Tuesday, October 30, 2012

School 'reform' group needs some arithmetic work

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 at 6:19 AM

DO THE MATH: Laurie Lees propaganda for school reform doesnt add p.
  • DO THE MATH: Laurie Lee's propaganda for school reform doesn't add up.
I've written before about A+ Arkansas (not to be confused with several other A+ Arkansas organizations of years past). It's another Billionaire Boys Club front group, financed by Walton and other money to carry their "school reform" message around the state. Its travels in recent weeks have coincidentally included stops where the billionaires' money is pushing for the election of Republican legislative candidates beholden to the billionaires' vision. Laurie Lee (nee Masterson), who won her first fame trying to ban books from the Fayetteville school libraries, is leading the group's road show. She's also been associated with a Republican-inclined political consulting firm and worked on the Koch payroll at Americans for Prosperity.

One of Laurie Lee's current messages is that Arkansas really sucks in education — that it is bogus to say Arkansas ranked 5th in a national education ranking, as Gov. Mike Beebe has touted in defending Democratic candidates against the onslaught of Koch and other billionaire money seeking to elect a Republican majority. Any similarity between the "education reform" group's messaging and Republican Party messaging is, of course, purely coincidental and should not be viewed as a coordinated effort, any more than Koch-funded gasoline giveaways attended by Republican senatorial candidates like Automatic Koch vote Missy Irvin are anything but coincidental.

From Laurie Lee's recent missive:

Some politicians don't want you to know that Arkansas' schools are in crisis. They are using this report to claim that Arkansas' schools rank 5th in the country - but 5th in what?

They don't want you to know that Arkansas received a "D" in the most important category - K-12 Achievement. We are ranked 33rd in the nation.

Lee helpfully provided a link to the report that she claims the governor is misrepresenting. Go ahead. Read it. It's from Education Week. But read it more carefully than Lee apparently did. Because surely she wouldn't intentionally misrepresent pesky facts while crusading for the billionaires who are paying her salary.

The link answers Lee's own question. Arkansas ranks 5th in overall K-12 education. The link explains that six categories were weighted equally to arrive at that ranking and that none was considered the most important. Yes, we need improvement in K-12 achievement scores. Yes, the governor has said as much. (Though 33rd, in context, isn't so bad against our customary 45-50th showings in wealth and other indicators.) Still, that aspect of the multi-part evaluation doesn't negate the overall ranking. Heard of averages?

Comments someone who pointed this out to me:

"Ironic that an e-mail decrying our advances in education chooses to ignore basic mathematics."

No surprise there. It's been clear for some time that there will be no fact-checking in the jihad. Keep the faith, baby. The education reformers have been using faith and this new math for a long time. Students from better economic circumstances, skimmed out of public schools for shiny new charters, score better than much poorer students in school districts left behind. Charters must be the solution for the difference, the billionaires and their stooges bray, not the proven benefit of stronger home lives. Broader overall studies that find scant value in charters when like students are compared are inconvenient facts. Keep the faith in the billionaires.

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