Wednesday, July 02, 2008

More Doctored NCLB Studies

The Thomas B Fordham Institute recently released a report entitled High Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB that wanders off based on a political agenda and an astonishing misreading of data to advocate modifying NCLB to serve high-end learners, excellence, and the ever-panderific "we need to challenge students even more" meme. The lack of anything more than anecdotal evidence never deters the hyperbole of the political agenda this report is selling.

Considering the number of professional educators responsible for this anal-retentive masterpiece, one would have assumed that somebody bothered to proof-read and correct some of the more psychedelic assertions being made in the report.

For example, Finn describes the reason that poor, Hispanic, and Afro-American students who scored well on the eighth-grade 2005 math NAEP as being "luck" rather than because they shared an educated households profile when growing up like their other academic peers.

This report is yet more bad science from an educational establishment grown corrupt and unaccountable for education's entrepreneurial fraud known as NCLB.

The Institute's neocon-driven report distorts the public dialogue about NCLB with the intention of selling the public a newer, more expensive NCLB scheme.

The premise of the entire report is based on blindly accepting and naively interpreting NCLB test results as being meaningful measures of intellectual progress by students rather than say a measure of students and teachers becoming far more accomplished at drilling for and taking tests.

On page 5 of the report a number of inaccurate portrayed visual representations of the data are used to proclaim "No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is working precisely as designed". If you examine the data more carefully you'll note that not only doesn't NCLB do what its supposed to do but it statistically shows that it adds virtually no value to the system at all.

In these figures, if we ignore the initial ramp up to high stress testing mandated by NCLB we can see that both the 10th percentile and the 90th percentile are virtually flat-lining from 2002 until 2007. What marginal "achievement" is made is within the scope of statistical error given the sample size. Figure A, a (bad) graph of NAEP scores during the NCLB years indicates that between 2002 and 2007, the 10th percentile of students added 4 points and the 90th percentile added 4 points where 263 is the high score.

The report leads us to believe that this 2 point gap reduction between high and low learners over 5 years is both significant and worth the millions of wasted dollars, millions of wasted hours on high-stakes testing regiment, and chaotic devastation of arts programs that have followed in the wake of NCLB. And to add insult to injury we're expected to believe that this microscopic improvement in test taking skills will make these kids more competitive in the global marketplace.

Indubitably, this marginal result also negates the thesis of the study that high end learners are being short-changed by the drain of resources now consuming the test score improvement "gains" of our lowest achievers. What is more precisely documented in the details is the bankruptcy of NCLB and the retardation of education dedicated to all students.

Worse still is the assertion in a section called Amending NCLB that a majority of teachers "favors a proposal to amending it to add another mandate". Left unsaid is that teachers are never asked anywhere in the study whether or not NCLB should be eliminated. By selectively co-ercing respondents to amend NCLB or not amend NCLB the study falsely claims that teachers have no other opinions of the law.

And, to be clear, this neo-con education manifesto is manufacturing and promoting more expensive mandates to be added to NCLB. Once they deliver the federal mandate they intend to blame liberals for the expense.

Why education philanthropies continue to fund bad science is sinful. That these studies are largely political sado-pedagogical exercises is more saddening.

The report insists NCLB is narrowing the irrelevant gaps used by educators and bureaucrats to fund their wacko education schemes. Yet the high-achiever that they define under NCLB is the same high-achiever that existed before NCLB, accountability bunko-schemes, and the cruel bigotry of neo-con high-expectations rhetoric. Yes, high-achievers are the white children of the educated well-to-do who are great reading and math standardized test-takers.

Surprised? If you are you must be an education major or graduate of an American university with a teaching degree. That population never seems to get their own professional studies performed and interpreted accurately.

Math and science is not just challenging to students these days.

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