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

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bracey Offers Some Facts to Go With Obama's Stale Education Rhetoric

Posted at Assessment Reform Network listserv:

. . . .He talks about American kids being behind and his reference is obviously test scores. But then he talks about creativity in charters. But the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) studies indicate charters are behind public schools in test scores. You can't evaluate one set of schools by test scores and then another set of schools with another criterion. Public schools are just as creative (Eric Robelen, "NAEP gap continuing for charters," Education Week 21 May 2008). Duncan turned a lot of schools into charter schools in Chicago, but I don't think he ever came back to see if they were working any better.

By the way, being behind doesn't seem to matter--test scores don't related to global competitiveness. The U. S. is #1 as ranked by both the Institute for Management Development and the World Economic Forum.

"In 8th grade math we've fallen to 9th place." That's out of 45 nations. In TIMSS of 1996 (tests administered in 1995) 8th graders were in 23rd place out of 41. We've come a long way, baby. How come no one ever mentions that American kids do better in science than in math and no one EVER talks about how well they do in reading which is very well indeed? Various citations, too many to list and the one with the above stat is not online anyway, "Mathematics Achievement in the Middle School Years." It's only mentioned at the US HQ for TIMSS and PIRLS studies, http://isc.bc.edu. The reading studies, PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study), CAN be found there.

"Just a third of our 13- and 14- year olds can read as well as they should." This is garbage in light of the international comparisons mentioned above. It is also garbage because the reference is obviously NAEP, and as I've shown over and over the NAEP proficiency standards are outrageously unrealistic. In fact, by the criterion Obama is using, no nation has more than a third of its students reading "as well as they should." Sweden, the top scoring nation also has about one third at NAEP's "proficient" level (Richard Rothstein et alia, "Proficiency for all: An Oxymoron"). "A Test Everyone Will Fail" shows this in an international context. I wrote that for the Post a couple of years ago. Just put title into Google. "Oh, those NAEP achievement levels." I wrote that for a publication of the National Association of Secondary School Principals for whom I write a monthly column. You can find it a bunch of places on line like www.nabe.org/press.Clips/clip110805.htm.

The Koreans might be in school a full month longer, but in PISA (Program of International Student Assessment), America has a higher proportion of top scorers than Korea. More to the point, given the size of America, America has more top scorers than any other nation. No one even comes close. We have about 67,000, Japan about 3,4000. Top scoring Finland's proportion gives them about 2,000 actual warm bodies. (Lindsay Lowell (Georgetown) and Hal Salzman (Urban Institute and Rutgers). "Making the Grade." Nature, May 1, 2008

There were some good things in the talk, but our president has bought too much of the same old crap about the state of our education, crap that has been spewed since 1957 (Sputnik), 1967 (urban riots--schools took the hit), 1977 (the SAT decline), 1983 (A Nation At Risk--followed by the longest economic expansion in history), 1998 (International test scores again), 2002 (No Child Left Behind) and 2008 (Edin08).

In his inaugural address he said two thirds of the fastest growing jobs require extra education. What he didn't say was that those jobs account for very few jobs. For every computer engineer we need, Wal Mart needs 15 or so salespeople. Today he said "By 2016, four out of every 10 new jobs will require at least some advanced education or training." That's not what the BLS says. And what does "advanced education or training mean, anyway? It's a weasel phrase. By the way, we have about 3 newly minted, home-grown scientists and engineers for every new job in those fields and 65% of them leave those fields within 2 years of graduating (Lowell & Salzman, "Into the eye of the storm: assessing the evidence on science and engineering, quality, and workforce demand." www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411562_salzman_Science.pdf).

I present a complete history of the continual and unfair criticism of schools in Education Hell--the Betrayal of American Schools which should be published next month.

Alas, the fear mongers--Bob Wise, Roy Romer, Bill Gates (who has said some REALLY dumb things), Craig Barrett, Lou Gerstner, etc., get the media attention. Guess it's cause they got the money. They certainly don't have the chops.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:18 AM

    I was disappointed that PresObama never uttered the words "Principal" or "school district". It's as if he thinks teachers have academic freedom and control the learning environment of their schools. That exists only in great schools which are plentiful, even in urban areas. But for struggling schools, nothing could be farther from the truth, at least in Chicago. Under Mr. Duncan, teachers and students suffered ever-changing "this'll work!" top-down district edicts, canned curriculums, and school takeovers and closures. Veterans knew the only guarantee was that today's new silver bullet would be replaced by another in 2-3 years.
    PresObama proposed no solutions. If he really wanted to help struggling schools improve -- including charters -- he'd have Duncan (or better, Darling) get to work developing better "accountability" measures such as multi-year portfolios of student and teacher work, on-site "culture audits" by independent evaluators, document community outreach efforts, provide release-time supported mentoring, fund smaller class sizes and reduce student loads of all teachers, including ELL and Special Needs teachers. One thing I've learned in the last decade, if you measure it, they'll focus on it.