Cardinal Sin?

My take on the Stanford charter school situation is below.  Punchline: This is sad in some powerful ways, it’s not funny.

But the New York Times story demands a bit more discussion.   (Plus it buries the lede…check out the Shalvey quote)

In the story Linda Darling Hammond points out that the Stanford school takes all kids.   Sure, but so do many other public schools (including some in the community including Aspire Public Schools, a network of public charters established by a former CA school superintendent) that have better results.  More on that below.  That uncomfortable reality  also makes Diane Ravitch’s quote in the story really curious.  This situation doesn’t illustrate much about the debate about schools and poverty overall, but it does again show that there are big differences among schools serving similar kids and that powerful and intentional instruction matters.

Here’s one screen shot from Educational Results Partnership, more data there you can check out yourself.   Despite the variety of additional resources (fiscal and otherwise) the school had at its disposal, it substantially under-performs similar schools on a variety of measures – so demographics are not an acceptable excuse here.

Screen shot 2010-04-16 at 8.17.21 AM

61 Replies to “Cardinal Sin?”

  1. Almost all schools are now drilling the students on the actual test items. Perhaps Stanford did not participate in this. At the present time we can’t judge a school by test scores, except maybe for the NAEP because this federal test is somewhat secure. See the article about the Harlem Success Academy entitled “Is the Promise Real?” (City Limits magazine, March 2010) The author found the students studying test prep booklets for history class. Some people consider this type of drill “education” but others do not. I can’t imagine Stanford subscribing to this type of learning. Also, while other charters do take all students, many “counsel out” the low achievers. I have witnessed this myself many times. Again, maybe Stanford is not doing this. We really don’t know.

    There are just so many factors that make a school successful. From what I saw in my career I know that low test scores can indicate low achievement or it can signal honest testing. High scores can mean high achievement or it can mean the kids were given the answers. We really don’t know unless an outside agency goes into the school and does its own testing.

    Stanford charter high school did get 96% of its graduates to apply to college. This is a phenomenal accomplishment if it is indeed the case. Attending college is one experience that we know enhances a person’s life chances.

    Anyone who is “for the kids” should applaud all schools that are successful in educating low-income students while helping to improve those schools that are not. One thing all of us can do is insist on honesty and fairness in testing.

    Personally I think it’s very sad that “reformers” would gloat over the low scores of poor children taught by one of the nation’s premier universities. Why would this be?

  2. I seem to recall another College of Education charter school being labeled as a ‘failure’ in the past. Maybe out east somewhere?

    I wonder how many College of Education-sponsored charter schools there are – and what their success rates have been. Might be worth someone following up on this…

  3. Seems like we’re thinking in dichotomies again. and canonizing (and damning) winners and losers. We might try this one–which ones have worked? And how? What are the dynamics at each of these schools? University of Texas seems to have done a pretty good job–others?

  4. Most of the high-performing charter schools in Texas take “all kids” but when you look at the test scores of kids enrolling, some of the charters don;t enroll one student–not ONE student–who failed state math test the previous year. Many have aggregate performance levels of incoming students .25 to 1.25 standard deviations above average.

    And yet they gloat about enrolling kids in poverty and all-comers. Well, the kids might LOOK like the kids in the neighborhood school down the street, but they certainly are not alike in any other way. More smoke and mirrors from the CEO crowd.

  5. Yes, it is all smoke and mirrors. Even in the poorest schools, there are high-achieving children with ambitious parents. These are the students who are enrolling in charters.

    Hopefully with the Georgia cheating scandal, the public will begin to catch on.

  6. The serious issue is not whether these other schools teach to the test. The real issue is whether Ms. Darling-Hammond’s school teaches to the standards. My hypothesis is that that’s the problem. How else can you explain the fact that only 19% of her 3rd graders are proficient or better in math when the statewide average is 64%?

    Ms. Ravitch’s answer, when boiled down to its naked, ugly truth, is that poor kids can’t learn. Andy, your chart utterly disproves this explanation. Poor, minority kids are achieving in good schools at levels well above the statewide averages.

    It can’t be for lack of resources. The school, relative to its peers, is richly endowed.

    It can’t be for lack of credentialed teachers. Recall that part of the rationale for this school was that college of ed teachers could beat the pants off schools taught by TFAers and their ilk. I’ll leave this one for the moment.

    My hypothesis is that Ms. Darling-Hammond and her colleagues were not committed to teaching to the agreed-upon standards, or at least doing so effectively and with fidelity. I know this is a serious charge, particularly in light of the administration’s commitment to high standards as central to improving educational achievement.

    So, I think it’s important to ask the truly relevant questions:

    1) Which of California’s math standards does Ms. Darling-Hammond think are unimportant?

    2) How carefully were the school’s curricula aligned with the standards?

    3) How dedicated and prepared were the school’s teachers to teaching to the standards?

    4) How aligned were the school’s formative assessments to the standards?

    All of this might be academic and just a story of a failed school under other circumstances, but, given Ms. Darling-Hammond’s relationships and roles and the current, important movement to higher standards, these are questions that really should be answered.

  7. I want to make clear that I am not talking about “teaching to the test” which can, and is, interpreted by many to mean teaching to the standards, or teaching to the curriculm. That is what teachers should be doing.

    Because of the pressure on teachers and schools, many educators are drilling children on the exact items on a test. This is an example of what is happening in schools across the country:

    The principal makes the test available to the teachers several days or more before the day of administration and encourages them to “familiarize yourself” with it. The teacher then looks at the exact items and drills the children on them during the immediate days preceding the test.

    Let’s say the standard is multiplication. Teachers A and B both teach to this standard throughout the year. Both know that many children in the class have not mastered the tables. Teacher A gives the test as directed while Teacher B looks to see that 8×6, 7×9, 4×5 are the specific items tested so she drills her students on these particular examples. 19% of Teacher A’s students get all these items correct while 76% of Teacher B’s get them right. Teacher B’s scores are not valid.

    I am not saying that this is what happened at the Palo Alto schools because I have no direct knowledge of them. What I am saying is that there is almost no security around the state tests so we really can’t judge a school on the basis of these examinations. If we are serious about judging a school, outside examiners would have to take charge of the testing.

  8. The Aspire K-8 charter school in East Palo Alto educates children who are demographically very similar to the kids at the Stanford school. Most are neighborhood kids from low-income Spanish-speaking families; the rest are black or Tongan. They know all the times tables. The school has exceeded the state average for years and ranks a 10 out of 10 compared to similar schools, while the Stanford school is a 3. It’s not a test-prep factory either. (I’ve tutored there.)

    The Stanford New School claims that instruction is geared to state standards. Stanford Education Department has thrown a lot of resources into the school. I’m surprised they’ve been so ineffective. Every single school in the district, which is a traditionally low-scoring district, has higher test scores.

  9. Many charters “take all students.” This is true, however they do not actually enroll ALL students in a community. Charters are publically funded schools that are permitted to operate under some special rules. For example, most charters require families to go through an application process that effectively screens most of the least desirable students because these tend to be those whose parents do not support education enough to actually go the “extra mile” to get their children into charter schools, it takes some effort and time to apply to a charter school, to get in their lottery. Then, you must sign a contract. Failure to uphold the stipulations in the contract gets you counseled out, even expelled,if the counseling attempts are not successful. It is very easy to establish a charter that “takes all” students, but not actually have to take the least desirable of the student population, leaving them to the local neighborhood public schools, or to Stanford’s charter.

    Many successful charters in low SES neighborhoods increase the school year by almost 60% (58%) through increasing the length of the school day, holding Saturday school, and a longer school year. This should result in improved test scores. Did Stanford engage in this practice (not all charters do, but the big business charters like KIPP and its knock-offs engage in this practice, as they also engage in application procedures that effectively limit the pool of applicants to those who are more motivated and/or have greater parental support).

    When we make judgments, we should endeavor to gather the details so we can make meaningful comparisons. Otherwise we really learn little.

  10. Linda of course! All the schools in Palo Alto are *ALL* not valid except the Stanford school. The school that does worse than all the rest!

    Anyone wondering why our schools are a mess need look no further than the comments section of this blog.

  11. Please read my posts again. I have no idea whether any of the Palo Alto tests are valid or not. Nor does anyone else. That’s my point.

    Let’s look at the situation in another way: Suppose the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) was in each teacher’s classroom for several days or more. Now let us suppose that the test was administered by the teachers of the students taking the test. What do you think would happen?

    If you think the scores would increase dramatically, you are probably correct. If you think the scores would probably not represent increased “aptitude”, you would be right again.

    All I am saying is that these state tests are not secure. We don’t know if they are being administered correctly. The fact that most state test scores have increased dramatically, while the NAEP scores have not, suggests that something is not right.

    We should all be insisting on fairness and accuracy in testing. This is crucial to legitimate reform.

  12. Linda, most states spend an enormous amount of money and time/attention protecting assessment security. They should be better about analyzing test score results for anomalies, and there has certainly been some evidence of cheating in the news. But most analyses of test results indicate that cheating is not widespread as you’re suggesting. Your assertion that because there is some background noise in assessment results from cheating we have no basis to say that the Stanford school in low performing is wrong.

  13. I want to take a moment to reflect on the inaccurate notion left in the NYT story that, even though the elementary school is doing terribly, the high school is doing well. The story cited grad rates and college-going rates.

    So, I decided to go to the same site Andy referenced to dig deeper. While the high school is indeed doing better relative to its peers than the inexcusably bad elementary program, it’s not doing well at all.

    Of the 11th graders in 2009 who took the Cal State EAP screen, EXACTLY ZERO passed on language arts readiness. As to math, only 11% passed. This means that not a single student at the end of the 11th grade was academically ready to go to a Cal State campus without need of remediation.

    I realize that the school had the 12th grade to work on the problem, but, if college/career readiness is our new goal, and we want to promote more dual credit and early college work in the 12th grade, the high school is falling way short, too.

    I raise the question again: does this school square its curricula and teacher focus on the state standards, whether they be the k-12 standards or the standards underlying the EAP. If not, what does this tell us about Ms. Darling-Hammond’s commitment to agreed-upon, high academic content standards?

  14. John, I do agree that most states are trying to protect the security of these tests. However, for the most part, they are only able to check to see if answers have been erased and changed. Most school people are too smart to engage in this type of outright cheating. There are 1001 ways to invalidate these tests or “game the system” and many of these ways are almost impossible to detect by anyone.

    Yes, I do believe the cheating is widespread because of the disconnect between the NAEP scores, the graduation rates, and the college entrance examinations. Please excuse my cynicism but I’ve seen a lot.

  15. steve f. is wrong. go to the link he provides, read all the comments, and NOW you’ll see the whole story!

  16. Using classroom teachers to test their own students as well as control of teaching for exact questions on the test are unavoidable testing condition discrepancies. The whole idea of a normed or standardized test is to get a glimpse of an educational trend. If we want to get more specific, we need to computerize testing and use an impartial testing center. Is all the testing that important? Each state has developed individual standards and tests. Because apples and oranges will never be the same, we must resist the temptation to compare. Are we letting test scores cloud our real issues? Many students dislike yearly standardized tests. They are turned off by drill and practice. Boys are falling behind or giving up at a higher rate than girls. Many students value technological learning. They come to school with the ability to solve puzzles and games. They can quote movies, songs and discuss various “shows.” Our younger generations have a different values. The East Palo Alto neighborhood children tend to come to school lacking traditional school and cultural literacy skills. They are not dumb and they can learn but are not going to achieve the same test scores as the children for whom the tests were normed. If our test was normed on South Park knowledge, it would be the baby boomer generation that would have low scores. We are losing capable students because we are pushing an assembly line form of education that many students do longer value. We have to find a way to appreciate what has already been mastered and stretch to encompass life long learning and communication. Ensuring every student an appropriate education is not going to happen by analysis of simplistic and inappropriate standardized tests. Haven’t we learned anything with the years and agonies of NCLB? This year we have encountered larger class sizes, less tutoring and special help. Instead of looking at the big picture, are we still going to spend our time and energy on an inappropriate measuring system?

  17. Marsha – you make many interesting observations. We could have a long talk about them.

    But let me ask you two questions:

    No student in this school takes Algebra I in the 8th grade, and only 13% of 9th graders are proficent or above in Algebra.
    Do you think this is acceptable? Do you think this school teaches to the standards of the state?

  18. I wonder why the University of Chicago Lab School or the School at Columbia University are doing so well?

  19. The University of Chicago has no school of education. They closed it some years ago. The Lab School is a private school with a steep tuition and a student population from a demographic very different from South Side Chicago.

  20. Ms. Ravitch’s answer, when boiled down to its naked, ugly truth, is that poor kids can’t learn.

    Really, Sandy?
    Ms. Ravitch really believes this?
    Or are you p-offed and want to gloat.
    A normal, human instinct.
    But what standard does it meet?

  21. Don’t know why Sandy would be gloating. There are few schools serving high proportions of poor students in Texas that do particularly well except for on the watered down TAKS test that teachers teach to the entire year in such schools. You can largely predict overall school performance in Texas using just the percent of poor kids. No Texas miracle. Sorry, Sandy.

  22. As to the last two comments:

    1. Read Ravitch’s quote in the NYT story. She says one shouldn’t expect schools to raise achievement scores unless poverty and other factors are addressed first.
    Look at he poverty schools who did lift achievement in Andy’s chart. She’s just wrong, and it must be pointed out. Good teachers in good schools, unlike this one at Stanford, are educating poor kids effectively all over the country.

    2. As to Texas, I’m not here to defend Texas. Our state does pretty well but could do a lot better. I happen to agree that TAKS has a ridiculously low ceiling and should be replaced.
    I helped push legislation last session to do just that. We have many schools that educate poor kids well and many, like Darling-Hammond’s, that don’t.
    Trust me – I’m as hard on them as I am on Darling-Hammond’s. The only difference perhaps is that the principals or founders of these schools typically haven’t sanctimoniously attacked TFA, charter schools, alternative sources of teachers, and accountability at the same time they run their ineffective schools.

  23. Whew! How did we get from there to here? Simple thing is that there are good charters and bad charters, good public schools and bad public schools, good private schools and bad ones. Texas works in some ways, and not in others, as does California, as do all points in between. And Ravitch is far more than a quote–check out the book discussed in previous posts–or a string of her work from School Wars to this one. I think this thread of discussions points up how difficult education is–and how it is the playing field where politics and personal beliefs and personal interests get played out. We should be interested in structures and in governance and in all the things that shape learning but seems like we should be more interested in the dynamics of learning. But perhaps that’s wishful thinking.

  24. “We have many schools that educate poor kids well and many, like Darling-Hammond’s, that don’t.”

    Common sense tells us that this statement is likely true, but many of us do not trust the data coming out of these schools. Therefore we are not comfortable accepting that one Palo Alto school did well, while another did not. Many of us know that these published scores may or may not indicate improved learning. The book “Testing” by Linda Perlstein provides a great example of high test scores coupled with a low level of learning.

    As for addressing poverty, I can’t speak for Diane Ravitch, but for me it means we should help the child with Type I diabetes get his insulin before we can expect him to attend school and perform well there. Those of us who have taught in very low-income schools know that there are many children who have a difficult time with health, nutrition and attendance and we want to help them. Yes, even these children can learn without our help, but they can learn a lot more if we extend a hand. We know that countries who do best in supporting all children are the ones who experience the most success.

    How sad that we are even having this discussion. Surely we must be having problems with semantics.

  25. Andy, as you know, President Obama has, to his great credit, made a high priority of getting our students to greater proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

    I’d like to devote my posts for the rest of this week to how students in Darling-Hammond’s school are doing to meet the President’s goals.

    Today, again, I’d like to focus on the high school grades, which are supposed to be the better grades in the school, and look specifically at the subject of geometry.

    According to California’s STAR data, only 5% of the school’s high school students are proficient or above in geometry. If one were to look at a scatterplot of California schools, the even worse news is that Hispanic students in this particular school are performing near the bottom relative to their peers in other schools.

    I ask again: does this school teach to the standards, or not?

    Tomorrow we’ll look at chemistry.

  26. The majority of my teaching experience has been at a program improvement school. In my opinion the students and teachers continue making steady progress. But like the reference to treating the Type I diabetic child with insulin first, many students lacking opportunities and coming from families with limited positive academic experiences, a “school language” must be learned before measurable growth through STAR type testing can be shown. Even the math concepts part of a standardized test requires adequate academic language and middle class background experiences to achieve adequate performance.
    Giving a standardized test to students lacking academic English takes frustration to another level. Analyzing and comparing scores of tests not appropriately normed for the students tested is like playing the lottery to get the house payment. So much time is wasted upon tweaking this or that to get a score improvement of a few points. When a student comes along with strong academic skills, it is such an ah ha moment. He can read, reason and his score makes the teacher look good. Why wouldn’t any educational institution want only students that test well and look like improvement is being made?
    Conversely, after a student and teacher gets the bad interpretation of a year’s worth of hard work, how does one pick up the pieces and motivate for further drills?
    When a teacher is able to authentically test, track and tutor individual success; students can and will work very hard to master state standards.
    I am not against standardized tests to look at trends and plan emphasis but judging teachers and students by a few percentage points or basing mastery on one or two incomprehensible test questions sure doesn’t seem fair or appropriate.

  27. Marsha how does that explain the other schools in the district, which serve similar numbers (or more) ELL, SPED, and FRL students and get much better results?

  28. Since NCLB was enacted, I have been looking for a school system serving a poverty area, accepting all students with no limits and STAR test scores consistent test scores above basic in K-12. If a school system had continual progress and impressive test scores year after year, we would be all over them for what they are doing.
    When we see a charter school or a school of choice system with EL test scores in the 70-80th percentile, then we need to ask what is going on. Children should no longer qualify as English Learners when they consistently comprehend written and spoken English. High functioning students speaking more than one language should not be labeled English Learners. Special education or academically at risk students that score impressively on standardized tests also need to be reevaluated. For example how many special ed. students on IEP’s are scoring above the 50th percentile? What is the percentage of low functioning at risk students? Is it the same as the local public school being compared?
    Before NCLB, I had the experience of teaching a multi-age, multi-grade, multi-language EL class. This was when we had many students coming from refugee camps. The class was by choice and filled quickly. The attendance was almost perfect with few behavior problems. The success rate was impressive and many of the students have actually attended or finished college. The students were highly motivated first wave immigrants. Was I a better teacher those years or did choice and individual instruction make the difference?
    When schools are required to test students with a working vocabulary of less than 100-200 words, their standardized test scores are not going to be accurate and questions need to be asked if their scores are anything but below basic.

  29. Several of the initial comments question the validity of charter school results on the basis that they do not accept “all” students. Linda made the comment that “Even in the poorest schools, there are high-achieving children with ambitious parents. These are the students who are enrolling in charters.”

    As a teacher in one of the five worst performing public high schools in my state, I am always alarmed by this line of reasoning. I have watched some of my most motivated students go to a local KIPP school. I have watched them go with excitement and thankfulness for the existence of KIPP. While it is true that the students I have “lost” to KIPP tend to outperform the average student in my class, it is also true that I watch their academic abilities shoot forward once at KIPP in a way that my high school could never have fostered.

    The premise that the only kids who go to charters are more motivated than average may be flawed. But even if it isn’t, I see this as one of the strongest arguments for charters. I desperately wish I could provide my most motivated students with a functional classroom environment all day long where they would have motivated peers to push them, where they would not have the outrageous behaviors from peers who need an alternative setting that my poor county cannot provide, and where they would have teachers who — just by being willing to work 10 hour school days for the same (or less) pay — have demonstrated a serious commitment to educating.

    Many students do not have to go to my low performing high school. Some have parents who can pay tuition to a private school, even though they would otherwise live within county limits. Some have parents who can afford the big houses and high property taxes in the suburbs. A few have parents who — although they don’t have the money to send them to a private school or move them to a suburban public school — are motivated or informed and can find their student a place at a charter school.

    The educational playing field is wildly uneven and unfair, and we all know this. The fact that charters may provide an “out” to students who are motivated but stuck at the lowest performing high school in the state is a blessing and something to be celebrated.

    The real question is: are the test scores of those students — or any students — higher at a given school than they would have been at the school they were zoned to attend? If the answer is yes, I say rock on.

    We all need vehicles to fuel with our motivation, we all need places that allow us to “pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.” If America is a meritocracy in any way, it is in the sense that a motivated child has access to a strong education.

  30. Thank you, Marsha, for your wise words.

    Most of the teachers who post on this blog seem to have opinions that are very different from those who call themselves “reformers.” If you disagree with those of us who have spent many years teaching children, please ask yourself this question:

    Are you passionate about improving education for all our children or are you striving to benefit in some financial way by the current efforts to privatize our public schools?

    If you are passionate about improving education, thank you. Our children need all of us to work together to bring about positive change in our schools. But please think about your own sons and daughters at home. Did Junior do better in school after the allergy specialist brought him relief from his asthma? Did Sis do better when you insisted that the school come up with a plan for her ADHD? Did your youngest see an immediate improvement in his grades when he got his new glasses? Well, poor children have these needs too. Please consider sharing some of your resources with them. Help us enlist the cooperation of other Americans in supporting the basic needs of all children so they can do better in school. Germany and Finland can do it; so can we.

    If you are eager to get your hands on money for your testing or consulting company, please take a minute to examine your conscience. Schools are already hurting for funds, and so any purloined money will probably come from schools for the poor, as often happens. Even if the money comes from affluent schools, chances are the parents at such schools will make up the difference. Remember that countries that have privatized their schools often leave the very poor and the disabled marginalized. Is this what we want for our country?

    For those of you who are dazzled by the high test scores in some low-income schools, I’ll explain again how it’s often done:

    “Miss Jones” knows that it is unlikely that her English language learners will score well on the vocabulary section of the state test, which has been designed for native English speakers. She has worked hard all year and her students have made excellent progress, but there is no way her sixth graders will know such words as “hyperbole,” “reluctant,” “antagonistic” or “rambunctious.” After all, they are just learning English. The only way the children can possibly do well is if she drills them on these specific words, and so that’s what she does. Many of the children then score “proficient” even though Miss Jones knows that most are still limited in their ability to communicate in English. This misleading information is then passed on to the parents of the children and the citizens of the state. When these children take the NAEP or go on to high school, their scores often drop dramatically.

    As Marsha wisely states, “if a school system had continual progress and impressive test scores year after year, we would be all over them for what they are doing.” So far, no one has found the solution, but I have a suggestion: Let’s look at what academically successful children have going for them, and try to spread some of that good stuff around. Do they often have excellent teachers? Yes, and a lot more too!

  31. To Carolyn:

    I too sent my sons to selective public schools, so I am definitely not against this type of school. I completely agree with you that all students have the right to a school where they can get an excellent education. When I was a teacher in a low-performing school, I would often counsel the parents of my best students to take them to district magnet schools. There were no charters in my district. Yes, every child should have the opportunity to get out of a low-performing school. I support magnets, public school vouchers, private school scholarships paid by private individuals and charters, as long as they are strictly non-profit. To be specific, no charter manager should be able to assign himself a three-figure salary. No big money should be made from charter chains.

    What I object to is the lie that these schools take all students. For the most part, they do not. That’s important for everyone to know.

  32. Andy, as you know, I support many of President Obama’s education initiatives.
    I agree wholeheartedly that we need greater proficiency in math and science.
    Also, I like the new focus on graduating students ready for college or career.

    So, the question today is how many future chemistry students is Stanford likely to find in the Sanford high school?
    Indeed, one could ask how many students in this school could study chemistry without remediation at any college.

    Sadly, the answer is none. Why?

    0% of the low income students in the Stanford high school are proficient or above in chemistry.
    That’s zero.

    0% of the African American students in the Stanford high school are proficient or above in chemistry.
    That’s zero.

    0% of the Hispanic students in the Stanford high school are proficient or above in chemistry.
    That’s zero.

  33. The California schools where I have taught for my 30 year public school career fit all the categories for underprivileged with 100% free lunch, 65% EL, children encountering neighborhood or family gang activity, homelessness, and drug addiction. Most of the families have not had the opportunity to travel, read or have formal education. At best, we have many families barely surviving. Many families speaking a first language other than academic English but without the benefit of formal education, are conflicted about how to help their children and what language they should be speaking. Communication often consists of 2 to 3 word commands.
    Can these students be scientists? Even though standardized test scores are dismal and discouraging, I say some of these students have the ability to be scientists.Their education might not fit the typical incremental steps of yearly grade advancements.
    As I am retiring from teaching, I have decided to learn tennis. With limited opportunities to learn sports, I do not have the necessary background to pick up the game easily. I unsuccessfully tried a group lesson. Luckily, I did not give up and found patient and skilled coaches. Nothing is automatic for me and each aspect has had to be carefully scrutinized. There has been stopping and starting but I am making progress. What if in my late 50’s my teacher said you can’t learn to play tennis?
    Do our students lacking basic skills deserve less than all the coaching and tutoring I have received?
    1. I believe all public schools and children need a dependable revenue stream. I am not against private or charter schools. I do think at this time of limited public resources that private and charter should not be receiving public funds. Certainly citizens and corporations can experiment with good educational practices and equipment. But they need to be honest about their playing field.
    2. Judging schools and teachers by standardized test scores is not going to improve the education opportunities of all children although trends can be observed and considered.
    3. We need to implement more tutoring and mentoring. If a child doesn’t fit into a certain educational setting then another positive and productive situation must be available. I think we need to track each student. What services is he receiving? What individual growth has he made? What needs to be improved? Dependable and available tutoring for all children needing extra help during NCLB was a dismal failure. Most of the elementary schools with below grade level skilled children slowed the pace for all the students. What a waste to have capable students forced to spend their time doing drills already mastered.
    4. As we test and track each student, we can also mentor and coach our teachers? What do they need help with? What training do they think might benefit from? No teacher has perfect skills. More improvements come from positive, supportive working conditions. Safe schools and local neighborhood education centers can help the whole community become life long learners.

  34. Marsha, when we start listening to experienced teachers like you, and not to lobbyists for testing companies, we’ll start to see real educational progress for all our children.

    Thank you for your service to the children of California.

  35. Sandy–my point is that you have had a disproportionate influence on Texas education policy, yet the tests that you make money from are poorly constructed and have some serious psychometric inadequacies, the policies you put forth have only widened inequities in opportunities to learn while doing nothing–absolutely nothing–to close the achievement gap. If you are going to bash Darling-Hammond, then you should stand up and admit that your policies and relationships with testing companies have done pretty much nothing to advance the education of students in poverty in Texas.

  36. Thanks for asking, Billy Bob.

    Here you go:

    In 4th grade math on the NAEP, on scale scores, from 1996-2009:

    1. Whites improved from 240 to 254.

    2. Blacks improved from 212 to 231.

    3. Hispanics moved from 216 to 233.

    In 8th grade math on the NAEP, on scale scores, from 1996-2009:

    1. Whites improved from 284 to 301.

    2. Blacks improved from 249 to 272.

    3. Hispanics moved from 255 to 277.

    In 4th grade reading on the NAEP, on scale scores, from 1998-2009:

    1. Whites improved from 230 to 232.

    2. Blacks improved from 191 to 213.

    3. Hispanics moved from 200 to 210.

    In 8th grade reading on the NAEP, sadly, Texas, like virtually every other state, has experienced flat performance for all groups.

    So, the data prove your assertion to be absolutely false. While white students have gained during the period of our reform policies, minority students have narrowed the gap by roughly a half of a grade level in each and every comparison.

    We have a lot more to do, you bet. And we’re hard at work on steps that we hope will accelerate the gains for our students. But we’re proud that the NAEP data show Texas to be one of the best gap-closing states in the nation.

  37. Why would the scores go up in the lower grades but be “flat” in the eighth? Something is not right here.

    We all know about Texas.

  38. Linda, first, 8th grade math scores are way up.

    It’s reading. Take a look at the NAEP data nationally. There’s a superb website that the NCES has – the nation’s report card.

    This has nothing to do with Texas. 8th grade reading scores are flat nationally.

  39. The Miss Jones Analogy from above and the flaws of “teaching to the test” has been addressed before, but it is again touted as truth, even if it logically makes little sense:

    * To start with, that Miss Jones assumes her ELLs will not score well on a standardized state test implies that she herself is incorrectly setting impossible goals for her students. That a test is scored on the levels of Highly Proficient, Proficient, etc. etc., does *NOT* imply that all students are failures if they do not reach a level of Proficient. In fact, tests of this nature have put a large emphasis on growth goals for subsets of students and for schools/districts/states as a whole. If one of her level 1 ELLs achieves a statistically significant higher score on this test relative to other students like her, it will likely not be “Proficient”, but I guarantee it will be a phenomenal achievement, for all parties involved. If Miss Jones actually knew how to set useful goals, she would be considering growth goals for her ELLs.

    * How on earth would Miss Jones know exactly what words to drill in preparation for this test? The standards do not offer a cut-and-dry list of words that will be tested, and only if they did would Miss Jones actually have the option to focus on these words. Instead, Miss Jones must decide on *possible* words that would be on this test, but of course the list of possible words will likely be incredibly long, implying that there is no realistic way that Miss Jones actually *could* drill students in preparation for this test. If, instead, she pushes for students to learn as many of these words as they can, well… that’s not really, drilling anymore, is it?

    * “Drilling knowledge” the way that it is being implied in the above story will not have the positive effect on test scores that has been inferred. As an instructional practice, students would retain far less from a dry lesson on repeating/rewriting/reciting words and definitions than other more hands-on, intellectually stimulating approaches, and this holds very true for ELLs. Even if students remembered what “hyperbole” meant, they still must be able to read the test questions and discern which given definition of the testing item is most similar to the definition as explicitly drilled in class. This is not to mention that it’s impossible to know exactly what will be on the test and how the testing item will phrase the question (as alluded to in the above bullet point).

    * Were Miss Jones to focus her class solely on writing/reading, her students will more likely score higher on a writing/reading test than if she focused fully on listening/speaking. This is obviously a given, but hardly an unconscionable act. If the test is reporting on the abilities of test-takers to read/write English, then it is Miss Jones’ responsibility to focus her energies more on teaching these very important skills. The test results are reporting solely on the ability of the test-taker to read and write in English; it speaks nothing of conversational ability. ELLs, however, also take other standardized tests that *DO* focus on listening/speaking as well, so all of these various tests together should give the impetus for her teaching goals.

  40. Sandy–

    First, you leave out that the only STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT closing of the achievement gap at the 4th and 8th grade levels in math between Whites and Blacks was in the early 1990s–prior to 1998 when you were appointed by then Governor Bush. Since 1996, there has been NO closing of the achievement gap. There has been no closing of the achievement gap between Whites and Hispanics at either the 4th or 9th grade level, but the gap has INCREASED from 2007 to 2009 for 4th grade students

    In 2009, Blacks and Hispanics in Texas scored at the same level as Whites in 1990/1992.

    Moreover, most of those gains at the 4th grade level occurred in the 1990s when a constellation of policies worked together to improve achievement: class size limits, improvements in teacher preparation and qualifications, far more equitable distribution of finances, and an accountability system. Since 2003, we have decreased teacher qualifications, lowered teacher preparation standards, increased inequity in school finance, and a large number of waivers for class size. Yet, we also increased the punitive nature of the testing and accountability system (and made the tests easier over time according to NAEP researchers. The only thing keeping up 8th grade gains is requiring Algebra in 9th grade and having a lot of 8th graders taking Algebra.

    The White Black gap did close in 4th grade reading, but that disappears by 8th grade.

    So, I don’t think your preferred policies of testing and accountability with little attention to inputs is cutting it. In fact, the system is imploding upon itself.

    Given all of this, I don’t think there is much evidence to support focusing exclusively on testing and accountability while ignoring inputs. Unless you want to see Texas continue to make no gains as they have since 2000/2003.

  41. Billy Bob – I don’t think you’re looking at the data carefully. That’s about as nice a way as I can say it. You say the gap between blacks and whites and the gap between Hispanics and whites haven’t closed since 1996. The math problem is yours.

    The black-white gap in 4th grade math was 28 in 1996; now, it’s 23.

    The Hispanic-white gap in 4th grade math was 24 in 1996; it’s 21 now.

    The black-white gap in 8th grade math was 35 in 1996; it’s now 29.

    The Hispanic-white gap in 8th grade math was 29 in 1996; it’s now 24.

    The black-white gap in 4th grade reading was 39 in 1998; it’s now 19. Btw, that’s a closing of the gap of well more than 1/2 grade level, as with the other data. That’s a closing of 2 grade levels!

    The Hispanic-white gap in 4th grade reading was 30 in 1998; it’s now 22.

    You make many observations about various policies that have been adopted in the last 20 years, some of which I share and some of which I don’t. But the key point is that the accountability system was first implemented in 1994, and the gains and gap closing have pretty consistently occurred ever since.

    Were other good things happening in the 90s? Yes. Have there been mis-steps since then that slow progress? Yes. Do we need to pay attention to inputs? Yes, we don’t disagree on that.

    But let’s let the numbers speak for themselves.

    Signing off.

  42. Sandy–I suggest you take a course in statistics 101. Thats as nice as I can say it.

    Just because a score (or differences in scores) changes over time does not mean that the change s “real.” When you have samples of students, you must determine if the difference between the scores is statistically significant or not. The NAEP data tool allows anyone–even policymakers who don’t know how to interpret test scores–to determine if there is a STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE. If the change is not statistically significant, then we cannot accept that the change is real. It is just as likely due to measurement error as it is due to anything else.

    So, when you look at the TX NAEP gains and closing of the gaps, many of them disappear when you look at whether they are statistically significant. This is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT for you to understand. You may think the policies have had great results, but only because you don;t understand how to interpret test scores. Have one of your Pearson buddies explain it to you. But I can guarantee you that you are wrong on this.

    This is why so much bad policy is made–because policymakers don;t understand these things and they don;t ask anyone to explain it to them. This is why policymakers think value-added works. As far as they are concerned, subtracting the previous year’s scores from this years scores is evidence of growth. But is is so much more difficult than that. I suggest you read Koretz’s book “Measuring Up”, then come back and admit you are wrong and have been for many years about interpreting test scores.

  43. I’ve been reading points made in response to the above article and have wondered about the well-regarded people at Stanford running the New School after reading the New York Times article. The scores on the state tests were too poor for several years and from my view, Ravenswood SD, a very low-income neighborhood district, which sponsored the charter expected to see strong improvement. They weren’t interested in other aspects of Stanford’s education department, just achievement. In California the Academic Progress Index is the important tool to rate schools, even more than NCLB’s AYP. There will be some negotiation to keep the school going but I hope Stanford practices ‘continuous improvement’ and revises its curriculum because the 96% who go to college better be achieving at a higher level than they are right now.

  44. Billy Bob – I think it’s no longer productive for us to keep going back and forth.

    I’ve spent quite a lot of time mastering these data and what’s statistically significant.
    You know who I am, as do the readers. No one knows you, your experience, or qualifications. But that’s fine.

    Let’s leave it to others to make their own judgments.

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