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

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

High-Performing Students? Meh...

So says the Gates-funded, ultra-reformy National Council on Teacher Quality:
New Jersey’s report card from a group that seeks to improve standards for the nation’s teachers is dismal: D-plus, 36th in the U.S. and making less progress than most states.
The report, scheduled to be published today by the National Council on Teacher Quality, could bolster parts of Gov. Chris Christie’s education overhaul agenda — though his critics say it shouldn’t.
The analysis considers how teachers are trained, evaluated, rewarded and fired.
But it does not assess the overall state of teaching and learning. That’s an area where, on average, New Jersey is among the highest-performing states — despite being home to low-performing schools, particularly in its most impoverished cities like Camden.
Some of the areas Christie wants to fix are the same ones the Washington-based research and policy group says are broken.
“What the governor has proposed with evaluation and tenure would put New Jersey among the trailblazer states,” said Sandi Jacobs, vice president of the teacher quality organization.
New Jersey’s grade barely budged from the “D” it received from the council two years ago.
Florida, a state where standardized test scores are far short of New Jersey’s, received the highest mark this year — and it got just a “B.” [emphasis mine]
Wait a minute: New Jersey has HIGHER student scores than Florida, but gets a worse grade from NCTQ? Are we sure Florida isn't doing a better job at teaching kids?

New Jersey beats Florida in every NAEP assessment listed on the state comparison tool. And New Jersey beats the national average in all of its assessments; Florida beats the national average in only five.

How is this possible? Because - as both Susan Ohanian and I have repeatedly pointed out - these think tanky rankings have nothing to do with student achievement. They are based solely on whether the state in question is doing whatever the think tank making the rankings wants the state to do. But here's the problem...

Florida is doing a good job following NCTQ's prescriptions, and New Jersey is doing a poor job. But New Jersey's students do better than Flroida's. Logic suggests only two possibilities:

1) NCTQ's policies have no effect on student achievement.
2) NCTQ's policies have a negative effect on student achievement.

It's got to be one or the other, folks. But in either case, if you want a state's kids to do well on the NAEP, ignore NCTQ.

ADDING: Trolls, please don't bring up the ridiculous argument that if the NAEP is good for comparing states, standardized tests must be good for identifying good teachers. Just because screwdrivers are great for driving screws doesn't mean they're also good at beating eggs.

ADDING MORE: Even the wingers funded by the Koch brothers can't deny that New Jersey's kids kick some serious academic ass:
New Jersey moved from 10th place to third in student performance based on the 2011 scores for low-income students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, given to fourth- and eighth-graders. Massachusetts and Vermont were the top two states based on student performance, and both also scored poorly on teacher quality.
Maybe "teacher quality" means something different when you're living in a think-tanky, hermetically sealed bubble. And dig this:
New Jersey gets an A for home school regulations, because the state has none. Parents who choose to teach their children at home are not required to follow any state guidelines or curriculum.
Oy. These people get to spew this stuff all over the press; me, I can't get a simple reply from Tom Moran...


Rob Galgano said...

Look who's behind NCTQ: Gates, Broad - the usual suspects...

What this country needs is more teacher-bashing!

Also, Florida pays teachers diddly-poo.

Anonymous said...

Duke, I've noticed that no matter what the source is, you find a way to find some anomalous one-on-one teeny tiny state comparison or some other diagonal slice of data and scream it like it is case closed on either the topic or the validity of the report.

I've heard this described as a habit of someone who was always the smartest person in a dumb room, or else is just used to talking to people nodding their head before he talks. Both of whom, conveniently, the post above mine represents.

I'm thinking if you had a 7 year old kid in Camden getting on a bus in the morning, you wouldn't really care about the "average" New Jersey school performance, or that our teachers were ranked 39th or 14th or whatever in average something, or anything except the fact that your kid was going to a dangerous, failing school in a system that is not working for Camden and needs new ideas. Not on average, for real, like packing your kid's lunch and putting him on a bus. Reality, not "average".

As to your last note, I'm guessing that people "getting to spew all over the press" and dialoguing with the state's leading editor are using their real names. Not that I don't think anonymity is fine and vigorating debate, I think you just needed to be reminded every once in awhile that the name on your birth certificate isn't "Jazzman" and Blue Jersey is about your ceiling in terms of media celebrity.

Deb said...

First, I have to say my son now thinks you are way cool - using 'meh' put you right up there.

On a more serious note, what would happen if we just agreed to accept that the majority of schools in our state are doing a really good job at educating the majority of their students. No, let me be more specific: What if we agreed to accept that the majority of TEACHERS are doing a great job at educating the majority of their students. And then what if we agreed to accept that poverty is a huge factor in the areas where the schools are not achieving the results that we would like. The entire debate could actually focus on the students in need of help, and how to help them, rather than approval cycles of charter schools, test scores and other corporate minded reforms.

It would be so great if we could let the educators get down to the substantive discussions of what needs to be done on the ground to help our urban students and schools rather than having to fight off hedge funded reform movements that seem to deny a few obvious points that I wish we could all just agree on and move forward.

Sorry to be so idealistic for a moment, but it is good to dream every once in a while. In the meantime, Jazzman, thanks for keeping us in the know and aware of what is going on out there.

Duke said...

Rob, you are quite right about FL teachers' salaries. Of course, it's cheaper to live down there.

Deb, your son has impeccable taste! Tell him Jazzman says he gets to stay up late tonight - unless he's as old as the Jazzboys, in which case he gets to go to bed early.

It's good to dream. It's good to think this stupidity will pass and we'll actually have an adult conversation about education. They seem to be having one in CA right now, so there is reason to hope.

Thx for the kind words.

Deb said...


He is staying up late! Studying for exams and learning triplets on the marimba for Dona Nobis.

You raise such a good point - they are having a good conversation in CA right now -- after how many decades of failed experiments of corporatizing their education system? So we have two choice, LEARN from their mistakes, or repeat them. (And why is it when an idea goes bad out west, they seem to come back east to try it again?!?!)

I guess it is our job -- collectively, but you sure do a big part of it - to make sure we learn and do not repeat!!!!


jcg said...

NCTQ is a hack think-tank. They should be ashamed of the poor quality of their own reports- read one report and weep that US NEWs used their pap to rank universities. But, then, reformy hacks have no shame.

Teacher Mom said...

Funny how FL fell out of the top ten on the Education Week rankings this year. Besides, how can you be ranked top five on any scale according to test scores and say, "Yeah, but your teachers suck." Wait did I miss something here. Failing schools=sucky teachers; passing schools=sucky teachers? Sorry you can't have it both ways.

Another thing about FL, another state without a real union, just a weak-ass association. I have a friend there with 17 years teaching experience, 2 masters, in her actual content area, and is NBC. She makes $10k less than me. Fl cost of living is not that much less than NJ, and I'm only in with 1 masters, and 10 years. She will also be paying $6k a year into her health insurance next year after having NO RAISE IN FIVE YEARS!!! Needless to say I wake up and say, "Thank God I'm in Jersey...for now."

As for the "poor minority parents" wanting choice, you would be wrong in that assumption. The ACLU, Those associated with the Education law Center, The league of Latino voters, and the Latino Parents Association say NO!! They have not been hood-winked into believing that ANY of these reforms will actually benefit ANY of THEIR kids. They don't want to choose between schools, where in reality the schools are choosing them. They want safer schools, in safer neighborhoods and for their kids to have the same advantages as the kids in the well-to-do districts and nicer neighborhoods in their own districts (you'd be surprised by the disparities even within one district) You know, a little thing called equality of opportunity. Needless to say when they surveyed Newark parents about what they wanted, the powers that be didn't like the answers. After all, more charter schools wasn't one of them.

PS: Loving Deb.