Thursday, January 5, 2017

U.S. schools get a C on Quality Counts Report. Here's why.

Massachusetts defends schools from privatization. Ranks #1 in Quality Counts.
Edweek's annual Quality Counts report gives the nation's increasingly two-tier school system a letter grade C, as it almost always does. Thirty years of corporate-style school reform under both Democratic and Republican regimes hasn't moved the needle very much.

My problem with the report is that,in reality, there is no national school system or one set of standards for them to be graded on. This will be increasingly so during the Betsy DeVos era.  So Edweek creates its own, as well as its own grading metrics. 

As you can tell, I'm skeptical. What they've done here, as most of these studies do (without a mention of race or poverty, by the way) is to throw together into one pot the nations's wealthy schools with those with concentrated poverty, as if they were all one thing that could be graded on the same rubric. If the nation's wealthiest schools were separated out, they would likely get an A grade, using Edweek's indices. Resource-starved, racially isolated schools with high concentrations of children living in poverty would likely get an F. Mush them all together and you inevitably wind up with a C.

Here are the indices they use:
• The Chance-for-Success Index uses a cradle-to-career perspective to examine the role of education in promoting positive outcomes throughout an individual’s lifetime.
• The school finance analysis evaluates spending on education and equity in funding across districts within a state.
• The K-12 Achievement Index, last updated in 2016, scores states on current academic performance, change over time, and poverty-based gaps.
A case could also be made for giving an F for having a highly segregated, two-tier public education system in the first place.

When the study looks at schools on a state level, it's more compelling. While the national grade is always a C, there's slightly more mobility and variance in state grades. Massachusetts, for all its social inequality, is still a wealthy state and spends more on public ed and early childhood ed, has strong teacher unions, and generally defends its public sector against privatization with a cap on charter school expansion. So as expected, Massachusetts takes first place among the states for the third year in a row, with aB grade (A- in Chance for Success).

At the bottom, as you might expect, sits Mississippi with a limited safety net, itslegacy of segregation and Jim Crow, the highest concentrations of poverty in the country, few dollars spent on public ed and no teacher unions allowed.

You don't need much of a study to figure how this will turn out. Rich will get richer.  The poor will be taken over or privatized


  1. Agree. This is Social Darwinism run wild.

  2. Karen Rosenkilde-BayneJanuary 6, 2017 at 7:01 PM

    Dear Dr. Klonsky,

    I follow Diane Ravitch's blog and you were cited on it today. So I read your blog post in response to the EdWeek article about giving US Schools a "C". I totally agree with you and signed up to follow your blog tonight as well.

    I decided that you are clearly someone I need to know!

    About me:
    I am a newly-elected school board member in Woodland, CA.
    Woodland is a town about 30 minutes east of Sacramento and 15 minutes north of Davis (and UC Davis.) I have a BA in English (UCD) and a MS in School Counseling (CSU Sacto). I am married to a public school teacher (hs, computer science), and we have two daughters, 16 and 20. I worked for a number of different schools as a school counselor, including Sac High Charter (Kevin Johnson/Michelle Rhee) during it's first year and conversion to a charter with small schools. I also worked for two years as a school counselor in the school district where I am now a board member. I became an independent college admissions counselor after becoming a parent as it afforded me more flexibility to be involved in my children's lives...

    ...So, long story short, I liked your blog and the stuff you write about. I'm still interested in small schools, despite my somewhat negative experience with them at Sac Charter, and I'd like to know more to see if they might be a good fit for our district. I've been thinking about this for years, and although we do have SLC's, they're not really very effective in the ways which I would like them to be effective.

    I also saw that you are an educational consultant, and I was wondering if you have any advice to a newly elected School Board member?

    Unfortunately, I am unlikely to come to Chicago (though I wish I could), so email will have to suffice. Or maybe you could write your answer in your blog so your readership could read it.

    Here's my question:
    Many people tell me that school board is a thankless job and that a person can't make any real changes to education as a school board member. They tell me that school boards are basically obsolete and that most people on them are ineffective rubber stamps. What do you think? Is it possible to improve the education of the children in a community by being a school board member? And if so, how?

    Thank you for your time.

    Karen Rosenkilde-Bayne, MS, PPS
    Trustee, Woodland Joint Unified School District
    And Independent College Counselor

    PS: in a reply to a letter I wrote to Diane Ravitch about a year and a half ago, she encouraged me to run, so something must be possible, right?


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