The latest NAEP reports on reading and math have been heralded as evidence for the success of the "reforms" that involve test prep, testing, punishing teachers if scores don't go up, rewarding them if they do, closing schools, and other versions of the carrot and stick method of school reform.
Here is my one-word comment: Balderdash!
There are just as many states using the same misguided strategies who made few or no gains as there were reformy states making big gains.
If test-and-punish strategies work, why don't they work everywhere?
D.C., Tennessee, and Indiana raised test scores, but the gains in other reformy states were small or negligible.
Below the national average were hard-driving reformy. States including Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, Rhode Island, Ohio, Connecticut, and. North Carolina.
That highly reformy state Wisconsin made no gains at all.
Michigan, New Jersey, and Massachusetts actually lost ground.
It is impossible to conclude, as some leaders have, that D.C., Tennessee, and Indiana have the right formula because so many states with exactly the same formula made no progress at all. Some of the states that were unlucky enough to win Race to the Top mandates made little or no gains or lost ground.
As a former member of the NAEP board, let me say that I find this statistical horse race utterly stupid. Are students in D.C. getting a better education than those in Massachusetts? Highly unlikely.
Are the students in the states with the biggest gains getting better education or more test prep?
Let me say it as bluntly as I know how: these state comparisons are stupid and say nothing about the quality of education available in different states. Anyone who takes them seriously is either a sports writer covering education or someone who thinks that education can be reduced to the scores on standardized tests.
Will families rush to enroll their children in the schools of D.C. or Tennessee because of these scores? Don't be ridiculous.