Here’s just another reason why Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, is right in wanting to shut down the U.S. Department of Education: Since 2000, the department’s budget has increased by 57 percent — and that’s adjusted for inflation!
A news release passed along by the Kentucky Department of Education says the Bluegrass State is about to get its first group of Teach for America (TFA) teachers. They are heading for some of our most demanding Appalachian area schools.
Who are these teachers? They are graduates from some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges who major in core academic subjects rather than education. They are competitively recruited by TFA to get the extra training they need for teaching and then commit to serve at least two years in a challenging school.
Teach for America’s web site says:
“Teach For America provides a critical source of well-trained teachers who are helping break the cycle of educational inequity. These teachers, called corps members, commit to teach for two years in one of 39 urban and rural regions across the country, going above and beyond traditional expectations to help their students to achieve at high levels.”
Outside research confirms that TFA teachers do a good job, especially in high schools.
One study by the University of North Carolina found that TFA teachers outperformed classically trained teachers from UNC in 5 out of 9 comparisons. TFA teachers matched the UNC graduates in the other four comparisons. In no case did the TFA teachers perform more poorly.
The same study shows TFA has the biggest advantage in high schools. That makes sense given the fact that TFA candidates have majored in important academic areas like math and science.
It will be interesting to see how the TFA teachers perform compared to other new teachers.
Will they match, or exceed, the performance of teachers from some of our ed schools?
Will Kentucky be able to encourage these potentially outstanding new teachers to stay on after their two-year commitments are completed?
“We have lowered our expectations to a level where getting by is considered acceptable,” wrote Hank Bond, publisher of the Greenup Beacon, in a recent column addressing problems with Kentucky’s education system.
Bond, who worked as a public relations professional with a school district for a few years, offers the close-up view of one who has witnessed the challenges of public education on a daily basis.
While he claims “the number one problem … is the level of interaction and interest of parents,” he also hammers on another theme, which really gets to the heart of it: “it’s time we as a general population increase our expectations.”
And it’s not just expectations of parents he addresses, either. Teachers, administrators. superintendents (and we will add lawmakers here) also need to up their game, he says.
“I just have to tell you this, money isn’t the answer. It is an expectation of excellence that is necessary,” he writes.
And I just have to say: Amen.
The Governor’s Education Task Force report proposes many ideas for ”breaking new ground” when it comes to Kentucky’s education system. However, a closer examination reveals that the task force’s recommendations offer a lot of talk about the same old ideas. Most of its politically correct — and politically safe — proposals have been tossed around for the last two decades with little or no progress made in the commonwealth’s education system.
Click here to read the latest Bluegrass Bullet.
Governor Steve Beshear treated the Boone County Education Foundation to nonsense education statistics a few days ago.
As reported by the Kentucky Enquirer in “Beshear touts education,” the governor touted Kentucky’s supposed dramatic improvement in the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing program compared to other states.
Well, as we’ve pointed out before, those rankings of NAEP performance, which the governor got from the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence – not a proper state agency – are mathematical nonsense.
Kentuckians deserve better data and a more reasoned evaluation of the performance of our education system.
First of all, the newspaper article refers to NAEP reading scores from 2008. I can’t tell for certain if that was the governor’s error, the Prichard Committee’s error, or a reporting problem, but the NAEP didn’t do any state reading testing in 2008.
The scores probably relate to 2009 NAEP results, so I’ll discuss some of the results for that year later. Rest assured, there is much more than a simple date error here.
The ranking is statistical nonsense
The NAEP is a sampled test. Only a small proportion of our students take it. As a consequence, the NAEP scores have enough plus and minus statistical sampling error to make Prichard’s simplistic rankings invalid.
The truth is, once you consider the plus and minus errors present in each state’s NAEP scores, it is difficult to determine exactly how each state really ranks. At best, you can only get a very fuzzy idea about how states compare to each other.
For example, I did a little work using the NAEP Data Explorer tool (a very useful, though complex, tool which allows checking for statistical significance in scores). My research shows that in 2009 grade 4 reading, Kentucky’s whites might rank anywhere from 40th place to 11th place compared to whites in other states plus Washington, DC (see map below). The statistical sampling error in the NAEP makes it impossible to tie this down more closely. How’s that for a lack of precision?
It’s the demographics
Why did I talk about white scores, and not overall scores such as the governor used?
An additional problem with the NAEP, which Prichard likes to conveniently ignore, is that when you look at the results, you simply must look at the scores disaggregated by race.
That’s not just my opinion. The people who run the NAEP now tell us this.
The new NAEP Science Report Card specifically points this out – using Kentucky as a specific example – with this graph on page 32.
Notice that while Kentucky’s overall score for eighth-grade science is statistically significantly higher than the nation (shown by the asterisk), the score for our white students is statistically significantly LOWER than the national white average.
How can that be, when whites comprise about 85 percent of our student population?
The answer is that other races in other states form a much larger share of the school populations there, and those other races score much lower than whites. So, if you only do simplistic comparisons of overall average scores, the demographics in other states put them at a disadvantage to a state like Kentucky where there are relatively few minorities.
The bottom line on demographics – you cannot simplistically compare Kentucky’s NAEP scores, where 85 percent of the students are white, to a place like California, where whites are now a minority and lower scoring Hispanics are the majority population. This is particularly true when many of those California Hispanics are still learning English.
It’s not that we are really doing much better. It’s that other states face growing educational challenges we don’t.
The people who run the NAEP know this. That is why Figure 32 and the related discussion were included in the 2009 NAEP Science Report Card.
I guess Prichard doesn’t read that sort of ‘stuff.’ Ditto for the governor.
If you exclude more learning disabled kids, of course you’ll have higher scores
There is still more. Kentucky excluded a higher percentage of learning disabled students than the national average in the 2009 reading assessments. That inflates our reading scores, which further clouds state comparisons.
To learn more
You can find a great discussion of all these NAEP issues along with some neat maps that show how the state really compares here.
If you are friends with the governor, you might suggest that he should take a look – and drop that Prichard nonsense. Kentuckians deserve more accuracy from their governor than this baloney.
In an encouraging sign that citizens are starting to take more interest in their schools, Education Week reports (subscription?) that local Tea Parties are starting to get involved in local school board races.
This marks an important change in the conduct of school board races, which in the past have often been dominated by teachers’ unions and their money.
Here in Kentucky, for example, a recent Bluegrass Institute open records request for ‘Independent Expenditures’ on behalf of political candidates uncovered evidence of the Jefferson County Teachers Association and its political action group providing individual school board candidates with campaign support over $100,000. It is virtually impossible for independent school board candidates to match such financial competition.
Absent involvement of a strong, motivated group like the Tea Party, teachers’ union dollars generally give the unions a free hand in controlling the races and, ultimately, the operation of local school systems. That leads to excessively teacher friendly but child hostile contracts and other programs such as Jefferson County’s disastrous busing for integration program.
Now, as EdWeek reports, citizens are waking up to reality – a huge proportion of their tax dollars go to our under-performing education system, so if citizens want to get some relief from the incessant expansion of taxes, the schools are one of the first places to look.