We have heard about the Honesty Gap before, way back in the spring of 2015. Achieve.org was one of the first to make some noise about it (Achieve, you may recall, was instrumental in launching Common Core), but in short order everyone was going on about it, from Jeb Bush's FEE to the Center for American Progress, Educators for Excellence, Students First--all the reformster biggies. The Honesty Gap even got its own website, which is still running today (it's owned by the Collaborative for Student Success, a CCSS promotion group that is tied directly to The Hunt Institute, which is in turn "an affiliate center" of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and lists the usual suspects as collaborators-- Gates Foundation, Achieve, NEA, The Broad Foundation, et al.)
|That's one dishonest looking thermometer|
In 2015, when the Honesty Gap was having a moment, Rianna Saslow was a high school freshman at The Galloway School, a private school in Atlanta, founded in 1969. (Current tuition for grades 9-12 is $31,150.) Saslow went on to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and graduated with a BA in Political Science and a second one in Educational Equity just about six months ago. Then she went to work as a policy analyst at Education Reform Now, the 501(c)(3) arm of Democrats [sic] For Education Reform, a reformy outfit started by hedge funder Whitney Tilson to get Democrats on board with the reformster biz. To get a sense of how ERN plays, they just hosted their 12th annual Take 'Em To School Poker Tournament, where you could grab a single seat for $2,500 or a whole table for $100,000 (cocktail ticket for $250).
It's Ms. Saslow who is going to reintroduce us to the Honesty Gap, and I bring her story up for a couple of reasons.
1) A reminder that for some people, these reformy ideas really did first appear a lifetime ago. I may remember a time when the dismantling of public education was not a major narrative; folks like Ms. Saslow do not.
2) A reminder that none of this stuff dies, no matter how much it deserves to. It just keeps coming back. Therefor so must the refutations.
Saslow's piece appears at The 74, which is always a mixed bag. Some of their education journalism is top notch; their opinion section is reliably tilted in the direction of the education disruptors, defunders, and dismantlers. The piece provides a bit of an echo of The 74's earlier coverage of the Virginia report that brought up the Honesty Gap for the usual purpose--to discredit public schools.
Like too many models of the 3D crowd, this is not an honest attempt to understand a problem in education in order to find a solution. But let's take a look at Saslow's piece and see what issues are hidden there.
Saslow starts by holding up the NAEP as a "highly respected and objective set of assessments that consistently holds students to a high level of rigor and acts as a neutral referee in comparing students to one another." Wellllll.....folks have taken issue with the NAEP for as long as it has existed. One NCES study found that about half of the students rated Basic actually went on to complete a Bachelor's Degree or higher; in other words, despite what the test said, they were college ready.
Saslow suggests that it's a shortcoming that NAEP offers no individual school ratings, but that's not what it's designed for. This is a recurring problem with Big Standardized Tests, this notion that if a yardstick is good for measuring the length of a shoe, it can also measure the length of an interstate highway, or the relative humidity, or atomic weight, or how ugly that pig is. Instruments are only good at measuring what they're designed to measure.
Saslow moves on to the complaint that is the heart of the Honesty Gap. States give their own BS Tests:But, by and large, states set a bar for academic proficiency that is lower than that for the NAEP.
If families are provided with overly optimistic data, how can leaders expect their support when looking to implement robust policies and practices to improve public education?
Closing the honesty gap requires commitment at all levels of leadership. State policymakers must ensure that their assessments are academically rigorous, and they must set benchmarks that reflect true grade-level proficiency.
On the district level, administrators must ensure that instructors have access to standards-aligned, high-quality instructional materials. And within the classroom, teachers must provide consistent and reliable grades that allow students, families and school leaders to monitor progress before higher-stakes exams take place.