505 – Post #4

Driving home everyday I have about forty minutes to get caught up on the news of the world. At home I am bombarded by Sesame Street from the three year old and *cough* Jersey Shore from the seventeen year old.  I was thinking about the collection of data and the statistical analysis of that data and how both the validity of the data and the analysis can be wildly different based on bias and perspective. NPR had a story on President Obama’s announcement of the the introduction of wavers to the No Child Left Behind Law. It seems too many American schools are failing according to the standards set by the NCLB law and school districts can now apply for wavers in order to maintain funding. As a Canadian educator I do not know the details of the criteria established  in the law to achieve a passing grade, but what struck me is the question of how do you accurately measure the success or failure of a school based on statistics derived from exams; moreover, how can you assess the effectiveness of a teacher based on the achievement of her students on an exam?  Basing teacher salaries on the statistical achievement of her students can only result in “teaching for the test”.

In Canada a national think tank called The Fraser Institute releases a yearly ranking of all school in a given province. This ranking is said by the institute to promote healthy competition between schools and encourages teachers and administrators to do better for their students. The institute also claims that parents love the ranking system because they can make informed decisions about where to send there children for school. The collection of data for this ranking is done strictly through gathering government exam results, foundation skills assessments (FSA’s), and graduation rates. There are no “boots on the grounds” of the schools themselves, there are no interviews with children, staff, administration or parents; it is strictly a numerical evaluation of a school’s achievement which lacks any insight into socio-economic factors, ESL, or special needs populations. There is no evaluation of school culture or school as the only place a child can feel safe and get fed in a neighborhood of poverty and danger. The Fraser Institute ranking of schools only serves to demoralize the staff and students of schools that are working hard everyday to educate children, foster curiosity and creativity, and keep children safe. The statistics in this evaluation are skewed and biased. The report compares inner city schools to private schools in the richest neighborhoods in the country. The results favor private schools because of their elitist enrollment policies and offer a wildly narrow view of school achievement.

Here is a link to the ranking of my school which comes in at  112 out of 274, down from 81. (We have had a massive influx of international and ESL students in recent years, so naturally our school has worsened!) There are three High Schools ranked higher in our city; all three are private schools with exclusive enrollment.

No Child Left behind. Obama introduces wavers.


Have a look at this propaganda video released by the Fraser Institute:

The connection I am trying to make here today is directly related to the arguments made about the lack of validity in media comparison studies. The Fraser Institute has an agenda and the strategies and tools used to measure school success and compare school’s do not factor in the variables necessary in conducting a thorough analysis and evaluation.