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

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Joel Klein: As Excellent As He Says He Is? Part II

So I was going to wait a bit before the next post in my series about Joel Klein's claims of educational success during his tenure as the head of New York City's schools. But then the terrific Leonie Haimson reminded me that her group, Class Size Matters, had already done an outstanding analysis of NYC's standing in national test scores last year. Let's get their work on the record before we proceed.

We'll start by going back to Klein's claims about how NYC did on the National Assessment of Education Progress, the "gold standard" for measurement of student progress. What does Klein claim as his legacy, as measured by the NAEP?
Finally, on the federal tests — the National Assessment of Educational Progress — which are taken on a sampled basis every couple of years, the city showed improvement on each of the four tests — with significant improvement on three of them. 
Indeed, in the fourth grade, the city’s students today are about a year ahead of where they were in reading and math when Bloomberg started.
Before I get to the analysis by Leonie and Elli Marcus, let's stipulate something important: it's not enough for Klein to show gains in NYC's tests to make the claim that his policies improved outcomes. If students across the country were showing gains, then there must have been changes at the national level that led to those gains (or changes in the tests). Klein can't claim credit for those changes: he should have to show that NYC's students did better than comparable students around the nation.

Did they?
Despite the DOE’s claims of great progress when the latest NAEP scores were released in December, our analysis shows that NYC came out next to last among the ten large cities tested over this period, plus the large city category (all cities above 250,000 inhabitants) when the gains of our racial, ethnic and economic subgroups are averaged and compared to their peers elsewhere. The only city to make less progress was Cleveland. 

The gains in NYC have been particularly minimal among White, Hispanic, and non-free lunch students, all of whom dropped in their relative position compared to these same subgroups in other cities – falling especially sharply at the 8th grade level. White students made the smallest gains compared to their peers in other cities in both 8th grade reading and math; Hispanics in 8th grade math. In fact, Asians were the only NYC subgroup to increase their relative ranking at any level, compared to their peers in other cities. 
The performance of non-poor students has been particularly disastrous. NYC is only city in which our non-poor students scored lower in 2011 than in 2003 in any category. The proficiency levels of NYC non-poor students also dropped sharply in both 8th grade reading and math. (This is the one point extracted from our analysis in today’s Daily News, though the article fails to attribute its source. The article also featured the DOE’s claim to have improved results for non-poor students; though this group also made fewer gains than their peers in many other cities over this period.) [emphasis mine]
Did NYC make improvements on the NAEP under Joel Klein? Sure. Were those improvements better - or even just as good - as improvements in other large American cities? No, they were not.

I urge you to click through and read this entire analysis. I ask you to pay especially close attention to this:
What else do our findings suggest? Clearly, mayoral control is no panacea, as the two cities that have made the least progress since 2003 on the NAEPs, NYC and Cleveland, both feature this governance system. Moreover, the administration’s free-market strategies of high-stakes accountability, school report cards, “fair student funding”, principal empowerment, and the closing of more than one hundred schools & the opening of more than 400 new schools and charters, while allowing class sizes to increase, have not worked to increase student achievement compared to cities elsewhere. [emphasis mine]
Too bad no one thought to mention this while Detroit, New Orleans, Newark - and New York City - suffer under a lack of local control...

I'll have more to say about Klein's claims of NAEP success in a bit. For now, Haimson and Marcus have shown quite clearly that Klein's claims are, at best, very overstated.
OK, I'll give you ONE point...


Robert Morrison said...

"Overstated" is an understatement!

gfb9+2/3 said...

Excellent work. The NAEP TUDA (trial durban district assesment) is a decent source for this data, and you can also see scores on the NAEP in reading and math and sometimes other subjects for all the states and the cities you listed.
It's quite interesting when you look at the gaps between achievement levels of various ethnic groups.
I had a fair amount on my blog, here:

comparing the large urban