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The Risks of Democracy

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Dear Diane,

The diverse views we get in response to our exchanges is a reminder about why we should not expect one right answer to the question of “why educate?" We need enough consensus to persuade the public that it should be paid for with public dollars, and enough leeway to let many views flourish. In some ways that’s an impossible task, but it’s at least a “direction” I want to keep us struggling for, rather than settling for whoever’s in power in D.C. setting curriculum and assessment for the whole nation!

Distributing such powers includes acknowledging different answers to the what and the how. More local control promises more variety (and more sense of ownership)—if nowhere near as much as I would actually like. But it too has its down-side, its trade-offs which I also need to frankly face. This is at least as true of schooling as many other policy questions—like health, transportation, energy, and myriad other issues.

Which is why I enjoy Paul Hoss and John Doe’s unremitting and single-minded criticisms. Even if John Doe may be a front man, or provocateur, who cares?

Paul raises the question that many of my friendly critics do. But “you” are the exception—think of all those other people who would carry out your ideas irresponsibly or stupidly, etc. It’s a familiar argument—one of some merit in arguing on behalf of democracy in general. One answer: Think of all the dumb policies we’ve arrived at in this nation democratically. Is that an argument for trying another system? Second, even my ideas are better for having to listen to and abide by what others think as well—to have to “persuade” rather than mandate. Third, if I want more people to be “like me,” then I have to allow them to not be like me, I have to try to imagine the settings in which both adults and kids can best learn from each other, and arrive at independent and free choices. Within limits. Its those limits that seem to me to be the interesting question—in a democracy who sets "limits," and how do we set them?

John Doe seems partly to misread my not-so-cleverly stated concern about whether “standards” are a euphemism for a national curriculum—where all schools are on the same page at the same time. The other part of my argument is that such a curriculum takes the adventure out of teaching, and without that adventure the kids miss too much of what is at the heart of intellectual achievement. It weeds out teachers to whom doing the same narrow curriculum year after year is stultifying, and it doesn’t help those with the intellectual liveliness to engage children’s minds. So it fails my test on all grounds.

Alas, my California friend couldn’t switch schools, or even cities or states if we had a national curriculum in order to find a more compatible intellectual climate. Nor could I as a parent.

So here again, means and ends connect. The ends I’m after require the risks involved in encouraging people to expose kids to adults who have different approaches to the meaning of history and literature, who can spend far more time on one aspect of science and skim at most other important topics, who can pick up on students' interests and shift direction, or use the occasion of a hurricane, flood, election, Supreme Court controversy to focus attention in their particular field.

But it is a risk. Of course, democracy itself is based on such a risk. That’s why we get all these absurd balancing institutions, parliamentary rules, etc. They each cause us trouble at times, a waste of precious time and sometimes we have to change them to get anything done. But they are safeguards. “Getting things done” may be easier in a dictatorship of one sort or another, but we have decided that the drawbacks are greater than the benefits. ( Still, Canada is a democracy and does it differently….)

Democracy rests on an argument, one that we have not done such a great job at convincing young people of or older ones either. Our Constitutional “balance of powers” and basic human inertia has saved us from ourselves, time after time. But it would be useful if we understood the trade-offs well enough to design a school “system” that took them seriously—and helped kids and teachers tackle them in real time and real life. Always, also, keeping in mind the risks, and doing our best to explore ways to minimize them. When and why does consensus sometimes work better? Or a unicameral legislative body? (For me, at present, for example, the issue of maximizing choice runs into the issue of strong neighborhoods and diversity and how we can have both.)

Meantime, I believe we are headed in a dangerous direction by ignoring the risks of a national curriculum—which is really what’s at stake. The lure? Higher test scores, or better educated adults, standardization or standards?

Deb

21 Comments

Deb, so glad you chose self-government as a topic, as it allows me to a) avoid more correlation science ;-), and b) tell a current story.

One of my hats is a rather petty appointed government official. My role (as we have nearly No Budget) includes building community, recruiting and guiding volunteers, generating and projecting visions, and basically getting people to want to give us their money and precious time.

Its an all too democratic process!!!

In this, I share responsibilities with someone who (like me) comes from larger bureaucracies. This week finds us at odds over how many forms, manuals, procedures, permits, and regulations we really need.

Indeed, Monday the forms load cost us some really good volunteer help. If we press with the regs, it'll also cost us a financial benefactor.


I tell this because it reminds us here at Bridging of the nature of both people and of progress and sometimes renewal.

Both types of people are needed; some more at different times in an organization's lifetime.


Urban schools are at a stage where we need people who can show what is possible. Without being held back by the juggernaut system.

Testing gave us the power to dis-empower the old Educracy and empower trail solutions. Byidentifying both failing schools, and successful schools with similar demographics, we could start down paths that pushed things forward.

Yet those who embraced testing now are unsatisfied; they want it to move to a National level. Sounds like a power grab to me.

Better we spend our time using the power we were already given; using it thoughtfully to make changes in our local education communities.


I mentioned Dayton. What did they do in Dayton to raise their graduation rate by 30 points in five years?


Hi All...

Deb, thank you for a thoughful post that explains just how messy democracy is!!

Ed... "Better we spend our time using the power we were already given; using it thoughtfully to make changes in our local education communities." ( You)

We can certainly agree on the idea of local control...but from what i am seeing we are quickly moving in the opposite direction!

New Jersey Joins 49 States and Territories in Common Core State Standards Initiative

Governor Jon S. Corzine and Education Commissioner Lucille E. Davy today joined the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a state-led process to develop common English-language arts and mathematics standards. The Common Core State Standards Initiative will be jointly led by the National Governors Assoc. Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

In addition to New Jersey, the following states and territories have also signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA): Alabama; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; District of Columbia; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Montana; Nebraska; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Puerto Rico; Rhode Island; South Dakota; Tennessee; Utah; Vermont; Virgin Islands; Virginia; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Wyoming.

The goal is to have a common core of state standards that states can adopt voluntarily. States can choose to include additional standards beyond the common core as long as the common core represents at least 85 percent of the state’s standards in English language arts and mathematics.
( And of course the second phase....)

The second phase of this initiative is to ultimately develop common assessments aligned to the core standards developed through the process.

Although the idea that this is voluntary is stated... give me a break!!!

And i certainly agree...it is important to find out about Dayton and places like Dayton.

Our quantitative measures are really poorly done....here is an example:

It is also important to note that in NCLB terms Dayton still is doing extremely bad.

The district remains in year 5 improvement status, and has met 0 out of 30 State indicators. Its Ohio Performance indicator Score is 70(120).
Yet its graduation rate is 82.2%.

Demographics Dayton-
Black- 69.6%
Hispanic- 2.5%
Multi-Racial- 3.5%
White- 24%
Limited Eng- 1.9%
Special Ed- 20.2%


Cleveland on the other hand has a much pooer graduation rate ( 61.9% ) Cleveland is in year 4 improvement status, met 2 out of 30 State Indicators and has a performance index score of 72.1 (120).

Demographics Cleveland-
Black- 69.8%
Hispanic- 11.4%
Multi-Racial- 2.2%
White- 15%
Limited English- 5.3%
Special Education- 20.0

Did a random search and found Wadsworth School District. Have no idea where this is...don't really know Ohio at all!

Wadsworth met 30 out of 30 State indicators. Its Performance index- 103.5 (120) and Wadsworth has no schools in need of improvement.

Wadsworth's graduation rate is- 98.6%.

Demographics-
Black- 0.7%
Hispanic-0.5%
Multi-Racial- 1.3%
Limited English- NC
Special Ed- 9.6%

Data certainly stimulates questions.

Would like to see the demographics of Clevelands drop outs.

What else do these numbers suggest to you?

be well ...mike

Funny, Mike, I looked up the Wadsworth Education Association (as I did with Akron last week). They have the contract online, but....
==> "This server could not verify that you are authorized to access the document requested."

Imagine that! They are so proud of their contract with the people of Wadsworth that they will not let you access it unless you are a member!


Wadsworth, one county sw of Cleveland, has a median family income of $58,723. Can't find the parent education rate.

Hi All...

Ed... as i look at various state level data....regardless of the test.... what i see is the results all line up consistently the same.... the poorer and more diverse the district the poorer the results of the tests.

We then call schools like Wadsworth.... schools of excellence and schools in Dayton and Cleveland.... failures!!

This is what LANI GUINIER is speaking to when she says:

In the testocracy, or what some call “the new meritocracy,” privilege is passed on through a new kind of club: a testing system that allows those with resources to show that they too belong.

They belong because they are able to learn the rules of the test through explicit coaching, private school, or an upper class, resource-rich suburban education.

They then successfully play the testing game to their own advantage. Studies show that within each race and ethnic group, aptitude test scores rise with parental income.

The correlation between aptitude test scores and parental income should not surprise us...

In other words, what the testocracy promotes in the name of “merit” turns out to be based on privilege.

What these studies find is that the testocracy tells us more about a student’s past than his or her future.

It soon became apparent that the test-centered approach to distributing opportunity was not meeting its democratic responsibilities.

i find myself looking at the data....and agreeing with her!

mike


Hey, Mike, what a wonderful early summer morn; I've weeded the sidewalk and watched the birds, so 'tis with head, heart, and body content that I say,..."Bull Patties".

The "Testocracy" that matters...is the game of life. Life that says, if you want to make a decent living in sales, or customer service, as many, many Americans do,...
- you must speak the Queen's English. Clearly. With relatively little accent or dialect.
- You must be at least in the middle of the pack as regards cultural literacy. The more of it you have, the more likely you are to advance to some of the good jobs.
- You mush share and embrace many of the same attitudes and ideals that those with the jobs have. Face it. Successful people have good reason to imagine that qualities like their own will further the success of their organization. If, in speech, and education, and outlook, and expression, you are far different from them, they are, oft as not, gonna look elsewhere.

A Game, too, which says, if you want the really high paying and accessible jobs, the ones that pure skill will get you without any personal connections, the type of jobs that people with good checkbooks will fly from LA to Detroit to meet and recruit you,...
- You better be not just as good as the next guy at math, but significantly better.
- You better not just have minimal reading abilities, but be well read and be able to engage the interviewer on why those books excited you.
- You better have a college transcript which shows that you came to college ready to do the hard work, and you took great high school habits and pushed them to the limit.

That is the testocracy. That is the way to "eliminate poverty".

Which is why, each in their day, the impoverished Germans and the poor Irish and the impecunious Polish and the struggling Italians all insisted that their children learn to speak without accent, learn all that they could from the common schools, be as literate as possible in the common culture, and meld into society to the very most they could.

That is what nearly all Black Americans aspired to, and all they aspired to up until 1965. It remains what most parents want for their children.

And is very different from what the Guniers of the world want. So, to her:

I don't get at all this type of writing. I can't for the life of me understand why anyone would practice it, save that it is a pretentious habit which has spread from the Literature Professoriate to a wider range of studies and done them no good in the process.

I like practical stuff:

Dayton seems to have changed its graduation rates by changing the culture of its teaching staff. It seems that the early testing, circa 2003-2004, identified how far behind the students were; and the district moved to correct that. It seems that charter schools in 2004 showed the public school that gains could be made; and, as Dayton’s chief academic officer says, the public schools implemented:

"A concerted effort to improve instruction, curricula, testing methods and attendance; enhanced intervention and credit recovery programs, safer school environments and strides toward a culture of education that responds to how students learn best."

Thanks for the fine post, Deb. The "adventure at the heart of learning" seems key. And too often lost in pro-test, anti-test wrangling. And this: "I have to try to imagine the settings in which both adults and kids can best learn from each other, and arrive at independent and free choices." Absolutely central! And I think if we look at how people have learned, we can find some of those settings -- inside the classroom and out -- and make some smart, pro-adventure decisions.

Hi Ed.... glad to hear you are enjoying your summer days!

Ed... believe it or not... i think we may actually be able to come to an agreement on some stuff!

Here is an example:::
The "Testocracy" that matters...is the game of life. ( Ed )

Yet, what i and many others are concerned about with the over-use of high-stakes paper and pencil tests is just that point....

these instruments take the practical real nature of people out of the equation and limit opportunites for real demonstration of what people can DO!!!

I do not mind there use as indicators to improve instruction at all...what i mind is the use of them to become standardized gate keeper instruments that do limit merit to test scores!

Can agree here too Ed....
"I like practical stuff:
Dayton seems to have changed its graduation rates by changing the culture of its teaching staff." ( Ed )

Yet this really does not show up in the testocracy that still labels Dayton a failing school district!

The district ( DAYTON ) remains in year 5 improvement status, and has met 0 out of 30 State indicators. Its Ohio Performance indicator Score is 70(120).

Your discription of what you would like the "testocracy" to really be is not what it is on the ground...today...in a very real and practical manner.

The qualities that you list as needed show up no where on these instrucments and prevent people with them from gaining access to even be able to "prove themselves"!!

As you point out...

Dayton’s chief academic officer says, the public schools implemented:
"A concerted effort to improve instruction, curricula, testing methods and attendance; enhanced intervention and credit recovery programs, safer school environments and strides toward a culture of education that responds to how students learn best."

Absolutely good stuff seems to be happening... but other then the graduation rate vastly improving....the TESTOCRACY still sees this place as failing!!

Look at the available demographic data concerning out comes on tests.... any tests....
In other words, what the testocracy promotes in the name of “merit” turns out to be based on privilege.

The link between scores and privilege can not be denied.

be well... mike


Ed--I looked up Dayton's graduation rates, and they indeed are on the upswing. But I also went to the district website, and found this page: http://www.dps.k12.oh.us/cms/initiatives
It is not quite the clear report out of initiatives and outcomes (much bigger on initiatives than outcomes) that I am always looking for, but it is somewhat instructive. It appears as though their concerns somewhat predates your suggestion of the 2002-2003 testing heads up. There is a pretty good report from around 2001. It's interesting because it appears to be broad-based (including the NAACP and other groups), may have been spurred by decision-making following release from a deseg order. The "initiatives" that they have committed to include allocation of resources based on need. Again--I don't find specificity with regard to outcomes--particularly interim outcomes (such as evidence of actual redistribution of resources based on need). As a parent, I have a much easier time living with a district that is still in "improvement" status if I can see that there is improvement in doing the things that will ultimately lead to improvement (BTW--they also had a parent page that had not been updated since 2004). But, overall, it would appear that Dayton has taken a comprehensive approach to improvement, with focus on increased time for reading in the early grades, possibly some class size reduction, big focus on changing their rate of suspension/expulsion through improved school climate and expanded options, delineating standards for PD and providing specific amounts of it in areas defined by need. There is some lip service to improving parental involvement--adding some resource centers. Again--to really have a clue about what is going on, I would like to see some indicators of hoped-for and achieved outcomes from each of these.

And I have to point, one more time, to the requirements in NCLB for exactly this kind of improvement planning, on an annual basis, with input from parents and regular reports to parents on progress. This, to me, is the pinnacle of local involvement, as well as democracy--operating within an environment that sets standards at a higher level. Hasn't been highly embraced. As Jason suggested in an earlier thread--when have parents ever had a substantial say? While not truly historically accurate (consider prairie schools where teachers were hired directly by groups of parents, or the tremendous work of mothers' clubs in opening schools and libraries and lobbying for playgrounds and school lunches, etc), this has been more or less the case for at least the last half decade.

Sorry--meant to say the last half century.

Hi All... hope this finds everyone well!

New Report just out....from....

June 25, 2009

School Accountability — A Broader, Bolder Approach
Report of the Accountability Committee of the Broader Bolder Approach to Education Campaign

Some highlights..

WASHINGTON, DC (June 25, 2009) –Test scores in reading and math alone cannot describe a school’s contributions to the full range of desired student outcomes.

Instead, a new accountability system that combines testing with qualitative evaluation is needed to replace the discredited No Child Left Behind Act.

This recommendation is the centerpiece of a new report from the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education (BBA) Campaign.

The full report is available
http://www.boldapproach.org/report_20090625.html


“We must employ multiple measures to effectively assess the quality of public education we offer,” said BBA leader Susan B. Neuman, professor at the University of Michigan and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. “Otherwise, we can’t ensure that all children are gaining all the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.”

Specifically, BBA recommends that:

The federal government should collect state-level data – mostly from an expanded National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) – on how students of different backgrounds perform in a broad range of academic subjects, as well as in the arts, physical health and fitness, citizenship habits, and other necessary knowledge and skills;

State accountability systems should supplement higher quality standardized tests with qualitative evaluation of districts and schools to ensure the presence of a supportive school climate, high-quality classroom instruction and other resources and practices needed for student success.

The BBA Accountability Report follows recent remarks made by President Barack Obama calling for multiple measures of school achievement to replace existing narrow accountability policies.

Well worth the read....

mike

Deb,

Forgive my lack of wherewithal but I don't recall the question I raised when you state, "Paul raises the question that many of my friendly critics do."

I would love to respond but I honestly don't know to what.

Another beautiful morning in Ohio! Too beautiful to be inside; yet this seems important:

Mike, "Privilege" is a code word. I do not embrace it's use here.

If I had to, privilege might be:
- living within a bus ride of a great museum of art
- access to a full free library of incredible resources
- having mass transit access of tens to thousands of great, good paying jobs,
- access to great museums, and works of architecture, and people of great knowing
- being located near large foundations who might help with programs and initiatives
- home and school being in a community near many, many large corporations who might be asked for resources and individual time

All of these are great measures of privilege which we've never had here, yet are afforded most urban citizens.


But perhaps you meant privilege already in the home.

Yes, if a child's mother can read and do fractions, or better yet do analytical geometry and NMR spectroscopy, yes the child will likely have 'privilege'. And maybe even if Grandpa has a substantial portfolio.

Does that then mean that every child without such privilege shall be ignored by education because their cause is so hopeless?


And even so, a "privileged" home is not what you are alluding to. Not what the likes of pointy-headed spoiled children of Ivy academics want you to think. The alluded definition is shallow and empty, visceral and material.

A truly privileged home is much more rich and deep and precious:

A home of privilege will respect learning. Yet it will respect the unlearned and the unwealthy. That is, respect their potential and their freedom.

A home of privilege will have books. Yet books can enter a home by more routes than Mom & Dad spending big bucks at Yale Bookstore.

A home of privilege will have music. But Mom humming will be nearly as good as a symphony, maybe better.

Religion is a true gift of a privileged child. If a parent has few material resources, they can easily give the child another great gift by making them part of a thriving church.

Nationwide, and in our community, just being a practicing Catholic gives you a substantial edge in school and other endeavors. Perhaps is is the little bit more of individual attention. Perhaps its the extra hour a week of instruction, of reading, of assignments. Perhaps its the feeling of another sort of belonging.

A home of real privilege will go the extra step of not just attending classes and services, but of participating in the community, in fundraisers and ceremonies and facilities maintenance.

A home of privilege will will impart discipline. Websters and Wikipedia treat the word as a verb, or as something done to others, but in a home of privilege, as in the US Marine Corps, it is a gift given, an inner quality built up.

Read chapter 5 of Thernstrom & Thernstrom for what privilege and discipline mean in the homes of Asian American children. At every income level, Asian american children outperform others. Why? Homework and parent expectations.

A home of privilege has high expectations. In the normal white American household, a B- is the lowest you're gonna get away with before parental wrath starts to show. In Asians, that irateness shows at A-!! And in Black households? C-.

With expectations go commitment, and the time spent on homework matches both grade expectations and outcome. Asians do far more homework than Blacks, whites, and hispanics. It helps them in overcoming issues and jumping ahead.


In Dayton, there seems to be growing another type of Privilege, if we follow the reports Margo listed. Privilege where the schools bite the bullet and accept their role in overcoming family shortcomings. Its not easy. Yet they seem to have students graduating--a good start to the next generation of families.

Hi All...finaaly we see some sun here!

Ed... i think we continue to miss one anothers points.

What i am suggesting,in a very simple way, is that socio-ecconomic status shows up in test scores. SES as priveledge.

Now, if we are simply using test scores to determine "success" and "merit"... the results will be what i tried to point to in Dayton...which is....regardless of progress...the system rates it as a failed school.

The testocracy... will sort people and schools that way.... we need to expand our data!

The problem expands all the way up our system and really has an impact on the rhetoric we are hearing all over America.

For example: Here in New Jersey... the community colleges ask incoming students to have a 530 SAT math score and a 540 SAT Language Score to avoid having to take another test- the ACCUPLACER.

Needless to say... many kids going on to college do not meet this very high criteria. They then must sit for yet another test ...which has the vast majority of them taking what the college calls remedial courses.

We have been hearing this now from higher education for a while....

SAT 2007 DATA-
2007 COLLEGE BOUND SENIORS AVERAGE SAT SCORES
(Approximately 1.49 million test takers)

ALL TEST-TAKERS 502 (Reading) 515 (Math)

GENDER
Female 502 ( Reading) 499 (Math)
Male 504 (Reading) 533 ( Math)
Black 433 ( Reading) 429 (Math)
Hispanic 459 ( Reading) 463 (Math)
White 527 ( Reading) 534 (Math)


FAMILY INCOME:

$10,000-$20,000 453 (Reading) 472(Math)
$30,000-$40,000 476 (Reading) 485 (Math)
$60,000-$70,000 504 (Reading) 511 (Math)
More than-$100,000 544(Reading)556(Math)

So... community colleges in NJ are not even using the overall average on the SAT to determine who takes the ACCUPLACER and who gets remediated!!

And there is an out cry concerning remediation rates in these colleges... which are approaching 80%.

For me... this is the "testocracy" Ed... on the ground and being real and practical!!

It impacts peoples lives in a very real and financial manner.

By the way...DATA on the ACCUPLACER test is very hard to come by....

So... in effect... a kid could get his/her high school degree... take the SAT and score well above average... but still need remediation in community college!!

What do others think of this...because to me its crazy!

Why are we doing this to our kids?

be well... mike

Ezra Pound: “A slave is one who waits for someone to come and free him.”

The colloquial usage of the words “segregation” and “privilege” perpetuates confusion in meaning.

Once upon a time, segregation was formally the legal enforcement of separation by a political apparatus of compulsion, usually the state. Yet, segregation has additionally come to mean an arbitrary moral evaluation of voluntary relationships.

Political powers are pushing positive law in this regard. They want particular individuals, selected on the bases of arbitrary definitions, forcibly placed in proximity of other subjectively chosen individuals, especially in schools. The public is convinced that this loss of freedom is the right price to be paid for the higher value of social justice.

The striking down of formal segregation, Black Codes, Jim Crow, etc., ought to be applauded. Removing obstacles liberates individuals to make their own decisions concerning who and what they want to associate with. But meddlers, let’s call them totalitarian liberals, want social conscription. They already force parents to send their kids (and/or money) to government institutions for most of their young lives. It was only a matter of time before they would be playing god with demographics.

The ugly consequence of forced integration is yet more segregation. Created is the class of bureaucrats, technocrats, do-gooders and other tax consuming social engineers with government power on one side, and the underclass of submitizens on the other. It is very much like what existed in the former Soviet Union!

Voluntary segregations resume once the cover of coercion and state propaganda goes away anyway.

Who can say whether the meddlers are motivated by self-interest or justice? Regardless of motive, intervention into freedom of association creates an unfree society where, to paraphrase George Orwell, some are more equal than others.

Same goes for “privilege”. It used to mean legal status, like a baron, prince or state official. Now privilege has come to mean anyone that anyone else does not like and for whatever reason. Slapping the label “privileged” on a person is damning enough in the public eye. The labelee should be taxed, held back, regulated and forced into “equality”. This common usage is exploited by the totalitarians, who destroy freedom in their efforts to level all inequalities of opportunity and outcome. Mind you, these folks are the same ones that pushed for the new definition in the first place.

In spite of the progressive rhetoric surrounding these levelling actions, there is something starkly conservative about it. This conservatism is aptly named since it has more in common with what the original liberal movements fought so hard to defeat: legal privilege, legal slavery and legal subjugation- by kings, guilds (unions), nobles, masters, parliaments, despots and imperial offices…..

I'd like to add to Ed's point - that there is pecuniary privilege, but also intellectual privilege, and that it is the latter that deserves to be nurtured.

Mike's root complaint about testocracy is that it promotes privilege. But that is not necessarily true, not even when speaking of intellectual privilege.

There is a study by Ludger Wossmann of TIMSS math and science scores for 7 and 8 graders, called "Central exit exams and student achievement: international evidence", published in the 2003 Brookings Institution volume "No child left behind?".

The study compares TIMSS scores for 1995 and 1999, and finds that countries with baccalaureate-style graduation exams are 0.427 standard deviations ahead in math of the others on their TIMSS scores. They were also 0.363 standard deviations ahead in TIMSS science scores.

Wossmann's model indicates (p. 303):

"... Central [high school graduation] exams decrease the effect of parental education, so that under a system of central exams, it seems to matter less from which parental background a student comes. Thus, especially in math, the disadvantage of coming from a less beneficial family background seems to be reduced by central exams, suggesting that central-exam systems work toward equalizing opportunities for students from different family backgrounds".

Hi All.... fascinating take here Daniel.

The public is convinced that this loss of freedom is the right price to be paid for the higher value of social justice. ( not seeing this one Dan. Do you not have the freedom to send your children to a private school of your choice?)

The striking down of formal segregation, Black Codes, Jim Crow, etc., ought to be applauded.( Well thats nicely said!)

Removing obstacles (are you saying that Black Codes and Jim Crow were simply obstacles???) liberates individuals to make their own decisions concerning who and what they want to associate with.

But meddlers, let’s call them totalitarian liberals, want social conscription.

They already force parents to send their kids (and/or money) to government institutions for most of their young lives.( Are you totally against taxes of any kind?)

It was only a matter of time before they would be playing god with demographics. ( Daniel)

And your suggestion for schooling in America Daniel?

Thanks..mike

All, good morning!

Mike, lots of issues in your Saturday post; lets start with Dayton. No one is labeling Dayton Schools "Failed" save you. What they are labeled is in "Academic Watch". Is that bad?

What if you were a parent in Dayton schools? These schools have been processing kids through without them learning enough for years. Praise be, there's now a decent graduation rate. If I'm a parent of a 4th grader, I'm gonna be very happy the schools aren't just suddenly labeled "Effective". The schools are are still performing at substantially lower rates than similar schools.

That is, compared to urban schools in Ohio, Dayton schools' proficiency scores are still behind.

A quote: "Among lower-income family groups, there's a sense of malaise; a feeling that nothing we do is going to make a difference," Dayton school board member Mario Gallin said. "I notice with some of the younger kids they have no vision of what they are going to do when they grow up or what the world is like outside their neighborhood."

No doubt we can make the same observation of plenty of well-off suburbanite kids. Yet for some reason, they have made the effort and managed to stay in school. This year, we can say the same about Dayton's urban students--they stuck to it.

Well,...Black students did! Among the worst performers as far as graduation goes? The mostly white students from Belmont high. Only 64% of them graduate. Yet their white counterparts at other schools save one do worse, 51% of whites district wide graduate!

Mike, haven't got at all to NJ problems here, and have to move on. Yet lets observe that for some reasons, Dayton students seem to have found the will to stay in school. That is a huge step forward!

And on that, they can build more!

Hi All....

Ed, glad that Dayton is having some good news.

The "testocracy" goes well beyond movement of test scores.

Here is an example:

TEST SCORES, POVERTY AND ETHNICITY:
THE NEW AMERICAN DILEMMA
Donald C. Orlich and Glenn Gifford
Washington State University
Pullman, WA 99164-4237

Executive Summary
The authors examined various studies and data sets relating to high-stakes tests and their
relationship to family income and ethnicity.

Poverty appears to play a major role in depressing test scores with both state sponsored criterion-referenced and national norm-referenced tests.

Using zero-order regression, the authors computed a correlation coefficient of poverty to the
2004 SAT total (verbal plus mathematics) and obtained a value of .98 and for 2005 a value of
.97.

The correlation coefficient of parental income to the 2004 and 2005 ACT composite scores was .99. Correlation coefficients for ethnicity and 2004 data for SAT total were .92 and for the
ACT composite .94.

For the SAT, 97% of the variance (r2 = .97; p

Data for ACT mirror these findings.

Other research:

Ronald C. Nyhan and Mohamad G. Alkadry (1999) statistically analyzed the relationship of class size, expenditure per student and socioeconomic status on student achievement test
scores in three south Florida counties. Poverty was the primary determinant of student achievement.

A parallel finding was also reported when English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish student test scores were analyzed (McCallum and Demie, 2001).

Mark Hornbeck (2001) wrote that one in five or about 600 Michigan schools would fail to meet that state’s standards.

Again, there are correlations with family income. Similarly, Alan
H. Schoenfeld (2002) provided data showing that economic status has a negative learning impact
on poor children and children of color.

Jaekyung Lee’s (2002) analysis of several social factors
showed parallel patterns to those above.

Sure mirrors whar i see on the ground in New Jersey.

The schools that are in need of improvement in your part of the world...
are these your states poorest schools?

How about your states most successful schools.... what percentage of poverty do they have?

be well... mike

Hi Mike, Darn good questions! Here are my replies.-Dan

Dan wrote: “The public is convinced that this loss of freedom is the right price to be paid for the higher value of social justice.”

Mike commented: (not seeing this one Dan. Do you not have the freedom to send your children to a private school of your choice?)

Dan replies: Private schools are terribly disadvantaged by the government’s ability to tax and legislate itself students and resources. The opportunity costs snuff private development. Only the well-off can simultaneously pay the government fees and send their kids elsewhere. The Obama’s (although their property taxes are picked-up by the taxpayer as well) choice to send their kids to private school is a prime example of what essentially is a separate but equal doctrine. Oh, the flippin’ irony.

Besides, most private schools are not terribly private these days. They are 1) subject to serious regulation and circumscription by the government; and 2) recipients of government ‘strings attached’ subsidies, grants and aid designed to undermine independence. A truly private school, if it were to exist, would be an example in entrepreneurship, sinking or swimming based on its ability to serve students, families, and backers. Government schools do not have such structural incentives yet take up the biggest portion of any local budget. How is that fair competition?

Mike quotes Dan: “Removing obstacles liberates individuals to make their own decisions concerning who and what they want to associate with.” Then Mike asks: “(are you saying that Black Codes and Jim Crow were simply obstacles???)”

Dan replies: True, some obstacles to freedom are more heinous than others. Someday, hopefully, the system of public schooling will make the Removed list.

Mike asks: “Are you totally against taxes of any kind?”

Dan’s reply: Taxation, as an act, is violence. People calling themselves the government should not be exempt from basic rules of conduct. The idea of equality has been tortured enough.

Mike quotes Dan: “It was only a matter of time before they would be playing god with demographics.” Then Mike asks: “And your suggestion for schooling in America Daniel?”

Dan says: Schooling is not the same thing as education. A free society, a place without government involvement in schooling at all, is a place more conducive to education. The contents and forms of free schooling are likely to be more diverse, which may frighten meddlers to no end, but are also more likely to help perpetuate a free society. Is not freedom an end in itself?

Religion is analogous. The meddlers want a state church, like the Church of England, with all the privileges and ability to crush any competing house of worship. National testing and curriculum alignment are two examples of educational dictatorship in action. But where can the education Pilgrims go? Weren’t the Puritans forced to tithe Anglican anyway? An irony is that the religious minorities fleeing Anglican domination tended to set-up their own religious dictatorships in America.

How about a food metaphor? The capitalist system of provision in the US serves as a great example of what ought to be. This works in spite of the massive agricultural subsidies, protectionist tariffs, and uses of eminent domain (i.e. collusive agreements between Walmart and corrupt local governments), currently leeching the system. Nevertheless, think of the diversity of food options you have as well as the myriad delivery and production systems. You can opt to frequent a giant grocery chain or go to a local convenience store. Stores come in all sizes and shapes. You can find food in electronic dispensers or you may grow food at home. You might patronize local farming cooperatives or order food online hailing from across the globe. Choose to dine at a restaurant if the spirit moves you. There are numerous dining clubs and membership plans to join, to add. Eat vegan or omnivorous, glutton or moderate. Buy only from companies that treat their workers well. You can diet or party-it-up. Join a national co-op or write a letter of protest against one. Save coupons too. You may cook at home- and choose from a bunch of different ways of cooking- or have someone else do it.

This is just the beginning of description btw.

The complexity in current food options does not stop new ventures either! The food market is self-regulating and allows for voting with stomachs. In a sense, the competitive market is more democratic than democracy!

The important thing is that you get to choose the when’s, what’s, who’s, where’s, why’s and how’s for you and your children.

On the other hand, if food was run like government school then the primitiveness of the system would lead to a cataclysmic drop in population.

Food for thought, anyway? Cheers! -Dan

The other part of my argument is that such a curriculum takes the adventure out of teaching, and without that adventure the kids miss too much of what is at the heart of intellectual achievement. It weeds out teachers to whom doing the same narrow curriculum year after year is stultifying, and it doesn’t help those with the intellectual liveliness to engage children’s minds. So it fails my test on all grounds.

This is all a silly non sequitur. There's nothing about the idea of national standards that implies a "narrow" curriculum -- get involved with the process, and help make the national standards as broad as you like. And whatever the national standards are, any teacher with genuine "intellectual liveliness" will be completely able to maintain that liveliness. Why not?

On the other hand, I'm sure there are a few teachers who feel that it is too "narrow" and "stultifying" to have to teach boring old math every year, and would much prefer a year spent on making stupid posterboard displays (like my kids keep having to do at school). I don't see why I should care what those teachers think. If they don't like teaching the fundamentals of math, they need to find a new profession where their creative arts-and-crafts passion can take flight, maybe as an interior designer or making handmade candles or something.

You make some compelling arguments regarding education in schools and the risks of democracy. I think as long are ends are the same we can bridge gaps on the means.

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