The “moment” of Education Reform is upon us.
The biggest “Education Reform” groups in the nation are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of advertising and lobbying into Connecticut in support of Governor Malloy’s “Education Reform” bill. Maybe you’ve seen their ads or received a phone call from one of their paid phone banks asking you to contact your legislators.
Even Michelle Rhee, the controversial anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-parent spokesperson for those who want to turn America’s schools over to corporations, showed up in Hartford last week. The claim is that business minded people, using standard business practices, will do better job for our children than educators will because they know how to “run things.” Rhee’s performance at a rally supporting Malloy’s legislation was to inform us that “the whole nation is watching what Connecticut does.”
Hartford was their backdrop, not only because it’s the home of the State Capitol, but it is also where Hartford’s former superintendent of schools, Steven Adamowski, instituted some of the “reforms” that Malloy and Rhee claim successfully elevated Hartford’s standardized test scores.
ConnCAN, the “Education Reform” lobby group likes to claim that Hartford has had the “greatest gains on state assessments of any Connecticut City.”
So let’s take a real look at what happened to test scores in Hartford and how Steven Adamowski’s fame was achieved.
First let’s start with an analogy. Imagine opening up a new deck of 52 cards.
- Count the face cards (Jacks, Queens, Kings)
- Face cards = 12. Divide the # of face cards by the # of cards.
- 12/52 = 23 percent… So face cards make up 23 percent of the deck of cards
- Now, with Aces low, take out the cards with the two lowest numbers (Aces and Twos)
- How many cards are left 52-8 = 44
- Now what is the percent of face cards in your deck?
- Divide # face cards by the # of cards
- 12/44 cards = 27 percent… take out 8 cards and face cards now make up 27 percent of the deck.
Lesson: As you take non-face cards out of a deck of cards, the percentage of face cards left in the remaining deck goes up.
Now let’s head to Hartford and see what Steven Adamowski and the education reformers have done there with the Connecticut Masterly Test (CMT).
Adamowski was named Hartford’s Superintendent in November 2006, so the baseline for assessing his success is the 2006-2007 school year. We’ll use the 8th grade CMT Mathematics test to see what happened.
|School Year||% of students taking standard CMT||% Moved to the Modified Assessment Test||% at or above proficient||% at or above goal|
|2010-2011||84.6||9.8||60.1 +12.3||31.8 +9.1|
Adamowski’s and his supporters claim that during his years in Hartford, the percent of students testing at or above the proficient level went up 12.3 (Column 4: 60.1 – 47.8 percent) and that there was a 9.1 percent increase in number who scored at or above goal (Column 5: 31.8-22.7 percent).
But hold on just a minute.
The year after Adamowski became superintendent, the State Department of Education began to roll out its new Modified Assessment Test – an alternative test for those whose skills were so deficient that they couldn’t succeed with the CMT.
As Adamowski left Hartford in 2011, 9.8 percent of Hartford’s lowest performing students had been removed from the CMTs and were now taking the Modified Assessment Test.
(Actually just over 13 percent were now exempt either because they were taking the Modified Assessment Test, their lack of proficiency in English is so great that they didn’t take the test, they were part of another very small program called “Check List” or they handed in a CMT test that had “no valid score.”)
While Adamowski and ConnCAN applaud the “growth” in Hartford’s test scores they fail to explain that 10 percent of the entire student body was moved out of the CMT’s and to a remedial test during the period Adamowski was superintendent.
In two different studies (a state-wide study conducted by the CT Voices for Children and another in West Hartford), researchers proved that by simply eliminating 10 percent of its lowest performing students, a city or town will see a statistically very significant increase in its average test score.
It may look like the number of Hartford students who reached the proficient level “increased” by 12.3 percent and those at goal by 9.1 percent —- but the overwhelming majority of that growth – perhaps as much as 70 percent or more – was as a result of dropping 10 percent of the lowest performing students.
What they fail to explain is that the vast majority of the “growth” was nothing more than a shell game.
And with the state and school administrators so obsessively focused on “teaching to the tests” what growth there was occurred because teachers were able to push a subset of students over the target scores.
Recently, Governor Dan Malloy responded to a question at his Windham Education Town Hall Meeting. He told a Windham parent that while he wasn’t up on the details of what Adamowski was doing as Special Master in Windham, he had complete confidence in Adamowski because he had done “a great job” getting test scores up in Hartford.
That in turn raises one of the most interesting questions of all.
Does Connecticut’s governor understand the shell game that was being played in Hartford and simply won’t explain what actually happened, or does the champion of “Education Reform” really not understand that when you take low numbered cards out of a deck, the percentage of face cards in the deck goes up?