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Comment Archives: stories: News & Opinion: The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch

Re: “A Look At TUSD's AzMERIT Scores

You express concern about the difference between TUSD's improvement and Arizona's overall improvement. That difference is both meaningless and highly informative.

Meaningless in the sense that it is real with statistical significance.

Highly informative in the sense that Arizona cant be successful unless TUSD hugely increases the pace of academic growth of its students.

At less than $15 per test, the AZMerit is a low security test, as compared to high security tests like Advanced Placement at more than $60 per test.

We know from nationwide test data and comparisons with NAEP that almost all of the changes in state test scores on tests like the Iowa Test of Basic skills, the Stanford 9, AZMerit etc can be ascribed to security issues. When completely new versions of the test are released, test scores plunge and then steadily increase until a new version is released. Yet, NAEP scores are flat by comparison.

In this digital age, undoubtedly thousands of teachers have complete copies of last year's AZMerit test.

We also saw these phenomena in AZ school districts with merit pay linked to test scores. They had higher erasure rates than other school districts. This is a strong indication that the behavior went over the line to absolute cheating - erasing a wrong answer and putting in a correct answer.

These security issues call into question everything about education culture. The new A to F system is completely built around growth models and the new performance funding model will be completely built around the A to F.

Back in 1992, Tennessee did what Arizona is doing now, tried to build a new education culture around growth models instead raw test scores. Didn't work. Actually backfired. Tennessee's NAEP scores fell relative to the rest of the nation.

In the Urban Institute Analysis, perhaps the best ranking of states in existence right now, Tennessee ranks 41st on an apples to apples comparison of test scores. Who copies number 41?

You indicated that the 50 plus formula A to F model was "above your pay grade." Not really. It emphasizes growth in duplicative ways and more heavily than the old model. The blizzard of formulas just disguises its simplistic nature. Does your students get two more problems right than they did last year? If so, your school gets an A, if not, a lower grade.

The formulas are creative in the sense that they go back further in history to calculate not just one year gains but two and three year gains. This increases the sample size and also makes it a little bit harder for cheaters to skate by.

I don't fault the staff who created this. When you look at it, is it the Frankenstein of education policy or the ultimate refined expression of what you might be able to do if accountability actually worked?

The blunt truth: all mass inspection tests like AZMerit "accountability" lead to a dead end and worse outcomes for students.

To best improve test scores you would put an end to AZMerit and just rely on NAEP to measure outcomes, allowing education to evolve naturally under the interaction of parents making choices and schools changing to better compete for students.

Thats what Finland did.

Not going to happen here.

3 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by jhuppent@hotmail.com on 08/15/2017 at 9:18 AM

Re: “A Look At TUSD's AzMERIT Scores

I wondered, as I looked at the data, exactly how it is collected. That is, as we watch from year to year, aren't we watching roughly the same kids, as they go through? 2015's 5th graders are 2016's sixth graders, right? What effect does that have on the scores? And if we know anything from the scores, its that the Districts' desegregation efforts to reduce the achievement gap are not working, no matter how much window dressing top Administration puts on it.The district has been failing its black and brown kids in epic proportions, all the while paying vast sums of money to lawyers to say "it aint so". Needless to say, that money would be far better spent in the classroom.

And then from a different direction there are possible other explanations for our district wide poor achievement. Almost the only good answer by the candidate for superintendent last night referred to the effect of Board behavior on district performance. He stated that he had read a study recently that correlated divisive, untrusting board behavior (as measured by watching videos of the Boards in action) with low scoring districts. In other words, looking across multiple districts, and observing Board behavior on video, the more the members of the Boards trusted each other, or at least acted as if they did, the higher performing the Distric, as measured by grading (A-F). It seems that TUSD voters succeed in switching Board majorities, but the divisive, cruel and manipulative way the members treat each other never seems to change much. This might be an additional place to look for WHY our District cannot seem to get out of its achievement crisis. Perhaps the adults in the room need to model better behavior as they (supposedly) focus on the children in the schools.

5 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Betts Putnam-Hidalgo on 08/15/2017 at 7:49 AM

Re: “A Look At TUSD's AzMERIT Scores

"They only test what's testable in a fill-in-the-bubble format" - very true, but, on average, I'd bet the students who can reason well and write well also do well on the tests. You have to measure somehow or you can never know what is improving and the state is too lazy to actually have more meaningful tests.
You can blame high rates of immigration of poor and unskilled people from countries with little tradition of education for most of TUSD's issues.

3 likes, 8 dislikes
Posted by bslap on 08/15/2017 at 6:01 AM

Re: “Results-Based Funding. The Inequity Will Increase After This School Year

This will be a fairly pure experiment as to whether money can affect outcomes in education. We have 5 years of relative growth data comparing all the schools.

Will these schools lurch up relative to all the other schools or will they lurch down from unintended and unforseen consequences of this funding technique?

Can the AZMerit test with its relatively low level of security handle the stress?

This policy is large, significant and sudden - a clean experiment that has been tried over and over again in the past.

1 like, 5 dislikes
Posted by jhuppent@hotmail.com on 08/13/2017 at 9:17 PM

Re: “RIP Blood Spasm Frontman and Underground Tucson Legend ('We Got Cactus'), Bob McKinley

A kind and loving friend, Bob was a rare man with whom you could disagree wholeheartedly about politics in the state of society yet still be his best friend. He will live on through his music and his friends

30 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Dragna Aoine on 08/11/2017 at 8:40 PM

Re: “The Economic and Educational Inequity of Results-Based Funding

As long as we have high rates of immigration, we will lack the social cohesion to adequately fund poorer schools. It's basic in-group/out-group dynamics. But the cheap labor industries are still in charge in Washington and have successfully brainwashed the entire left into believing that reducing immigration is equivalent to racism, so don't expect a change any time soon.

3 likes, 10 dislikes
Posted by bslap on 08/11/2017 at 2:07 PM

Re: “Song of the Day: Billy Sedlmayr on Procol Harum's 'A Salty Dog'

I have been a long time fan of Procol Harum and seen them everytime they've played in the US. One of my favorites was, perhaps the first, at Fillmore East in New York in the early '70s. Highlight of the show was the darkened stage as a smoke machine created a low dense fog that flowed off the edge into the audience as Procol Harum did A Salty Dog complete with ships bells and seagull caws. A chills up the spine moment!

6 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Filterman on 08/11/2017 at 10:46 AM

Re: “The Economic and Educational Inequity of Results-Based Funding

High IQ parents tend to be wealthy, and to live in wealthy school districts. They also tend to have IQ children, who will tend to learn things quickly and do well on standardized tests. So, we should expect that wealthy school districts will score higher than poorer school districts on standardized tests because the children in wealthier districts are, on average, probably brighter. So none of this should be surprising to anyone.

This doesn't say anything, of course, about whether we ought to be giving smarter kids more education money than dimmer kids. Maybe not.

2 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by Nathan K on 08/11/2017 at 9:44 AM

Re: “The Economic and Educational Inequity of Results-Based Funding

And there my friends goes the concept of Democracy out the window as an Oligarchy starts to dictate how everything will operate from their perspective. Time to look for a better Democracy to move to because there's so little of this one left to support. I heard things are really nice in Australia and New Zealand. Where's my passport?

10 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Beneal Good on 08/11/2017 at 8:20 AM

Re: “Is the Strong Start Tucson Initiative a Good Idea?

John, I'm surprised you can't find a 4 year old email. I've got relevant emails going back a decade or more, and they're easily searchable by subject line, name of sender and content. Clearly, your remarks on the study are based on your memory of what it said 4 years ago, and memory tends to be selective. So even if the study is as good as you say, your analysis of the study is only as good as your memory and your ability to view the study objectively. And as I've said before, a study of kindergarten effects has little bearing on the effects of adding quality preschool for 3 and 4 year olds.

As for my citation, a good, nuanced study of studies and various types of preschools is Impacts of
Early Childhood Programs from the Brookings Institute. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploa…

If you want to cherry-pick it, you can find quotes to make it sound like the effects of preschool are minimal. If you read the whole thing, you'll find that the research is mainly positive. Because the author is careful, she acknowledges the gaps in and problems with the research. She would rather draw cautious conclusions than overstate what the research indicates. I've looked at countless pieces of educational research, and the honest authors tend to state their conclusions without a high degree of certainty. That's the nature of research into education. Conclusions are never conclusive.

8 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by David Safier on 08/10/2017 at 11:33 AM

Re: “Is the Strong Start Tucson Initiative a Good Idea?

You are right. I don't have an email sent to me at ADE by the Institute of Education Sciences four years ago.

But, we can just go with the RAND study of ECLS data which went up through 5th grade. Full day kindergartners were behind half day kindergartners on both cognitive and emotional measures.

And, by the way, where are your citations?

0 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by jhuppent@hotmail.com on 08/09/2017 at 11:10 PM

Re: “Here's What a Skills-Based Curriculum Means In Finland

Leave it to Nathan K to come up with a racist take on educational differences between Finland and its neighbors.

16 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by skinnyman on 08/09/2017 at 11:40 AM

Re: “Tour Diaries! XIXA on the Last Days of the Euro Bloodline Tour

I enjoyed following along. Thanks!

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Wise-Guy on 08/09/2017 at 10:30 AM

Re: “Is the Strong Start Tucson Initiative a Good Idea?

John, I'm going to stop this back-and-forth with this comment. I just want to say that you continue to cite a study without linking to the source on the web, or even a web page citing the study. You say you have it in an email, yet you haven't forwarded the email or quoted from it. Repeating what you said over and over doesn't make your argument stronger. It leaves the impression with me that you have nothing.

12 likes, 4 dislikes
Posted by David Safier on 08/09/2017 at 7:41 AM

Re: “Is the Strong Start Tucson Initiative a Good Idea?

David,

Remember, the ECLS data collection was separated from the analysis to prevent the pervasive bias in research from polluting the data collection.

The multiple RAND studies are the ECLS study. RAND was paid $10 million from Rockefeller and Ford to analyze the ECLS data which had already cost $140 million to collect.

You are quoting a one researcher, 64 student sample where the data collector clearly had an overwhelming interest in the outcome. At the same time you are attempting to dismiss a $150 million dollar, 20,000 student student where the data collectors could have lost their contract over improper data collection.

There has since been an entire additional cohort. Aren't you curious at all about the dead silence surrounding the two most massive, rigorous studies ever performed in the history of education?

No other study has ever followed 20 thousand student for 9 years.

The relevance is that there was another longitudinal study done for preschool in California that had the same pattern - slightly higher cognitive gains, loss of social strength.

1 like, 10 dislikes
Posted by jhuppent@hotmail.com on 08/09/2017 at 6:19 AM

Re: “Is the Strong Start Tucson Initiative a Good Idea?

John, I still don't understand how you can use a study of full day vs. half day K as a proxy for an additional two years of education starting when the children are 3, but I'll set that aside.

I still haven't seen the study you're referring to. You say it's the "Hubbell telescope of education studies," but all I know about it is what I've heard from the Falcon 9 of commenters.

Here's an idea. Forward that IES email to me at tucsonweekly@tucsonlocalmedia.com, and it will be forwarded to me. I'll take a look at it. Maybe it's a terrific study, I don't know, but whenever someone says "Trust me," I'm hesitant to take them at their word without some confirmation.

11 likes, 5 dislikes
Posted by David Safier on 08/08/2017 at 11:53 AM

Re: “Here's What a Skills-Based Curriculum Means In Finland

Again, it really boils down to teacher preparation and esteem for the profession of teaching. Finland's teachers are not paid particularly well but students flock to teaching preparation degrees (a masters degree is required!). The degree programs are selective and graduates are viewed as professionals not public sector employees.

"Teachers in Finland can choose their own teaching methods and materials. They are experts of their own work and they test their own pupils. I think this is also one of the reasons why teaching is such an attractive profession in Finland because teachers are working like academic experts with their own pupils in schools." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/justin-snide…

One result of intensive preparation for a professional position is this: an astounding 85-90% of teachers in Finland remain in the profession until retirement. Half of new teachers in the USA leave after 5 years.

22 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Rick Spanier on 08/08/2017 at 10:28 AM

Re: “Here's What a Skills-Based Curriculum Means In Finland

"It can't be simply a matter of demographics, since neighboring countries don't score nearly as well . (Fun fact. Since Finland's neighbor Sweden went to a school choice model like the one loved by U.S. conservatives, complete with private school vouchers, its scores on the international tests have fallen)."

First, non-Sami Finns are both genetically relatively homogeneous and distinct from other European populations, including the other Nordics. Finns carry significant Asian-Siberian genetic admixture not found in other Nordics. See http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v536/…

Second, 27% of Sweden's population is now first or second generation immigrant, with about half originating from outside of Europe. You can't equate Sweden's demographics to those of Finland since Sweden is significantly and increasingly non-Nordic.

It may be that Finland's students score well on standardized tests because they are smarter, on average, than students in other populations.

4 likes, 20 dislikes
Posted by Nathan K on 08/08/2017 at 10:12 AM

Re: “Is the Strong Start Tucson Initiative a Good Idea?

I got the 8th grade data directly from IES via email while Superintendent. Three years further along than 5th grade same data.

The Hubbell telescope of education studies and you are mystified by results. Tells us all you need to know about education culture. Politically incorrect to present the truth.

This is the 98/99 kindergarten class, one that left 8th grade in 06/07.

They have since followed another entire cohort. Wonder why you never heard of that one either?

Why have we never heard about the 98/99 students who skipped kindergarten completely?

Why have we never heard about the 98/99 students who attended preschool versus those who didn't?

20,000 sample size, randomly selected.

3 likes, 13 dislikes
Posted by jhuppent@hotmail.com on 08/07/2017 at 7:05 PM

Re: “Is the Strong Start Tucson Initiative a Good Idea?

John, you gave me a Rand study about full day and half day K that goes through the fifth grade, not the eighth grade. And you know about the 8th grade results through an email which doesn't include a link to the actual research. You'll have to pardon me if I don't take that as a reasonable comment on my post about preschool's effects on people's lives beginning with high school graduation and going into early adulthood.

12 likes, 7 dislikes
Posted by David Safier on 08/07/2017 at 4:24 PM

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