If memory serves, when Campbell Brown began her show on CNN, the (unofficial?) slogan was "no bull". So much for that . . .
Tonight's show included a segment on the Rhode Island school (Central Falls) that recently fired all of its teachers. While that action carries all sorts of ramifications (that I'm going to momentarily ignore), what caught my attention were education contributor Steve Perry's comments.
Ms. Brown first talked to a guidance counselor from the school, George McLaughlin, who argued that comparing Central Falls to other schools in wealthier neighborhoods was unfair because their school has a more transient population, more ESL students, and more special ed. students among other challenges.
Perry's response? In the midst of an emotional segment in which he says that Mr. McLaughlin "has some nerve," he declares that Central Falls' teachers are failing solely based on the fact that 93% of its students failed the state math exam last year. He continues on to say that "it's not a valid argument" and seems to argue that school achievement scores should be evaluated completely absent of any and all context
It's hard to debate Mr. Perry's points, because arguing that context doesn't matter in education is like arguing that height doesn't matter in basketball -- I'm not sure where to begin.
But I will address his other misstep -- using one snapshot figure. Even if we imagine, for a second, a world where poverty, homelessness, non-native languages, and so forth don't hinder one's academic performance in the least, we still can't evaluate schools in that manner. In this world, Central Falls teachers have the exact same kids in their classes as do those in Newport. Except for one thing. When they start high school, 100% of the kids in Newport are passing and 100% in Central Falls are failing (numbers are made up). The following year, 10% of the Central Falls kids pass the test, while 50% of the Newport kids pass the test. Which school has better teachers? Obviously Newport, because they have more kids passing the test. That's essentially Perry's argument.
Please don't start believing this kind of baloney . . . even when the host promises that there won't be any.
The clip is embedded below or available here, Mr. Perry's remarks begin at the 6:00 mark.
p.s. if you're thinking Mr. Perry should stick to his day job, please know that this is a different Steve Perry