Money Wasted on Misguided Educational Reforms

 

Money Wasted on Misguided Educational Reforms

Why Scores Are Lower Now Than When Accountability System Was Established

            Standardized test scores were higher in the beginning years of the Arkansas accountability system billions of  dollars ago than they are now.  Strangely, no one has even mentioned that in this entire educational debate.  

            Act 89 of 1983 required  a  norm referenced test (NRT) at three grade levels in order to compare Arkansas students to the rest of  the nation.  Despite the largest tax increase in history in the early 80’s and doubling of  funding from 1.4 billion in 1995 to 2.8 billion in 2001, test scores in the required 3 grade levels declined significantly. In 1984 the scores were  61% in 4th grade,  57% in 7th grade, and 51% in 10th grade. By    2001 they had dropped to   51% in 5th grade, 51% in 7th grade, and 49% in 10th grade.  (See  table of  all scores from 1984 to 2003 below)

            . We believe the ADE should bear major responsibility for lower scores because schools still had control of the curriculum and most of the decision making in 1984 when scores were higher. According to recent Arkansas surveys, 95% of superintendents and 96% of teachers said the educational reforms have been a top down approach with most or all the significant decisions made by educational bureaucrats. 

            For a few years after 1984, the scores did improve (up to 67% in 5th grade; 61% in 7th grade and 58% in 10th grade in 1990) when the teachers still had freedom to use their own methods; and the curriculum was based on specific content objectives. Following are just some of the  reasons we teachers feel the scores have decreased and why  any accountability programs pushed by the ADE should be viewed cautiously.

            In 1991, the ADE began to implement Outcome Based Education (OBE) methods, techniques, and philosophies as outlined in Act 236 of 1991. Outcome Based Education (OBE) is that wonderful philosophy that promotes government controlled education, no grades, no grade levels, no competition, no textbooks, no memorization and drills.  By 1997 the scores had sunk dramatically. 

            Instead of addressing the declining  scores, the ADE under our present director, began transitioning to a new type test for accountability,  the benchmark tests recommended in the OBE law, Act 236.    The ADE hired an inexperienced company, Advanced Systems, to design these tests. Its director said, "We couldn’t afford to hire anybody who knew anything about tests, so we hired people who were bright and committed." This same testing company had a 29.5 million contract with Kentucky who also had an OBE law,  but was fired after a number of years because they failed to deliver a "usable product," and the Senate voted 35-1 to scrap the test.

             The ADE, coerced  teachers to replace their traditional basic curriculum to match this new test.   Our present ADE director also continued with other OBE philosophy, methods, and standards  initiated  in 1991.  These  standards  earned an  F from the prestigious Fordham Foundation and a D from the American Federation of  Teachers. 

                In 1998   experts Willard Daggett and Douglas Reeves were hired “to provide unprecedented levels of training” for educators in Arkansas.  Daggett has been advertised in several pamphlets as an "Eminent Outcome -Based Reformer & Implementer" who is "Shaping America's Future Through OBE."  Daggett says in his book Preparing Students for the 1990s and Beyond, "[W]we will need to change our testing programs and move towards portfolios." Portfolios are now required at Altheimer where the superintendent has been replaced with an ADE appointee.  For more on Daggett, see: http://www.afaar.org/CharacterEducationTowerArticle.htm; http://www.popecenter.org/ClarionCall/1999/111899.html; http://www.afaar.org/character_education.htm

            Douglas Reeves was the expert for  standards and testing,  and his videos were distributed throughout the state for teacher training.   Reeves says in his books and writing that,  "Competition is not part of the human spirit, but part of modern day psychosis.”  Reeves doesn’t believe in nationally normed tests, in comparing different schools’ test scores, and says other forms of assessment are better than number or letter grades.  Reflecting Reeves’ views, an Arkansas Smart Start pamphlet praised two Arkansas schools for eliminating grades,  In Kentucky, which also  has an OBE law, spelling bees were called off because they were too stressful for students, and there was only one winner.  For more information on Reeves see: http://www.afaar.org/Curriculum%20Concerns%20-%20Daggett-Reeves-Crusades.htm

            The ADE is still enthusiastically continuing the Math Crusades program    which undermines basic education.  College textbooks used in Arkansas Math Crusades recommend "decreasing attention to Rote Practice, Memorization, One Answer and One Method, Use of Worksheets, Written Practice and Teaching by Telling."  Math Crusades books say, “Grading can be detrimental to student willingness to learn and should be replaced.”   Portfolios, a collection of  students’ work,  are their choice for evaluation.  ADE Director Ray Simon highly praises math specialists trained by this program.

            ADE mandated staff development has wasted millions of dollars and countless hours of teachers’ time training teachers in the above OBE philosophies. The following workshop advertisement  epitomizes this staff development. "Are these teachers crazy? They took 170 seventh graders to a city park all day for five days to study the geographic regions of Arkansas…Students heard a blues singer and wrote their own Delta Blues….students took wild turkey feathers and experimented with the effect of oil on feathers…Get packets and ideas."  OBE proponents constantly stress hands on experience versus textbook learning.      

            Most recently our ADE Director passionately promoted Act 1467 of 2003 which bases all sanctions on the experimental benchmark tests and flawed standards. Act 1467 gives the ADE power (greatly increased government control) to take over the majority of  our schools and place their own appointees in administrative positions.  This would give them total power to implement the philosophies and methods promoted by OBE,  Math Crusades, Reeves, and Daggett, or any other liberal methods they dream up.

             From our perspective as teachers, we would indeed be foolish to support continued educational reforms unless significant accountability is imposed where the real power and responsibility rest. Most of the leadership who implemented these problematic  reforms are still in the ADE. If schools can have their management replaced when they don’t improve, shouldn’t the ADE function under the same rules. The State Education Board has authority over the ADE.  Electing that board would be an effective way of holding its members accountable.

            Educators are not opposed to educational reform. We just know that unless these faulty and deceptive techniques are exposed, Arkansas will never realize real educational reform or improvement but will only continue to waste billions of taxpayers’ dollars. We keep hearing from legislators that local control hasn’t worked so we have to do something else.   The real truth is that government control hasn’t worked. Educators have had very little control for a number of years now.

             For more information on matters discussed in this article:   see http://www.afaar.org/Curriculum%20Concerns%20-%20Daggett-Reeves-Crusades.htm

Nationally Normed Test Scores From Beginning of  Accountability Law

            According to ADE documents An accountability law, Act 89 of 1983, required  a  norm referenced test (NRT) at three grade levels in order to compare Arkansas students to the rest of  the nation.    

            You probably won’t see a table like this unless you compile it yourself.  It is unbelievable that Arkansas set up an accountability system, and these scores have never been posted in a full picture or printed in a newspaper in full.

Year

5th Grade

7th Grade

10th Grade

1984 SRA Spring

61%

57%

51%

1985 MAT 6 Spring

64%

54%

53%

1986 MAT6 Spring

66%

58%

54%

1987 MAT 6 Spring

66%

58%

54%

1988 MAT-6 Spring

66%

59%

55%

1989 MAT 6 Spring

67%

60%

56%

1990 MAT 6 Spring

67%

61%

58%

1991 MAT 6 Spring

65%

60%

57%

1992 SAT-8 Spring

52%

51%

49%

1993  Spring SAT-8

51%

49%

52%

1994 Spring SAT-8

52%

51%

50%

1995  Spring SAT-8

50%

50%

49%

1995 SAT-9 ? Fall

55%

54%

52%

1996 SAT-9 Fall

46%

47%

46%

1997 SAT-9 Fall

47%

48%

47%

1998  SAT-9Fall

47%

48%

47%

1999 SAT-9 Fall

48%

49%

47%

2000 SAT-9 Fall

50%

50%

48

2001 SAT-9 Fall

51%

51%

49%

2002  No Test

No Test This Year

No Test This Year

No Test This Year

2003 SAT-9  Spring

57%

57%

48%

Average last 7 tests

51%

50%

48%

          I was told by Donna Wolfe in Testing that the 2003 scores could not be compared to other scores unless they were equated because they were compared to a different sampling. I marked 2001 because that is when  we  have the financial data for comparison.

By Debbie Pelley and Iris Stevens

Debbie Pelley, 870-935-9438 dpelley@cox-internet.com

Iris Stevens, 870-935-8320 istevens@inet-driect.com

           


 

 

 

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