Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution doesn’t like it when politicians play games with education statistics.
In this post, he gives a lesson in the interpretation and misinterpretation of NAEP scores ranking the states.
Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institution doesn’t like it when politicians play games with education statistics.
In this post, he gives a lesson in the interpretation and misinterpretation of NAEP scores ranking the states.
The invaluable blogger Plunderbund in Ohio posted a description of the 150 state education laws from which charter schools are exempt. Are charter schools more accountable than public schools? Well, that depends on how you defend “accountable,” and how you define “public.”
The question remains for Ohio’s leaders: If exemption from state laws and regulations and mandates is such a good thing, why don’t they get rid of unnecessary laws that apply to public schools?
William Stroud was the founding Principal of the Baccalaureate School for Global Education and is now Assistant Director for the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) at Teachers College–Columbia University. He sent me this explanation of what he saw during this time as principal of a small school in New York City.
Given the results of the recent mayoral election, and the arrival of a new administration under the new Mayor Bill de Blasio, this is a good time to review the condition of public education.
Just weeks ago, Mayor Bloomberg and Department of Education administrators celebrated the success of twenty-two high performing schools with a “victory lap” (NYT, 9/16/13). As the founding principal of one of these schools, the Baccalaureate School for Global Education, I would like to offer a more tempered, alternative perspective on the current state of education in the city and suggest different priorities as a way forward for the Department.
Mayor Bloomberg was quoted in the article, “Our administration’s core philosophy, when it comes to education, has always been, if we raise our expectations, our kids will meet them.” This is not an effective improvement strategy. Of course there are some high performing schools in New York City. Evidence indicates that student achievement closely correlates with in-school factors (the quality of teaching and learning in classrooms and school leadership) and out-of-school factors (family income and educational attainment of parents, stability of housing and employment, nutrition and health care).
On closer scrutiny, it is clear that these high performing schools cream the top students through the student admission process, or exist in consistently high performing neighborhoods. No news there. That the administration celebrates a testing initiative where 20% of Black and Latino students are proficient is a travesty. These are the officials responsible for looking out for all communities of New York City. Cause for celebration would be a tour of previously low performing schools in disenfranchised communities where high quality schooling is part of the fabric of the community. Perhaps they exist too. Which ones are they?
Raising expectations has been a critical catalyst in a high stakes accountability system that prioritizes investing in a new regimen of standardized tests (the Common Core assessments), establishing school report cards and teacher evaluations, and closing consistently low performing schools. This is fundamentally rooted in a free market strategy that purports to offer more, and better, opportunities for students and families. Several years ago in a public forum with Sir Michael Barber, one of the early consultants for the Department, I asked if there were any examples in history where a free market strategy had successfully addressed social inequality. He responded that we must get the controls right. We have not succeeded in this, and, I believe, the free market strategy is proving to be a failure.
Department of Education officials have claimed that the public doesn’t understand what the new Common Core assessment numbers mean. DOE officials either don’t understand what the numbers mean or are disingenuous with the public, because at this point there are too many uncertainties and inconsistencies in the testing and accountability processes to inspire confidence in the initiatives.
How do high schools with a graduating cohort of 40% of their incoming students deserve an “A” on their progress reports? How is it that in states where teacher evaluation systems are used, error rates are high and significant percentages of top-tier teachers one year can be in the bottom tiers the next year? When the new assessment exam items are written at a level of text difficulty two years above grade level, what are they really measuring? Student cut scores for performance levels are arbitrary, and new baselines are established with each new exam. And, if we are to take the most recent student assessment data at face value, the performance gap of Black and Latino students relative to White and Asian students has widened. Although we would not know this from a casual reading of the media, this would belie some general performance improvements on the National Assessment of Educational Progress over the last decades.
Although I have not recently been involved in the reform work in New York City, I can say that the impact of the policies on one school, the Baccalaureate School for Global Education appears to be harmful. In 2002, we created the school to combat elitism and to use diversity, academic and social, as a tool for improving the achievement outcomes of all students and developing a community that is committed to understanding each other’s cultures, dreams, and hopes for building a better world than we are confronted with now. We joined a promising initiative, the Empowerment Zone, where schools were required to admit at least 25% of students scoring below grade level on standardized tests. The more recent focus on testing and accountability, with its consequent rewards and sanctions, has resulted in the school becoming less diverse ethnically and academically, an ethnic cleansing of Black and Latino students in favor of already high-performing White and Asian students – more or less like the specialized high schools.
High stakes accountability has narrowed the opportunities for students who were not already achieving at high levels. This is the antithesis of the original mission.
The DOE measures, intended or unintended, are driving schools to this defensive strategy – seeking already high performing students as a way to avoid the draconian consequences for schools comprised of lower achieving students. Research would indicate that students of color benefit enormously from attending integrated schools. New York City, along with Chicago and Dallas, resides in the upper echelons of school segregation. We don’t need policies that encourage greater segregation rather than greater diversity. We need policies that result in less segregated schools, more long-term attention to the development of instructional capacity and school leadership, and does not mistake high stakes testing for educational progress.
When I worked in the U.S. Department of Education in the early 1990s, I was frequently reminded by colleagues and counsel that the Department was forbidden by law from interfering into what was taught in the schools. When the Department made grants to professional groups of teachers and scholars to create “voluntary national standards,” I made a point of never interfering in their work. I extolled the value of having standards that states, districts, and schools might find useful but made clear that the decision to use or not to use the standards was strictly voluntary. There was no thought that the Department could advocate for the standards or use money to bribe states to adopt them. That would have been illegal.
This is what the law says:
Fred Smith is an experienced testing expert who now advises a group called “Change the Stakes,” in opposing high-stakes testing. He was invited to testify before a committee of the New York State Senate about the woeful recent history of state testing. The scores went up, up, up until 2010, when the state admitted that the previous dramatic gains were illusory, a consequence of artful adjustments of the “cut score” (passing rate). Then the scores began to rise again, until this past year’s Common Core tests, when the state scores fell deep into the basement, and three quarters of the state’s children were marked as failures.
As Smith quite clearly describes, testing has become a political game that hurts children.
Please read through his testimony, linked at the bottom of the page.
He wrote this to me:
Audrey Amrein-Beardsley has started a valuable new blog where she reports the latest news on VAM and interprets the latest research. She is one of our best researchers on the topic and, time and again, she has put a pin in the inflated hope that teachers can be measured like potatoes or corn.
n this post, she dissects Mathematica’s recent research on the value of moving highly experienced NBCT teachers to low-performing schools. She agrees that it makes a difference, but disagrees with the comparison group (which included 20% brand new teachers) and doubts that policymakers would be prepared to carry out the lessons on a grand scale.
What if we found that a class size of 10 was optimum for low-performing students? Would we be willing to implement the policy implications?
Glenda Ritz was elected State Superintendent in Indiana last fall. She won more votes than Governor Mike Pence.
She was elected by a bipartisan group of citizens who rejected the policies of Tony Bennett, who outspent her 10-1.
Since her election, Governor Pence and the state board appointed by him and his predecessor have whittled away the powers of the State Education Department.
They created a parallel agency and shifted some of the Department’s powers to it.
The state board voted to strip itself (and its chairperson, Glenda Ritz) of the power to revise the failed A-F grading system.
In short, the governor and his allies are trying their best to reverse the will of the voters, so clearly expressed last November.
They are trying to win by stealth what they lost at the ballot box.
They are attacking not just Glenda Ritz but democracy itself.
Ironically, the local media said that Ritz and the board and governor should stop squabbling.
Ritz felt compelled to reply. Here is what she wrote.
The Chicago parent organization PURE (Parents United for Responsible Education) called on Chicago school officials to de-emphasize standardized testing and pay greater attention to teachers’ judgment.
PURE issued this press release today:
Parents give district a “D” for its test-focused policy
Chicago, IL: Today, tens of thousands of Chicago Public Schools (CPS)
parents will flock to their children’s schools to pick up student report
cards and meet with teachers. They look forward to these meetings as an
important step in strengthening the home-school connection. Report card
pick-up day is the best opportunity most parents have to learn how to
help their children succeed in school from the people that know the most
about how to do that – their children’s teachers.
Parents take the report cards home and study them. They discuss them
with their children – sometimes those are happy discussions, sometimes
not so happy! Parents sign the back of the report card and slide the
cards into their children’s backpacks, often taking that moment to
resolve to do more to help their children learn and improve in the weeks
This process has been meaningful to parents for decades, but it’s been
increasingly pushed aside as school districts like CPS give standardized
test scores more and more power over students, teachers and schools.
Parents from the Chicago group More Than a Score disagree with this
trend, and have presented CPS with an alternative promotion policy
that relies primarily on report card grades and uses standardized test
scores in the way they were intended to be used, as diagnostic tools and
not high-stakes “gotcha” measures.
More Than a Score parents give CPS a “D” grade for a promotion policy
that continues to focus too much on test scores and ignores the value of
“Report cards are the only evaluations that look at the students’ work
over time and across all areas of learning. They are the only
evaluations done by experienced, qualified adults who personally observe
and assess each student’s progress,” said CPS parent Julie Fain.“That’s
the kind of information that makes sense to parents and actually helps
children. When we get our children’s standardized test scores at the end
of the year, we don’t get to see the questions or their answers. We have
no idea whether they missed a certain concept or were just distracted
for part of the test. In any case, our children are so over-tested that
these results have become less and less useful to parents.”
“The CPS promotion policy begins and ends with the state test score,”
said Julie Woestehoff, head of Parents United for Responsible Education
(PURE). “Most of the information from report cards is ignored by CPS
when end-of-the-year promotion decisions are made.”
“I believe standardize testing is a harsh way to keep a child from
thinking outside the box. All our children have different needs, speeds,
and challenges. I have witnessed up close and personal the emotional
stress testing causes – creating a lack of self-esteem while labeling my
children as dumb only because they did not meet your standardized laws.
I support my children by opting them out of testing,” said Rousemary
Vega, a CPS parent.
Parents who have opted their children out of standardized tests are also
confused and concerned because the new promotion policy just swapped one
high-stakes test (the SAT-10), for another (NWEA), making opting out
Since the promotion policy was first implemented in 1996 by Paul Vallas,
it has focused on test scores on the Iowa test, then the IGAP, ISAT, and
SAT 10. The new proposal substitutes the NWEA, which CPS officials say
is just temporary until they replace it with the PARCC Common Core
“How are we supposed to keep track of this alphabet soup of tests?” asks
Linda Schmidt, a CPS parent who notified her child’s school at the
beginning of this school year that she does not want her student to take
the NWEA. “Will my child be held back next August because I made a
decision last September?”
Policymakers often cite the subjective nature of teacher grades as a
reason for giving them less weight than standardized tests scores.
However, test questions are written by subjective human beings, too, and
test makers consistently state that their tests should not be used to
make high-stakes decisions about children. The manual for the SAT-10,
which CPS used last year to retain students, states that test scores
“should be just one of the many factors considered and probably should
receive less weight than factors such as teacher observation, day-to-day
classroom performance, maturity level, and attitude” – just the kind of
information in report cards.
“What’s wrong with report cards?” asked Wanda Hopkins, the parent of a
CPS high school student. “If CPS does not trust teacher grades, they
need to explain why and what they are doing to fix it. I trust my
child’s teacher more than I trust for-profit test companies.”
Parents with More Than a Score believe that our proposed promotion
offers an alternative to the CPS test-based promotion policy that
respects input from teachers, avoids the pitfalls of standardized test
misuse and retention, makes sense to parents, and – most importantly –
provides a higher quality evaluation of each student’s progress and
Notes to the proposed alternative promotion policy here
Link to this post on MTAS web site here:
The Los Angeles Times has a strange editorial today, first excoriating the new board majority for pushing Superintendent Deasy too hard and acting as though they were in charge, not he. This is weird, because the board is elected and Deasy is their employee, not their boss.
Then they blamed the board (the “reform” board that they admired, which was aligned with Deasy’s agenda) for not vetting the troubled iPad rollout:
“It helped, in ways, that the meeting was devoted to the troubled plan to provide every student in the district with aniPad. This is one area in which the previous board majority, which was more aligned with Deasy’s agenda, failed to ask certain basic questions before approving the billion-dollar project.”
Now, given that the L.A. Times strongly supported the ousted majority, it is passing strange to blame the board for the lack of planning, the “failure to ask certain basic questions” about Deasy’s billion-dollar iPad project. Wasn’t it Deasy’s responsibility to plan ahead before asking the board to approve this very troubled project? On one hand, the editorial excoriates the current majoritiy (not aligned with Deasy’s agenda) for micromanaging, then turns about and criticizes the board (aligned with Deasy’s agenda) for not doing the necessary and basic planning in the iPad rollout.
Which is it, editorialist? Is Superintendent Deasy accountable for planning and implementing the iPad mess? Or was that the board’s responsibility? Is the board wrong when it asks questions and also wrong when it fails to ask questions?
Or should we just assume that Deasy is always right and his every decision is also right even when it is a billion-dollar fiasco? And if things don’t turn out right, blame the board, not the ones who are paid to implement the board’s decisions.
The blogger known as “Red Queen in LA” responds to a petition she posted here, asking the Los Angeles school board not to remove those schools in which 40-49% of students are poor from their source of Federal funding, called Title I. She also notes that charter schools receive Title I funding even if they have a tiny proportion of students below the poverty line.
Mike, did you read the essay highlighted above? This one:http://redqueeninla.k12newsnetwork.com/2013/11/07/enacting-economic-equity/
It may not add more of the hard information you are looking for, but it is certainly available. Allow me to try to address some of the issues you raise.
Most important, is the presumption that funding the 40-49% poverty concentration (pc) schools will necessitate “robbing Peter to pay Paul” — or as you put it: “I am sure the schools with a poverty rate more than 50% would not be happy with the proposed change, losing some of their Title I funds, in order to also include the 40-50% range.”
I’ll get to a substantive argument against this point in a moment. But from an emotional vantage, which is what you are channeling when you say ‘I am sure the schools …would not be happy with…’, let me just state for the record that my own child attends a 50%+ school and I am more than happy with this change. This is just one family at one school, and obviously isn’t very weighty in some sense. But it is not the case that everyone is strictly aligned regarding this according to what happens to be in their very own pocket. No way. This is a question of distributing title I funds equitably to children and schools that *need it*. And it is a question of challenging the presumption that we cannot “afford” this equitable distribution.
So here’s the more important argument: these 40-49% schools can be funded with the title I monies to which they are entitled *without taking a single solitary dime from any current title I school — that is from any school of 50%+ pc*. This resolution does not seek to instruct how the policy would be implemented because this is not in the purview of the board (this is perhaps debatable but is at least a conservative reading of the balance of power). However, from looking at past budgets, it is hard to see why monies that are currently going to title I schools directly need be in any way affected.
The amount of money needed to provide supplemental title I funds to schools of 40-49% poverty concentration is less than $1.4M.
By studying past budgets the following appears to be true. Note that attempts to request numbers from the district to clarify this research have all been rebuffed. But to the best of our understanding, the amount of money budgeted for _administrative_ title I costs last year (these have not yet been budgeted for the coming year we just counted for title I-eligibility, so this contrast is an estimate as it uses figures from two different years) is *five* times higher than the entire additional amount needed for these 40-49% schools. The amount of money budgeted for _indirect_ costs is *six* times as great as what is needed for these schools. And the amount of money budgeted for _”Other”_ programs, *including monies carried over from the previous year that were _just never spent to ameliorate poverty at all_*, is approximately *seventy-nine* times that $1.4M needed to provide schools of 40%-49% poverty concentration with title I funds. The amount of title I funds devoted to “Other” programs rather than being given to the kids in need at our schools directly, was $110.4M in 2012-13. That’s fully >>_34%_<< of LAUSD’s entire 2012-13 $328.7M title I “receipts” (the district “bills” the state for title I funds, which come ultimately from the federal government). More than one-third of the title I funds received by LAUSD from the federal government for the purpose of supplementing academic needs among our economically disadvantaged children, did not go to our kids directly.
More questions: “don’t the feds decide what poverty level Title I funds go to?”. No, they do not. The guidelines are quite loosely provided about some stringent limits. Schools with pc above 75% must receive title I funds. Schools with pc down to 35% may receive title I funds. How the local educational agency chooses to distribute funds within these outer limits is up to them. LAUSD has a long history of funding title I schools with pc from 40-65% at 75% the rate of funding for schools of pc 65%+ (that is, the per capita funding rate is less in schools of lower poverty concentration). This resolution seeks to return that historical distribution that was altered in the wake of the aftermath of title I distributions that were temporarily inflated as a result of federal stimulus funds, that LAUSD failed to budget for the cessation of. Please see the above-referenced article for a lot of references to the title I rules and history.
You also ask: “What is being done with the money saved by changing the threshold from 40% to 50%? Going to pet projects of Deasy?” ….. Please see the “more substantive” response above. It would be awfully nice to know what that $110.4M “Other projects” is for. Some of it includes funds carried over between years. This may not be legal. What the rest of it is for, is entirely unclear. It would be nice if the LAUSD budget office received several thousand inquiries regarding this. Ours have gone unanswered. Why the federal government is not more curious about the disposition of their monies is also rather unclear to me. There was a federal audit recently of title III monies; perhaps the auditors should expand their scrutiny?
You claim that upon halting title I distributions to schools of 40-49% pc the money saved “…didn’t go to Deasy. It meant that more Title I funds went to those schools where 50% or more of the students families are considered poverty level.” With all due respect I must ask: how do you know? When funding was cut for the 40-49% schools, the resulting per capita rate for both 65%+ and <65% pc schools both remained higher than prior to the artificially augmented stimulus years. There has been an unbroken ramping up of per capita title I funds yearly. In what way does it seem that unspent 40-49% funds went to augment 65%+ funds? In fact, during every one of these years before and after the cessation of 40-49% pc title I funding, the yearly carryover in title I funds was adequate to cover the amount needed to fund the 40-49% schools. In what way does money saved in this way equate to augmented funds for 65%+ schools?
I agree there are two sides to this issue. But they are not staked out across a divide between schools. All schools are in the same boat here; we are all educating children of very limited means. And the title I-eligible students in schools of 40% pc are just exactly as poor as the children in schools of 80% pc. An argument could be made that the students attending schools of middling poverty concentration could need comparatively more rather than fewer anti-poverty funds to level their own particular playing field. I have not seen this argument made theoretically or explicitly but it is certainly commented about among families informally; this is what it feels like to us in “the field”. And yet note that the funds which would be disbursed to the 40-49% schools are a fraction that dispersed to the 65%+ schools anyway (25% fewer funds per capita go to schools <65% pc).
As for the reputation of the two sponsoring board members, recall that this is a complicated world we live in. I have had some conversations with the one “we like” that caused quite a bit of consternation in terms of what “we like”. That’s just me and YMMV, but sometimes it does not serve well to look deeper for motivation. Sometimes one just treats the symptoms.
Conversely, the sponsoring board member “we do not like” (and I *so* do agree with you here!!!), is nevertheless sponsoring a resolution that increases educational equity. I may disagree with most everything she does in general and in specific. But here, for whatever reasons, she is, IMHO, right. And I choose not to look deeper than the immediate action on the surface. If I did, and did not fight for this resolution, thousands of children would be ill-served. If I did, and did not fight for this resolution, we might miss the opportunity to shed some light on those $110.4M worth of “other programs”. Some greater accountability for title I funds would be rather excellent. Taxpayers across the nation will benefit from that.
But as I said, I do agree there are two sides to this issue, but I did not complete the explication of where they fall. They do not fall on either side of this 50% threshold. That would be pitting friend against friend. Again, the children of poverty on either side of this divide are just as poor regardless of the divide. And the monies do not have to come from one to support the other.
No, the divide is between the children in our schools, the children who are *entitled to these funds*, and the adults disbursing these funds somewhere, anywhere other than _to these children directly_. The problem is with the opacity of the LAUSD budget, and the near-impossibility of following its money. Perhaps there is not enough money and we’re all just f-ed. But until the LAUSD budget office explains that carryover that is larger than the funds needed for the 40-49%, or explains the “other programs” or releases a full and detailed line-item accounting of title I funds, I will be hard-pressed to see any division other than that which delineates the children of LAUSD from the central administration of LAUSD.
Finally, you mentioned that ‘most of the 40-49% schools are located in the valley’. At the time of defunding that was true; 23 schools were defunded of which — can’t find my notes for the precise figures on this but perhaps another will chime in with them — many if not most were indeed in the valley at this time. However subsequently, most of these valley schools became independent charters for the express purpose of receiving these title I funds directly from the state. LAUSD is no longer “billed” by these schools for title I funds; they receive them directly from the state. These schools are gone from the LAUSD system, as a direct result of this defunding move. For this current year there are just 16 schools in the 40-49% pc category. 1 is in LAUSD2, 8 in LAUSD3, 4 in LAUSD4, 1 in LAUSD5, 1 in LAUSD6, 1 in LAUSD6. You are correct that the majority of schools fall in the valley, though the actual number of affected students are very nearly equal in LAUSD3 and LAUSD4. No matter, the point is: support is more complicated than a simple accounting of number and location of schools.
Finally, note this lovely little factlet. While LAUSD is pretzeling itself over this issue of poverty concentration and some sliding point at which desperate need is pinpointed, charter schools blithely bill the state for per capita title I funding *completely independent of poverty concentration*. That’s right, if you’re a charter school of 2000 and 3 of your students are title I-eligible, you’ll receive those title I funds for the asking.
So there’s another divide. But it’s not between the +/- 50% poverty concentrated.
Please Mike and any/everyone else — please follow the links in this article for some primary sources on poverty I funding:http://redqueeninla.k12newsnetwork.com/2013/11/07/enacting-economic-equity/
Please ask more questions if necessary.
Please sign this petition:https://www.change.org/petitions/lausd-board-members-stop-taking-money-away-from-our-kids-please-vote-for-educational-equity-and-achievement-for-all-title-i-students-resolution-on-11-12-13
And please come out to the board meeting this Tuesday at 4pm to request that LAUSD stop robbing the 40-49% “Peter” to pay for the LAUSD downtown-administrator’s “other projects-Paul”.