Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Education Reform: file it for future reading

This is filed under the “Yeah, and?” category. An exclusive AP report, WHO TV.

…Iowa Schools in Iowa with small minority populations are escaping penalties under the federal No Child Left Behind law, even though some student test scores may be too low. …

… An investigation by The Associated Press found that Iowa schools are exempt from penalties in five racial categories -- white, black, Hispanic, Asian and American Indian -- if the number of students in any of those groups in a school is under 30. …

It’s widely known that the NCLB law makes every effort to control for statistical anomalies and secure test takers’ privacy. A small Iowa school district with three minority kids in a class will never be able to produce an accurate statistical picture of “achievement” for that minority subgroup; statistics requires certain sample sizes for reliability as well as testing privacy.

I'm not suggesting that small schools actively hide their minority scores to avoid the NCLB sticks, but running complicated stats to provide some level of reporting data probably doesn’t seem worth the time and costs, particularly if the feds aren’t that interested, and, as important, I don’t think school districts want to go to court over privacy issues related to NCLB.

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In another education news story, the president of the Chicago Fed Michael Moskow was in town for a speech to Iowa business council leaders where he stated the obvious. Reported by Radio Iowa:

…"In my opinion, we must be careful about simply raising teacher salaries across-the-board. This would attract and keep better teachers, but it would also encourage many poorly-performing teachers to remain on the job even longer," Moskow said. "So I believe that merit-based pay incentives deserve full consideration." …

… "So what can we do to improve our teacher corps? Well, one approach is to identify those teachers who are ineffective and replace them with more effective teachers," Moskow said. "Now, we know that it's possible to identify ineffective teachers however, in our current system, it's not so easy to make them better or to replace them." …

Governor Vilsack likes to quote economists connected to the Federal Reserve System. He spent all last year quoting at length from a Minneapolis Fed paper documenting external rates of return for state subsidized early childhood education (the Minneapolis fed paper actually supports the concept of targeted early education subsidies and not universal pre-school). Do you think president Moskow’s comments and data (great title under the data link) about the importance of pay for performance is going to enjoy the same level of consideration from our Governor?

It’s always great when our pols pick & choose what economic data they push. In Vilsack’s intellectual world, if good economic data doesn’t conveniently tie into a favorite agenda item, it goes in some file…circular, I bet.


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