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, April 5, 2011

Unserious Education Policy

Atrios comments on the latest wingnut nonsense from Washington:
Yes Paul Ryan is a wingnut so it's to be expected, but anyone "serious," as Alice Rivlin is supposed to be, who thinks you can give vouchers to old people so that they can buy awesome insurance on the open market is someone who should never be listened to about anything ever again. All actual serious people should shun her.
I think this also summarizes the current education reform debate very well. A lot of really bad policy is being put out there by people who clearly have no idea what they are talking about, yet are taken "seriously."

Take this embarrassment from Democrats For Education Reform, a "serious" group:

True, there are some great, traditional public schools in Indiana and throughout the nation.  We're also fortunate that a vast majority of our educators excel at their jobs and are dedicated to doing whatever it takes to help students succeed.  However, that doesn't mean we should turn a blind eye to what ISN'T working.  Case in point?  The following diagram displays how all 5th grade classes in the span of a year in one central Indiana school district are doing on a set of state Language Arts student academic standards.  Because 5th grade classes in Indiana are only taught by one teacher, the dots can be translated to display how well the students of individual teachers are doing. 

Now, ask yourself this:  In which dot or class would you want your child?  And, imagine if your child were in the bottom performing classroom for not one but MULTIPLE years.  In spite of lofty claims made by those who defend the current system, refusal to offer constructive alternatives to rectify charts such as the one above represents the sad state of education dialogue in America today.
Dear lord, that is just so massively dumb, and in so many ways:
  • A sample size of one district?
  • One grade level in one standardized test?
  • A comparison against the average? Are we somehow shocked that some score above the average, and some below? Are we shooting for everyone to be above average (that would be a neat trick!)?
  • No pre-test?
  • No random assignment?
  • No accounting for student differences? Classroom differences? School differences?
I could go on, but what's the point? Larry Grau is very "serious":

Larry Grau's Summary

• Authored books and reports on: Education finance and policies, property taxation, and child welfare. Many of those works involved detailed research and analysis.

• Helped develop, and facilitate the work of the Indiana Education Roundtable – which brought representatives of all of the education stakeholder groups together to engage in making aligned and systemic improvements in the state’s education system and establishing goals for the state’s education system.

• Served as the Governor’s Senior Education Policy Advisor, where I lead the efforts to enact policies similar to the aforementioned proposals.

• Assisted in the creation of and facilitated meetings of the South Carolina Education and Workforce Roundtable, where major stakeholders assembled to work on setting priorities and goals for the state’s education system as coordinated with workforce skill standards.

• Assisted in the development of comprehensive education accountability policies and systems at the state and national level – serving as a policy advisor to governors, state legislators, national and education-related organizations.

• Lead evaluation, analysis, and research efforts for the Indiana Supreme Court to target areas of improvement in the state’s child welfare court system, including two comprehensive assessments of the state’s juvenile courts through the Indiana Court Improvement Program (CIP). Also worked with the Domestic Relations Committee, the Weighted Caseload Project, and Juvenile Justice Improvement Committee; in addition to recently writing for a federal grant for the CIP.

Currently conducting researh on the 21st Century Scholars program for the Lumina Foundation.

• Worked with agencies in all branches of state government analyzing and evaluating fiscal policies and plans, which included work on Indiana’s school funding formula, judicial caseload management, and in-depth analysis of various state programs and policies. [emphasis mine]

Larry produces work that would get any undergrad an F in a basic stat or policy course, and he had the ear of the governor (Which state? Does it matter?).

But DFER is a "serious" group, so guys like Larry get to dictate our education policies. It's amazing our kids do as well as they do with folks like Larry setting the agenda.

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