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

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Heroism of Ellen Foote vs. the Duplicity of Bloomberg and Klein

Bloomberg and Klein have given contractors $80 million so far to come up with a not-ready-for prime-time instrument intended to solidify their reform agenda of test, punish, and stupidify public school children across the city of New York.

They did not count on one brave voice like Ellen Foote among the principals and teachers who are, otherwise, cowering under orders to keep their mouths shut--or in modern corporate parlance based on the sunny-side brainwashing of positive psychology, "accept, adapt, and move on."

Now we find that the glue that was borrowed from Jeb Bush to hold together the Bloomberg-Klein charter conversion agenda was already failing when they authorized its use. Parents and teachers are fed up with "report cards" designed to blame the schools, blame the teachers, blame the parents, and blame the children, while the great reformers like Bloomberg and Klein offer a less-than-basics education plan for the working poor in order to prepare a new permanent underclass of stupid, if submissive, human capital trained not to think.

From the Times:

. . . . In Mr. Klein’s view, the report cards will hold high-achieving schools accountable, requiring improvement for even the very best. But educators are deeply divided over whether the grades will be an accurate measure of school quality, or overly reductive and misleading. Some say the enterprise simply calculates and recalculates test scores at the expense of teaching and learning.

Thirty percent of the grade is based on overall student achievement on state tests. An additional 15 percent is based on the school’s environment, measured by attendance and surveys. The largest portion, 55 percent, is based on student improvement on state tests from one year to the next, a “growth model” analysis.

Typically, rating systems compare, say, this year’s fourth graders with last year’s, the approach used by No Child Left Behind in most cases. The first time, the city’s report cards will examine 2006 and 2007; later it will look at scores over several years.

The final grade will also reflect a comparison of schools with similar student populations. Elementary school populations will be grouped mainly by racial and socioeconomic background; middle and high schools will be grouped by test scores.

The entire analysis hinges on the accuracy of the data. As recently as last week, some principals throughout the city, particularly in high schools, were panicked that the data was inaccurate. Department officials said they expected to fix most of the errors and would delay the grades for a few high schools because of inaccuracies.

Ms. Foote does not dispute any numbers used to calculate her school’s grade on the draft, which she expects will be final. According to the city’s formula, a primary explanation for the grade is a dip in student performance on state tests. For example, in 2006, 90.7 percent of sixth graders met state standards in reading. The next year, 84.2 percent of seventh graders met those standards. In the same period, the citywide percentage of students in all grades meeting state reading standards rose to 50 percent, from 47 percent.

But Ms. Foote said it was unfair to judge a school on just one year of test scores and ignore gains over the last several years. She said that the percentage of students reading at grade level in her school had increased steadily since 2003, when it was 65 percent. She also said she was surprised to see her school compared to middle schools that required a standardized test for admission, like the Lab School and East Side Middle School.

“I do not want to devote more time to teaching to the tests,” she said, adding that she would have to sacrifice art, music and individualized instruction. “Is that what’s required now to get a good grade on this progress report? That’s a compromise that I don’t think I am willing to make.”

Mr. Klein acknowledges that the grades will be more sophisticated when more data is used.

“This is the first year; the grade is a starting point,” Mr. Klein said. “What it says is students similarly situated in other schools are getting different results, and you’ve got an expectation to anticipate that your kids’ results will go up.” He added, “You’ve got to start somewhere.”

Principals started receiving copies of their report cards, called progress reports, about a month ago, but were warned in a letter that speaking about them to the public or the news media before their formal release was “subject to disciplinary action.”

Ms. Foote said she was willing to speak about her grade because she felt strongly that it overemphasized testing and did not accurately reflect the learning that goes on in her school. . . .

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:11 PM

    OT, but I just finished Naomi Klein's Harper's article on the Shock Doctrine -- I'm sure someone else has thought of this already: NCLB & so-called school failure = the 'shock'/disaster needed to fully set off school dismantling.

    Ohio Mom