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ASORA Education presents :. What’s Wrong With Our Schools?. What ASORA Can Do To Help. About ASORA’s CEO David Anderson. Former Research Physicist Perennial Student- For 24 Years > Ph.D. Taught High School Math & Physics Worked at Lawrence Livermore National Lab
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ASORA Education presents: What’s Wrong With Our Schools? What ASORA Can Do To Help
About ASORA’s CEO David Anderson • Former Research Physicist • Perennial Student- For 24 Years > Ph.D. • Taught High School Math & Physics • Worked at Lawrence Livermore National Lab • Fellow of the American Physical Society Took early retirement in 1993. Since has worked in areas of public policy- mainly education- and also in finance. Who is Anderson?
Advocated For School Vouchers In 1993 and 2000 worked for school voucher ballot initiative campaigns in California . Ran these campaigns’ speakers bureaus, wrote speeches and coached debaters. Except for Milton Friedman- who had his own compass. In fact, Milton Friedman was the original proponent of vouchers. He saw them as a means to invigorate public and private schools. About David Anderson
ASORA Education Enterprises • ASORA is an acronym for a novel school format: • A: Asynchronous (on-demand)S: Self-paced learningO: On-line instruction, testing & tutoringR: Rigorous academic contentA: Assessment integrated curriculum • We couldn’t find investors. Nor could other school developers with state-of-the-art plans. • We do survive through our consulting activities. What’s in the name.
ASORA Motto: • Best Methods • Best Technologies • Best Incentives • Fostered in Franchising Networks “Nothing succeeds like success.”
ASORA Analyzes Achievement Tests • What percentage of children are really at or above grade level? This percentage is also known as the proficiency. • The Nation’s Report Card, America’s “gold standard” of K-12 testing, tells us. Officially, it’s called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). • But the NAEP only reports statewide and nationwide. • ASORA’s mapping technology allows us to estimate local percentages of children at grade level for each school. • Here in Massachusetts we use MCAS proficiency percentages as input to this process. What ASORA does.
Introduction • We are interested in reforming and improving K-12 schools- both public and private. And we believe that reforms will be driven by their customers once they learn how poorly these schools are performing. The lying must stop. • It is not nearly enough to propose changes how schools operate. Rather the framework or environment in which they operate needs change. • Parents, who are the customers of schools, need two kinds of help if they are to make informed choices about their children’s schools: • They must have the financial means to choose a good school. For many this will require some kind of voucher or scholarship. • More importantly, they must have honest reliable information about school performance with respect to similarly situated students. • If these two things are provided, policital and market forces will do the rest. Telling parents the truth about schools is the key reform.
How Good Is The MCAS For Reading & Math? • There is good news and bad news: • For 4th grade testing the MCAS rivals the NAEP. • At 8th grade the MCAS math testing is honest but reading performance is grossly exaggerated- almost double the real number are said to be proficient. 79% “deemed” proficient versus the NAEP’s 46%. • Then for high school testing, the MCAS claims for both math and reading are similarly overblown. • Why? The MCAS is used as a graduation requirement. As such, an honest test would deny too many their diplomas. At the high school levels, MCAS testing is compromised.
MCAS vs NAEP For Taunton 8th Graders • The “look good” MCAS numbers shown below don’t help parents and others learn much about Taunton schools. • The NAEP estimated proficiencies allow one to know: • How many children are realistically at or above grade level. • How each school compares to others statewide & nationally. NAEP estimates are much more useful than exaggerated MCAS numbers.
Thriving With An Honest MCAS • Were the MCAS as solid as the NAEP: • Most students would work harder to meet the new more challenging standards. Some would not. But overall performance would rise. • Private schools should be encouraged or even required to use the new MCAS. It would remove much of the guesswork now used in choosing a good school. • The superiority of Massachusetts schools, both public & private, would increase. Our top rating nationally would rise further. • Many other states would strive to catch up. Or face shame. A better MCAS could spur national reform.
Why Being Best Is Not Good Enough • Being the fastest turtle is not good enough: • Not even half of Massachusetts’ 8th graders are at or above grade level in reading and mathematics. Nationally, only a third perform this well. • Internationally, the United States education system is barely average. • Canada, Finland, South Korea and China are “eating our lunch.” • Economic growth depends on the skills of young people leaving our schools. There is enormous room for improvement.
What Can Parents Do? • Parents and other stakeholders can’t wait for schools to improve but have other options to consider: • Find a better school. This is not easy when reliable performance information is missing. • Supplement their children’s instruction through tutoring services and various other available resources. • Homeschooling should be considered. Home schooled students usually outperform both their public and private counterparts. When they wake up to having been suckered, parents learn that they have alternatives..
When Parents Can’t Afford These Alternatives: • Vouchers or other kinds of scholarships can solve the affordability problem. But is that enough? • Or what if parents can afford private alternatives but think their current public school is just fine? • Both the affluent and the less well off generally don’t know which schools are best and often think their current school is good. • Without adequate consumer info they generally choose a new school no better than their current one. • Honest consumer information is needed both for public and private schools. Good consumer information is lacking.
Where is Angie’s List? And Zagat?: • Where is the “Consumer Reports” buying guide for schools? • We just bought a vacuum cleaner. But only after consulting Consumer Reports. • We are currently remodeling our home. Angie’s List was checked before we contracted the project. • Intellichoice is an excellent place to preview automobiles. • Why can’t local news media provide some of this? This show we’re doing today is an example of what can help. Where are the consumer guides?
The Voucher Itself Is Not Enough: • This old voucher warrior, for almost 20 years, thought that the voucher, by itself, would create enough competition to energize school reform. • That’s what Milton Friedman was saying. • That’s what I heard the free market advocates saying. • But recent research says vouchers aren’t helping much. • Only black children see benefits that are statistically significant. Are parents with vouchers making good choices.?
This Is Not Rocket Science: • As is any science, one can learn much from looking at observations: • Consider the fact that nationally, the NAEP also tests private school students? • And as you would expect, private school students outperform those in public schools. • But wait. Is it fair to compare the more affluent with those less so because the former likely learn more at home? • For comparable economic groups the NAEP shows public schools and private schools in a “dead heat.” Private schools are just as mediocre as their public counterparts.
The Wasted Voucher: • On average, the data suggests this: • A parent disappointed in his or her child’s school performance uses a voucher to find a better school. • They typically choose a private school, which common prejudice tells them is better than the current school. • But they are wrong. They choose a school no better than the previous one. • Then as a result the child performs no better than before. This squares with the research result just mentioned. Throwing good money after bad.
The Black Exception: • There is one group of public schools for which we believe the alternative nearby private schools are better: • Inner city neighborhoods with significant black populations often have extremely deficient public schools. • These public schools are likely inferior to nearby private schools. • Parents using a voucher to select one of these private schools generally find their child learning more than before. Why can’t children of other ethnicities attend a better school?
So What Can Be Done? • From the point of view of a parent, two needs must be met: • The parent must have sufficient financial resources to enable him or her to choose an effective school for the child. • The parent must have reliable information about school quality. In particular they need to know how well students from similar backgrounds perform- so the comparisons reflect school quality rather than family affluence etc. • Many states are making progress on the first of these, but none to our knowledge is addressing the second. • We believe providing good consumer information to parents is more important than providing financial support. When that is done, we believe there will be a ground swell of interest in vouchers and other means of school choice. Almost totally absent is honest student performance information.
ASORA Already Has Some Of The Information • We at ASORA have already generated student proficiency estimates for all public schools in Massachusetts- including those here in Taunton. • Our estimates of NAEP proficiency percentages have been completed for tens of thousands of public schools in East Coast states. • Our estimates include proficiency numbers for the economically disadvantaged children in each school. This is the more important “figure of merit” in judging the relative quality of schools. • But what about private schools? • Very few private schools publish performance statistics we can use. • It is difficult to infer private school quality based on indirect measures such as college acceptance rates or even from published SAT scores. ASORA can help.
Is Apathy At Work? Is Cronyism A Factor? • Aside from a few researchers, no one seems interested in our data: • We published a guidebook to public schools in Maryland, Virginia & Washington D.C. Only a handful were sold- mostly to analysts. • We have sought partners within the education industry to promote and use our capabilities. The response has been almost entirely silence. • Why? • Most firms in the education sector operate as contractors to public education systems. As such they fear telling unpleasant truths that would, so to speak, “bite the hand that feeds them.” Maybe it’s “cronyism?” • Even schools that are for-profit seem afraid to say anything negative about the other kinds of schools. They, too, might fear government retribution. The education establishment does not want to hear this.
Is Tradition Masking Corruption? • Traditional methods of operating both public and private schools pose significant conflicts of interest that are rarely seen as such. • Teachers, principals, school districts and state school systems all have an incentive to make themselves look good. The testing they employ should be providing a reliable estimate of student competence. But they make this testing overly easy to give an exaggerated appearance of success. • Worse, schools often promote students who don’t even meet their own testing requirements under the excuse that it doesn’t make much difference. The corruption here is their failure to address the needs of slow learners. Instead give them a pass and move them along rather than focusing more on remediation. • We would correct these two corrupt practices by conducting all official testing through an independent agency that would control transcripts & promotion. Yes, Virginia, there is corruption in our schools.
Third Party Local Marketing? • If schools and other education providers, of whatever type, are afraid to use sobering statistics in their marketing, then that job can be given to 3rd parties. • The news media should undertake the publication of this consumer information. • Local service organizations should offer such information. • Religious congregations should be doing this for their members. • The Education Industry Association should consider playing a role- particularly if its members fear the blow-back of honest marketing. • One great benefit of doing these reforms locally is that there are thousands of communities where this kind of effort can be tried. Compared to more global efforts, the costs and efforts required to launch such reforms are much less and the likelihood of finding a foothold and success are much greater. It will be done somewhere- if not here.
Could Chambers of Commerce Do It? • The businesses who are members of Chambers of Commerce are particularly interested in local school performance: • What other organization complains so much about low skill levels of work force entrants- those coming from our high schools? • Their members often find themselves offering their own remedial training in skills their new employees should have learned in high school. • Chambers of Commerce are generally well respected in their communities. • A Chamber might consider publication of ASORA’s NAEP estimates? • It could offer testing programs to local children and publish information on school quality based on that testing. • Parents and others would pay for the testing through voluntary donations. One way to test private and public school students.
A Chamber Diploma? • At the 12th grade level, Chambers of Commerce might consider testing students in their local areas as follows: • The ACT or other similar test could be used to generate estimates of NAEP proficiency levels. Other subjects beyond reading and math could be included. • Participating students would be given a Chamber transcript showing their scores on the relevant tests. • Students who achieve NAEP-like proficiency levels on the various tests could be awarded Chamber Diplomas. Fewer in number, these diplomas would be valued more dearly than school issued diplomas. • We at ASORA could help implement such programs in collaboration with Chambers of Commerce. Why not seek a diploma that tells the truth?
What To Remember • We believe that competition based on informed school choice will drive reforms in our K-12 schools- whether public or private. This can be done by: • Providing parents with honest performance information about their local schools- both public and private. This is not currently being done. • Providing parents the financial means, where needed, to be able to afford the option of choosing private schools. This is being done on a small scale. • ASORA Education has the means to generate estimates of student proficiency percentages based on the Nation’s Report Card or NAEP. • These estimates can be used to compare among public schools- particularly for their success in educating economically disadvantaged students. • We are ready to help local efforts to measure private school performance. Honest consumer information is the key to school reforms.