I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Money DOES Matter

One of the greatest fallacies that the reformies try to push is that money doesn't matter; for example, here's Laura Waters:
For decades now we’ve shoveled money at these schools, at least the ones in Abbott districts. That has had little impact, none in some cases. The kids who live in Camden or Trenton (or other districts in the list) have no access to higher-performing schools, precisely because of NJ’s “intense racial and socio-economic segregation,” a product of various historical factors like our affinity for home rule, the uneven enforcement of the Mt. Laurel housing decisions, our school funding structure, the limitations of our Interdistrict Public School Choice Program. [emphasis mine]
Really? "Little impact" from the Abbott decision, and then SFRA?

Howard Wainer:
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.

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]
Matt DiCarlo:
The simple table below compares the change (between 2005 and 2011) in average NAEP scale scores for NJ students who are eligible for free/reduced-price lunch (lower-income) versus those who are not eligible (higher-income). I want to quickly note that these data are cross-sectional, and might therefore conceal differences in the cohorts of students taking the test, even when broken down by subgroups.*** 
This table shows that, in three out of four NAEP tests, both low- and higher-income cohorts’ scores have increased substantially, at roughly similar rates. In fourth grade math, students eligible for free/reduced-price lunch scored six points higher in 2011 compared with 2005, the equivalent of roughly half a “year of learning,” compared with a similar, statistically discernible five point increase among non-eligible students. The results for eighth grade math and fourth grade reading are more noteworthy – on both tests, eligible students in NJ scored 12 points higher in 2011 than in 2005, while the 2011 cohorts of non-eligible students were higher by roughly similar margins. 
In other words, achievement gaps in NJ didn’t narrow during these years because both the eligible and non-eligible cohorts scored higher in 2011 versus 2005. Viewed in isolation, the persistence of the resulting gaps might seem like a policy failure. But, while nobody can be satisfied with these differences and addressing them must be a focus going forward, the stability of the gaps actually masks notable success among both groups of students (at least to the degree that these changes reflect “real” progress rather than compositional changes). [emphasis mine]
Linda Darling-Hammond:
I also describe how states like New Jersey, now arguably now the highest-achieving state in the U.S. if student demographics are taken into account, raised overall achievement and cut the achievement gap in half after being pushed by 30 years of school finance reform litigation to substantially increase spending in its poor urban districts. New Jersey – serving 45% minority students and a large and growing number of new immigrants – ranks in the top 5 states on NAEP on every measure and is first in the nation in writing, having invested in quality preschool for all children and quality pedagogy, with a focus on early literacy now expanding to other subject areas. [emphasis mine]
Bruce Baker:
During this same time period, teachers in NJ and MA also had similar tenure protections and weren’t being tenured or fired based on student test scores. Still somehow, those states had smaller gaps. Further, while both other states do have charter schools, New Jersey which has a much smaller achievement gap than CT has thus far maintained a relatively small charter sector. What Massachusetts and New Jersey have done is to more thoroughly and systematically address school funding disparities.
As all of these eminent scholars point out, the notion that "shoveling money" at poor school districts hasn't done anything is a crock. School finance reform has made a difference in student achievement for poor, minority, and immigrant children. There is no disputing this.

Laura's fellow travelers at B4K and Students First and the NJDOE have a vested interest in pushing the meme that money doesn't matter. Don't believe them; adequate funding is the necessary precondition for student success.

Laura revels in her ignorance, however, to take a pot shot at the Education Law Center:
ELC charges that the DOE’s classification of our worst schools as “Priority Schools” will “do nothing to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for the most at-risk students in our state.”  Fine. What should we do then? More money to Abbotts, in spite of the poor track record of providing money without reform? (Yes: here’s Monday’s press release.) Leave the kids where they are?  (That's worked out so well.) What is ELC's solution other than a failed status quo that, ironically, "reinforces intense racial and socio-economic segregation in New Jersey's public schools”?
I've laid out the facts, Laura, and they back up ELC, and not you. Cutting funding, which the Christie administration wants more than just about anything (other than the continuing humiliation of teachers) will certainly not help these children.

You know what else won't help? Charters, vouchers, merit pay, gutting tenure, and cutting teacher compensation. The research is quite clear on that.

Whether folks like Waters choose to acknowledge it or not, this state's schools have been moving in the right direction for some time. ELC knows this and is fighting to keep them on a steady course. But refusing to acknowledge the positive impact of school finance reform allows Christie to push unproven nonsense and slash spending in the districts that need it the most.

Anyone, therefore, who can't be honest about the achievements of New Jersey's public schools is complicit in their destruction. Is this the legacy Waters wants to leave?


Deb said...

Thank you for calling Waters once again on her misuse of information and her erroneous claims. Just from reading her, um, okay I will call them blogs, I admire the patience it takes to rationally respond as you have done here again. What is clear to me is that Water's is not concerned with the facts. What is not clear to me is why people vote for her to be a Board of Education member as she has such disdain for public schools.

Duke said...

Deb, I wonder if the good people of Lawrence feel they should return their SFRA money. You know, 'cause shoveling it there doesn't matter...

Deb said...

I doubt it! But I bet a few are wondering if they could change their vote!!!