“The singular feature of education reform in the 21st century . . .”

by David Safier

This is one of the best lines about the "educational reform movement," Bush era and beyond, I have read:

The singular feature of education reform in the 21st century is a willing suspension of disbelief.

It's from a blog post by Diane Ravitch. She's talking about the "Texas miracle" which should have been called the "Texas Smoke and Mirrors." No Child Left Behind and the whole testing obsession are the byproduct of the "spectacular results" of educational reform in Texas — results that never happened. The books were cooked, big time.

How successful was the "Texas Miracle"? According to Laura Bush, not very, though she doesn't put it that way. From Ravitch:

Just recently, former first lady Barbara Bush wrote an opinion article in the Houston Chronicle, arguing against budget cuts to education in Texas. She wrote: "We rank 36th in the nation in high school graduation rates. … We rank 49th in verbal SAT scores, 47th in literacy, and 46th in average math SAT scores."

Surprise! We were duped into believing there was an answer out there, and it was Texas. So the whole country was turned into Texas during the Bush years, and in more ways than just education.

In Arizona, the current duping is about the "Florida Miracle" which doesn't exist in the way it has been presented to us. Our legislature has adopted bits and pieces of what Florida has done over the past decade, and probably the least valuable bits and pieces.We haven't raised education spending, as Florida did, and we haven't created an intensive reading tutoring program for 1st through 3rd graders either.

But as Diane Ravitch wrote:

The singular feature of education reform in the 21st century is a willing suspension of disbelief.

A STATISTICAL NOTE: Barbara Bush's use of SAT scores to show how poorly Texas students are doing is completely bogus, since SATs are voluntary, and a state's average score is based more on the number of students who take the test than on the overall achievement of the state's students. So I put no stock in Bush's stats. I give far more credence to Ravitch, who says the NAEP scores of Texas' 8th graders haven't budged since 1998. If there had been a "miracle," those numbers should have shot up relative to the rest of the country.

0 responses to ““The singular feature of education reform in the 21st century . . .”

  1. David;

    Here’s an interesting twist on SAT’s and ACT’s. It used to be true, and may still be true, that there was a negative correlation between SAT score and distance from a coast. It also was true that there was a positive correlation between ACT scores and distance from a coast.

    It also was true, and almost surely still is true, that there was a negative correlation between the percentage of a high school senior class taking either the SAT or ACT. The more kids who take the exam the lower the average score.

    These two phenomena can be explained by remembering that the outfit that produces the ACT is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa and has a big mid-western following while the SAT comes out of Princeton, New Jersey and is popular on the east coast and the Ivy League wannabes on the west coast.

    All just goes to show how tricky using test scores can be.