Gaps between high- and low-achieving students in 4th grade math in DC and elsewhere

Using the NAEP TUDA data, we can see how various groups of students are doing in various cities and here in Washington, DC. In some places, the gap between the highest-achieving students and the lowest-achieving ones is remaining stable. In DCPS, the gap has been getting remarkably wider under the Deformist leadership of Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson.

I begin with several graphs and tables that I made, using data from the appendices to the 2011 TUDA report, for 4th grade mathematics over the time period from 2003 to 2011. NAEP gives the average scale score for students who are in the 90th percentile (which is nearly at the top of the charts); those at the 75th percentile (students who score better than about three-fourths of their peers); those at the 50th percentile (kids who are right at the median); those at the 25th percentile (3/4 of the students scoring BETTER than they do); and those at the 10th percentile (only 1 kid in 10 scores LOWER than they do).

We have this data for all 26 TUDA cities, for the nation’s public schools as a whole, and for all large cities added together. And of course for Washington, DC.

I decided to show you also graphs/tables for two other Eastern cities — ones for which we have data going back to 2003: Atlanta and New York.

First, let’s look at national public school data for 4th grade NAEP math scale score, by percentiles:

The top, light blue line represents average scores of kids at the 90th percentile. The bottom, darker blue line represents average scores of students at the 10th percentile.

As you can see, these scores have all been rising very slowly over time, but only by a few points since 2003. The gaps are tabulated in the bottom two rows of the tables by subtracting scores of those in the top ranks minus the scores of the students in the bottom ranks.

The “90-10 gap” means the differences in scores between those at the 90th percentile and those at the 10th percentile. Looking at the bottom two rows of the table, and at the relative distances between the lines in the graph, you can see that the gaps between the various groups have also essentially stayed the same on a national basis.

Now let’s look at a similar graph that’s for all large US cities (places with more than 250,000 population):

Here we see a very similar story, with two differences:

(1) the scores in all US cities seem to be rising faster than the scores in the nation as a whole

(2) the scores in all US cities are lower than those of the nation as a whole.

The gap between the highest-scoring and lowest-scoring students in the nation as a whole hasn’t really changed much over the past 8 years.


Now let’s look at Washington, DC. What differences do you notice?

I don’t know about you, but I notice that the scores for the lowest-scoring students in DCPS seem to be flat or going down over the past few years.

I also notice that the gap between the lowest-scoring and highest-scoring students in DCPS is getting significantly wider. This is not an illusion, but it is troubling.

While the top-scoring kids in DCPS score almost as well as the top-scoring kids nationally or in other large cities, our lowest-achieving students score much lower than their counterparts elsewhere.


Is this true in Atlanta and New York? Let’s look at Atlanta first.

In Atlanta, while the scores are generally increasing in all groups, the gap between the top-scorers and the bottom scorers seems to be getting a little wider.  But not nearly so much as in DC under Rhee and Henderson.

(Yes, we know that Atlanta had a major cheating scandal — like here in DC — on their NCLB tests, but this is a different test that is not administered directly by the schools or the teachers. Plus, students in any one classroom who take the test are taking several different forms of the test that gauge student knowledge on entirely different topics. So we can discount entirely the chance that these results are caused by cheating.)

Finally, let’s look at New York:

Isn’t this remarkable? New York has direct mayoral control of the schools, just like DC. Mayor Bloomberg and his current puppet school chancellor have seen scores go DOWN across the board over the past two years as they enact whatever crazy DEforms they are putting into practice. And the gaps between the high and low scorers seem to be getting a bit wider, too.

So, Billionaire-led educvational Deforms cause no more miracles in the Big Apple than they do in the nation’s capital.

Published in: on December 8, 2011 at 9:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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