Massachusetts test results as an inadvertent proof that the education reform agenda is flawed
Inadvertently, public policy presented a perfect study opportunity for the impact on smoking on heart attacks. Helena Montana passed a smoking ban. After a few months, it was overturned by a judge and smoking in public places again became prevalent. Public health researchers studied hospital admissions during the ban and after, and found a 40% decrease in heart attacks during the period of the ban ("Smoking Bans Prevent Heart Attacks" Circulation).
According to "Deval Patrick fails big test on education," an op-ed in the Boston Herald, the State of Massachusetts may have presented us with the same kind of research opportunity with regard to K-12 education reform policies.
The state's students scored highly on national and international tests, had more rigorous requirements and a broader approach to learning (less testing, more exposure to arts and creative expression, etc.). and had the independent oversight board that managed the testing and reporting process.
They changed all that, went to a more robust testing regime, adopted easier tests, started teaching more to the test, and got rid of the independent board. From the article:
But in 2008, Patrick eliminated the board’s 170-year tradition of independence and centralized education policy-making authority under his control.Two years later, MCAS tests and the K-12 academic standards in English and math on which the tests are based were jettisoned. The less rigorous national standards that are replacing them cut the amount of classic literature and poetry public school students will read by more than half, and new math standards are insufficient to prepare students for college majors in science, technology, engineering and math.The results are clear: declining outcomes.
From the article:
Massachusetts led the nation in student achievement well before Patrick took office in 2007. That year, our students even scored among the best in the world in math and science. Since then, the facts are sobering.Not a good result.
The commonwealth’s SAT scores are down 20 points from their 2006 highs. Third-grade reading scores are the best predictor of future academic success. Last year, after several years of stagnation, the percentage of Massachusetts third-graders who scored proficient or advanced on MCAS reading tests fell to its lowest level since 2009. At 57 percent, the portion of third-graders reading at or above the proficient level is 10 points lower than it was in 2002.
Results from the 2013 National Assessment for Educational Progress, known as the nation’s report card, tell a similarly disturbing story. Massachusetts’ five-point decline in fourth-grade reading was the largest in the country.
Ironically, the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, makes false or incomplete claims about the success of educational "reform" efforts elsewhere, including in DC, according to this op-ed in the Washington Post, "Better education starts with honesty about achievement."
So it's no wonder that outcomes aren't improving, because the changes to the inputs aren't focused on what's needed for students, for teachers, for families, for schools.