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

Monday, June 01, 2009

Duncan Lies, Press Nods

From PURE:

"And so we have to stop lying to children. We have to tell them the truth. We have to be transparent about data."

So says Fed Ed Head Arne Duncan, in the bully pulpit calling for national standards (and, of course, the inevitable national standardized tests for all).

Well, it's also wrong to lie about children. Yet a few moments after he made the statement above in a speech at the National Press Club on May 29, Duncan told at least three major whoppers about his time in Chicago (check out the speech for yourself to see if you can find more!)

Whopper #1: "What we did in Chicago is we moved the adults out. We kept the children, and brought in new teams of adults. Same children, same families, same socioeconomic challenges, same neighborhoods, same buildings, different set of expectations, different set of beliefs. And what we saw was dramatic change."

Here are the Facts: There was not and has not been dramatic change. In fact, the research shows that there has been little if any change for all of Duncan's "reforms".

What school is he talking about in Whopper #1? Well, at this point, all of Duncan's "turnaround" schools seem to have blended into one magical place we might call "Dramatically Better Elementary," but in this case we think he might be talking about Sherman, the turnaround model for 2007 (Chicago has a new model every year). Yet, if he is to be truly "transparent about data," Duncan would have to admit that, after the turnaround, Sherman actually performed worse on standardized tests than several schools CPS proposed to close for poor performance in 2009. And there were other troubling data at Sherman: student enrollment plummeted, the mobility rate skyrocketed, parent involvement went down, and science scores tanked after the turnover.

Whopper #2: "We had a school that we did -- we turned it around. The students left -- this is (inaudible), came back -- that was one of the worst schools in Chicago; that in the third or fourth year of the turnaround had the highest gain of any elementary school in the state. Went from being one of the worst to having the greatest gain of any elementary school in the state of Illinois."

Here are the Facts: We know he is talking about Dodge, which did get that "greatest ISAT gain" nod. But he is lying about who the students are at Dodge, as he has been doing for several years now. In fact, the original Dodge students DID NOT COME BACK, according to CPS's own report, which states that only 12 students who were enrolled at Dodge when it was closed in 2002 were still there in 2005.

Whopper #3: "But with new opportunities, with new expectations, with a new high school in North Lawndale where 95 percent of the children graduate, and 90 percent of those who graduate go on to college, I am convinced we can finally get to what Dr. King talked about."

We know he's talking about North Lawndale College Prep, a charter school which, excuse me, actually has a graduation rate closer to 50%, so low that the school just landed on the NCLB restructuring list (so that it has to be - what? -- turned into a charter school?). The lie about North Lawndale's graduation rate has been perpetuated by Duncan and others - I even got the Tribune to print a correction on just this issue a while back.

So, what are we going to do about Duncan's lies, besides ask our fairy godmother to make his nose grow every time he does it?

Just keep telling the truth, I guess.

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