Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Secretary Duncan's Interview with Star Ledger's Tom Moran

In a recent Star Ledger interview, Secretary Duncan refuses to acknowledge the truth about public education or its improvement. (A Q&A with ... Arne Duncan: The eyes of America are on Newark’s school reform, Sunday April 3, 2011)

When the Credo study, the most extensive evaluation of charter schools, reported that more than twice as many charters have lower student achievement rates compared to the local publics, it is nonsensical to insist on modeling them. Those with a sincere desire to look at the best schools will consider the best public schools.

He pushes merit pay and evaluations based on standardized test scores even though the Vanderbilt study demonstrated it does not improve student achievement and in separate analyses , NYU economist Sean Corcoran and Rutgers Professor Bruce Baker, stated an unheard of 25-35% margin of error, rendering it meaningless as an accurate teacher evaluation tool.

Secretary Duncan perpetuates the myth that poor staffing is due to tenure; evidence suggests otherwise. There is NO correlation between tenure and poor student performance. Looking at NAEP data, states with strong union protections and tenure rights generally have higher rates of achievement than those that don't.

Most egregiously the Obama administration, Commisioner Cerf, Mayor Booker, and others ignore NJ public schools’ plethora of successes. Among them, NJ is the only state to narrow the achievement gap while raising the achievement of non-minority students; Darling-Hammond, the President's former adviser noted, that on one nationwide test, NJ's African Americans and Latino's performance equaled California's entire average. Additionally in Ed Week's 2010 Diplomas Count, NJ has the highest graduation rates in the country.

Conversely, recently reported in a Western Michigan University study, KIPP charters schools have the highest dropout/attrition rates of African American males. It is abominable to push this sort of initiative in Newark, when Newark was commended by the Schott foundation this year for already having the highest rate of graduation nationally, among African American males.

Of course more work needs to be done. But, contrary to the rhetoric, pushing reforms that have proven not to work and lack evidence is not about improving student achievement; rather it’s about control - Namely, giving politicians and outside private enterprise more at the expense of the local community and their students.

Specific reports and analysis mentioned in this article:

Other summaries of mentioned research:


  1. The cited study on KIPP attrition is bogus; it doesn't even have student-level data, and it just looks at enrollment patterns at KIPP schools vs. public school DISTRICTS, which is a completely invalid comparison.

    For the real facts on KIPP, look at this recent Mathematica study that looked at individual students (something Miron wasn’t able to do). KIPP attrition is no different from surrounding public schools.

  2. Sorry, I misstated that: when Mathematica did an actual study that looked at actual kids, they found that KIPP has LOWER attrition for black males than other public schools do.