Reading scores a bore, but help Rhee
My colleagues Nick Anderson and Bill Turque have done a wonderfully balanced and nuanced report on the latest reading scores nationally and in D.C. The big story from my twisted perspective is that a certain person who bet me $50 that D.C. School Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee would be gone by this summer is going to lose that money.
That's about all the excitement I could get out of this latest report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Nationally, it revealed a 1-point gain in eighth grade average reading scores from 2007 to 2009 on a 500-point scale, but no gain in fourth grade scores. This can be read as an epitaph for No Child Left Behind. During its tenure as the nation's major education program it experienced slight increases in reading and math but nothing to stop the Obama administration and Congress from tearing it up and trying something new.
The 5-point jump in fourth grade reading scores in D.C. was more interesting, if for no other reason than Rhee's approval ratings have been falling in surveys of D.C. residents. Some people thought Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) might dump her to get reelected this year, or might himself lose the election because of that growing unhappiness with her aggressive management style. But a 5-point score jump at a time when the national scores are flat is more than enough to keep Rhee safe for another year or two at least, if she wants to keep the job, which she says she does.
We journalists have to write stories about these two-year score comparisons because the federal government puts them out and readers have fun imposing their biases on the results. But they don't mean much. You need several years to determine if a change in education policy is working, and even then the results are usually inconclusive. We as usual will keep making school issues by instinct and politics, and hope for the best.
My favorite part of the Anderson/Turque story was the last paragraph where they report that Kentucky's reading scores went up 4 points for fourth-graders and 5 points for eighth -raders, beating all other states. Unfortunately for us pundits, amateur and professional, "Kentucky appears to have no especially unusual program for reading that others lack," the story sadly admits.
Desperate for something to say with no new initiative to promote, the Kentucky education department spokeswoman decided to belabor the obvious: "It's our teachers," she said. That is true, of course, but it really doesn't give us much to argue about, so it's a big disappointment.
Read Jay's blog every day at http://washingtonpost.com/class-struggle.
| March 24, 2010; 11:44 AM ET
Categories: Jay on the Web | Tags: DC reading scores up, Kentucky gains but doesn't know why, Mathews to win bet, Rhee's job secure, boring reading scores, national reading scores flat
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