Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Military Children Stay a Step Ahead of Public School Students

Michael Winerip with his usual spurious arguments against NCLB and RTTT – this time, using schools run by the U.S. military for the children of its personnel as his example:

The results are now public from the 2011 federal testing program known as NAEP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. And once again, schools on the nation's military bases have outperformed public schools on both reading and math tests for fourth and eighth graders.

At the military base schools, 39 percent of fourth graders were scored as proficient in reading, compared with 32 percent of all public school students.

Even more impressive, the achievement gap between black and white students continues to be much smaller at military base schools and is shrinking faster than at public schools.

…How to explain the difference?

It has become fashionable for American educators to fly off to Helsinki to investigate how schools there produce such high-achieving Finns. But for just $69.95 a night, they can stay at the Days Inn in Jacksonville, N.C., and investigate how the schools here on the Camp Lejeune Marine base produce such high-achieving Americans — both black and white.

They would find that the schools on base are not subject to former President George W. Bush's signature education program, No Child Left Behind, or to President Obama's Race to the Top. They would find that standardized tests do not dominate and are not used to rate teachers, principals or schools.

There may indeed be things that we can learn from military schools, but to compare these schools to regular schools is absurd.  Here's one friend's comments:

They are good schools overall.  But I found it a little ironic, Winerip hates things like the KIPP parent contracts "skimming!" but the way these schools operate is parental expectations on steroids. He alludes to that in terms of how the command views the schools but doesn't really get it (or at least explain it).  He also ignores teacher quality – these schools have a somewhat unique labor market – military spouses and others around the bases as well as a niche market.

Also, while some military personnel are low-income, there are gradations and low-income kids in many cities/rural are even poorer.

DFER's Charles Barone adds:

Exactly. Military-based schools, like college campus-based schools, are noteworthy for always failing to replicate demographic trends present in the general population.

Military personnel are not a random sample of the U.S. population. You know, for example, that at least one parent has a high school diploma. Salaries are usually not market-based. Many people are doing skilled work, or are in training for such, with market values well above what the military pays.

And on the standardized testing, please. The Army literally invented achievement and intelligence testing. They do a great deal of other kinds of testing to screen and advance military personnel.

I love the quote from Sgt Nevin Jonhson:

"My records go to the board, my name is blacked out, anything that would identify me is blacked out; they only see what I've done and decide on the merits," he said.

Sounds like standardization to me.

Would be interesting if data were available to pull up some basics on their teaching force (college GPA, SAT, licensing exam scores, subject matter competence, etc.) and what their cba's look like.

In general, it is often the fact (this is true for child care and preschool too, where DOD facilities outperform their civilian counterparts) that the military can guarantee uniformity around a lot of the inputs in a way their civilian counterparts don't, can't or won't.


December 11, 2011

Military Children Stay a Step Ahead of Public School Students


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