High stakes testing has been embedded in our national system of education funding since No Child Left Behind (NCLB) became law. The law, pushed by then President George W. Bush and his family friends at McGraw-Hill Publishing, was promoted by citing the “Texas Miracle” in the Houston schools. It turns out that the exemplar of testing achievement that helped sell this nation NCLB was fabricated,
“In the late 1990′s, Texas claimed dramatic increases in test scores and high school graduation rates. The jump was so high that observers nationwide were calling it the “Texas Miracle,” a phenomenon that led Rod Paige, Houston’s superintendent of education at the time onto the national stage. He later served as Bush’s secretary of education. By 2004, the “Texas Miracle” was found to be a total sham. Teachers and administrators were fudging data.” (Link)
So, the high stakes testing regimen faced by schools all over this nation was based on a lie, and that lie has produced millions in sales for CTB/McGraw-Hill, makers of testing materials and Friends to President Bush. That was only the start of the lies used to sell No Child Left Behind and other high stakes testing models. These lies are also used to sell private, charter, and other corporate school models while attacking teachers and their unions.
High Stakes Lying in D.C. and Baltimore
Now, educational testing celebrity Michelle Rhee has been discredited for lying about her teaching prowess. Rhee, along with the Rhode Island Central Falls School district superintendent Catherine Gallo who fired ALL the teachers in the district, has became the champion of teacher firing by letting go at least 600 teachers based on testing data.
Moreover, Rhee didn’t even bother to interview the teachers, observe them in the classroom or give any type of evaluation. Rhee fired teachers based on limited information, a lie of omission. Fortunately, seventy-five of the fired teachers will now be reinstated.
Rhee also falsely claimed that she was instrumental in raising test scores from the 13th percentile (from the bottom) to the 90th percentile (near the top) while teaching in Baltimore for three years. (Link) Critics point out that this is nearly statistically impossible and on further investigation, have caught Rhee in a lie. However, her followers still support her methods, discredited as they are.These fabrications are used to prove that testing and “accountability”, which amounts to firing teachers, works.
Washington, D.C. Erasuregate
Washington, D.C. schools recorded a vast improvement on test scores over the time Rhee was school chancellor from 2007 to 2010. During her tenure, she gave 10 schools special recognition for improvement. One improved school was Crosby S. Noyes.
“In 2006, only 10% of Noyes’ students scored “proficient” or “advanced” in math on the standardized tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind law. Two years later, 58% achieved that level. The school showed similar gains in reading.” (Link)
However, as many suspicious of this grand achievement point out, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Eight out of the ten campuses that were rewarded for achievement were also schools that recorded an abnormally high incorrect to correct erasures.
Among the 96 schools that were then flagged for wrong-to-right erasures were eight of the 10 campuses where Rhee handed out so-called TEAM awards “to recognize, reward and retain high-performing educators and support staff,” as the district’s website says. Noyes was one of these. (Link)
Rhee claims that the erasure critique is based on one school. Yes, the study focused on one school, but as previously noted, the high erasure rates from incorrect to correct were found at 96 schools, not just at the one school focused on in the study. And the study looked at over 100 schools that had suspect erasure percentages.
The high stakes testing game leads to lying,
“Union officials say the pressure for high test scores may have tempted educators to cheat…”
“This is like an education Ponzi scam,” says Nathan Saunders, head of the Washington Teachers’ Union. “If your test scores improve, you make more money. If not, you get fired. That’s incredibly dangerous.”” (Link)
And, it can lead whole states to lie about scores.
States Lie about Scores
Let’s start with the smoking gun of testing lies, former governor of Tennessee, Phil Bredesen,
“”…former governor of Tennessee, Phil Bredesen, who admitted that he “lied” about test scores on statewide education tests, deliberately inflating them to get Race To The Top funding. As further revealed by CNN, almost all of those states that submitted statewide test scores had “lied” about the results to look better in competing for Race To The Top funds.” (Link)
When interviewed by Soledad O’Brien on CNN, Governor Bredesen admitted to the lie,
L O’BRIEN (voice-over): Maybe not a misperception. After this revelation from Tennessee’s former Governor Phil Bredesen.
(On camera): Were you lying to parents about –
PHIL BREDESEN, FORMER TENNESSEE GOVERNOR: Oh, absolutely. I mean –
O’BRIEN: Out and outlying to parents about how well their kids were doing?
BREDESEN: In one case in eighth grade math we were telling 83 or 84 percent of the kids that they were proficient when they took the national test.
O’BRIEN: What was the real number?
BREDESEN: 22 percent.
Another thing to note is that while Race to the Top supposedly promotes “accountability”, it also requires states to commit to more charter schools, schools that aren’t accountable to city and state standards in the same way a public schools are.
Not to be outdone, New York Has it’s own testing scandal,
… The latest example of how test results can be doctored is the New York state testing scandal, which broke open this week. The pass rates on the state tests had soared year after year, to the point where they became ridiculous to all but the credulous The whole house of cards came crashing down this week after the state raised the proficiency bar from the low point to which it had sunk. In 2009, 86.4% of the state’s students were “proficient” in math, but the number in 2010 plummeted to 61%. In 2009, 77.4% were “proficient” in reading, but now it is only 53.2%… (Link)
In order to meet the enforced proficiency standards set by NCLB, schools lowered the bar on standards to a level where the target percentage of students would be proficient. So not only do the test encourage lying, but they encourage a lowering of standards.
Waiting for Stupid, Man
In the movie Waiting for Superman, charter schools based on the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) model are touted as out performing public schools. However, this model leaves children behind and thus their stats are gamed,
Taxpayer-funded KIPP schools, praised in the film “Waiting for Superman,” succeed in sending poor graduates to college because the lowest-performing students drop out or don’t enroll at all, a study found.
KIPP academies have higher attrition rates than traditional public schools and enroll fewer students with disabilities and limited English skills, according to the study released today by Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo and Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York. KIPP oversees a network of 99 charter schools, publicly funded institutions operated by outside organizations, and enrolls more than 27,000 students in 20 states and the District of Columbia. (Link)
So, in order to perform well, they slough off or reject the lower performing children. All schools would perform better if they could just get rid of the castoffs. Instead of spending money helping the top students, why not work to make all schools better for all students?
Cities are also Manipulating the School Data (lying)
Obama’s Phony Memphis Miracle
Booker T. Washington school in Memphis, TN won praise from the President for raising graduation rates in 2010. This miracle was achieved by dramatically lowering school enrollment and not counting students who dropped out the year before.
Then the ‘miracle’ year of 2010, the ‘cohort dropout’ was back to 24.3% which, though lower than it had been in the previous two years was still slightly higher than it had been in 2007. But when you look at the ‘graduation rate’ for 2010 you get the often quoted, and the reason for the special guest speaker, 81.6%.
The question is, how could a school with a 24% dropout rate and a 55% graduation rate have an 85% graduation rate three years later? The answer is attrition of failing students.
The school enrollment was 760 in 2007, 732 in 2008, 649 in 2009, and then in the ‘miracle’ year 2010, down to 566. So the school had lost nearly 25% of its students in that time period, which is also the exact percent that the graduation rate climbed by.
It is this kind of misleading data that is being used to give bonuses and close schools and fire teachers. It is no wonder schools are dropping the non-performing students and manipulating their testing data.
If you get rid of those in danger of dropping out, you end up with a lower drop out rate and higher graduation rate. High stakes testing leads to lying and does nothing to improve the schools that they are targeting.
Corporate Education Supporters Get the Help of Lying Statistics
A data entry clerk in the Seattle schools entered a curiously low number of high schools graduates going on to college, 17 percent.
Turns out the true number is much higher — 46 percent. Not ideal either, but a far cry from 17… The damningly low 17 percent number was publicized and repeated by SPS these past two years and used to justify Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s “Strategic Plan,” and the onslaught of controversial (and unwanted) ed reforms she has since imposed on the district…
That number coincided with the announcement of Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s “Strategic Plan” that called for more charter schools and increased testing. Her plan was deemed too expensive, and the Superintendent has subsequently been fired. Again, a local school district, as they did in D.C., recognized bad leadership and fired the head of the schools. Perhaps this is why people in favor of high states testing love the top down federal government approach.
States are starting to Reject High Stakes Testing
Montana rejects high stakes testing entirely.
Moreover, newly reelected Governor California Jerry Brown has suspended the California high stakes testing model and is calling for more local control. In this, he sounds very much like a traditional, non Tea Party, Republican. https://seattleducation2010.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/4130/
Actions and Links
Arnie Duncie, Secretary of Education, promotes more Race to the Top competition grants and U.S. Secretary of Health and Humans Services blames the children. I don’t this is an improvement from blaming teachers.
The Hoxby hoax and the false data supporting charter schools
Visit your local school board today and ask them to stop the testing madness.