Yesterday, we started looking into a new ad campaign, a website and TV campaign that promotes testing and the Common Core. Jeb Bush, his education foundation (FEE), and Chiefs for Change have a history of playing fast and loose with the facts while pushing policies that financially enrich their funders. So when they, who have been funded by testing giants like Pearson, McGraw-Hill and ETS, put out an ad promoting high-stakes testing, we took notice.
Though the ad and the website make several flimsy claims about Florida schools in order to prop up their push for more testing, one assertion struck us as particularly fishy: the claim that Florida is a “top 10 state,” accompanied by a citation that says “Sources: US Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2013 Report Card [sic]”.
The National Center for Education Statistics doesn’t create or release rankings like that. And as we pointed out yesterday, the NAEP data about Florida that we did find there paints a pretty mediocre picture of Florida’s overall performance*.
When contacted by NPR’s State Impact Florida for a follow-up, a spokesperson for FEE said that the “Top 10” claim comes from EdWeek’s 2013’s Quality Counts rankings. But that’s not what their ad says. Their ad explicitly tells viewers that this ranking comes from “Sources” including the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, falsely suggesting that these are several distinct national entities, and falsely associating their implied prestige with FEE’s claims.
That is a clear misrepresentation of the facts, that FEE representatives are clearly aware of. Yet so far, the ad is still running, and no one at the organization has taken responsibility for misleading viewers.
*For may reasons, we don’t believe that standardized test performance is the best way to measure teaching or learning. But by all indications, Jeb Bush and his organizations do. If they want to hold educators and students accountable to those numbers, they should be held accountable to them as well.