"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bracey Once More Debunks the "Schools Suck" Bloc of Ed Reformers

Even though the achievement levels established for the NAEP have been discredited by the "Government Accountability Office; the National Academy of Sciences; the National Academy of Education; and the Center for Research on Evaluation, Student Standards and Testing," the fear mongerers and privatizers have continued to point to American student scores on NAEP as proof that American schools are going to hell in a handbasket.

Bracey has some new findings that may bring Gates, Broad, and their 60 million dollar gas bag back to earth. From WaPo:

. . . .By comparing the results of foreign students and American students on tests administered in both nations, and then examining the American students' scores on the U.S. NAEP, it is possible to reliably estimate how well foreign students would perform on the NAEP.

And it turns out that only one-third of those high-flying Swedish kids would be considered proficient readers; the NAEP figure for U.S. fourth-graders was 29 percent. The great majority of the remaining countries would have fewer proficient students than the United States. Using the NAEP standard, no country comes close to having a majority of proficient readers.

Under the NAEP standard, Singapore is the only nation in the world to have a majority of its students be proficient in science, and that by a scant 1 percent. Only a handful of countries would have a majority of students proficient in mathematics.

All those august organizations have rejected the NAEP achievement levels because the process is confusing to the people who try to set the levels and because the results are inconsistent: Children can't answer questions they should be able to and can answer questions they shouldn't be able to. The levels also give what the National Academy of Sciences called "unreasonable" results, including the fact that only 29 percent of U.S. fourth-graders were considered proficient or better by NAEP, yet America ranked third among 26 participating nations.

Other evidence is easy to come by. In 2000, 2.7 percent of American high school seniors scored 3 or better -- the score at which colleges begin to grant credit for the course -- on Advanced Placement calculus. Almost 8 percent of seniors (including those who did not take the test) scored above 600 on the math SAT; nearly a quarter (24 percent) of those who took it scored over 600. Yet NAEP said that only 1.5 percent of the nation's seniors reached its "advanced" level.

So why does the government continue to report such misleading information? The "Leaders and Laggards" report illustrates why: The numbers are useful as scare techniques. If you can batter people into believing the schools are in awful shape, you can make them anxious about their future -- and you can control them.

In the 1980s, the "schools suck" bloc used such numbers to make us fearful that Japan, now emerging from a 15-year period of recession and stagnation, was going to take our markets; today, India and China play the role of economic ogres.

Recently, Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in The Post that constant references to a "war on terror" "stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of policies they want to pursue." Happens all the time in education. The most recent phony alarm comes from Eli Broad and Bill Gates, who are putting up $60 million hoping to "wake up the American people." If the fear-mongers can scare you sufficiently (how many times have you heard the phrase "failing schools" in the past five years?), you might permit them to do to your public schools things you would otherwise never allow.


  1. Great post!

    This disturbing revelation is at the very core of today's deadly Threat to Public Education.

    Thanks again, Jim.

  2. Anonymous2:54 PM

    Man this is truly an eye opener, idk i was in a state of "hum, whats wrong with our schools?" idk i was rather lost on it thank you for this nifty shizzz i'm totally rethinking my original thoughts on this topic.