The Business Roundtable's Rube Goldberg plan for evaluating teachers in Tennessee (and other venues with RTTT money) has met with almost universal disdain, a response that has brought CEOs running out of their penthouses to dictate responses for the corporate media editorial pages.
The New York Times, which never saw a corporate education idea it didn't like, published its own tribute to the current effort by the Oligarchs of Ed on Saturday, with an editorial in support of Tennessee's ridiculous plan based on "value-added" test scores and an observation instrument that assures that thousands of good teachers will lose their tenure, if not their jobs. And thousands more will lose their love of teaching.
From the Times education experts on Saturday, which, with a date or two changed, could have been written any time during the past 30 years of school and teacher bashing:
Tennessee’s need to do better was underscored when the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card, ranked the state near the bottom in fourth-grade math performance, just ahead of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. These dismal results — slightly worse than those reported in 2009 — were made public earlier this month during legislative hearings on the evaluation system.
Yes, Tennessee test scores are abysmal, but, first off, let's at least get their ranking correct. As you can see the scores from 1992-2011 below, NAEP numbers have been flat for a long time, with the flattest coming during the most recent and most intense test-and-punish period of the NCLB conflagration.
Tennessee NAEP Math
Tennessee NAEP Reading
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Most interesting, too, is the fact that the Sanders Miracle of value-added testing (TVAAS) started in 1992. This is the same value-added miracle-turned-mirage that corporate water carriers like Brent Staples of the Times Editorial Board want to impose on the rest of the nation.
So with Tennessee test scores pancaked, some other states without the benefit of the Sanders Miracle have moved ahead, thus lowering Tennessee even further:
Progress from other states [from 2009 to 2011] lowered Tennessee's rankings:
• From 45th to 46th in the nation in fourth-grade math
• From 39th to 41st in fourth-grade reading
• From 43rd to 45th in eighth-grade math
• From 34th to 41st in eighth-grade reading.
Most interesting for those who pretend to believe that more failed corporate education reforms will improve learning in Tennessee, or anywhere else, are facts related to education spending in Tennessee, which exactly matches Tennessee's testing rank among states. A Compendium of State Education Rankings ranks Tennessee 44th in per pupil spending at $6,855 (based on NEA data from 2005).
Another coincidence, no doubt: a report earlier this year by U. S. News ranked Tennessee's kids, that's right, 44th in "smartness" based on NAEP data.
And the biggest coincidence yet that relates to Tennessee's ranking on tests? Only 5 other states (Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Arkansas) have higher percentages of children living in poverty than Tennessee, which is tied with Texas, South Carolina and Kentucky with 26% of its children living in poverty.
So Mr. Staples, you and the other privileged and invested education opinionators of the New York Times Editorial Board need to do more than you have done historically to educate the public on education issues. Rather than doubling down on another generation of failed reforms that have deformed our public schools, why not examine the facts, rather than dismissing them in favor of foundation press releases? Why not offer something to the 99% of your readers who are looking for illumination on the issues, rather than diversionary misinformation that you print to serve the hedge fund 1%ers of Wall Street? Why not, in fact, read the most recent brief by the Education Writers Association, which points to the lack of research to back up the corporate education policies you are pushing? Why not read, in fact, your own best reporter who has talked to people to Tennessee to expose the house of cards that you continue to prop up?