Uncommon Core? The Real Praxis Scandal, And New Data On New Jersey Charters

The past few weeks I’ve heard on numerous occasions about the teachers unions ‘opposition’ to Common Core as if it’s just an obvious fact.  I’m not sure where this is coming from, but overall they’re not opposed, they’re on board with the new standards and in some places/ways trying to help on the implementation – which is a huge challenge and if done haphazardly is going to turn a lot of teachers against the standards.  Plenty of issues to iron out down the road around accountability, innovation and technology and so forth but the standards themselves are not a flashpoint with them.

The cheating on the Praxis test that is now bursting into the news cycle is not the scandal here, people cheat on a lot of tests.  The real scandal is the low-level of the Praxis test and why it continues to be used at all.  The Praxis II is different, but the basic Praxis is much too low a bar given what we expect of teachers.

New CREDO analysis of charter school performance in New Jersey (pdf) is significant for three reasons. First, like Massachusetts, New York City, and other places where charters outperform it’s a reminder that different places are having different experiences with charters and a lot of that can be traced to public policy choices. The overall national data is not that useful given the diversity. Second the urban results are noteworthy in the New Jersey political context.  Finally, charters are now expanding in New Jersey, worth watching to see if the state can balance growth and quality as it expands the sector.

8 Replies to “Uncommon Core? The Real Praxis Scandal, And New Data On New Jersey Charters”

  1. As always, Mr. rotherham misses the data on Newark charter schools.
    Proper analysis can be found here:

    Closing Thoughts
    So, when all is said and done, this new “charter school” report like many that have come before it leaves us sadly unfulfilled, at least with respect to its potential to provide important policy insights. Most cynically, one might argue the main finding of the report is simply that cream-skimming works – generates a solid peer effect that provides important academic advantages to a few – and serving a few is better than serving none at all (assuming the latter is really the alternative?). Keep it up! Don’t worry ’bout the rest of those kids who get shuffled off into district schools. Quite honestly, given the huge, persistent differences in student populations between high flying Newark charters and districts schools, and given the relatively consistency of research on peer group effects, it would be shocking if the CREDO report had not found that Newark charters outperform district schools.
    While it is likely that there exists some strategies employed by some charters (as well as some strategies employed by some district schools) that are working quite well – THE CREDO REPORT PROVIDES ABSOLUTELY NO INSIGHTS IN THIS REGARD. It’s a classic “charter v. district” comparison – where it is assumed that “chartering” represents one set of educational/programmatic strategies and “districting” represents another – when in fact, neither is true (see the scatter of dots in my plots above to see the variations in each group!).

  2. I am reading George Eliot’s “Middlemarch.” In it, the character Rosamund tells her physician husband that she is not fond of his profession and wishes he would do something else. He is very hurt and responds that it is the greatest profession, even though he is very aware that it is not considered a “proper” career for a “gentleman” of the early nineteenth century. And so we are reminded that this now revered profession was once looked down upon by the upper classes, just as K-12 teaching is now.

    And that brings me to the real scandal in regard to the Praxis. In our country teaching elementary or secondary school is not a career that is deemed acceptable for our privileged citizens, the ones who get the highest scores on the SAT and all other standardized tests, which correlate highly with the student’s socioeconomic status. In the United States, (and strangely in other English-speaking countries) teaching school has low status unless a person does it for two or three years before embarking on a “real” job.

    Because of this situation, it is extremely difficult to find enough teachers during good economic times. For many years urban districts scrambled to “cover” classrooms in September and many had to hire long-term subs for the entire semester or year. It was widely known that “anyone” could get a job in some of these tough schools and so the candidate just needed a heartbeat and a degree. And many did not score well on tests. I know because I was one of those people. Believe me when I say no one cared what I knew or what my students learned; the only thing that mattered was dependability. I did have to show up each day and be on time.

    And now we are insulting those people who took the jobs (Oh, goodness, those working class dummies from State U. can’t even pass that simple Praxis!). Is this supposed to attract a better teaching force? I don’t think so.

    Some of you truly do wish to improve achievement for low-income students. If so, honor the teachers that we have now while advocating for higher standards for all teachers. Until our country values the teaching of children, don’t expect to see much improvement. As with the physician in Middlemarch, only the most dedicated people opt for a career in teaching, especially in today’s environment. Show these people gratitude and hopefully they’ll encourage their high-scoring students, friends and relatives to join the most noble of all professions.

    The absolute worst thing anyone can do for American education is to denigrate the people who provide it. Please consider this before you suggest how “dumb” our teachers are.

  3. More on the CREDO joke:

    What CREDO did was look at all of the kids going to charter schools and find “twins” for these kids in the public schools. For example, if Michelle and Diane are both in Fifth Grade, both “*not in poverty,” both not Limited English Proficient (LEP), both girls, both got similar test scores in 4th and 3rd grade and both don’t have a special education need, they are “virtual twins.” CREDO matched up these “twins” across the district, then compared their progress on test scores.

    What they didn’t do – and this is absolutely critical to understanding the report – what they didn’t do was compare schools that were “twins.” That would be impossible, because the “successful” charter schools in Newark have no peers: they have far fewer students in poverty, who don’t speak English at home, or who have a special education need.

    In other words: if Michelle goes to a charter and Diane goes to a public school, Michelle is much more likely to be surrounded by her “twins” than Diane. Is there anyone out there who believes that won’t make a difference?

    This gets right to the heart of the matter: whether these “successful” charters are replicable. Because if the secret is to segregate the kids, that doesn’t really augur well for charter expansion.

    This is very important to understand as this is the operational methods of Mr. Rotherham and his comrades in the Professional Education Reform Movement.
    Another example is here:

    Back in September, leaders of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter found themselves with a wee problem on their hands. An unending series of mini-scandals, not to mention test scores that are among the worst in the state, resulted in plummeting enrollment—and a resulting dip in state-provided edu-bucks. So to remedy the shortfall, the charter leaders did what any school administrators might do. They reached out to the head of another charter school and arranged to borrow $75,000 for three weeks, secured by their next fix of taxpayer money.

    A local tipster helpfully provided EduShyster with the promissory note for this unique arrangement, which you can view here or by clicking on the image at left. But wait—there’s more. Our cash-strapped innovators didn’t hit up just anybody for emergency funds. They went to Diana Lam, a prominent reformer and charter-advocate who has left a trail of edu-destruction in city after city, including San Antonio, where she resigned as superintendent, after receiving a buy out worth nearly $800K. A former “change agent” for Joel Klein in New York, Lam was forced out over nepotism chargers (Lam’s own employees tipped off reporters to the fact that her husband was working in a department that reported to her). Her brief tenure was characterized by what seems to have been a unique ability to alienate everyone she encountered. “Wherever she went, teachers hated her,” the Manhattan Institute’s Sol Stern told New York Magazine.

    Mary McCarthy famously said of Lillian Hellman- “Every word she writes is a lie, including and and the.”
    And the same can be same of the educational reformers.

  4. Linda,

    No one said anything like that. And in practice, more than 4 in 5 takers pass the Praxis I, which an Education Trust analysis described like this:

    “Praxis I addresses only reading, writing and mathematics. None of these sections exceeded high school level, and at least two-thirds of the mathematics items were judged to be middle school. An analysis comparing the distribution of Praxis I math items to the 1996 National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) for mathematics (see chart below) seems to indicate that NAEP emphasizes a better balance of mathematics, even at the eighth grade level, than does Praxis I.”

    In an environment where in some states students are denied regular diplomas, or diplomas at all, if they can’t pass an exit exam, standards like that are troubling (and at odds with how higher performing nations approach the issue).

    More generally, the U.S. does not actually have a teacher shortage outside of certain subjects (spec ed, science, languages, for instance, and certain geographies) and produces more teachers in certain subjects than schools need. Still, one could argue standards like the one described above contribute to to making teaching an unattractive career option for some professionals.

  5. I did not say we have a teacher shortage at this time. Obviously we do not. What I said is that during good economic times we often had a teaching shortage, especially in urban districts. I believe another shortage is on the horizon, especially when the baby boomers are all retired and the economy improves. There are no more captive women waiting in the wings to take these jobs.

    What I am saying is the biggest barrier to teacher quality is likely to be the disregard many people in our society have the schoolteachers. This blog seems to celebrate every loss for teachers and every stain on their reputations. This can only hurt the profession and the children it serves. For each entry you might ask yourself, “Will my words help to make teaching a more attractive career or will they reinforce the low opinion some citizens already have for our teachers?”

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