I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Ben Chavis: Uninformed "Genius"

Just one thing more about about MSNBC's attempt to cover eduction reform last Sunday:

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?
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. SchoolsPISA 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. Average500
To 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.)
CountryPoverty RatePISA Scores
Czech Republic7.2%478
United Kingdom16.2%494
United States21.7%500
Look 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%:
CountryPoverty RatePISA Scores
United StatesLess than 10%551
Czech Republic7.2%478
Is  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.
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:
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]
 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.

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.

In reading, top-scoring Shanghai scored 556.  As you can see, our top 25% bested that score.
Michelle Rhee lied about test scores? I'm just shocked...

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.


Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

The racist Ben Chavis, who calls children of color "darkies," is also a disciple of the Milton Freidman/Ayn Rand cult. His schools also require students to recite a daily "pledge to capitalism."

The Perimeter Primate said...

I hadn't seen Chavis out and about for a while so I thought he had crawled under the rug and disappeared. I guess that was just wishful thinking on my part.

Chavis is pretty much totally full of it, and he has really, really serious anger management issues. He resigned from running his schools in Oakland because he was getting into more and more trouble and starting to lose his luster. The Oakland school board refused to approve his last petition for a new charter b/c so much funny business was going on with his schools.

Here's what Chavis said that made Whitney Tilson adore him so much: http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/2009/09/my-oh-my-hes-cunning-fox.html

Chavis talks big about educating black and brown skinned kids, but he basically changed his school's test scores by changing its demographics. He achieved his "miracle" by recruiting more and more smart Asian kids. Only the most Tigerish parents will send their kids to this school; it is totally unattractive for most everyone else. His AA students have included the children of a local principal -- not exactly kids who have much in common with the typical high risk urban kid in town.

Chavis also involved in some crooked real estate scheme with one of his longtime buddies. Local reporters are too lazy to look into what's going on.

Suzanne Libourel said...

Thanks, Perimeter Primate, for your illuminating links. Holy Efin' Smokes --- unbelievable! The changing demographics info was fabulous and I will be sharing it as much as I can.

The Perimeter Primate said...

Check out the 2010-11 figures from DataQuest.

Ben Chavis’s three schools enroll a total of 493 students
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 1.2%
- Asian: 68.2%
- Pacific Islander: 0.8%
- Filipino: 1.2%
- Latino: 17.8%
- African American: 9.3%
- White: 1.0%
- Multiple responses: 0.4%

Latino + African American percentage = 27.1%

Oakland Unified
- American Indian or Alaska Native: 0%
- Asian: 15%
- Pacific Islander: 1%
- Filipino: 1%
- Latino: 36%
- African American: 33%
- White: 7%
- Multiple responses: 3%

Latino + African American percentage = 69%

Chavis's "educational philosophy" and grandiose claims are a total joke. If the reformer crowd was smart, they would run him out of their town.

This school is the classic case of both extreme self-selection and cherry-picking, and all topped off by driving unwanted students out.

czarejs said...

Wow....these stats are incredible. I'm sure they were in the clips of the show that Duke didn't post. Oh wait nobody on that B.S. show would ever mention those numbers.

Dwal said...

We need more creativity in math instruction. Just teaching processes doesn't help these kids much. They forget shortly after. If we teach concepts and apply them to everyday situations, there is recall and they learn to be logical thinkers. Old math that they often teach elsewhere often doesn't get it done. We are doing that more here and the test-crazy among us is trying to take that away

Duke said...

Folks, I have shamelessly stolen from all of you for a new post:


BUT - I added solidaridad and Per Primate to the blogroll!

Stop by any time, and thx.