So What Is Massachusetts doing that Washington State Isn't?


This was a good article in the Times this morning (although the only local quote is a business person and not an educator?)

Naturally, I had some comments about it as did other readers.  One comment that came up was the comparison of states purely by some demographic measures.  One reader said it should have been Colorado which is also, by geography, as big as Washington state with agriculture AND they spend less.  (I will also point out that Colorado has had some success with their public education reform but also a hotbed of problems with charter schools, takeovers of districts and big spending on school board races by out-of-state donors.)

The article points out that Washington students don’t take the international exams but doesn’t say why. Could that be cost?  I'll have to call OSPI and ask. 

“The education of all children (in Massachusetts) was seen as a matter, not only of fairness but of economic self-interest,” said Paul Reville, who was the state’s secretary of education during the overhaul and now teaches at Harvard University.
Yoo hoo, Legislature – do you hear that? “Economic self-interest.” If you don’t want to do it for the kids, do it for our state’s economy.

And yes, it matters how you spend the money but also that you spend real money especially on low-income kids of color. I would lay odds that the three things that Massachusetts spent money on – early education, expanded school day and boosts to teacher training – were worth the spending much more than any charter school.

Also, for the last time, Washington state does NOT spend $10,000 per pupil. That is the average total with ALL the funding that includes federal dollars.

To note, look at all those photos in the story – vocational ed should be a strong part of public education and many kids would benefit from it. Chief Sealth High School in Seattle may close its last remaining shop class at the end of this year.

 I would also bet that a school like Rainier Beach High in Seattle would do better with a newer building just as the students in the story did.  Kids aren't blind when it comes to buildings.

Looking at the graphics, there are many that show that Washington State is way behind in many measures but the NAEP – that test that a sampling of each state’s public education students take – Washington state is very near the top. So with fewer dollars, WA students still do well on that (plus Washington has nearly the highest class sizes in the nation.)

As a long-time public education advocate in this state, I’m not sure I saw a real “plan” for our schools. Lots of paper and talk with not much follow-thru and that’s because the schools didn’t have the money. Just like when the Gates Foundation had given a grant for every single Seattle public school to review itself and write up a “transformation plan” and then, the district didn’t have the funds to sustain that effort.

We ARE in a position in our state to be a leader in public education but there’s a difference between corporate ed reform and real ed reform (and this nonsense that there’s someone out there that wants the status quo is just ridiculous.)

We need to pick a path and follow it but it cannot be dictated by a small group of wealthy people.


Anonymous said…
Raw NAEP scores are unhelpful at best and misleading at worst.

Demographic adjustments are never perfect, but they allow for much more meaningful comparisons across states and over time. With a few exceptions, the adjusted 2015 ranking of states is not very different from 2013.

But the decreases in 8th-grade math and reading scores are too substantial to be blamed on changes in the characteristics of students taking the tests.

(The blame for decreases might better be attributed to Common Core.)

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
Here is a link to a study using NAEP results and equating them to TIMSS results

it shows WA State 8th graders in Math outscoring Finland.

NAEP equated to TIMSS

Keep in mind there is no correction for demographics on raw NAEP scores.

613 - Korea
611 - Singapore
570 - Japan
523 - Washington
514 - Finland

475 - Norway

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
When the Urban Institute demographically adjusts NAEP scores Washington is just slightly above average. Massachusetts is clearly #1.

Demographically adjusted NAEP scores by state

-- Dan Dempsey
Anonymous said…
Here is Part 2 of 2 in this series.


-- Dan Dempsey

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