The recent headline in the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press was sent to me by my good friend Carl Glickman: “Low-income Vt. students rank No. 1: Report faults state on education reform.”
It seems that despite the gains made by the kids in Vermont, ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) gave the state an “F” for education reform. Incredulous, I decided to check out ALEC’s web site for verification. Guess what, while they give Vermont their #1 “performance ranking” they actually give Vermont a grade of “D”, dead last, on education reform.
I have often thought that debates about public education go on in an ‘evidence-free’ zone, but this takes the cake!
To understand how this first to last phenomenon occurs, you have to see how the smart guys and gals at ALEC come up with their ratings. The performance rating, the one that puts Vermont on top, comes from student gains on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) fourth- and eighth-grade reading and mathematics exams over the period of 2003 to 2009. In particular, they look to see what states help low-income children increase their scores the most. Like tests or not, congratulations to Vermont and its teachers for their good work.
But when it comes to rating education reform, ideology, not data, raises its ugly head.