JUKING THE STATS-----BALTIMORE CAME UP WITH THE TERM AS CORPORATIZED DATA ALWAYS GIVES SPIN.
No one knows Baltimore and Maryland stats are fixed than students in Baltimore City schools. As I showed yesterday---the A and B of the AP classes were all simply easy grading. They have to----the policy was bad and teachers could not do what neo-liberals and neo-cons wanted---improve performance using bad education policy. The data coming from education privatization groups is shown time and again to ignore all research standards to report a finding they want, just as happens now with corporatized universities. So we have to listen to Race to the Top pols tell us this reform is working when it is failing miserably.
Obama's education reform is a Republican plan to hand K-12 to Wall Street and who would move this fastest but Jindal of Louisiana. Below you see he has made K-12 completely charter and reports all kinds of great achievement ----only, no one believes it. The data is not real. Below you see what Jindal is doing----just as Johns Hopkins does in Baltimore with all data----Lying, cheating, and stealing is the Ivy League way! Get them out of government! This is what is happening in Baltimore and Maryland and the same play on stats are used. This is not only policy aimed at poor schools and communities. This is a structure being built for all public schools. So, middle-class is seeing its standards drop as well. You hear protests in Baltimore County and Howard County as well because everyone knows these reforms will hurt all children.
WE ARE MANY. THERE IS POWER IN OUR NUMBERS. TOGETHER WE WILL SAVE OUR SCHOOLS.
Watch this interview with Ravitch:
On Moyers & Company, Diane Ravitch tells Bill Moyers, ”I think what’s at stake is the future of American public education. I believe it is one of the foundation stones of our democracy: So an attack on public education is an attack on democracy.”
The Truth About The New Orleans School Reform Model
Anyone who saw the remarkable HBO series The Wire remembers the scene in the fourth season focused on Baltimore public schools where the term “juking the stats” defined how corporate-driven reengineering of the public sphere has distorted institutions so they no longer serve ordinary people.
An anniversary post for The Atlantic described that memorable moment thus, “Historical pressures push teachers in season 4 as President George Bush’s No Child Left Behind education plan casts a real-life shadow. When a new city teacher, formerly of the Baltimore police, hears how his school will teach test questions, the young man immediately recognizes the dilemma: “Juking the stats … Making robberies into larcenies. Making rapes disappear. You juke the stats, and majors become colonels. I’ve been here before.”
Juking the stats is a practice now so ingrained in the way education solutions are posed to the public that examples are rampant.
But anyone who wants to have a genuinely honest discussion about education policy based on the real facts of the matter – and not statistical distortions achieved through gross manipulation and “policy speak” that covers up realities on the ground – needs to constantly question what policy leaders and their scribes in the press are foisting off as “information.” There are better sources to turn to, and the Internet makes that search remarkably easy.
No Way To Talk About NOLA
An especially egregious example of “juking the stats” is the way school administration in New Orleans – where, basically, the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina was used as an opportunity to summarily fire school teachers and turn over the majority of schools to privately managed charter school operators from out of town – is now being marketed to the entire country as a “solution” for public education everywhere.
As I pointed out in a recent piece for Salon, “In the most recent presidential election, both candidates hailed the New Orleans charter-dominated system as a model for other states to follow. It has been touted by think tanks on the center left and the far right as “what should come next” for “transforming” the nation’s schools.”
I went on to explain that although this model of “reform” was being touted by politicians and in the press, ” There’s no evidence anywhere that the NOLA model of school reform has “improved education.”
This prompted a letter to my Salon editor from an official of the Recovery School District in New Orleans (RSD NO) – the administrative apparatus put in charge of most of New Orleans schools post Katrina – stating there were “several inaccuracies regarding the Recovery School District and the state of public schools in New Orleans.”
I post the exchange that ensued not just to take readers deep into the weeds of understanding why the NOLA model for running schools should be avoided at all costs, but also to exemplify why and how to contest the “solutions” for education policy constantly being marketed to us by a disingenuous campaign that distorts data to serve its generally hidden ends.
“Jeffrey [sic] Bryant states “There’s no evidence anywhere that the NOLA model of school reform has ‘improved education’.” The percentage of RSD students performing at grade level on state assessments has more than doubled from 2007-2013 from 23% to 57%. RSD has been first in the state of Louisiana in performance growth each year since 2007. Also, the percentage of all New Orleans public school students attending a failing school has decreased from 65% in 2005 to 5.7% in 2013. 67% of all public school students in New Orleans attend A, B, or C schools, up from 20% in 2005.
“Jeffrey states “Any comparisons of academic achievement of current NOLA students to achievement levels before Katrina should be discredited because the student population has been so transformed.”
The proportion of African-American students has decreased since Katrina, but only by 7 percentage points; and the proportion of free and reduced lunch students has actually increased by 6 percentage points.
Pre-Katrina – 04-05 New Orleans public school students:
- 94% African-American; 3% White; 3% Other
- 77% eligible for Free and Reduced School Lunch
- Post-Katrina – 12-13 New Orleans public school students:
- 87% African-American; 7% White; 6% Other
- 83% eligible for Free and Reduced School Lunch
“Jeffrey states “You’re not allowed to choose the best performing schools in the city – those that make up the Orleans Parish School Board – because those are selective enrollment only. You’re not going to get priority based on proximity, even if there is a school across the street from your home.”
“OneApp, New Orleans’s central enrollment system, was created by the RSD and the Orleans Parish School Board to provide students and families with the opportunity to choose a school anywhere in the city that suits their interests and needs. Of the 85 public schools, 75 are part of the enrollment system. These 75 schools, are all RSD schools and the schools that Orleans Parish School Board directly operates. In 2012, OPSB passed a policy that states that the remaining ten OPSB schools will join when their charters are up for renewal or they can volunteer to join now. RSD has been vocal about the need for all schools to join now voluntarily and some have chosen to do so already.
“As far as the priority based on proximity comment, we do offer geographic priority for 50% of the available seats in a school. We did this in an effort to allow for families who want to send their children close to home, while also ensuring that students from outside of a school’s neighborhood have access.
“I am writing to request that accurate context and facts be sought prior to posting articles pertaining to our organization and public schools in New Orleans. I am also requesting that Jeffrey correct the article or allow us to publish a response to his piece. Thank you for your time and consideration.”
Executive Director of Communications, External Affairs
Recovery School District
Dear Ms. Reed,
Thanks so much for reading my Salon piece “Look out, Chris Christie: The new war on public schools just might be defeated” and taking time to write a thoughtful reply.
In your letter to my Salon editor, you contend that my article contained “several inaccuracies regarding the Recovery School District and the state of public schools in New Orleans.” I want to respond specifically to each of your points and use this exchange as an opportunity to go into more depth about the record of achievement for RSD-NO.
As I stated in my article, public school policies implemented in New Orleans following Katrina are being held up as a “reform” model for troubled school systems around the country, and it is important that we have clear understandings of what this model has actually accomplished.
Your first point of difference with me was that I’ve misread the “evidence” of the NOLA model’s school performance record. While I stated that evidence of improvement is practically nonexistent, you counter, “The percentage of RSD students performing at grade level on state assessments has more than doubled from 2007-2013 [and] the percentage of all New Orleans public school students attending a failing school has decreased from 65% in 2005 to 5.7% in 2013.”
Although these statistics certainly sound impressive, there is much more to the story behind these numbers. As Louisiana math teacher Mercedes Schneider has pointed out on her blog (http://deutsch29.wordpress.com), the main reason RSD has made such great strides in grade level performance is that from 2012 to 2013 the state changed the formula and scale for measuring school performance, which artificially inflated RSD’s scores.
Schneider, who also authored the book “A Chronicle of Echoes,” wrote on her blog, “Of the 37 RSD-NO schools with complete 2012 and 2013 SPS/letter grade information, 26 increased a letter grade as an artifact of [state superintendent] John White’s changes to the scoring system … In other words, had the same rules applied in 2013 as were applied in 2012 to grading RSD schools, then 15 schools would have received a ‘D’ instead of a ‘C,’ five would have received an ‘F’ instead of a ‘D,’ and five would have received a ‘C’ instead of a ‘B.’ Had consistent criteria been used in grading RSD-NO from 2012 to 2013, its district letter grade would have remained a ‘D.’”
RSD-NO scores were further inflated due to the fact that of the 63 schools in the 2012-2013 ratings, only 49 have complete data for both years, and only 37 have letter grades other than “T” for both years. As you know, “T” schools have no letter grades because they are considered to be in “turnaround” state and are exempt for two years. Thus, of the 64 RSD-NO schools in the 2012-2013 ratings, only 37 have the data that any school outside of RSD is expected to have for a two-year period.
Despite how state reports on RSD-NO performance have been able to “juke the stats” in the district’s favor, those schools continue to show little if any academic gains. As Louisiana teacher Mike Deshotels recently reported on his blog (louisianaeducator.blogspot.com) the Louisiana Department of education has just released the results of the state accountability testing called LEAP and ILEAP for the Spring of 2014. The report includes a percentile ranking of each of the public school systems in the state according to the performance of their students in math, and English language arts. Deshotels, who taught Chemistry and Physics at Zachary High School near Baton Rouge and served as Research Director for the Louisiana Association of Educators, noted, “This official LDOE report now ranks the New Orleans Recovery District at the 17th percentile among all Louisiana public school districts in student performance … this means that 83 percent of the state’s school districts provide their students a better opportunity for learning than do the schools in New Orleans… This 17th percentile ranking places the New Orleans takeover schools just about where they were before the takeover.”
As Deshotels pointed out, “Dramatic improvements in the LEAP measure of grade level performance for math and ELA” has coincided with “very little improvement for Louisiana students” on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAPE). He concluded, “This discrepancy is a strong indication of score inflation for the state’s accountability testing. Either the tests got easier or students learned how to perform better on the state tests without significantly improving their English and math skills.”
Your next point of contention is with my statement, “Any comparisons of academic achievement of current NOLA students to achievement levels before Katrina should be discredited because the student population has been so transformed.”
My statement merely echoes advice from respected education researchers. Independent, peer-reviewed studies generally agree – as research experts at the National Education Policy Center recently did, in comments regarding a study of RSD-NO charter schools – “Right after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans experienced immediate and dramatic shifts in the school population, with a quick enrollment decline from about 68,000 to 32,000 students – slowly climbing back to 42,000 by 2011 … making well-founded conclusions becomes exceptionally problematic in a city with such fundamental changes and such potentially strong selection effects.”
Your next complaint is with my finding that, “despite reform efforts, the NOLA Recovery School District has many of the lowest performing schools in Louisiana,” which you contend, indicates I do “not have the context needed to explain what the RSD is and what we were created to do.”
As Louisiana Weekly recently reported, the whole intentions behind creation of RSD-NO have been murky from the beginning. As the analysis stated, “Before Hurricane Katrina, the RSD (created in 2003) could only take over a school with a performance score less than 60, and which had already gone through four years of corrective action. To legally justify taking the majority of New Orleans schools and then privatizing them, the state changed the failing benchmark from 60 to just under the state average of 87.4. The constant changing of grading scales and benchmarks has continued since, and has become an often scoffed at trademark of Superintendent John White’s dissemination of annual data.”
In fact, the whole “context” for RSD’s existence has changed since its inception. As the Louisiana Weekly article reported, “According to a study by Tulane University’s Cowen Institute for Public Education Initiatives:
‘Intended as a mechanism for restructuring and reform, the RSD was never meant to be a permanent part of the public school governance landscape in New Orleans. Instead, the RSD was meant to take control of and turn around chronically failing schools for an initial period of five years. After that time, and assuming adequate school improvement, schools would be released from the jurisdiction of the RSD and returned to their local school board. ‘
But that didn’t happen.”
As the article pointed out, the charters that constitute RSD-NO have been given the power to choose whether or not they want to return to the OPSB. But all those eligible thus far have said, “No,” because they would then be subjected to a higher level of scrutiny that characterizes OPSB management.
Your last point of contention is with how I’ve portrayed the OneApp process parents have to do go through to find placement for their children in NOLA schools. You state that the process was created “to provide students and families with the opportunity to choose a school anywhere in the city that suits their interests and needs.”
A recent article by Jessica Williams for The Lens described what the OneApp process means for most parents and how well they fare as they seek to find a school “that suits their interests and needs.” Williams looked at the probable trajectory of students whose “failing” schools were being closed down by the district and found, “the vast majority … are headed to other substandard schools next year.”
Williams reported that parents needed to relocate their students were given a list of choices by the district, and “of the 17 schools listed with grades C or better, nine had seats open in only one or two grades. Five others had no vacancies.”
As Williams reported in another article, “Parents have few options when moving kids from failing public schools” in the RSD-NO system. She found, “More than seven years into the New Orleans choice experiment, documents and interviews reveal the schools are so academically anemic that the RSD fell short in its attempts to comply with federal policy requiring school districts to offer higher quality alternatives to students in failing schools.”
Mercedes Schneider has gone into greater depth on the messy, confusing nature of the OneApp process. On her blog, she recently wrote, “enrollment is no longer based upon students residing in a given area and automatically attending a community school. Thus, the ‘parental choice’ of selecting a school by moving to the neighborhood is moot. That choice exists no more. Now, parents must apply to the schools they would have their children attend – even if they live right next to the school.”
Further complicating matters, the process “involves a detailed application process, with one application necessary per child within RSD and OPSB direct-run schools, and a different consolidated application (no guarantees here) for some (not all) OPSB charter schools. And even though the RSD/OPSB direct-run application notes that siblings are given priority for attending the same schools, there are no guarantees there, either.”
For years, parent activist Karran Harper Royal has struggled to place her children in schools she feels would be best for them and has concluded that what RSD-NO provides to parents isn’t real “choice” at all. She has written, that instead of providing real choice, “students only have the choice to apply to over 70 schools; many students end up in lotteries for the higher performing schools. Students not selected in the lottery don’t have a choice; they have to attend schools where available seats remain.” Even the higher performing charter schools, Harper Royal noted, are routinely “not offered as options for the lowest performing students in New Orleans.”
For these reasons and others, Harper Royal has joined with other civil rights activists in filing a civil rights complaint against RSD-NO.
To conclude, one point we agree on is, “The RSD is not a typical school district.”
Let’s also agree to keep it that way.
Meanwhile, Finland has the best in the world education system that it modeled from US education in the 1950s-1970s----THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS SYSTEM IN THE US BEFORE REAGAN/CLINTON REFORMS.
The US was ranked #1 in the nation doing what Finland is doing now and none of it involves testing, evaluations, private education contractors and business partnerships with schools----all they do is fully fund schools, provide resources, and respect and treat as professionals---the teachers. This is all Wall Street profiteering and will kill Democratic education.
DO WE REALLY WANT THE CULTURE OF FRAUD AND CORRUPTION IN CHARGE OF TEACHING OUR CHILDREN? OF COURSE NOT!
The Children Must Play
By Samuel E. Abrams
While observing recess outside the Kallahti Comprehensive School on the eastern edge of Helsinki on a chilly day in April 2009, I asked Principal Timo Heikkinen if students go out when it’s very cold. Heikkinen said they do. I then asked Heikkinen if they go out when it’s very, very cold. Heikkinen smiled and said, “If minus 15 [Celsius] and windy, maybe not, but otherwise, yes. The children can’t learn if they don’t play. The children must play.”
In comparison to the United States and many other industrialized nations, the Finns have implemented a radically different model of educational reform--based on a balanced curriculum and professionalization, not testing. Not only do Finnish educational authorities provide students with far more recess than their U.S. counterparts—75 minutes a day in Finnish elementary schools versus an average of 27 minutes in the U.S.—but they also mandate lots of arts and crafts, more learning by doing, rigorous standards for teacher certification, higher teacher pay, and attractive working conditions. This is a far cry from the U.S. concentration on testing in reading and math since the enactment of No Child Left Behind in 2002, which has led school districts across the country, according to a survey by the Center on Education Policy, to significantly narrow their curricula. And the Finns’ efforts are paying off: In December, the results from the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an exam in reading, math, and science given every three years since 2000 to approximately 5,000 15-year-olds per nation around the world, revealed that, for the fourth consecutive time, Finnish students posted stellar scores. The United States, meanwhile, lagged in the middle of the pack.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined his plans for reforming U.S. public education, including distributing competitive grants, raising test scores, and holding teachers accountable for student achievement. But there is much Finland can teach America’s reformers, and the rest of the world, about what outside of testing and rigid modes of management and assessment can make a nation’s schools truly excellent.
Finland’s schools weren’t always so successful. In the 1960s, they were middling at best. In 1971, a government commission concluded that, poor as the nation was in natural resources, it had to modernize its economy and could only do so by first improving its schools. To that end, the government agreed to reduce class size, boost teacher pay, and require that, by 1979, all teachers complete a rigorous master’s program.
Today, teaching is such a desirable profession that only one in ten applicants to the country’s eight master’s programs in education is accepted. In the United States, on the other hand, college graduates may become teachers without earning a master’s. What’s more, Finnish teachers earn very competitive salaries: High school teachers with 15 years of experience make 102 percent of what their fellow university graduates do. In the United States, by contrast, they earn just 65 percent.
Though, unlike U.S. education reformers, Finnish authorities haven’t outsourced school management to for-profit or non-profit organizations, implemented merit pay, or ranked teachers and schools according to test results, they’ve made excellent use of business strategies. They’ve won the war for talent by making teaching so appealing. In choosing principals, superintendents, and policymakers from inside the education world rather than looking outside it, Finnish authorities have likewise taken a page from the corporate playbook: Great organizations, as the business historian Alfred Chandler documented, cultivate talent from within. Of the many officials I interviewed at the Finnish Ministry of Education, the National Board of Education, the Education Evaluation Council, and the Helsinki Department of Education, all had been teachers for at least four years.
The Finnish approach to pedagogy is also distinct. In grades seven through nine, for instance, classes in science—the subject in which Finnish students have done especially well on PISA—are capped at 16 so students may do labs each lesson. And students in grades one through nine spend from four to eleven periods each week taking classes in art, music, cooking, carpentry, metalwork, and textiles. These classes provide natural venues for learning math and science, nurture critical cooperative skills, and implicitly cultivate respect for people who make their living working with their hands.
But perhaps most striking on the list of what makes Finland’s school system unique is that the country has deliberately rejected the prevailing standardization movement. While nations around the world introduced heavy standardized testing regimes in the 1990s, the Finnish National Board of Education concluded that such tests would consume too much instructional time, cost too much to construct, proctor, and grade, and generate undue stress. The Finnish answer to standardized tests has been to give exams to small but statistically significant samples of students and to trust teachers—so much so that the National Board of Education closed its inspectorate in 1991. Teachers in Finland design their own courses, using a national curriculum as a guide, not a blueprint, and spend about 80 percent as much time leading classes as their U.S. counterparts do, so that they have sufficient opportunity to plan lessons and collaborate with colleagues. The only point at which all Finnish students take standardized exams is as high school seniors if they wish to go to university.
Regard for students’ well-being is evident in more subtle ways, as well. Since 1985, students have not been tracked (or grouped by ability) until the tenth grade. Furthermore, since 1991, authorities have rejected the practice of holding back underachievers, concluding that the consequences of grade repetition were too stigmatizing to be effective and that students would be better off being tutored by learning specialists in areas of academic weakness.
The Finnish business community and conservative members of the country’s parliament criticized the end of tracking as a recipe for mass mediocrity—but they went silent following the publication of the 2000 PISA results. “PISA was a lucky gift for Finnish educators,” said Kari Louhivuori, the principal of the Kirkkojärvi Comprehensive School in Espoo, who began his career as a teacher in 1974. “We were under attack from traditional forces and needed outside validation of our new way.” (Some testing is thus ultimately necessary, Louhivuori conceded, if only to prove that regular testing is not.) What’s more, there is now strong proof of the economic benefits of the Finnish educational reformation, particularly in the country’s high-tech sector, which is distinguished by Nokia in telecommunications, Orion in medical diagnostics and pharmaceuticals, Polar in heart-rate monitors, Vaisala in meteorological measurement, and VTI in accelerometers. Flanking highways out of Helsinki are research centers for these companies, as well as ones for Ericsson, IBM, and SAP.
The reflexive critique of comparing the Finnish and U.S. educational systems is to say that Finland’s PISA results are consequences of the country being a much smaller, more homogeneous nation (5.3 million people, only 4 percent of whom are foreign-born). How could it possibly offer lessons to a country the size of the United States? The answer is next door. Norway is also small (4.8 million people) and nearly as homogeneous (10 percent foreign-born), but it is more akin to the United States than to Finland in its approach to education: Teachers don’t need master’s degrees; high school teachers with 15 years of experience earn only 70 percent of what fellow university graduates make; and in 2004,* authorities implemented a national system of standardized testing. The need for talent in the classroom is now so great that the Norwegian government is spending $3.3 million on an ad campaign to attract people to teaching and, last year, launched its own version of Teach for America in collaboration with Statoil—called Teach First Norway—to recruit teachers of math and science.
Moreover, much as in the United States, classes in Norway are typically too large and equipment too scarce to run science labs. A science teacher at a middle school in Oslo told me that labs are unfortunately the exception, not the rule, and that she couldn’t recall doing any labs as a student a decade ago. Unsurprisingly, much as in 2000, 2003, and 2006, Norway in 2009 posted mediocre PISA scores, indicating that it is not necessarily size and homogeneity but, rather, policy choices that lead to a country’s educational success.
The Finns have made clear that, in any country, no matter its size or composition, there is much wisdom to minimizing testing and instead investing in broader curricula, smaller classes, and better training, pay, and treatment of teachers. The United States should take heed.
*CORRECTION: This article originally stated that the testing regime was created in 2006. It was created in 2004.