Flypaper

Liam Julian

A??reader (a teacher, it seems) writes??to the St. Petersburg Times:

Did Jeb Bush really say "our education system is an eight-track system living in an iPod world"?

That proves he is frighteningly out of touch, and that he hasn't set foot inside a classroom in at least 30 years: Nowhere have I ever seen one of those obsolete devices in any school I have been in as a student or teacher.

I can assure you our schools are more technologically current than most people's homes. But Jeb Bush still envisions purple-inked dittos, green boards and yellow chalk, back when the teacher wore her hair in a severe bun and rapped knuckles with rulers.

Liam Julian

About the short review that Coby kindly mentions: I wrote it for a lay audience, one not tuned in to every shift in k-12 minutiae, and so I didn't dive into the issues as much as perhaps I could have. I also didn't write about the positive things going on at Douglass High circa 2004 (the debate program, the choir); alas, word count restrictions made it so, and it was more important to note how the positives were undermined by the negatives. The documentary shows a staff that seems to care about??its students and is generally well-intentioned. It doesn't seem so very different, in fact, from staffs one might encounter at suburban public high schools. But whereas suburban schools may be able to get away with employing people who are kind but in many ways incapable, urban schools such as Douglass cannot. After watching Hard Times at Douglass High, one would be hard-pressed to argue against more mechanisms--results-based mechanisms--for holding teachers and administrators accountable.

Update: Here's the New York Times review.

Mayor Bloomberg will announce today that test scores are way up in New York City. But no one, it seems, thinks the gains are legitimate.

Over at National Review Online, Liam reviews the HBO documentary Hard Times at Douglass High, which chronicles the plight of a failing Baltimore high school.

A group of charter school organizations including the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, issued a report this week that presents findings from a panel charged with developing a framework for judging the academic quality of charter schools. The report lays out four essential indicators of academic quality: student achievement, student progress over time, post-secondary readiness and success, and student engagement. Each indicator is accompanied by multiple measures, metrics, and benchmarks that define how each is to be operationalized. For example, student achievement measures include proficiency levels on state assessments, college entrance exam scores, and high school exit exams (as applicable). For the most part, the indicators and their corresponding data points are ones commonly used to measure quality (e.g., graduation rates, percentage of students passing high school exit exams). ??The report has, in a sense, packaged prior disparate indicators all together in one piece.

The report also appears to be a response to those who

believe that the vast diversity in charter school missions, educational models, and student populations--as well as differences in state accountability requirements and individual authorizer expectations--makes it impossible to establish common standards and measures of quality that are applicable and meaningful to all kinds of charter schools.

Advocates hold that a more comprehensive framework like this one will deter "reliance on snapshot data" that "lead to ill-informed judgments about charter schools."

In short, the report issues a resounding charge for...

The story of the 18 pregnant girls who made a pact to become pregnant at Gloucester High School in Gloucester, Massachusetts, has been all over the news in the last several days. Everyone hearing the story has been understandably dismayed. My mother even called me to say, "Did you know they are providing in-school day care for those girls?" Sure enough, she's right. Apparently, the day care center is located in a "converted classroom" at the school. We're told that none of the pregnant teens plans to drop out and there's now a waiting list for the free daycare program. Some are now questioning whether having daycare at the school might be encouraging students to have babies. Superintendent Chris Farmer responds, "I think that is hard to believe. Clearly if we can keep them in school, it gives them a better chance in the future."

I would imagine that is true, and the limited research on the topic appears to supports this claim. (Of the few studies I found, however, none utilized rigorous methods and they were generally conducted on isolated programs.) The head of the organization running the daycare responded, "Once this happens they are happy we are there and the data supports this." Yes, I imagine they are happy to receive free child care--who wouldn't be? I will resist using this opportunity to pontificate about the message that I think having daycares in high school sends to students. But I am...

Liam Julian

I hope the College Board catches the flack??it deserves for its decision??to (starting in 2010)??show colleges only the SAT scores that the??students who earn them choose to reveal--i.e., if Johnny takes the test 10 times, Johnny gets to show State U. only his best score.??Currently, university admissions officers see both how many times a student took the SAT and how he scored on??each attempt.

The College Board's purported reason for the rules shift: Taking the pressure off test-takers. The real reason: Making more money. Unfortunately for poor kids, they??won't be able to pay to take the SAT multiple times. Suburban kids--the ones who already shell out thousands for private prep classes, and who go to schools where guidance counselors map out every step of the test-taking plan--will. You better believe that??starting in 2010, it's going to be assumed that??middle-class??high schoolers??take the SAT??every single time its offered.????

Furthermore, the College Board is watering down the SAT's integrity.??I know, I know--the organization tells us that an individual's scores will not??significantly increase after multiple retakes. Of course, common sense tells us??that claim is??baloney and will be proven as such come 2011. But assuming that??it is??true, doesn't it??render irrelevant??the College Board's ostensible concern about lowering test-taking pressure???(If a kid knows he won't??score better on his tenth attempt than on his first, why would the option of multiple retakes without consequences lessen his anxiety?)????

This change is just so wrong on so many levels. It's bad for poor kids and should...

Chad Adelman, Education Sector's new policy associate, digs into our high-achieving students study and thinks he's found a smoking gun. In particular, he has a beef with us looking at National Assessment of Educational Progress scores since 2000, instead of 2003:

But No Child wasn't signed into law until January 2002. The first NAEP tests measuring its true impacts could not have been until 2003, represented by the dotted line.

When we make this correction, the claims in the report do not seem to stand up as well. The lower tenth of performers made gains throughout the chart, but especially from 2000 to 2003, where they gained 13 points to their high achieving peers' six. Notably, this accounts for almost all the gain claimed in the Fordham report.

Chad, you're right, though using 2003 as the starting point--more than a year after the law's enactment--isn't perfect either. Tom Loveless, author of our NAEP study, discusses this issue at length (see pages 18-20):

Another important consideration concerning time intervals should also now be apparent from examining the NAEP data. Three grade-subject combinations exhibit a consistent pattern, a straightforward story of narrowing gaps during the NCLB era--mostly the result of sharp gains by low-achieving students from 2000 to 2002 or from 2000 to 2003. But whether these years belong in the NCLB era is debatable. The starting point matters. Using the NAEP test immediately before NCLB's passage as a baseline, as this study

...

In a long and mostly thoughtful letter to the editor of the New York Times , American Federation of Teachers President Edward McElroy takes issue with David Brooks's recent column about the dueling education policy statements ("Broader, Bolder " vs. "Sharpton Attacks "). He writes, reasonably, that

According to [Brooks], reformists "insist school reform alone can make a big difference." This verges on a Talmudic debate over the word "alone" when the real issues are what actually goes into that reform. The question of how teachers should grapple with the enormous social problems brought into the school every morning comes immediately to mind.

Further, he talks of how the reformists want to put the children first. Well, so do those who signed the E.P.I. statement, and so do teachers. What matters is whether what you try actually works for the children.

OK, we can debate whether there's any evidence that what the E.P.I. crowd wants actually "works," but I'm happy to concede that teachers (if not always their unions) want what's best for children. But he couldn't stop there. He goes on:

Blaming "ineffective teachers" and union contracts may be ideologically satisfying, but at the end of the day it does little to solve the problems facing our schools. If our problems did lie here, states without collective bargaining should not lie at the bottom of the educational achievement scale, and charter schools should by

...
Liam Julian

Good news out of Louisiana. Bad news out of Louisiana.

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