Monday, July 20, 2009

'Improved statistical housekeeping' in D.C.

Another miracle?

No, it's not the Texas miracle (Rod Paige). It's not the Chicago miracle (Arne Duncan) either. No, this time we're all talking about the Michelle Rhee miracle in D.C. If you haven't already heard the news, test scores have gone up in the nation's capital, under Rhee's precise and decisive test-prep strategy.

Yes, elementary schools increased their scores by 8.1 % in math, 3.8% in reading. In the middle and high schools it was a 2% increase in reading and 4% in math.

What's the significance of all these numbers? Do they indicate a real improvement in teaching and learning? Well no. Not exactly. Do they reflect an improvement in the living conditions for students outside of school? Well no, not that either. Do they mean anything at all has changed in the classroom? No. Then what exactly did Supt. Rhee to increase scores on the DCComp tests?

It's simple, according to the Washington Post report. Taking her cue from Chicago, she used a strategy that relied on "improved statistical housekeeping."

Rhee's version includes,

"intensive test preparation targeted to a narrow group of students on the cusp of proficient, or passing, scores, and "cleaning the rosters" of students ineligible to take the tests -- and also likely to pull the numbers down." Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee described some of these approaches as the pursuit of "low-hanging fruit."

Others call it educational triage.


The Second International Handbook of Educational Change is out. The blurb reads: "Written by the most influential thinkers in the field." Sounds like a must-read for a guy like me who aspires to be such a thinker. It's edited by some of my favorites--Andy Hargreaves and Ann Lieberman. So I went on Amazon to order a copy. Figured I'd read it over the summer break. Maybe even use it in my class next quarter. Guess what?Amazon has it on sale for only $588.73 (they throw in free-shipping). That's a savings of 18%, down from the list price of $679. It makes me wonder, what kind of "educational change" they're thinking about and who they think will make it?


Another horrific story about the American Indian Public Charter Schools in Oakland, "The Education Revolution: Cookie Cutter Kids?

How it all plays out in East Austin.


  1. Great great post Mike. First day I worked at Bloomberg's failing public schools in New York my superior told me he didn't focus on the first third (will already make it) or the bottom third (no chance) but concentrated strictly on just the third in the middle that had a chance to shoot up results.

    Does that mean he should get paid just 1/3 of his salary? I didn't ask but really wanted to. This kind of mentality, fueled by test score mania is disgusting.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Mike,

    Great post about test scores in DC today. I just wanted to give you a head's up about a little blog we have in DC called "Teachers and Parents for Real Education Reform"

    We cover the issues from a similar perspective to yours, with authentic DCPS teacher voices and parent voices. You might want to link to our blog. We do to yours.

    -- Mark


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