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

Thursday, June 19, 2008

As Brown Children's Test Scores Creep Up, Conservatives Wring Hands

Remember when the rationale to go to war against the public schools was closing the achievement gap? No child left behind, and all that jazz? Well, now the right-wing Fordham Institute has issued a "study" that decries the stagnating test scores of the middle class high test scorers, while seeking to mislead the public on the actual gains among the poor while they have been under siege by the NCLB occupation forces. Try this opening sentence from the Baltimore Sun this morning:
Jun. 18--Although the nation's lowest-performing students have made great progress in the No Child Left Behind era of testing, the top students are not making similar strides, according to a report by the Fordham Institute.
First, let us revisit the facts on achievement during NCLB provided by one of Fordham's fellow conservatives, Dianne Ravitch. Here is how Dr. Ravitch, who has been, until recently, on the NCLB ship, summed things up last year:
* Fourth grade reading scores were up by a modest 2 points from 2005 to 2007, from 219 to 221. Actually, scores for this grade on NAEP had been 219 in 2002. The biggest increase in reading scores occurred between 2000 and 2002, when the scores went up by six points. In other words, the gains since NCLB was enacted do not equal the gains recorded on NAEP in the years prior to NCLB.
* Eighth grade reading scores were up by only one point. The trend line for this grade in reading from 1998 to 2007 is a flat line. The score was 263 in 1998 and it is 263 in 2007.
* Fourth grade mathematics scores increased by two points, from 238 in 2005 to 240 in 2007. The trend line in this grade points steadily upward. The biggest gains occurred in the pre-NCLB period, when scores rose from 226 in 2000 to 235 in 2003.
* Eighth grade mathematics scores were up by two points, from 279 in 2005 to 281 in 2007. Again, the pre-NCLB gains were larger, when scores increased from 273 in 2000 to 278 in 2003.
(click image to enlarge).

So I don't know what they are smoking over at Fordham, but it's obvious where they are trying to blow the smoke.

But to the finer point, here. Does Dr. Finn, the fire and fist behind Fordham, really believe that readers will not notice that closing the achievement gap requires more gains at the bottom than at the top in order to, uh, close the gap? That, or bring down the top scorers, yes? Helloooooooooo.

All of this, I would suggest, is an attempt to hurriedly claim success for a failed policy before dumping the whole NCLB privatization scheme in order to pivot the conservative ed reform agenda toward the college bound who have been so neglected for the past seven years. Of course, in order to not be accused of exclusionary policies, the conservatives now claim that the entire population is college bound. And if you are not, well, your high school needs to be shut down, or you need to try harder.

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