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, April 7, 2013

So Much To Debunk; So Little Time...

NJ Gov. Chris Christie announced last week that the state will take over Camden’s long-troubled school system. The courageous move, the latest piece of Christie’s impressive education-reform agenda, could signal a turnaround for one of the country’s most dangerous and depressed cities. 
Stanford University’s research team recently found that New Jersey charter schools posted “some of the largest learning gains we have seen to date.” This, when Stanford had found disappointing results for charters elsewhere. 
Newark’s charter students stood out — posting gains roughly equivalent to spending an extra seven to nine months in school each year. Newark’s successful charters include KIPP’s TEAM schools, Uncommon Schools’ North Star Academy, Robert Treat Academy and Gray Charter School. [emphasis mine]
Newark's charters "stood out" in the CREDO report because the charters in New Jersey's other cities - including Camden - actually did worse than public schools (p. 16). And the reason for that is Newark's charters are far more likely to segregate children by disability, poverty status, language, and even gender than the other charters around the state.

More reformyism, from a former SecEd:
According to the Nation’s Report Card, New Jersey ranks second in the United States in overall fourth- and eighth-grade reading achievement. The state has a four-year high school graduation rate of 86.5 percent.
Good news — but not nearly good enough.
Unfortunately, New Jersey also has some of the largest achievement gaps in the nation.
The Nation’s Report Card also reports that, across the state, only about one-quarter of African-American fourth-graders are proficient in reading and math. In eighth grade, just 22 percent of Hispanic students are proficient in reading and only 24 percent are proficient in math.
What is truly embarrassing to this nation is that a woman who was in charge of our education system for many years does not know what "proficient" means on the NAEP:
From Diane Ravitch's Death and Life of the Great American School System:
The term "proficiency" - which is the goal of the law - is not the same as "minimal literacy." The term "proficiency" has been used since the early 1990s by the federal testing program, the National Assessment of Education Progress, where it connotes a very high level of academic achievement. (p. 102)
As real experts like Dr. Ravitch and Ed Fuller and Gerald Bracey have written many times, "proficiency" on the NAEP does not mean "achieving at grade level." It is a much higher bar; everyone who knows anything about education statistics learns this early on.
And as for the alleged poor performance of our African-American students, here's 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]
The rest of Spellings piece is pure piffle, but that's mostly what we get around here these days...
The second big finding is that poverty is not destiny, that success is possible even in the poorest neighborhoods. The study examined 105 high schools in America, including North Star Academy, a charter school that serves mostly African-American students in Newark.
North Star beat the United States average in every subject, a remarkable accomplishment for a school where 78 percent of the students qualify for free or discounted lunches. In its best subject, reading, it would rank No. 10 in the world if it were an independent country.
You mean an independent country with high emigration rates:
Here’s what the cohort attrition looks like when tracked with the state assessment data.
Here, I take two 8th grade cohorts and trace them backwards. I focus on General Test Takers only, and use the ASK Math assessment data in this case. Quick note about those data – Scores across all schools tend to drop in 7th grade due to cut-score placement (not because kids get dumber in 7th grade and wise up again in 8th). The top section of the table looks at the failure rates and number of test takers for the 6th grade in 2005-06, 7th in 2006-07 and 8th in 2007-08. Over this time period, North Star drops 38% of its general test takers. And, cuts the already low failure rate from nearly 12% to 0%. Greater Newark also drops over 30% of test takers in the cohort, and reaps significant reductions in failures (partially proficient) in the process. 
The bottom half of the table shows the next cohort in sequence. For this cohort, North Star sheds 21% of test takers between grade 6 and 8, and cuts failure rates nearly in half  – starting low to begin with (starting low in the previous grade level, 5th grade, the entry year for the school). Gray and Greater Newark also shed significant numbers of students and Greater Newark in particular sees significant reductions in share of non(uh… partially)proficient students. 
My point here is not that these are bad schools, or that they are necessarily engaging in any particular immoral or unethical activity. But rather, that a significant portion of the apparent success of schools like North Star is a) attributable to the demographically different population they serve to begin with and b) attributable to the patterns of student attrition that occur within cohorts over time. [emphasis mine]
The Star-Ledger op-ed page apparently has a rule that pundits are never, ever, ever allowed to talk about this. Neither, apparently, are we allowed to talk about equity and educational outcomes; there's only enough print space to go on and on about how much American kids suck.

Folks, I try to knock this stuff down as fast as I can, but most days I feel like Lucy in the chocolate factory...

1 comment:

george1la said...

Jersey Jazzman, you must be their worst nightmare back there. That is what they feel about me when I walk in the room. Thanks for all of your documented and properly analyzed information. There are vast disparities in these schools performance. This is the only way to straighten up the system and that is by careful analysis of what does and does not work. All schools I have seen so far that have done this always have the students interests above the adults interests and the teachers work with each other to make themselves better as teachers and to improve their students learning. I take my hat off to you.