really make a lot of sense; and the checklists and rubrics for judging teachers follow one particular philosophy and have never been shown to make any actual difference in the classroom; nobody has ever done any field tests to make sure the curriculum, the methodology of the pedagogy, or the test items have any reliability or validity in the field. All this allegedly ‘data driven’ verbiage has virtually no connection to how actual people learn and teach.

The new type of educrat and consultant has the pretty cross-linked chats, and the extremely high salaries, even though some of them still have trouble with percents. Nonetheless, a few of them have figured out some complicated ways of putting numbers on stuff and grinding that through formulas that obfuscate rather than clarify, resulting in a number they can use to fire or blame or give rewards. However, if the number doesn’t come out the way they like it, then they cheat and change it or hide it or make stuff up (one of Michelle Rhee’s specialties).

If it does come out favorably, then it gets trumpeted in all the media.

Another point of similarity between NY and DC: in both cases they have a new test this year. Which means it is at best very hard to compare scores of one test to the next. However, we members of the public are dependent on what they let us see. We can’t see the questions, are not told the actual number of correct answers,nor what the cutoff scores are, and so on.*

So much for actual “data”.  Just as with the federal government, under both Republicrat or Democan state or local or national leadership, more and more real important stuff is hidden while we are bombarded with trivial junk of all sorts. (Why do I have to be visually bombarded by mewspapers and magazines with pictures of the British monarchy or various movie star scandals every time I go walk down the street or get food at a store or visit a doctor or dentist, while at the same time the data resource people at DC’s OSSE doesn’t return phone calls? Or if I watch most TV channelse?

To me the most interesting thing is this:

1. The DEformistas like Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, Mayor Bloomberg and Wendy Kopp (of KIPP fame) and the Koch brothers and the Walton family have been claiming for quite some time that if they were able to gut the teacher union’s mighty powers and implement their policies (including mostly at first firing teachers and lots of tests but now including micro scripted and deadening curricula) then there was no boundary of excellence we would reach. We oiuld have 90% of the students reach the 90 th percentile at schools that were 90% poor and 90% minority (just the way Michelle Rhee pretended had happened in her classroom). They have set up those charter and voucher programs. They have showered money on the people in charge because of their excellence.

2. None of the rosy scenarios have actually come true.


I still haven’t answered ‘what’s up’ with the NYC and DC scores. Here is an interesting fact. KIPP is supposed to be pretty-much a teacher-proof school of excellence. They are rigid, they have doctrines and rules of excellence and data and standards that all teachers must follow. In NYC their scores collapsed this year, worse than in the regular public schools , according to Gary Rubenstein, but in DC they rose to I think their highest level.

Is the DC kipp so different from the NYC kipp Kopp operation?

Or is it more likely that the big difference is the tests and scoring systems — which are kept from us?

My conclusion: for qwhatever reason, the test makers and graders the stupid NYC test harder and the DC test a little easier this year. While following almost identical policies in both cities.

NYC scores go down a lot. DC scores go up a bit.

And then they blame the teachers.

In any case, these data are:
# unreliable

# inconsistent

# invalid.

# do show that the promises of the DEformistas have utterly failed.


* Keep in mind that anyone leaking test items to the public would be risking his/her job and fines and jail time. Not risking being placed in solitary or tortured or hunted into exile or called traitors like Manning or Snowden * but the penalties for test leaking are serious and are enforced. Unlike the penalties for illegally firing people, which are weak and essentially never enforced.  I think that Manning and Snowden are imperfect but brave heroes.

Published in: on August 9, 2013 at 12:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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OPTING OUT: One Way to Combat the Corporate Take-Over of Public Schools

Many parents of school children understand that the weeks and weeks of standardized testing being foisted on the public schools by both Republican and Democratic federal and state administrations are an utter waste of time and money. These tests provide no useful information, but they do so at an enormous cost. The tests have zero import to the students’ career and are being used merely as an excuse to rip the guts out of public education via a number of clever schemes cooked up in various think-tanks funded by billionaires – not by skilled, trained, accomplished veteran educators.
(It’s also the case that most kids finish the tests in a small fraction of the time allotted, and must sit there silently, not reading, not even drawing or writing or singing or sleeping, for the rest of the time, bored out of their skulls. And the questions themselves? Please — they are written by unskilled temps for minimum wage, and it shows. The questions do not come close to ‘measuring’ anything useful to anyone.)
(What’s more: We all know that the children of the hedge-fund managers, billionaires, and politicians who foisted this testing regime on us, both Republicrat or Democan, pay serious tuition every year so that their own children actually get a REAL education that involves sports, arts & crafts, drama, projects, foreign languages, real math & science & social studies & creative writing and much more — but NO week-long standardized testing sessions repeated multiple times per year. No, that sort of useless testing regime is solely reserved for kids who can only afford public schools, regular OR charter. And if the students are mostly black or brown, they might ONLY get “English” and “Math” that is nothing more than test prep, for huge fractions of the school year – whether they are in a charter school or a regular public school. And the results track the parental income and education levels with an amazing degree of accuracy — the correlation is close to 100%. Anybody with any life or educational experience could have predicted that: the more educated and wealthy the parents, the better the children do in school, in any country on earth, and vice versa. Duh.)
A number of parents in various places (but not enough IMO), even in Texas, are beginning to rebel. Entire school boards, and even superintendents of county school districts or principals, or entire faculties of some schools, are saying enough is enough. Bob Schaeffer has a lot of information on this. I think this is something that Tea Partiers and old lefties like myself can agree on.
I would like to encourage parents in Chevy Chase and in Brookland to OPT OUT.*
In principle, opting out here in DC and neighboring counties is simple:
1. Look at the school calendar.
2. On those mornings where your children will be otherwise wasting their time doing the DC-CAS or DC-BAS or whatever acronym they are using this year, you simply don’t send your kid to school until the testing is over.
3. When they come to school, mid-day, they come with a note from home explaining why.
4. Or, if you prefer, you can send the note beforehand, explaining why you are opting out, and get into good discussions with your children’s teachers and administrators, and your child can discuss it (or not) with his/her classmates.
However, one big problem obviously remains:
What do the kids do instead of going to school on those days?
Sitting home playing video games is not such a wonderful idea. Kids do too much of that already, and their social and physical skills are not getting the stimuli they need.
It occurs to me that more parents would opt out of testing if they had some interesting and organized thing that their children could do during those mornings.
Opting-Out activities would NOT have last all day long, but they WOULD need to be organized.
If parents (and others) could get it together, their children, the opting-out students, could:
1. Play outdoor, organized games (volleyball, soccer, softball, basketball, what-have-you) or
2. Go on field trips or hikes or bike trips of all kinds:
a. the Zoo
b. here in DC we have loads of free museums on science, history, art, and much more
c. go watch courtroom trials or debates on the Senate or House floors
d. nature walks
e. bike to Great Falls or Little Falls or Hains Point or whatever
f. visit parks and historic sites…
3. Plant or tend vegetable or flower gardens
4. Make stuff (an accurate scale model of our solar system, using a kickball or volleyball for the sun, will prompt a nearly mile-long walk, each way…)
5. Make art, music
6. Improvise or read skits/plays
7. Do hands-on math and science
8. Make music
9. Go canoeing…
Exactly the stuff that kids are very seldom allowed to do in public schools any more.
[I’m not exaggerating: at some charter schools I have visited, the children are essentially locked into a single room from 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM, only leaving to go to the bathroom or to pick up packaged lunches out in the hallway. What are they training the kids for? Life in the Big House?]
If any group of parents feels like doing this, I am hereby volunteering to help out, gratis. As a retired, 30-year veteran, award-winning DCPS math teacher** with a grandchild on the way this summer, my pension is adequate (not a golden parachute, but we eat ok and pay the mortgage) so I’m not doing this to earn extra cash. I help run a similar, science-oriented, program on Saturdays called “First Light”, housed at the Carnegie Institution for Science at 15th and P Sts NW, so I know more than a little about such interesting, active, hands-on opportunities.
If we succeed in organizing this, parental help would be needed so that the student : adult ratio would at most five to one. We would need to coordinate transportation back to the various schools after the end of testing for that day. Other things to decide on: what to do about lunches, snacks, and breakfasts, release forms, legal clearances, and so on.
*I pick those two locations because I went to JHS, and later taught math, and still run a telescope making class, in Chevy Chase, and I’ve lived for 30 years in Brookland, where my wife and I raised our kids — who went all the way through DCPS and are productive and innovative, college-educated citizens, thank you very much (not hedge fund managers or other sorts of parasites).
**Photos of a pile of those awards (for me and my students) available on request. One of my teams even got mentioned in the Congressional Record by our non-voting DC delegate!
Published in: on March 17, 2013 at 2:53 pm  Comments (1)  
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Two good cartoons on education

I will post these without comment.

no comment



Any teachers, students, or parents care to comment?

Published in: on February 24, 2013 at 7:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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