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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Washington Post Cheerleading for Duncan

If Maria Glod had read anything more than the talking points provided to her by the Duncan PR folks, she might have found out a few facts about the Chicago Public Schools miracle and its "portfolio manager," Arne Duncan that may have offered some heft for her journa-mercial for "change" in today's WaPo. But that would have ruined Maria's gushing puff piece for the dunking Duncan, who has brought forth a model of change, according to Glod, that we should all believe in.

In doing a little Googling, which Glod didn't bother to do, I came across a couple of sites that offered some troublesome facts about the Chicago Miracle that extra pay to teachers (and students) for test scores has not yet resolved. A few facts:

  • Chicago Public Schools (CPS) rated a 3 (out of 10) on the Great Schools rating scale, which is based on test scores for the most recent year. When compared to nearby Illinois city school systems, Chicago was near the bottom, with only one other school system, Broadview, receiving a 3. Two others, Cicero and Maywood, earned 2s. Fourteen other systems ranked higher than Chicago, with ratings from 4 to 10.
  • Chicago Public Schools have not made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) as a school district since the State of Illinois began keeping records in 2004.
  • The percentage of Chicago (CPS) high school students meeting the College Readiness Benchmark as measured by the ACT has remained flat or gone down since the State began maintaining this record in 2006. Reading readiness has gone from 23% in 2006 to 21% in 2008. Math readiness inched up from 14% who are ready for college to 16%. Science, the most dismal of all, clicked up from 8% to 9% of students who are ready for college science. And English went from 41% to 39% from 2006 to 2008.
  • The other high school exam that the State tracks is the Prairie State Achievement Examination (PSAE), and results here are stunning. This composite score (PSAE) is derived by combining the ACT and three other tests given over two days, and they are used to measure academic strengths and weaknesses relative to the Illinois Learning Standards. Results of the PSAE are used, too, to determine high school AYP. While scores for Chicago white students show steady, if small, declines from 2003 to 2008, minority achievement scores fell off the cliff. The percentage of black students meeting or exceeding the state standard went from 35% in 2005 to 22% in 2008. Hispanic achievement showed a 12-point drop from 40% to 28% of students meeting or exceeding the state standard. Asian students dropped from 64 to 53, and Native Americans sunk from 71% to 44%.
If you were to ask me, Maria, just from this cursory glance at the numbers available online to anyone willing to look, I would say that Arne Duncan's PR firm is doing a heckuva job--and that your editors are doing a helluva coverup.

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