May 10, 2010

The Blueprint for Failure

The Obama Administration's plan to fix NCLB and American education is long on lofty rhetoric and short on humility and specifics.

The plans lays out five giggle inducing "key priorities

Let's look at point one in today's post:  College and Career Ready Students.

Every student should graduate from high school ready for college and a career. Every student should have meaningful opportunities to choose from upon graduation from high school. ... Four of every 10 new college students, including half of those at 2-year institutions, take remedial courses, and many employers comment on the inadequate preparation of high school graduates. And while states have developed assessments aligned with their standards, in many cases these assessments do not adequately measure student growth or the knowledge and skills that students need, nor do they provide timely, useful information to teachers. We must follow the lead of the nation's governors and challenge students with state-developed, college- and career-ready standards, and more accurately measure what they are learning with better assessments. We must reward the success of schools that are making significant progress, ask for dramatic change in the lowest-performing schools, and address persistent gaps in student academic achievement and graduation rates.

What we have here is a change in nomenclature for pulling the old bait-and-switch.

NCLB 1.0 calls for four levels of performance "advanced" (which it does nothing with), "proficient" (the student has learned what the state wants), "basic" (the studentent hasn't learned all of what the state wants), "below basic" (the student is in deep trouble).  Most states have set the bar for "proficient" at a really low level and despite this have been unable to get many students to attain this low level.

The Obama administration wants to either add a new level or rename one of the existing levels, creating a dummy or "career-ready" ghetto.

The NAEP "proficient" level is set at about the level that a college-ready student can attain (based on the comparable percentage of students that graduate college and are "proficient or above," about a third of all students).  Most states have set their "proficient" level well below the NAEP "proficient" level, so we are likely to see this standard raised, which is what the blueprint implies.

So what will be the level of the "career ready" track?  I'll ignore the lofty, yet empty rhetoric of the blueprint, and guess that it'll be at the NAEP "basic" level which is somewhat below where most states have set their "proficient" level.  That's the level that is used for the Urban studies and is gradually becoming the accepted norm.

Of course at such levels we get olitically unacceptable results.  Using the 2009 NAEP results for 8th grade reading, we see that about 43% of white and asian students will be in the college-ready track (proficient plus advanced) while only about 16% of blacks and Hispanics will be in the college-ready track.  Even worse than that, while 71% of white and asian career-ready students (ratio of "basic" to "below basic" plus "basic") will meet the standard, only 51% of black and Hispanic students will meet the standard.  That seesm lose- lose to me.  84% of black and Hispanic studenst will be relegated to the career-ready track, which is political suicide, and only half will meet that low standard.

Clearly the Obama Administartion hasn't thought this one through or hasn't hired anyone who knows the first thing about basic statistics.  This new plan will basically legislate a "separate but not-equal" education system which is exactly the reason the Department of Education was created to eliminate.

At least the 100% proficiency rate made statistical sense if the goal is to eliminate achievement level gaps, if only it were obtainable.

And that was only the first paragraph of the first point of the blueprint.  It gets worse.


Dick Schutz said...

It gets worse.

Yes, it does. But it's all empty rhetoric. The "proficiency" bands are nothing more than arbitrarily set cut scores on tests that have been forced into a normal distribution. Whether NAEP or any of the State tests only the cut scores are being manipulated.

The "standards" (which are "content" not "performance" standards) weren't "lowered." It's not possible to lower content.

We saw no change in real proficiency because schools in the aggregate didn't change what they were doing in reading and math instruction, and the tests are insensitive to the instruction that is being delivered. The results reference kids, not the instruction the kids received.

Even the first paragraph is worse than your take. But your bottom line holds:

This new plan will basically legislate a "separate but not-equal" education system which is exactly the reason the Department of Education was created to eliminate.

Sadly though the Secretary Duncan and crew have thought this through. Bill Gates, and the other corporate moguls gave up on the public schools when their dumb ideas didn't work. Their people staff the Department of Education. They drafted the national standards. Their "four priorities are the same as the Blueprint. They're using their untaxed funds to "leverage" the implementation by salting state departments with "consultants" and large school districts with staff.

A candidate's position on "charter schools" is being used as a litmus test in New York for financial "contributions." What is going on in Albany is very likely going on in other State capitols.

This is change we better believe, but a blueprint for failure is not change we can believe in.

KDeRosa said...

I'm trying not to be overly pessimistic, but you're rght, Dick, it is worse that what I wrote.