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

Sunday, February 13, 2011

St. Michele Just Can't Help Herself

She really does believe her own hype - and so does the press:
But as he watched from the audience, the spokesman from Florida's teachers union wondered why lawmakers were listening to her. "It's a little difficult to understand why she is given rock star status," said Mark Pudlow of the Florida Education Association.
Sure, Rhee might have the ear of the governor and the praise of the president. Sure, Rhee has made national headlines pushing through controversial measures relating to teacher tenure, evaluations and salaries in D.C.
But Pudlow noted that Washington, D.C., schools score at the bottom of the national Education Week Quality Countsranking, while Florida rates close to the top. He observed that some of Rhee's controversial efforts to fire "ineffective" teachers have been overturned by an arbitrator after the Washington Teachers Union fought the effort tooth and nail.
Valid concerns, said Rhee, an unpaid, informal adviser to Florida Gov. Rick Scott. She suggested looking through a different lens for some perspective.
"Over the three years that I was there, we saw really record gains in academic achievement on the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) examination," she said. "We went from being last in the entire nation to leading the entire nation in gains in both reading and math at both the fourth- and eighth-grade levels. And we were the only jurisdiction in the entire country in which every single subgroup of children improved their academic standing." [emphasis mine]
The NAEP was administered twice during Rhee's term: 2007 and 2009. Here's the comparison of 4th Grade math scores for all states. Yes, DC made the most gains. DC was also dead last in both years.

When you're at the bottom of the pile, it's pretty easy to make some small, quick gains: test taking prep alone should raise scores a bit. But is there any evidence here that DC's kids made significant progress during the two years Rhee was Chancellor between administrations of the test?

I feel foolish for even asking the question. It was TWO YEARS! Is anyone going to try to convince me that's enough time to implement district-wide policy changes that would make serious gains in student learning?

To get a rough idea of whether these improvements were real – or were, at least partially, a result of the change in cohort demographics (the shift was even stronger among NAEP test-takers) – we can check the changes in average scores for different subgroups. The simplified breakdowns by race are presented in the table below. Note that a separate breakdown for white eighth graders is not available in either subject, since there weren’t enough of them to get an accurate estimate (the same goes for Asian/Pacific Islander students in all grades/subjects).
graf four.bmp
As you can see, despite the claim in a piece that Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “every student subgroup raised its performance,” the results were actually mixed. Although there were significant increases among black students in both fourth and eighth grade math, there were no discernible increases in reading for either grade. This is unsurprising in regard to eighth grade reading, where the overall results were also flat, but troubling in regard to fourth grade reading, where the widely touted overall gains are not shared by any subgroup.[emphasis mine]

Pretty slick, huh? This is, of course, what grifters do: play games with words to twist the facts to their liking.

Rhee's tenure in DC was, by many accounts, a disaster.  If she had worked the miracles she implied she did, Adrian Fenty would have been elected Mayor-For-Life.

But, putting aside the havoc she wreaked, an honest assessment of student progress would have her, at best, showing moderate success. Just like her teaching career. But that's not the point. Rhee occupies an outsized place in the debate about education, but she has not, by any stretch, earned the right to the platform she currently opines from.

Like so many others in the "reform" movement, she calls for a radical restructuring of schools and the teaching profession without any record of results that backs up her prescriptions. She claims to have performed miracles when the most she ever did was a few card tricks. She has not EARNED the right to lead this debate, and that is why those of us who have given our lives over to teaching children are so frustrated with the adulation the media and politicians - many of whom should know better - continue to shower upon her.


Lisa said...

Aren't these the very same scores that Drewniak (Christie's spokesman) called "irrelevant" during the RTTT debacle when asked why our governor claims NJ schools are failing and need reform while we ranked first in math and reading for 4th and 8th? And note, NJ ranked 2nd in '07 and 5th in '09 for all students, and in '07 despite the White-Black difference, we ranked 3rd for white and FIRST for black nationally. We can and should close the W-B differential, but how is ranking FIRST in the nation for black students "failing???" WHERE'S THE PRESS ON THIS??!!

And, by declaring the NAEP scores irrelevant, does Christie realize he invalidated--as he must to further his agenda--the very basis of his Golden Girl's claim to fame?

We do have some national media who have called out Christie, some on MSNBC and I think the Times. Should we not bring these facts to their attention since NJ's press is so incompetent? If the facts and contradictions come to national attention, perhaps it may also embarrass the NJ press into actually doing some reading and a modicum of research. It doesn't take a degree in statistics to click the yellow Scale Score sort buttons. Jeez.

Duke said...

Oh, that's good stuff, Lisa! Gonna steal it...

czarejs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
czarejs said...

I'll tell you where the press is. All you have to do is look at the Sunday Ledger. They tout the stats and headlines that they say show the Gov. has "won" the battle with public unions. While its been the Ledger that has been spewing the Gov's line for months now. Gee I wonder why the public is against us.

Duke said...

The S-L is a long-standing joke at this point when it comes to education reporting and opining. I wouldn't wrap a mackerel in it.

But you're right - they spew the governor's line, even while whining about how mean he is. Did you see Kevin Manahan's column today? Woe is me! My car is old! I'm not elite! Don't call me that, Guv!

All this right after they publish phony charter results direct from Christie office without attribution.

No wonder newspapers are dying.