Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fact check on Walcott speech on middle grade achievement

Today, at a speech at NYU, Chancellor Walcott announced a new training program for middle school principals…to be run by TFA.
Next, to attract and prepare new middle school principals, we are launching a new program called the Middle School Leadership Internship, in partnership with Teach for America. For four weeks, teachers who are thinking about making the jump to a school leadership position will be matched with a mentor principal, whom they will shadow and learn about the complexities of leading a strong middle school.
Does this mean Walcott agrees with the numerous critics of the NYC Leadership Academy, founded by Joel Klein and with which DOE has a five year, $10 million per year contract  through July 2013?  Does he too think that the Leaderhip Academy is unable to adequately prepare principals?  What qualifications does TFA bring to the job, beside their political influence and connections? And how much are we paying them out of scarce taxpayer funds?
Walcott also claimed in his speech: “Student performance in the middle grades is even higher than it was five, or ten, years ago.”
Really?  To the contrary, since 2003, there has been NO significant progress overall in 8th grade ELA in NYC as measured by the NAEPs , and we come in last or second to last among most sub-groups in terms of progress in 8th grade math compared to other large cities. Here is what Walcott said about 8th grade math:
 In the middle grades, New York City students have made significant strides on three out of four areas on the national tests.  In fourth grade math, fourth grade reading, and even eighth grade math, our students’ gains since 2003 are greater than those in the rest of New York State and match what we’ve seen across the nation. 
First of all, the fourth grade is not usually considered the "middle grades" and the gains have been nothing to write home about;  less than most other cities as measured on the NAEPs.  In the 8th grade, the results have been nothing short of disastrous.  Here are the the NAEP results for all large cities tested since 2003, for all six ethnic/racial/economic subgroups in 8th grade math.  These charts show that in NYC,  only Asian students have improved compared to their peers elsewhere. We are also the only city in the country where our non-poor students now test lower in math than they did in 2003.





Here are the results for 8th grade ELA, for the same sub-groups, with equally dismal results, again with the exception of Asian students:





 Again, we are the only city tested in which non-poor students have lower average scores in 8th grade ELA than in 2003.
On the other hand, some NYC data does show dramatic increases: Our class sizes in grades 4-8 have increased sharply since 2007, especially as compared to our Contract for Excellence commitments.


But never fear; I'm sure those new TFA-trained principals will be able to work wonders. 

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