But focusing on the difference blinds us to what has been a remarkable success in education over the past 20 years. Although the direction and size of student improvements are considered across many subject areas and many age groups, I will describe just one -- 4th grade mathematics. In the figure, the dots represent the average scores for all states that are available for NAEP's 4th grade mathematics test (with New Jersey's dot labeled for emphasis). These are shown broken down by race (black and white students) as well as by year (1992 and 2011). We can see that there have been steep gains for both racial groups over this period (somewhat steeper gains for blacks than for whites). Of course we can also see the all-too-familiar gap between the performance of black and white students, but here comes Achilles. New Jersey's black students performed as well in 2011 as New Jersey's white students did in 1992. Given the consequential differences in wealth between these two groups, which has always been inextricably connected with student performance, reaching this mark is an accomplishment worthy of applause, not criticism.
And if this distinguished scientist isn't enough to convince you, how about a snarky teacher-blogger (back in April)?The last thing that we see is that the performance of New Jersey's students was among the very best of all states in both years and for both ethnic groups. [emphasis mine]
On National Assessment of Educational Progress for 2009, State A's 8th Graders score a 293 in mathematics (tying for 3rd in the nation). White kids score a 302 (also 3rd); black kids score a 267 (9th). The gap between the two is 34 points (tied for 31st).I've said it before, and I'll say it again: anyone who talks about the "achievement gap" is probably selling snake oil.
State B's 8th Graders score a 270 (tied for 47th in the nation) in math. White kids score a 271 (50th - yes, that's right, LAST in the nation!); black kids a 263 (tied for 17th). The gap between the two is only 7 points (1st in the nation).
So: all of State A's kids do better than State B's. The black kids do better in State A. The white kids do WAY better in State A.
But Chris Christie claims State B is doing better than State A. Is he insane, stupid, lying, or some combination of the three?
Oh, and guess what (I knew you were waiting for this)? State B is West Virginia; State A is New Jersey. Is everyone rushing down the Turnpike to get their kid enrolled in one of those "superior" West Virginia schools?
The reason New Jersey has a higher "achievement gap" is because, although our poorer, black, and Hispanic kids do relatively well compared to the national average, our white and wealthier kids do SPECTACULARLY well! We should be PROUD of this!
And, if you're really worried about the "gap" - why are you imposing all of these idiotic "reforms" on schools on both sides of that gap? Is it because you want to bring the high performing schools down lower? That would certainly fix the gap; wouldn't do much for the kids, though...