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

Monday, January 23, 2012

Islands of Sanity

In a sea of reforminess. Start with a reasonable take on charter schools:
I find it interesting that some very influential people have come out in support of the expansion of charter schools in our state, including Gov. Chris Christie, Mayor Corey Booker of Newark, and Reginald Jackson, director of the Black Ministers Council of New Jersey.
I attempted to view charter schools as a valued educational initiative, as I wanted to believe that these folks knew what they are doing as they appeared to have a solid track record of accomplishment. But then two things happened. The first was that I began to do some research on charter schools in New Jersey, and secondly, good common sense kicked in.
Charter schools are often viewed as a way for many children, especially those from “low performing schools” to receive a “better” education, with many parents embracing the idea. Education is often a great equalizer in our society, regardless of someone’s socio-economic background. It appears to me that some of these unsuspecting parents are being misled by those who have anointed themselves educators, but are actually charter school and voucher advocates. But the fact remains that charter schools have no better track record in educating children than the public school system.
This is not just me haphazardly tossing out my opinion, but the view of many educators, statisticians, and educational policy makers from coast to coast.
And then Valerie Strauss takes on St. Michelle of Arc for using misreading a single study to justify sweeping changes in schools:
I should note that Footnote 9, which starts on Page 5, and Footnote 64 on Page 50 say that even in the low-stakes tests that were the basis of this study, there’s a tendency for the top 2 percent of teachers ranked by value-added to have patterns of test-score gains that are consistent with cheating — and this percentage is, of course, much higher in the high-stakes era. You surely know all about the cheating scandal in Atlanta that pushed out the superintendent and others in a bunch of cities. In fact, there are investigations now into cheating when you were chancellor!
Cheating distorts the outcome, which leaves one to wonder why the authors put this important factor in a few small footnotes. Hmm.
Back to your Education Week commentary. You wrote that the study proves that the test-based reform program you started in D.C. schools when you were chancellor from 2007 to 2010 actually works. But it doesn’t prove anything of the sort.
Using the authors’ own markers of success, we can’t know until 2016 whether D.C. public school students who were in eighth grade in 2010 and had high-value-added teachers will get into good colleges. And we can’t know about the fourth graders until 2020.
These people aren't driven by research; they are driven by ideology. Research is a tool they use to justify their schemes, but only the research that comports with their world-view; the rest is routinely ignored.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Charters are--more and more--proving to be failures, and proof positive that charter promoters are operating under the absurd proposition that doing *anything* is better than doing nothing; the ol' "throw enough sh#t against the wall and something's bound to stick" philosophy.

The problem is that very soon, it's going to miss the wall and hit the fan.