Monday, October 03, 2005

September 2005 Issue of NEA Today

There were all sorts of quotes in the September 2005 issue of the NEA rag so I'll just list a few here, with pithy commentary.

From NEA President Reg Weaver, in his Viewpoint article: "Credibility is also very personal. This year, I stressed to delegates that we must preserve professional credibility by insisting upon the professionalism of all our education colleagues." Oh, Reg, if only the union truly acted that way.

In what must rank as one of the most coherent letters to the editor ever published by the NEA, a reader from San Francisco (of all places!) had this to say:

"I was pleased to see 'Teaching 9/11', since I'm always interested in hearing about teaching currentl global events. However, Robert Peterson does not seem to be teaching about 9/11, but rather about global economic injustice.

"The attacks of September 11 were carried out by people who were neither poor, nor acting on behalf of the world's poor. Their motivations were apparently religious and nationalistic. Let's dispel the myths of the right and left right now: Saddam did not aid Bin Laden, and Islamic fundamentalism terrorism is not retaliation for the sweatshops of Asia and the poverty of Africa. We can teach our kids to understand America's flaws and strengths honestly, without ascribing noble motivations to terrorists."

I would only add that there's no evidence that Saddam aided bin Laden in the September 11th attacks, but otherwise an eminently reasonable position to hold.

Here was an interesting tidbit. I wonder if NCLB had anything to do with this:

"Black and Hispanic 9-year-olds are closing the achievement gap in math and reading, according to the 2004 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

"Overall, White, Black, and Hispanic 9-year-olds scored higher, on average, in 2004 than in any previous year. At the same time, the White-Black gap in reading decreased from 44 points in 1971 to 26 points, and the White-Hispanic gap fell to 21 points."

It seems that America's kids are getting fatter. How much responsibility for changing this should schools accept? Should BMI (body mass index) be included on school report cards, as was discussed recently on other education blogs? Here's the factoid from NEA: "A campaign to fight fat among Singapore's children through mandatory exercise, wieght monitoring, and healthier lunch programs seems to be working. Ten percent are overweight, down from 14 percent 10 years ago."

This again from Reg Weaver on page 16: "Teachers are tired of elected officials 'acting' like they care about students when it's election time and then turning their backs on campaign promises later." Might I suggest then, Reg, that you stop giving my money to all those Democrats you give it to.

A couple lines below that quote shows what a wonderfully democratic organization NEA is: "NEA President Reg Weaver, who was elected without opposition to another three-year term...." And page 45, which describes some of the NEA Resolutions adopted at this summer's Representative Assembly, has the headline "Democracy in Action."

I'll skip a discussion of the adopted resolutions here--that's for a separate post.


Anonymous said...

I would only add that there's no evidence that Saddam aided bin Laden in the September 11th attacks, but otherwise an eminently reasonable position to hold.

Or as I asked my friend Robyn, "Byrd, assume for this question Saddam looked at OBL, knew he was a kindred spirit (i.e. wanted to really hurt the USA) and decided to support him with money, training, other support. Would there by a written contract? I don't think so. This is done to say the least under the table.

Dan Edwards said...

My personal favorate Reggie boy comement was this one:

" While we are fortunate that the public understands the realities of the clasroom and the importance of a quality education, we must focus our attention on the policy makers." (NEW TODAY, Oct. 2005, p. 7, column 2)

Yep, the "public" that sends me their kids who are not prepared for school, who have yet to learn the concept of 'parental monitoring' of their kids homework, or can find time in their unemployed day to attend parent teacher conferences, Who are not even vaguely familar with anything going on with their spawn and school, yep, they understand. Reg nailed that one eh...... S--T.

TangoMan said...

At the same time, the White-Black gap in reading decreased from 44 points in 1971 to 26 points, and the White-Hispanic gap fell to 21 points."

Let's perform a thought experiment. What would the average score out of 100 be if the 9 year olds were given a calculus exam? Zero points, because the material would be too hard. What would be the average score if the 9 year olds were given an exam that required them to simply recite the alphabet? 100 points. In both case there would be no racial achievement gap. If you make the questions easier the gaps will close.

Darren said...

Tango, are you saying that the questions are easier now, and that explains the closing of the gap? Or are you advocating making the questions easier?

TangoMan said...


What I'm saying is that this is a well known tactic used by State level administrators to achieve a political win that makes every constituency happy - parents, politicians, educrats, principals, kids, teachers, taxpayers. But nothing can be pointed to as being effective in real studies. No new money, no new pedagogy, no new staff, etc. That's because there isn't really a gain being recorded. Knowing this, one should always look at the details of what's behind achievement gains. What's happening with the statistics you're quoting is an open question and I'm taking a skeptics position.

I'm actually a contrarion and believe that achievement gains should actually mean achievement gains. Funny that.

Here's what I do actually know. Despite many reports of achievement gains scored by point gaps closing, this is not reflected in an analysis of scores that look at standard deviation variances between the populations. The Standard Deviations gaps seem to move very little. This is likely because they are more immune to trickery like point spreads. The example I gave is, IMO, quite illustrative of how to monkey about with point spreads to show gaps closing. The problem with these types of machinations is that to show progress year after year towards an actual closing of the gap, one of two things must happen: 1.) actually close the gaps; or 2.) make the test progessively easier every year. If the latter is chosen then it becomes harder to hide the trickery and eventually the point spread will start to widen again (keep in mind that the S.D. has likely remained pretty stable throughout the progress) or the gap keeps closing and the content being tested becomes blatantly easy and the kids actual education suffers, for you can't have kids testing equally on State level tests but having an achievement gap in grades, unless you're willing to forthrightly accuse the State's teachers of purposely being racist in their grading.

Darren said...

I'm not sure whether to classify your comments as "interesting" or "excellent". Either way, take a bow!

Gotta love stats!

But all that begs the question--why did I mention that particular quote in the first place? And I did so because *if* the NEA states that things are improving, and they base that judgement on improved test scores, then why are they against the tests? Don't they want to know whether or not the students are improving?

TangoMan said...

I don't think the NEA really cares one way or the other. If the gaps were really closing that would remove a lot of the urgency, need for personnel, less spending, less special ed teachers, less union dues, less political fodder, etc.

Here are two links to a site run by a pyschometrician that can shed some detailed light on the games being played. This link is a short response to recent news from NC and this link is a more thorough examination of how to monkey around with tests.