One of the panelists was Ben Chavis; no, not that Ben Chavis, this Ben Chavis. He's a former principal at an American Indian charter school.
Tamron Hall described Chavis as a "genius." Wow, really? Well, we'd better listen to what this "genius" has to say:
"I not blaming the white people or the Chinese. I'm telling you: they're low too. They don't know they're low. Everybody in America's low. Until you start offering math and science... I hear people telling you, "Let's be creative. We're killing creativity." Creativity?! Our kids can't do math! If you want to compete in a global aconomy... if you're from China and you come to America and you can't speak English and you're great in mathematics, you can teach at the University of Michigan."First, I'd like to point out to Dr. Chavis that those Chinese people are coming to our amazing university system to study math - not the other way around.
But let's examine Dr. Chavis's contention that "everybody's low" in America. Is it true?
What's that, you say? You want to get picky and talk about math? Well, I haven't found the same breakdown in the math scores, but there is this news:Fast forward to January 2011 after the NASSP had time to scrutinize the scores more closely. We now realize that if we remove the scores of American students who live in poverty from the results, American students score the highest of any country in reading, higher than Finland! Finland’s reading score was 536. When the the United States included ALL of its students’ scores, our score was a mediocre 500 in reading. When we remove the scores of students living in poverty (students who qualify for free and reduced lunch), U.S. students scored 551 — the top reading score.
Free and Reduced Meal Rate of U.S. Schools PISA Score Schools with less than 10% 551 Schools with 10 – 24.9% 527 Schools with 25 – 49.9% 502 Schools with 49.9 – 74.9% 471 Schools with greater than 75% 446 U.S. Average 500To quote Dr. Gerald N.Tirozzi, the Executive Director of the NASSP: “Once again we’re reminded that students in poverty require intensive supports to break past a condition that formal schooling alone cannot overcome.”Get ready. The next chart will shock you. WARNING: I suggest that unless you want many sleepless nights that you skip it altogether.Although not all countries tested submitted their poverty rates, here is an abbreviated list of some of the countries that did. (At the bottom of this post you will see a link to the actual NASSP site where you will find complete listings.)
Country Poverty Rate PISA Scores Finland 3.4% 536 Czech Republic 7.2% 478 Germany 10.9% 497 Australia 11.6% 515 Canada 13.6% 524 Japan 14.3% 520 United Kingdom 16.2% 494 United States 21.7% 500Look at the chart below at the scores from countries with poverty rates of less than 10% and compare them to the U.S. scores of schools where the poverty rate is less than 10%:
Country Poverty Rate PISA Scores United States Less than 10% 551 Finland 3.4% 536 Netherlands 9.0% 508 Belgium 6.7% 506 Norway 3.6% 503 Switzerland 6.8% 501 France 7.3% 496 Denmark 2.4% 495 Czech Republic 7.2% 478Is the real problem coming into focus? It’s not teachers, stupid. It’s not unions or any of the other willy-nilly things the NCLB reformers have been targeting. It’s poverty. Now we know what the problem is. Next we have to figure out effective ways to address it. No longer do we need to ask what’s causing our mediocre scores. We only need to look for solutions to poverty! Now let’s get to it and drop NCLB, RTTT and all of the other nutty things we’ve been doing the last 10 years.
If someone can point me toward a similar treatment to above on math and science scores, please do. It may well be we aren't #1 in math or science when accounting for poverty - but I'll bet we're damn close.The second point to keep in mind is that U.S. scores actually improved in two subjects. One of the more positive developments in education policy over the past decade or two has been a shift in focus from absolute scores to growth. The idea is that schools with relatively low average scores need not be considered failing if they exceed expectations in boosting their students’ performance every year. Rather, they are often considered successful. This same standard might apply to PISA as well.And the new 2009 math and science scores are higher than they were in 2006 (the last PISA round) by a statistically significant margin (though the math scores are not higher than in 2003, because there was a drop between 2003 and 2006). There are no 2006 data for U.S. reading (due to a printing error in the test booklets), but reading scores are not statistically different from 2003 or 2000.It’s therefore somewhat misleading to say that we’ve gotten worse. Overall science and math scores actually improved since the last administration of PISA. [emphasis mine]
I'll also point this out:
Rhee's claim is that the top 5% of students have these low scores, when, in fact, they do not. Not even close. OECD disaggregates scores based on percentile rankings, and here are the results below, for reading, math, and science. Contrary to Rhee's lie, our top students 10% (90th percentil of students outscore any nation and the Chinese city-state, Shanghai. When you look at the top 5% of American students (95th percentile), these kids leave the rest of the world in the dust in reading, math, and science. Click any of the charts to enlarge.Michelle Rhee lied about test scores? I'm just shocked...
In reading, top-scoring Shanghai scored 556. As you can see, our top 25% bested that score.
As I've said before: there is a group of people in this country who have a vested interest in bad-mouthing the great work our students are doing in school. These people are either clueless, soulless, or both.