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

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Those Who Cannot Remember the Past

 The past is never dead; it's not even past.--Wm. Faulkner

Yesterday Diane Ravitch gave space for Peter Greene and Catherine Gewertz to have their say on Common Core proficiency targets, which have been arbitrarily adjusted to match the impossibly high proficiency targets of NAEP.  

I am wondering why Ravitch, instead of remaining mum on her intricate knowledge of the history of cut scores for big testing, does not explain it for us, as she began to do in a review of Waiting for Superman in 2010:
I served as a member of the governing board for the national tests for seven years, and I know how misleading Guggenheim’s figures are. NAEP doesn’t measure performance in terms of grade-level achievement. The highest level of performance, “advanced,” is equivalent to an A+, representing the highest possible academic performance. The next level, “proficient,” is equivalent to an A or a very strong B. The next level is “basic,” which probably translates into a C grade. The film assumes that any student below proficient is “below grade level.” But it would be far more fitting to worry about students who are “below basic,” who are 25 percent of the national sample, not 70 percent.. . .
She might explain, too, I guess, why she sat on her, um, Board, for seven years and did nothing to help realign the cut scores toward reality.   Oh, I almost forgot, she was on the Checker Finn team then, trying to make sure that public school students look as stupid as possible in order to bash teachers and to enthuse the public for privatization solutions in the pre-charter days.

In 2013, Ravitch said this in defense of her old pal: "The [NAEP] achievement levels were created when Checker Finn was chair of NAGB. I think they are defensible if people understand that the achievement levels do not represent grade levels." 

Oh, why would anyone think "proficient" and "below basic" had anything to do with grade level for 4th, 8th, and 11th grade, where the NAEP tests are given?

Here's a part of a post to ARN by Jerry Bracey in 2009, which offers some more detail on the impossible NAEP cut scores.  Please follow the links:
As I have shown over and over, the NAEP achievement levels are ridiculous (see for example, "Oh, those NAEP achievement levels" in the September 2005 Principal Leadership or "A test everyone will fail" in the May, 3, 2007 Washington Post, also at www.huffingtonpost.com/gerald-bracey).

This is not the paranoid position of a lone crank. I am in the company of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Education, the Government Accounting Office and the Center for Research in Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing as well as individual psychometricians. Before the Bush administration declared war on science, the NAEP reports themselves carried disclaimers including quotes from the National Academy of Sciences like this: "NAEP's current achievment setting procedures remain fundamentally flawed. The judgment tasks are difficult and confusing; raters' judgments of different item types are internally inconsistent, appropriate validity for the cut scores is lacking; and the process has produced unreasonable results."

VALIDITY lacking? UNREASONABLE results? Fundamentally flawed? Sounds worse to me than credit default swaps. Why didn't IES at USDOE ban them as not being derived from "scientifically based research?" (It actually might be a good thing to make Reid Lyon head of the National Assessment Governing Board, the agency produced these monstrosities). The achievement levels were supposed to be used only until something better could be produced. That was almost 20 years ago. But, of course, no one is working on anything better. Why? Because the results from the current procedures build such wonderful cudgels to bash schools with.

Among the "unreasonable results" are that American students scored high on some international tests of reading, math, and science, but only a small percentage ever reaches the "proficient" level on NAEP In the most recent NAEP reading assessment, only 33% of 4th graders were deemed proficient or better. Richard Rothstein and colleagues, in a perfectly straightforward procedure estimated that the highest scoring nation in one reading assessment, Sweden, would have about 33% of its kids proficient in reading if Swedish kids had to sit for NAEP (at the time of Rothstein's study, 31% of American kids reached this level).

So states will or will not become eligible for stimulus money based on invalid criteria. This is not change we can believe in. But don't look for them to change soon. In his speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, President Obama said "just a third of our 13- and 14-year-olds can read as well as they should." For extra credit, guess where that statistic came from.
There is so much Diane could share with her fans and critics if she were less preoccupied with providing Randi and Lily a venue for proposing their own high stakes testing solutions to the problem of high stakes testing.  No doubt Diane's revisionism will have to wait.  In the meantime, we have to look at how we got this point from those who refused to ignore or forget the past.
by Jerry Bracey at Huffington Post:

Looking at Diane Ravitch's 1991 article, "U. S. Schools: The Bad News is Right," and her contemporary defense on the Huffington Post of her actions concerning the Sandia Report, it is clear that Ravitch missed her true calling: conservative talk show host. In delivering self-serving distortions, simplistic generalizations, and outright lies, she can out-Rush Rush and out-Bill Bill. She lacks the ball-biting blood lust of Ann, but maybe that would have come in time.

She writes that the report claimed "that the scores really were not falling." That it said "Just take out the black and Hispanic and inner-city kids, they suggest, and the picture was rosy." What horse hockey. The report showed (page 273) that NAEP math scores had been steady for whites and rising for blacks and Hispanics although both groups trailed whites substantially. An analysis by community type (rural, advantaged metro, disadvantaged metro) showed NAEP performance steady or rising.

We're talking NAEP here, not some dinky test the Sandia engineers made up.

The report noted that blacks and Hispanics were becoming an ever larger proportion of the overall population. The engineers wrote, "these data reinforce the dropout findings indicating that the performance of racial/ethnic minorities continues to lag behind the performance of whites." They said nothing about "taking out" the black and Hispanic scores. These are engineers for God's sake.

Systems engineers, in fact. Engineers, more than any other professional group in the world would know that you don't ignore a substantial part of the system you're working with.

"If anything, today's students are performing better than previous students. We are not implying that these performance levels are adequate for today's or tomorrow's society or that these levels are comparable to those in other countries." Does that sound like painting a rosy picture to you?

As for the suppression, she writes, "David Kearns knew, as did all the senators in that room, that there is no way that a report, an opinion, an essay, or any other expression of one's views can be suppressed." Lord, lord, Diane, have you learned nothing from the seven years of thought control by the Bush administration? If it wasn't suppressed, why does former Sandia vice president, Lee Bray, insist it was?

"The report was not published by the government, but it was published and received far broader attention and a far larger audience than most of the reports published by the government." What chutzpah! Maybe most reports, but not reports about public schools. She then goes on to discuss the PISA results, which if what she said about government reports were true, she wouldn't even know about. But PISA results, along with PIRLS results were published by virtually every newspaper in the country. The publication of the Sandia Report in the Journal of Educational Research received zero media attention.

Actually, the Sandia Report was first published a few months before it appeared in the Journal of Educational Research as an appendix to a book Exploding the Myths by Paul Houston, then superintendent in Riverside, CA and Joe Schneider, then with the Southwest Regional Lab. Joe had presented the report at a SWRL board meeting and Paul invited him to present it at back-to-school meeting for administrators and parent leaders.

Within hours of sending a note advising people of the opportunity to see a government-suppressed report, Houston received a call from Peggy Dufour, Secretary Watkins' chief education adviser blasting him for presenting it and saying he had lied about it by calling it suppressed. Houston asked when the report would be released. Dufour said "we haven't and we aren't going to let it be released."

Houston suggested she check the definition of "suppress." She called Schneider and implied that SWRL risked losing some of its federal funding if he made the presentation. Exploding the Myths is not the kind of book Ravitch reads.

Ravitch claims I have "achieved certain notoriety for his insistence over many years that American schools are better than ever and that anyone who dares to criticize them is wrong, misguided, and/or part of an evil cabal to destroy public education." This sentence clearly proves one thing: Ms. Ravitch-Limbaugh-O'Reilly hasn't read a word I've written.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:24 PM

    Or how about this Ravitch gem, from 2005 (NYTimes):

    "It is true that American student performance is appalling. Only a minority of students - whether in 4th, 8th or 12th grade - reach proficiency as measured by the Education Department's National Assessment of Educational Progress. On a scale that has three levels - basic, proficient and advanced - most students score at the basic level or even below basic in every subject."

    "Most" students failed to get "an A or a very strong B"?? Appalling!!