Thursday, November 09, 2006

School reform claims vrs. reality

The nation has experienced over twenty years of administration driven “school reform”. Usually the administrators in charge have adopted an accountability model and relied upon test scores as a primary measure of progress. The accountability model has been successfully promoted by business interests notably the Business Roundtable.
Administrators seeking change have focused on implementing a common curriculum. Given the short comings of measurement, they have focused on an easy to measure curriculum leading to the choice of reductionist and behaviorist curriculum such as Open Court. In math they have focused on the drill and drill approaches of Saxon Math.
School reform from these efforts has been largely confined to press releases. When you look at drop out rates, or national tests such as NAEP, there has been little substantive progress. However administrators come and go and consultants make their careers from these efforts.
In spite of numerous press claims to the contrary, California schools have not significantly improved their reading scores. This is from the report of the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

“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).

The thirty year study of NAEP scores reveals that this situation has remained essentially unchanged throughout the nation.
Press reports such as Deepah Ranganathan writing in this morning's Sacramento Bee article that says,..." slate of four candidates selected by Mayor Joe Serna Jr. and enjoying strong business backing swept into office and created a nationally recognized high school reform program that is still being implemented today."
Well the first half of the sentence is accurate.
The creation of a "nationally recognized high school reform program," really just means that the Superintendent got some good press and was quoted elswhere. And, they received Gates money, but so did many others.
If we are to get to real school reform we need to get beyond this kind of claim of success based upon press clipings. There is no real data to support these claims and most claims of school reform progress.
This problem is not restricted to the Sacramento area, the same applies to the California Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Governor's office, and much of the school administrator's promo pieces.
For more on this see. Gerald W. Bracey.
Duane Campbell

More to follow on this topic.
Post a Comment
 
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.