Rick Hess’s Mistake: Failure of Test-and-Punish Is Not Limited to a Few Districts That Have Disappointed

And my own particular pet peeve is the deliberate and intentional misuse of the words “basic, proficient and advanced” — specifically “proficient” which the public is led to believe means at or even “below grade level.” Thieves and liars. Liars and thieves.


Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, has always been a corporate education reform kind of guy. That is why Hess’s honest analysis this week of the ultimate fraud of a succession of school district miracles—Washington, D.C.’s test score and graduation rate miracle under Michelle Rhee and those who followed her, Alonzo Crim’s Atlanta in the 1980s, Houston’s Texas Miracle under Rod Paige, Arne Duncan’s Chicago, and Beverly Hall’s Atlanta—is so refreshingly candid.

In all of these cases, as Hess points out, there was “a remarkable dearth of attention paid to ensuring that the metrics (were) actually valid and reliable.”  Second, it was “tempting for civic leaders and national advocates to accept happy success stories at face value—especially when they (were) fronted by a charismatic superintendent.” And finally “reformers and reporters (made) things worse with their lust for ‘celebrity superintendents’ and ‘model systems.’…

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