Last Post

Education Research Report will no longer be published in this format. Subscriptions are available here:
You have read this article with the title February 2007. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

CEA Review

The Connecticut Education Association has published a new review by an eminent testing expert that casts doubt on the conclusions reached in a recent report by ConnCAN.

The lead author of the CEA-sponsored review is Dr. Peter Behuniak, an education researcher and former director of the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) program. The ConnCAN report uses CMT data in reaching conclusions.

"There is insufficient evidence presented to support the observations in the report (The State of Connecticut Public Education: A 2006 Report Card for Elementary and Middle Schools by ConnCAN released last fall) that state or imply superiority of one school type (i.e. magnet, charter or traditional) over the others (neighborhood and other traditional public schools)," writes Dr. Behuniak in the report that we are sharing today. His review of the ConnCAN report includes a reanalysis of student achievement and related data cited in the ConnCAN report.

The results of the new review indicate that the achievement levels, improvement and performance gains displayed by magnet and charter schools are “approximately as varied” as those displayed by traditional schools. The review also identifies a number of other issues that readers of the ConnCAN report would be well advised to consider. Some of the more important include:
The presentation of and conclusions regarding top 10 lists of achievement gaps dealing with low income, African American, and Hispanic students are not justified due to the unavailability of data for between 60% and 77% of the schools.
The meaningful interpretation of the top 10 lists associated with performance gains and year to year improvement is significantly impaired due to the issues of student mobility, small differences in achievement among schools and districts, initial achievement status, and variation in school size.
The usefulness of the grading scales employed in the report are limited due to unevenness of the grade bands, arbitrariness in their development, and the absence of any explanation or discussion of these attributes.
"As this review demonstrates, summaries of student performance can be grouped, presented and characterized in many ways. If one only looks at a part of the picture or looks only from one perspective, it is quite possible to form conclusions that are not actually supported by the available evidence. Conducting sound educational research often requires the examination of evidence from multiple perspectives in order to support meaningful interpretations," writes Dr. Behuniak.

Read the Review of the ConnCAN research report/charter schools
You have read this article with the title February 2007. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!


Nearly half of beginning teachers in a new survey by the Australian Education Union do not see themselves in the profession in ten years time, compounding concerns of growing teacher shortages in Australia.

AEU Federal President Pat Byrne said the survey of over one thousand public school teachers with one to three years experience showed that issues stemming from lack of funding were driving teachers away.

“The four top concerns for new teachers were workload, behaviour management, pay and class sizes, all issues directly related to having enough funding to adequately resource schools,” said Ms. Byrne.

“The survey showed that even new teachers who have changed professions to enter teaching do not see themselves having long term careers in the industry.”

“They are worried about job security, with around half reporting they had been unable to negotiate permanent ongoing employment, and were instead on fixed term contracts.”

“They are also worried about professional support, with over thirty percent stating professional development was a concern, and over forty percent said they had been asked to teach outside their area of expertise.”

“The Federal Government’s new IR laws also came out as a key concern and a overwhelming majority of those surveyed were not comfortable with the idea of negotiating their own pay and conditions.”

“Public schools are receiving $1 billion less per year than if 1996 funding share had been maintained.”

“And independent research shows that the public education system needs at least $2.9 billion in additional recurrent funding to be able to meet national schooling goals.” “Lack of resources means new teachers have less incentive to stay in the profession, and this will continue to drive teacher shortages.”
You have read this article with the title February 2007. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!

Scores on state-generated tests often contradict results on a national test

…While international assessments confirm that American students lag behind those in several other countries in science and math, many school districts and states keep telling parents that their children, like those in Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor’s hometown of fable, are all above average.

More testing under the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to help measure whether elementary school children are learning what they need to know. But scores on state-generated tests often contradict results on a national test. North Carolina is one of several states with glaring differences between how well it says its students are doing and the harsher verdict of independent comparisons.

The North Carolina Board of Education finally is getting the message. It has switched to a tougher math exam, and recently raised the passing scores in math for grades 3 to 8. So far it’s one of only a handful of states raising their standards.

Welcome to the era of high-stakes testing, where persistently low scores mean principals can get fired and states can take over failing schools. No Child Left Behind requires U.S. schools to make steady progress, so that by 2014 every student is proficient in math and reading. But to ensure cooperation, Congress left it up to each state to measure how well its pupils were doing.

Although the goal was transparency, results have been less than clear. While states report growing percentages of students are proficient, the verdict is considerably worse on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), an exam dubbed “the nation’s report card” that is given to a sampling of students in all 50 states.

The discrepancies in some states are alarming. In Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia, far more students rated proficient on the homegrown tests in 2005 than on the NAEP exam – about 50 percentage points higher.

When Tennessee’s education department reported a dramatic jump in state test scores in 2004-05, the Knoxville News-Sentinel headlined the results, “Schools meet Bush’s challenge.” But parents belatedly learned there was little cause for celebration. On the federally sponsored exam, only 21 percent of Tennessee eighth-graders were up to par in math and 26 percent in reading, not the 87 percent rated proficient on the state tests.

States’ idiosyncratic systems for grading schools can be equally confusing. Last fall, Oregon reported 97 percent of its more than 1,000 public schools were satisfactory or better. Only 30 schools got “low” or “unacceptable” marks. But only 70 percent of Oregon schools met the federal standard for progress.

In Florida, only 918 schools made sufficient annual progress under No Child Left Behind, yet 1,467 schools received an “A” grade and 610 received a “B” under the Florida “A-plus” school accountability system...

A new proposal from the White House at least could make it easier for the public to compare scores. Preparing for Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act this year, the Bush administration on Jan. 23 proposed – among several changes – to require states to report the proficiency rates for both their state and NAEP tests on the same report card.
Local control of public schools is a hallowed tradition in American education, and there has long been antipathy to the idea of a national test. NAEP has been around since 1969, but it tests only a cross section of students in each state. Participation is mandatory, and its existence serves as a deterrent to states’ dumbing down tests to look good and avoid costly penalties.

Some state educators say comparisons are unfair because NAEP is too rigorous and was designed to chart long-term trends, not to measure what states feel students should know.

“Our state assessment is directly designed to our state curriculum, so our teachers are able to pull from the data what they need to help our students,” said Jan Lineberger, Tennessee’s NAEP coordinator.

Differences between state and federal tests are to be expected, yet some gaps appear as wide as the Grand Canyon. Mississippi reported that at least 79 percent of its fourth-graders were at grade level in math in 2005, yet on the federal test, only 19 percent were proficient or better.

In comparison, Massachusetts’ math test is tougher than NAEP’s. The state test rated only 41 percent of fourth-graders as proficient at math, fifth lowest in the country. But Massachusetts students were the country’s highest scorers on NAEP, with 49 percent rated proficient. Students are considered proficient on NAEP if they show competency over challenging subject matter, including how to apply it to real-world situations.

The National Center for Education Statistics, which administers NAEP, is planning to release a study in the spring that compares states’ definition of proficiency with that of the federal test.

If some states inflate scores, it comes at a price. Schools that mask how little their kids are learning behind inflated test scores aren’t pushed to provide transfer and tutoring options – the first sanctions under No Child Left Behind. Students also advance through school thinking they have the knowledge needed to go to college and get a decent job, only to find out too late they were never prepared.

In California, the university system reported last year that 75 percent of high school juniors were not ready for college-level English classes. Nationwide, one-third of students entering college need remedial classes. More than a quarter who enter four-year colleges and almost half of those entering community colleges drop out before their second year...

As No Child Left Behind comes up for debate and renewal in Congress this year, much of the discussion will focus on the test gaps, and some prominent conservatives are suggesting it’s time to embrace national standards or even a national test for all students that would supplant state tests. Every other major industrialized nation employs a standardized curriculum and national tests in its schools.

William J. Bennett and Rod Paige, education secretaries under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, respectively, exhorted fellow Republicans in a commentary in The Washington Post to support national standards. The organization most actively pushing for national standards is the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative think tank.

Tommy Thompson, the Republican former governor of Wisconsin and co-chairman of the No Child Left Behind Commission tasked with proposing changes to the law, said Congress needs to find a way to stiffen states’ spines on testing.

“I don’t think states have been quite as honest as they should be in regard to their testing and standards,” he told reporters outside the commission’s September meeting, according to news accounts.

Some states have considered softening standards. Democratic lawmakers in California pushed through a bill last year that would have lowered the state’s standards, which they called unrealistically high. But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vetoed the measure. “Redefining the level of academic achievement necessary to designate students as ‘proficient’ does not make the students proficient,” he wrote in his veto message.

But the Missouri Board of Education in 2006 lowered the cutoff scores on its grade-level tests to ensure that more students passed.

North Carolina was not alone in moving in the other direction. Georgia raised its passing scores at the same time that it adopted more rigorous standards and new, tougher tests.

In November, Minnesota released results from tougher math and reading tests that debuted in 2006. Statewide, 58 percent of students were scored proficient on the math test – down from 76 percent the previous year.

In West Virginia, Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine was only a week into the job in November 2005 when he got the news that only 26 percent of fourth-graders were proficient on NAEP math and reading tests, and that eighth-graders fared even worse. Paine said he couldn’t sleep worrying about the results. On West Virginia’s own tests, 70 percent or more of students scored at grade level.

Paine called for an outside audit of the state’s standards and test, and both were found to be lacking. The result: substantially tougher standards and new tests that will debut in 2008.

“I dare say that our standards in little old West Virginia will probably be as rigorous and relevant as you’ll find anywhere in the country,” Paine told “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this the right way, set our standards high and make no concessions.”

The change in North Carolina’s end-of-grade tests is the first such adjustment since the tests began in 1993. “The Board felt that it was time to increase standards in its efforts to better prepare students for the rigors of the 21st-century competitiveness,” said Lou Fabrizio, the state’s director of accountability.

The state board ordered tougher passing grades applied retroactively to tests administered in 2006. Only 66 percent of fourth-graders passed this time, compared with 92 percent the year before …

To read the complete article, please go to:

The preceding article was excerpted from State of the States 2007,’s annual report on significant state policy developments and trends. To order a digital copy of this 48-page publication go here:
You have read this article with the title February 2007. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!


Academic improvement among students attending Philadelphia public schools managed by private operators kept pace, but did not exceed, the achievement gains of students in the rest of the district in the past four years, according to an analysis issued by the RAND Corporation and Research for Action.
While significant academic gains were made from 2002 to 2006 by students across Philadelphia, private managers who were given extra funds to run 45 elementary and middle schools did not achieve additional gains exceeding district-wide trends, according to researchers.
Researchers say that their findings have implications for other regions that are considering private management of public schools and that the effort in Philadelphia suggests the challenges of implementing private management on a large scale.
Philadelphia is the site of the largest experiment in the private management of public schools in the United States.
“The privately managed schools, on average, showed gains that were comparable to those in the rest of the district.” said Brian Gill, lead author of the report and a researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.
“Schools in Philadelphia have shown strong improvement that has been reflected widely across the district,” said Jolley Christman, co-founder of Research for Action and an author of the report. “But our findings show the investment in private management of schools has not paid the expected dividends.”
Meanwhile, another group of schools that were “restructured” — remaining under district management with intensive intervention and a comparable increase in resources — showed significant gains in math in the first three years studied and in reading during the first year. In the fourth year, the additional resources for the restructured schools ended, but the schools appeared to maintain their gains in math.
Philadelphia's experiment with the private management of public schools began in 2002 when, after years of low achievement and budget crises in the School District of Philadelphia, the state of Pennsylvania launched a takeover of the 200,000-pupil district.
District management was turned over to an appointed commission, which hired a new chief executive who imposed new district-wide curricula and a system of frequent benchmark assessments.
The school district's new leaders also adopted what is known as the “diverse provider” model, turning over the management of some of the district's lowest-achieving schools to seven different private managers, who received additional per-pupil funding. Those private managers include for-profit firms such as Edison Schools (the nation's largest for-profit operator of public schools), local nonprofits and two local universities.
Since the state takeover of Philadelphia schools, the proportion of elementary and middle-school students achieving proficiency in reading and math has increased substantially.
From the 2001-2002 school year to the 2005-2006 school year, an additional 11 percent of fifth grade students reached proficiency in reading and 23 percent reached proficiency in math, according to state tests. Similarly, an additional 20 percent of eighth grade students reached proficiency in reading and 19 percent reached proficiency in math.
The four-year gains for Philadelphia's low-achieving schools (which included a majority of schools in the district) were generally on par with gains from similar low-achieving schools in the rest of the state. Philadelphia's schools out-gained comparison schools in middle-school reading.
The analysis by RAND Education and Research for Action examined the performance not only of the privately managed schools and the restructured schools, but also a group of schools dubbed the “Sweet 16.” These previously low-performing schools showed improvement prior to the state takeover. The schools were given extra per-pupil funding, but no other district intervention.
Results for the Sweet 16 were similar to those of the privately managed schools. Researchers found no significant positive or negative effects in either reading or math among the Sweet 16 schools in any of the four years studied.
Advocates of private management of public schools say the approach works best when private managers have full control of campuses and parents decide where to enroll their children — measures that were not fully implemented in Philadelphia.
The report, titled “State Takeover, School Restructuring, Private Management, and Student Achievement in Philadelphia,” is available at
RAND Education conducts research and analysis on a variety of topics, including school reform, educational assessment and accountability, and trends among teachers and teacher training.
Research for Action is a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization working in educational research and reform to insure equitable opportunities and outcomes for all students. For more information, go to
You have read this article with the title February 2007. You can bookmark this page URL Thanks!