Valerie Strauss Throws Her Shoe at the Telescreen

May 30, 2018

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The never ending two minute hate over at the Answer Sheet blog prints a long write up regarding the parental choice movement by Joanne Barkan. It is generally a color-by-numbers case for the evils of education reform, although I approve of her quoting of Rick Hess, who makes an important point.

Omitted from the saga is the part where school district elections often involve single digit rates for turnout, the decades of steadily increasing spending per pupil without substantially improved student learning outcomes, gigantic equity concerns, etc. These sort of concerns are artfully dodged with a simple “Over time, many Americans came to regard public education as a mainstay of democracy.”

The Emmanuel Goldstein of this story are the various villains supporting charter schools, private school choice, and standardized testing. Draining money, creating a terrible false impression of a non-existent academic crisis, etc.

In response, I offer the following chart from the NAEP. Florida started all of this nasty and brutish testing and choice business around about 1999. They did both of these things with relative gusto. If it is as terrible as all of that, we does NAEP show the percentage of Florida 4th graders unable to make heads or tails of 4th grade math and reading in sharp decline?

The last math NAEP given before the neo-liberal legion of darkness Jeb Bush and company instituted their reforms was 1996. The last reading pre-Jeb reading exam was 1998.

The lost golden age of late 1990s Florida K-12 involved almost half of students scoring below basic on both 4th grade math and reading. Sure Florida may have a much more diverse student body today than in 1998, and more of them seem to be learning, but ah, well, maybe it would have been even more progress if not for any of that nasty reform business, but color me skeptical.


Education Reform and Colored Maps

April 5, 2010

 (Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I read Paul Johnson’s book Modern Times as an undergraduate, and I’ll never forget his description of the Age of Colonial Empire.

Johnson said that while indeed there were vast fortunes to be made for some, that Empire also entailed enormous costs.

In the end, he said, European Empires were about colored maps.

Well, here’s a colored map for you- 4th grade reading scores for Hispanics in Florida compared to statewide averages in other states, via our friends at the Heritage Foundation.

That’s quite an empire that Florida’s Hispanics are creating, don’t you think? Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to joke that high performance on NAEP was directly correlated with proximity to the Canadian border, but notice the long list of predominantly Anglo states on the map: Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, South Dakota, etc. etc. etc.

Notice also the presence of some states that have been very proud of their K-12 reforms in the past: North Carolina and Texas for instance. Oh, and one of the winners of the Race to the Top, Tennessee. I don’t need to write a sardonic comment, because you’ve already thought of one on your own. Feel free to share it in the comments section.

Here’s another smaller, but rapidily growing empire:

Florida’s African Americans tied or outscored two statewide averages on the 2007 NAEP, but their empire extended to 8 states in 2009. The Deep South may want to pull their heads out of the sand, because they are next on the list unless they pick up their games.

Yes, I’m looking at you Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee. Florida’s African American students have their hands on the Risk dice and are ready to invade you with their plastic armies. Florida’s Free and Reduced Lunch Eligible kids already outscore your statewide average for all students in your states.

Progress on the Achievement Gap

March 25, 2010


(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Loyal JPGB customers may recall one o f the earliest posts about how I went on an adventure in Oregon, noticed that everyone looked Anglo and wealthy, and asked What’s the Matter with Oregon? when I looked at their NAEP test scores.

Well, by way of update, Florida’s Hispanic students tied the statewide average for Anglo students on 4th grade reading in 2009. In fact, the exceeded or tied Anglo students in five states: Louisiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon and West Virginia.

Florida’s Hispanics scored within a couple of points of Anglo students in huge number of states, including Iowa and Maine.

My first reaction?


My second reaction: somebody travel out to Oregon and wake up the policymakers. It’s a beautiful state you’ve got out there, but granola and illiteracy don’t mix terribly well.

Florida Crushes the Ball on 2009 NAEP Reading

March 24, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The NAEP released reading scores for the 2009 Reading exams for both 4th and 8th grade. Florida once again crushed the ball in improving student performance. While the nation’s  4th grade reading scores remained flat, Florida’s scores surged ahead.

In 2007, Florida’s Hispanic students outscored 15 statewide averages for all students on 4th grade reading. Two years later, Florida Hispanics tied or outscored 30 statewide averages. Florida’s Hispanics scored 13 points higher than the statewide average for all students in Arizona in 2009, over a grade level worth of learning (10 points roughly equaling a grade level’s worth of learning).

Arizona had company. Florida’s Hispanic students also outscored or tied the statewide averages for all students in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Florida’s African American students also beat the statewide average for all students in Arizona by a nose. Statistically speaking, this is a tie, but extraordinary nevertheless. In 1998, the average Arizona student scored two grade levels higher than the average Florida African American. Florida’s African American students outscored or tied the statewide scores for eight states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and New Mexico.

Florida’s success in improving academic achievement for disadvantaged students should inspire the rest of the nation to action.  Importantly, Florida’s reading scores also improved markedly for 8th graders, including very large gains among all the disadvantaged student subgroups, including Hispanics, African Americans, students with disabilities and ELL students. More on that later.

Congratulations to Florida students, teachers, school leaders and policymakers. Florida serves as a beacon to the rest of the nation, and should inspire us all to even greater reform efforts. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again now. When it comes to education reform…I’LL HAVE WHAT FLORIDA IS HAVING!

UPDATE: I left West Virginia off of the list of states which Florida’s Hispanic students outscore. West Virginia’s score for all students was 215, Florida’s Hispanics scored 223. So, make that 31 states for Florida Hispanic students!