Monday, December 16, 2013

PISA Wars: 2013 Scores “Prove” that America’s Schools (Hospitals, Police Stations and Gyms) Are Failing!

Let the gnashing of teeth begin! Unleash the editorial floodgates! Grab your children, parents, and hide them until it’s safe! 

America’s public schools have “failed again.” So say the critics. And this time they’ve got facts to prove it—well facts from one test!!! Once again our 15-year-olds got pummeled on the Program for International Student Assessment tests (PISA).

Somewhere in a Washington, D. C. bar, U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is weeping in his beer.

How “bad” is it? Oh, very bad indeed!!! (We need extra exclamation points to make this clear!!!!!) As a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor explains it our kids finished 20th in reading out of 65 nations and provinces tested. They finished 23rd in science and 30th in math.

Well, what do PISA scores prove? Do they show that the last decade of U. S. school reform has made the situation worse? You could argue that. In fact, in the last three years, the United States has dropped from 10th in reading, 19th in science and 24th in math.[1]

Perhaps this flagellation over PISA scores is completely overblown. Start with the fact that before 2000 the test did not exist. Somehow, we managed to get along. And what do we really know if Japanese students, beat ours in all three areas?

Some of this should be obvious. Japanese students attend classes 240 days per year.[2] That means three years of school in Japan equal four years in the U. S. (Here in Ohio a school year is 180 days). Want to come to grips with how that might affect PISA math scores? Take two runners to the nearest track and tell them the winner of the race they are about to begin will be the person who runs the farthest in the next 240 seconds. Then tell one runner he cannot start until the other runner has a sixty-second lead. Then claim that the first runner was actually better. Or do what critics of America’s teachers do. Compare finishes and blame the losing coach.

Let’s say we want our kids to catch up. We could ask them to run harder. We could ask them to run longer. Or we might ask them to do both. Students from Australia also scored higher on the PISA tests and they attend classes 200 days per year. That means nine years in school Down Under equals ten in the United States. South Koreans have a significantly longer academic year. When classes end for the day they’re not done, either. Most South Korean teens head for after-hours cram sessions. An average day of studying for them is fourteen hours long.

If we want to “catch” the better runners we might copy their “training methods” too. Finland (see all charts below) has been held up as a model for us to follow. School critics in the U. S. turn out reams of articles indicating that we should copy the Finnish system. Finland selects teachers only from the top third of their college classes. Well, then, obviously, what we need in America are “smarter” teachers. Then America’s kids will all be fine. They will kick ass on the PISA test—even if they don’t work as long or as hard as peers in distant lands.

How about this idea? We take a page from Finland and do away with all school sports. Think of the time we could devote to studying math and science if we stopped shooting hoops and cutting time out of English class to send our students to football pep rallies! Yeah, that idea is really going to fly. Maybe we should eat more reindeer.

It’s working for the Finns.

Meanwhile, I think you can pull out all kinds of “comparative” charts and graphs and prove all kinds of nonsense if you desire. Consider our dismal ranking in the PISA reading rankings for 2013. Oh, woe, woe, woe! Our students finished 20th. Well, it looks like we’re screwed politically and economically then, too. In a recent ranking of government and business the United States finished behind eighteen nations when ranked for corruption. You read that right. We finished in 19th place! So, you might argue, that our reading teachers are doing a job comparable to our representatives in Congress and all the brilliant financiers on Wall Street.

(Sorry teachers:  I don’t mean to compare you to lawmakers in Washington. That seems like a truly low blow.)

Of course, these kinds of “comparisons” are absurd and counter-productive in the end. Yet the critics keep making them. So let’s use statistics in our own defense. Are U. S. teachers really failing? Are the schools a total mess?

Let’s start by comparing the latest PISA rankings in math (left column) and the latest life expectancy figures for select nations round the globe. We may have finished 30th in math. In life expectancy we did much worse. We came in 49th.

    PISA MATH                                                                   LIFE EXPECTANCY

1.      South Korea—554                                                          Monaco—89.6 years
2.      Japan—536                                                                    Japan—84.2                                     
3.      Lichtenstein—535                                                          Switzerland—82.3 
4.      Switzerland—531                                                           Australia—82.0
5.      Netherlands—523                                                          Italy—82.0
6.      Estonia—521                                                                 Lichtenstein—81.6
7.      Finland—519                                                                 Canada—81.6
8.      Canada—518                                                                France—81.6
9.      Poland—518                                                                  Sweden—81.3
10.   Belgium—515                                                                Israel—81.2
11.   Germany—514                                                              Iceland—81.1 
12.   Austria—506                                                                  Netherlands—81.0
13.   Australia—504                                                               Bermuda—80.9
14.   Ireland—501                                                                  New Zealand—80.9
15.   Slovenia—501                                                               Ireland—80.4
16.   Denmark—500                                                              Norway—80.4
17.   New Zealand—500                                                        Germany—80.3
18.   Czech Republic—499                                                   Jordan—80.3
19.   France—495                                                                  United Kingdom—80.3
20.   United Kingdom—494                                                    Greece—80.2
21.   Iceland—493                                                                  Austria—80.2
22.   Latvia—491                                                                    Luxembourg—79.9
23.   Luxembourg—490                                                         Belgium—79.6
24.   Norway—489                                                                 Virgin Islands—79.6
25.   Portugal—487                                                                Finland—79.6
26.   Italy—485                                                                       South Korea—79.6
27.   Spain—484                                                                    Denmark—78.9
28.   Russian Federation—482                                              Portugal—78.9
29.   Slovak Republic—482                                                    Guam—78.7
30.   UNITED STATES—481                                                 UNITED STATES—78.6
     (actual ranking:  49th out of 223 nations.)

Countries in green appear on both lists. You know what this means? If America’s teachers and schools are failing our doctors and hospitals are too!

What happens if we list scores in science (left) and homicide rates per 100,000 in population (right)? Let’s see how our great nation fares:

    PISA SCIENCE                                                                 HOMICIDE RATE

1.      Japan—547                                                                    Lichtenstein—0.0
2.      Finland—545                                                                  Japan—0.3
3.      Estonia—541                                                                  Bahrain—0.5
4.      South Korea—538                                                          Switzerland—0.6
5.      Poland—526                                                                   Czech Republic—0.8
6.      Canada—525                                                                  Luxembourg—0.8
7.      Lichtenstein—525                                                           Denmark—0.8
8.      Germany—524                                                               Austria—0.8
9.      Netherlands—522                                                          Slovenia—0.8
10.   Ireland—522                                                                   Spain—0.8 
11.   Australia—521                                                                Germany—0.8
12.   New Zealand—516                                                         New Zealand—0.9
13.   Switzerland—515                                                            Ireland—0.9
14.   Slovenia—514                                                                 Italy—0.9
15.   United Kingdom—514                                                     Iceland—0.9
16.   Czech Republic—508                                                    Sweden—0.9
17.   Austria—506                                                                   Australia—1.1
18.   Belgium—505                                                                 Portugal—1.1
19.   Latvia—502                                                                     Croatia—1.1
20.   France—499                                                                   Poland—1.2
21.   Denmark—498                                                               France—1.2
22.   UNITED STATES—497                                                  Hungary—1.4
23.   Lithuania—496                                                                Canada—1.5
24.   Spain—496                                                                     United Kingdom—1.5 (estimated)
25.   Norway—495                                                                  Romania—1.6
26.   Italy—494                                                                        Greece—1.6
27.   Hungary—494                                                                 Belgium—1.8
28.   Luxembourg—491                                                          Israel—2.0
29.   Croatia—491                                                                   Finland—2.2
30.   Portugal—489                                                                 UNITED STATES—4.7
                                                                                             (we rank 53rd out of 83 reporting nations)

Other countries with “terrible science teachers” would include:  Russia (486), Israel (470), Turkey (463), and Mexico (415). With all those lousy science teachers you wonder how Russia and Israel ever managed to invent their own atomic bombs.

As for terrible police:  we finished with more murders per capita than South Korea (2.6), Australia (1.1) and almost certainly the Netherlands (0.9 in an earlier report). Latvia was not cited either. So:  Estonia was the only country proven to have “better” science teachers and “worse” cops. The homicide rate in Estonia was 4.8.

Finally, let’s look at PISA reading scores and compare them with childhood poverty rates.

    PISA READING                                                               % OF CHILDREN LIVING IN POVERTY

1.      Japan—538                                                                    Finland—about 4%
2.      South Korea—536                                                          Netherlands—6
3.      Finland—524                                                                   Denmark—6
4.      Canada—523                                                                  Iceland—7
5.      Ireland—523                                                                    Norway—7
6.      Poland—518                                                                   Cyprus—7
7.      Lichtenstein—516                                                           Slovenia—7.5
8.      Estonia—516                                                                  Sweden—7.5
9.      Australia—512                                                                Austria—7.5
10.   New Zealand—512                                                          Ireland—8
11.   Netherlands—511                                                           Switzerland—9
12.   Switzerland—509                                                           Germany—9
13.   Belgium—509                                                                 Malta—9
14.   Germany—508                                                               France—9
15.   France—505                                                                  Czech Republic—9.5
16.   Norway—504                                                                  United Kingdom—10
17.   United Kingdom—499                                                    Hungary—10
18.   UNITED STATES—498                                                  Belgium—10
19.   Denmark—496                                                               Australia—11
20.   Czech Republic—493                                                    New Zealand—12 
21.   Austria—490                                                                   Luxembourg—12
22.   Italy—490                                                                        Estonia—12
23.   Latvia—489                                                                     Slovakia—13
24.   Hungary—488                                                                 Poland—14
25.   Luxembourg—488                                                          Canada—14
26.   Portugal—488                                                                 Japan—15
27.   Spain—488                                                                      Portugal—15
28.   Israel—486                                                                      Greece—15
29.   Croatia—485                                                                   Italy—17
30.   Iceland—483                                                                   Lithuania—17.5
(the U. S. ranked 34th out of 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development)

Every nation that beat us in reading had lower childhood poverty rates—with South Korea not included as an OECD member and Lichtenstein not reporting.

Finally, I should note that workout facilities for adults in this country must be terrible. We have the evidence to prove it! Our dieticians and fitness trainers must be the worst in the whole wide world! Rating nations for obesity, we find Japanese dieticians and trainers must be great! Only 5% of Japanese adults are obese. The South Koreans are doing fine:  7.7% of their adults are obese. The Swiss, French, Swedes and Brazilians all beat us. Finland? Damn it! The Finns beat us again! Only 23% of Finland’s adults are obese. Could their secret be all those reindeer steaks they eat?

Yes! America’s trainers are failing!!!!! (Need more exclamation points!!!!!) One of every three Americans, 33%, are obese. Where do we rank when it comes to good eating and exercise?

We rank 174th.

I’m so depressed now, I think I’ll go eat some cookies. Or maybe grill up a juicy reindeer burger. Finland beats us every time.

[1] It’s hard to figure out which nations reporters are including. If Vietnam is counted the U. S. comes in 23rd in science—but 31st in math. When I looked at the lists and dropped Vietnam in all three categories it seemed we were 22nd in science. None of the lists I have drawn up include scores for Singapore, Hong Kong, or other Chinese cities that reported separately.
               Figures from 2010 also differ from those in the story by the Christian Science Monitor. In a comparison of PISA scores for 34 advanced nations the United States finished tied for 12th in reading, 25th in math and 17th in science,
[2] Other sources say the figure is 220 or 200.

Monday, December 2, 2013

No Sinner Left Behind: America’s Teachers and Ministers Are Failing!

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT ANYONE ELSE, but I’m tired of hearing about America’s failing schools. Google “education crisis in America” and you turn up 368 million results in seconds.

The first story listed is a warning from U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The situation is dire, he claims. American adults lack math and technical skills needed for success in a modern workplace. Compared to counterparts in most developed nations the average U. S. worker is an absolute dolt.

And who can you blame except teachers!

I happen to be a retired teacher and the story got me wondering. If our schools are in crisis what other institutional problems might pundits be missing? Are America’s doctors failing? Do we have a “hospital crisis” too? The same type of evidence used to prove there’s an “education crisis” indicates that we do. Now I have worse news to deliver. Similar evidence shows we have a “church crisis” on our hands.

This is serious, folks. Eternal damnation is no laughing matter.

In fact, I hereby declare myself a famous “church reformer.” I am going to be like Michelle Rhee, who talks constantly about what must be done to fix the schools. I will offer all kinds of fixing advice, like Secretary Duncan, or Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. They have plans to save every student. I will make their efforts look puny. I will have a plan to save every sinner!

True, I have never been a minister. I have never written a sermon. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure I remember all the commandments. But I have sat in a church pew. Not recently, I admit, but that’s a technicality.

School reformers never seem to teach or teach only briefly. That doesn’t stop them from spewing drivel.

Why am I so fired up today? The kinds of charts and graphs used to show teachers are failing also prove ministers, rabbis and priests are failing—and failing badly. Sin is up. Church attendance is down. According to Church Leaders magazine only 17.7% of Americans attend church weekly.

Even worse, when asked about attendance, we lie! Almost twice as many of us say we attend as actually show up in pews during services. Even if rampant lying wasn’t a problem, the picture would be bleak:

37% of Americans claim they go to church or mosque or temple weekly or more;
33% go monthly or yearly;
29% admit they never go at all.

Look at this chart:

THE MORE I THINK ABOUT IT the more I realize I need to write a book! That’s what famous reformers do. I will go on television and offer sage advice. Then I will go on tour and earn a few fat speaking fees.

While I get busy writing here’s what every concerned citizen can do. Call your representatives in Congress! Tell them we need a new 1,100 page law called No Sinner Left Behind. Tell them to model it after No Child Left Behind. Tell them we must set higher standards in churches. We don’t need more prayer in school. We need more prayer in cathedrals!

Don’t believe we have a “church crisis?” Look at the facts! We’ve got sex between unmarried people occurring in every nook and cranny of the nation. (See chart below.) And who can you blame? The couples having the sex? The people who don’t go to church? Oh no. It has to be the fault of the men and the women in the pulpits. (It’s like the “education crisis” where teachers get blame, even when 1 out of every 7 students misses at least a month of school each year.)

Sorry, I may be hyperventilating. But consider the evidence! More than 40% of babies in the United States are born to unwed mothers:

And what about the same “racial gap” we see in our schools? Look at divorce rates shown on the following chart. Don’t tell me poverty or conditions in neighborhoods around the churches or virulent racism in American history factor into this situation. That’s just priests and rabbis making excuses, like teachers in high-poverty areas.

So, get with it Reverend! Shape up Father. It’s time to save every sinner. Or you will be replaced.

Do ministers have tenure?

Well, if they do, we should take it away.

As I was saying, look at this gap! The crappy ministers must work in the black and white churches. How else can you explain the success of Asian-American religious leaders? Asian-American couples are half as likely to divorce. Statistics also show that 16% of Asian-American babies are born out of wedlock. For all other Americans the figure is 41%. Eight out of ten Asian-American kids are raised in two-parent families. Oddly enough—and I have no idea why this is true—the average Asian-American kid does better in school.

Anyway, good job Hindu temple leaders! Outstanding teaching, Buddhist and Shinto thinkers. You aren’t leaving sinners behind.

NOW THAT I HAVE IDENTIFIED THIS CRISIS, it is up to me, as famous church reformer, to offer advice. So, here’s what we do:

First:  require ministers to focus on “basics” in every sermon. Then measure “before” and “after” rates of sinning. If lying and cursing continue, publish the names of failing priests, etc. in local papers.

If rates of adultery and stealing fall ministers earn merit pay.

Second:  grade churches. That way, parishioners know which reverends are most likely to help them save their souls. Suppose 39% of marriages performed by a Presbyterian minister end in divorce, vs. 19% for a Lutheran minister down the street. Then the latter church gets a “B+” and the former a “D” and you fire the minister.

Third:  introduce Common Core Church Standards. I admit that one’s going to be hard, since there are so many different ideas about how to get to Heaven. I’m still working on this; but I promise I’ll have all the answers if you buy my book.

Fourth: get smarter ministers! School reformers say the problem in U. S. education is that teachers are too dumb. So, create a program modeled on the efforts of Wendy Kopp, and “Teach for America.” Get top students from Harvard and Yale and Stanford to enter the ministry. Call this new organization “Preach for America.”

Trust me:  it would be great.

Really, I have all kinds of bold ideas—so buy my book as soon as you can. It would make the perfect stocking stuffer. And remember, there’s not a moment to lose. America’s teachers and ministers are all failing.

Clearly, we need to start grading churches.
We need to hold ministers accountable when their parishioners sin.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Does Arne Duncan Realize that Teachers and Students Are Dying?

Two education stories captured my attention this week. One that involved U. S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan seemed stupid.

The other turned my stomach.

We now know the accused killer of Colleen Ritzer, a Massachusetts high school teacher, has been charged with aggravated rape. Ritzer, 24, was murdered in a second floor women’s bathroom at Danvers High in October. Apparently she asked the accused killer to stay after school and prepare for a test. The suspect was a 14-year old freshman in one of her math classes.

“The indictments returned today reveal horrific and unspeakable acts,” a district attorney noted. He’s right. The details are awful. Philip Chism, the accused, is said to have planned the crime in detail and left a note behind.

“I hate you all,” it read.

Why does this story touch me? If for no other reason, because I have two daughters about the same age as Colleen Ritzer. I worked with wonderful young female teachers throughout my career. This could have been any of them.

And what do our “leaders” say about these kinds of incidents? They hardly notice. Duncan travels the country talking blithely about Common Core Standards. He thinks a curriculum can fix what’s wrong with schools. Does he ever wonder?

What would Duncan say to Michael Lansberry? Lansberry survived a tour of duty in Afghanistan but was shot down on the playground at Sparks Middle School the same week Ritzer was raped and killed. This time the assailant was a 12-year-old boy. Lansberry was trying to stop him from shooting his classmates. The boy killed Lansberry. Then he killed himself.

I’m sick of such stories.

Perhaps you’ve noticed. The people who want to fix our schools have settled on the idea that the biggest problem is teachers. Like Ritzer should be the focus of all their fixing. These arrogant fools say teachers are too lazy—too unionized—too dumb. Read a typical editorial in the New York Times if you don’t believe me. It’s titled: “Teachers: Will We Ever Learn?” Listen to Mayor Michael Bloomberg talk about education. Watch Waiting for Superman, a truly stupid film produced by Davis Guggenheim, about five good kids and America’s “failing schools.”

I know kids. I taught 33 years. I know there are way, way more good kids than bad. Still, there are young people like Ritzer’s killer. Will we ever learn? That’s the question the New York Times editorial poses.

“We will never learn,” I want to say to our leaders. “Not so long as we listen to you.”

Ms. Ritzer already had more experience in a classroom when she was murdered than Duncan, Bloomberg and Guggenheim combined. You’d think these insufferable asses might notice and be more humble. Instead, they enjoy kicking teachers in the teeth. Consider Bloomberg and his School Chancellor, Joel Klein. Klein never taught either. They said the way to fix U. S. education was to grade schools.

Well, what “grade” do we give Danvers High? Does the school get an “F” if a young teacher was raped and killed in a bathroom?

Is that our focus?

Duncan talks about how we need more charter schools. Real teachers wonder: Would Chism have been less deeply troubled, less violent if he attended a charter school?

There are others who insist you can “fix education” by handing out vouchers and letting parents decide what schools their children attend. Suppose Chism’s parents had had a voucher. Would the same exclusive private school that was happy to enroll Mr. Guggenheim’s children have allowed Philip through the front door? Of course not.

What in god’s name do our leaders ever do to help teachers? What did they ever do to make the job of Ritzer and Lansberry easier? Not one damn thing. They only required them to complete more paperwork—made them try to prove they were really teaching.

It makes me sick.

Which of our leaders was within a hundred miles of Sandy Hook Elementary on the day of the terrible massacre? Which of them jumped in front of the gunman and tried to shield those poor kids? Bloomberg might be rich enough to build a personal fortress out of giant piles of money. But it was a young teacher, Victoria Soto, 27, who gave her life trying to save a classroom of six and seven-year-old children. Soto put her body in the line of fire and died in the attempt. So, how much did it matter what college she attended before she entered the teaching profession? (See Bloomberg comment linked above.)

Will we ever learn? That’s a critical question.

Do our leaders truly believe you can fix schools without fixing society? Most of the worst problems in schools have roots in neighborhoods and homes that surround them. Tell us what education plan you have to address the matter of pregnant mothers who smoke meth. What good is any curriculum if one baby is born in America every hour addicted to opiates? Do you really believe Common Core standards are the key? Well then, read about the father who stuck his newborn in a freezer to stop her from crying. Consider the dad who threatened his daughter with an AK-47 because she got a “B” on an assignment. Or “google” the phrase: “Father kills…”

You may not know, but Duncan rose to fame by “reforming” the Chicago Public School system. One of his brilliant ideas was to close “failing schools” and send students to different buildings. Want to guess what happened? The kids with serious problems brought their serious problems with them to new schools. Nothing was actually fixed. Sure:  I know public schools must do what they can to help every child. But if a young man belongs to a gang, a vexing problem in the Windy City, blaming teachers for low test scores is worse than no solution at all.

You want to “fix the schools?” Explain how all your fixing would have helped Darryl Green. The 16-year-old Chicagoan was gunned down recently because he refused to join a gang.

(Hey, I have a great idea to help him. Why not make it harder for teachers to get tenure?)

Even if our leaders did nothing but shut up it might help. It might help if they tried to be realistic—to stop acting like teachers are the problem. Do that in memory of Colleen Ritzer, Michael Lansberry, and all those slaughtered at Sandy Hook. That would be a start. Then if someone like Mayor Bloomberg still wants to fix everything he can roll up his sleeves and pitch in and help. I suggest he start by working with high-risk kids like Shaaliver Douse. At age 14, Douse was already a member of a violent New York City street gang. He had two gun-related arrests on his record, including one for attempted murder. This past August he was killed by police after he was spotted shooting at another teen and chasing him down the street.

I say let Mr. Duncan step out of his office and march right into a classroom. Let him work one-on-one with the boy who shot up Chardon High School here in Ohio in 2012. There’s a truly terrible story, especially if you consider the shooter’s conduct during his trial. Forget the new Common Core Standards, Secretary Duncan.

This is your chance to make a difference.

Will we ever learn? This can’t be that hard to grasp. Secretary Duncan graduated from Harvard. He can’t be that dumb. But what was the U. S. Secretary of Education talking about this week? He was touting the cure-all powers of a new national curriculum. The dropout rate in America is too high, he told reporters. Is it because of gangs? Does it have anything to do with drug abuse? Crazy parents? Chronic absenteeism? Or endemic violence?

Oh no.

Kids drop out, says Duncan, because school is too easy. Teachers are the problem. They don’t set high enough standards.

That’s like saying it was Colleen Ritzer’s fault. God help me, I wish our leaders would shut up. If they know nothing, let them hold their tongues.

Say a prayer for the teachers and students we've lost.


If you liked this post, you might like my book about teaching, Two Legs Suffice, now available on Amazon.

Or contact me at and I can probably send you a copy direct, a little more cheaply. My book is meant to be a defense of all good teachers and a clear explanation of what good teachers can do, and what they cannot do.

Two Legs Suffice is also about what students, parents and others involved in education must do if we want to truly enhance learning. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

School Reforms Backfire? SAT and ACT Test Scores Stagnate or Decline

The last decade has been filled with school reform. So, how are these reforms working? Our leaders in education—I mean people who give advice rather than teach—have been pushing standardized tests! Yep, our leaders love them. 

The testing companies love them too.

Thirteen years have passed since Congress enacted No Child Left Behind. Remember that great law! One bold promise wrapped in 1,100 pages of jargon and buried in bureaucratic detail. You know the promise: Every child would be proficient in reading and math by—well—2014. Remember all the tests tied to that law? Okay, those tests are gone. No problem! We now have Common Core and another round of fresh tests coming our way.

By now we might be excused for expecting the ripe fruits of reform to be ready for picking. Let’s see how America’s college-bound kids are doing.

First, consider American College Testing (ACT) scores for the last two decades.

Um…average reading scores for the 2012 graduating class were no higher than scores for the class of 1995. In science the class of 2012 did no better than the class of 1994. The average English score in 1999, three years before passage of No Child Left Behind, was the same as today. Only math scores are up in any statistically significant way.

How about writing? Writing ability seems to be plunging, perhaps because “standardized writing” is hard even to imagine.


Maybe testing helped close the gender gap. Nope it hasn’t. The gender gap has been consistent for years, hovering just around .2 annually. Males had an average composite score of 21.2 in 2012, females 21.0.

What about a secondary promise of No Child Left Behind? That a focus on testing would eliminate the racial gap?

Also not working!

The average score by race in 2012—which correlates almost perfectly with average poverty rates by racial group—is as follows:

African-American:                            17.0
American-Indian:                              18.4
White                                               22.4
Hispanic                                           18.9
Asian                                                23.6
Pacific Islander                                 19.8
Two or More Races                         21.4
No Response                                   21.3


What do the figures for the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT’s) show? Huge gains you figure. All these great reforms! Let’s check those gains out.


Well, isn’t that depressing! You almost get the feeling reformers who push standardized testing don’t know what learning is really about.

Math scores for seniors interested in attending colleges and universities are down 9 points since NCLB was made law. Reading scores are down 5. Writing scores again seem to be falling fastest. The writing test was new in 200d and scores are down 9 in six years.

How about the “racial and gender gaps” that No Child Left Behind was supposed to fix? What does the latest evidence show? Good news, I guess.

Male and female students are getting worse scores, but doing it equally. Total scores for both sexes are down 20 points.

With the exception of one racial group, all are performing equally. That is:  scores are in decline.White kids are down (-6 points). So are African-American kids (-13), Mexican American kids (-16), Puerto Rican kids (-9) and Other Hispanic kids (-17).

It’s a debacle.

Only Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islander kids (all one category for SAT) are doing better. Oddly enough, their scores have increased, in the three tested areas, by a combined 45 points.


How are all the reforms working? Well, terrible, I think you might say. The National Center for Fair and Open Testing adds this note of warning: “Doubling down on unsuccessful policies with more high-stakes K-12 testing, as Common Core exam proponents propose, is an exercise in futility, not meaningful school improvement.”

See also: