Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Kudos to longtime Nebraska education activist Vaughn Anderson for this disturbing comparison of how Nebraska pupils look “on paper” in the internal assessments prepared by Nebraska educators to measure their own performance, vs. how Nebraska kids look on the nationally standardized test, the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

It puts one’s teeth on edge. Nebraska pupils look just ducky on our own tests, the STARS, with most score averages in the 80th percentile . . . but they look positively putrid on the national test, the NAEP, with most averages down in the 30th percentile, the rumdum department.

According to the Nebraska tests, the vast majority of Nebraska pupils are doing just fine. According to the national one, more than two-thirds of them are reading or doing math at or below grade level, with relatively small numbers actually working at a level that the feds would term “proficient.”

This is true all around the country, where educators have been given the ability to create their own evaluation tools. There’s a huge gap, in most states, between test scores on home-grown assessments vs. the more objective ones with a larger, more diverse base of comparison. Educators typically defend their honor by saying that the NAEP doesn’t align with the curriculum they’re teaching as well as their own tests do, but the rest of us say duhhhh. Maybe that’s the POINT.

I mean, I can buy it that a national test might be more into politics and other nonacademics than a Nebraska-designed test, but I doubt it’s all that much, and anyway, how much “spin” can there be on a math test?

Sure looks like the local ed yokels have cooked the books to make themselves look good and deceive parents on how their kids are REALLY doing, compared to similarly situated kids nationwide.

From what I’ve seen, Nebraska has one of the widest “testing credibility gaps” in the country.

Ew! Ew! Ewwwwww!

See Anderson’s stats:


Does STARS give us reliable
data on school achievement?

Proficient or Advanced
(2005 NAEP)
Grade 4: 36%

Grade 8: 35%
Meeting or Exceeding State Standards
(2004-2005 STARS)
Grade 4: 87%
Grade 8: 81%

Proficient or Advanced
(2005 NAEP)
Grade 4: 33%

Grade 8: 35%
Meeting or Exceeding State Standards
(2004-2005 STARS)
Grade 4: 84%
Grade 8: 85%


The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as "the Nation's Report Card," is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. Under the current structure, the Commissioner of Education Statistics, who heads the
National Center for Education Statistics in the U.S. Department of Education, is responsible by law for carrying out the NAEP project.

Reading Hubbub in McCook:

Clapping and Comprehension

Parents were up in arms at a McCook School Board meeting last week over a change to “Reading Mastery.” That’s a reading curriculum that has been controversial everywhere it has been implemented. It has been demonstrated to be effective for low-income children and non-English speaking immigrants who have trouble with language learning in the first place.

The question is, how much can it help middle-income kids from good homes in the heart of Nebraska? Why is it a better choice than good, old-fashioned phonics-only instruction? That’s what the McCook parents wanted to know.

Teachers reportedly weren’t saying much, but 50 to 60 citizens piled in to the school board meeting, a few overwrought, to challenge the efficacy of the system. It’s based on the principle of direct instruction by the teacher, which is good, but it uses methods such as hand-clapping and choral sayings by the children which some parents believed to be “dumbing down.”

Read more about it on:

The Boondocks Strike Back:
Senator, Class I Leader Rebut Raikes, Witek

When Ron Raikes, the Ashland state senator who is chairman of the Legislature’s Education Committee, said that forcing the Class I elementary-only grade schools in rural Nebraska to consolidate with in-town K-12 districts would save $12 million, the other senators listened up, and approved LB 126.
When State Auditor Kate Witek correctly reported that some of the Class I schools had budgets but didn’t have any pupils enrolled, they felt justified.
Now many of them are sorry – because the measure has actually COST Nebraska millions, both officially in increasing staff, curriculum and space needs in the K-12’s, and unofficially in increased transportation costs for families. Meanwhile, the Class I schools came out with higher test scores on average than the bigger K-12 world in Nebraska. And the “ghost schools” turned out to be legitimate, operating on an administrative basis as required to maintain the school’s skeleton in case a family with children moved into the district.
The realities of what bad public policy it really was, educationally and financially, to try to wipe out the Class I country schools is a key reason why senators such as Abbie Cornett of Bellevue are speaking out for the repeal of LB 126, which is on the Nov. 7 ballot as Referendum 422.
Also over the weekend, Class I’s United leader Mike Nolles of Bassett had an op-ed in the Lincoln Journal-Star which rebutted claims by Raikes and State Auditor Kate Witek that overspending was rampant in the Class I schools because they are generally “under the radar” politically. Nolles made three points in rebuttal:

-- Carrie Hansen, a half-day kindergarten teacher and full-time administrator for the small Stull School near Plattsmouth was criticized by Raikes, among others, for making a salary of $101,050. But Nolles pointed out that she has 51 years of teaching experience, and under Nebraska law – which Raikes as a state senator is responsible for -- a teacher’s salary is based on years of experience.

-- Glen Public School in rural Sioux County was criticized for attempting to spend $14,233 on a trip to Hawaii. But it wasn’t local tax dollars being spent; it was a federal grant. Nolles said the Glen school had three students and knew it would be their last year open. For two years, this school had produced finalists in the prestigious National History Day contest, competing in Washington, D.C., and being featured in a National Public Radio series about the excellent educational opportunities in small schools. “The Glen school thought an exchange program with a Hawaii school would be a good idea, as it would incorporate other historical visits,” Nolles wrote. The trip was going to be paid for with REAP funds — Rural Education Assurance Program, awarded and administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Under the program, a school is awarded money; if the money isn’t spent, it goes to another rural school.

-- Also criticized was a limousine trip to a Hastings museum by South Akron School in rural Boone County that cost $1,349. Once again, Nolles said, the trip was paid for with REAP funds. He said the school’s insurance provider would not allow parents to transport students, but when the school board checked with the local bus company, it found that for 14 individuals a limousine was the only way to transport the students on their field trip to the Hastings museum in one vehicle. The alternative was to rent two vans, which would have cost considerably more than the limousine rental, Nolles said.

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