September 2008 Archives

Rest assured that this blog will not run out of troubling things to write about anytime soon....


I'm knee deep in old NCLB documents, and ran across the Department of Education's NCLB song. NCLB represented not only a major shift in federal education policy, but an embrace of policy/PR boosterism that's enough to make all of us giggle (Remember Armstrong Williams?). Back from 2002, here are the NCLB lyrics:We're here to thank our president,For signing this great bill,That's right! Yeah,Research shows we know the way,It's time we showed the will!No matter how catchy the ditty, a song can't carry a fundamentally flawed law. That's where Tom Toch and Doug Harris ...


Betsy Gotbaum is the Public Advocate for the City of New York. The Public Advocate is an independently elected citywide official who serves as a public ombudswoman.Six years ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg accomplished what those before him could not: he gained control of New York City public schools, a fragmented, famously troubled bureaucracy that now has about 1.1 million students, 80,000 teachers, 1,450 schools and a budget that, at more than $21 billion, is larger than that of several states. When the New York State Legislature authorized mayoral control in 2002, it added a sunset provision, ...


This week's COWAbunga Award, aka the "comment of the week award," goes to Citizen X, who let loose on Roland Fryer's experiments that pay kids for their test scores:The soul-crushing aspect of Fryer's theoretical framework....is that it lets the curriculum and the teacher and the school entirely off the hook. It's not a matter of creating learning experiences that connect with a child, her culture, her community; or creating curriculum that intrigues her or teaching that respects her and her family; or about creating schools where families and communities can find support and education and develop skills of ...


We know that the average African-American student lags behind the average white student. But until recently, we did not have a clear portrait of the differences between black and white high-achievers in elementary school - a critical pipeline issue in shaping inequality in access to the most coveted colleges, graduate schools, and jobs. Thanks to Sean Reardon, a Stanford sociologist of education who studies school segregation and the sources of racial/ethnic achievement gaps, we've come a long way.How does the progress of initially high-achieving black and white students compare as they progress from kindergarten through 5th grade? It ...


1) My Kingdom for a Parking Space: On top of everything else, NYC teachers like Mimi are without parking. As always, she has some funny and insightful things to say about it:Sometimes it feels as if the forces in the universe are alligning to make this job as difficult as possible, just to see if I have the balls to stick with it. Other times, it feels as if teachers (as people) are the absolute last priority on everyone's list...that we will just suck it up and deal with ridiculous situations "for the kids."If one more person ...


eduwonkette and I have been blogging about the School Progress Reports released last week by the New York City Department of Education. We’ve shown that, although the performance and environment scores of schools were pretty consistent from last year to this year, the student progress scores were virtually unrelated—knowing a school’s progress score from last year didn’t predict which schools would demonstrate a lot of progress this year. This, we argued, demonstrated that the progress part of the School Progress Report—representing 60% of the letter grade each school received—wasn’t really telling us which ...


Today marks the one-year anniversary of eduwonkette's bold entry into blogging about education. A lot has happened here over the past year, across 487 different posts, and thousands and thousands of comments. (Heck, back then, eduwonk and eduwonkette were BFF.) eduwonkette has tackled a remarkably diverse set of education policy issues: teacher quality, No Child Left Behind, gender differences in academic performance, myths about small schools, New York City's School Progress Reports, the "it's being done/no excuses" argument, the achievement gap and "acting white", value-added assessment, choice, incentives, unions ... the list goes on and on. And she's done it ...


Daniel Koretz, a professor who teaches educational measurement at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, generously agreed to field a few questions about educational testing. He is the author of Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us. EW: What are the three most common misconceptions about educational testing that Measuring Up hopes to debunk? DK: There are so many that it is hard to choose, but given the importance of NCLB and other test-based accountability systems, I'd choose these:* That test scores alone are sufficient to evaluate a teacher, a school, or an educational program.* That you can trust ...


Last week, New Yorkers scratched their heads and tried to make sense of the Progress Report results. What does it mean, for example, when 77% of schools that received an F last year jump to an A or a B? Michael Bloomberg has a resolute answer to this question, “Not a single school failed again....The fact of the matter is it’s working.”Last week, skoolboy and I took to our computers with the newly released data. Of particular concern is the progress measure, which makes up 60% of a school’s grade. Both skoolboy and Dan Koretz have ...


This week's COWAbunga Award goes to DoubleDown, who provided his take on NYC's Progress Reports. Readers outside of New York, listen closely - this system could very well become a model for the nation. Here's an excerpt: You have to feel sorry for the brain trust working on [the Progress Reports]. Up until this week, if you told the American public that you had hired a group of really smart economists to develop some complicated statistical models that explain the entire universe, many people would have been very impressed. But that was before those really smart economists crashed the entire ...


Philissa Cramer totally geeks out over at GothamSchools, and posts a great figure showing that smaller schools were more likely to experience wild swings in their school grades. Head over and check it out....


Some days, skoolboy feels bad for the hard-working folks in the New York City Department of Education. They’re caught between a political rock and a statistical hard place. The political rock is the New York State accountability system, which complies with No Child Left Behind’s requirements to test students annually in grades 3-8 in Mathematics and English Language Arts, and to classify students, based on their test scores, as either Not Meeting Learning Standards (Level I), Partially Meeting Learning Standards (Level II), Meeting Learning Standards (Level III), or Meeting Learning Standards with Distinction (Level IV), and then aggregate ...


Daniel Koretz is a professor who teaches educational measurement at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is the author of Measuring Up: What Educational Testing Really Tells Us. Below, he weighs in on the NYC Progress Reports that were released yesterday. eduwonkette: One of the key points of your book is that test scores alone are insufficient to evaluate a teacher, a school, or an educational program. Yesterday, the New York City Department of Education released its Progress Reports, which grade each school on an A-F scale. 60 percent of the grade is based on year-to-year growth and 25 ...


A week ago, skoolboy encouraged readers to predict schools' upward and downward grade mobility. Here's how that shook out. When 26% of elementary and middle schools that received Fs last year - 9 schools - climb from a F to an A, it does make you wonder what exactly it is that we are measuring. Likewise, 26 schools cascaded from As or Bs to Ds or Fs. Readers, stare into the table and tell me what you see......


Some of you have asked what fraction of NYC schools receiving each Progress Report grade are in good standing with NCLB. As a refresher, NCLB labels schools in need of improvement based on overall proficiency. NYC's system is based 60% on year-to-year growth, 25% on proficiency, 5% on attendance, and 10% on surveys. Given these differences, perhaps you won't be surprised to find that a higher fraction of F schools are in good NCLB standing than are A schools: * 74% of A schools are in good standing with NCLB * 67% of B schools are in good standing with NCLB * 69% ...


The new NYC Progress Reports are out, and I'm busy analyzing the data now. Have ideas about what I should look at? Leave a comment below....


My heart went out to Charlie Gibson last week, as he stared into those doe eyes that will not blink and realized that he could not wrangle a single straight answer out of Miss Wasilla.So I can only imagine how the NYC Department of Education analysts’ felt when they sat down to analyze the data from student, parent, and teacher surveys this year. It turns out that you get as much valid and reliable information out of these surveys as Gibson managed to pull out of Sarah Palin.The problem is a very simple – and very predictable – one. Survey ...


Suppose that your fourth-grader takes a state test that shows that she understands the associative property of multiplication, can multiply two-digit numbers by two-digit numbers, and can find the perimeter of a polygon by adding up the length of the sides. A year later, as a fifth-grader, she takes a test that shows that she can compare fractions and decimals using or =; identify the factors of a given number; simplify fractions to their lowest terms; and knows that the sum of the interior angles of a quadrilateral is 360 degrees—but she cannot yet create algebraic or geometric patterns using ...


To many observers of public education, there is no doubt about which schools are failing - it's the schools with low rates of students passing state tests, stupid!Of course, this assumes that students' achievement is a direct measure of school quality. "Yet we know that this assumption is wrong....It follows that a valid system of school evaluation must separate school effects from nonschool effects on children's achievement and learning" writes Doug Downey, a cool Ohio State sociologist of education you should know, in his recent paper (in collaboration with Paul von Hippel and Melanie Hughes), "Are 'Failing' Schools ...


This morning, the Center for Education Policy in Washington, DC is issuing the latest in a series of state-level reports on the fate of schools restructuring under NCLB policy. Today’s report, authored by Brenda Neuman-Sheldon (a one-time student of skoolboy’s, but I hear that she’s back on solid food), examines restructuring schools in Maryland. In 2007-08, Maryland had 38 schools in restructuring planning, a huge increase over the four schools the preceding year, and 64 schools in restructuring implementation, a 7% decline from the preceding school year. The restructuring schools are concentrated in a small number of ...


This week's COWAbunga Award goes to two comments that explain why medicine and education have followed very different paths when it comes to accountability. The first comment is from eiela, a teacher librarian:I think the reason we don't want to inject the idea that student achievement is based partly on what [students] come to school with (parent support, poverty rates, etc.) into the NCLB debate is because it comes too close to admitting that our public education system doesn't help everyone equally. And that education does give everyone the same advantages is one of our cherished public ideals....We ...


1) Once Upon A School: Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, was awarded the TED Prize to help him fulfill this wish:I wish that you -- you personally and every creative individual and organization you know -- will find a way to directly engage with a public school in your area, and that you'll then tell the story of how you got involved, so that within a year we have 1,000 examples of innovative public-private partnerships.Now there's a website called "Once Upon A School" that's tracking project ideas for engaging in local schools. ...


skoolboy doesn’t fancy himself a particularly political creature, although some readers would likely argue that I’m kidding myself, in that blogging is an inherently political activity. In any event, I haven’t chosen to do a close analysis of the positions or proposed policies of the finalists in our Presidential derby. I’ll make a brief exception today, not to make political hay, but rather to try to illuminate an enduring sociological challenge. Yesterday, Barack Obama issued a new plan for school reform, emphasizing choice and innovation, investments in technology, enhanced college readiness, incentives for improved classroom teaching, ...


New AYP numbers are out, folks. In California, only 48% of schools made AYP, and only 34% of middle schools did so. In Missouri, only about 40% of schools made AYP. Pick almost any state, and you'll see that there are soaring numbers of schools designated as "in need of improvement." With numbers like these, it's worth considering whether NCLB's measurement apparatus is accurately identifying "failing schools."One way to get leverage on this question is to consider how other fields approach the issue of accountability. Doctor and hospital accountability for cardiac surgery - also the topic of a NYT ...


What bloggers need, Michael Bloomberg prophesied last year, is a "wake-up call." Joel Klein agreed: "If you're not making progress, if your [posts] are not moving forward, then I don't think the [blog] is doing well." Jim Liebman couldn't have agreed more: "“When you say, we’re going to hold you to the best that other [blogs] like you can do, all of a sudden, [there are] no more excuses."skoolboy, as you all already know, is that pesky curvebreaker in your calculus class. An A+ for you, skoolboy, and a hearty thanks for relieving me from blogging for my ...


Sometime soon, with great fanfare, the New York City Department of Education will release this year’s School Progress Reports. (Word on the street is that schools already know their grades.) The School Progress Reports, for better or worse, are the centerpiece of the NYC accountability system. (skoolboy thinks for worse, but more on that later.) The DOE has made a number of changes to the Progress Reports for this second iteration, and I think that eduwonkette had something to do with that (as did other critics and analysts outside of the Tweed inner circle.) We can expect to see ...


No, there's no convention commentary here (or else skoolboy would have to shoot himself). This week’s “Comment of the Week Award,” also known as the COWAbunga Award, goes to NYC Educator, for a comment on yesterday’s Coffee Talk question about which big-city school district is the worst-managed. NYC Educator wrote: I see the system in which I work on a daily basis, and I don't always see its reality reflected in the press--although they've made great strides over the last few years. Really, when you're a teacher and you find blatantly preposterous statements in the NY Times, you ...


Long-time followers of skoolboy (hi, Mom!) know that his first posts on eduwonkette’s blog were about class size. I argued for championing class size reduction as the right thing to do for children and for teachers—an argument grounded in the moral content of public schooling more so than in the technical consequences of class size reduction for standardized test scores. Over the past year, I’ve observed a number of trends in the operation of big-city school districts. I’ll use New York City as my key example, because it’s my hometown, but the issues are sufficiently ...


skoolboy was having a spirited discussion with some of his students the other night, who have taught in school systems such as New York City, Detroit, LA, New Orleans, Washington, DC, Newark, Oakland, and elsewhere. The topic of the day: what's the worst-managed big-city school system--and why? Readers, what do you think? Discuss....


skoolboy has been worrying about how he was going to make this week's COWabunga award. There haven't been any comments to his posts! Hard to believe that such witty and incisive remarks would draw nary a "well done!" or "you're full of it, skoolboy!" Turns out that the website woes that Ed Week has endured the past few days include a disabling of the comment features here. The good people at Ed Week are now aware of this, and I look forward to hearing what readers have to say when the problem is resolved. It's not the first time that ...


Yesterday, State Senator Rev. James Meeks engineered a boycott of the Chicago Public Schools, urging CPS students to travel with him to high-spending districts in Chicago’s suburban North Shore to try to register for school. The objective of the protest was to draw attention to inequalities in school funding in Illinois. Rev. Meeks sought to contrast the Chicago Public Schools, which annually spends a bit over $10,000 per student, with New Trier High School, which spends in the neighborhood of $18,000 per student. Publicity stunt, or principled protest? Probably a bit of both, in skoolboy’s view. ...


Even though eduwonkette and skoolboy have been unmasked, skoolboy plans to continue to refer to himself in the third person. Why? If I did it at school, my students would laugh me out of the classroom. If I did it at home, my wife would kick my butt. So let me (er, skoolboy) have some fun, OK? And for the record: both skoolboy and eduwonkette are lower case. Only proper nouns warrant capitalization, and it should be clear by now that skoolboy isn't very proper....


It’s back to school! Today, more than one million schoolchildren will get up from the breakfast table, strap on a backpack, and trundle off to … the living room. Home schooling has been expanding rapidly over the course of this decade, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, representing approximately 2.2% of the student population in 2003. (The NCES definition of home schooling is children who are schooled at home instead of in a public or private school for at least part of their education, and whose part-time enrollment in public or private schools does not ...


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