Friday, May 06, 2005

The trials and tribulations of standardized testing

Read Joanne Jacobs, post for Friday, May 6 on standardized math testing.

Then be sure to read the comments made to the post.

I find them to be a perfect example of how deceivingly simple standardized testing can appear, but lurking under the surface are all kinds of value judgments being made.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Top 10 reasons why Governor Mitch Daniels is a one-term wonder

1. He actually thinks like The Godfather, and admits it.
2. He doesn't think before he speaks and usually this is a prerequisite in public service positions.
4. He has surrounded himself with highly competent people who are out of their area like fish out of water.
5. He thinks Hoosiers won't notice because he drives around in an RV and wears flannel shirts.
6. He creates new ethics laws and fines employees for things like accepting a baseball hat from a vendor, but then ignores his own ethics laws and says they don't apply to him. That RV? It's a gift to the state not something personal like a baseball hat or a 10$ lunch.
7. He has kicked a sleeping giant by overlooking, insulting and ignoring public educators.
8. His use of war metaphors is getting old.
car-bombing
hi-jacking
violent agreement
The Godfather
etc.
9. I promised 10 reasons - but due to cutbacks..........and the governor's penchant for efficiency - we can only offer 8

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Another rotten apple

This is another Rotten Apple Award winner from researcher, Gerald Bracey.

THE "DEFINING OUR AMBITIONS DOWN" AWARD:

NINA SHOKRAII REES, U. S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

"Hundreds of charter schools have been created around this nation by educators who are willing to put their jobs on the line to say, 'If we can't improve student achievement, close down our school.' This is accountability-clear specific and real."

Joe Nathan, University of Minnesota, 1996

"We have enough information at our disposal to know that charter schools are not harming students."

Nina Shokraii Rees, U. S. Department of Education on NPR's "Marketplace," December 15, 2004.

Ms. Rees, not so incidentally, went to the Department from the Heritage Foundation which received its initial funding from America's First Family of Totalitarianism, the Coors.

Joe Nathan (1996). Charter Schools: Creating Hope and Opportunity for American Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

THE "NINA SHOKRAII REES 'CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE NOT HARMING STUDENTS'" AWARD: (goes to) ....C. STEVEN COX.

(End of Bracey quote)

C. Steven Cox is the CEO of the charter school being audited for mismanagement and fraud.


The quote that Brace uses to establish this award is a classic.

Close your eyes and picture the huge Charter School billboard outside your town. In bold and colorful letters the billboard brags,

"Come to the Sunshine Charter School, where research shows we probably haven't hurt anyone."

Charters earn a rotten apple

If you are not familiar with Gerald Bracey's "Rotten Apple Awards," you should give them a try. Read them all. Like they say, "The only thing worse than finding a worm in your apple, is finding half a worm."

Here is one of his "Rotten Apple Awards" for 2004.

THE "BEST PERFORMANCES IN A FARCE" AWARD:

DARVIN WINICK, CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL ASSESSMENT GOVERNING BOARD AND EUGENE HICKOK, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF EDUCATION

Its hand forced by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the U. S. Department of Education finally reported its NAEP study of charter schools on December 15, 2004. "Finally" because the data had been collected with regular NAEP activity and that data had been up on the Department's website since fall of 2003.

It is likely that the data would never have been reported save for the fact that the AFT got hold of it, analyzed it and made its analysis known to New York Times reporter, Diana Jean Schemo. The Times carried the results as its lead story way back on August 17 (see "Right's Charter School Hissy Fit" below). (The delay was in line with Department policy. The Department had been so reticent about another charter school study that the Times had had to use a Freedom of Information Act request to pry the data from the Department's grip. The Final Report of that study was delivered in June, but made public only in November after the Times' request. That study, mostly conducted by researchers at SRI International, also found charter schools under-performing public schools.)

In his opening statement, Winick emphasized, "The pilot study was a trial, however, and the need for caution in using the results is apparent..Most charter schools are relatively new and charters are not evenly distributed across the country. Few students have been in a charter setting for much of their education."

Winick thus repeated the canard often brought forth after the Times August story that, really, charter schools are too new to be evaluated (some have been open for 13 years). It must have come as something of a shock and embarrassment, then, for Winick and Hickok to learn that the longer a school had provided instruction the worse its students did:

YEARS OFINSTRUCTION MATH READING
0 to 1 year: 235 225
2 to 3 years: 232 214
4 to 5 years 227 212
6 years or more 228 210

Only the 0 to 1 year figures are above the scores for public schools which scored at, 234 and 217, respectively.Similarly, Hickok and Winick and others have made much over charter schools' autonomy.

Thus there was likely more shock and awe over findings showing that charter schools that were part of public school districts outperformed charters that constituted their own school district, 234 to 225, math, 218 to 208 in reading. While 10 points might seem small, in terms of growth on NAEP, it represents a full year's difference.

Of 22 comparisons in reading and math, 20 favored kids in public schools.

Hispanic charter school students scored one point better in reading while white charter students' reading scores tied those in regular public schools.

Nick Anderson of the Los Angeles Times asked Winick and Hickok why they took such heart in charter school students attaining parity with public school students when the essential promise of charters was to do better. Didn't this satisfaction reflect an acceptance of the soft bigotry of low expectations for charters? Hickok replied that charters were spending less but doing just as well. Oh, Anderson asked in follow up, does that mean that money actually does matter? My notes do not show any Hickok response.Hickok had primed himself with clich├ęs, including "charter schools that don't work don't stay open." This is basically a lie-few charter schools get shut down and those that close their doors do so because they botched the money; charters that botch the kids' education stay open.

In the words of the study that the Times needed an FOIA request to force out of hiding: Charter schools rarely face sanctions (revocation or nonrenewal). Furthermore, authorizing bodies impose sanctions on charter schools because of problems related to compliance with regulations and school finances, rather than student performance." (emphases in the original).

These findings corroborate an earlier conclusion by Columbia University's Amy Stuart Wells that lack of accountability is the most robust finding in research on charter schools."We are big supporters of charter schools," Hickok said. This is certainly true. In June, the Department lavished $75 million on California to create 250 new charters. Given the data,* the question would have to be "Why?" Charter schools arose because critics said public schools had failed. If they're not doing as well as the publics, the critics are obliged to call them failures too, doubly so because of charters' promise to improve achievement.*

There are lots of data besides the NAEP results that show charter schools faring poorly. "Can Charter Schools Ever Be Truly Accountable?" was commissioned by the Charter School Accountability Center at Florida State University and boy, were they surprised (as was I, actually). The paper is available on request.

At one point, Winick had said that perhaps the proper unit of analysis is the state. Alas, Winick and Hickok can take no comfort in state-level data-evaluations from California, Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, and Texas don't put charters in a good light, either.

Sam Dillon and Diana Jean Schemo (2004). "Charter Schools Fall Short in Public Schools Matchup," New York Times, November 24, p. A21.

Diana Jean Schemo (2004). "Nation's Charter Schools Lagging Behind U. S. Test Scores Reveal," New York Times, August 17, p. A1.U. S. Department of Education (2004).

Evaluation of the Public Charter Schools Program, Final Report. Washington, DC: Office of Deputy Superintendent. Document # 2004-08. Accessed at www.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/choice/pcsp-final/finalreport.pdf, December 31, 2004.

U. S. Department of Education (2004). America's Charter Schools: Results from the NAEP 2003 Pilot Study.

Washington, DC: Institute of Education Sciences. Report NCES 2005-456. Accessed at www.nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/studies/2005456.pdf, December 31, 2004.

Amy Stuart Wells (author/editor) (2002). Where Charter Policy Fails. New York: Teachers College Press.