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Imagine for a minute that there’s an organization called “Nutrition First,” and their mission statement describes them as a watchdog for whether restaurants are serving healthy food and handling it safely. Imagine that “Nutrition First” releases a set of restaurant reviews, in which they give different restaurants letter grades based on how healthy it is to eat there.

Now imagine that Nutrition First is actually run by people who are fanatics about pizza, and they get most of their funding from Domino’s and Pizza Hut. When you look at the letter grades they give restaurants, you realize that they’re actually grading every restaurant not on how healthy it is to eat there, but by how much pizza they sell. Chinese restaurants, Indian restaurants, salad bars, steakhouses: every letter grade turns out to depend on criteria like “total pizza sales,” “amount of cheese on pizza,” “pizza topping variety.”

You’d think, correctly, that “Nutrition First” is kind of a silly name for such an organization, and that the letter grades aren’t actually very useful, since they’re based on the preferences of the people who run and fund the group, not the needs of people who eat at restaurants.

So why in the world are we supposed to pay attention to Michelle Rhee and her organization “StudentsFirst” when they try to grade public school systems?

When you look at the actual criteria Rhee is using to measure education policy, it’s pretty clear that it’s not really related to kids’ experience in school. It’s based on the political preferences of Rhee and her allies. Another thing to note is that these ratings don’t correlate at all with ways to measure outcomes for students—including graduation rates and 8th-grade math and reading test scores.

It’s a tricky thing to measure school performance (indeed, Rhee herself has come under fire for questionable scores on tests meant to evaluate student performance), and there are a lot of complicating economic and social factors to take into account. But it seems to be basic common sense that you’d expect educational outcomes for students to be a big part of the way you evaluate school systems. If the name of your organization is “StudentsFirst,” you’d expect these grades to be based on how the schools are working for students rather than whether ideologues have scored political victories.

Michelle Rhee is allowed to have her political opinions and judge whether states are acting in accordance with her preferences. This isn’t the same, however, as caring about good schools, and it’s a little dishonest to take a political agenda and slap on the name “StudentsFirst.”

In other words, don’t tell us that a restaurant is unhealthy just because they don’t serve as much pizza as you wish they did.

by Seth D. Michaels - Reposted from Working America's Main Street Blog

Originally posted to Working America on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 02:00 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Teachers Lounge.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I love this. (6+ / 0-)

    Great comparison.

    •  How is this different... (0+ / 0-)

      ...from how the Entrenched Educational Establishment prefers to be graded?

      Neither Rhee nor the NEA/UFT like to be graded on actual student achievement. And by "achievement", I mean objective, standardized, numerical test scores.

      The Diarist writes:

      "...these ratings don’t correlate at all with ways to measure outcomes for students—including graduation rates and 8th-grade math and reading test scores."
      But imagine the outcry if they did incorporate test scores? There would be howling and wailing that "tests don't measure learning".

      Well, it looks like Ms. Rhee has gotten wise to the game. Don't tout hard data and objective performance. Tout soft fuzzy stuff that can be fudged, massaged, re-defined, or morphed.

      But wouldn't it be great if somebody measured whether or not the kids could read?  Wouldn't that be fantastic? But the Entrenched Educational Establishment is not interested in student performance. Now, it appears, neither is Ms. Rhee.

  •  sure 'nuff we ain't got no hankerin for those (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fb

    brown people down here cooking our food.

    Chineez, Mexikan, Pizza, big daddy wings-
    all our fixins be done with white hands.

    *Explore the wonderful mystery of South Carolina! Myrtle Beach, Charleston, and last but not least- Bigotville.

    People who say they don't care what people think are usually desperate to have people think they don't care what people think. -George Carlin

    by downtownLALife on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 02:24:18 PM PST

  •  States Who Graded Higher (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ScienceMom, sayitaintso

    Meaning that their education policies were closest in line with that of StudentsFirst ...

    Had the lower test scores and graduation rates.

    She gave Massachussetts, which pretty much has the best public school system in the nation, by many measures, a D.

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 02:38:18 PM PST

  •  Ms. Rhee should be raiding and grading the (0+ / 0-)

    home so-called schooling that's allegedly going on in various places.  Public schools are like public parks with many activities going on at many levels.  Ms. Rhee doesn't get to set the menus for all the picnickers or the rules for the scrub baseball games, but she can call the shots for her horseshoe game at the other end of the park.

    Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

    by judyms9 on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 03:45:06 PM PST

  •  Best reaction so far (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jabney
    Richard Zeiger, California’s chief deputy superintendent, called the state’s F rating a “badge of honor.”

    “This is an organization that frankly makes its living by asserting that schools are failing,” Mr. Zeiger said of StudentsFirst. “I would have been surprised if we had got anything else.”

    “This group has focused on an extremely narrow, unproven method that they think will improve teaching,” Mr. Zeiger said. “And we just flat-out disagree with them.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/...

    Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

    by elfling on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 04:26:09 PM PST

  •  Did anyone watch the Frontline on Rhee? (0+ / 0-)

    I didn't because the title led me to believe the program would not reveal her to be the fraud she is. But I do wonder whether it provided a factual assessment of her ideology.

    "It doesn't matter what I do....People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live."--Newty

    by Vico on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 11:51:30 PM PST

    •  I'm watching it right now... (0+ / 0-)

      it's hitting the part about cheating on test results.... (this is about 25 minutes in)...

    •  Hopefully only Part One of a series (0+ / 0-)

      It is my understanding that Frontline is still trying to get  information on the cheating scandal and will do a followup when they get their hands on a series of important emails that are being withheld at the behest of Rhee's organization.

      Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the advocates of truth and justice... Robert Ingersol

      by BMarshall on Sat Jan 19, 2013 at 11:22:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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