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

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Jeb's Legacy: Testing Parlor Tricks and Fraudulent Test Scores

Palm Beach Post Staff Columnist

Friday, May 25, 2007

To: All believers

From: The Jeb Bush Legacy Disaster Response Team

Subject: FCAT under attack!

Bad news, disciples. The FCAT's out of the bag on last year's third-grade reading scores.

In case you haven't heard the news, our historic success in third-grade literacy has been exposed as a testing parlor trick.

What an outrage - that somebody would make this unscripted public disclosure. How dare they attempt to tarnish an education plan that has already been self-graded as an A-plus-plus!

Why do they hate education so much?

This would have never happened if Jeb's team was left in place for legacy protection. But the purpose of this memo isn't to lament about the past. It's to spring into action, so we can protect the future.

The first order of business is to distance Jeb from those fraudulent reading scores from last year.

This won't be easy, because he made a point of citing the bogus results as evidence that standardized testing works. So we'll be busy erasing his tracks on this.

Start by shredding. If we can get rid of all the evidence, it may be possible to pretend that Jeb was never very impressed at all with the inflated results that three-quarters of the state's third-graders were reading at or above grade level.

Begin by rounding up copies of the May 1 press release Florida's Department of Education issued last year. It features Jeb and his Education Commissioner John Winn crowing about the reading gains as "the largest number in state history."

Jeb is quoted: "What an outstanding year of progress for our third-grade students and teachers. They deserve five gold stars."

If we're unsuccessful in destroying evidence of that news release, our fallback position will be spin control.

We can say that Jeb quoted himself out of context. And that what he meant to say was: "They deserve five gold stars if it turns out they actually took a fair test and not one engineered with so many simple questions that satisfactory performance in reading among third-graders jumped up by more than the three previous years combined."

Jeb also credited the dramatic gains in test scores to his statewide reading program, Just Read, Florida!, which began in 2001.

"We're shattering myths again," he said. "I think we're proving we're a state where all kids can learn."

In your revision of the historical record, please amend that last sentence to read "where all kids can learn, or at least be given the appearance of learning through the application of a carefully designed test to show incremental progress."

We also have a photo problem on our hands. Unfortunately, Jeb posed for photos highlighting the fake reading gains.

You'll want to wipe out all those staged photos of Jeb and Winn standing in front of a big poster board that shows the number "46,000" in big red letters, which allegedly was the number of third-graders readers who had been brought up to speed by the magic of the FCAT.

And you'll also want to wipe out that reference to the dramatic gains in third-grade reading in the press release that announces the passage of his most recent education plan. Both houses in the Florida Legislature voted on that plan just three days after Jeb held the news conference to announce the bogus gains in third-grade reading.

Not that there is any connection to the bogus FCAT results being praised three days before Jeb's education bill came up for a vote. That's merely a coincidence.

Now, get to work. And hurry. Because of this mess, there's going to be a first-ever audit of the FCAT. So there's no telling how busy we may be.

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