Monday, March 16, 2009

Another reply to President Obama

I wasn't the only one concerned about the President's remarks on Massachusetts and education last week. I recently received the following press release from Citizens for Public Schools:



President Barack Obama is right to praise the work of Massachusetts teachers, students and families in supporting high-quality public education, but too much credit is given to the high-stakes MCAS for our school success, according to Citizens for Public Schools, a broad coalition of organizations and individuals committed to public education. What's more, there are serious negative consequences of our high-stakes testing regime, such as high minority dropout rates and stagnant or growing race-based achievement gaps, CPS said.

"We are proud to be recognized by our president for our state's commitment to public schools," said Ruth Rodriguez, co-president of CPS. The organization advocates for closing achievement gaps, adequate public school funding, keeping resources for public schools under public control, and using multiple forms of assessment to evaluate and improve student learning and school quality.

"There's a lot of mythology masquerading as fact in state and national discussions of Massachusetts school policy," Rodriguez said. "It's crucial to sort facts from fiction and listen to students, teachers and parents here before national education policy is modeled on Massachusetts. Real educational problems cannot be solved without considering the real circumstances for our schools and children. More charters and tougher tests do not make sound educational policy."

CPS noted four myths that contribute to major misunderstandings about Massachusetts:

Myth #1: Massachusetts schools were mediocre before the high-stakes MCAS and top-notch after.

Reality: Massachusetts students ranked at or near the top on measures like the National Assessment of Educational Policy (NAEP) long before MCAS. For example, in 1992, no states scored significantly higher than Massachusetts in 4th and 8th grade reading, according to NAEP.

Myth #2: The MCAS is working to expose and close race-based achievement gaps.

Reality: On independent measures like NAEP, achievement gaps between whites and minorities are growing. From 2000 to 2007, the state's black-white gap on 8th grade math grew 14 points, from 26 to 40, making Massachusetts the worst ranked state in the nation.

Myth #3: A new study proves charter schools outperform public schools across the board and are laboratories of innovation.

Reality: Media reports focused on one part of a Boston Foundation-funded study, which was based on just 26% of charter schools. This skewed sample included only the most popular and high-performing charter schools. The fact is, successful innovation is happening in all kinds of schools: regular public, charters and pilots.

Myth #4: There's no link between the MCAS and rising minority dropout rates.

Reality: Students who fail the MCAS are 11 times more likely to drop out of high school.

Since the MCAS began [in 2003], the dropout rate for English Language Learners in Massachusetts has soared, from 7.4% to 9.1% in 2007.

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