March 20, 2014

Pay Pearson, Go Further?

Yesterday, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for ‘Excellence’ in Education (FEE) launched a pro-testing, pro-Common Core media campaign entitled “Learn More, Go Further.” Targeting viewers of stations like HGTV, Animal Planet and the Family Channel, the ads feature teachers proclaiming good news about education in Florida, which they say are the result of “accountability, testing, and good teaching.”

learn_more_bush

The ad says to “learn more” at their website, but the site offers no evidence to back any of their claims.

Conspicuously absent from those ads? Evidence, for starters. Though the ad claims that Florida is “a top ten state” according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) based on the NAEP exam, the NCES itself does not rank states on the NAEP. This organization would have to have compiled those rankings on their own, yet they don’t say which of the many statistics the NCES gathers they’ve compared in order to make this claim. Their website offers no links or citations to back up this or any other claims about Florida’s education turnaround, nor a direct source to where this information allegedly comes from. But a quick glance at Florida’s most recent NAEP data reveals that their students’ score either statistically no different or worse than the national average on seven out of ten points of comparison*.

Also missing from these pro-testing ads and their website is the fact that FEE is funded by several of the nation’s major testing corporations: Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and nonprofit-in-name-only Educational Testing Service. Bush, FEE and their sister organization Chiefs for Change have all come under fire in the past, both from researchers calling out their misleading claims about the test-driven “Florida Formula,” and from public interest groups who discovered their operatives directly engineered state policy initiatives to enrich these and other profit-driven FEE funders.

Credible, peer-reviewed research reveals that while standardized test-driven education policies have¬†done harm, they have not been shown to be consistently effective, even when tests are used as the measure of achievement. But that hasn’t stopped testing companies and political allies like Jeb Bush from exploiting the public’s mistaken belief in their significance in order to craft lucrative policies that create an increased demand for testing.

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*The most recent NAEP snapshot for Florida (click on the state of Florida once on that page) includes data on 4th, 8th, and 12th graders for reading and math, and some less recent data on science and writing. Florida students only outscored the national average in 4th grade reading (2013), 4th grade writing (2002) and 8th grade writing (2007). They were not significantly different from the national average in 4th grade math (2013), 8th grade reading (2013), or 4th grade science (2009). They scored below the national average in 8th grade math (2013), 12th grade math (2013), 12th grade reading (2013), and 8th grade science (2011).