More analysis of the NAEP results, from a reader

On November 1, 2011 at 6:35 pm someone wrote the following.
It’s so good that I very much hope that they don’t mind if I reprint it. None of the following was written by me. 

Thanks so much for this Guy — We all look forward to your analyses. I’m sure DCPS is reading here too – and grousing as they go.

Here’s the little bit I’ve done, minus the charts and graphs and White/Black comparisons. It’s is adapted from comments I posted earlier today on WaPo articles.

DC officials called the 2011 math increases “impressive” but they’re not impressive at all when compared to greater increases in the past. Fourth grade math scores increased three points (219 to 222) from ’09 to ’11. This is down from a five point increase between ’07 and ’09 (214 to 219) and is equal to or lower than increases in previous years (three points between ’05 and ’07 and four points between ’03 and ’05 – way before reform).

Check it out in the upper right hand column NAEP DC snapshot page:

Eighth grade math scores increased by the same number of points (6) between ’09 -’11 as they did between ’07-’09. Where are the effects of reform here?

Eighth grade reading between ’09 and ’11 is completely flat at 242. was a one point increase between ’07 and ’09 (from 241 to 242). But between ’05 and ’07, before reform came to DC, there was a larger three point increase (from 238 to 241). While reading scores have been creeping upward at a dismal pace for years, reform has been no help at all. All that money for IMPACT, all those principals and teachers fired and new ones hired, all that merit pay for teachers — and nothing.

The situation is a bit worse in 4th grade reading.
What officials are calling “flat” for the 4th grade reading scores is actually a one point decline, from 202 in ’09 to 201 in ’11. This is pitiful compared to the five point increase (193 to 202) between ’07 and ’09 and the six point increase (191-197) between’05 and ’07 – prior to reform.

Published in: on November 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm  Comments (4)  

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  1. In the US as a whole, here’s the trend in black 4th grade math scores:
    1992: 193
    1996: 199 (+6)
    2000: 204 (+5)
    2003: 216 (+12)
    2005: 220 (+4)
    2007: 222 (+2)
    2009: 222 (+0)
    2011: 224 (+2)

    And here’s the trend for DC:
    1992: 189
    1996: 183 (-6)
    2000: 189 (+6)
    2003: 202 (+13)
    2005: 207 (+5)
    2007: 209 (+2)
    2009: 213 (+4)
    2011: 215 (+2)

    So by and large it looks like DC follows the national trends, both before and after Rhee. The exceptions are1992-1996 and, to a lesser extent, 2007-2009. I don’t know what the story is with those, or if they’re just noise. Anyway, it looks like Rhee made no difference, good or bad, at the 4th grade level. However, if you do the same analysis at the 8th grade level of math, things look much better for Rhee:

    8th grade math scores for blacks, nationally:
    1992: 237
    1996: 242 (+5)
    2000: 246 (+4)
    2003: 252 (+8)
    2005: 255 (+3)
    2007: 260 (+5)
    2009: 261 (+1)
    2011: 262 (+1)

    and in DC:
    1992: 232
    1996: 230 (-2)
    2000: 231 (+1)
    2003: 240 (+9)
    2005: 241 (+1)
    2007: 245 (+4)
    2009: 249 (+4)
    2011: 256 (+7)

    So we were following or lagging the national trend (see those evil 1992-1996 years again) before Rhee, and then after she comes in we far outperform the national trend. This is good news, if you are prepared to see it.


  2. Hi, qaz1231, I’m prepared to see the good news in 8th grade math and hope you’re prepared to analyze it some. If you think Rhee has some responsibility for those scores, then I assume you would give her some responsibility for other scores as well, and not write them all off as noise.

    Assuming Rhee and her deputy and successor Henderson had a positive effect on 8th grade math scores, I think it behooves people who care about educating children (and not just giving credit to adult reformers) to ask what they did and how they did it. Did they institute special math programs? Hire math coaches or teachers with a record of success with high needs kids? Surely they could tell us if they did. If they did this for the 8th grade, why not the 4th grade? Or did they and it didn’t work as well? What happened in the 4th grade – the kids most exposed to reform – that caused them to lag behind 8th graders, who have had half as much exposure to school reform?

    All I’ve heard from Rhee and Henderson so far about the math scores is that math is easier to teach.

    “I’ve heard teachers say it’s easier to do that [define concepts] in math, and easier to sort of define here are the specific skills that the kids need help on … and go back and reteach those things,” Rhee said.

    Asked why math scores have grown more than reading, Henderson said literacy is inherently more difficult to teach, especially when kids fall behind at an early age.

    It doesn’t sound like an activist approach. It sounds like “Math is easier and reading is harder, what are you going to do?”

    I notice you didn’t mention DC’s reading scores at all. They also follow a national trend — slow growth that is now stalling. The big shakeup in DC for the last four and a half years has had no effect. Why not? Aren’t people who care about children curious and concerned about this?

    Certainly the reformers here in DC think reading is at least as important as math. What specific measures to boost reading achievement were taken and how is that going to be improved in the future?

    I hope as you comb through the data looking for good news for the adult reformers, that you think about the kids, too and the effects that reform has had on them. After all, children first, right?


  3. Efavorite, I was actually expecting to see that Rhee had been a self-promoting, over-hyped failure, but when I Iooked at the data that’s not what I saw- at least that’s not the first conclusion that came to mind. In my comments on the previous post I suggested why the failure to improve in reading might be understandable (and even, paradoxically, a good sign), but regardless, we shouldn’t dismiss progress in one area just because we don’t see progress in all areas. It is certainly worth investigating further why there seems to have been a greater effect on 8th grade scores than 4th grade. If we care about improving the schools more than about proving our pre-existing anti-reform biases correct (and I was skeptical too), then we should recognize score gains when we see them and figure out how best to replicate them.


  4. Qaz1231 – we agree then — investigation is in order — but as far as I know, none has been done by DCPS. Instead they celebrate the rise in math scores, and when questioned, attribute it to math being easier to teach than reading. This phenomenon existed before reform took hold in DC and is unrelated to it.

    If Rhee and Henderson knew about this, you’d think when they were predicting score increases based on their reforms, they might have mentioned that math increases would likely be greater than reading increases and therefore they were proactively instituting reading programs to address the issue.

    None of this happened and reading scores not only did not increase, they stalled.


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