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

Friday, February 11, 2011

Take Off, Eh?

Bruce Baker twitter-pointed to this report from the Brookings Institution about school achievement. Big surprise, NJ does very well:
Who’s winning the real race to the top? Both short- and long-term gains on NAEP are calculated with statistical controls for changes in the demographic characteristics of each state’s students. Eight states—Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, District of Columbia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania—stand out for making superior gains.
Don't bother telling the governor - he doesn't care.

What really caught my eye, however, as I scanned through the report, was a story I've never heard before:
In the early 1990s, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan published a paper showing a correlation of 0.52 between eighth-grade math scores and the distance of state capitals from the Canadian border. The correlation between math scores and per pupil spending was a much weaker 0.20. Moynihan famously recommended that states wishing to improve their educational systems save their money and simply move closer to Canada. With his customary wit, Moynihan was pointing out that test scores reflect much more than the efforts of schools, or the resources provided to schools, but also the behavior of families and communities and the quality of social environments in which children are raised. States near the Canadian border exhibit a broad collection of social characteristics supporting high achievement. As noted above, all of those influences get baked in the cake of student test scores, making it important to scrutinize more than state rankings alone on test data collected at a single point in time.
I didn't agree with Moynihan on everything (who would?), but he was the type of politician who has pretty much disappeared from the American landscape, much to our loss. He is, of course, absolutely right here, but that doesn't matter these days. I doubt most reporters or politicians would get his joke.

Although maybe he wasn't joking...

"You can go tell your teachers to take off because you're being taught by a genius, eh..."

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