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Obama plan flaw: achievement gap

We wlll know much more about President Obama's plan to replace No Child Left Behind in a few weeks than we do now. When both the White House and the Congress are engaged on an issue this important, lots of changes happen.

For now, I think it is important to note that my colleague Valerie Strauss's distress about the president's emphasis on teachers improving student achievement harks back to an earlier era that will never return. It is politically impossible to pass a plan that doesn't make teachers accountable for student performance. We will never return to the good old days (in the minds of some) when we ignored that factor. I agree with Valerie that there are better measures of schools, but for the moment they are way too expensive (like regular inspections) and way too complicated for voters to understand and trust.

Also, I see a problem in the president using the achievement gap as a measure of schools in his suggested revisions. This could mean that a wonderfully diverse school like T.C. Williams High in Alexandria, a recent subject on this blog, would be motivated to ignore its best students, who want to get even better, and focus all its money and time on those at the bottom of the achievement scale so they can narrow the gap. That is not a good idea, and I hope the president will get it out of his proposal.

By Jay Mathews  | March 14, 2010; 1:40 PM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  Obama education plan, achievement gap emphasis wrong  
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Comments

"I agree with Valerie that there are better measures of schools, but for the moment they are way too expensive (like regular inspections) and way too complicated for voters to understand and trust."

Why are we willing to take the cheap way out on this? Why spend any money on measures that tell us so little about how students are really doing? Measures that have meaning are complicated and expensive. Either we are willing to make that sort of commitment or we are doing a significant disservice to our students and our teachers.

Posted by: Jenny04 | March 14, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

"Also, I see a problem in the president using the achievement gap as a measure of schools in his suggested revisions...[etc]"

I agree wholeheartedly. I'm in a school district that has consistently both scored as one of the best academically ( #94 on US News and World's ranking this year) and one of the worst in terms of achievement gap ( http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/28/nyregion/28education.html ). From what I see as a student, there is very little, if indeed anything at all, more the district can do. It provides opportunities and if anything pushes kids into harder classes too readily. It tries to involve underachieving students whenever it can.

All measurement by achievement gap would do is weaken the area where the school is strong by forcing it to redirect resources, even when those resources will very likely do no more good than the resources already used. The kids who do poorly are almost all disinterested by the time they reach the high school (and were most were the same way in middle school). I think that the problem can be solved, but forcing even more resources to be poured into this within the schools is not the way to do it. The schools are already doing their best. What is left is something that the /community/ needs to work to fix.

Posted by: PerpetualDissent | March 14, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

As long as policy-makers have a say in education, things will never change. My mentor, Dr. Perez, had this to say: “In our profession, process is iterative (iterative = repeated, or comes around again). In the 1970s (over 30 years ago) there was an extremely popular program that the majority of school systems employed. It was called "The Effective Schools Movement." Please Google it.” Nothing that is going on now is any different...If this nation really wanted to close the achievement gap, then there would be some commonsensical consistency—school to school, state to state, classroom to classroom, and grade by grade. As long as we leave the educational profession in the hands of non-educators, hedge-fund wonks, and folks who seem to have, after all these years, “strange entitlement,” things will never change. I mean, come on, can you really imagine every child in America at proficiency by 2014? All we do is continue to waste money. Arne Duncan is Obama's crony, basketball buddy. He screwed up Chicago, now he's screwing up the world (yes, this will have a global impact). Look what happened to Renaissance 2010! It failed in Chicago, and he left while hoards of children failed. He left Ron Huberman (another non-educator) to clean up his mess. I'll tell ya, the Obama administration is full of sheer rhetoric. Nothing more; nothing less.

Posted by: rasheeedj | March 14, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

The real Achievement Gap is the percentage of students that achieve At Advanced levels in real standardized tests.

Massachusetts leads the nation with a whopping 17 percent level at the Advanced Level of scores on the 2009 national tests of 8th grade students in Math.

The average scores for blacks in Massachusetts was the highest average score in the nation.

Oh, and for all the teacher bashers Massachusetts has a teacher's union.

Instead of the political Race To The Top there should have been a Race To Be Like Massachusetts with proposals from states indicating how they would implement the policies of Massachusetts. The proposal from Massachusetts would have been a single sentence. "Massachusetts will continue to do what it is doing in public education."

Posted by: bsallamack | March 14, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Exactly. We should be finding out how to get the kids to score at the advanced levels. I don't think that there has to be an achievement gap. If you have the right teachers you can do wonders. But the right teachers have qualities like hard-working, dedicated, knowing subject-matter, empathetic to the students they teach, cooperative with other teachers.

Posted by: celestun100 | March 14, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

And able to structure everything so the kids can figure out what is expected of them, and have authority.

Posted by: celestun100 | March 14, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Anton Checkhov was exactly right when he said, "When a lot of remedies are suggested for a disease, that means it can't be cured." The story of educational reform is that of smart, well-intentioned people coming up with remedy after remedy, and then finding out that nothing has really worked.

The achievement gap between the poorer and wealthier members of our society will only be "cured" if we become a less stratified and socioeconomically homogeneous society.

Until then, what middle-class parent is going to sacrifice their child's social station and trade it with that of a child who is poor? In other words, not everyone will be going to college. As for fixing our society's ills, it's time stop blaming the schools. We need to go back to the drawing board.

Posted by: pondoora | March 14, 2010 6:29 PM | Report abuse

I grew up in Massachusetts and love my home state, but I think a note of caution is warranted here. While Mass. is at the top overall, there are some communities with dreadful numbers. My home town high school barely graduates 50% of the kids! The Mass. Miracle isn't working there.

Posted by: daveairozo | March 14, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

" It is politically impossible to pass a plan that doesn't make teachers accountable for student performance. We will never return to the good old days (in the minds of some) when we ignored that factor."


Yet you, efavorite, Linda/Retired Teacher, others and I were educated under such a system.

The wonderful results of charlatans and shaman who lied about their time in the classroom or were never there.
How bizarre!

(PS. I am looking into the education of the poor in other countries, as you suggested a week ago. Very slow work.
It'd be nice if someone was willing to underwrite my studies.
And to pay for me to go abroad for research.)

Posted by: edlharris | March 14, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

As a teacher, I'm fine with being assessed in part on student performance, but here's the guidelines, Jay, and you should really start writing about these:

--Teachers are only assessed on students that have missed fewer than 10% of the school days up through the testing period (in April).

--Students who disrupt class are removed every time they disrupt. If they are removed more than 15 times, they are not counted on the test.

--Students who do not score at Basic level in any math class MUST repeat that math class, regardless of their grade. Math isn't like English; the curriculum builds on the knowledge of the previous year. A student who scores Far Below Basic in Algebra must retake algebra. A geometry teacher will be dealing with a very poor math student in a whole new subject--that in part builds on the knowledge that should have been gained in the previous year. And of course, should that student pass geometry, even if FBB test score, he or she will end up in Algebra II, not knowing algebra, not knowing geometry.

There MUST be a uniform passing guide that forbids schools to pass students onto the next math class if they can't manage basic proficiency. That way, the teacher can be graded on the student's improvement the next year in the same subject.

--Similarly, history and science teachers ability to teach their subjects is gated by the student's reading ability, something that they have no control over. They have to be assessed on results controlled for reading skills.

I was a test prep teacher for years. I'm happy to be assessed by test results--PROVIDED the uncommitted kids are not held against me, and the non-functional students are graded by improvement of like to like.

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | March 14, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

"We should be finding out how to get the kids to score at the advanced levels. I don't think that there has to be an achievement gap."

Oooh! Can I have a pony, too?

Posted by: Cal_Lanier | March 14, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe I just read this article in the Washington Post. It makes absolutely no sense. It reminds me of all those unfounded and racist campaigns against Affirmative Action. Do you seriously believe that focusing on the achievement gap means that we have to ignore white or affluent or high achieving students? First off, when have wealthy white families ever been ignored?

Jay, why don't you just cut to the chase and come out of the closet in support of school vouchers? Then all these ignored, marginalized high achieving, affluent white students can take their public education dollars to private schools so they can be assured they will get an equal education.

Where is Saturday Night Live when you need it? Some days, the world seems like such a bad place.

Posted by: mfalcon | March 14, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Achievement gaps can most always be assciated with levels of parental involvement. This doesn't mean the PTA. It means the amount of time parents spend with their kids, the ways in which and the effectiveness of how they discipline them, and the time they spend on their sutdies (doing homework with them, meeting with and talking to their teachers and other parents regularly), etc.

I am not a teacher or an administrator. However, I come from a big family with a long line of expereince in teaching, and ciriculum development totaling over 150 years. They have been in private AND public, inner city AND suburban, diverse AND homogenous, wealthy AND poor sidtricts, and they ALL tell me the same thing as I search for school districts for my kids. ITS THE PARENTS!

It makes LITTLE DIFFERENCE how much $$ we throw at a school if the parents don't care and are not involved, their kids have very little chance. At such point, you'll have a VERY SMALL # of kids overcome their parental obstacle b/c of dedicated teachers and coaches making a difference - but again, THAT is the exception. No amount of $ will take a kid from a bad home, rich or poor, where one's parents are not there for them and turn that kid into an A student.

All you have to do is look at the subject example - TCW. It is a brand new 100+ mil school, with free laptops and programs galore. They even have free daycare for all the kids who have kids!! Yet, it makes relatively NO DIFFERNCE. What REALLY matters are the parents. It is not politically correct to BLAME POOR or INDIFFERENT PARENTING, but if we want the culprit THAT IS IT! A child's home envrionment and peers will have a far greater impact on what type of a person that kid is that a guy trying to teach him or her geomotry. If the kid comes to class as a person who is being raised by no parent, one parent, or indifferent parents, has not learned basic life skills, is undiciplined, no amount of $$ is going to get geomotry into that kid's head.

The more we blame teachers, administrators, and politicians for what are personal ills, the more we will continue to waste $ and see our kids rot. The day we finally start FORCING parents to come to meetings with teachers, to come to tutoring sessions to assure their kids got their homework done and are up to speed, etc. etc. the better off we will be. The more we throw PC in the gutter where it belongs and are able to point the finger at bad parents, and shame ourselves into being a bigger part of our childrens' educational experience, the better our results will be. Until then, we'll continue to produce people who will be drains on our society and we'll continue to have a weaker and weaker economy until we fall behind the rest of the world who know how to educate.

Posted by: jaycol311 | March 14, 2010 8:57 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Cal Lanier!
How is it fair to assess teachers if the students don't come to class or if teachers have to deal so much with disruptive students who don't want to be in class at all?

Posted by: jake77 | March 14, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

"Also, I see a problem in the president using the achievement gap as a measure of schools in his suggested revisions. This could mean that a wonderfully diverse school like T.C. Williams High in Alexandria, a recent subject on this blog, would be motivated to ignore its best students, who want to get even better, and focus all its money and time on those at the bottom of the achievement scale so they can narrow the gap."

Jay, this is already happening in MCPS. Check out the schools (elementary especially) that have 30-40% (or more) of minority students in the "basic" (AKA "failing") category on the MSA's and only a small handful of kids that are highly accelerated. If the highly accelerated kids don't get into the GT programs, they are pretty much ignored at their home school (or the family moves). Many accelerated students are being ignored and not being challenged to THEIR potential.

Posted by: valerie11 | March 14, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

"It is politically impossible to pass a plan that doesn't make teachers accountable for student performance."

Amusing. Obama's plan is to widen the focus from just math and reading, still test every year, and hold teachers accountable for "growth."

Do you have any idea how these clueless wonders are going to measure student growth in subjects like science and history?

Posted by: dz159 | March 14, 2010 11:41 PM | Report abuse

Public Education has been failed for so long that the critical skills of many who write for newspapers seems a bit weak. In reading posts about education around this country, there has been a concerted effort to lay the blame for long failed public education on teachers who had no say in the formation of this system and presently have no input. Money in bloated and dysfunctional public education bureaucracies goes everywhere except to lessening the fundamentally important teacher to student ratio, which is the major difference between public and private schools. While nobody questions that there are failed teachers, one must wonder if this relatively small number of "bad" teachers would be as high as it is, if schools did not more resemble a war zone that an academic environment. Where is the administration and political responsibility for this failed system. Go to www.perdaily.com to be part of the virtual commons for true public education reform.

Posted by: lenny25 | March 15, 2010 1:59 AM | Report abuse

Kids have at least one quality that is also common to dogs and horses, i.e. if they like and admire the person who teaches them, then they want to learn. My experience throughout my educational experience was that I found it much more enjoyable to learn and had a greater desire to learn if I really liked the teacher. There are teachers who bring that out in kids. There are also far too many teachers who take a perverse pride in being difficult. Anyone with eyes can see that it would be better if only people who like kids could be teachers. Tenure has been good for teachers and just terrible for learning. I like and admire teachers who teach but I am past weary with teachers who don't care because they can't be fired regardless of what they do. Let's demand more----and Pay accordingly.

Posted by: karela | March 15, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Jay,

Pretty good observations.

"It is politically impossible to pass a plan that doesn't make teachers accountable for student performance."

What's important to attach to that statement is the "why." It's politically impossible because the subjective administrative evaluations being used to evaluate teachers today are an embarrassment to the teaching profession. Many teachers are told when the administrator is coming in to evaluate and hence - the teacher contrives their best dog and pony show imaginable. They spend hours, even days, prepping for the one lesson. They go out get their hair done, a new dress, manicure, facial, the whole nine yards. The principal comes in for the obligatory half hour and the teacher "performs" to the best of her ability. The next day the teacher comes in hung over, in a sweatsuit, with uncombed hair and no make-up and barely goes through the motions of what she's supposed to do. IT'S ALL A BIG JOKE, A SHOW. And this is what schools use today to determine whether the teacher is doing an effective job or not? Come on!!! Valerie, surely you can understand this is not the way the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox run their organizations.

One additional thought ,Jay. You state, "This could mean that a wonderfully diverse school...could be motivated to ignore its best students, who want to get even better, and focus all its money and time on those at the bottom of the achievement scale so they can narrow the gap." This would not be necessary if teacher colleges and schools of education started turning out teachers who could individualize (not the same as differentiate) their instruction. It would also be helpful if LEAs started demanding only teachers capable of doing this and hired them under a different pay scale, one that pays them considerably more than the traditional teacher who teaches one lesson to the whole class every day. Yes, it can be done.

Posted by: phoss1 | March 15, 2010 8:31 AM | Report abuse

"'Also, I see a problem in the president using the achievement gap as a measure of schools in his suggested revisions. This could mean that a wonderfully diverse school like T.C. Williams High in Alexandria, a recent subject on this blog, would be motivated to ignore its best students, who want to get even better, and focus all its money and time on those at the bottom of the achievement scale so they can narrow the gap.'

Jay, this is already happening in MCPS. Check out the schools (elementary especially) that have 30-40% (or more) of minority students in the "basic" (AKA "failing") category on the MSA's and only a small handful of kids that are highly accelerated. If the highly accelerated kids don't get into the GT programs, they are pretty much ignored at their home school (or the family moves). Many accelerated students are being ignored and not being challenged to THEIR potential."

Posted by: valerie11

Actually, it's happening pretty much everywhere under the current NCLB-driven system, isn't it? School systems focus on those students closest to meeting standards because they help schools reach their AYP targets. High-achieving students receive less attention because they're already up to 'standard', while the lowest-achieving students also receive less attention because getting them up to 'standard' requires too many resources, or (I'm told by some teachers who've seen this firsthand) they are dumped out of the system altogether so that they don't count in the calculations.

Mathews' analysis is correct but incomplete -- replacing the current criteria with one based solely on achievement gap would create the problems he describes. However, the problem with the achievement gap criterion is not that it isn't necessary, but that it's not sufficient. To the extent that it introduces multiple criteria to measure success, the Obama administration plan would be a good start in the right direction to correct the ills of the current 'one size fits all', standardistos-driven system.

Too bad that Mathews doesn't have anything good to say about the plan and prefers to cling instead to the current bromides: hold teachers "accountable" for student success (which in practice too often means responsibility without authority, and 'hold teachers accountable for our society's failure to take care of its less fortunate members), use cheap and lousy measures because better ones are "too expensive," only use measures that voters "understand and trust" (hmm -- wonder what would happen if we applied that standard to private sector ventures?)

Posted by: jetchs | March 15, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Focusing on the "achievement gap" is a waste of resources. Schools should foster an open environment in which all students can get the education commensurate with the effort they put into it and redirecting curricula like a handicapper general so that the bottom tier looks better is simply a betrayal of the mission of educators and a betrayal of the students who understand their place in the mission of schools.

Posted by: edbyronadams | March 15, 2010 8:59 AM | Report abuse

"wonder what would happen if we applied that standard to private sector ventures?"

Since private sector ventures are not funded by the public treasury, there is no need for metrics that the public can understand.

Posted by: edbyronadams | March 15, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Wonderful. We have two writers from the Post advising us in how to grade teachers without prior experienced success in teaching. They have joined most school administrators and Education Departments in wanting to set standards based on ancedotal evidence not proven scientifically yet politically useful.
Magic wands waved at problems only work in the movies. The adversarial system we have created in education hasn't improved anything. Yet we are told sides must be chosen.
Perhaps it is time to cease the public arguing, realize one size doesn't fit all, and all individuals have limitations for many reasons despite beliefs to the contrary. Set guidelines of learning, standards, all require constant modification, based on a myriad of factors, dependent on the moment one is engaged.
When everyone wants to be a general, no one wants to be in the trenchs. Standards, guidelines, tests applied there become quite messy.

Posted by: mrshannon | March 15, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

As a former 10 yr employee of DC Public Schools and a product of Catholic grade schools & a military High School, I wholeheartedly ag, Secretary Duncan needs to hire Cal Lanier & JAYCOL311 ASAP!!! We're trying to solve a complex problem without fully understanding the root cause - disenfranchised/unprepared students, idiots posing as parents, professionals who are treated as 2nd class citizens & allowed to devolve into Non-professionals, and public servants who lack the courage to stand in the line of fire for right thing.
Let me continue by pissing off my 2 or 3 African-American brothers & sisters who are reading this - THE TALENTED 10TH HAVE FAILED...miserably and in the most spectacular fashion!!! PG County is the wealthy black county in the country YET we have the second worst school system in the state – behind Baltimore City. You don’t have to be a statistician to realize that the children of those “with” are doing just as badly as those “without” and when you work in the school system the common denominator is the same – The Parents; and I use that term loosely. If parents were actively engaged in the education of their students (at home & in school) the political will to tell the all powerful teacher’s unions to kiss off would evaporate. Being actively engaged in your child’s education has some ancillary benefits for society as well; the rest of us wouldn’t have to worry about what they’re doing in the streets since you’re not.
We have substandard schools because no one is being held accountable or evaluated in a way that focuses on improvement. We should be mad as h*ll that our school systems are complete & utter failures. First we need to recognize that education is a scaffolding process that requires something similar to the Denning/Shewart “PDCA” methodology for Quality Assurance. “PDCA” – Plan, Do, Check, Act is a continuous iterative process that focuses…what’s the point, its not like change is gonna come

Posted by: Jigsaw | March 15, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

For us a nation to narrow the achievement gap we must start at the earliest stages of learning.

The key to a stronger educated class is for the quality of education to improve from headstart. While we can make changes after this stage we are more certain to get better achievements if we employ good learning and studing skills at the earliest stage of learning rather than later.

Having said that, I think trying to better the education of the nation's students can only be a good thing. In this case it appears that the president has committed the required funding to achieve the goals that he layed out.

Posted by: justonevoice | March 15, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Indiana's Race to the Top proposal established a 51% test score minimum in teacher evaluations, as reported in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

School districts will not be forced to revamp their evaluation process. But if they want their names attached to the federal application with the chance of receiving more money, they will have to sign a memorandum of understanding stating that at least 51 percent of every teacher’s evaluation will be based on student achievement, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett told the state board.
http://www.journalgazette.net/article/20091206/LOCAL04/312069899

Posted by: edlharris | March 15, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm in the "rising tide lifts all boats" camp. Let's worry a lot more about getting most kids to grade-level proficiency and a significant portion to the "advanced" category (many Asian countries are able to get over 1/3 to this level), and a lot less about disparities between groups.

Posted by: CrimsonWife | March 15, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I grew up in Massachusetts and love my home state, but I think a note of caution is warranted here. While Mass. is at the top overall, there are some communities with dreadful numbers. My home town high school barely graduates 50% of the kids! The Mass. Miracle isn't working there.

Posted by: daveairozo | March 14, 2010 8:28 PM
...................
In this obsessed with standardized tests nation the only real standardized tests given every two years for 4th and 8th graders by the government. Massachusetts leads in these test on all counts.

As for education there are no miracles. Public school systems that have the highest failure rates in basic skills in the 4th and 8th grade will have the lowest rates in graduation from high schools while public school systems with the lowest failure rates have the best chance of having high rates of graduation. Of course this is only true if public school systems do not go to the extremes to not dumb down the requirements for high school graduation. NYC at one time gave out thousands of high school diplomas to students who could not read.

Ever notice that in public education the politicians promise the miracle but the miracle will only arrives when they are out of office. With Bush it was 2014 and with Obama the miracle will come in 2020.

Posted by: bsallamack | March 15, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Well, with all of the money federal, state, and local governments tax the citizenry on under the guise of education, I don't see how you can say that fixing the problem is too expensive. Placing a responsibility on teachers is only one aspect of accountability when it comes to education (and they still don't get paid enough), because if a child isn't engaged because they're getting abused at home, it's not really the teachers fault. The Bureacrats forget that when we were growing up, education was a concerted community effort. There were teachers who knew their subject matter and actually taught so that no one was left behind in the first place. But you also had your school supplies and current texts, didn't have to worry about being hungry (even a neighbor would give you a sandwich), you had a well rounded curriculum for the time, principles and truent officers would check on you if you didn't show, neighbors would snitch on you if they caught you in street dawdling, and weapons and blatant disrespect in school were unheard of, and there were real counselors and tutors available if you needed extra help. It really does take a village to raise a child and with all of the distractions today from increased exposures to sex and violence to just basic survival, but the village seems to have shut its doors.

Posted by: lidiworks1 | March 15, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

U.S. public schools are the best in the world, when student demographics are fairly considered.

The tradition of bashing public education, though popular, is largely supported by disinformation (see Bracey). And recently the "achievement gap" is being recognized as an "income gap." We might tie Bracey's finding of poverty's detrimental effect on test scores to the research of UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez. Saez's studies suggests that during the past 10-20 years middle class income has been transferred into the upper class (top 1-5%).

The true crisis relates to economics, not public education.

Posted by: mrcbrlw | March 15, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack- Massachusetts also has public health insurance (or close to it). Coincidence? Possibly. But parents who are not exhausted working multiple jobs to pay for insurance have more time to parent their children...

Posted by: uva007 | March 15, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

bsallamack- Massachusetts also has public health insurance (or close to it). Coincidence? Possibly. But parents who are not exhausted working multiple jobs to pay for insurance have more time to parent their children...

Posted by: uva007 | March 15, 2010 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Everyone swears they are experts because they have all had an education. No one ever asks a teacher, an actual in the classroom, loves their job, teacher. The old model of however many years ago does not work, we are not a factory based nation. Our schools need an overhall that will be painful but necessary to bring education to speed with the private sector. Unfortunately putting money into education does not produce immediate results, so America won't go for it. Change takes time and we are constantly playing catch up.

Posted by: jkinderteacher | March 15, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

"diverse school ... would be motivated to ... focus all its money and time on those at the bottom of the achievement scale so they can narrow the gap."

Jay, it's worse than that. To create the illusion that they are narrowing the achievement gap, states set standards that "all students" can achieve -- especially those at the bottom of the achievement scale. The result is that all students learn less, including those at the bottom of the achievement scale.

It's curious that the draft K-12 Common Core State Standards appear to be trying to do the exact opposite -- i.e., raise standards rather than aim their standards at the bottom of the achievement scale. Jay, do you think the politics of "close the gap" will allow that to happen?

John Hoven

Posted by: jhoven | March 15, 2010 11:15 PM | Report abuse

uva007- I grew up in Massachusetts, and it had among the highest test scores in the nation LONG before there was any universal healthcare. On the 1998 NAEP reading, MA was 5th in the nation for 4th grade and 6th for 8th grade. On the 2000 NAEP math, MA was 2nd for 4th grade and 6th for 8th grade.

Whatever one's POV on MA's universal healthcare plan, it is irrelevant to this discussion...

Posted by: CrimsonWife | March 15, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Mathews is correct. President Obama's plan uses academic gains, instead of Bush's AYP, as the criteria for evaluating schools.

In his first year, Superintendent Weast uses academic gains to rate Montgomery County Public Schools. Naturally, schools with high test scores show the smallest academic gains, while schools with low test scores show the largest academic gains. Consequently, MCPS’s best schools rate as failing and its worst schools as passing. Angry parents, teachers, and principals promptly tell Weast what he could do with his rating scheme. Weast quietly and quickly drops the plan and no one remembers his first year fiasco.

Unfortunately, no one in Obama’s education team remembers either and is doomed to repeat this flawed plan but with serious consequences for all of the nation’s public schools.

Hey Arne, give Jerry a call!

Posted by: motherseton | March 16, 2010 12:08 AM | Report abuse

Mathews is incorrect. Obama's plan uses academic gains for evaluating TEACHERS, not evaluating schools, consequently identifying effective teachers teaching effectively.

Teachers are the first to say "you don't need to invent the wheel". There are no good teachers, just teachers who borrow and steal good ideas.

Replicate Effective Teachers' Teaching.

Posted by: motherseton | March 16, 2010 12:28 AM | Report abuse

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