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

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Comments on "Arne Duncan: School Expectations Are Too Low in the United States"

From US NEWS and WORLD REPORT, Jan 14, 2014

My comments posted on:http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/01/14/arne-duncan-school expectations-are-too-low-in-the-united-states

"... teachers in America often come from the bottom of the academic barrel .... Duncan said ..."
There is no evidence this is true - Please see: "Are teachers stupid?"  By Jeff McQuillan: http://xmca.ucsd.edu/yarns/3792?keywords=


"(Kati) Haycock gave examples of schools across the country – such as Halle Hewetson Elementary in Las Vegas, George Hall Elementary in Mobile, Ala., and Elmont Memorial Junior-Senior High School in Elmont, N.Y. – with high numbers of minority and low-income students and histories of poor performance that were able to turn around due to changes in leadership, teachers, staff training and parent involvement.Now, students in those schools are outperforming students throughout the state."

This is the "no excuses argument." It has been refuted again and again by studies and observations showing that these miracle schools are extremely rare and sometimes bogus.
Diane Ravitch noted in the NY Times (June 1, 2011) that when schools seem to have overcome poverty and have achieved "stunning results," it is usually "the result of statistical legerdemain," and that "the only miracle at these schools was a triumph of public relations." (Waiting for a School Miracle, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/01/opinion/01ravitch.html).
Gerald Bracey regularly reported cases like this years ago, and I contributed an analysis as well. We both concluded that there were very very few cases in which schools in high-poverty areas achieved high scores on tests.
Bracey, G. 2007. It's being done. Oh really? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gerald-bracey/its-being-done- oh-really_b_63067.html
Krashen, S. 2002. Don’t trust Ed Trust. Substance 27 (6): 3. (http://sdkrashen.com/index.php?cat=7)

"While other countries have made strides in student performance on international tests in reading, math and science, American students have stagnated, and in some cases regressed, while achievement gaps in the country remain "staggeringly large," Duncan said …"

When researchers control for poverty, the US ranks near the top of the world on international tests: (Carnoy, M and Rothstein, R. 2013, What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance. Washington DC: Economic Policy Institute. 2012. http://www.epi.org/).


"Not only does the quality of the teachers matter for low income and minority students to improve academically, said Charles Payne of the University of Chicago. Students from those backgrounds also benefit more from more rigorous standards, but are the least likely to gain access to them – and it's up to parents to work with schools to push for those higher expectations, he said."

I know of no study that shows that ANY group of students benefits more from rigorous standards.  Please see:   
Nichols, Sharon L., Gene V. Glass, and David C. Berliner. 2006. “High-Stakes Testing and Student Achievement: Does Accountability Pressure Increase Student Learning?” Education Policy Archives 14 (1).
Tienken, Christopher H. 2011. “Common Core State Standards: An Example of Data-Less Decision Making.” Journal of Scholarship & Practice  7 (4): 3–18.

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