One Person in Media Willing To Publish The Truth on Test Scores 

by Pam Manard, Women's Action Group

 

The article "Mind-boggling - ADE Celebrates Bottom Quartile Test Scores As low as the 18% percentile" laments the fact that the media won't give an accurate picture of the test and performance measures of the Arkansas educational reforms. 1.

 

However, one person in media has been willing to publish the truth and paint the correct picture on test scores.  Here are excerpts from that article entitled "Big Money For Small Results," at this link http://www.nwanews.com/adg/Editorial/163930/ 

 

"Pelley says she’s documented that the good people of Arkansas have spent, and continue to spend, a vast fortune in taxes on a public school system that in numerous instances has declined rather than improved. She wonders why teachers are now accountable to government rather than to its citizens and why the state’s media have failed to fully explain this development or challenge the illogic behind spending more tax dollars to achieve less.

"According to Pelley, state financial records show that in 1983-84, public schools received about $ 560 million in state funds and about $ 106 million in federal contributions. Just two decades later, in 2005-06, those numbers had quadrupled to $ 2. 3 billion and $ 574 million respectively. Meanwhile, student performance measurably declined and the plan to hold teachers accountable for classroom performance became a convenient excuse to siphon billions more from the public’s wallet.

"Pelley said this didn’t occur by accident.

“Some years ago, an Arkansas Department of Education executive, Gayle Teale Potter, told me a Gallup Poll indicated [that ] the Arkansas public would be more willing to pay more taxes for education if the standards were raised and an effective accountability system was in place,” Pelley wrote in a wide-ranging e-mail and in response to questions about her latest research.

“It is obvious that accountability is not working when the newspapers across the state report that the Arkansas Department of Education director is jubilant over nationally normed scores that are 7 percentile points lower than they were 20 years and billions of dollars ago when accountability standards were something new. This proves my theory that when educators are accountable to the government rather than the people, there is no authentic accountability.

“ The composite score for seventhgraders on the nationally normed test just released for this year is 50 percent, or 11 percent lower than the score in 1990 (a 22 percent scoring decrease ) and 7 percent below 1984 ’s score (a 14 percent decrease ) when the accountability system was initiated in Arkansas billions of dollars ago,” Pelley said. “And the paper reports that ADE director Ken James is jubilant and calls the latest news fantastic.”

She added that the scores for fifthgraders this year were 58 percent—9 percent lower than in 1990 and 3 percent lower than in 1984.

Pelley said she chose the seventh and fifth grades because they are the only two for which a complete history of such scores exists.

Educational spending from 1996 to 2001 doubled, going from $ 1. 4 billion to $ 2. 8 billion, she said. It gets worse. Adequacy education consultants for Arkansas reported that total education revenue from federal, state and local sources soared to an astounding $ 4 billion in 2004-05. In light of the declining student performance scores, Pelley has me wondering: Four billion dollars to achieve what ?

“The public and the media have been manipulated with this marketing tool called accountability,” Pelley said in her e-mail, even taking this newspaper to task. “Many promoters of accountability are, and have been, sincere. Sad to say, however, accountability was designed as a marketing tool to peddle educational reforms and manipulate the public.

“ The children become political pawns as the politicians try to top each other with their educational rhetoric, reforms and test scores, even if they have to lie or use deceptive techniques to do so. The media then reports whatever those in power tell them about the scores and the people are deceived just as they have been in countries governed by dictators for decades now."

Thanks, Mike Masterson, for being willing to write about the truth even when it is not pleasing to the powerful bureaucracy in Little Rock.  Thanks for being there for the little people and for doing what the media is given freedom of the press to do - to give the truth to the people.