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

Sunday, January 20, 2013

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

Joel Klein is one of America's foremost proponents of corporate education "reform." He asserts that public education is in such a crisis that it constitutes a national security threat - a threat that can be dealt with by buying technology from the firm he runs for Rupert Murdoch, Amplify. He also believes that the "reforms" he and Mayor Michael Bloomberg instituted in New York City - including mayoral control, school closings, charter expansion, and test-based teacher evaluations - should be replicated across the country, based on what he terms the "compelling" improvements made under his tenure.

But does the record support his claims? What is the legacy of Joel Klein in New York City? I'm looking at the evidence to see if the facts support Klein's boasts. Here's the series so far:

Part I: Joel Klein has no problem twisting the facts to suit his ends. Has he done the same thing when crowing about his "success" in New York?

Part II: When you break down national test scores by student subgroups, Klein's "success" in New York isn't very impressive; in fact, it's downright disappointing.

Part III: A look at national test scores as a whole, comparing New York to other cities during Klein's reign. The results? Meh.

Part IV: Klein compares test score gains in NYC to the other cities in New York State. But he forgets to mention that child poverty has soared in Upstate while remaining relatively flat in NYC.


Once again, here is Joel Klein's claim about the "success" of his tenure running New York City's schools, as told in the NY Daily News:
Similarly strong improvements were achieved on state tests, although the story here is harder to explain because the state changed the testing requirements several years ago, and so the number of kids passing (i.e., achieving the proficiency or advanced level) dropped because the questions were intentionally made harder and it took more correct answers to pass. 
Nevertheless, if you compare New York City’s performance under Bloomberg to two other groups (the other so-called “big four” cities in New York State — Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Yonkers — and the rest of the state), each of which took precisely the same tests as the city, the results are compelling. 
In a nutshell, in 2002, when Bloomberg started, on all four tests, New York was much closer to the big four cities and far away from the rest of the state. 
Today, it’s the other way around, showing that the city moved significantly forward when compared to the other two relevant groups. Indeed, despite the fact that the exams were more difficult and required more correct answers to pass, New York City increased its pass rate on all four tests; the other two groups didn’t come close.
As I showed in the last installment of this series, Klein neglects to mention a huge factor in this change: childhood poverty rates have been soaring in Upstate New York over the past decade, while they've remained relatively flat in NYC:


Obviously, this is going to affect student achievement. But have there been any other demographic changes since 2002, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg first came into office and Klein took over Gotham's public school system? What other shifts in student population have occurred in New York over the past decade?

It's important to remember that we want to look at changes in student populations, not the general population. So I built some tables from the Common Core of Data at the Institute of Education Sciences, and put together a few charts (data geek notes below).


A significant jump in the Asian population for NYC, and a very large leap for Syracuse, which has seen an influx of refugees and other immigrants in recent years.


Yonkers and NYC have seen a substantial drop in their black student population. Again, look at the changes in Syracuse.


All cities have seen a rise in their relative Hispanic student population, but NYC's is a bit less pronounced.


I had to double check the numbers when I saw this, but it's true: the Syracuse City School District had 9,799 white students in 2002-03, and 5,843 white students in 2010-11. Buffalo and Rochester saw significant declines as well. The Upstate urban cores have seen significant drops in white population over the last decade (p. 15), but I suspect the aging of the Upstate white population is also contributing to the student population changes. NYC's relative white student population has remained flat.

Here's the standard Jazzman caveat lector I present at this point in my posts: these graphs are as quick and as dirty as they come. It would take a lot more work to get this ready for official publication, so approach everything here with caution. I am including charter schools as best as I can (see below), but I wouldn't claim that these graphs show anything more than large-scale trends.

That said, my 2003 (by which I mean the 2002-03 school year) numbers do line up nicely with reports from the NY State Education Department (p.158) when looking at NYC and the Big 5 cities.

What are we to make of all this? I'm not going to get into any predicted outcomes based on demographic shifts in these cities right now; it's enough to simply point out that there have been large changes in student populations in New York State's cities over the past decade.

Which brings us back to Joel Klein. Read through his piece in the Daily News again. You will not find any mention of the large shifts in student demographics in the Big 5 during the rule of Mayor Bloomberg. Yet he makes comparisons to Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo as proof that the policies he and Bloomberg implemented have worked.

It is simply ridiculous for Joel Klein to claim any "successes" in New York City, relative to the rest of New York State, without acknowledging these changes in student populations.

As Klein himself asserts: "Critics are entitled to their opinions. But they are not entitled to their own facts." That is exactly right; and the "fact" is that New York City's students are not comparable to the students in the rest of the state. He is being mendacious when he refuses to acknowledge these changes in student populations while bragging on increasing scores.

Now, in his defense, he mentions - in passing - a study by researcher James Kemple that does attempt to factor in student characteristics when comparing NYC to the other Big 5 cities. We'll discuss that study next.

Syracuse? Why would I care what happens there?


Data geek notes: I got all my numbers from the CCD. Percentages came from totaling all the sub-groups - American Indian, Asian, black, Hispanic, white, and mixed race - and then making each subgroup's ratios. I left out American Indian and two or more races, which wasn't even a category in 2002-03. The numbers are so small they aren't significant.

To capture all the data, I started by filtering by county, then by city. Any charter district in the five boroughs of NYC was labeled as a NYC district. Since charter schools are their own districts in the CCD, I tried to capture them into the data if they were located in one of the Big 5 cities. Some public districts in the other four cities will show up with an urban core as their location when they are really their own district; I took those out.

NYC underwent a restructuring during Klein's reign that changed how the city's data is reported in the CCD. It used to be that the entire city was reported together; now each geographical district is reported separately. I combined them all, which I think is fine; if someone thinks that's a mistake, let me know.

I do try to get this stuff right, but, as I always say: I'm a music teacher with a decent command of descriptive statistics. These are good sources and widely-used, but my posts aren't peer reviewed or checked with an editor. Caveat lector.

4 comments:

gfb9+2/3 said...

Another request for those of us who are going blind:
Can you have each city remain the same color in each of the graphs?

Duke said...

Well, I did that for the four graphs in this post, but not the previous one with child poverty. Excel does not play nice sometimes.

Again, this is quick and dirty. Maybe one day, I'll put this together properly.

Tiffany Streat said...

Not sure if this has been mentioned or not in your series on Joel Klein but even if it was, it's important to mention again.

Klein served as Chair of "The Broad Center for the Management of School Systems".

Ken Houghton said...

One of the problems with using percentages is that it can obscure population changes. 43% of x(2003) = 9,799, while 27% of x(2011) = 5,843. So there's about a 5% drop in the population in Syracuse over that time, but a 40% decline in the White population.

Which wouldn't matter if White were homogeneous. But it's not--and the people most likely to leave are those who have the resources to be able to leave.

It's a double effect: you have fewer White students, and significantly more poor White students as a percent of the White population.

If anything, your down-and-dirty method understates the negative impact, because the cohort has changed as well.

(Short example: you, I, and Bill Gates live in Syracuse along with seven other people of NYS median income. Over the next eight years, Bill and three of the others move away, replaced by two Asian and two Hispanic family who each make NYS Median Income +/- 5%.

Median income drops overall (Bill left), drops significantly for the White cohort (ibid.), and changes slightly if at all for the Hispanic and Asian cohorts.

Overall poverty in the city doesn't increase, but non-school resources devoted to Bill&Melinda-spawn are not allocated locally. Maybe some of that gap is made up by different choices from the new parents--but not all of it.

Overall human capital investment has declined. We should expect educational results to decline as well.

To put it as nicely as possible, NYC median income rose over that period. Even if the cohort were fairly constant, you would expect to see improvement in the results. The disappearance of Kodak (Rochester) and the continuing long-term decline of the Buffalo area means those with means to leave are more likley to do so.

The mass exodus from NYC occurred at the beginning of the period (post-9/11); opportunities expanded there post-2003.

I could have produced relative growth in NYC during that time, and I haven't taught in a secondary school classroom since 1981. All you needed to do was do nothing. (Heck, could have done a few things wrong and the result would still be relatively positive.)