June 2008 Archives

Inspiration and Perspiration

Graduations are sacred events in American society. They mark an important transition, and graduates and their loved ones are justifiably proud of their accomplishments. For this reason, it’s a very tricky thing to comment on news stories connected to graduations. One doesn’t want to appear to be denigrating the achievements of the graduating students, many who have overcome substantial odds to obtain a diploma. Over the past week, Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools, has been making the rounds at the graduation ceremonies of some of the small high schools in NYC. Regular readers ...


How Much Math Does a Teacher Need to Know to Teach Math?

I once asked a colleague if he’d read a particular book. “Read it?” he replied incredulously. “I haven’t even taught it!” A former college English professor, he came by the joke honestly. The first time I taught a course that I had never taken myself, I acknowledged the absurdity, at least to myself. I stayed about a week ahead of my students. Out-of-field teaching? Not exactly. I was teaching a course that was in my field, but outside of my immediate area of expertise. The teaching assignment was justified on the grounds that, as a Ph.D.-holder, ...


"Independence" Day

I’ll try to stay reasonably serious this week, but some things are just too ridiculous to pass up. On Friday, the New York City Department of Education (DOE) announced that it had selected the NYC Leadership Academy to provide principal training and development services. The press release proclaimed that the Leadership Academy was “chosen from among multiple bidders in a competitive procurement process.” The DOE is negotiating a five-year contract for a total of $50 million, beginning Tuesday, July 1. Long-time followers of New York City public schooling are aware that the NYC Leadership Academy was created by the ...


skoolboy returns!

I'm taking a break this week, so skoolboy is taking the wheel. If you have compliments, thoughts, news, or tips, you can reach him at skoolboy2 (at) gmail (dot) com. An early Happy 4th to everyone!...


Demographer Takes On New York City's Gifted and Talented Admissions

Andrew Beveridge, the New York Times' demographer, turns his attention to New York City's gifted program in this Gotham Gazette column. Based on his estimates, here's the bottom line on the change in gifted and talented admissions in NYC:Non-Hispanic whites and Asians almost triple their percentage, while the percent non-Hispanic black and Hispanic plunges. In short, students accepted in the Gifted and Talented program are not all representative of the students in New York City, and are less so this year than last year....


Guest Blogger Sarah Reckhow: Easy to Blame

Sarah Reckhow taught at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore from 2002 to 2004 and was a Teach for America corps member. Currently, she is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at UC Berkeley. Her dissertation explores the role of national philanthropies and community organizers in urban education policymaking.Liam Julian’s review of “Hard Times at Douglass High” boils down a complicated stew of frustration, hope, and absurdity to a singular and simplistic point—many of the teachers are “just plain bad at their jobs.” Julian does begin with a fair remark—this documentary is not a systematic ...


Cool People You Should Know: Andrew Ho

If you've been reading the New York papers this week, you've already heard of Andrew Ho, an educational psychologist who teaches at the University of Iowa's School of Education. Ho studies high-stakes score trends, and has done some excellent work comparing NAEP and state score trends.If you want to hear more about why measuring achievement trends with proficiency scores is problematic, you should watch his talk, Trend-Flipping, Gap-Bowing, and Growth Stretching: The Pliability of Popular High-Stakes Statistics. Here's a description:The most important large-scale policy questions in education - Are students learning? Are gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students ...


The Unintended Consequences of Focusing on Proficiency

I'm totally in awe of the regular commenters here - for me, they are the best part of this site. I had to share this comment by Rachel, who had this to say about the post below:One of my worries about the emphasis on "proficiency" -- and the lack on emphasis on anything above proficiency -- is the unintended consequence of creating a two-tier, mostly segregated, educational system. Public school teach poor kids basic skills, and parents who want more than basic skills try to figure out how to get their kids into private schools -- or, if they ...


New York's Lake Woebegon Effect

Sol Stern nails it in his article on test score inflation:The premise of NCLB, as of so many current education reform efforts, is that schools must serve the interests of children, not the interests of the adults who work in the system. But in a classic case of unintended consequences, the widespread test inflation produced by NCLB is serving only the interests of the adults. New York education officials like Mills, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, and his schools chancellor, Joel Klein—along with teachers’ union leaders like Randi Weingarten—advance their varied agendas in the glow of ...


When Measuring Achievement Gaps, Beware the Proficiency Trap

Though we can thank the No Child Left Behind Act for drawing our attention to the "achievement gap" - which is now loosely deployed to reference gaps between African-American and white/Asian, poor and advantaged, suburban and urban, or even male and female kids - it's also done us a great disservice by distorting the way that we measure, and think about, differences between groups.There are at least two ways of thinking about the relationship between achievement and kids' life chances. The first is to consider, in absolute terms, the set of skills that students have. The second views ...


Are New York City Schools Shortchanging High Achieving Students? The View from 2003-2008

Savvy New York City parents have long suspected that high achieving kids are losing out in the push to boost the achievement of the lowest performing students. But those suspicions are often cast aside by public officials as helicopter parent whining or muted class warfare.But a review of 4th grade test score data from 2003-2008 suggests that these parents have been on to something. Between 2003 and 2008, the fraction of students scoring in the highest achievement level on the 4th grade NY state ELA test has plummeted. In 2003, 15.6% of 4th graders scored at Level 4. ...


Welcome "Urban Angle" to the Blogosphere

Watch out, Edu-fogies - there's a new youngish blogger on the block. Here's what Urban Angle: A Gen Y Perspective on Education Reform is all about:After immersing myself into the education blogosphere, I finally decided to begin a blog with a voice and perspective that is normally unheard: A (fairly) recent student of an inner city public school system. Hopefully I can provide some different perspectives to what otherwise seems like a 2 room echo chamber on education policy and reform....


In NYC Middle Grades, Fewer High Achieving ELA Students, Even As Passing Rates Increase

In grades 5-7, grades that have seen sharp increases in ELA passing rates over the past two years, the percentage of New York City students scoring in the highest performance category has decreased substantially. You can find those results here. Interestingly, this is only true for ELA, not math.* In 2006, 8.7% of 5th graders scored at Level 4 on the ELA. This year, only 4.3% did.* In 2006, 7.1% of 6th graders scored at Level 4. This year, only 2.2% did.* In 2006, 4.7% of 7th graders scored at Level 4. This year, only ...


Scale Score Magic! Why We Shouldn't Rely on Passing Rates to Measure Academic Achievement

Consider this puzzle: in 2007, the average scale score on the New York State ELA Test was 661. In 2008, it is also 661. Yet the overall level of proficiency has increased by 3 percentage points, from 68% to 71%. How is this possible?When we measure student achievement solely based on the proportion of students who have jumped over a bar, we can end up with pretty misleading picture of student performance.Take a look at grades 3, 5, and 8 in the graph below, which shows the change in ELA average scales scores and passing rates for New ...


Live Blogging the 2008 NY State ELA and Math Press Conference

"No one should be surprised to see these kind of gains because there have been significant investments at the state and local level.""I'm sure the people will say the test is easier. Take the test. Look at it yourself." New York State Commissioner Richard Mills is on the offensive and doing his best to make sure that we all believe that the enormous NY state gains are not illusory. He's even put together a cute story about why performance is up:* State invested an additional $3.4B in support for schools over 2 years.* New grade by grade curriculum ...


Our Very Own Disney Movie! The New York State 2008 ELA and Math Results

I really appreciate the opportunity to join all of you here at Disney World. I can't wait to get over to the Magic Kingdom. I just love cartoon characters; outlandish fairy tales; and wild, stomach-churning roller coaster rides.-Mayor Bloomberg, Excellence in Action Summit If you like fairy tales, today is your day. Overnight, the majority of kids in New York City have become proficient readers (up 7 percentage points to 58%) and mathematicians (up 9 percentage points to 74%). Apparently, scores are up even more in Buffalo, Yonkers, and Rochester. Here's Elizabeth Green's article in the NY Sun, Mayor ...


Cool People You Should Know: Brian Jacob

Brian Jacob teaches at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. He has studied a wide range of education policy topics, including school choice, housing voucher programs, neighborhood and peer effects, educational accountability programs, and teacher labor markets. If you're interested in Chicago school reform, Jacob is a good place to turn. Kevin Carey will also be happy to know that he keeps a model website, and most of his papers are available there.Previously on this blog, I've discussed Jacob's studies of Chicago school choice, which find no effects on test scores at the elementary ...


At Some KIPP Schools, KIPPster-ettes Outnumber KIPPsters

If you're not already enjoying Richard Whitmire's new gender blog, you could be. Yesterday he wrote that KIPP "is an important player in the boy troubles" because boys at KIPP start 5th grade behind the girls, but catch up to them by 7th grade.This may very well be true, but there's another KIPP gender story that has received less attention: many KIPP schools have non-trivial gender imbalances and lose boys at a faster rate than they lose girls. Certainly I'm not the first to point this out, as the San Francisco Schools blog reported a year ago that African-American ...


With New Rules for Gifted Programs, NYC's Poor and Minority Students Lose Out

If you'd ever bumped your head up against test score distributions for entering kindergarteners, you already knew that NYC's shift to a uniform cutoff for gifted admissions - the 90th percentile - could only hurt poor and minority kids' access to gifted programs. So many of you were unsurprised in April when I analyzed the new gifted and talented data, and found that poor and minority kids' access to gifted and talented programs had been seriously diminished. (See maps here.) Kudos to Elissa Gootman and Robert Gebeloff at the New York Times, who pushed the G&T issue out onto ...


The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

William Deresiewicz, a Yale English prof for the last 10 years, has written a downright haunting essay in The American Scholar on the many ways that elite colleges fall short. He charges that elite colleges:1) "Teach students to believe that people who didn’t go to an Ivy League or equivalent school weren’t worth talking to, regardless of their class."2) Inculcate a false sense of self-worth ("Getting to an elite college, being at an elite college, and going on from an elite college—all involve numerical rankings: SAT, GPA, GRE. You learn to think of yourself in ...


High Achieving Students in the Era of No Child Left Behind

Fordham's new study on how high achievers have fared under No Child Left Behind is out. (See NYT coverage here.) Here's the main story:* While the nation's lowest-achieving youngsters made rapid gains [on NAEP] from 2000 to 2007, the performance of top students was languid. Children at the 10th percentile of achievement (the bottom 10 percent of students) have shown solid progress in fourth grade reading and math and in eighth grade math since 2000, but those at the 90th percentile have made minimal gains.* This pattern - big gains for low achievers and lesser ones for high achievers - ...


A Leonard Sax Fact Check: Are Women Worse Off in Science and Engineering Than They Were 20 Years Ago?

Leonard Sax, everyone's favorite advocate of gender-based education, has a commentary in this week's Ed Week, "Where the Girls Aren't: What the Media Missed in the AAUW's Report on Gender Equity." Here's the central argument:"There is a real gender gap, and it’s growing rapidly, but that gap has little to do with graduation rates or college-entrance rates, parameters that are given great emphasis in the report. The real gender gap is not in ability but in motivation—not in what girls and boys can do, but in what girls and boys want to do: specifically, in what they ...


Welcome Richard Whitmire's New Blog on Gender and Education

Richard Whitmire, USA Today reporter and President of the Education Writers Association, has kicked off a new blog called "Why Boys Fail."Whitmire has a theory about why girls have pulled ahead in higher education: "as the world has become more verbal, schools have allowed boys to slip behind in literacy skills." Whitmire's hypothesis is intriguing, and the changing demands of schools, higher education, and the workplace deserve more attention.But if we look at long-term NAEP reading trends, we see that girls have always had an advantage over boys in reading. In 4th and 8th grade, boys have caught ...


Everyone's Favorite Sound Bite About Highly Effective Teachers Put to the Test

"By our estimates from Texas schools, having an above average teacher for five years running can completely close the average gap between low-income students and others."-Steve Rivkin, Rick Hanushek, and John Kain (2005)"Having a top-quartile teacher rather than a bottom-quartile teacher four years in a row would be enough to close the black-white test score gap."-Robert Gordon, Tom Kane, and Doug Staiger (2006)"There are big differences in the amounts and kinds of learning that different teachers help produce....these effects are cumulative."- Kati Haycock, Education TrustIt's everyone's favorite sound bite: good teachers alone can close ...


Still a Bobo in Paradise

Meet the Status Quo. It includes the Chairman of the Board of the NAACP (Julian Bond), the former president of the Urban League (Hugh Price), a Nobel prize winning economist and expert on early childhood interventions (Jim Heckman), some of the country's most distinguished experts on urban poverty (William Julius Wilson, Christopher Jencks) and educational accountability (Helen Ladd), a well-known professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School (T. Berry Brazelton), two former Surgeon Generals (Jocelyn Elders and Richard Carmona), Ernie Cortes (of the Industrial Areas Foundation), school practitioners like Debbie Meier, Ted Sizer, and Jim Comer who have spent their ...


Cool People You Should Know: Ken Frank

Ken Frank is a statistician who teaches at Michigan State's College of Education. The release of the National Research Council report on the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is a good time to profile his recently published article asking whether NBPTS certification affects the number of colleagues a teacher helps with instructional matters. His research team collected sociometric data from 47 elementary schools in two states. Teachers reported which teachers were helpful with instruction, and Frank and colleagues found that NBPTS certified were more likely to provide instructional help to their colleagues. He concluded:As a major reform in ...


Why We Should Care About Test Score Inflation

Kevin Carey’s dismissal of “test score inflation” provides an ideal opportunity to talk about the book I finished this weekend, Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us, by Dan Koretz, a psychometrician at the Harvard Grad School of Education – hardly an opponent of testing.Koretz calls “test score inflation,” in which gains on tests used for accountability dramatically outpace gains on low stakes tests, the “dirty secret of high-stakes testing.” If you compare NAEP trends and state score trends, you’ll see that state scores have increased significantly more than NAEP scores since NCLB was adopted.To understand ...


Bold and Broad Brain Scan: It's Not an Either/Or, and No One Said It Was!

It didn't take long for the blogosphere to use its heralded mind reading abilities to accuse the Broader/Bolder campaign of advancing reforms traditionally outside of the K-12 system at the expense of K-12 reform.Read the statement. It said no such thing. In fact, the report argues for continued school improvement efforts:To close achievement gaps, we need smaller classes in early grades for disadvantaged children; to attract high-quality teachers in hard-to-staff schools; improve teacher and school leadership training; make college preparatory curriculum accessible to all; and pay special attention to recent immigrants....


Big Props for a "Broader, Bolder Approach to Education"

The potential effectiveness of NCLB has been seriously undermined, however, by its acceptance of the popular assumptions that bad schools are the major reason for low achievement, and that an academic program revolving around standards, testing, teacher training, and accountability can, in and of itself, offset the full impact of low socioeconomic status on achievement.-The Broader, Bolder Approach to Education Task Force ReportThis morning, more than 60 heavy hitters kicked off a campaign calling for a "broader, bolder approach to education policy." (You may have already seen the print ads in the Washington Post and NY Times.) Co-chaired by ...


ATRs Continued: The UFT's Policy Recommendations

At the end of last week, the UFT responded to the New Teacher Project report on ATRs in NYC. (If you missed the backstory, see Why You Should Read the Fine Print in the New Teacher Project Report, Why Buy the Teacher When You Can Have the Teaching for Free?, Tim Daly on the New Teacher Project report, and Joel Klein Blames Teachers for $4 Gas, Subprime Crisis).Though the NYT article was pretty vague, the UFT actually made six policy recommendations:1. The DOE should take a more pro-active role in placing ATRs, as the contract requires, by sending ...


NCLB This Week: The Trailer

In this Time article, Susan Neuman, who served as Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education during George W. Bush's first term, lets us in on her doubts about NCLB and the administration's missteps. Buried at the bottom of the article is a good reason to keep your eyes on the papers tomorrow:Neuman still supports school accountability and the much-maligned annual tests mandated by the law. But she now believes that the nation has to look beyond the schoolroom, if it wishes to leave no child behind. Along with 59 other top educators, policymakers and health officials, she's put ...


A Plea to Stop the Drama on Teacher Misconduct

Providing shock and awe news on the gritty trespasses committed by teachers is a cottage industry. Now there are entire blogs committed to this enterprise, the most disgusting of which is Detention Slip. Rather than discussing these stories in a productive way, something that more astute observers have consistently done (See Scott McLeod on cell phone videos or Corey Bower on teachers losing their cool), the goal is to discredit teachers and public education in general.There are 3.2 million public school teachers in America. Even if one hundredth of one percent (.01%) of them did egregious things, we ...


Should Kids Protest? The Case of New York City's Budget Cuts

No one expected that Graeme Frost, a 12-year old who suffered brain stem injuries in a car accident, would become a political target after he delivered a late September radio address in support of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Commentators demurred that if a political party "send[s] a boy to do a man’s job, then the boy is fair game." The episode raised difficult questions over the role of children in political debate. Are they mini-protesters, learning the ropes of democracy, or simply political pawns?New York City is likely to encounter these thorny questions this week, ...


Fewer Teens Having Sex Than in the 1990s, Says CDC

The new Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a survey of 14,000 American high school students conducted annually by the Centers for Disease Control, shows that African-American and white teens are less likely to be sexually active than they were in 1991, though the declines are more precipitous for African-Americans.* In 2007, 66% of African-American students had ever had sexual intercourse, while in 1991, 82% had.* In 2007, 44% of white students ever had sexual intercourse, while in 1991, 50% had.* Hispanic students are no less likely to be sexually active in 2007 than in 1991. 2007, 52% of Hispanic students ...


What Do Public Servants Owe the Public When They Make Mistakes?

Imagine that you are a public servant. This year, you've left families in a lurch by centralizing an enrollment system that you lacked the organizational capacity to run effectively. It is June, and kids and families are still in the dark about their middle and pre-school placements for September. How should you react?a) You should issue a heartfelt apology, explaining that you've make a serious mistake, that you take full responsibility for the mistake, and that you understand how terribly you've inconvenienced the families you serve. In addition, you should explain how you will be sure this doesn't happen ...


Isn't It Ironic? Bonuses for NYC Administrators at 4 "F" and 5 "D" Schools

Administrators at four New York City schools that received F’s on their Progress Reports, and five that earned D’s, are eligible for bonuses, which range from $5,500 to $15,000 for principals and from $2,750 to $7,500 for assistant principals. One of my favorite haiku pretty much sums up this story:Amateur Night's spozedto be at the Apollonot at Tweed courthouse-Anonymous 7:50 AM...


Move Over Grey's Anatomy! Thursday Night TV With Joel Klein

McDreamy? McSteamy? You decide....


A Texas Tall Tale Remembered, and Demolished, One More Time

In December 2000, the New York Times introduced us to the president elect's choice for Secretary of Education, a former football coach with a penchant for "snake-, lizard-, ostrich- or alligator-skin boots." In that article, Jacques Steinberg reported that under his leadership as the superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, Rod Paige "helped nudge test scores steadily upward in the Houston district, which is largely black and Hispanic. It now ranks among the highest-performing in the state." Houston, the commentators cooed, was nothing short of a miracle. In 2002, the district won the first Broad Prize for Urban Education.By...


Should You Count on Diplomas Count?

Ed Week's Diplomas Count report is out today, as is a warning from four distinguished academics that its figures are "exceedingly inaccurate." And having read the two papers below, I have to agree. The following is the statement issued by Jim Heckman, Paul LaFontaine, Larry Mishel, and Joydeep Roy:In our examination of the data and methodologies available to estimate high school graduation rates we have found that insights can be gained from household surveys and from administrative data on student enrollment and diplomas granted. However, we find the measures of graduation rates in Education Week’s Diploma Counts project, ...


Why Has the Education Press Missed the Boat? The Case of Small Schools

With the release of Scott McClellan's tell-all, everyone's been asking whether the press did its due diligence on the Iraq war. Closer to home, last week's Newsweek article provides similar occasion for us to reflect on the press coverage of small schools over the last six years.Let me first throw in my prejudices about small schools - I like them. I followed the first wave of small schools that opened in the 1990s, and was thrilled when the Gates Foundation put up millions of dollars for the second wave. And I am willing to believe that students will be ...


In Which Mike Petrilli and I Play Debbie and Diane

Mike Petrilli and I have a friendly off-blog scuffle at least once a week, and here's our latest quarrel. Over at Flypaper, Mike wrote, "After arguing about race for forty years, many of which saw an expansion of the achievement gap between white and black students, even the left-left coast is agreeing that student performance is more important than the racial make-up of a classroom."Here are my two cents on this false choice: Even if you only care about student achievement, racial composition is important. Put simply, it's more difficult to attract and retain high-quality teachers in schools that ...


How Much Would Paying Kids for Test Scores Cost?

In the midst of this budget debacle, along comes an estimate of the cost of NYC's student incentive program at full scale - i.e. if all students in grades 4-7 were eligible to receive up to $500 per year. Even a 50% success rate would cost a cool $90 million dollars - not far off from the $99 million dollars in budget cuts that will be distributed to New York City schools unless the city ponies up....


All Purpose Equity!

Everyone loves equity - the US Department of Education, the New York City Department of Education, insert your hometown Department of Education here. If you've got a shaky initiative in mind, best to back it up with the equity line.Certainly that's the strategy Joel Klein has used in New York City. Want to change the admissions process for gifted and talented programs? It's about equity! (Even when doing so shuts out poor kids.) Want to close down comprehensive high schools? It's about equity! (Even if the most disadvantaged kids can't access those new small schools.) Want to use dollars ...


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