Wednesday, January 18, 2006

CABE, Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO)

It turns out that CABE does have a website. It's pretty pathetic but I thought I'd poke around. The latest CABE Journal repeats some astonishing assertions about education from the State Dept. of Education.

What I found was Improving Achievement and Closing Gaps Between Groups: Lessons from Schools and Districts on the Performance Frontier, April 2005 - Katie Haycock's Presentation given at the CABE Workshop "The Board's Role in Closing the Achievement Gap" on April 6, 2005. Katie Haycock is executive director of the Education Trust in Washington, D.C.

It is a downloadable PDF file that is very interesting in that it contains data that is cooked! In fact it is hard to believe that this data is still making the rounds or that CABE paid for the presentation. The data in question is (at least) on slides 69 and all slides thereafter refering to Aldine, TX schools. It is possible the rest of the school examples are equally dubious.

Aldine, TX is in Harris County and it's part of the Houston metro area. That's Rob Simmons' buddy Tom Delay's district - quaint co-incidence.

The data smelled funny so I went out to the school district's web page and found out these facts.

Ethnic Composition (of the school district):

Hispanic 61.06%
African American 31.85%
White 4.87%
Asian/Pacific Islander 2.14%
Native American 0.08%
as of Oct. 3, 2005

...and look at these student/teacher ratios!

The pupil/teacher ratio averages are:

Grades PK-4 22:1
Grades 5-6 28:1
Grades 7-8 29:1
Grade 9 29:1
Grades 10-12 29:1

The data showed the Hispanic and Black population pulling even with the white population in reading and math and the School in question was being touted as a national example of success in testing excellence. But it looked too good to be true. and that 5% White population looks more like the statistical evidence is more noise than substance. And that student/teacher ratio implies that the students must be mind-melding with the tests. I mean this stuff is fantastic evidence! Sci-fi channel quality to be sure.

So I looked at the demographics of Harris County, TX.

The racial makeup of the area is 59.30% White, 5.84% African American, 0.69% Native American, 3.41% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 27.58% from other races, and 3.10% from two or more races. 56.33% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Um, 60% of the area is white yet these nationally recognised schools are just attended by a handful of white kids. Even John Stoussel would admit this looks, well, miraculous.

So I looked up Katie Haycock and discovered an interesting Washington Post article equally enamored with the Texas education data.

Education 'Miracle' Has a Math Problem
Bush Critics Cite Disputed Houston Data

By Michael Dobbs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 8, 2003; Page A01

" Opponents of the Houston system of business-style accountability have seized on the dropout scandal as evidence that some of Paige's most cherished accomplishments -- including narrowing the "achievement gap" between white and minority students -- rest on false or manipulated data. They have raised questions about the validity of test results that purport to show spectacular progress by Houston students in reading, writing and arithmetic.

"It is all phony; it's just like Enron," said Linda McNeil, a professor of education at Houston's Rice University, referring to the bankrupt Houston-based energy services company that boosted its stock price by covering up losses. "Enron was concerned about appearances, not real economic results. That pretty much describes what we have been doing to our children in Houston." "
and...
"An investigation by state auditors showed that at least 14 other Houston high schools, including Austin, reported unusually low dropout rates in 2000-2001, although there is no evidence administrators falsified data. By reporting a dropout rate of less than 0.5 percent, school principals increase their chances of winning bonuses of as much as $10,000 and earning top accountability ratings for their campuses.

After years of relying on dropout statistics as a key component in their annual accountability studies, school officials concede that they were worthless all along. “The annual dropout rate was a crock, and we’re not [using] it anymore,” said Robert R. Stockwell Jr., the district’s chief academic officer.

Katie Haycock, director of the Washington-based Education Trust, a nonprofit group that supports strict accountability standards, said dropout statistics are notoriously unreliable, in Houston and across America.

“We have been lying to the public for a very long time about how many kids leave high school by using a dropout-reporting system that is crazy,” she said."
That's right, CRAZY! But that didn't stop her from using this data anyway.

There's more. The NCLB hoax is unraveling everywhere.

Wesley Elementary a Hoax
Tuesday, February 1, 2005
By Jim Trelease, © 2005

Whether you like it or not, the No Child Left Behind Act is gradually sinking. While some argue that the priority of the war in Iraq and a lack of funding is causing its destruction, others point to a lack of support from rank and file educators as an undermining factor. A more fundamental argument is that it was doomed from the very start. Just like Enron, the "numbers game" it plays is finally catching up with NCLB.

NCLB was built on the bedrock of "what's good for business is good for schools," that schools' productivity would improve significantly if business principles were applied, and nothing proved it better than the "education miracle" built in Texas by then-governor George W. Bush and in Houston by Superintendent Rod Paige. If such "miracles" could happen in Texas, then they could happen everywhere in America.

As the statistics on the following pages will show, nothing could be further from the truth. And then one must ask: How much did Rod Paige know and when did he know it?
...it continues...

The fact that all children cannot blossom on time does not signal the end of the world as we know it. It's possible to bloom late and still be successful, and nothing proves it better than the high school or college transcripts of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Colin Powell-each of them a "late bloomer." While wondering how these three would have measured against today's proposed standards of learning, there's no denying they did all right for themselves once they finally "blossomed." Fifty years ago David Boies didn't learn to read until third grade (severe dyslexia) but today's scoreboard lists him as the most "in-demand" lawyer in America.

But today's standards allow for no such late starts. The present schedule began with the Business Roundtable (see Nation at Risk Report, 1985, Reagan
administration) and the concept that all children can learn, even poor children, if you bring the right kind of administration to schools and incorporate "accountability" into the picture: Reward achievement, punish failure. George Bush the Harvard MBA won the hearts of business class by advocating that strategy state-wide in Texas and in urban-poor Houston, Paige proved it worked.

One problem: It won't work now because it didn't work then. That is, there was no "education miracle" in Texas or Houston. If it wasn't a hoax, then it was a mirage. In any case, building a national education agenda on the Texas model was like building on quicksand.
...and...

And finally, under provisions in both No Child Left Behind and the Texas Public Education Grant, students attending a school that does not make adequate yearly progress in its tests scores have the right to move to achieving schools.By December, 2004, Texas' latest count was 293,000 students at the state's worst 420 schools (199 of the latter on the federal failure list) had the right to transfer to a better school.

How many of the students were expected to make the switch to better schools? Since Texas established its Public Education Grant program under George Bush in the late 1990s, only 2,000 students (about 200 a year) have switched schools. Why so few? Transportation cost is not included, good schools are already overcrowded, and out-of-district schools are not obligated to accept neighboring students. Even with vouchers, how many Texas private schools would you need to accept 293,000 students, many of which come with special deficits? Since NCLB is modeled on the Texas program, it also incorporated many of its liabilities: There is little enough room or money to accommodate the millions of students nationally who now attend what government labels "failing schools."
Read the entire article for a wakeup call.

CABE should demand their money back.

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