Monday, April 3, 2017

US Dept of Education - Obama Duncan King legacy

Currently as many  bemoan The Trump/ DeVos administration's proposed 15% cuts at DoE, it is time to assess the Obama DoE legacy.  The legacy is one of great Top-Down control executed through the use of big spending control via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA),  also known as the 2009 economic stimulus package, Race to the Top, School Improvement Grants and No Child Left Behind manipulations. But for the most part the actions of DoE improved nothing, as local control over curricular decisions was minimized.

#1  While theoretically parents could refuse to have their children tested in annual testing, the likelihood that most parents would know that was zero.  Schools, school districts, and states were not to have less than 95% of their students tested or there would be consequences.  If a teacher informed parents of the legal right to refuse testing, there were often consequences for the teacher.  Some teachers were fired for informing parents.   The law has now been changed and US DoE can no longer punish schools.

#2  The perceived concern for closing the opportunity gaps by US DoE during the 8 years of Obama was apparently nothing more than politically correct optics as the results from enormous spending (billions) on four poorly selected turnaround models for "failing schools" accomplished zero for students.

#3 The pushing of Common Core aligned materials and practices often took place through distorted counterproductive implementation.

#4 The NAEP results compared at 2009 beginning and 2015 end, show poorer results for every ethnic group except Hispanic students as students scoring at "Below Basic" increased.
Actions and recommendations were based on political preferences not relevant data, not enough time for careful analytic thoughts as DoE needed to get things moving. {apparently moving in the wrong direction based on NAEP results}

In October 2010 the ASCD's Education Leadership wrote "Research Says… / Drastic School Turnaround Strategies Are Risky."  Asking "about the  $3.5 billion federal investment to turn around the 5,000 worst-performing schools in the country. But can this kind of intervention work?" The turnaround models were not well devised and failed at enormous cost.

January 2017 AIR reported:
  • Overall, across all grades, implementing any SIG-funded model had no significant impacts on math or reading test scores, high school graduation, or college enrollment.
 Will the Trump admin do better or worse, while spending a lot less and supposedly allowing greater decision-making at the local level? Time will tell.
The NAEP data  changes 2015 minus  2009 for 12th grade math by ethnic grouping,
Increase in percent of population scoring at "Below Basic":

+2 27-25 White
+1 64-63 Black
-2 53-55 Hispanic
+6 22-16 Asian/Pacific Islander
+10 54-44 American Indian/ Alaska Native

Since White students scored worse, the only opportunity gaps that expanded were those of Asian/Pacific Islander students and American Indian/Alaska Natives.
The NAEP data  changes 2015 minus  2009 for 12th grade math by ethnic grouping,
Increase in percent of population scoring at "Proficient or Better":

-1 32-33 White
+1 7-6 Black
+1 12-11 Hispanic
-6 46-52 Asian/Pacific Islander
-2 10-12 American Indian/ Alaska Native

The large negative change in Asian/Pacific Islander performance might be do to the reform math push to make math instruction less about procedural fluency with numbers and more about written explanations in the classroom practice.
 Percent of students scoring at the advanced level in 2015

3 White
0 Black
1 Hispanic
9 Asian/Pacific Islander
0 American Indian/Alaska Native


The NAEP data  changes 2015 minus  2009 for 12th grade math by school location,
increase in percent of population scoring at "Below Basic":

+4 43-39 City
+3 35-32 Suburban
+1 39-38 Town
+2 39-37 Rural

While President Obama was very popular among African-Americans in the cities, the policies employed by Arne Duncan as CEO of Chicago Public Schools were not.  Duncan's unpopular policies served as a foundation for his actions as US Secretary of Education.

Today, this is typical of the selection of persons for educational leadership positions. An ineffective leader is promoted to a greater position of power and the net results are more poor results.  As long as political consideration trumps the intelligent application of relevant data, it is bizarre to think things will be better.  This same scenario is repeated throughout the nation. The administrative superstructure of most public educational k-12 schools and agencies has no use for relevant data.

In the State of Washington, since Terry Bergeson's reign as SPI and the WASL testing mandated in 1993, there has been little room for much other than Reform Math, accompanied by marginal improvement if any.  The 2008 Washington Math Standards were a step in a positive direction but soon Common Core State Standards became the Washington State Standards and an over-emphasis on the Standards for Mathematical Practice.

One should not overlook the Gates Foundation's indirect control over education policy through its funding of various groups and agents to influence public policy.   Yes this is a part of Obama's legacy.

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