Friday, May 15, 2015

Honesty: The Hot New Gap (With Anti-CCSS Bonus)

A new report from doesn't provide a lot of information, but it has opened up a great talking point Gap-- ladies and gentlemen, may we introduce the Honesty Gap!

The report, "Proficient vs. Prepared: Disparities between State Tests and the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)" -- well, actually, that title pretty well covers it. Achieve compared Big Standardized Test results to NAEP results.

Achieve, you may recall, was one of the groups instrumental in creating Common Core and foisting it on American schools. So we can't be surprised when their stance is somewhat less than objective.

Today’s economy demands that all young people develop high-level literacy, quantitative reasoning, problem solving, communication, and collaboration skills, all grounded in a rigorous and content-rich K-12 curriculum. Acquiring these skills ensures that high school graduates are academically prepared to pursue the future of their choosing.

Two sentences. The first one sounds lovely, if rather limited, and is an opinion that I'm sure many folks share (at least in part). The second is another iteration of the unproven belief that such a list of qualities will lead to academic preparation. But then, in the next sentence, in bold typeface-- we make a huge, huge leap.

Many state tests, however, continue to mislead the public about whether students are proficient. Parents, students, and teachers deserve transparency and accuracy in public reporting.

This statement assumes and implies that "proficient" is a measure of students development of the list above. It is not. It is a score from one badly designed, non-validated Big Standardized Test that does not have a hope of measuring any of those high function skills (not to mention "collaboration," which is of course expressly forbidden).

I do like the call for transparency. Does this mean that Achieve is going to call for an end to the Giant Cone of Secrecy around the test, and that states should no longer be required to serve as enforcement arms for protecting the proprietary rights of test manufacturers over the educational interests of students? No, I didn't think so.

BS Tests are measuring tools that have never been checked. It's like somebody holds up a length of string and says, "Yeah, that is what I imagine a yard should be, more or less" without ever grabbing a yardstick. Now, Achieve is shocked-- shocked!!-- to discover that the various states' pieces of string aren't exactly a yard long.

But their framing of it is, well, exquisite. States that have BS Test scores that come (somehow) in line with their NAEP scores are called the Top Truth-Tellers. The big gap states are not called Top Dirty Rotten Liars, but hey, if the shoe fits. This raises a few questions, such as how one compares the state-level BS Tests with the NAEP (maybe, it seems, just by counting the number who pass or fail).

More importantly, it raises this question: if the NAEP is the gold standard for measuring all that cool stuff about student achievement, why don't we just use it and scrap all the state-level BS Tests?

Reformsters are skipping right past that to The Honesty Gap. It's a more formal version of the old assertion that schools and teachers are just lying to their students and ed reform has to include telling parents and students that they and their schools and their teachers all suck.

Not surprisingly, the Honesty Gap has shown up in pieces by Mike Petrilli at Fordham and at the Reformster Website To Which I Will Not Link. And those pieces are not a surprise because the Honesty Gap has recently launched its very own website!! Woo hoo!! That website was launched by The Collaborative for Student Success, an advocacy group with most excellently reformy partners,
including the Fordham Foundation, the US Chamber, and even-- oh, look! Also All of which explains why Honesty Gap uses much of the same rhetoric to highlight the data from the report.

[Update: Oh, wow. The full-scale product rollout includes a new hashtag #HonestyGap on twitter, where you can find all your favorite reformy hucksters tweeting about how parents deserve the truth!]

Man-- it's like the group is so loaded with money that every time they wan t to launch a new talking point, they give it its own glitzy website. Meanwhile, I am typing about it while eating my convenience store fiesta chicken wrap at lunch. It's an amazing world.

So what's the end game of this particular self-supporting PR blitz? Maybe the secret is here in the third of the Achieve report's "findings"--

A number of states have been working to address proficiency gaps; this year, even more will do so by administering the college- and career-ready-aligned Smarter Balanced and PARCC assessments.

The dream of a national assessment, a BS Test that waves its flag from shore to shore-- that dream still lives! See, states? You insisted on launching your own test and dropping out of PARCC/SBA and that's just cause you're lying liars who lie the giant big lies. Come back home to the warm bosom of a giant, national scale test!

Here's one funny thing about the Achieve report. There's a term that does turn up on the Honesty Gap website, but in twelve pages of the original Achieve report about being prepared and proficient etc etc, these words do not appear once-- Common Core.

It's funny. Even a year ago, I hated the Core pretty passionately. But I start to feel sorry for it-- given the need to choose between Core and charters, Core and political advantage, or Core and testing, people keep picking the Core last. Poor orphaned useless piece of junk.


  1. So do they expect the states that use Smarter Balanced and PAARC this year to be more in line with the NAEP results? And, as you say, "if the NAEP is the gold standard for measuring all that cool stuff about student achievement, why don't we just use it and scrap all the state-level BS Tests?"

  2. You know, for all their talk about what "kids need" in order to be "ready for the 21st century" they still cannot point to the least bit of evidence from labor economics to make this point. Sure, they love to point out the "college wage premium" but they are less enthusiastic to point out that college educated workers' wages have a "premium" not from any increase in their wages but from the collapse of wages for people without a college degree.

    If our education system had been failing to meet the needs of the workforce there would be SOME indication that firms are COMPETING for the decreasing number of qualified workers by offering higher wages.

    Where is that indication, reformers? Where?