Re: Fw: garbage
- Subject: Re: Fw: garbage
- From: "Gerald W. Bracey" <gbracey@EROLS.COM>
- Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2000 18:04:43 -0400
- Comments: cc: email@example.com
- Reply-to: Assessment Reform Network Mailing List <ARN-L@LISTS.CUA.EDU>
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There is another difference between educational and scientific claims to
miracles: In science a fact is not a fact until it lots of other people
have verified the outcome. When the Utah profs claimed cold fusion, labs
all over the world swung into action. Of course, the implications of cold
fusion are humongous--no more dependence on oil for energy--but a program
that could make poor kids succeed in school would be sufficiently big.
But, Burks, the principal at Owen keeps the doors locked and refuses most
requests to visit. Jonathan Kozol says this is a sure sign that all ain't
kosher. Jonathan also says that there are lots of schools doing good work
in poor neighborhoods in NYC that don't have such restrictions. I doubt,
though, that any of them claim an average test score at the 98th percentile,
roughly the equivalent of cold fusion in terms of improbability.
----- Original Message -----
From: Deborah Meier <dmeier@ESSENTIALSCHOOLS.ORG>
Sent: Thursday, June 08, 2000 5:29 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: garbage
> Gerald, your story re Owen school's miracle reminds me of so many similar
> tales. Some years ago I attended an event celebrating an elementary
> in California with a 99% attendance record. I contemplated what that would
> mean. Assuming a school of 600 (it was actually a bit larger) that would
> mean 6 kids absent a day--on average. Day after day. Given that such a
> school had at least 25 classrooms that would mean that 20 classes had
> perfect attendance every day. Actually it turned out that in California
> that time no child was labeled absent if his/her family sent in a note, or
> agreed on the phone that there was a good reason for being absent.
> Absenteeism was essentially another word for truancy. An elementary school
> with a truancy rate of 1% is a bit less spectacular.
> NYC, a few years back, posted two remarkably high scores in schools with
> largely free-lunch populations--proof again, the reporter noted, that good
> leadership can perform miracles. Upon investigation (by me) it turned out
> that both miracles were the result of the schools changing its student
> population; becoming schools for the gifted. Which meant that the kids
> whose scores we were now supposed to be impressed with were those accepted
> on the basis of their high test scores.
> etc etc.
> Of course, it leads one to be suspicious of all schools whose "outcomes"
> seem impressive. Which is a shame. But healthy skepticism is merited.
> And I never felt surprised when folks were suspicious of the results we
> at CPESS--although they weren't in the area of test scores.
> No one in the field of medicine (or science, which we're told is what
> tests represent) would accept such outlandish surprise results as glibly
> the educational world and its education reporters do. A doctor or
> that claimed in its press releases to have substantially different
> "outcomes" for patients with cancer might have a harder time than schools
> do claiming their miracle cures, ditto new drugs on the market, etc. But
> every reading program and test prep program comes with guarantees of
> miracle cures and we all say "ho hum." The existence of your sane and
> tough and incessant and everlasting and tireless persistence in nailing
> this nonsense is such a blessing. Again, thanks.
> >Kenneth Cooper, author of today's Washington Post story about the Owen
> >School has responded to a couple of my statements in my commentary of
> >earlier today. My response to his response follows immediately below,
> >you can scroll down in order to read his first.
> >Mr Cooper:
> >You are right. You didn't use the word "percentile" in your story and
> >didn't report any. Without realizing it, I set a trap. The second
> >paragraph of the two page
> >vignette on Owen School in the Heritage "No Excuses" report from Heritage
> >says "Last year's 5th graders, for example, posted a mean score at the
> >percenitle in reading and the 90th in math." I assumed you didn't read
> >whole report, but thought you might at least have covered the vignette
> >the Owen school which is less than two pages long. If you read those
> >figures, I reasoned, you, as a journalist, should be suspicious. But I
> >guess you didn't read them.
> >The point is NOT that poor black kids in Detroit can't outscore blondies
> >Grosse Pointe. The point is: NO school scores as high as Owen. It's one
> >thing to have a substantial proportion at the 98th, another thing to have
> >that be the school average. That is virtually impossible*. Given that
> >there is only one rank above 98, an average of 98 means that virtually no
> >one scored below the 96th percentile. If we assume that 50% of the
> >hit the 99th, 20% the 98th, 20% the 97 and 10% the 96th, that yields an
> >average of 98.1. That doesn't happen. Anywhere.
> >Take Fairfax County, Virginia. A high-scoring district. Within this
> >high-scoring district, there is Thomas Jefferson School of Science and
> >Technology which creams the best of the best--of the 8581 juniors in
> >high-scoring Fairfax in 1997, only 391, 4.6%, attended TJ. The
> >people at TJ start with a high-scoring group of kids and then impose a
> >selectivity more severe than at outstrips Harvard or Stanford. It means
> >that on average, just under 7 kids from each Fairfax elementary school
> >up at TJ. Yet TJ kids get only to the 91st percentile in reading. They
> >manage manage the 98th in science and 99th in math, the primary subjects
> >which they are selected.
> >At the 5th grade level, where Owen reported 98th, none of the 131 Fairfax
> >elementary schools with a grade 5 even comes close to 98th percentile.
> >closest is 89th and the district average is 77th. I repeat, it is not
> >reasonable for ANY elementary school, or any school that does not select
> >absolute best of the best to have an AVERAGE at the 98th percentile.
> >I'll believe the results at Owen only if you can get me permission to go
> >with a standardized norm-referenced test of my choice, unknown to the
> >school, and my own test administrators (Carter's report says that the
> >itself provided the test data for the achievement test, suspect in
> >As for the Heritage Foundation sponsorship, yes I'm bothered. The
> >Statement" of Heritage says its "mission is to formulate and promote
> >conservative public policies...." That policy about public schools is to
> >get rid of them. As I noted in my "rant", the Vice President for
> >Educational Affairs at Heritage says that Carter's data make the case for
> >abolition. Can you really expect a disinterested piece of research from
> >such an institution? I trust reports from Heritage about as much as
> >from the KGB. There is a name for someone who would accept a Heritage
> >report at face value, and it isn't "journalist."
> >*This statement is true when speaking in terms of pupil results as Cooper
> >and Carter do. Obviously, if we were using schools as the unit of
> >comparison, then the highest scoring schools would fall at the 99th
> >percentile--of schools. But Cooper's and Carter's data are reported in
> >reference to pupil norms, not school norms.
> >----- Original Message -----
> >From: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> >To: Gerald W. Bracey <email@example.com>
> >Sent: Wednesday, June 07, 2000 12:46 PM
> >Subject: Re: garbage
> >> I am going to violate my personal rule about ignoring your rantings to
> >> correct a substantial misstatement you have made about my story on Owen
> >> School. Nowhere in my does the word "percentile" appear. The Michigan
> >> Educational Assessment Program is a criterion-referenced test, not a
> >> norm-referenced one. When I write of percentages of Owen students who
> >> "passed" different MEAP tests, that means their performance was rated
> >> either as "satisfactory" or "proficient" by the state of Michigan.
> >> And you make a wholly falacious presumption that my story rests solely
> >> Samuel Casey Carter's research for the Heritage Foundation report,
> >> sponsorship seems to trouble you so much. I'll also let you deal with
> >> own presumption that poor black kids in inner city Detroit couldn't
> >> possibly outperform affluent white kids in Grosse Point, Mich. or
> >> Creek, Colo. without some sort of fraud being involved. There's a name
> >> that sort of thinking, and I think you know what it is.
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