Overnight, the blog reached 18 million page views. The last time it hit the million mark was January 28, when it hit 17 million. I had no idea when I started blogging on April 26, 2012, that this would happen.

 

My goal since the blog started was to let others know that what was happening in their state and district was not an isolated phenomenon. I wanted you to know that if you don’t like the status quo in education today, you are not alone. If you don’t like the attacks on teachers, you are not alone. If you are alarmed by the way testing has become the main focus of schooling, you are not alone.

 

The movement to turn public education over to private management and entrepreneurs is national, not local. The movement to take away due process and collective bargaining rights for teachers is national, not local. The indifference to segregation and poverty is national, not local. I wanted to help build a movement against privatization and high-stakes testing by providing the information people need.

Over time, I realized I could magnify the audience for brilliant bloggers like Anthony Cody, Peter Greene, Mercedes Schneider, Paul Thomas, Paul Horton, Bruce Baker, and many others. When I saw how many insightful comments were posted by teachers, parents, principals, superintendents, and concerned citizens, I realized I could give them a platform to be heard. When new research appears that is relevant to our issues, I could share it. Most of what I post is written by others, not by me. I set the rules, I decide what to post, but it is your blog too.

 

I have posted more than 10,000 times; I have read more than 250,000 comments. I turned many of your comments into posts because I thought they were smart, provocative, informative. I love the conversation among the readers. Many are regulars. Others jump in when they feel the urge. All are welcome (so long as they don’t use certain four-letter words or spout conspiracy theories or insult me).

 

I have repeatedly tried not to overwhelm you with too many posts in a single day, but I usually fail. When I see something I really like or really don’t like, I feel a need to share it. So, despite my best intentions, you get too many emails from me. No one has to read them. No one has to sign on. So, I will go on doing what I love doing–being a disseminator of my thoughts, your thoughts, and the thoughts of others, in the service of “a better education for all.”

 

There is a movement against the status quo of privatization and high-states testing. It is growing by the day. It includes students, parents, educators, and others. It won’t succeed in a matter of months. But it will succeed. I don’t know if it will take a year, five years, or ten years. It will succeed. Everything the “reformers” have imposed has failed. Merit pay has failed. Charters are no better and are very often much worse than public schools, especially when they are run by non-educators or by people seeking to make a profit. Vouchers have failed. The usual punitive accountability schemes–like grading schools A-F or stack-ranking teachers–are a farce. The parent trigger has failed. The effort to measure teacher quality by test scores has failed. Despite all the money of the billionaires and the Wall Street hedge fund managers, despite their control of the U.S. Department of Education, their plan to privatize public education is a failure. They can make it happen here and there, but they can’t produce any real improvement that benefits all children. They can’t produce equality of educational opportunity. They produce more testing, but they can’t produce better education. They can cherry pick students and show off their Potemkin Village schools, but they dare not take responsibility for an entire district because they don’t know what to do with the children who won’t conform, the children with disabilities, and the children who can’t speak English.

 

Might there be common ground? Yes, I think so. But common ground must begin by ending the boasting, ending the false claims. Education in a large and diverse society is hard, not easy. There is no secret sauce. Common ground requires that charter promoters stop bragging that they are better than public schools. Teach for America must stop bragging that their idealistic and dedicated young recruits are better teachers than experienced teachers. And the funders of these institutions must stop the attacks on public education and on the teaching profession. Common ground begins when everyone recognizes that complex problems require collaboration and mutual respect. Common ground also requires that charter promoters stop using their students as political shock troops at school board meetings, City Council hearings, and state legislative meetings.

 

Every high-performing nation has a strong public school system with strong community support and equitable funding. They do not rely on competitive markets to provide education; competitive markets exacerbate segregation and inequality. A better education for all means a better education for all. It means equality of educational opportunity. It means well-educated, well-prepared teachers. It means a respected teaching profession. It means parent and community support for the mission of the schools.

 

These are my principles. And these are the principles of this blog. Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for sending me articles and links. I rely on you and I thank you.

 

 

 

This is an excellent reading list of books for children who are not taking the state tests. The books are mostly for students in grades 3-8. It was assembled by the parents and teachers who are members of New York State Allies for Public Education. The list probably would not pass muster with the Common Core Commissariat because most of the books are fiction. But they are all enjoyable books, the kind that inspire children to read on their own, for pleasure. An old-fashioned idea, but a good one.

Jack Hassard, professor emeritus of science education at Georgia State University, writes here about the passage of a bill in the State Senate that would allow the state to takeover struggling public schools and turn them over to a statewide district as charter schools. This is an attempt to replicate Louisiana’s Recovery School District and Tennessee’s Achievement School District. Never mind that the Louisiana Recovery School District is one of the lowest-performing districts in the state or that the Tennessee ASD has not achieved any of its goals. The important thing is to hand these low-performing schools over to a private operator and give the appearance of “doing something.”

 

Wouldn’t it make more sense to reduce class sizes in these schools? Make sure these schools have adequate resources? Send in expert teachers to help the staff? Establish high-quaity preschool programs in each school district? Put a school nurse in every one of those schools? Make sure they have a library, after-school programs, and a school psychologist? What do you want to bet that every one of these “struggling schools” has high rates of poverty? The state should act responsibly to help the children now, not to fob them off to an entrepreneur.

There is no aspect of “reform” that has failed more decisively than virtual charter schools. They provide instruction online and receive full state tuition. Their students dropped out at high rates–usually 50% annually–they spend millions on marketing and advertising to lure new students, who her low test scores and abysmal graduation rates.

North Carolina’s legislature just invited two online charters to open. They will siphon funds from public schools. North Carolina has, in a short time, gone from being one of the most progressive southern states to one with underfunded public schools and poorly paid teachers. The legislature seems to want to introduce every failed idea into education. They even killed off the state’s successful teaching fellows program, which prepared career teachers, and replaced it with $6 million for TFA.

Susan Chyn, who worked for many years in the testing industry and now tutors students for the PARCC, left the following comment after reading Russ Walsh’s review of the readability level of sample questions of the Common Core PARCC examination:

 

Reading level is but one issue. There are many other reasons to worry about PARCC, if the practice tests are representative of what the students of NJ will face in March. Having developed relatively rigorous tests at a standardized testing company for over 20 years, I am rather shocked by the quality of PARCC questions. Reading passages are presented out of context (i.e., no prefatory blurbs like “The Red Badge of Courage is a story about the Civil War,” easing test takers into the texts). The multiple-choice questions are often unclearly (ambiguously) worded; the intended answers, arbitrary. And my experience so far is that the A-B format, though trendy, leads kids to the very worst kind of back-and-forth second guessing. Suffice it to say, I have a queasy feeling about how the students I tutor (who run the gamut ELA skillwise) will fare. I hope I am wrong, but right now, I feel bad for the public school teachers, the parents and students who all will be judged by this very blunt instrument.

 

 

Colorado students are rallying to demand testing reform. This is THEIR issue. They have been subjected to test after test after test. They lose instructional time. They lose time for the arts and history and foreign languages to make more time for testing. Their scores can get their teachers and their principal fired. They are genuine patriots. Despite 12 years of testing, they have not been turned into robots. They are standing up for their right to a real education. They refuse to be crushed by the standardization machine. These students can teach the nation what matters most.

 

On Saturday, March 7th, from 11 am to 12 pm, high school students from schools around the state will join on the West Steps of the Denver Capitol.

 

They aim to have their voices heard on the issue of standardized testing in Colorado. The Colorado Measure for Academic Success (CMAS) test proved to be the uniting factor that prompted these students to raise concerns regarding the corporate ownership of tests such as the CMAS, as well as the ways in which they feel these tests are misaligned with curriculum design.

 

Other grievances regarding these tests include the fact that teachers cannot see the tests their students take, and that depending upon the school district, they feel teachers and schools can be unfairly jeopardized based upon the students’ scores. After contemplating this myriad of complaints and concerns, a group of high school seniors in Fort Collins began an organization known as ‘The Anti-Test’, a group which seeks to peacefully protest certain aspects of standardized testing for the sake of testing reform. They have organized this rally in Denver so that the voices of civically engaged students may be heard in what they ultimately believe is a student issue.

 

I hope they bring a special message of dissent to State Senator Michael Johnston, who wrote Senate Bill 191, which made high-stakes testing the focus of “reform” in Colorado. Johnston is a former member of Teach for America. He insisted that 50% of educators’ evaluation should be based on test scores. Making testing so important, he claimed in 2010, would produce “great teachers” and “great schools.” How has that worked out?

T.C. Weber, a parent in Tennessee, has a hilarious post on his blog (“Dad Gone Wild”) about the end days of corporate-style reform, of which there has been a surfeit in his state. Humor, as we have often seen, can be an effective vehicle for serious social criticism. Reformers, he says, are like little children who refuse to go to bed and keep making excuses about why they should have just a few minutes more. Please, Daddy?

 

He writes:

 

I love my children dearly but I am no fan of bedtime. Things at your house may be a little different, but at my house, it’s like standing behind a jet plane. The kids are going a million miles a minute. Questions are flying. Toys are sprawled everywhere. The noise is deafening. I’m alternately crying, begging, and yes, yelling, “Brush your teeth,” “Put your pajama’s on,” and “Get over here and listen to this book.”

 

All the while the kids are working off a different agenda. They realize that the day is coming to an end, and they’re not ready to let it go. It’s been a good day, and they want to milk it for everything they can. So they are fighting and talking and trying to create enough energy to delay the inevitable. Finally, though, the kids are settled into bed and the day comes to an end, and preparations begin for tomorrow. It was always a forgone conclusion that they would end up asleep at some point and the day would finally come to an end and that their protestations were pointless.

 

In my mind, that’s where we are with the reform movement in education right now. The day is coming to an end, and like my children, reformsters are kicking and screaming and making as much noise as they can to try and delay the inevitable. We have reached a point, that the reform movement was once engaged in battle against the status quo has become the status quo. As Nietzsche said, “Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you.” I certainly don’t consider myself and other like-minded individuals monsters, but man have we been demonized by the reform movement, and now the abyss is gazing right back at them.

 

The reform movement has been in action long enough that we have a body of evidence to examine. It’s a body of evidence spanning some twenty-plus years, and it looks a whole lot like the status quo. Teach For America has been around since 1991, but as Gary Rubenstein points out, it has become this big blob with no real sense of direction or ability to evolve. A recent in-depth study on charters illustrates, that they have more in common with traditional schools than they’d like to admit. A look at voucher data debunks their value pretty, quickly and don’t get me started on achievement districts as blogger Crazy Crawfish points out, they are their own monstrosity.

 

When confronted with all this evidence, you would think reformers would start looking forward for new solutions and cast off the ones that have been proven ineffective. That would be the wrong assumption. In fact, it’s just the opposite: they double down in defense of the status quo. They accuse education experts of not believing in children of color. They beg for more time. They create focus groups to study things we already know. They pretty much do everything that they’ve accused public education advocates of doing for years. Hello, kettle? This is pot, and guess what, you are black…..

 

How many studies to we have to present or debunk in order to show the unsustainable practices of charter schools before it sinks in that they are not the panacea they’re made out to be? How many times must we slap the hands of a Achievement District for jockeying numbers before they accept the truth that it’s just not working? How many times and in how many ways must it be shown that charter schools do not perform better than public schools? None of these are isolated events. They are repeated over and over and over and still the reformers fight to maintain the status quo processes. Just like my kids asking for five more minutes – please.

 

I’ll be honest. I’m a little bit weary of these conversations. There are few things I enjoy more than a good philosophical discussion, but when the other party continues to ignore empirical evidence, it just becomes tiresome and makes it hard to take them serious. I long to move on to something a bit more meaningful. Truth is, I long for the day when I no longer feel compelled to write this blog because we are actually employing research backed best practices.

 

Reformers tend to further mimic my children in their desire to constantly be doing something, seldom pausing to consider overall implications. It makes me think about what fellow blogger Rob Miller recently wrote, “The tendency to take action often leads to action without reason or research, which has the potential to cause more problems than it fixes.” Miller makes a compelling argument about slowing things down transferring our focus from the individual and onto the whole.

 

There is more. And it is all right to the point. There are links to the evidence. Read it and enjoy a good analysis. A good laugh, about things that are not very funny. There are good-hearted people–and some not so good-hearted–who are tearing up American public education and demonizing hard-working teachers. Doing the same things over and over again, doubling down when they fail. Never giving up even after they have become the new and dysfunctional status quo. And as they keep on failing,  the reformers refuse to recognize that they are not actually “reforming” education but creating chaos and new problems.

 

Dad’s advice: All the protestations and whining isn’t going to change the fact that the day is coming to an end.

 

 

 

Activist parents and educators who belong to SaveOurSchoolsNJ helpfully assembled a dozen reasons to refuse the Common Core PARCC test.

 

 

 

1. PARCC is poorly designed & confusing

 

“For many of the sample released questions, there is, arguably, no answer among the answer choices that is correct or more than one answer that is correct, or the question simply is not, arguably, actually answerable as written.”

 

Why?

 

“The tests consist largely of objective-format items (multiple-choice and EBSR). These item types are most appropriate for testing very low-level skills (e.g., recall of factual detail). However, on these tests, such item formats are pressed into a kind of service for which they are, generally, not appropriate. They are used to test “higher-order thinking.” The test questions therefore tend to be tricky and convoluted. The test makers insist on answer choices all being “reasonable.” So, the questions are supposed to deal with higher-order thinking, and the wrong answers are all supposed to be plausible, so the test questions end up being extraordinarily complex and confusing and tricky, all because the “experts” who designed these tests didn’t understand the most basic stuff about creating assessments–that objective question formats are generally not great for testing higher-order thinking, for example.” i

 

2. PARCC’s online testing format is very problematic, particularly for younger students
“In the early grades, the tests end up being as much a test of keyboarding skills as of attainment in [English Language Arts or Math]. The online testing format is entirely inappropriate for most third graders.” i

 

3. PARCC is diagnostically & instructionally useless
“Many kinds of assessment—diagnostic assessment, formative assessment, performative assessment, some classroom summative assessment—has instructional value. They can be used to inform instruction and/or are themselves instructive.

 

The results of [the PARCC] tests are not broken down in any way that is of diagnostic or instructional use.

 

Teachers and students cannot even see the tests to find out what students got wrong on them and why. So the tests are of no diagnostic or instructional value. None. None whatsoever.” i

 

4. Taking and preparing for PARCC & other high-stakes standardized tests is replacing learning
Administrators at many schools “report that they spend as much as a third of the school year preparing students to take these tests. That time includes the actual time spent taking the tests, the time spent taking pretests and benchmark tests and other practice tests, the time spent on test prep materials, the time spent doing exercises and activities in textbooks and online materials that have been modeled on the test questions in order to prepare kids to answer questions of those kinds, and the time spent on reporting, data analysis, data chats, proctoring, and other test housekeeping.” i

 

5. PARCC will further distort curricula and teaching
“The tests drive how and what people teach, and they drive much of what is created by curriculum developers…Those distortions are grave. In U.S. curriculum development today, the tail is wagging the dog.” i

 

6. PARCC & other high-stakes standardized tests undermine students’ creativity and desire to learn
The research on motivation and creativity is very clear: externally imposed punishment and reward systems, like those associated with high-stakes standardized testing, suppress our intrinsic motivation, dramatically undermining creativity and love of learning.

 

High-stakes standardized tests also suppress motivation and creativity because the endless test preparation narrows the curriculum and creates a boring learning environment, filled with anxiety and fear.

 

7. PARCC & other high-stakes standardized tests have an enormous financial cost
“In 2010-11, the US spent $1.7 billion on state standardized testing alone.” With the Common Core State Standards tests, this cost increases substantially.

 

The PARCC contract by itself is worth over a billion dollars to the Pearson [Corporation] in the first three years, and you have to add the cost of [the Smarter Balanced Common Core Assessment] and the other state tests (another billion and a half?), to that.

 

No one has accurately estimated the cost of the computer upgrades that will be necessary for online testing of every child, but those costs probably run to 50 or 60 billion.

 

This is money that could be spent on stuff that matters—on making sure that poor kids have eye exams and warm clothes and food in their bellies, on making sure that libraries are open and that schools have nurses on duty to keep kids from dying. How many dead kids is all this testing worth, given that it is, again, of no instructional value?

 

IF THE ANSWER TO THAT IS NOT OBVIOUS TO YOU, YOU SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED ANYWHERE NEAR A SCHOOL OR AN EDUCATIONAL POLICY-MAKING DESK.” i

 

8. PARCC is completely experimental. It has not been validated as accurate & yet it will be used to evaluate students, schools and teachers
“Standardized test development practice requires that the testing instrument be validated. Such validation requires that the test maker show that the test correlates strongly with other accepted measures of what is being tested, both generally and specifically (that is, with regard to specific materials and/or skills being tested).

 

No such validation was done for [PARCC and Smarter Balanced common core] tests…So, the tests fail to meet a minimal standard for a high-stakes standardized assessment—that they have been independently validated.” i

 

9. PARCC & other high-stakes standardized tests are abusive to our children
Reports of students throwing up during high-stakes standardized tests or inflicting harm to themselves as a result of test stress are already common.

 

PARCC is an intentionally much more difficult test that will increase students’ anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.

 

PARCC is extra-frustrating to our children because it is entirely on-line, creating additional test-taking challenges not related to the test content.

 

The combination of the more brutal PARCC tests and the more stressful on-line PARCC testing experience will result in more of our children feeling abused, anxious and afraid.

 

10. PARCC will worsen the achievement and gender gaps
“Both the achievement and gender gaps in educational performance are largely due to motivational issues, and these tests and the curricula and pedagogical strategies tied to them are extremely demotivating. They create new expectations and new hurdles that will widen existing gaps, not close them.”

 

PARCC and other Common Core exams “drive more regimentation and standardization of curricula, which will further turn off kids already turned off by school, causing more to tune out and drop out.” i

 

11. High-stakes standardized tests fail to improve educational outcomes
“We have had more than a decade, now, of standards-and-testing-based accountability under [No Child Left Behind]. We have seen only miniscule increases in outcomes, and those are well within the margin of error of the calculations. Simply from the Hawthorne Effect, we should have seen SOME improvement!!! And that suggests that the testing has actually DECREASED OUTCOMES, which is consistent with what we know about the demotivational effects of extrinsic punishment and reward systems. It’s the height of stupidity to look at a clearly failed approach and to say, ‘Gee, we should do a lot more of them.’” i

 

12. PARCC and Smarter Balanced Common Core aligned tests are designed to brand the majority of our children as failures
The Smarter Balanced test consortium announced in November that it would use very high cut scores for the test, which would result in more than half of all students labeled as failures.

 

In third grade, for example, only 38% of students taking the Smarter Balanced test are expected to achieve a proficient score in English and only 39% in math. ii

 

As numerous testing experts have pointed out, a “cut score” is “NOT an objective measure. It is a judgment call, a matter of group opinion, shaped by assumptions, and it can be manipulated to make scores appear higher or lower, depending on what” those in control want. iii

 

The PARCC test will set its cut scores next summer, but it is very likely to follow the same pattern, creating a false narrative of failure and causing great harm to our children and our public schools.

 

 

 

i Source: http://dianeravitch.net/…/bob-shepherd-why-parcc-testing-i…/
ii Source: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/11/17/13sbac.h34.html
iii Source: http://dianeravitch.net/…/how-pearsons-common-core-tests-a…/

Troy LaRaviere is a champion of children and a champion of public education. He is the principal of Blaine Elementary School in Chicago and president of the Chicago principals’ association. He has spoken out strongly against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s anti-public school agenda. He created a four-and-a-half minute video for the Chuy Garcia campaign where he says, “Of the 50 highest-performing schools in Chicago, all 50 are public schools that were here before he [Rahm Emanuel] arrived….Of the 20 lowest-performing schools in Chicago, 13 of them – over half – are turnaround and charter schools, which are cornerstones of the Rahm Emanuel education reform agenda.”

 

And now, in a letter to the parents of his school, he has advised them that they have his permission to opt out of PARCC testing. He even said that he planned to opt his own son out of PARCC next year when he is in third grade. He calls for all parents in Chicago, in Illinois, and in America to opt out. He definitely belongs on this blog’s honor roll!

 

The PTA of Blaine sent letters to parents encouraging them to opt out of the tests. Remember that teachers and parents were told by the city superintendent that the schools were not ready for the PARCC test, and that it would be given to only 10% of students. A few days ago, the city caved in to the state and federal government’s demand that it give the test to all students or the state would lose $1.3 billion in funding. It was undoubtedly an empty threat; Mayor Emanuel could have called either his friend Governor Rauner or his friend Arne Duncan and persuaded them to back off but he did not. So with only a few days notice, the children are expected to take a test for which neither they nor their teachers are prepared.

 

Principal LaRaviere wrote to his parents as follows:

 

I am writing to make it clear that the Blaine administration fully supports the PTA’s effort to maximize Blaine students’ instructional time. As a result we will respect and honor all parent requests to opt-out their students from the PARCC. Students whose parents opt them out will receive a full day of instruction. Teachers are developing plans that will provide enriched learning experiences for non-testing students during the testing window. I want to clearly state that whether you opt-out or not, Blaine’s administration and teachers will respect and support your wishes for your child…..

 

Opting out will not affect your child’s promotion and selective enrollment status for Fall 2015. There is also a belief that opting out will affect Blaine’s funding. There is no evidence for this belief. In fact, the test itself is decreasing resources that could have otherwise been targeted for school improvement. Each year, states and school districts spend billions of dollars on testing, while at the same time cutting budgets for instruction and learning. Our PTA believes it is time for parents to say “enough.” For more on the issue of funding, please see the statement released by the parent education advocacy organization, More Than a Score, at the following link:

 

http://ilraiseyourhand.org/content/response-isbes-misinformation-regarding-parcc-and-opt-out.

 

For more on the PTA’s opt-out initiative, please see http://blainepta.weebly.com/.

 

In closing, our PTA’s focus on teaching your children rather than over-testing them is commendable, and we applaud their efforts on behalf of Blaine students.

 

Very Respectfully,

 

Troy LaRaviere, Principal

 

But then, READ THIS!

 

Since releasing the above letter, I’ve been asked questions like, “Since the PARCC might count for something next year, do you think the kids should just take it this year so they can get used to it?” My response is as follows: If the schools announced that next year they were going expose your children to exhaust fumes for five minutes per day, would you be resigned to that inevitability and submit your child, starting his or her exposure this year so he or she can “get used to it”? That analogy may seem harsh and over-the-top, but it is my lived experience that this massive over-testing has been as toxic to education in Chicago as breathing exhaust fumes would be to a living organism. Over-testing–and the punitive measures that have come with it–has narrowed our curriculum; it has led to massive cheating scandals across the country; it has led to the shutting down of good schools in low-income neighborhoods; and it has led to a reduction in practices that would actually improve schools, like collaboration and increased professional development time.

 

Over-testing has also given politicians a way to blame public schools for things that are clearly a result of the actions and inactions of the failed politicians themselves. When students in a low-income neighborhood show up on day-one of kindergarten three years behind their counterparts in a high-income community, that is not the result of the failure of public schools; it is the result of failed public policies; it is a result of a political system that has failed to deliver critical human services to the people who need them most. From Rahm Emanuel to most local aldermen, our city’s politicians have failed low-income children from conception to kindergarten, and they use attainment based test scores to chastise public schools for picking up the pieces of their monumental failures.

 

So no. We don’t need to get used to this. We need to stop this.

 

My son is in second grade. Next year he will be among thousands of 3rd graders who are scheduled to take the PARCC for the first time. He will not take it. He will not take it in 3rd grade to get used to it by 4th grade; and he will not take it in 4th grade to get used to it by 5th grade.

 

We do not want our children–or our schools in general–to continue to have to get used to unproven backward education policy ideas like the theory that testing our children is going to somehow magically improve our education system. It’s time to end the PARCC; not just opt-out of it. It’s time to implement real evidence-based strategies for enhancing our education system. We’ve been blindly following the testing theory for 14 years now. The No Child Left Behind law launched this era of testing and accountability in 2001. Remember? The massive testing and accountability the law called for was supposed to lead to 100% of children meeting standards by 2014. Those years have come and gone with no appreciable difference in outcomes for our children. Testing and accountability did not work in the last 14 years and it won’t work in the next 14. It’s time to call a failure, a failure.

 

Let’s all say it together:

 

“The theory of testing and accountability has failed our children.”

 

Opt Out Chicago.

 

Opt Out Illinois.

 

Opt Out America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julian Vasquez Heilig, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University in Sacramento, here assembles the statistical data about the so-called “Florida Miracle.” This “miracle,” like the purported “Texas Miracle” that propelled George W. Bush into the White House, is the foundation of Jeb Bush’s claim to being the real deal as an education reformer.

 

Do we want more Bush-style reform? George W. Bush brought No Child Left Behind to the nation; Jeb Bush imposed an even tougher accountability and choice program in Florida. Schools receive an A-F letter grade. Teachers’ evaluation, compensation, and tenure are tied to their students’ test scores. There are more than 600 charters, including a thriving for-profit charter industry. Jeb pushed for vouchers, but only vouchers for special education students survived court scrutiny; Florida courts declared Jeb’s voucher proposal for low-income students violated the state constitution. In 2012, Jeb and his allies got a proposition on the ballot to change the state constitution to permit vouchers, but voters rejected it by 58%-42%. Jeb is a true believer in choice and accountability.

 

But how about that “Florida Miracle”?

 

Heilig shows with data from 2000-2009 that Florida students made impressive gains on the fourth grade NAEP reading test. He notes that critics wondered whether the gains were elevated by the policy of holding back third-grade students with low reading scores; those low-scoring students were about 10% of third graders.

 

But moving right along, the scores in 8th grade are good but not all that impressive. In reading, Florida ranked 30th in the nation, and in math, it ranked 34th. Some small gains, but nothing that looks like a miracle.

 

What about graduation rates? Florida made the smallest gains of any of the most populous states and was 44th in the nation in the proportion of students who graduated from high school in four years.

 

What about ACT scores? Heilig writes: Does the news get better on the ACT? Um. No. Florida’s overall composite ACT scores decreased between 2000 and 2010. They were the lowest of the most populous states. They were ranked 49th in the nation.

 

And SAT scores?

 

Florida’s overall composite scores SAT scores also decreased. They outperform Texas and New York, but lagged behind California. Florida ranked 41st in the nation in composite SAT scores. (I know someone lurking out there is thinking that the SAT and ACT scores are dependent on composition of the sample, of course it does. But the data is the data)

 

Heilig concludes:

 

In sum, NAEP scores seemed positive (with caveats). However, do NAEP scores determine the future of Florida’s students? When we consider the measures that actually matter for many kids’ lives: Graduation rates, ACT and SAT… It is only a peek— but you be the judge of the Florida miracle.

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