PISA Results by Subgroup

January 17, 2011

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Hat Tip to Whitney Tilson for sending along this fascinating chart in his email blast today. This chart shows PISA data for 15 year olds (10th graders).

This serves as a Rorschach test. The usually reliable Robert Samuelson looks at this and says points out that American Anglos are pretty competitive.

Two problems: first from what we can tell from TIMMS, these numbers would probably look worse if we were examining 17 year olds (the U.S. has a large drop in rank between 8th and 12th grade).  Second, we are spending far beyond the OECD average on a per pupil basis, especially in the leafy suburbs, so our cost/achievement ratio still probably stinks, even for wealthy White kids.

The real story here is how much closer Hispanics and Blacks in America are to Mexico, the lowest scoring OECD country, than to an internationally competitive level.


Ravitch is Wrong Site

November 29, 2010

Why serious people continue to care about what Diane Ravitch says is a mystery to me.  I know why rabid union-members and their allies keep lauding her and citing her as an authority — they like whoever repeats their talking points.  But why do journalists, like Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post, continue to act like Diane Ravitch matters?  Why does the Wall Street Journal give her valuable real estate on their editorial page to repeat untrue distortions, like:

To qualify for Race to the Top money, states and districts were expected to evaluate their teachers by using student test scores, even though research consistently warns of the flaws of this method. [Not true, as a Brookings blue ribbon panel just concluded that the research shows value added testing can be a helpful tool for teacher evaluations.] Similarly, the Obama administration is pressing states and districts to replace low-performing regular public schools with privately managed charter schools, even though research demonstrates that charters don’t, on average, get better academic results than regular public schools. [Again, not true.  Ravitch ignores the positive results of high quality random assignment charter evaluations in Boston and New York and instead focuses exclusively on a lower quality evaluation by Macke Raymond)]

Let’s say out loud what many people know but few have publicly said.  Diane Ravitch has undergone a personal, not an intellectual, transformation.  Because of that personal change she has acquired a new set of friends, including AFT boss Randi Weingarten.  Ravitch is basking in the admiration of these new friends for her remarks, but they are not well-thought-out or intellectually honest positions.

We devoted an entire week on JPGB to feature Stuart Buck’s documentation of how Ravitch is not an intellectually serious person anymore.  Now Whitney Tilson has organized an entire web site on his new blog that lists a host of critiques of the personally-transformed Diane Ravitch. It’s an extremely useful resource to which you can refer gullible journalists, like Strauss and the WSJ editors, whenever they start treating Ravitch as if she were a credible authority.


Whitney Tilson on WSJ Report

June 1, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)


Public Schools Are Segregation Academies

April 26, 2010

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

The first image above shows the school districts in Manhattan. The second shows the racial/ethnic makeup of the population; the data are a little old, but the relevant facts for the purpose of this post haven’t changed.

Take a look at the shape of District 2 – it’s the one that encompasses all of Manhattan below Central Park except for a big chunk on the southeast tip of the island.

What occasions this particular illustration? In his e-mail blast today, Whitney Tilson reprints the following correspondence “from a friend”:

Every great DOE school is selective — whether by test score or by Realtor, if you know what I mean. 

Look at the map of Manhattan District 2, one of the best public school systems in America. It could only have been drawn to intentionally ensure that white kids on Upper East Side, Chelsea, and Greenwich Village wouldn’t have to bump shoulders with black and Hispanic kids. 

Try renting a 2 bedroom apartment in that district for less than $3,000. 

Does District 2 cream? Hell yes!  Kids there have benefitted from a double-whammy (which was designed to benefit white kids, but now is increasingly filled by Asian students): they attend a middle school where you have to ace the 4th grade tests to be allowed in.  They also get the best teachers in the city because who wouldn’t want to teach the richest public school families in America? 

Schools filled with rich kids, when the system is rigged in their favor (the education level of their parents, the reality that rich kid schools are able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for teacher aides and books and such at fancy fundraisers, etc.), equals selective schools. 

Then we give them the best teachers and we allow their test scores to mask the city’s low aggregate scores. We create gifted and talented programs for them and give them a much stronger curriculum and higher expectations. We watch their parents spend a small fortune on afterschool tutoring and organized activities for their kids. 

OF COURSE they do well with all that extra learning! 

The NYC ‘system’ is rigged in favor of rich kids. (Joel Klein has tried to unrig it, but the political force is too strong.) 

It is why poor kids need these opportunities that are provided by the 30-40% of charters that are really, really excellent. 

What’s the quickest and easiest way to create a nationwide system of segregation academies? Force people to go to school based on where they live.

How do you make them even worse? Let the district lines be drawn by an unaccountable bureaucracy that claims to care about kids but actually doesn’t care how many children’s lives it has to destroy in order to keep the gravy trains running on time.

What is the only – the only – empirically proven way to successfully smash segregation? School choice.

Images by UNHP and Gotham Gazette


Little Ramona Delivers the Fail

March 9, 2010

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

My response to the article in today’s Journal by Little Ramona is mostly the same as Whitney Tilson’s response to her book. From his e-mail blast today:

So far I’m hugely unimpressed.  She does a nice job of capturing the failures of the existing system and takes delight in poking holes at reform efforts over the past decade (while playing fast and loose with the facts and/or only presenting one side of the story), yet there is a shocking, gaping void when it comes to any thoughtful ideas for alternatives.

In other words, her attempt to say anything that is either new or interesting has failed.


More DC Voucher Buzz

April 7, 2009

Patrick McIlheran at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel asks, “And what happens to results showing school choice works?”  His answer: “Well, if it’s in the hands of a federal government hostile to the idea, it gets covered up… The students were tested in the spring, the results analyzed in the summer and the preliminary findings given to the team working with the Department of Education in November. Why, then, didn’t the department chime in when Congress was ending choice?”

Joanne Jacobs asks: “What did Education Secretary Arne Duncan know about the study’s findings and when did he know it? Duncan had to know during the voucher reauthorization debate that D.C.’s program is advancing students by nearly half a year, editorializes the Wall Street Journal. Why didn’t he speak up?”

Michelle Malkin writes: “It would have been helpful to know about a Department of Education study on D.C.’s school choice initiative before the Democrats — beholden to teachers unions allergic to competition — voted to starve the innovative program benefiting poor, minority children in the worst school district in the nation.  Somehow, the results of the study conducted last spring didn’t surface until now.”

As Matt has already noted, Whitney Tilson of Democrats for Education Reform has chimed in warning that charter supporters shouldn’t think they are safe if vouchers get squeezed.  As he put it: “First they came for the vouchers. I remained silent because I was not for vouchers….”

I’ve already noted, Neal McCluskey has an excellent post on the impotence of “tough talk” on education from the Obama administration when they won’t act to defend choice.

Lisa Snell argues: “Kids in the D.C. Opportunity scholarship program deserve the same chance to go to a higher quality school as President Obama’s own children. The taxpayers of the United States deserve at least one education program that actually gets results in exchange for the money.”

And this photo on “From the Pen” says it all.

“Democrats Block School Choice… Again”

Republicans made us do it! Honest!


Whitney Tilson: First They Came for Vouchers…

April 7, 2009

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Whitney Tilson of Democrats for Education Reform weighed in this morning in his email blast:

I think Duncan is doing a great job overall — but am still glad that the WSJ editorial page is holding his feet to the fire on renewing the DC voucher program:

“Education Secretary Arne Duncan did a public service last week when he visited New York City and spoke up for charter schools and mayoral control of education. That was the reformer talking. The status quo Mr. Duncan was on display last month when he let Congress kill a District of Columbia voucher program even as he was sitting on evidence of its success.”

Here are John Kirtley’s comments:

“Democrat reformers really need to think about the last sentence of this article. I know they think ‘we can let vouchers go undefended, and we’ll just defend and advance charters’.

If those who wish to kill reform are successful in killing off private school choice, trust me–they will redouble their considerable efforts to kill charters.

You had better hope you are invincible by then.”

To paraphrase the poem by Martin Niemoller:

“First they came for the vouchers. I remained silent because I was not for vouchers….”

Let the record show that Whitney Tilson was the first prominent Democrat in what we have to hope will be a growing number of Democrats who stood up for what is right on this issue.

(edited for clarity)