I was shocked. Shocked these new reforms were not working.  After all, in the States of the Union speeches all we’ve heard were success stories… such as that of Michelle Rhee of Washington DC, Arne Duncun of Chicago, and Mayor Bloomberg of  New York…  With such beautiful marketing, I wasn’t worried. Sure our kids were finally learning how to be world class leaders with the world class education we were giving them….

But, just like marketing can sell a toothpaste we wouldn’t otherwise buy, “Hi, I’m Adam Scott, and I brush my teeth with Arm and Hammer Baking Soda and Mortons Iodized salt.  Now you can too.” we really don’t know how it tastes…   until we taste it.   Same with education.  Now in Washington, Chicago, and New York, there is a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths…..

An Executive Summary of a study was released today.   The study will come out later, but the executive summary does not paint a rosy picture on how this system seems to be working….

Here are key findings…..

The reforms deliver few benefits and in some cases harm the students they purport to help, while drawing attention and resources away from policies with real promise to address poverty-related barriers to school success:

Test scores increased less, and achievement gaps grew more, in “reform” cities than in other urban districts.

Reported successes for targeted students evaporated upon closer examination.

Test-based accountability prompted churn that thinned the ranks of experienced teachers, but not necessarily bad teachers.

School closures did not send students to better schools or save school districts money.

Charter schools further disrupted the districts while providing mixed benefits, particularly for the highest-needs students.

Emphasis on the widely touted market-oriented reforms drew attention and resources from initiatives with greater promise.

The reforms missed a critical factor driving achievement gaps: the influence of poverty on academic performance. Real, sustained change requires strategies that are more realistic, patient, and multipronged.

In most large urban districts studied, test score gains among minority students narrowed race-based achievement gaps, and low-income students had gains comparable to their affluent peers. This contrasts with reform cities, where achievement gaps grew as poor and minority students’ scores fell further behind those of their peers. Apparently disruption and “churn” do exactly that to the test scores of students in reform districts. If left alone, they’d be much higher.

This is for Jea Street. Without these reforms being pushed by RTTT, black 8th Graders nationwide increased their scores by 5 points… In Michelle Rhee’s DC district, the same group LOST 2 POINTS…. (Source:National Center for Education Statistics, Trial Urban District Reading Assessment, 2005 and 2011; National Assess-ment of Educational Progress scores for District of Columbia Public Schools provided by D.C. budget consultant Mary
Levy in 2012.)

“While test scores increased and achievement gaps shrank in most large urban districts over the past decade, scores stagnated for low-income and minority students and/or achievement gaps widened in the reform cities.” the study concluded….DC, Chicago, and New York all lost ground and other urban areas gained ground….

The reform policy does not work. It has not worked where it has been tried. We need to stop the poison from spreading. Reformers claimed massive test score gains that data proved false… For example Bloomberg claimed he decreased the achievement gap by 50%… It was 1%. Michelle Rhee stated that low income and minority high school students had gain in double digit proficiency. Instead, the gain was minimal, no improvement, and sometimes showing losses. Obama and Arne Duncun have announced a jump in proficiency from 38% to 67%, a jump of 29 points. However when adjusted to the national test, younger children jumped 8 points, and high schools only jumped 1.

Furthermore, these cities that used test scores to fire teachers, lost experienced educators and replaced them with people off the streets. Needless to say, there was no student improvement. In 2 years, 33% of DC’s teachers left. In four years, over half, 54% were working elsewhere….

New York City spent $50 million from 2007 to 2010 on awards to teachers who substantially raised test scores in high-needs schools. In 2011, it ended the program after a RAND study confirmed “mounting evidence that all those bonuses weren’t having much of an effect.” Way to set the trend Christina School Board. Jea Street: are you taking notes?

“The Schoolwide Performance Bonus Program, intended to “motivate educators to change their practices to ones better able to improve student achievement” failed to improve student achievement at any grade level, school progress report scores, or teachers’ reported attitudes and behaviors”…

Likewise closing schools that do not perform… just sends those students to other schools that do not perform. Only 6% of students moved in Chicago, actually landed in a better school… leaving 94% who were disrupted for no reason. In fact, many did worse.

Charter Schools did no better. Only 17% of Charter students did better than their public school counterparts. 49% stayed the same. 34% did worse.

Furthermore, some of the successes using more holist types of attack, are not given funding or praise because they clash with the corporate “message” being sold to the public. But, New York has 100 successful schools that increased the share of ninth-grade students on track to graduate and high school students’ college readiness. Instead of beating up teachers, these schools ensured strong, consistent student-teacher relationships; leveraged community partners for extra staff, coaching, and resources; and provided hands-on learning experiences, such as internships at lawfirms and seeding oyster beds….

To attract more high-quality teachers to Chicago Public Schools, then-CEO Arne Duncan identified the strongest teacher-preparation programs and encouraged CPS to hire from them, moved recruitment dates up, established job fairs to boost recruiting ability, and offered new teachers higher starting salaries. This improved teacher quality and reduced inequities across districts.

One of the better successes that is NOT a market based reformed program is that of Montgomery County of Maryland, which staunchly opposes using test scores to evaluate teachers, making it one of the best districts in the nation. It also never let in charter schools. Going in another direction, Cincinnati provides in-school health clinics which has cut down absences by a large factor. With no doctors care available for children at home, students previously stayed away from school getting behind and never catching up…

These reforms have better results than the reforms currently being foisted upon Delaware by it’s Race To The Top and by the Rodel Foundation. The best success comes from strong teacher-student relationships. The most successful students are ones in classes where a student teacher ration is under 11-1….

That is the direction the nation needs to go.