Books are Enough

The Power of Free, Self-Selected Reading

Anticipation….thoughts on the manufactured crisis

In anticipation of the lies and distortions we will hear from the GOP speakers tonight I thought it prudent to make sure the facts are known. Sadly, Arne Duncan and the President mirror almost all of the GOP views and refuse to defend the truth about our public schools. I have summarized some major points after looking at the work of researchers- including Allington, Bracey, Berliner, Krashen, and Ravitch.

  • There is no crisis in standards or international test scores- Our NAEP scores are at record highs for Hispanics, blacks, whites, and Asians. Students in public schools – low poverty- score at the top of international tests (PISA).  Yes we are #1 with really low poverty schools (10%) and near the top with mild poverty schools (20%).  The massive poverty in the US brings us down to the middle of the pack. Is there some standards or teacher crisis? No. There is a poverty crisis that is being ignored. Around the world test scores mirror poverty. Alfie Kohn once remarked that scores simply indicate how big your house is.
  • Are we falling behind?  Well the World Economic Forum report on competitiveness ranks the US in the top ten out of 144 nations. Crisis? Nope.
  • STEM problem? Well the World Economic Forum ranks us #5 out of 133 nations in “availability of scientists and engineers.” We are #2 in “quality of scientific research.”  We are #1 in university-industry research collaboration. Is there a crisis? Nope.
  • We have  never been at the top of international tests -overall-  and we built the strongest economic nation the world as ever seen. There is no “slip.”
  • There is no evidence that massive testing does any good. States with more high stakes testing do no better on NAEP than others.
  • The idea that college and career ready comes from testing is NOT supported by evidence. HSGPA is a better predictor. (See Geiser and Santelices 2007)
  • Deal with massive US poverty. Imagine taking all the billions- yes billions -thrown into the educational testing complex (testing, computers, programs, test prep materials, grading contracts, security checks, workbooks, common core materials) and direct it to kids needing BOOKS to read, houses, health care, food. Is it not clear that if we deal with poverty and despair that we will solve the other problems? The tests scores prove this is true. Kids who read more, do better, need little if any later remediation and do great in college.
  • Common Core and its PARCC testing has and will drain billions away from schools and kids. As you can see from above, there is no need for common core. We should institute the old Ted Kennedy idea of “Book Stamps” – money well spent helping kids be book-loving citizens. See Allington, Gambell, Krashen, Cunningham, and many more on the power of self-selected reading on lives and achievement.
  • Reading Recovery should be in every elementary school in the nation. 75% success rate and kids do not need remediation later on. This is often seen as too expensive. Well stop spending billions on testing and it would be cheap to do this!
  • Merit Pay (never worked- over 100 years), choice, triggers, massive testing, VAM, vouchers, are all distractions from our massive poverty. Schools are labeled failing on test scores? Really? These are all ways for politicians and unelected apparatchiks to hide from their mistakes and dithering – schools are scapegoats again for the ills of society.

We are nearing 25% child poverty and that is a crime both parties are ignoring. Can anyone in the media please confront those who lie about our schools? As the points above show, the reformers are without clothes.

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