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    the snake oil is about the same as the hypochondriasis, only worse..., 2011-02-24 14:16:18 | Main | unburying the lead..., 2011-02-24 18:53:33

    if they're elected to fix a phony crisis, don't be shocked when when they invent phony fixes that make the problems we do have worse:

    I like Diane Ravitch's reflections on the charter and testing policies she spent two decades advocating, and watching as they were enacted:

    By demanding that all students reach proficiency by 2014, NCLB incentivized states, districts and schools to cheat and game the system. That is the direct outcome of high-stakes testing. Some states have lowered their testing standards, thus making it easier for students to be rated "proficient." Consequently, many states now claim dramatic improvement in their test scores, but these gains are not reflected on the tests given every other year by the federal government. In Texas, where there was supposed to have been an educational miracle, eighth-grade reading scores have been flat for a decade. Tennessee claimed that 90 percent of its students were proficient in 2007, but on NAEP only 26 percent were.

    In contrast, progress on the NAEP tests has been meager. Billions have been invested at the federal and state levels in testing and test-preparation materials. Many schools suspend instruction for months before the state tests, in hopes of boosting scores. Students are drilled on how to answer the precise types of questions that are likely to appear on the state tests. Testing experts suggest that this intense emphasis on test preparation is wasted, because students tend to learn test-taking techniques rather than the subject tested, and they are not likely to do well on a different test of the same subject for which they were not prepared.

    Despite the time and money invested in testing, scores on NAEP have increased slowly or not at all. In mathematics the rate of improvement was greater before NCLB was passed. In reading there have been gains in fourth grade, but the national scores for eighth graders were essentially the same in 2009 as they were in 1998.

    It is not only the sluggish improvement in test scores that is troubling. Nor is it the frequency with which states and districts manipulate the scoring of the tests to produce inflated gains. The biggest victim of high-stakes testing is the quality of education. As more time is devoted to reading and math, and as teachers are warned that the scores in these subjects will determine the fate of their school, everything other than reading and math gets less time. This is what doesn't count: history, literature, geography, science, the arts, foreign languages, physical education, civics, etc.

    So, the emphasis on accountability for the past eight years has encouraged schools to pay less attention to important subjects and inflate their test scores by hook or by crook. NCLB's remedies don't work, its sanctions don't work and the results are unimpressive. Why members of Congress and Washington think tanks continue to defend this toxic law is a puzzle.

    And a nut from her criticism of the school choice panacea:

    In Harlem, which has a heavy concentration of charter schools, the regular public schools must market themselves to students and families; they typically have a budget of $500 or less for fliers and brochures. The aggressive charter chain that competes with them has a marketing budget, according to the New York Times, of $325,000. The expansion of charters has been mightily underwritten by hedge-fund managers, the Walton Family Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other major benefactors.

    Wallstreet, Walmart, and the Broads, that's quite the combination. As a completely irrelevant aside, the Broads made their fortune in home construction, before going into finance, transforming life insurance giant SunAmerica into a retirement management company, selling our grandparents variable rate annuities composed primarily of mortgage back securities. I bet those rates have been great. It also participated in a gigantic ponzi scheme, managing to skim profits off the skimmers, which is pretty impressive work. SunAmerica was sold to AIG in 1998, and a decade later we bought AIG.

    You know who I'd invite to the table to discuss improving education in America? A guy who worked both sides of the FIRE sector for over four decades and fled the scene with billions of dollars right before the whole thing went up in flames. Our schools occupy a lot of valuable real estate and take on a lot of loans, so I'm sure the real estate and finance mogul over here is just trying to help them out with his expertise.

    Anyway, one more point from Ravitch, on Wisconsin, that I did not know, because not one of the bazillion stories I've read about the protests up there have thought it worth mentioning:

    Gov. Walker demanded that the teachers pay more for their health benefits and their pension benefits, and they have agreed to do so. But that's not all he wants. He wants to destroy the union.

    I wrote an article about this contretemps for CNN.COM, not realizing that the teachers had already conceded the governor's demands on money issues. They agreed to pay more for their health benefits and pension benefits. The confrontation now is solely about whether public employees have the right to bargain collectively and to have a collective voice.

    I was trying to find an article I ran across a week ago from one of the founders of the charter school movement that started in the 70s, criticizing the one that's been taken over by a bunch of billionaires, and found this instead.


:: posted by buermann @ 2011-02-24 16:03:25 CST | link





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