First up is this data visualization of PISA scores put together by Michael Marder, a Professor of Physics and the Associate Dean for Science and Mathematics education at the University of Texas, Austin. Unlike the usual way these scores are presented (particularly to the American public), this time the U.S. scores are broken down by poverty level. Here’s a screenshot, but you really should explore the interactive Tableau visualization or view the mp4 that Professor Marder narrates.
[As you view the Colorado data above, also keep in mind the current budget situation facing Colorado school districts (pdf).]
Now, regular readers of this blog (are there any of those any more given my recent blogging drought?) know that I have some serious concerns about various aspects of our education system, and I believe there are many changes we need to make to best meet the needs of our students. My current frustration, however, is that I feel most of the talk around education reform at the national, state and even local level is not only about the wrong issues, but also misreads the data and ignores the most important factor affecting what they (not I) believe is the best metric for measuring how our students are learning.
For some reason Alex Trebek’s voice popped into my head while thinking about this.
Me: I’ll take Education Reform for $1000, Alex.To be clear, I don’t think poverty is our only issue in education. Nor do I think we should use it as an “excuse.” But as long as reformers think that "test scores" and "accountability" are the best path to meeting the needs of our students, then I think they need to get past the rhetoric and address the underlying issue of child poverty. The hypocrisy of misusing data to justify asking for more and more data from schools in order to judge how well we’re doing is stunning.
Alex: It’s the Daily Double! How much will you wager?
Me: I’ll bet it all on Education Reform, Alex.
Alex: That’s very bold. The one issue that well-known national education reformers might actually be able to have an impact on, but also the biggest issue they pointedly ignore.
Me: What is poverty?
Alex: That is correct!
A full one-third of public education students in Colorado are on free lunch. One. Third. Until we address that, please spare me any more discussion of CSAP/TCAP/ACT/PISA/TIMMS/NCLB/RttT/YAA.