Archives for category: Race to the Top

The National Superintendents Roundtable has a message for the public: be fair when judging our public schools. Schools today are far better than they were 40 or 50 years ago, by all conventional measures. what they might have added was that schools made steady progress until about 2007 or so, when No Child Left Behind took hold, then things were made worse by Race to the Top and Common Core. The proliferation of choice has flattened the progress made from 1970 to 2007.

A group of scholars collaborated to write a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research that studies how teachers affect student height. It is a wonderful and humorous takedown of the Raj Chetty et al thesis that the effects of a single teacher in the early grades may determine a student’s future lifetime earnings, her likelihood graduating from college, live in higher SES neighborhoods, as well as avoid teen pregnancy.

When the Chetty study was announced in 2011, a front-page article in the New York Times said:

WASHINGTON — Elementary- and middle-school teachers who help raise their students’ standardized-test scores seem to have a wide-ranging, lasting positive effect on those students’ lives beyond academics, including lower teenage-pregnancy rates and greater college matriculation and adult earnings, according to a new study that tracked 2.5 million students over 20 years.

The paper, by Raj Chetty and John N. Friedman of Harvard and Jonah E. Rockoff of Columbia, all economists, examines a larger number of students over a longer period of time with more in-depth data than many earlier studies, allowing for a deeper look at how much the quality of individual teachers matters over the long term.

“That test scores help you get more education, and that more education has an earnings effect — that makes sense to a lot of people,” said Robert H. Meyer, director of the Value-Added Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which studies teacher measurement but was not involved in this study. “This study skips the stages, and shows differences in teachers mean differences in earnings.”

The study, which the economics professors have presented to colleagues in more than a dozen seminars over the past year and plan to submit to a journal, is the largest look yet at the controversial “value-added ratings,” which measure the impact individual teachers have on student test scores. It is likely to influence the roiling national debates about the importance of quality teachers and how best to measure that quality.

Many school districts, including those in Washington and Houston, have begun to use value-added metrics to influence decisions on hiring, pay and even firing….

Replacing a poor teacher with an average one would raise a single classroom’s lifetime earnings by about $266,000, the economists estimate. Multiply that by a career’s worth of classrooms.

“If you leave a low value-added teacher in your school for 10 years, rather than replacing him with an average teacher, you are hypothetically talking about $2.5 million in lost income,” said Professor Friedman, one of the coauthors…

The authors argue that school districts should use value-added measures in evaluations, and to remove the lowest performers, despite the disruption and uncertainty involved.

“The message is to fire people sooner rather than later,” Professor Friedman said.

Professor Chetty acknowledged, “Of course there are going to be mistakes — teachers who get fired who do not deserve to get fired.” But he said that using value-added scores would lead to fewer mistakes, not more.

President Obama hailed the  Chetty study in his 2012 State of the Union address.

Value-added teacher evaluation, that is, basing the evaluation of teachers on the rise or fall of their students’ test scores, was a central feature of Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top when it was unveiled in 2010. States had to agree to adopt it if they wanted to be eligible for Race to the Top funding.

When the Los Angeles Times published a value-added ranking of thousands of teachers, teachers said the rankings were filled with error, but Duncan said those who complained were afraid to learn the truth. In Florida, teacher evaluations may be based on the rise or fall of the scores of students that the teachers had never taught, in subjects they had never taught. (About 70% of teachers do not teach subjects that are tested annually to provide fodder for these ratings.) When this nutty process was challenged inn court by Florida teachers, the judge ruled that the practice might be unfair but it was not unconstitutional.

The fundamental claim of VAM (value-added modeling or measurement) has been repeatedly challenged, most notably by economist Moshe Adler. When put into law, as it was in most states, it was found to be useless, because only tiny percentages of teachers were identified as ineffective, and even the validity of the ratings of that 1-3% was dubious. The use of VAM was frozen by a judge in New Mexico, then tossed out earlier this year by a new Democratic governor. It was banned by a judge in Houston.  A large experiment funded by the Gates Foundation intended to demonstrate the value of VAM produced negative results.

Now comes economic research to test the validity of linking teacher evaluation and student height.

 

Marianne Bitler, Sean  Corcoran, Thurston Domina, and Emily Penner wrote:

NBER Working Paper No. 26480
Issued in November 2019
NBER Program(s):Program on Children, Economics of Education Program

Estimates of teacher “value-added” suggest teachers vary substantially in their ability to promote student learning. Prompted by this finding, many states and school districts have adopted value-added measures as indicators of teacher job performance. In this paper, we conduct a new test of the validity of value-added models. Using administrative student data from New York City, we apply commonly estimated value-added models to an outcome teachers cannot plausibly affect: student height. We find the standard deviation of teacher effects on height is nearly as large as that for math and reading achievement, raising obvious questions about validity. Subsequent analysis finds these “effects” are largely spurious variation (noise), rather than bias resulting from sorting on unobserved factors related to achievement. Given the difficulty of differentiating signal from noise in real-world teacher effect estimates, this paper serves as a cautionary tale for their use in practice.

 

Political Morning Education reports a big event in D.C. tonight where partisans of the test-and-punish education policies of the past twenty years will gather to rededicate themselves to their failed programs. Will these advocates for accountability accept any accountability for the misguided practices they have foisted on American education? Will they hold themselves accountable for the billions of dollars spent on testing and privatization that should have been spent on reducing class sizes and raising teachers salaries and opening health clinics in schools? Wouldn’t it be something if they invited someone like Jonathan Kozol or Anthony Cody to explain why NCLB and RTTT failed and how to have a better approach to teaching and learning other than carrots and sticks?

 

BUSHES SPOTLIGHT READING, LITERACY AMID GRIM ASSESSMENTS: Events starting tonight at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will bring together members of the Bush family, best-selling authors and entertainers, philanthropists, and education and business leaders to celebrate reading and mark the foundation’s 30th anniversary.

— “I believe that literacy is an essential foundation for democracy,” former first lady Laura Bush said in a statement provided to POLITICO. Bush, one of tonight’s honorary co-chairs, will deliver remarks during a program that will include a special performance by country music singer Tim McGraw and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham, co-authors of “Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music that Made a Nation.”

— The events, including the foundation’s inaugural summit on adult literacy on Wednesday, coincide with grim results on the Nation’s Report Card and an announcement today from the Collaborative for Student Success about an effort with 11 other organizations to address the results.

— Among the organizations are The Education Trust, the National Urban League, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the National Association of Elementary School Principals. They’re calling for, among other things, increasing federal investment in evidence-based, comprehensive literacy efforts at the state and local levels.

— “The persistent gaps in reading achievement for students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities on the NAEP require urgent action,” said John B. King Jr., former Education secretary and president and CEO of The Education Trust.

 

Guy Brandenburg offers a graph of 8th Grade scores on NAEP from 1992-2019 for four jurisdiction and invites you to find a miracle , if you can.

I am not sure that I agree with Steven Singer’s point here, that NAEP scores tell us nothing other than that students from affluent homes have higher test scores than students who live in poverty. 

His main point is undeniable. All standardized test scores are highly correlated with family income.

We could use income and poverty data to learn what the test scores tell us, without wasting billions on standardized tests and corrupting instruction.

But I think that NAEP does tell us something we need official confirmation for: the utter failure of Disruptive Corporate Reform.

The Disrupters have promised since No Child Left Behind was proposed in 2001 that they knew how to raise test scores and close achievement gaps: Test every child every year and hold schools accountable for rising or falling scores. That will do it, said George W. Bush, Margaret Spellings, Rod Paige and Sandy Kress. They rode the wave of the “Texas miracle,” which turned out to be non-existent. Texas in 2019 is stuck right in the middle of the distribution of states.

Then came Jeb Bush, with his fantastical claims of a “Florida miracle,” which are now repeated by Betsy DeVos. Look at the NAEP scores: Florida is right in the middle of the states. No miracle there.

Arne Duncan has been promoting Tennessee, which as one of the first Race to the Top states, which is also ensconced in the middle of the distribution.

Look for yourself.

Two states that were firmly under the control of Reform heroes, Louisiana and New Mexico, are at the tail end of the distribution.

What do the NAEP scores tell us?

Don’t look for miracles.

Don’t believe propaganda spun by snake-oil salesman.

Look to states and districts that are economically developed and that fund their schools adequately and fairly.

The scores in states may go up or down a few points, but the bottom line is that the basics matter most. That is, a state willing and able to support education and families able to support their children.

 

The 2019 ACT scores, which are supposed to measure “college readiness,” dropped to a record low. 

This follows nine years after the release of the Common Core State Standards, which were supposed to promote “college and career readiness.”

Nick Anderson of the Washington Post writes:

ACT scores for the high school Class of 2019 show that rates of college readiness in English and math have sunk to record lows, testing officials reported Wednesday.

Among nearly 1.8 million in the class who took the college admission test at least once, ACT — the nonprofit group that administers it — reported that 59 percent reached a score indicating readiness in English and 39 percent did so in math. Those results continued a several-year slide. The English readiness rate was the lowest since the readiness measure debuted in 2002, and the math readiness rate equaled a record low set in 2002.

ACT defines its readiness benchmark as a score indicating a student has at least a 50 percent chance of getting a B or higher in a corresponding first-year college course. For English, the ACT benchmark is 18 out of a maximum 36. For math, it is 22.

When students took a strong course load through high school, ACT found, they fared better.

“Our findings once again indicate that taking core courses in high school dramatically increases a student’s likelihood for success after graduation,” ACT chief executive Marten Roorda said in a statement. “That’s why we need to ensure that all students of all backgrounds have access to rigorous courses and that we are supporting them not only academically, but socially and emotionally as well.”

The ACT — one of two major admission tests — assesses students in English, reading, math and science with multiple-choice questions that take nearly three hours to complete, not counting an optional essay-writing exam. More than a dozen states pay for all high school students to take the ACT during school hours, and others fund the testing on an optional basis….

Among 15 states where officials said nearly all graduates took the test, only four posted an average composite score of 20 or higher: Nebraska, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin.

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Education activist Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters, commented:

This ACT report along with stagnant or dropping NAEP scores provides a devastating indictment of the Gates/Coleman/Duncan Common Core reform agenda – which was supposed to have provided the opposite result.  And yet Duncan doesn’t acknowledge this in the WaPost (big surprise).
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-we-can-learn-from-the-state-of-our-nations-education/2019/10/31/0e365c64-fbfa-11e9-8906-ab6b60de9124_story.html
http://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/cccr-2019/National-CCCR-2019.pdf
College Readiness levels in English, reading, math, and science have all decreased since 2015, with English and math seeing the largest decline.
States and districts have spent billions of dollars to adopt the Common Core standards–on new textbooks, new tests, new professional development, new technology, all aligned to the Common  Core.
The same amount might have been devoted to reducing class sizes, putting a nurse in every school, increasing teachers’ salaries.
The definition of a corporate reformer is someone who never admits he or she was wrong. They apparently live by the John Wayne credo of “never apologize, mister, it’s a sign of weakness.”
In this case, however, it might be a good sign to let educators adapt to the students in front of them rather than follow a script written in D.C. that is not working.

Gary Rubinstein, math teacher at Stuyvesant High School, is a skilled myth buster. He frequently unmasks “miracle” stories.

In this post, he demolishes the claim that Louisiana has improved faster in 8th grade math than other states.

This is the last gasp of the Disruption movement, which has controlled federal and state policy for 20 years but has little to show for it.

As Rubinstein shows, Arne Duncan and John White are leading the effort to find the “bright side” of the latest NAEP results, which were stagnant In 2019 and have been stagnant for a decade.

Duncan says the nation should look to Louisiana for inspiration. Louisiana ranked among the bottom  states on NAEP, 44th to 49th, depending on the grade and the subject. But how creative to point to one of the lowest performing states as a national model! Do what Louisiana did and your state too can rank among the bottom five states in the nation!

Gary points out that Louisiana has indeed improved, but its 2019 scores on 8th grade math were actually a point lower than its scores were in 2007! In other words, Louisiana hasn’t gained at all for the past dozen years!.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if the leaders of the Disruption movement admitted that their 20-year-long policy of test-and-punish is both stale and failed?

Wouldn’t it be great if they said, “Whoa! We’re on the wrong track. We’ve inflicted nonstop testing on the nation’s children since 2002. We have spent billions on testing and test-prep. Scores went up for a few years but leveled off in 2007. Enough! Our answers are wrong. Time for fresh thinking.”

 

Carol Burris notes that charter-friendly Democrats have been put in a jam since Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have announced their intention to eliminate federal funding for charter schools, which is currently $440 million a year and used by Betsy DeVos primarily to expand big corporate chains.

She writes:

Since Elizabeth Warren joined Bernie Sanders in calling for an end to the U.S. Department of Education’s Charter Schools Program (CSP), the charter school establishment has been frantically trying through editorials, postings and back channels to get Warren to change her mind.

One of the latest and more subtle attempts has been made by the Center for American Progress (CAP), that serves as the “think tank” for the least progressive arm of the Democratic Party, at least when it comes to education policy.

 Readers may remember CAP as the cheerleaders for the Common Core during the Obama years. It embraced all of the failed policies of Race to the Top, including evaluating teachers by test scores and the collection of big data on student performance to drive “data driven” reform.

 In a recent posting, no doubt in response to Warren’s call to shut down CSP, they issued a call for CSP “modernization” that you can find here.

 Since it began in 1995, the CSP has spent $4.1 billion on starting and expanding charter schools in nearly every state. Rather than addressing the big problems of the program—the funding of unauthorized charters that never open, the program’s history of sending hundreds of millions to charter schools that open and shut down, and the flow of money that goes to for-profit operators via “non-profit” schools, it tinkers around the edges with rules and suggestions for even more programs.

 One suggested “reform” calls for communities to analyze the need for more schools, presumably charter schools, via the grants.  That call does not follow up with the recommendation that CSP funds be given only to applicants in communities that find need. All CAP is calling for, therefore, is one more CSP program that would do nothing to address the problem of charter school saturation, which is overwhelming public school systems by draining the insufficient resources they have.

 They also call for funding to develop “unified enrollment systems.” Such systems, favored by the proponents of portfolio districts, are designed to expand the footprint of charter schools,while being disguised as an equity reform. One of the favored private vendors for unified enrollment is a company called SchoolMint. SchoolMint is presently being used in Camden, New Jersey, San Antonio, Texas, Denver, Colorado and other choice-driven districts.

 SchoolMint makes it mission clear when it comes to charter schools— “your growth is our game plan.” In this blog on the company’s website it shows how school districts can steer low-income families to certain schools, because after all, the program knows best especially when it comes to low-income families. SchoolMint can easily be used to steer parents away from what would be their first choice, their local public schoolto a charter school. Public school advocates on the ground in Camden have told NPE that is exactly what is happening.

 Another recommendation of CAP is for funding to create additional charter networks. However, cities are already overwhelmed by the giant CMOs like IDEA, KIPP, Great Hearts and the Gulen-affiliated CMOs that actively recruit and pull the most motivated students from the public schools, as well as fromthe independent charters that are attempting to realize the charter ideal of teacher and parent led schools formed for innovation.

 In short, the CAP call for reform ignores the serious issues that we brought to light in our NPE report, Asleep at the Wheel.  I believe it is designed to give candidates an alternative to the promises of Sanders and Warren to shut down the federal charter funding supplied by the CSP.

 Like the silly stand of “I’m against for-profit charters”, even though there are only a handful of for-profit charter schools in the nation, the CAP “reforms” are just one more attempt by neo-liberals to give Democratic candidates the appearance of actively supporting charter reform, while still supporting the status quo.

 CAP’s latest report serves as a reminder that the Democrats who share the DeVos agenda have not disappeared, even though none of the Democratic candidates is willing to admit in public that they do.

 

Mike Petrilli, president of the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute, published a report about the “dramatic achievement gains” of the 1990s and 2000s. 

Surprisingly, he attributes most of these gains to improving economic conditions for poor families of color, not to standards, testing, and accountability, a cause that TBF has championed for years. But, not to worry, TBF has not changed its stripes, dropped out of ALEC, and joined forces with those who say that poverty is the main cause of low test scores.

So, I give Mike credit for acknowledging that improved economic conditions and increased spending had a very important effect on student academic performance. But he can’t bring himself to say that the accountability policies of NCLB and Race to the Top were poisonous and harmful, and that Common Core was a complete bust. He seems to be straining to find examples of states where he thinks high-stakes testing and school choice really were positive.

My first thought as I reviewed his data on rising achievement was that all these graphs looked very familiar.  Yes, they were in most cases the graphs (updated to 2017) appeared in my book Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (2013). I used these graphs to debunk the Corporate Reformers’ phony claim that America’s public schools were failing.  I cited NAEP data to show the dramatic test score gains for African-American and Hispanic students. I argued in 2013 that test scores had risen dramatically, that graduation rates were at a historic high, that dropout rates were at an all-time low.

The data, I said, demonstrate the hoax of the Reformers’ narrative. Despite underfunding, despite an increased number of students who were English learners, despite numerous obstacles, the public schools were succeeding. Most of the gains occurred prior to enactment and implementation of No Child Left Behind.

Now, to my delight, I find that Petrilli seems to agree. He even admits that the decade from 2007-2017 was a “lost decade,” when scores on NAEP went flat and in some cases declined. Yet, despite his own evidence, he is unwilling to abandon high-stakes testing, charter schools, vouchers, and Common Core. How could he? TBF has been a chief advocate for such policies. I don’t expect that Mike Petrilli will join the Network for Public Education. I don’t expect him to endorse new measures to address outrageous income inequality and wealth inequality, though I think he should, based on his own evidence. And I doubt very much that TBF will withdraw as a member of the fringe-right, DeVos-and-Koch-funded ALEC.

Mercedes Schneider has a sharp analysis of Petrilli’s almost “mea culpa.”

She does not forgive him for serving as a loud cheerleader for Common Core, testifying to its merit even in states that had standards that were far superior to those of CCSS.

The title of her post sums up her distaste for his newfound insight that “poverty matters.”

“Common Core Salesman Michael Petrilli: *Economics Affect NAEP, But Stay the Ed-Reform Course.”

She does not forget nor forgive TBF’s ardent advocacy for the ineffectual Common Core Standards. She refers to TBF as “Common Core Opportunists.”

Schneider accuses Petrilli of cherry-picking the data so that he can eke out some credit for standards-testing-accountability by overlooking the irrelevance of CCSS and the big gains before the era of Corporate Reform:

Moreover, for as much as Petrilli pushed CCSS in its 2010 – 2013 heyday, he is notably silent on the CCSS lack of connection in his October 2019 NAEP score analysis. Petrilli only mentions CCSS one time, and there is certainly no encouragement to further examine any connection between his Gates-purchased CCSS push and NAEP subgroup scores.

Petrilli had yet another opportunity to do so in his 2017 “Lost Decade” piece about NAEP scores from 2007 to 2017, which Petrilli links to in his October 2019 report. No mention of CCSS at all.

It is noteworthy that Petrilli’s “lost decade” begins with 2007, the year that NCLB was supposed to be reauthorized, but lawmakers could not seem to make that happen; the bipartisan honeymoon that produced NCLB had apparently ended.

NAEP scores soared prior to NCLB and continued to do so for several years after NCLB authorization in 2001, but then came a leveling off, and for all of TBF’s selling of a CCSS, the NAEP “lost decade” continued.

Petrilli does not bother to consider whether the standards-and assessments push has negatively impacted NAEP scores. Instead, he assumes that pre-NCLB IASA was the beginning of “the real revolution.”

No word why that standards-and-testing “revolution” has not continued to raise NAEP scores even though standards-and assessments continue to be the end-all, be-all of American K12 education.

However, in convoluted and contradictory fashion, Petrilli does include standards and assessments in the NAEP-subgroup-score-raising “secret sauce,” even though he has already spent the bulk of his argument justifying the mid-1990-to-2010 NAEP subgroup-score rise as related to improved economic conditions for school children.

So, NAEP subgroup score rises appear to be correlated with socioeconomics, but a slice of credit must also go to the standards-and-assessments push, but not beginning with NCLB, sooner than that– 1994– but let’s ignore rising NAEP scores of Black students in the 1970s and 1980s.

Schneider contrasts Petrilli’s newfound appreciation for the importance of economic conditions with his deeply ingrained commitment to the Bush-Obama “test-and-punish” regime, in an article published just a few weeks ago:

Here’s Petrilli again, this time from September 23, 2019, Phi Delta Kappan, in a piece entitled, “Stay the Course on Standards and Accountability”:

So what kind of changes do we now hope to see in practice?

Here’s how we might put it: By raising standards and making the state assessments tougher, we hope that teachers will raise their expectations for their students. That means pitching their instruction at a higher level, giving assignments that ask children to stretch, and lengthening the school day or year for kids who need more time to reach the higher standards.

Gotta love the “we.” Must be the royal “we” because it sure is not “we” as in “we who work directly with children.”

For all of his promotion of “accountability,” Petrilli is accountable to no one– a hypocrisy with which he is apparently comfortable enough to “stay the course.”

 

 

 

 

A Corporate Reform group in Tennessee released its own poll claiming that most voters in the state approve of annual testing.

The group called SCORE was created in 2009 by former Republican Senator Bill Frist to promote the Common Core State Standards. Being fast to accept CCSS before they were finished or even released put Tennessee in an advantageous spot for Race to the Top funding. The state won $500 million from Arne Duncan’s competition. $100 Million was set aside for the Achievement School District, which gathered the state’s lowest performing schools, located mostly in Memphis and Nashville, and handed them over to charter operators. The ASD promised to raise the state’s lowest-performing schools into the top 20%. The ASD was a complete failure. It did not raise any low-performing schools into the top 20%. Most made no progress at all.

Tennesse’s SCORE is a member of the rightwing network called PIE (Policy Innovators in Education), created by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute to connect groups that were disrupting and privatizing public education. Like other members of PIE, SCORE favors charter schools.

The board of SCORE is loaded with millionaires and billionaires who should be supporting the state’s public schools, which enroll nearly 90% of the state’s children, but prefer to disrupt and privatize them.

Five years ago, a public school parent blogger called out SCORE for making money off Common Core products. Open this link to see some eye-popping financial transactions, where RTTT money goes into the coffers of corporations owned by board members, who in turn make campaign contributions to Republican Governor BillHaslam. (Former Governor Haslam is now on the board of Teach for America.) The Gates Foundation helped to fund SCORE.

In addition to the oligarchs identified in the preceding post, the SCORE boards includes these super-wealthy Tennesseans:

Pitt Hyde of the Memphis Hyde Family Foundation. Owns AutoZone and the Memphis Grizzlies. The Hyde Family Foundation is the largest funder of the Tennessee Charter School Center.
 
Janet Ayers of the Ayers Foundation, also a funder of Common Core. 
 
Dee Haslam, married to the former governor’s brother. They own Pilot gas stations and the Cleveland Browns. Worth $1.8 billion, according to Wikipedia.
 
Orrin Ingram of the local billionaire family that has pushed charter schools.

Apparently the only plan that SCORE has for Tennessee’s public school students is to inflict Common Core and standardized testing.

SCORE has lots of money, but no imagination and no sense of the public good.

It is committed to charter schools, privatization, and accountability (but only for public schools).