From Potter Williams Report: Common Core Author Seeks More Data:
David Coleman, president of the College Board and author of Common Core State Standards, gave a presentation to data analysts in Boston three weeks ago. In his speech he states the new goals of the College Board are to use data to find “low-hanging fruit” or low-income children who are high achievers but at risk for not going to college.
This may sound noble, but Coleman intends to carry out his new Access to Rigor Campaign by partnering with Obama’s reelection campaign directors who specialized in data and field mobilization. In the video, he lavishes praise on the Obama operatives as well as research teams like Strategic Data Partners based at Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research.
Names he mentions are a virtual Who’s Who in data collection, both educational and political and they’re all from the left.
Thomas Kane, professor of Education and Economics in the Harvard Kennedy School, and co-author of the Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project on Education along with Douglas Staiger and Robert Gordon. The project emphatically states the same talking point of all the corporatist education reformers: the teachers alone are the most crucial factor in whether schools succeed or fail.
Erin McGoldrick: "director of data management and analysis, partners with schools, researchers and funders to address the data needs of the charter school movement in California." McGoldrick formerly worked as DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s chief data analyst.
Nate Silver: pollster extraordinaire “had correctly predicted the winner of every one of the 50 states and the District of Columbia” in the November 2012 elections.
Dan Wagner, president of Civis Analytics, and former Obama for America data analyst. Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt, who was intimately involved in Obama’s reelection campaign, is the sole investor of Civis and news of the company went public May 30, 2013.
Jeremy Bird: Founding partner of 270 Strategies, served “most recently as the National Field Director for the 2012 re-election campaign of President Barack Obama, where he had primary responsibility for building a nationwide army of staff and volunteer organizers.” Bird recently began a campaign to “turn Texas blue” by tapping into the Hispanic population there.
Strategic Data Project: "The Strategic Data Project partners with school districts, charter school networks, and state education agencies to bring high quality research methods and data analysis to bear on strategic management and policy decisions. The project is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."
CEPR: Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University. "The rapid accumulation of student achievement data represents an untapped national resource, one that holds the promise of breaking longstanding stalemates in the education policy debate. The Center for Education Policy Research works with university-based researchers and policymakers to bring these new data to bear in evaluating policies and drawing implications for reform."
Below is a partial transcript of David Coleman’s presentation [from the 40 second mark to approximately the 30 minute mark]. He opens his talk with the fact that he's been quite busy as the newly appointed head of the College Board, and that he was recently married.
SDP Beyond the Numbers Convening: David Coleman May 17, 2013, Boston, Mass.
David Coleman (00.40) It is my honest conviction that the people in this room if we can pull your work together, if we can combine the insights that are contained locally, through the strategic data project combine them into clarifying and galvanizing ideas that there's more force in this room to change the work of education than anywhere else. And that I know is a strange statement because you might say shouldn’t you instead be meeting with the council of Chief State School Officers?
Those of you who say that might not have attended as many of those meetings as I have or you might say shouldn't you go you know to the university presidents or shouldn’t, you know, you could have many ideas, you could also say seriously at this time in our society notions of evidence and data are more suspicious than powerful.
What I mean by that is this—if you are watching Washington DC these days the notion that evidence and data will change the world is a hard claim to support. If you're watching the debate over data infrastructure in this country you'd think the noble impulse to use information to propel students forward is one of those gotcha things we better be careful because in trying no good deed goes unpunished. But I wanna highlight for a moment a couple of other facts of what's going on in this country at the same time.
During last five to ten years. Two ideas swept the country during a period where all ideas seemed to stop. Right now whatever reform you're interested in, so-so imagine, for me if you don't, if you disagree what area of domestic policy over the last five years has enjoyed bipartisan support outside of education? I'm I'm really, you guys are data, geeky, cool people so contradicting me is allowed unlike the typical politeness that should reign in a moment like this uh...
Tell me one, tell me a significant domestic policy area where Republicans and Democrats have gotten together and gotten something done outside of education (unintelligible) may we pray— your lips to God's ears…so-so I want to give you guys two examples that are kind of interesting, but remember these are two examples against the darkness; these are two examples where there are no others. That's a very important notion. One of them is the common core standards, right. It is incontrovertible that despite current disputes forty-five to forty-six states adopted these standards with strong bipartisan support that continues today. Despite the debate at the edges Former Governor Bush, Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, I'm listing Republicans now, and a wide range of Democratic governors, supported the notion of acting in common and most people when trying to understand how that could have happened right how could it be that in the country locked against itself that something broke in this way; and they wonder they might wonder whether we had a legion of talented lobbyists or friends in the right places uh... Tom [Kane, Harvard education professor] who knows me well knows how pathetic the beginnings of the common core standard movement were.
Think of a napkin, think of a few people in a room with an idea; think of the idea of being this the idea being this: if evidence did not inform the development of standards they would inevitably be vast vague and useless. Now why is that true? Why is it true that without the notion of evidence standards are helpless? I’m making a very strong claim, why?. Have any of you ever please raise your hand been in a committee meeting before?
So what happened in states is they got together committees to write standards and they got into groups, you’d have your geometry team, your statistics team, your data, your algebra team, right, a math meeting or you know the ELA not knowing that you know just get everyone together and had a nice big old happy thing. And the only way to end the meeting is what, to include everyone’s stuff; I'm not leaving here until you put in all my stuff and I'm not leaving till you put in my stuff and everyone’s like cool let's put in your stuff with my stuff; we are done here.
Then teachers and students are in receipt of this, so it's estimated that the California standards the result of such a practice would take thirty years to teach. Once standards get that long several pernicious things happen. So those of you who are interested in assessment must know a fundamental fact of assessment and it's much more important by the way than whether the assessment is multiple choice or open-ended there's another larger factor driving the validity of any assessment. I know you know this.
How many things you’re trying to measure; if I'm trying to measure a few things I can ask you several questions about the same thing and get more information…I know this is a deduction; I can find out much more about you, but imagine instead we developed math standards so that every math test is this crazy survey of a bunch of information.
Where teachers, even good ones, feel like it is Russian roulette what will be tested that year, they feel that the force of the standards and assessments is a force to race them to cover material that they can't cover and that their kids can’t understand; that kind of environment leads to even the best of teachers to find data which we want to see as a signal of truth as not a true reflection of their effort and their work, as maybe even an enemy to their work, so the common core standards did something in mathematics.
It's quite interesting it turns out that overwhelmingly based on evidence there is a relatively focused portion of mathematics that is extremely important to your future in math. And a lot that is not, to be precise, in the top-performing countries in math in kindergarten through second grade, there are only three topics in common in high performing countries—they are addition and subtraction and the qualities they measure. The common core standards adopted by 45 states in mathematics are the first American standards to dare to follow this tight focus. The American math curriculum as you know has in the past been a mile wide and an inch deep, but that data that evidence allowed us to turn back the tide.
Do you realize how hard it is in education to have an eraser as well as a pen? You see, that's the secret of education reform. If we add more my friends we will lose; people are already quite busy. The notion that we've got a great education reform for all people’s spare time is kind of a hilarious idea, but it's hard because things don't come into being without supporters.
So to erase all that other math … to give you a sense we looked at the data from Washington DC. So you think Washington DC environment, lots of kids are poor, they would focus on the most essential math because that’s the math their kids most need and spend enough time to teach and enough time to practice. An examination of the curriculum in Washington DC had 80% of teacher time outside of the school. Isn't that heartbreaking for the kids? They're spending more time than not practicing things that don’t propel them in mathematics. So, just to be quite specific, do you remember problems like pattern problems circle square circle circle or combination problems like if you have three kinds of cheese and two kinds of lettuce how many sandwiches can you make? No, no, no.
The core in mathematics is actually far more focused. In K-2 the addition and subtraction of whole numbers, the quantities they measure. In third through fifth grade, and I know I’m getting kind of specific, multiplication and division and the mighty art that most predicts your readiness for Algebra which is what? What knowledge and skills earned during those grades most predict your ability to handle the near equations in eighth grade? Fractions. Your exactly right.
So wouldn't it be better so imagine you have an assessment system where you can pass a fourth or fifth grade math test without knowing fractions cause you’re covering so many topics? What's the problem if you pass that test are you on your way to success? Think of the core of mathematics as a trunk of a tree; without it you are helpless. With it you can do everything else.
So I just want to give you an example of the kind of overwhelming data, so we had data here we had evidence from international examples of what the best countries did. We had data from domestic studies early mathematics and of what, what things predicted later success. We had surveys from college professors first-year college professors about what math made the difference in their courses and what did not. What we did differently is we used it to force rank; that is, we didn’t just have all this data we decided that based on that data you could decide what was critical and what was not and make it that. (MEW Note: We thought these standards were voluntary and state led. Coleman himself says that they are forced?)
When I was involved in convincing governors and others around this country to adopt these standards,(MEW note: Weren't standards state led, not David Coleman led?) it was not “Obama likes them”; do you think that would have gone well with a Republican crowd?
It was instead, “there’s a focused set of math with an overwhelming amount of data that will predict success and your standards have teachers all over the place.” The only area of math performance which this country leads the world is the size of our textbooks. It must stop.
Those are arguments based on evidence—that was the secret power behind the common core.(MEW note: these standards are not based on field testing or best educational practices. There is no evidence these standards will produce "smarter" students). My own field is literacy, and if I get time of course I would love to tell you about why evidence drives us to where we are in literacy, but I want to tell you in a kind of profound way that the victory of the common core standards is a victory of design and evidence over endless conversation, endless dithering. The real power behind it was a victory of those two ideas.
So I want you, I’m challenging you to think today about where do you hold evidence that accumulates, that matters, from different sources that guides you and then how can you use it to provoke a change. I'm gonna give you one example of something the college board is doing about that but I wanna first pause and say I told you there were two things this country did in the last five years right?
Does anyone know what is the other bipartisan educational movement that has reshaped the educational conversation in the United States over the last five years? (someone answers from the audience, STEM) You know STEM is a very interesting thing; the only question is whether there's a program or whether there's a conversation because I think there's definitely a lot of talk, but I would have a hard time finding, though you may be able to, a galvanizing common action around STEM that that has shifted the work that we do, but i don't see it.
Teacher effectiveness. The second thing that has totally changed in this country during the last five years is the overwhelming notion that teachers are different and must be measured based on their individual performance. Do you realize what a political transformation is that this happened under a Democratic president and his education secretary Arne Duncan? What was typically ideas that could only be talked about in Republican circles like everyone knows this; right, the notion of teacher effectiveness as individually determined was for many years in my lifetime only a Republican idea. The notion that was embraced by Democrats around the country—I know there are fringes on both sides—I'm not—I am alert my friends to the complexities—but I want today for a moment to focus on a different force which is what's actually in common.
And if you want to think about what drove that and what must we all remember as we debate the matter of teacher effectiveness—why did teacher effectiveness gain the traction it did? I just want to pause, was it the Gates Foundation? Was it Race to the Top? You see, people have a kind of childlike view of power they think that if something big happens there must be some thug behind it. Right. There must be some power. Well that's interesting Paul (speaking to someone in the audience). Paul said the Widget Effect. I think he's exactly right.
The Widget Effect published by TNTP [The New Teacher Project] is one of the seminal great things ever written in our field which was an analysis actually of how all teachers are treated the same; but i think there's an underlying argument Paul that makes the Widget Effect so consequential, and that's work that became championed, in my view, another seminal article which is Hamilton Project paper written by Tom Kane, Doug Staiger and Robert Gordon in which they argued simply this—the most overwhelming fact of education research bar none is the substantial durable differences between teachers that nothing washes away.
That is to put this more forcefully for those of us who debate this matter, we all have to I think in our field wonder at, be scared by, the findings of my unrelated but mighty predecessor Coleman [Coleman Report 1969] and I'm with a lot of people who understand the stuff so I’m wading into dangerous territory, but as I understand the Coleman report of 1969 I believe, what he devastatingly finds through extensive research is that schools do not matter in changing, largely except for some, in changing the poverty of children. What I mean by that is rather than our dream that public schooling is a force, a substantial one of opportunity and changing the differences between wealthy and poor, that public schooling does not has such power. It largely recapitulates the same income effects we see outside of school.
Tom is that a fair summary? Think about that guys, I just want to pause. Imagine if someone came here and said, not you're an education reform community, you're going to go changing the world, go! [Instead] they said, you are irrelevant. All your efforts are for naught.
What we can discover about your kids before they enter your institution is the same as those they leave. You live in a fantasy world in which you imagine yourself changing kids' lives but the combined effect of your action is zero. Better if you were to live a life of leisure and not to work so hard.
I’d just think that sometimes when something is so stunning we repress it. Does that make any sense? When a finding is so scary it’s like by far the highest quality piece of research, so it's like this is like a real problem to us. So in the years after Coleman, right where where this is finding that schools can't change the force of poverty overall, there's a stunning additional finding which is it's not schools that can but individual teachers—but not if you treat them the same—that's the problem. Right, this kind of reference for teachers. Which we all should share cannot blind us to the fact that they’re materially different and there's a top quartile of teachers that bring substantial change in students' lives.
That actually seems to offer a effects: we only have to see how durable they are over time, but seems to offer effects that breathe on the achievement gap.What I'm trying to say here it is it's not that the teachers and effective ones haven't had an effect, but it's large enough that we should take it seriously in responding to the achievement gap.
I say this because we pursue a lot of education reforms even though their effects are so incremental, so small that while they may be significant in a statistical sense they have no real bearing on the life chances of children.
Why, the achievement gap? If you estimate it, 36 points roughly on a scale of 100 correct? If you look at many education reforms, people are like great, we invested all this money, it's a couple of points it's it's significant. Let's do more of it. Imagine you're thirty-six points back and we got a bunch of adults were like we're so great Johnny's on path, he's one or two points more ahead than he used to be.
But teacher effects are roughly ten points between the top quartile and the bottom quartile and we do have to see how they’re sustained. But I just wanna make clear we have to pay attention when we're using data and evidence to measure the effect as well as the strength of the evidence.
It is big enough to spend our time with, so when I met Tom Kane he said to me, “I want to change the world with a chart.” He said to me, “I want to make an inescapable fact and, like, given how this guy dresses, and his occasionally uneven speaking voice, and several other natural and learned disadvantages [audience laughs], the idea that this man with this irresistible truth did in fact, by going to the Gates Foundation, and suffering all that that entailed in doing so much work, together with many, many others changed this country, is I think another durable testament to the idea,and he would immediately say it’s Doug Staiger and Robert [Gordon] and others in,and i know many of you here, because the great idea of a good idea is it, that it’s shared.
So you all here, you all here then faced the terrible consequence of this idea which that it is that adults are different and they hate it. Typically when you tell them so, that is, this truth does not come without cost. It meets resistance everywhere at every level.
If you just changed this or that maybe this is just a sign of the design of the educational system with just a little more investment in professional development. Surely this gap between effective teachers and ineffective teachers would go away. To say that in the face of the data we have before us is the strangest form of wishful thinking ever developed because after billions and billions of dollars investment we don't yet have large-scale examples of where to substantially increased the same value added overtime; and we have overwhelming data on the contrary that there are highly effective and not effective teachers.
Which might force us to conclude that in the interests of children we must not ignore this data in making personnel decisions about who is teaching your children and who is not. That may make certain people uncomfortable, but let me say this, to ignore the data about the differences between teachers is to make public schools helpless to change the outcomes of poor children. (MEW note: just who decides who "we" are? Who should be making all these decisions? Did voters elect David Coleman and company to make these educational transformations?)
You can't have it both ways. You’re back to Coleman if you ignore the differences between teachers; if you say we cannot dare to make the adults uncomfortable in this way and make real choices about who teaches, and (inaudible) get more effect.(MEW note: again, where is this assumed power coming from and what gives Coleman the RIGHT to "make adults uncomfortable"? He is talking about taxpayers, right?)
Widen the sphere of the effective teacher and gradually move kids from less effective. If we do not increase the concentration of demonstrated effective teachers in our schools; if we keep focusing on paper credentials which have virtually no predictability outside of later mathematics; if we keep focusing on improving the supply without any evidence such improvements will result in changes for kids; if we ignore performance on the job; if we examine performance on the job and then rate ninety-eight percent of people ‘satisfactory’ and ignore the differences between them, then, then my friends, we have not only ignored Coleman's findings, we have deliberately participated in the deliberate dismantling of public education’s capacity to change poor children's lives.
There's a great deal at stake here, so you fight that fight every day and I just want to pause for all of you; for all of you who work in state and districts; who work on the data side, who work on the policy side; who've had your head handed to you when you try to share this data. I want to praise you and thank you for rescuing public education. [applause]
So, facts matter if we stand for them. There are forces that will try to press it back, but the great news is everything Ii said is very hard to contradict with evidence. (MEW note: what evidence? Field testing/best educational practices or theories?)
I will say, in my estimation there's an emergent force that is also promising in changing the calculus of schools and poor children which is a subset of high-performing charters based on my understanding of the research is beginning to show that we can bend the curve to a degree as well with what I think we know today.
So, what you'll find of me as new president of the College Board is I'm obsessed with moments where there is overwhelming evidence, does that make sense? And a moment of action to be taken, and I think we have discovered one I believe Dan Wagner may have talked about already yesterday if he share some of this already, some says Erin, to my right, I want to introduce a topic but as I introduce I want to talk about another man who used data to change the world.
Someone who I admire quite a bit because again as you think about your power and your force in this world let's remember who really won the election. Shall we call it Nate Silver? Against all the blowhards of political commentary, the predictions of the nerds were decisive.
But perhaps more exciting than the person who stood to the side and handicapped the election, is the person who led the Obama campaign's use of data to galvanize the generation of low income people to vote like they have never had before.
Whether you are Republican or Democrat the simple precision excellence of the use of information to achieve a result is something in my mind that deserves astonishment. It means again that there is no force greater; think about it, think about hundreds of millions of dollars spent on this campaign and what made the difference right? A lot of things, but this incredible precision and insight gained from data not only knowing where people are, but proposing various interventions, seeing what works, keeping focused on delivering them—and that of course is Dan Wagner who led the analytics for the campaign.(MEW note: the power of data in Common Core may not have as much to do with education as promised?)
So there are moments where your work is the most important work. Let me give you one more this morning as a president of the College Board, we quickly saw the data. As the new president I quickly started to [see] College Board already working on the really, kinda blew my mind, and it is the following fact; and it was independently found by none other than the Strategic Data Project.
This is the following information: stunningly low-income kids who have defied poverty and every other force that you can imagine, in some percentage racial discrimination of various sorts, visible and invisible, who have defied everything and arrived at the end of high school in the top quartile of performance.
Right, so this is like wow these kids, I want to be clear, they are not behind they are ahead, and stunningly eighty percent of them do not make an informed decision when they go on to college and it ruins their life. Take go off track. They often go to schools where they don't engage. They don't complete. Can you imagine being in the top quartile and then not completing college?
Can you imagine this? (inaudible) I like to think about this as “unclaimed futures” that’s a phrase Erin McGoldrick one of the people in this field gave to me. To describe it these are unclaimed futures you've found at the Strategic Data Project. You know, did you see the data when you found it from your work that in your districts that thirteen percent I believe of kids who scored highest in state test scores don’t go onto college altogether, huh? What is going on?
You know it's interesting watching Sarah Glover summarize the findings and she's like we got to find these kids now; that they're certain kinds of data we're just, like, this goes beyond a number like, who are these people? I’m gonna go find them. I wanna go talk to them; I’m going to talk their parents. What's their names? Right, that's a certain kind of data in life and it's, it's not just a number it's like, whoa, how could this be happening in this generation?(MEW note: should David Coleman and company have THE RIGHT to hunt kids/parents down for conversation?)
The College Board—our philosophy is it's not just that we can see this data, but these students are within our care. That is as the College Board. We cannot stand that these students who can go do not go. It is our obligation and responsibility to do everything in our power to change this result. That means we shall not rest until these inequities go away.(MEW note: the underlying reason for Common Core. The College Board has no legal authority nor power nor obligation nor responsibility to guarantee OUTCOME. Education is about OPPORTUNITY. This is the nanny state revealed).
I want to put it to you very simply: we see it on three levels—in Advanced Placement—if there are ten students who score ready for AP based on their PSAT score so they get a good enough score on their PSAT, that it predicts a sixty percent chance of them passing AP math. Let's take that example.
Ten kids who do that of them six Asians will take AP math. So remember they’re all shown (unintelligible) six Asians will take it, four whites, three Latinos, three African-Americans and two Native American. Now I'm a little tired of us constantly talking about, that we should, of Latinos and African-Americans—they’re behind that is true—but let's also start talking about the opportunities they're not being propelled into. Because if those kids don't take AP they're falling further behind.
Or if IB, this is not a AP talk, this is about access to rigor. This is about those kids who've earned the right to go forward, must go forward and absent deliberate intervention, other forces in our society take hold that shall hold kids back who've earned the right to go forward.
Straight from David Coleman's lips to your ears: The purpose of Common Core and data retrieval.