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So, now they’re against testing?

Tuesday, Apr 8, 2014

* As I made clear yesterday, I like choices in education and am not a big fan of the educational establishment and the educational system we have here. But now that mandatory student testing shows there’s not a whole lot of overall difference between Chicago charter schools and Chicago neighborhood schools and on the same day as a big pro-charter school rally in Springfield, the Tribune editorial board trots out a study from three years ago that shows charters are better

Not every charter is superior to local schools. Some lag and should be shuttered. But check out a recent study by Mathematica Policy Research on the effects of charter schools in Chicago and Florida. The group found that charter high schools “appear to have substantial positive effects on students’ long-term educational attainment.” In Florida, researchers found evidence that charters may have “large positive effects” on students’ later earnings.

Bottom line: “Charter high schools seem to be endowing their students with skills that are useful for success in college and career but that are not captured by test scores.” [Emphasis added.]


This is the same Chicago Tribune that demanded more testing of students and teachers during the education reform debates a few years back. And now testing doesn’t really gauge outcomes? Who knew?


* Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was asked yesterday about the standardized testing results

The mayor was asked whether charters funded by CPS, but freed from regulations impacting traditional public schools shouldn’t have students performing “measurably better” on test scores.

He never answered the question.

“It’s an old debate to look at brand. The new debate is to look at high-quality education that achieves the goal of college readiness, college preparation and career readiness. That’s what I’m focused on at every level,” he said.

“[That’s] why I made sure our neighborhood schools at [the] high school [level] gave parents choice. They need to have the choice. We need to provide quality. Regardless of whether it’s military, selective enrollment, STEM, IB or charter, I want to make sure there’s quality throughout the system and parents will then have the choice of high-quality options.”

* And, while we’re at it, take a look at this story about how New York’s mayor got steamrolled by the big bucks charter school backers.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Chicago Cynic - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 10:19 am:

    It’s true because we say so. Isn’t that the Trib edit board motto?

  2. - Carl Nyberg - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 10:24 am:

    As long as testing serves to reduce the money that goes to unionized teachers it’s important.

    Once testing shows that sending the money through skimmer companies and organizations doesn’t get better results then testing becomes less important.

  3. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 10:27 am:

    Well, I agree with them on the testing front. I absolutely hate standardized tests. They are useless as far as I’m concerned.

  4. - VanillaMan - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 10:31 am:

    I’ve got a few kids.
    This week was report card week.
    Two of them are exceptional and you’d think they attend the greatest school ever. The other ones - meh, not so good. Same school, a couple have even had the same teachers, but completely different results.

    Same parents too, btw.

    Ranking a school based on a student’s standardized test result is an inexact science in reality. Using those test results to decide which schools are successful and which ones should be closed may sound logical - but it really isn’t.

    Claiming that pouring more money into schools for a better result has been exhaustively proven out to be a waste. The only thing being done through standardized testing is justifying school closings.

    We might as well base these decisions on phrenology.

  5. - funny guy - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 10:33 am:

    It is my understanding that charter schools, unlike traditional local CPS schools, have the right to deny enrollment to sub-par students and expel any student immediately for failure to achieve any academic standards they set. If true, their results should be similar to CPS selective enrollment schools.

  6. - A guy... - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 10:44 am:

    Anyone looking at anything else besides these standardized tests? Are GPAs moving up? Is attendance better? Is classroom behavior better? Less illness? Skills in particular areas improving? There need to be tests, no question. Maybe even a different set taken at a different time of the year to gauge practical knowledge. To make assessments, I’m guessing Charters and CPS would like more and better data. No one seems to hold standardized tests (especially in urban areas) in very high regard.

  7. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 11:00 am:

    Funny Guy:

    Charter schools do not selectively enroll.

    They do have much, much higher expulsion rates, which does raise concerns.

    Rich is right. The Tribune, CPS and Mayor use test scores as a justification to close traditional schools. But when the same tests show a charter is subpar, we are supposed to look beyond the test scores?


    Instead, we should rely on a study funded by a major backer of charter schools — The Gates Foundation — and performed by a consultant for charter schools, Mathematica.


  8. - Wensicia - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 11:08 am:

    The Tribune and the mayor seem to believe test scores should evaluate teachers, not children, at least not charter schools in particular.

    ==their results should be similar to CPS selective enrollment schools.==

    Rather unionized teachers of public schools achieve as good or better results with a more diverse and disruptive student population.

  9. - AnonymousOne - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 11:10 am:

    Charter schools have much higher expulsion rates? Just think of what public schools would look like if they could expel problem students, underachievers, etc. without all that time and documentation required by law.

  10. - Arizona Bob - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 11:44 am:

    “Ranking a school based on a student’s standardized test result is an inexact science in reality.”

    Actually for high schools the college entrance ACT score is probably one of the best measures of school preformance…for those students choosing to go on to college.

    They’re a good indicator of relative school performance where demo is factored in.

    The schools in Orland Park, for example, spend substantially more per student than schools in Naperville 204 and 203, but overall family income and percentage of low income kids is roughly the same. Average ACTs in Orland are consistently 2 to 3 points below Naperville. That makes a HUGE difference in college choice and scholarship opportunities. The difference is in how the schools are run (and the difference in quality of administration) and the priorities of the school board, as well as the lower expectations of the community.

    You need some sort of objective metric to gauge school performance, and GOOD tests are about the best you can do. The ISAT and PSAE tests are dummed down wastes of time, IMO. The NAEP tests are much better, but they reveal that Illinois acceptable achievement levels trail much of the nation and the percentage of our students achieving “competence” in subjects is far below what the PSAE and ISATs say.

    Telling the truth about the failure of our overpriced education in Illinois (teachers’ pay is 13th in the nation and school spending per pupil is 18th according to the most recent NEA “Rankings” report, yet NAEP score rankings put our performance far below the resources we provide for education)certainly doesn’t fit the teachers union, educrat and politicans’ agenda.

  11. - Arizona Bob - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 11:47 am:

    “Charter schools have much higher expulsion rates? Just think of what public schools would look like if they could expel problem students, underachievers, etc. without all that time and documentation required by law.”

    Actually, public schools do anon. Many also have “zero tolerance” programs for drugs or fighting. Where so these kids go after they’re expelled? If they’re old enough, they drop out. That skews the “expulsion” data. Otherwise, they go to PRIVATE schools. You know the ones that aren’t supposed to have with “problem” students?

  12. - thechampaignlife - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 12:09 pm:

    The charters need to reframe the discussion from their impact on academic achievement to cost effectiveness (if that’s the case) and the value of choice for families, provided that achievement is essentially the same for public and charter/private. If long-term outcomes for charter students is significantly better when controlled for demographics, all the better but it shouldn’t be the primary selling point.

  13. - DuPage - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 12:37 pm:

    @thechampaignlife12:09=cost effectiveness=

    Charters “cost effectiveness” would depend on paying teachers and other employees less. “A race to the bottom”. I have read that some of the teachers at the charters have only a couple months training in teaching, and don’t meet minimum state standards for teaching. This allows the charters to pay them less money.
    Personally, I would want my grandkids to have teachers that are fully qualified, whether charter or public school.

  14. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 12:45 pm:

    @Arizona Bob:

    I didn’t do all that well on my ACT’s. It didn’t measure squat when it came to my performance. I still managed to graduate with honors from college. We place far too much importance on standardized tests. We need to look at other ways to measure student success other than tests.

    The problem with our schools, IMO, is that they have become so focused on testing they have forgotten their core mission, which is to actually teach. My 5th grader consistently brings home homework that contains questions on topics they haven’t even studied yet. I called the teacher one time about this and she said: “Yeah, I know that’s the case. But we are supposed to be at X point by this time so that’s the homework I give them.” I’m sure it’s partly because the teacher lacks common sense, but I’m also certain part of it has to do with the pressure being placed on teachers about testing.

    My 5th grader gets very upset at ISAT test time during the year because the teachers are constantly berating them about doing “well.” I told him not to worry about the stupid test. I told him to do the best he could and forget about it. I know what my child knows. He’s not dumb. But, I could care less what some standardized test tells me about him.

  15. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 12:46 pm:

    Regarding the linked article, neither Diane Ravitch or Valerie Strauss are objective observers. Both are openly anti-charter.

  16. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 1:31 pm:

    Um, charter schools aren’t more “cost effective.” At least they are not cheaper.

  17. - AnonymousOne - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 4:12 pm:

    Arizona Bob

    Yes, those expelled kids from public schools DO go to private schools. The ones for behavior disordered students/criminal record students. Don’t try to portray those private schools as anything other than major rehabilitation/holding facilities for troubled kids. No one would go to these other than last resorts. And no ” normal” student could get in either or want/need to.

    As for teachers pushing kids to know material for tests, who exactly is pressuring school districts to account for their results? Teachers? They’re just the assembly line workers at the end, taking orders from administration and guess what? Board members elected by the community. Do not pin test pressure on teachers. Ever. They’d rather be doing instructional activites, LEARNING opportunities than proctoring tests written by some high theoretical educational measurement specialist from who knows where. Any teacher, spending every day/all day/all year is a better evaluator of a student’s ability than a standardized test. But we just can’t trust them, can we?

  18. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 4:17 pm:

    ===Actually for high schools the college entrance ACT score is probably one of the best measures of school preformance…for those students choosing to go on to college.

    No, the ACT is not a measure of school performance. The ACT is a measure of college readiness or how students are likely to perform in college. That isn’t a measure of school quality, it’s a measure of an individual student’s readiness for college.

    Many people like to hand waive at this distinction and claim that the school’s performance obviously prepare’s the student for college, but that doesn’t explain anything. If you take students with really involved parents with lots of resources those students tend to do better on the ACT regardless of where the students are and such parents tend to live around each other so a district with high ACT scores is generally going to be one with socio-demographic advantages built in. The ACT doesn’t show improvement over time in a student’s performance, it is a one time test that measures a student’s likely ability to do collegiate course work successfully. That is all.

    ===They’re a good indicator of relative school performance where demo is factored in.

    No, the test is a good indicator of preparation for college course work–that preparation may come from schools or it may come from any other number of experiences.

  19. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 4:20 pm:

    ===You need some sort of objective metric to gauge school performance, and GOOD tests are about the best you can do. T

    Sure, show me one good testing system used statewide in the United States. This should mean that it tracks individual student performance over a year and every year. In addition, it should take into account student mobility.

    What’s that I hear? Crickets? Or pseudo-scientific nonsense about what a good test is?

  20. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 4:22 pm:

    ===I didn’t do all that well on my ACT’s. It didn’t measure squat when it came to my performance.

    ACT scores predict success in college–so a student who gets a 21 is far less likely than a student who gets a 31. However, that is a probability, not determinism.

  21. - AnonymousOne - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 4:45 pm:

    If you’re college bound, of course ACT/SAT testing is part of that package. As for the rest of the standardized testing that people are complaining about (creating stress in their children, taking away instructional time, etc,eating up a good amount of money for test materials/evaluation) there’s no one better to complain to than your school’s administrators or school board member. Do not express objections to your child’s teacher. Chances are they agree with you but are powerless to do anything about it.

  22. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 4:45 pm:

    The ACT and SAT are good predictors of a student’s socio economic background. There are many better predictors of college success, including taking a challenging curriculum in high school, honors, AP, IB, etc.

    One of the best indicators of college success is this: a student who attempts algebra in the 8th grade is much more likely to graduate from college than other students. He or she doesn’t even have to pass algebra for this to be true. The simple fact that a student volunteers to take a very challenging course means he or she has the persistence and drive necessary to succeed in college.

  23. - olddog - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 5:12 pm:

    === The ACT and SAT are good predictors of a student’s socio economic background. ===

    Exactly. When I was working with college admissions, I used to argue the best statistical predictor of student success was average family income by census tract. Standardized tests like the ACT and SAT are useful as part of an overall assessment, but they don’t measure all the competencies that matter — things like creativity, persistence, work ethic, etc. The problem isn’t that the fill-in-the-bubble tests are bad, it’s that they’re being used for purposes they weren’t designed for — especially for things like evaluating school systems, citywide charter school averages, fodder for half-baked editorials, etc.

    The late Gerald Bracey had a very good “Short Guide to Standardized Testing” — it’s 15 years old now, but the principles don’t change, and Bracey demonstrates how advocates on all sides of these issues misunderstand and cherry-pick the data. Available on line at:

  24. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 5:14 pm:

    ==If you’re college bound, of course ACT/SAT testing is part of that package. ==

    The key statement there is PART. My complaint is against colleges who use the ACT as their Bible when it comes to admissions.

  25. - AnonymousOne - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 5:36 pm:

    Agree with Demoralized re ACT as Bible. But that’s ACT. I’m horrified at the ISATs and other standardized tests (administered on one specific day—-a snapshot of the student on that particular day)used for purposes of comparing schools. No student looks forward to these tests and the expansion of testing for comparison purposes has, I’d bet, dampened any enthusiasm for learning for any who had it to begin with. Kids know they are in the spotlight to “prove” themselves, more so than the staff of any school. But there is great demand for accountability. To go back in time, before all the marketing of standardized testing, and demands for comparison—-were we all that dumb? Was our education really that deficient? Without school report cards to know what was going on, without ACT prep classes, I —– and most everyone I know from various neighborhoods, various schools did just about as well as the kids today. Darn well, in fact—-30+ years ago Didn’t know any 36 ACT scorers, but then again, with prep classes—and some kids taking multiple prep classes—there should be 36s.

  26. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Apr 8, 14 @ 11:15 pm:

    Can someone please explain to me why we need standardized tests again?

    Because Finland is recognized as having the best public school system in the world and doesn’t use them.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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