Political and corporate reformers claim that American schools and students have been left in the dust by schools and students in other counties.
The claim is based on faulty international and state achievement test analyses. And using faulty conclusions, a “weigh the cow” policy emerged in which we test the heck out of students thinking this makes them smarter. And to make matters worse we redefine how fat the cow should be each year. And guess what, the metric is never achieved which means the cow isn’t eating enough or the farmer is not giving them the right stuff. If we could just find the good farmers, and fire the bad farmers, why we’d have the fattest cows in the world.
sI am not kidding about this. Here is one of a few education policy statements on Governor Nathan Deal’s website.
For decades, Georgia students, consistent with the nation as a whole, have lost ground to global peers and now sit in the middle of the pack when it comes to overall student achievement. We must increase rigor and make sure that our requirements truly prepare students to compete nationally and internationally. Because the state bears a responsibility to make sure that our students get their best shot at a good education, Georgia joined 41 other states in adopting Common Core State Standards which will help define what our students need to know, increase rigor and provide tools to measure our students against their peers. It is critically important that we prepare our students for common core assessments, which come online in the 2014-2015 school year.
According to Governor Deal,
- we’ve lost ground
- we’re in the middle of the pack
- need to increase rigor
- need to measure students
So, the role of the state is to increase rigor and make sure that tests are given that measure students so comparisons can be made with students living on other continents. The state has done this for years, and each year has raised the bar making it more difficult for students to do on state mandated tests. The high-stakes tests used to obtain this metric are questionable and unreliable, especially if the results are used to make life changing decisions for students and teachers.
State officials will have you believe that public schools are not doing well, and the pressing need to root out bad teachers, close down schools that are “failing to meet the unreasonable demands” of the state, replace these schools with charters, and offer vouchers.
According to the Governor of Georgia, students sit in the middle of the pack. Solution: Test the students and using a league standings mentality, decide who the winners and losers are. We’ve been doing this for years, but the policy is not based on reliable data. If these officials would look at National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term trend data they would see that student NAEP scores have trended up, not down. And if they would analyse international test data using more than simple averages, they would be surprised that U.S. students score very well.
Governor Deal and State Superintendent Barge need to look at the data over the past four decades collected by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and use it to make a different case about education in Georgia.
Now, nearly thirty years later, the crisis mentality is stronger than it was in 1983, and aided by huge sources of private money, and the continuing effort by the U.S. Department of Education to act in collusion with corporate take over schemes and benefactors, American teachers, schools, and students have become scapegoats for all the problems that American society faces. Yes, there are problems with American schools. But we have to realize that the current wave of reformers is no different than those who proclaimed in the 1980s that the nation was at risk. Americans are told over and over that their schools are failing and getting worse with time. But, In their book, A Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America’s Public Schools,Berliner and Biddle have shown, this is simply not true.
For example, if we look at trends in average scores on NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) tests in mathematics and science, American students’ scores have moved steadily up for decades. Take a look at these two graphs that are available from NAEP. Math scores from 1990 have trended up. Science scores have trended up since 1969.
Where is the failure? American science and math teachers seem to be doing it well.
Mr. Deal and Mr. Barge, as Steve Jobs would say, Think Different.
In the next post I’ll put on display the full education policy statement on the Governor’s website, and show how it might be altered.