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Rhee initiative that will, thankfully, outlast Rhee

As prospective mayor Vincent Gray’s education advisors begin to discuss changes in the way Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee ran D.C. schools, it should quickly become apparent they should keep their hands off one of Rhee’s smartest moves — handing management of Coolidge and Dunbar high schools to a sharp team of educators from New York City.

Lost in all the primary election skirmishing over teacher dismissals and conflicting test score data was this encouraging statistic: under the Friends of Bedford group, in just its first year here, the portion of students testing proficient or advanced in reading went from 38 percent to 53.6 percent at Coolidge and from 18.2 percent to 31.9 percent at Dunbar. No other high school in the city came close to making such gains in a subject where improvement here has been rare.

The three Bedford partners I discussed this with at their office at Dunbar are a wily bunch. Their leader George Leonard has known his partners Niaka (pronounced Na-KEE-ya) Gaston and Bevon Thompson since they were his star biology students at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn. They usually refrain from comment on the bizarre twists of D.C. politics. Their contract does not expire for “several years,” Leonard said, without being more specific.

They compliment Rhee for what she has done for them and the school system, but say they expect the Gray team will give them similar backing. “Our body of work should be good for something,” Leonard said.

They acknowledge that the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System tests that made their language arts program look so good were given to only 110 students at Coolidge and 141 students at Dunbar, since only 10th graders take the DC-CAS in high school. Stiil, those students came from the same disadvantaged homes as sophomores at most of the other schools — about two-thirds of the Bedford group test takers were from low-income families — and did much better.

The Bedford team junked a block schedule that confused students and teachers, installed classroom walls to end Dunbar’s hideous open-space design, provided intensive volunteer tutoring after school and worked hard to make sure students took advantage of it. They hired and trained teachers carefully. They sought the safe and orderly school environment that brought success to the small public Bedford Academy, the school they created in Brooklyn that initially caught Rhee’s eye.

Not everything worked. A small school-within-a-school at Dunbar for dropouts and frequent absentees failed to get the results Leonard wanted, so he brought those students back into the main student body. An unexpected change in the school system’s security company slowed their efforts to end wandering in the halls during classes, a scourge of urban high school culture.

They are working on that, and say order has improved. Getting students back to class after lunch is still a struggle. “If you say you are going to clear those halls every day, that means every period,” Gaston said. “You can’t get tired and say, not right now. Because if you don’t, they figure out that you are not serious and go right back to the way they were.”

Teacher problems like broken locks on classroom doors are fixed immediately. When D.C. officials asked the group what they expected in terms of student suspensions their first months of transforming the schools, the Bedford group saw shocked looks when they said suspensions would go up if order was to be restored. They made several changes in the way math was taught after the DC-CAS results showed proficiency at Dunbar dropping from 24.4 to 23.8 percent and increasing only from 43 to 48.2 percent at Coolidge.

Leonard has installed himself as principal at Dunbar this year. It is not going to be easy to maintain the momentum, but he thinks his teachers and students trust him more. He hopes the same will be true of the new Gray administration.

Read Jay's blog every day, and follow all of The Post's Education coverage on Twitter, Facebook and our Education Web page.

By Jay Mathews  | September 19, 2010; 6:00 PM ET
Categories:  Metro Monday  | Tags:  Bevon Thompson, Coolidge High School, Dunbar High School, Friends of Bedford, George Leonard, Michelle A. Rhee, Niaka Gaston, a reform that should outlast Rhee, best reading gains in D.C.  
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Comments

" When D.C. officials asked the group what they expected in terms of student suspensions their first months of transforming the schools, the Bedford group saw shocked looks when they said suspensions would go up if order was to be restored."

Who were these DC officials?
From DCPS?
That's a bad sign if they are so out of touch of day to day operations that they thought suspensions would go down.

But what do I know.
20 years in the education field- Miss Rhee would have no use for me.

Posted by: edlharris | September 19, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Supposedly, Ms. Rhee (in her own words to the news media) is currently away out of town on her (sic) "pre-honeymoon", whatever that is, because her Sacramento wedding had been previously abruptly postponed -- leaving the rashly, suddenly last-minute DIS-invited (un-invited), disrespected guests to cough up money (ie. cancellation fees & airplane fare / car rental costs) for prior-booked travel plans. Where in the world is
NON-superintendent Michelle Rhee ? ............
Very Obviously --
Written communiques & "Interviews" published by complicit media (newspapers, websites, MSNBC, ABC, etc.) these past few days -- which are supposedly coming from Ms. Rhee are actually being produced by Ms. Rhee's public relations shills (staff & consultants, such as Anita Dunn, along with emergency P.R. assistance from Eli Broad's & Bill Gates'
entourage, et. al.) ............

Ms. Rhee is a narcissistic scam artist & a Walmart, Hedge Funds, Billionaire Boyz concubine -- she also apparently has diarrhea of the mouth..... Hey, "Chancellor" -- don't trip up your tongue or slip on your (Ron Moten mojo) "Go-Go" boots on the way out, and watch out for your own slick pile of dippity-do..... this is your wake-up call Ms. Rhee as you brazenly bumble & stumble, as you cuddle up in the boardrooms & backrooms with Eli Broad & Bill Gates, as you cover-up for Kevin Johnson's ("St. Hope" academy) financial illegalities & his sexcapades with students (teen minors) & with his school-staff (Americorps) subordinates too -- as documented by U.S. Govt. Inspector General Gerald Walpin. Watch your step and your mouth --- try to think before you speak --- Ms. Rhee, Non-superintendent !

Posted by: honestaction | September 19, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Just the facts: Shaw Middle School's scores did not even stay about the same. They went down -- reading scores declined from 38.52% in ’08 to 29.20% in ’09 and it’s math scores went from 33.33% to 29.02%. This can easily be verified at the official website http://nclb.osse.dc.gov. Did you not check? Did you just take Chancellor Rhee’s or Principal Betts’ word on it? The fact that Shaw’s scores didn’t go up is a major embarrassment for Rhee. She installed a new principal, who hired a new staff, selected for being young and “unjaded” and he paid the kids for good behavior and attendance. It seems imperative that Rhee is asked to re-examine her determination to pursue this method and not gloss over an obvious failure with her ongoing pathological prevarication & misrepresentation of the facts. (as per writer "efavorite") -------------------------------------------- Michelle is full of herself..... and facts show... Her scores went down ! The ironic part is watching Rhee loyalists twisting themselves into pretzels to rationalize a 4% drop in D.C. elementary school test scores. Suddenly, the entire test-and-punish crowd is explaining to us how test scores don't mean anything and how test scores are tied much more to out-of-school conditions. The problem is that she has made rising standardized test scores a central measure for achievement -- hers, students and teachers, writes Washington Post columnist Valerie Strauss. So, feel free to judge Rhee on her insistence on placing so much importance on test scores (as have today’s other titans of education reform, such as Joel Klein in New York City). She believes they are so important, in fact, that she recently announced that she wants to expand their use in city schools, so that, in time, every D.C. student from kindergarten through high school is regularly assessed to measure academic progress and teacher effectiveness. But judging her reforms on the actual test scores, well, as my kids say, “Not so much.” -- Posted by Mike Klonsky

Posted by: honestaction | September 19, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Rhee’s problem with D.C.’s new test scores. .................
As the data reports unfortunately show -- Reading test scores went down, and Math test scores also declined in D.C. elementary schools ............... article: ==> http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/dc-schools/rhees-problem-w... ---------------------------=====> "2010 DCPS Test Scores Decline" -----
see news article, DCist website: ----- http://dcist.com/2010/07/2010_dcps_test_scores_decline.php =====================================

Look at the data, rather than the 24-7 mega-media hype manipulated, funded & produced by the Hedge Fund boyz, Kaplan Testing corporation, Online learning corporations, the edu-profiteers/financiers clique & their incompetent spokesmodel rabid Rhee (with her ludicrous lack of proven teaching or administrative experience, her lack of academic certification to be a superintendent, her lack of professional tact, her lack of essential communication insight, and her lack of common sense.

Posted by: honestaction | September 19, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Rhee’s problem with D.C.’s new test scores:
As the data reports unfortunately show --
Reading test scores went down, and Math test scores also declined in D.C. elementary schools ...............
see Washington Post article: ==> http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/dc-schools/rhees-problem-w...


"2010 DCPS Test Scores Decline":
(see news article, DCist website:) ==> http://dcist.com/2010/07/2010_dcps_test_scores_decline.php =======================================

Please pay attention to the reality.....
Look at the data, rather than the 24-7 mega-media hype manipulated, funded & produced by the Hedge Fund boyz, Kaplan Testing corporation, Online learning corporations,
the edu-profiteers/financiers clique & their incompetent spokesmodel rabid Rhee (with her ludicrous lack of proven teaching or administrative experience, her lack of academic certification to be a superintendent, her lack of professional tact, her lack of essential communication insight, and her lack of common sense.

Posted by: honestaction | September 19, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

What DC needs now is a leader with a proven track record. I don't think an experienced leader is going to take apart anything that works (in contrast to Rhee).

Posted by: educationlover54 | September 19, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like these leaders were smart enough to hire well-qualified teachers and to offer them training. Now there's something that works!

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | September 19, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

"When D.C. officials asked the group what they expected in terms of student suspensions their first months of transforming the schools, the Bedford group saw shocked looks when they said suspensions would go up if order was to be restored."

If Michelle Rhee and her crew were shocked that suspensions had to go up at Coolidge and Dunbar in order for the culture of the schools to improve, then it goes to show you that Rhee and her crew never knew anything about fixing troubled schools at all. Michelle Rhee's answer to restoring order in schools was to discipline the teachers instead of the children. EVERYONE who has any real experience in an inner-city school system knows that the only way to fix a seriously troubled school is to install a zero-tolerance policy. Then, once student discipline improves, instruction usually improves along with it. Thankfully, it sounds like the Bedford group realized this even when Michelle Rhee didn't.

Posted by: thebandit | September 19, 2010 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like these leaders were smart enough to hire well-qualified teachers and to offer them training. Now there's something that works


Wow, but not a lot of drama of page clicks in that approach

Posted by: mamoore1 | September 19, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse


Let's... Get real, everybody!
==$$$==

Michelle Rhee is a wholly-owned subsidiary
of:
Walmart, Eli Broad, Bill Gates,
Goldman Sachs et. al.,
Hedge Fund edu-profiteers
(& their mindless 'think' tanks,
planted pundits & sycophants);
and blatantly
she's the frontwoman/spokesmodel
for
KAPLAN learning services, Inc.
(testing, test-prep & online divisions)
which is a major business arm
(tentacle) of the
"Washington Post" company.
=============

Posted by: honestaction | September 19, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Rhee-turn to $ sender.....

Let's... Get real, everybody!
==$$$==

Michelle Rhee is a wholly-owned subsidiary
of:
Walmart, Eli Broad, Bill Gates,
Goldman Sachs et. al.,
Hedge Fund edu-profiteers
(& their mindless 'think' tanks,
planted pundits & sycophants);
and blatantly
she's the frontwoman/spokesmodel
for
KAPLAN learning services, Inc.
(testing, test-prep & online divisions)
which is a major business arm
(tentacle) of the
"Washington Post" company.
==============

Posted by: honestaction | September 19, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Rhee-form, edu-profiteers & sleazy HYPOCRISY =====>
What was helicopter-in Michelle Rhee’s ‘Damage Control’ for (boyfriend) Kevin Johnson? ........... note: Michelle Rhee was
on the board of directors of Kevin's privatized High School charter
-- during the time when there were financial illegalities & misappropriations of federal grants and also a pattern of outlandish sexual misconduct perpetrated by school director Kevin Johnson involving minor teens & subordinate (Americorps) school staff.
------- (must read) =>

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2009/11/20/what-was-michelle-rhees-damage-control-for-kevin-johnson/


=================

Posted by: honestaction | September 19, 2010 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Theodore Roosevelt High School made the greatest gains in math out all the the high schools in the district. Adela Acosta was the principal, chosen by Rhee and fired by Rhee. I spoke to Ms. Acosta in private and she told me that the chancellor though she was not the right fight for the school. The chancellor also treated her like dirt. I can't prove this but it sounds about right. Theodore Roosevelt made phenomenal gains and the principal was fired, what is up with that? Jay you better wake up and smell the coffee, Michelle Rhee and her partners are not about education, my friend worked at Dunbar and they are cooking the books at that school. They told my buddy that he could not fail so many students, code,"for pass them all", I wonder how they cheated their way into some good test scores. Just like that school your so hot about CHEC or is it the former Czechoslovakia. Talk to the teachers there and ask them how they hate it and how the hate Tukeva. Talk to that teacher who had a blog called "dirty teaching" he hated it that place too. Tukeva who runs a dictatorship a CHEC and who runs that scam that you buy into; for example having the entire school take A.P. courses. Jay don't forget 95 percent of those students can't pass the test, that makes it one of the best schools in the country? Moreover, Tukeva and Czechoslovakia had a massive dip in test scores, check it out Jay. You are talking about one of the best schools in the country according to your book. I call CHEC the Valley of the Fallen, it is a monument built for a dictator on the back of many teachers who have left bitter. Look at the teacher turnover at that school Jay.

Respectfully,
Marylight

Posted by: marylight | September 20, 2010 1:37 AM | Report abuse

for marylight, you are right that the Roosevelt math gains were very impressive. Thanks for the inside information.

For honestaction and others, the Bedford leaders did not say which D.C. school officials expressed shock at their saying a good transformation starts with an upsurge in suspensions.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 20, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

For marylight, if your source knows anyone with first hand information on cooking the books at Dunbar, please email me at mathewsj@washpost.com.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 20, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I am glad these schools are doing a great job, but what jumped out at me was the "shocked looks" of the DCPS officials that suspension rates would go up if the school enforced their rules.

This is what you should write about Jay. Schools with students who roam around between periods have got to be able to enforce their rules. Not only do they not have anything that is going to dissuade students from doing anything wrong, the implication is that the school should NOT do anything!

The "shocked looks" show that the officials are clueless about the amount of improvement you are going to see in a month, but even worse, shows that they are under PRESSURE to show that they have less suspensions, not less wandering around instead of being in class.

Where are the questions about how this idiotic implication affects the other students, the ones who want to learn?

I know these two schools are improving. Great job! Wonderful! What sickens me is that they have to accept this illogical response to direct disrespect. These kids are not even in classrooms and someone is suggesting that suspension is totally out of the question. Why? Explain to me why a 10th grader shouldn't be able to follow a rule like "get to class".

Posted by: celestun100 | September 20, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Why did less than 2/3 of the eligible students take the tests? That missing 1/3 would more than account for the change in pass rates. The easiest way to raise the percentage of studnets passing a test is to cull out the lowest achievers.

Posted by: mcstowy | September 20, 2010 12:38 PM | Report abuse

For mcstowy--Where do you get yr figure of only 2 thirds of eligible students taking the test? I just rechecked the OSSE data and there seems to have been only 4 at Coolidge and 3 at Dunbar who missed. Gaston told me that they met the federal rules, about 95 percent of eligible students took the tests. Straighten me out on this.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 20, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Jay,

The idea that someone high up in the administration of a school district looked shocked at possible higher suspension rates at the beginning is just so strange.

Anyone who worked in an urban school that has behavior issues such as students roaming the halls would assume that at first the level of consequences would rise.

This really makes me wonder about the competence or level of experience of the officials or if they were trying to make their numbers look good.

I am not one who thinks that suspensions are the answer to everything, but clearly, anyone who turns around a school would have to get the discipline in order first.

Posted by: celestun100 | September 20, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

in just its first year here, the portion of students testing proficient or advanced in reading went from 38 percent to 53.6 percent at Coolidge and from 18.2 percent to 31.9 percent at Dunbar.
........................
These figures scream out for investigation since they are so high. An improvement from 38 percent to 40 percents in one year would be considered significant improvement. An improvement from 38 percent to 54 percent should have raised red flags.

Posted by: bsallamack | September 20, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

All of the DC-CAS data is questionable.

Coolidge High Schools
Grade 10
Reading
38% (2009)
27% (2008)

This is an 11 point increase before the Friends of Bedford group. So a 12 point increase from management by this group is not really anything special.

There is something seriously wrong with tests that show that 11 percent of students are now passing in reading that in the previous year would have failed.

Remember that these tests are for reading in the 10th grade and that the ability to read is not something that is easily learned in 1 year. Children that have difficulty in reading in the 9th grade do not suddenly learn how to read on a 10th grade level in the 10th grade.

http://www.greatschools.org/modperl/achievement/dc/63#standards

Posted by: bsallamack | September 20, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

This is a typical Jay Mathews article.

Present very questionable test results and pretend great improvement in reading.

The test results as given above for Coolidge High Schools indicate that in two years from 2008 there are now over 50 percent of students in the 10th grade that are proficient or above in reading when in 2008 there were only 27 percent.

Grade 10
Reading
56.3 % (2010) per Jay Mathews
38% (2009)
27% (2008)

This is impossible unless the tests for reading have been extremely degraded or there has been massive cheating.

http://www.greatschools.org/modperl/achievement/dc/63#standards

Posted by: bsallamack | September 20, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Jay,
This does not support mcstowy's claim, but it does raise questions.
Here's the 10th grade test takers at Dunbar:
2007 274
2008 216
2009 176
2010 141

Coolidge
2007 91
2008 117
2009 94
2010 102

Posted by: edlharris | September 20, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

What I tire of here is the open disregard of the push by students themselves (and their parents)to improve their understanding of the world, and their decision to challenge their presumed place in it. We are told over and over again how poor they are. How inner city. How disadvantaged. We are told this by pundits who would never send their children to any of these schools, including the ones they champion. I am not against progress; I just have grown weary of the predictable spin. Until we stop treating these students as some wounded brand of humanity, nothing substantive will change. I have grown weary of the "find the latest savior" game, replete with cursory data glances and easy interpretations. I do applaud the Bedford Group for their efforts. I just applaud the students more. For a teacher's take on things, check out my blog at teachermandc.wordpress.com.

Posted by: dcproud1 | September 20, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

Celestun is absolutely correct in what she says regarding student behavior. The first thing that anyone must do it turn around a school is to deal successfully with conduct.

When Carl Cohn came to Long Beach Unified, the first thing he did was to establish reasonable standards of behavior, in part by requiring students to wear uniforms because many fights occurred over clothing. A school just can't have kids wandering the halls and expect learning to take place. Suspensions aren't ideal but laws in all states allow educators to use this when students are defiant. If the student continues to be disruptive, he needs to be removed from regular education. If the parents object, they can be given the option of accompanying their son or daughter to classes all day long.

All schools can enjoy immediate improvement tomorrow if educators abide by state laws that require students to refrain from interfering with the learning of others.

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | September 21, 2010 1:12 AM | Report abuse

That's right Linda, but many schools have their hands tied in a sense. What I mean is that the schools have to have plenty of documented misbehavior to show parents, or honestly they are looking at a lawsuit. By that time, the student has gotten away with so much, they have a reputation among the other kids and it looks to everyone that the school can't do anything.

The schools also are under pressure to reduce the amounts of suspensions among groups that have been discriminated against in the past.

One on NCLB's most glaring findings was that many more students of color are suspended in certain districts. So the question is, is that racism? If it is, or if a parent thinks their student is being discriminated against, then there is a problem for the district. (Not to mention the student and the other students)

On the other hand, is it fair to let students anywhere act out in such a bizarre way? Showing up at school and not attending classes or going in so late and disrupting others is clearly bizarre behavior. (Again, how does this effect everyone's learning?)

So there is the claim that there is racism, and in some cases there is racism. Then, you have average students of any color who want an education and it appears that some schools are actually enabling kids to misbehave because of ridiculous policies.

I think that in schools that are under this sort of reform, there needs to be staff that are carefully trained, with a lot of experience. Sometimes, kids will clear the halls simply because someone reminds them in a friendly way to get to class. Other times the administrator has to have teachers lock the doors and give
the late kids a detention.

There are kids that are turned off to school and maybe to everything. They are not going to cooperate without a lot of time and energy and schools are not set up with 25 counselors. Eventually, to get a change in behavior, the student will have to make a connection with somebody.

At any rate the issue is complex and it is probably to Rhee's credit that she wasn't so worried about politics that she gave these Bedford guys the green light to implement their plan.

The discipline issue is complex only in that it needs to be fair and consistent. This is why the principal mentions having to clear the hall after each period of class. That is an incredible time commitment on the part of his staff. That means they are dealing with people all day, not to mention those who cause trouble in class.

I think individual rights are important, but not when people are allowed to infringe upon the rights of others. Teachers and students who want to learn have the right to a safe environment and should have some recourse with troublemakers, beyond the idea that "If the teacher were motivating, the students would want to be there."

Posted by: celestun100 | September 21, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

RE: % of students taking the test.

Previous post stories on the Bedford takeover of Coolidge and Dunbar indicated that they had student populations of 650 and 950, respectively. The Bedford HS in NYC is tiny; less than 400 students (Probably a leftover from the failed "small schools" initiative the Gates Foundation pushed in the late 1990's.), and students have to apply to the school. I simply assumed the student populations at Coolidge and Dunbar had remained the same and took 1/4 of that population as an estimate. Have Coolidge and Dunbar shrunk their populations since FOB took over? Where are those students now?

In addition, it's almost impossible to teach a student to read in 1 year at the secondary level. Math is a different story, because math skills are acquired at an accelerated pace in middle and high school, but if reading skills are not acquired by 3rd grade, it's unlikely that one will ever become a proficient reader. My son went from no reading skills to a 4th grade level in 2 years (7th and 8th grades) with an appropriate and intensive phonics-based program, but his progress topped out at about a late 5th grade level in HS and he'll never be more proficient than that. 9th and 10th grade is too late to significant reading improvements.

Posted by: mcstowy | September 21, 2010 12:09 PM | Report abuse

@mcstowy

Your assessment of reading growth sounds accurate. However, second language learners could score very low on an English reading test one year and jump" to another level no matter their age, if they already had
literacy skills in their first language.

Normally, that would take more than a year, more like three years, unless a student had a tutor or was incredibly smart and motivated. It is not likely to happen in a year, at any rate.


Posted by: celestun100 | September 21, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

For mcstowy---thanks for the very helpful reply. The Bedford guys say enrollment has been dropping a bit at both schools, I assume because of the draw of charters and other options. This year they have about 600 at Coolidge and 800 at Dunbar, only about two thirds of them yet confirmed to have DC addresses. The definition of who is eligible to take the test is VERY complicated, they say, because kids who have flunked some classes may be the right age for sophomores, but not have actually passed enough courses to be considered a 2nd year student.
Kids had to apply to the Bedford school, but that leaves the false impression it was selective. There are many small NYC regular public schools that kids can choose, and usually selection is based on their preferences, with few if any entrance requirements. They say when they started the school they got the bottom of the barrel, kids who had not gotten into any of their other choices.
You are quite right about reading versus math. The KIPP schools usually show much greater gains in math than in reading, and the reason you cite makes sense. That's one reason why I thought the D and C gains were so noteworthy. Indeed, you can't teach someone to read in a year, but these were 16 year olds, more or less, who had had a lot of reading instruction in lower grades but had not quite caught on. I suspect enough of them were close enough to the proficiency line to be pulled over it with all that extra tutoring. Even with the encouraging results, more than half of that group from the two schools still is not proficient.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 21, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

As I've pointed out before, short-term gains for any policy change are the norm, but most dissipate (the social-science term is exhaustion); the question is whether they can be sustained over time. Unfortunately, long-term, sustained successes (i.e. Richmond public schools) do not get media attention, while the latest fads; whole language, schools without walls, small schools, TFA, merit pay, high-stakes testing, get magazine covers and Oprah. My question to you: Why?

Posted by: mcstowy | September 21, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

for mcstowy---What a great question. My theory: we are a tribal species, easily bored, often drawn to the latest new feeding ground promoted by those at the top of the pecking order. The pecking order fascination wired into our DNA seems to also explain our eagerness to check out ranked lists of anything.

Posted by: Jay Mathews | September 21, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

So, no more than 40 additional students were found over the threshold of measured reading ability compared to the number expected if the passing rate had been the same as the previous year. Did your school leaders / informants swear to you that they, peers at Wilson HS, did NOT instruct teachers to identify and select students closest to the pass / fail as most able to bring home the bacon to show to the press?
And in math? Oh, nothing positive to report. No need, the reporter will duly seize on the good news.

Could it be Jay, that the journalist's chosen frame and a woof of just two strands -- math and reading tests for sophomores -- doesn't make for an interesting tapestry after you drawn the woof through?

Did spend much time watching what teachers do every day when the assigned textbooks are as much a challenge to read as would be a HS textbook for you after you'd studied the language it was written in for two years?

Because selection has come in the comments, I urge you to read the comments to your WaPo colleague's piece on 2010 SAT scores in MoCo. Two or three readers turned to the MoCo source documents, and report evidence suggesting that the entirety of large score increases and substantial reduction in the "achievement gap" might be attributed to dramatic and selected reductions in the number of students being tested.

And, please, please, stop the scientism of excessive precision in reporting data. When about 100 students are tested, the maximum resolution, the MAXIMUM, even for an error-free and perfectly repeatable test, is one student in 100, or 1%. Places to the right of the decimal are meaningless ruffles.

Posted by: incredulous | September 21, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

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