Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More need for fact checkers; The California State of Education

The State of Education in California, and the real state of education in California.
President Bush is famous for being in denial about the state of the war in Iraq. It seems our Superintendent is learning from him.
California Superintendent O’Connell gave a Sate of the Education Address on Jan 7, 2007.
It is here:
Lets begin to look at this presentation. We know that the superintendent is a declared candidate for Governor, so we should consider the speech in that light.
There must be a retreat house or training program somewhere where politicians ( like O’Connell), speech writers, and press advisors learn the skills of presenting these reports without being restricted by reality or the data. Unfortunately too many media sources report these assertions as facts.

Page 1:

"We’re asking no less than proficiency in all subjects when measured by the toughest standards in the nation – for all students, right now, regardless of whether they come to school speaking another language, whether they’re poor and hungry, confused, scared, psychologically damaged or mentally challenged."

Yes, California has among the toughest standards in the nation. There is no measured evidence that California has significantly improved reading scores over the last decade. See the NAEP scores for California. So, we have tough standards written by committees, but we have not done the things needed by teaches to improve student learning environments.

Page 2.

"Now, that may seem counterintuitive – we know the exit exam is the minimum our students need to know in order to graduate. But in fact, by holding students accountable for reaching even that standard, we’ve seen that not only have our students reached that bar, they’ve gone higher than they ever thought they could. As a result of the exit exam, students are working harder, learning more and persevering in school."

This statement could be proven or dismissed based upon data. Where is the data? And, in considering the data be certain to investigate the real drop out rate. One way to increase a CaHEE score is to “encourage” low scoring students to leave or to transfer to another school, or just be absent for a week.

Page 2.

"It’s been a long time coming, but today we all know, appreciate and embrace the fact that data matters. We know – because research tells us – that successful schools adhere to our rigorous standards, and build a culture around data-driven decision making."

Well, he has it half right. Data matters. And an honest sharing of the data matters. We look forward to a day when data is presented without the slight of hand used so often by politicians and the media writers for the Calif. Dept. of Education.

The second sentence: Research tells us- that successful schools adhere to our rigorous standards, and build a culture around data-driven decision making.
O.K. What research are you referring to? Most of this is assertions, not research. Research by Dan Laitsch, (2006), and Richard Rothstein (2004), and Gerald Bracey (2003) do not support your assertions. It looks as if your press writer is simply making assertions. What research?

"I want to make certain that the data we collect meets the highest standards, and I want every school and district to make data a top priority. So I thank those school districts who have worked overtime to provide the quality data we need to better serve students and schools."

Good goal. I certainly hope that you achieve it. Note, what the CDE does is collect data. It does not improve teaching nor teaching conditions. It collects data. At least we could expect quality shared data.

"My friends, this is our struggle. Real, measurable progress has been made since the institution of standards-based education. Thousands of young adults are entering the world better prepared for success. "

Data please.

"Today we are holding ourselves accountable for the results of all children. And when we see significant groups of students falling far short of the goal of proficiency that we hold for all students — we must act. Today, equipped with specific knowledge of those gaps, we must focus as never before on solutions."

Good goal. I look forward to the cde holding itself accountable. And, the State Board of Education. Thus far you have held yourself only accountable for writing standards. Please hold yourself accountable for student reading, math, and civics achievement.

"We need to honestly use the data we now have, and also have an honest conversation – a courageous conversation some would say — about our individual subgroups, and their individual struggles within our standards-based context. I know every child in this state can learn and has great potential. I refuse to believe or accept anything less."

Good goal. You had an opportunity to do both of these in this report of the State of Education in California. You haven’t done it today. I look forward to more improvement in this area. Many of us share your goal.

"It’s time to examine our beliefs, to examine the data, to examine strategies and to hold ourselves accountable for getting better results. This year I will be doing all of those things."

Amen. Well, you could have started today with this speech.

"I’m proud of the career technical education standards and frameworks my department has developed – they’re a model not only for our schools but for other states and even other nations."

Amen. Proud standards. California’s performance in career technical education is far behind many other states.

More to follow.
Duane Campbell
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