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Standardistas Say that Haycock Scores Points with Facts

Ohanian Comment: The Power Point is all in the eye of the beholder. I, too, have seen Kati Haycock's power point presentation. Unlike Mathews, I was not won over by the argument that what poor kids need is algebra.

Unlike Mathews, I know that Haycock cherr-picks her data.

Unlike Mathews, I remember Stephen Krashen's critical examination of Education Trust "No Excuses" data. Other scholars have shown that this data was nothing more than random variation--and didn't support their premise anyway.

PowerPoint presentations at educational conferences usually are a good time for a snooze. The lights are low. No one is going to call on you. Close your eyes and let the jargon about budget priorities and test validation lull you to sleep.

Unless, conference veterans say, Kati Haycock is the speaker. It is difficult to nod off when the slender 53-year-old provocateur, one of the unsung forces behind the No Child Left Behind law, is lobbing rock-hard data at you, revealing what an abysmal job schools are doing with low-income and minority students.

Here is one slide: African American and Latino 17-year-olds in U.S. public schools are reading at the same level as non-Hispanic white 13-year-olds. Here is another: High-scoring, low-income students are less likely to attend college than classmates who are less successful academically but come from families with money.

Audience members become uncomfortable as Haycock builds her pile of disturbing statistics. Then she wins them over with a hopeful slide: Low-achieving students do better than expected when enrolled in challenging courses.

"I know it sounds bizarre to say this, but she is able to make a PowerPoint presentation with over 100 data slides truly inspirational," said former journalist Craig Jerald. He was so impressed with Haycock when he was a data expert for the newspaper Education Week that Jerald went to work for her at the Education Trust, a nonprofit organization based in Washington.

As the presidential election campaign begins, a battle over the future of American public schools is taking shape. President Bush and his top education officials are defending the No Child Left Behind law, with its emphasis on annual testing and holding schools accountable if their students don't improve, as the only way to help millions of low-performing children. Prominent Democrats are saying that the law's requirements are too cumbersome, that the Bush administration and Congress aren't giving the states enough money for education, and that maybe all those tests aren't the best way to measure schools.

As director of the Education Trust, Haycock finds herself between the two camps. She has devoted much of her life to helping poor students learn and finds the current political squabbling a mindless distraction. The Education Trust supports No Child Left Behind and is pursuing its central goal -- to close the achievement gap between low-income children and their more privileged peers. Seeing fellow Democrats and educators quibble about details, she said, "makes me insane."

So she does what she has been doing since she was a 24-year-old aide to the president of the University of California. She and her 37-member staff spend long days in public schools, looking for ways to identify -- and fix -- the problems.

No Child Left Behind advocates say they have found Education Trust data, and Haycock's aggressive advocacy, very helpful. Haycock "has not tried to cut any corners," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), one of the law's four authors. "She has stuck with a clear set of principles and with hard evidence."

The Education Trust's reports, written in the group's second-floor K Street offices, show the increased achievement of students whose teachers have degrees in the subjects they teach. The reports also document the dangers of states' diluting the rules for who is qualified to teach.

Haycock travels frequently to both small gatherings, such as a training session for 20 community organizers in Ohio, and large ones, such as a conference of 3,000 educators in North Carolina. And she visits schools to see what is working and what is not.

"You can sit in Washington and write reports and talk to members of Congress and all that, but unless what you say is informed by a deep understanding of what is going on right now in schools, then you risk giving very bad advice," she said.

She said she still finds some educators "who because No Child Left Behind has made them so uncomfortable and because it's causing them to make major changes in their practices, are trying to convince each other and the public that the law is making them do bad and unethical things, like teaching to the test . . . as if they have no other choice than to do those unethical things."

Haycock is a third-generation Californian whose parents did not attend college but who exposed their four daughters to much talk about politics and much surfing on all parts of the Pacific coast. Haycock graduated from Alta Loma High School in San Bernardino County and went to the University of California at Santa Barbara for the waves, she said. She became so involved with student politics there that she never got back on her surfboard, though she is now a devoted runner, biker and rower.

In 1983, she started the Achievement Council, a California organization that worked to improve public schooling for minority children in the same way she would later do at the Education Trust. "It was a very different way of thinking about ensuring real equity and opportunity for minority students," said Susana Navarro, who helped Haycock start the council and now works as executive director of the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence at the University of Texas-El Paso.

Haycock came to Washington in 1989 to become the No. 2 official at the Children's Defense Fund, an advocate for children's well-being. Every parent at that organization she spoke with, she said, told her "there are no middle or high schools in D.C. that do not do active damage to your children." She was skeptical, because her two daughters had attended the similarly labeled Oakland public schools, but she bought a house in Montgomery County. Soon her elder daughter rejected suburban education for a D.C. public high school, Duke Ellington, to which Haycock and her husband, Tom, a criminal justice specialist, dutifully paid $6,300 in annual tuition.

She was fired by the Children's Defense Fund in a management dispute, but the American Association for Higher Education asked her to reshape its division focused on school improvement. That soon became the Education Trust. As the achievement gap became a hot national issue, and as states began to set new standards, Haycock's organization quickly grew with a surge of foundation grants and consultation contracts.

She said she thinks that No Child Left Behind will change in coming years, particularly in measuring the progress of children with disabilities or limited English skills, but that it will continue to help low-income children as long as educators get sufficient support and do not lose heart. Her organization, she said, should continue to be "a kind of relentless source of information, optimism and data so that we can see that this challenge we have set for ourselves as a country is a doable challenge."

— Jay Mathews
'No Child' Advocate Scores Points With Facts
Washington Post


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