Overall, I think Governor Kay Ivey has done a good job regarding education. She has been a strong proponent of early childhood education, she shows up at state school board meetings to serve as chair (something few other governors have bothered to do), she hired a smart, earnest young man, Nick Moore, to serve as her education liaison person, and best of all in my opinion, she replaced Mac Buttram as chair of the charter school commission.
However, she recently sat down for an interview with Montgomery’s WSFA TV station and said some things that cause me concern. You can see the interview here.
For one thing, she shows that, like too many politicians, she has fallen under the spell of “data rapture” by referring to Alabama’s 4th grade NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) scores. But she fails to provide any context and by not doing so, is misrepresenting what NAEP is all about.
As we have stated time and time again, NAEP is simply a small sampling of students in each state to look at trends. The results of one year ARE NOT intended to be a measurement on which to hang your hat.
Diane Ravitch is not only a former assistant secretary of education for the U.S., she also served on the governing board for NAEP. Which says to me that she has a much better understanding of NAEP than anyone in Alabama.
I asked her to tell me about this measurement. “NAEP achievement levels have always been controversial,” she said. “Scholarly panels have declared them ‘fatally flawed’ because they are subjective, not objective.”
Then she added something all politicians should understand, but few do..
“The thing to remember about ALL standardized tests is that they are highly correlated with family income and education. Kids from affluent, educated families tend to get high scores. Kids without those advantages get low scores. A test doesn’t measure the quality of education as much as it measures the quality of the conditions in which children grow up and measure their opportunity to learn.”
The governor referred to our 4th grade math scores as “rock bottom.”
But she gives no credit to Alabama educators for the progress we’ve made since 1992 when state scores were first published.. Since Massachusetts has historically been at the top of the heap with NAEP scores, everyone wants to compare Alabama to them.
When you do, you find that Alabama has actually made greater progress over this period than Massachusetts has. So we are actually running at a faster pace than our neighbors in New England. In fact, Massachusetts’ 2019 4th grade math scores are the same as they were in 2005.
And it is foolhardy to ever compare education in Alabama to Massachusetts. For one thing, people in the Bay State spend considerably more per pupil than Alabama does. For another, the percent of adults with a college degree in Massachusetts is nearly double that of Alabama. This is a HUGE advantage because it means there is far more local support for education, i,e. taxes for schools, than here.
The governor also put in a plug for a yes vote on amendment one that will change us from an elected state school board to an appointed one. Her reasoning? Voters don’t know who their state school board member is.
So I guess this means we should also have an appointed state supreme court, an appointed public service commission, an appointed court of civil appeals and an appointed court of criminal appeals because the members of these bodies are no more well known that school board members. In fact, I doubt many members of the general public can tell you who is the lt. governor, the state treasurer, secretary of state, state auditor or commissioner of agriculture and industries.
As I said, I like the governor.
But her argument for approving amendment one is extremely weak.