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, April 7, 2014

Why Is Michelle Rhee Wrong About Everything?

Michelle Rhee is consistently wrong about everything.

She was wrong about teaching to the test. She was wrong about her grading of state education policies. She was wrong about truancy. She was wrong about student surveys and VAM. She was wrong about the effectiveness of her "reforms" while leading the Washington, D.C. schools.

Michelle Rhee was even wrong about her own record as a teacher.

And now America's #1 corporate reformer is wrong about the amount of classroom time taken up by standardized testing:
Those test-crazed districts need to be reeled in. But a new study by Teach Plus, an organization that advocates for students in urban schools, found that on average, in grades three and seven, just 1.7 percent of classroom time is devoted to preparing for and taking standardized tests. That’s not outrageous at all. Most people spend a larger percentage of their waking day choosing an outfit to wear or watching TV. [emphasis mine] 
Diane Ravitch and Peter Greene deal with the rest of Rhee's useless article very well; I, however, want to concentrate on this one paragraph, because it shows, once again, how Rhee is incapable of reading and understanding even the most basic pieces of education research.

Notice that she claims here that "... just 1.7 percent of classroom time is devoted to preparing for and taking standardized tests." Is that what the Teach Plus report measures? Here's page 4:
For this research, we compare publicly available district and state test calendars to teacher reports of test administration time. District and state calendars are an important baseline in the test-time dialogue in that they are a primary way officials communicate the amount of time spent on testing to parents and the public. While most state and district officials would acknowledge that testing takes longer than the amount of time reflected in the district calendar, ours is the first piece of research to measure the gap between the minimum time allocated for tests by administrators and the real time costs experienced by teachers. 
In addition to the time it takes for students to complete an assessment and for teachers and staff to administer it, teachers also experience an impact on instructional time when they have to prepare students for the assessment or when they put other instructional plans on hold for the administration of required assessments. Our research examines this impact on instructional time through survey data from over 300 classroom teachers. [emphasis mine]
So the report has two parts: an examination of the time it takes to administer tests, and a look at the preparation time involved. The 1.7 percent figure is specifically referenced on page 7:
According to a 2013 Education Commission of the States (ECS) report on the minimum amount of instructional time per year, the average time for a kindergarten student in the 12 states featured in this report is approximately 885.9 hours, assuming a full-day kindergarten program. With an average of 3.1 hours of testing per year, the typical kindergarten student is tested for less than one percent of the year. In third grade, the amount of required state instructional time across the 12 urban districts in this study is 953.7 hours, meaning 1.7 percent of the typical third grader’s year is spent on state- and district-mandated testing. Likewise, in seventh grade, the average number of instructional hours is 1,016.8, and the average time spent on testing is also 1.7 percent. These 1.7 percent figures do not reflect the many time demands that may be associated with testing such as preparing students or analyzing data. However, it is an important baseline figure. It reflects the cumulative time impact that districts currently use to communicate with parents and the general public about the time students are being tested. [emphasis mine]
Let's be very clear: in direct contradiction to Rhee, the Teach Plus report specifically says the 1.7 percent figure does not include test preparation time. 

So what does the study say about the amount of time spent in schools on test prep? The methodology doesn't allow for precise answers, but there are some qualitative findings (p. 15-16):
In addition to the time it takes to administer them, a refrain heard among teachers was that they often set aside time to provide students with test-taking skills. This test preparation seemed to vary between setting a few days aside before the state test to being a regular part of the school day or week in other cases. 
“It takes a lot of time to prepare for the tests. We usually spend time making sure students review what they learned during the year to ensure they are ready.” – Third grade teacher 
“Yes, with daily test prep and standards review sessions. More than 35 percent of instructional time is spent on these assessments per year. That includes initial instruction, review, scoring, planning, preparation of additional assessment materials, and reassessments.” – Third grade teacher 
“The prepping for the test takes a lot of time. Instead of possibly doing projects or more hands-on learning, we really focused on the testing format and preparing our students to be comfortable taking the test. The prepping starts at the beginning of the year and ends in April. We also have to do the practice tests for the [state test] and [district test]. These practice tests can take up to an hour to do.” – Third grade teacher 
“We spend time practicing getting into our testing groups, taking practice tests, etc. We also typically take time from our usual instruction to focus on test prep in the week or two leading to the test. For example, I stop teaching the novel we are reading for a week to do multiple choice test prep. Also, during the week of the test, we have literally no instruction. I would say overall we lose about 15-20 days of instruction to testing to statewide testing. Another 20 days we are instructing, but it is focused on test prep.” – Seventh grade teacher [emphasis mine]
A critique I would make about this report is that it is difficult to tell at times whether the teachers' comments about test prep are always related to state- or district-level tests. But there's enough here for us to say that there is evidence that preparing for state-level tests consumes a significant amount of instructional time.

So the report Rhee herself cites contradicts her main point: standardized testing does, in fact, gobble up lots of classroom time. Her statement above, according to the source she herself cites, is just dead wrong.

I must tell you, I continue to be astonished that the people who fund Rhee's jihad against teachers, their unions, and public schools in general seem to care so little about her incompetence. Aren't they concerned that they are giving their money to someone who can't even read a simple report correctly? I mean, even if they want to destroy public schools and teachers unions, don't they want to have someone leading the charge who isn't a constant embarrassment?

David Tepper, Eli Broad, John Arnold, Rupert Murdoch, I'm asking all of you: why do you continue to give money to someone who is consistently wrong about everything?

Sorry, fellas -- I'll do better next time, I promise...


Seth Kahn said...

I don't know if this makes it better or worse, but I'll bet you a dollar the reason she got that number wrong is that she never read the report at all. Some unpaid intern or low-paid staffer misread it and cherry-picked the number for her.

Actually it doesn't matter if it's better or worse. It still makes her dangerously incompetent.

Unknown said...

How long does it take before we can call someone who willfully distorts facts and circumstances a liar?

Ms. Rhee's inability/refusal to utter a truthful or accurate statement, established over a decade now should give us permission to call her what she is: a pathological liar.

Giuseppe said...

In this upside-down alternate universe of so called education reform, facts and the truth are irrelevant. The billionaires have an agenda and they have the money and political clout to ram through their misbegotten policies. Rhee is the darling of the media, she can do no wrong and more importantly she is the darling of the billionaire boys' club. As long as she catapults the reform propaganda and parrots all their copy points, she is portrayed as this wonderful champion of the children. Barf!

P. Grunther said...

In fact, they don't care that she's incompetent, just as they don't care about real students in the real world (any students except perhaps their own children). As long as the PR machine manages to market their version of education they don't care if she's incompetent, a liar, willfully deceptive, you name it. AS LONG AS IT HELPS THEIR DRIVE TO PRIVATIZE AND MONETIZE PUBLIC EDUCATION, THEY DON'T CARE ABOUT ANYTHING. Someone like you Mark who actually cares about people and facts probably cannot relate to what these people are about. I'm sorry, at this point in time, I simply believe that they are evil.

Anonymous said...

Eli Broad keeps giving Michelle Rhee money because she is promoting his agenda. She has been on the board of the Broad Foundation for several years. See the 2009-10 Broad Foundation Annual Report page 25 http://tinyurl.com/6w5sps2

Stephen Graff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen Graff said...

I agree with everyone of your points about Ms. Rhee. But the issue of high stakes testing is one that our public unions have also dropped the ball on. NJEA talking points about the detrimental effects of high stakes testing on students don't go far enough. There are connections among all the points that now have a stranglehold on public education in New Jersey. The implementation of the Common Core, the upcoming PARCC, the new teacher teacher evaluations are all part of a new paradigm for public education that seeks to neutralize the power of teachers as participants in the decision-making process for the future of our schools.

Mrs. Stanziano said...

I am a teacher in Paterson. I teach 11th grade English. I spend 20 days each year administering district/state mandated tests that have very little to do with what I am teaching in the classroom. That does not include time preparing the students for the tests or time used for students requiring additional time or trying to squeeze in make up tests for absent students. These tests are preventing me from doing my job and they are also having a very negative effect on already hard to motivate students. It is very sad.

Dr. Anthony Petrosino said...

She has been a media darling for well over a decade now---cover of TIME, consistently on national tv, and one of the personalities of education reform. Its extremely unfortunate in my opinion. Her "tough love" approach and inflated "success" in the DC schools as well as her current organization all seem propped up and inflated.

NY Teacher said...

I just started this at Petition2Congress. It is very easy to sign, copies are automatically sent to President Obama, and your own senators and your representatives. Please take the time to read and the petition entitled: STOP COMMON CORE TESTING. Thank you.