Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Press spin and distortions on reading scores: the Bee

I don’t know who is writing his material for him, but based upon

Stanley Crouch’s piece “Bush shines on education,” (Sacramento Bee, 1/28/06) it looks to me as if the Bush administration is again paying for promotional editorial pieces.
To make his case he claims,” According to NAEP, between 2003 and 2005 the nation’s fourth-graders posted the best reading and math scores in the test’s history.”

While NAEP data does show a small improvement in math data, here is what they say about their reading data:
In fourth grade:

“fourth-graders’ average score was 1 point higher and eighth-graders’ average score was 1 point lower in 2005 than in 2003. Average scores in 2005 were 2 points higher than in the first assessment year, 1992, at both grades 4 and 8.
Between 1992 and 2005, there was no significant change in the percentage of fourth-graders performing at or above Basic, but the percentage performing at or above Proficient increased during this time.”

The is simply no reason to believe that reading scores are improving because the points scores went up by 2 points.
Only a press agent or a con person would make this claim.

Crouch goes on to credit George Bush’s support for “scientifically ways” of improving reading based upon the work of Dr. Reid Lyon. While Lyon’s work has become the national mandate, this is ideology posing as science.
(For more on this see Beginning to Read and the Spin Doctors of Science, by Denny Taylor, 1998) In short it is a fraud.

The so called “scientific approach” which is another name for phonics has been the state adopted and implemented approach in California since 1996. This is how all students are taught.
Lets look at California data on the NAEP:
These are NAEP’s own results:

“In 2005, the average scale score for fourth-grade students in
California was 207. This was not significantly different from1 their
average score in 2003 (206), and was higher than their average
score in 1992 (202).
California's average score (207) in 2005 was lower than that of the
Nation's public schools (217).
Of the 52 states and other jurisdictions2 that participated in the
2005 fourth-grade assessment, students' average scale scores in
California were higher than those in 1 jurisdiction, not significantly
different from those in 6 jurisdictions, and lower than those in 44
jurisdictions.
The percentage of students in California who performed at or
above the NAEP Proficient level was 21 percent in 2005. This
percentage was not significantly different from that in 2003 (21
percent), and was not significantly different from that in 1992 (19
percent).
The percentage of students in California who performed at or
above the NAEP Basic level was 50 percent in 2005. This
percentage was not significantly different from that in 2003 (50
percent), and was not significantly different from that in 1992 (48
percent).

And, at 8th. grade:

Overall Reading Results for California
In 2005, the average scale score for eighth-grade students in
California was 250. This was not significantly different from1 their
average score in 2003 (251), and was not significantly different
from their average score in 1998 (252).
California's average score (250) in 2005 was lower than that of the
Nation's public schools (260).
Of the 52 states and other jurisdictions2 that participated in the
2005 eighth-grade assessment, students' average scale scores in
California were higher than those in 1 jurisdiction, not significantly
different from those in 5 jurisdictions, and lower than those in 45
jurisdictions.
The percentage of students in California who performed at or
above the NAEP Proficient level was 21 percent in 2005. This
percentage was not significantly different from that in 2003 (22
percent), and was not significantly different from that in 1998 (21
percent).
The percentage of students in California who performed at or
above the NAEP Basic level was 60 percent in 2005. This
percentage was not significantly different from that in 2003 (61
percent), and was not significantly different from that in 1998 (63
percent).


So, in California, where this ideological approach has been used for almost eight years, there is no significant improvement in reading scores. California continues to rank about 47th. out of the 50 states and two jurisdictions (Washington D.C) . There is no evidence to support the claim of a Bush miracle. And, no evidence to support the claim that
“scientific” based reading has improved achievement.

Crouch does make one correct interpretation of the data. In the most recent tests minority students are improving their scores and “closing “ the achievement gap.
Here again from the NAEP’s own descriptions of the event.

“In 2005, male students in California had an average score that was
lower than that of female students by 10 points. In 1998, the
average score for male students was lower than that of female
students by 6 points.
In 2005, Black students had an average score that was lower than
that of White students by 24 points. In 1998, the average score for
Black students was lower than that of White students by 30 points.
In 2005, Hispanic students had an average score that was lower
than that of White students by 25 points. In 1998, the average
score for Hispanic students was lower than that of White students
by 30 points.
In 2005, students who were eligible for free/reduced-price school
lunch, an indicator of poverty, had an average score that was lower
than that of students who were not eligible for free/reduced-price
school lunch by 23 points. This performance gap was narrower
than that of 1998 (32 points).
In 2005, the score gap between students at the 75th percentile and
students at the 25th percentile was 49 points. In 1998, the score
gap between students at the 75th percentile and students at the
25th percentile was 46 points. “

So, Black students lag behind white students by 24 points, but that is 5 points better than in 1998. And Hispanic students score on overage 25 pints lower than whites, but that is a 5 point improvement over 1998. That is, the gap has declined, but these students remain over two years behind in reading. You find the same information on drop outs.
The press agents use this information to claim success, but a 24 point reading gap is a disaster. Recall, these same agents used a 2 point score increase to claim that reading scores were up.

Crouch claims that Lyons has been a leader in reading. He has been a leader in getting good press from George Bush’s admin.
See this article:

AFTER OBSERVING IT IN THE BIRMINGHAM SCHOOLS FOR A YEAR,
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA PROFESSOR FRAN PERKINS CALLED VOYAGER’S CURRICULUM "THE BEST EXAMPLE OF THE WORST READING PROGRAM FOR YOUNG CHILDREN" SHE'D EVER SEEN. DETRACTORS SAY THAT VOYAGER HAS INDEED BECOME A MAJOR SUCCESS
STORY IN THE ANNALS OF EDUCATIONAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP, BASED NOT ON
PRODUCING A SUPERIOR PRODUCT BUT ON ITS FOUNDERS’ ABILITY TO ATTRACT
WELL-FUNDED AND WELL-CONNECTED INVESTORS AND TO HIRE TOP EDUCATORS AWAY
FROM PUBLIC SCHOOLS THAT THEN BECOME ITS CLIENTS.
HTTP://WWW.FWWEEKLY.COM/CONTENT.ASP?ARTICLE=3561
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