2011 Trial Urban NAEP-Which Districts to Avoid When Reincarnated as a Poor Child…

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

…if you want to learn how to read. In the great reincarnation to come, you want to request Tampa, New York City or Miami. You are three or more times more likely to learn to read at a high level than in Fresno. DC has improved but is still horrible.

I haven’t read the appendix about the inclusion/exclusion rates but the burden of proof lies on Kentucky rather than the other way around on that Jefferson County number. Tied with Boston? Color me skeptical.

Everyone in Wisconsin ought to be horrified by the abomination that is the Milwaukee Public Schools. These awful results make me all the more grateful that kids have the possibility of choosing a charter or private school, and the results may have been even worse in the past (can’t track them very far back) but it is time for something far more drastic.

There should be no bullets left in the gun when it comes to Milwaukee. Policymakers should correct the bad joke of an accountability system the state has employed for starters. Lawmakers expanded appropriately expanded choice last year (can’t get too many lifeboats for that sinking ship) but ought to consider a different governance structure as well.

Meh results from former reform luminaries North Carolina and Texas. The low-hanging fruit has been picked off the tree.

Discuss amongst yourselves…

25 Responses to 2011 Trial Urban NAEP-Which Districts to Avoid When Reincarnated as a Poor Child…

  1. MOMwithAbrain says:

    I would just add some caution to this article: in NH we do relatively well on the NAEP, however what you do not see is the number of students who are receiving instruction from outside tutors.

  2. Efavorite says:

    Matt – thanks for this — I hope you plan to do more analysis on the TUDA scores, especially DC public schools, which should have been showing the benefits of reform by now.

    The mainstream media, which has followed DC’s school reform closely since it began in 2007, has been pretty quiet about the dismal results here. There have been a few mentions, but no analysis, except on the brandenburg blog. http://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/

    Even Chancellor Henderson, formerly Rhee’s deputy, has not attempted to make lemonade out of lemons. The former Chancellor, Michelle Rhee, has gone completely quiet, as far as I can tell and the Washington Post editorial board has not yet taken on it’s usual cheerleader role.

    It seems to me that there’s as much a lesson in failure as there is is success. Thus, I hope for the sake of the kids and future reform efforts, that the DC situation is studied thoroughly and is not quietly dismissed just because it fizzled.

  3. matthewladner says:


    DC is simulataneously a disaster and among the leaders in long term NAEP gains. Go back and look at the scores in the early to mid 1990s. Rhee can be faulted for her style of leadership, but on the policy front if anything she was too timid.

  4. Efavorite says:

    Rhee was not responsible for DCPS’ long term gains, as you know, because she wasn’t there. No one seemed to be very interested in DC’s steady progress until Rhee arrived in 2007. In fact some assumed scores had been plummeting before her arrival and that she magically did something to get them on the move.

    Actually, the rate of growth in DC leveled off during the Rhee-Henderson reform years, as you also know.

    Huge reforms were made once Rhee and her deputy, now chancellor, Kaya Henderson arrived — half the principals replaced, an influx of TFA teachers in some of the neediest schools, a new union contract with fewer teacher protections, an experiment paying kids for attendance, good behavior and grades, higher pay for all teachers, a teacher evaluation system that weeded out “ineffective” teachers and offered merit pay to “highly effective” teachers.

    In an earlier post preceding the State NAEP results, you said that “For DC, the 2011 NAEP will constitute the first plausible check on the tenure of Michelle Rhee.”

    Now that we have the complete results, I’m still hoping for an honest analysis and wondering if the reason that there hasn’t been one is because DC school reform is not the exciting success story that was anticipated. So instead of studying it in a way that could benefit future reform efforts – and future kids – it’s ignored and minimized.

  5. matthewladner says:


    I’m trying to figure out why you seem to be trying to cyberstalk Rhee and Henderson here in the comments section of JPGB. They aren’t here.

    If you will go back and look at the post from a few weeks ago, you’ll see that DC had among the largest combined gains on NAEP for the 2007-2011 period. It’s a shame about Rhee sacrificing your favorite puppy to Satan and all, but don’t forget that the pound has plenty of dogs looking for a loving home.

  6. Efavorite says:

    If I wanted to stalk Rhee and Henderson, I wouldn’t have to do it on the internet– I know where they live.

    Thanks for your response, though, It tells me beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have no interest in a rational accounting of the “tragedy that is DC” as you yourself put it.

    • allen says:

      Oh, run along internet banana. No one’s much interested in breathless “proof” of the invalidity of anything other then the orthodox district-based public education system or Michelle Rhee’s devilish wickedness which simply must be why she fired a bunch of incompetent, uncaring hacks.

      Rhee’s only “crime” was timidity and that was a function of the political realities.

      The D.C. school district, like all school districts, is inherently indifferent to education which means most school districts will suck by any reasonable measure – that’s one of the reasons why accountability’s such a frightening prospect – and those that don’t suck are as good as they are because of a confluence of unlikely and not easily replicable circumstances.

    • matthewladner says:

      If you know where they live, I suggest that you seek out therapy.


  7. Efavorite says:

    Hi, Allen,

    I’d be interested in how you think Rhee’s “timidity” relates to her having fired a lot of teachers and principals, or , as you put it, “a bunch of incompetent, uncaring hacks.”

    Education Next called her “Braveheart” a couple of years ago. Do you think that was an incorrect characterization?

    Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like you’re saying that “all school districts” with DC as an example – even after what most commentators have called “bold” reforms – are unlikely prospects for reform, except by hard-to- replicate circumstances.

    Does that mean you think long-term, widespread planned school reform is impossible and should be abandoned as a goal?

    • allen says:

      “Timidity” because an honest appraisal of the institution of public education as it’s constituted in the United States would conclude that among the various possible ways of structuring such an institution we’ve managed to zero in on perhaps the worst possible – the district system.

      That would be a dangerous degree of honesty because far too many people still labor under the misconception that public education requires a school district.

      Public education does not require a school district and much of what’s wrong with public education, from the bland indifference to teacher skill to the edu-crap that periodically extrudes from schools of education springs from the school district. That lack of public cognizance of the possibility of alternatives to the school district is enough to deter even someone as hard-nosed as Rhee’s reputed to be.

      Having accepted the job of school superintendent she’s on the hook to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

      Courage, and perhaps a greater degree of insight, would’ve required her to identify a sow’s ear as such and reject the job. Or perhaps she’s either arrogant enough or ignorant enough to think she could do what no one’s ever done before – turn a large, urban school district into an institution of education. The possibilities are numerous but her failure, and the failure of every other school superintendent among which were some pretty estimable individuals, is strongly suggestive of an underlying, and uniform, factor that precludes success.

      • Efavorite says:

        I call the underlying and uniform factor you mention the incredibly hard work of seriously addressing the effects of poverty on education.

        It was stupid and brash for Rhee and Henderson and many other reformers to believe they could overcome the effects of poverty simply by leaning on teachers. It required even more stupidity and brashness — not timidity, in my book — to believe that any set of individuals, working alone in classrooms, could achieve something so vastly difficult — but believe it they did.

        See the following recent articles for more on this.


      • Efavorite says:

        I call the underlying and uniform factor you mention the incredibly hard work of seriously addressing the effects of poverty on education.

        It was stupid and brash for Rhee and Henderson and many other reformers to believe they could overcome the effects of poverty simply by leaning on teachers. It required even more stupidity and brashness — not timidity, in my book — to believe that any set of individuals, working alone in classrooms, could achieve something so vastly difficult — but believe it they did.

        For more on this subject, see Judith Warner’s recent article in TIme and Valerie Strauss’ “A superintendent calls school reformers’ bluff” by Superitendent John Kuhn.

      • allen says:

        “seriously addressing the effects of poverty on education.”?


        Ask the mommies and daddies who live with the reality of the D.C. school system whether they want to wait another couple of decades for noble edu-experts to get around to addressing the effects of poverty or whether they’d rather have the option of sending their kid to a charter and I’ll give you odds as to the answer you’ll receive nine times out of ten.

        Oh, and what’s the D.C. per student funding level at that the district admits too? $16,000/student? If that isn’t enough, what is? Cato Institute pegged it at over $29,000 per student.

        It’s a trick question as you well know.

        No amount of funding’s enough to “seriously address the effects of poverty” because funding pays the professionals who have only a tangential interest in the kids.

  8. Efavorite says:

    Mathew — does the therapy advice apply to others who could know their whereabouts? Henderson has lived in DC many years and has an office in a government building, making her very easy to find.

    Rhee’s house in DC was occasionally on the local news and she is now the wife of of a public official.

    Because I’m normal, i don’t think of stalking people on the internet or in person. However, like Rhee and Henderson, I do think that adults should be held responsibie for their actions,especially when they relate to kids, which is why I’m still hoping for a fair and complete analysis of their school reform efforts in DC.

  9. Efavorite says:

    sorry for double posting, I thought the first one was “awaiting moderation” because it had links.

    also – meant to say “superintendent”

  10. Efavorite says:

    Allen – I’m sure you’re right — DC parents would opt for a good charter school over “waiting decades” for poverty to abate, but those aren’t the choices.

    I bet parents would opt first for a good neighborhood school – one they could be guaranteed to get into without a lottery. Many would opt for a private school, if they had the funds. But those aren’t the issues.

    The issue is that whatever choices or limitations parents have right now, poverty also needs to be addressed to help kids in the future.

    It’s not that the current reformers didn’t take poverty seriously — they thought they were addressing it by their complete focus on teacher quality. At least that’s what they said. For instance,

    Henderson:“I’m not discounting the effects of poverty or kids coming to school hungry, but we can’t use that as an excuse for not reaching our kids. At the end of the day, you know and I know, great teachers who took kids from improbable circumstances and catapulted them to great lives and we have to ensure that this is the norm and not the exception.”

    Rhee: “As a teacher in this system, you have to be willing to take personal responsibility for ensuring your children are successful despite obstacles…

    We’ve already lost 5 years in DC pretending that effective teaching can overcome poverty. It’s time for a realistic approach – to education and poverty.

    • allen says:

      Save you excuses for the current system for someone who either already agrees with you or someone who hasn’t heard them plenty of times. Those excuses aren’t selling any more although you can be excused for your studied ignorance by the still-emergent state of the replacement for the current system.

      Oh, and you’d lose that bet because those parents have been waiting for “good neighborhood, i.e. district, schools” for a long time. They’re tired of waiting and charters are the alternative available to the greatest number of those parents right now. A bird in the hand and all that sort of thing.

      I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about the DC school district. In the not-too-distant future the valuelessness of the school district as a means of organizing public education will be recognized and the days of the D.C. school district, and all school districts, will be numbered.

      • Efavorite says:

        What’s not selling anymore is the excuse of “no excuses” — because the data that reformers love finally caught up with them.

        Making demands, having high expectations and being a true believer didn’t work. That is the takeaway.

        I do find it a somewhat heartening that there is relative silence about that. I haven’t yet read any reformers insisting that the data show that we haven’t fired and hired enough teachers and principals — just give us two more years to clean out the rest of the deadwood and watch the scores soar!

        They know that argument won’t fly.

        Maybe it’s being replaced by the school-district-must-go argument. If that gets legs, it should keep the next wave of reformers busy for a long time. Or maybe they’ll throw in the towel and find another cause, or a higher paying job.

      • allen says:

        Tell that to the state legislators who, having heard the voice of parents tired of a second-class public education system run for the convenience of the professionals, have responded by relentlessly expanding choice.

        Oh look! They’re not listening to you!

        They’re the folks who don’t agree with you on the sanctity of the district system and are tired of endless excuses for failure.

        That’s why there’s been a flurry of bills passed creating and expanding voucher programs. That’s why a bunch of states have displayed a positively unseemly degree of interest in “parental trigger”. That’s why a bunch of states are taking the political shackles off of charters.

        And those NAEP results? They just add a bit of extra impetus.

    • Efavorite says:

      I tried to post links to the quotes. The first one is from “Mount Vernon today” (NY) and the second from the Atlantic.

      • Greg Forster says:

        The software required your comment to go through moderator approval because it consisted almost entirely of URLs.

  11. Efavorite says:

    Allen, I think you are the one to tell it to the legislators. After Rhee’s failure, you have obviously selected legislators as as the next great hope for public education, .

    If the new buzz is that Rhee was too timid, you won’t be the only one looking to more powerful entities to keep themselves employed and fired up by a noble cause.

    You better apply for jobs in state government soon, though, because there could be an onslaught of applicants from DCPS as former true believers leave to avoid any further tainting of their reputations.

    I expect some of them will leave education and the chimera of a noble cause all together, though, if they are young enough to start over and still have good contacts in other more lucrative fields.

  12. allen says:

    You obviously want the last comment your posts becoming gradually more free of content so knock yourself out.

    Nothing you can post here, indeed nothing any of you stalwart defenders of the status quo can do, is going to stop the up-ending of the public education system to the vast benefit of society if not to those who’ve found a comfortable existence doing as little as possible to earn their keep.

  13. Efavorite says:

    I’m afraid you’ve got me wrong. I am completely against defending the status-quo, which is the nearly five years of school reform in DC which has so clearly failed. There is no defense for continuing such an obviously failed venture. You also agree that it was a bust.

    I am relieved to just have heard that Roland Fryer, Harvard Economist, will not take on evaluating the DCPS teacher evaluation system (IMPACT) because the DCPS management team would not allow random assignment of teachers into “treatment” and “control” groups. Seems like DCPS is only interested in consultants and data it can manipulate.

    See “IMPACT study scuttled by differences over method” by Bill Turque in today’s online Washington Post.

    How’s that for content richness?

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