Advanced Math Among American Students

An article in the Atlantic discusses the growing phenomenon of American students studying and succeeding in a wide variety of advanced mathematics courses and competitions. This includes organizations like MathCounts (which I coached at the JHS level for many years) as well as special summer math programs like MathPath, as well as math circles and AP calculus and statistics courses.

However, as the author notes:

National achievement data reflect this access gap in math instruction [between US poor kids and US rich kids – gfb]  all too clearly. The ratio of rich math whizzes to poor ones is 3 to 1 in South Korea and 3.7 to 1 in Canada, to take two representative developed countries. In the U.S., it is 8 to 1. And while the proportion of American students scoring at advanced levels in math is rising, those gains are almost entirely limited to the children of the highly educated, and largely exclude the children of the poor. By the end of high school, the percentage of low-income advanced-math learners rounds to zero.

Published in: on February 10, 2016 at 4:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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A Concise Primer on Privatization from Marion Brady

This is a concise primer, written by Marion Brady, on how the 1/100 of 1% have been privatizing our schools and getting away with it. -GFB

Advice column for pundits and politicians

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/01/07/a-primer-on-the-damaging-movement-to-privatize-public-schools/

Privatizing public schools: A primer for pundits and politicians

 

When, about thirty years ago, corporate interests began their highly organized, well-funded effort to privatize public education, you wouldn’t have read or heard about it. They didn’t want to trigger the debate that such a radical change in an important institution warranted.

If, like most pundits and politicians, you’ve supported that campaign, it’s likely you’ve been snookered. Here’s a quick overview of the snookering process.

 

The pitch

 

Talking Points: (a) Standardized testing proves America’s schools are poor. (b) Other countries are eating our lunch. (c) Teachers deserve most of the blame. (d) The lazy ones need to be forced out by performance evaluations. (e) The dumb ones need scripts to read or “canned standards” telling them exactly what to teach. (f) The experienced ones are too set in their ways to change and should be replaced by fresh Five-Week-Wonders from Teach for America. (Bonus: Replacing experienced teachers saves a ton of money.) (g) Public (“government”) schools are a step down the slippery slope to socialism.

 

Tactics

 

Education establishment resistance to privatization is inevitable, so (a) avoid it as long as possible by blurring the lines between “public” and “private.” (b) Push school choice, vouchers, tax write-offs, tax credits, school-business partnerships, profit-driven charter chains. (c) When resistance comes, crank up fear with the, “They’re eating our lunch!” message. (d) Contribute generously to all potential resisters—academic publications, professional organizations, unions, and school support groups such as PTA. (e) Create fake “think tanks,” give them impressive names, and have them do “research” supporting privatization. (f) Encourage investment in teacher-replacer technology—internet access, I-pads, virtual schooling, MOOCS, etc. (e) Pressure state legislators to make life easier for profit-seeking charter chains by taking approval decisions away from local boards and giving them to easier-to-lobby state-level bureaucrats. (g) Elect the “right” people at all levels of government. (When they’re campaigning, have them keep their privatizing agenda quiet.)

 

Weapon

 

If you’ll read the fine-print disclaimers on high-stakes standardized tests, you’ll see how grossly they’re being misused, but they’re the key to privatization. The general public, easily impressed by numbers and mathematical razzle-dazzle, believes competition is the key to quality, so want quality quantified even though it can’t be done. Machine-scored tests don’t measure quality. They rank.

It’s hard to rank unlike things so it’s necessary to standardize. That’s what the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) do. To get the job done quickly, Bill Gates picked up the tab, got the CCSS “legitimized” by getting important politicians to sign off on them, then handed them to teachers as a done deal.

The Standards make testing and ranking a cinch. They also make making billions a cinch. Manufacturers can use the same questions for every state that has adopted the Standards or facsimiles thereof.

If challenged, test fans often quote the late Dr. W. Edward Deming, the world-famous quality guru who showed Japanese companies how to build better stuff than anybody else. In his book, The New Economics, Deming wrote, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Here’s the whole sentence as he wrote it: “It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it—a costly myth.”

 

Operating the weapon

 

What’s turned standardized testing into a privatizing juggernaut are pass-fail “cut scores” set by politicians. Saying kids need to be challenged, they set the cut score high enough to fail many (sometimes most) kids. When the scores are published, they point to the high failure rate to “prove” public schools can’t do the job and should be closed or privatized. Clever, huh?

The privatizing machinery is in place. Left alone, it’ll gradually privatize most, but not all, public schools. Those that serve the poorest, the sickest, the handicapped, the most troubled, the most expensive to educate—those will stay in what’s left of the public schools.

 

Weapon malfunction

 

Look at standardized tests from kids’ perspective. Test items (a) measure recall of secondhand, standardized, delivered information, or (b) require a skill to be demonstrated, or (c) reward an ability to second-guess whoever wrote the test item. Because kids didn’t ask for the information, because the skill they’re being asked to demonstrate rarely has immediate practical use, and because they don’t give a tinker’s dam what the test-item writer thinks, they have zero emotional investment in what’s being tested.

As every real teacher knows, no emotional involvement means no real learning. Period. What makes standardized testslook like they work is learner emotion, but it’s emotion that doesn’t have anything to do with learning. The ovals get penciled in to avoid trouble, to please somebody, to get a grade, or to jump through a bureaucratic hoop to be eligible to jump through another bureaucratic hoop. When the pencil is laid down, what’s tested, having no perceived value, automatically erases from memory.

 

Before you write…

 

If you want to avoid cranking out the usual amateurish drivel about standardized testing that appears in the op-eds, editorials, and syndicated columns of the mainstream media, ask yourself a few questions about the testing craze: (a) Should life-altering decisions hinge on the scores of commercially produced tests not open to public inspection? (b) How wise is it to only teach what machines can measure? (c) How fair is it to base any part of teacher pay on scores from tests that can’t evaluate complex thought? (d) Are tests that have no “success in life” predictive power worth the damage they’re doing?

Here’s a longer list of problems you should think about before you write.

 

Perspective

America’s schools have always struggled—an inevitable consequence, first, of a decision in 1893 to narrow and standardize the high school curriculum and emphasize college prep; second, from a powerful strain of individualism in our national character that eats away support for public institutions; third, from a really sorry system of institutional organization. Politicians, not educators, make education policy, basing it on the simplistic conventional wisdom that educating means “delivering information.”

In fact, educating is the most complex and difficult of all professions. Done right, teaching is an attempt to help the young align their beliefs, values, and assumptions more closely with what’s true and real, escape the bonds of ethnocentrism, explore the wonders and potential of humanness, and become skilled at using thought processes that make it possible to realize those aims.

Historically, out of the institution’s dysfunctional organizational design came schools with lots of problems, but with one redeeming virtue. They were “loose.” Teachers had enough autonomy to do their thing. So they did, and the kids that some of them coached brought America far more than its share of patents, scholarly papers, scientific advances, international awards, and honors.

Notwithstanding their serious problems, America’s public schools were once the envy of the world. Now, educators around that world shake their heads in disbelief (or maybe cheer?) as we spend billions of dollars to standardize what once made America great—un-standardized thought.

A salvage operation is still (barely) possible, but not if politicians, prodded by pundits, continue to do what they’ve thus far steadfastly refused to do—listen to people who’ve actually worked with real students in real classrooms, and did so long enough and thoughtfully enough to know something about teaching.

 

Note: I invite response, especially from those in positions of influence or authority who disagree with me.

Marion Brady mbrady2222@gmail.com

View this on Basecamp

Even the Chancellor Calls the Results ‘Sobering’

The Washington City Paper has an article on the PARCC results with way more graphs and charts than I do, and they quote even Chancellor Kaya Henderson as saying the results were ‘sobering’.

Please remind me why she still has a job?

She and several other speakers said that the PARCC results were more ‘honest’ than the old DC-CAS results, probably because the new ‘passing’ scores are lower than the old ones. I guess that means that it’s more ‘honest’ to say that students are doing worse than we were previously led to believe, under the current regime of all-testing-all-the-time and turn-half-the-students-over-to-unregulated charters?

 

PARCC Results Released in DC

I just got back from watching the public release of the results of the PARCC test that students in Washington DC took about 7 months ago.

(Let that sink in: it took the testing company, and their consultants, and the city’s consultants, over HALF A YEAR to massage the data into a releasable form. So much for having these tests be able to be used to ‘inform instruction’ or help teachers figure out what kind of help their students need. It’s now the last day of November, and the students have been in school since August. What kind of help is that to teachers or parents? And tho I haven’t looked at the released school scores or samples of what the teachers will see, I’m not optimistic. If the past is any guide, the scores themselves will be essentially useless as well…)

(It won’t take so long next time, we were assured…)

I got to see Mayor Bowser, Councilman Grosso, Chancellor Kaya Henderson, [powerless] Superintendent Hanseul Kang, and Deputy Mayor for Education Jenny Niles, and charter honcho Scott Pearson perform and answer some mostly-lame questions from some members of the media.

What we saw were that advanced students in DC (largely white ones) do exceedingly well on this PARCC battery of tests, and that others (blacks; hispanics; SPEDs; students on free or reduced lunch; ELLs; or Students At Risk) do much worse. Which of course is  the very same result we’ve seen on the NAEP for a couple of decades.

In fact, of all the cities and states measured on the NAEP, Washington DC has the very widest gaps in test scores between the Upper Caucasia Haves and the Have-Nots everywhere else, and those gaps are if anything getting wider.

It was interesting to hear Henderson’s defenses of the results, which still showed very low percentages of most students “passing” the PARCC. She said, among other things, that

(1) since students at the lower grades generally scored higher than those at the upper grades, that show’s we are on the right path [seems to me it shows the exact opposite; the longer that students have been exposed to “Reform”, the worse they do… and

(2) It takes a long time, you can’t just expect to turn a switch and have everything be wonderful overnight, we need lots of wrap-around services and a longer school day and school year and support for teachers.

Regarding the latter excuse: isn’t that exactly what teachers were condemned for saying under Chancellor Rhee, whose understudy was none other than Kaya Henderson? Didn’t Rhee imply that the only reason that poor students did poorly in school was that their greedy, lazy teachers, empowered by their evil union, refused to teach them anything? And that anybody who said that it’s a lot harder to teach impoverished students of color with chaotic families (if any) than it is to teach middle-class children with educated parents – why those people were just making excuses for poverty?

 

Mental Math, Traditional Math, and Best Methods

James Tanton is one of the most insightful teachers of teachers of math I’ve come across in a long time.

In this video and this essay, he explains how some parents feel mystified by some of the newer style of math problems that children are bringing to their parents for help. Clearly, some of the problems (like the 32-12 one which fills up an entire page in a child’s workbook) are being done in a tortured, time-wasting method. However, if you take a more difficult problem, such as 103 – 87, you can do this completely in your head by adding small increments (MENTALLY) to the 87 until you get to 103.

This is a reasonable thing to do, much like people count out (or used to count out) change into a customer’s hand.

In this case, from 87 to 90 (which is a much ‘nicer’ number than 87) we need to go up by 3.

Then from 90 to 100 (which is getting closer to our goal), we go up by 10. So we’ve gone up by 13 all together.

Then from 100 to 103 is three more, so we’ve gone up by 16, which means that 103 – 87 is 16.

I would be crazy to write all those steps out! – which is unfortunately what the poor child was asked to do.

But doing it quickly in your head makes a lot of sense.

As Tanton says, let’s get rid of laborious, tortured, time-wasting algorithms and examples, but let’s keep the thinking and understanding.

Click on the picture for a larger view; it’s a slightly-modified still from his video.

james tanton on thinking

Published in: on October 25, 2015 at 11:31 am  Comments (1)  
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Fourier Analysis – Done By A Machine With Gears and Levers

Fourier analysis allows your cell phone or MP3 player to transmit your voice and play music without needing huge reel-to-reel tape recorders to store all the sounds and without using enormous amounts of bandwidth. It’s now done electronically, by clever mathematical algorithms that are encoded on the tiny microchips inside your computer or cellphone or iPod or whatever.

The general idea is you take a complex wave-front and you turn it into an infinite series of sine or cosine waves. Believe it or not, it actually makes the data much simpler!

A very simple example. This weird shape

2 COSINES SUMMED

is merely the sum of two cosine waves:

cosines

And all of the music you hear (eg a clarinet, which might look like this on an oscilloscope)

clarinet

can be deconstructed into a whole lot of sines or cosines

 

About 40 years ago, I did some Fourier transforms by hand in a calculus class. It was time-consuming, but very, very cool.

A full century ago, Albert Michelson had to do a whole bunch of Fourier transforms for some astronomy task. It was too time-consuming to do by hand, so he built a machine with gears, levers and so on to do it for him.

It’s a super-cool analog (as opposed to digital) computer — and there is a fellow who shows you exactly how it works!

His presentation is in four parts. Start with this one, the introduction.

Published in: on November 18, 2014 at 5:23 pm  Leave a Comment  
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My Predictions for the 2014 DC-CAS Scores

Sometime this month, the Mayor of DC and the Chancellor of the DC Public Schools will make some sort of announcement on how DC public and charter school students did on the DC-CAS (Comprehensive Assessment System) – the test required by Federal law to be given to every single kid in grades 3 through 8 and in grade 10.

I don’t have a crystal ball, and I haven’t developed any sources willing to risk their jobs by leaking the results to me in advance, but I can make a few predictions:

1. If the results look bad, they will be released right before a holiday or a weekend (a basic public-relations tactic that all public officials learn).

2. If the scores as a whole look good, or if there is some part of the trends that look good, that will be highlighted heavily.

3. There won’t be much of a correlation between the trends on the DC-CAS scores and the National Assessment of Ednucational Progress, which has been measuring student achievement in grades 4 and 8 in reading and math since the 1970s by giving a carefully-selected sample of students in DC and across the nation a variety of different test items in math, reading, and a number of other areas.

4. Even though the DC-CAS results won’t be released to the public for a couple more weeks, clearly DCPS officials and Mathematica staff already have them; they have been firing teachers and principals and “adjusting” – with the benefit of hindsight – the rest of their evaluations to fit the DC-CAS scores and the magic secret formula called “Value Added Magic Measurement”.

You may ask, how can GFBrandenburg predict not much of a match between the DC-CAS and the NAEP?

By looking at the track record, which I will share with you.

I present the average scores of all DC students on both the DC-CAS and on the NAEP over the past quarter-century. The NAEP scores for the District of Columbia have either been pretty steady or have been rising slightly.

As far as I can tell, the statisticians at the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) who design, administer, and score the NAEP do a fine job of

A. making sure that there is no cheating by either students or adults,

B.  making up good questions that measure important topics, and

C. gathering, collating, and reporting the data in an honest manner.

On the DC -CAS, however, we have had many documented cases of cheating (see point A), I have shown that many of the questions are ridiculous and don’t measure what we teachers were supposed to be teaching (see point B), and I hope to show you that whatever they are doing with the scores does not seem to be trustworthy.

Exhibit number one is a graph where I plot the average scale scores of the students in Washington DC on both the NAEP and on the DC-CAS for fourth grade math:

naep + dccas 4th grade math comparison

Allow me to explain.

The bottom blue curve is what DC’s fourth-graders average scale scores were on the NAEP starting in 1992 and going on through 2013. As you can see, since 1996, there has been what appears like more-or-less steady improvement.

(It is very hard, in fact, to see much of a difference in trends before mayoral control over the DC schools and after that time. I drew a vertical black line to separate the ‘Pre-Rhee” era from the “Post-Rhee” era, since Michelle Rhee was the very first Chancellor installed in the DC schools, after the annual tests were given in 2007.)

(As noted,  the NAEP scale scores go from 0 to 500, but the DC-CAS scores go from 0 to 100. I decided that the easiest way to have them both fit on the same graph would simply be to divide the NAEP scores by 5. The actual reported NAEP scores are in the little table, if you want to examine them for yourself. You can double-check my numbers by looking around at the NAEP and DC OSSE websites — which are unfortunately not easy to navigate, so good luck, and be persistent! You will also find that some years have two different scores reported, which is why I put those double asterisks at a couple of places on those curves.)

But here’s what’s really suspicious: the DC-CAS scores, shown in red, seem to jump around wildly and appear to show tremendous progress overall but also utterly un-heralded drops.

Which is it?

Slow, steady progress since 1996, or an amazing jump as soon as Wonder Woman Rhee comes on the scene?

In my opinion, I’d much rather trust the feds on this. We know that there has been all sorts of hanky-panky with the DC-CAS, as repeatedly documented in many places. I know for a fact that we math teachers have been changing the ways that we teach, to be more in line with the 1989 NCTM standards and the ways that math is tested on the NAEP. It’s also the case that there has been significant gentrification in DC, with the proportion of white kids with highly educated parents rising fairly steadily.

Slow improvement in math scores, going back a quarter of a century, makes sense.

Wild jumps don’t seem reasonable to me at all.

On the contrary, besides the known mass cheating episodes, it almost seems like DC education officials get together with McGraw-Hill CTB, which manufactures the DC-CAS, and decide how they want to get the scores to come out. THEN they decide which questions to count and which ones NOT to count, and what the cut-off scores will be for ‘advanced’, ‘proficient’ and so on.

Next time: 8th grade math; and 4th and 8th grade reading.

=======

Links to my other articles on this:

Part One  (fourth grade math)— this one right here

Part Two (8th grade math)

Part Three (all reading)

Just how flat ARE those 12th grade NAEP scores?

Perhaps you read or heard that the 12th grade NAEP reading and math scores, which just got reported, were “flat“.

Did you wonder what that meant?

The short answer is: those scores have essentially not changed since they began giving the tests! Not for the kids at the top of the testing heap, not for those at the bottom, not for blacks, not for whites, not for hispanics.

No change, nada, zip.

Not even after a full dozen years of Bush’s looney No Child Left Behind Act, nor its twisted Obama-style descendant, Race to the Trough. Top.

I took a look at the official reports and I’ve plotted them here you can see how little effect all those billions spent on testing;  firing veteran teachers; writing and publishing new tests and standards; and opening thousands of charter schools has had.

Here are the tables:

naep 12th grade reading by percentiles over time

This first graph shows that other than a slight widening of the gap between the kids at the top (at the 90th percentile) and those at the bottom (at the 10th percentile) back in the early 1990s, there has been essentially no change in the average scores over the past two full decades.

I think we can assume that the test makers, who are professional psychometricians and not political appointees, tried their very best to make the test of equal difficulty every year. So those flat lines mean that there has been no change, despite all the efforts of the education secretaries of Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama. And despite the wholesale replacement of an enormous fraction of the nation’s teachers, and the handing over of public education resources to charter school operators.

naep 12th grade reading by group over time

 

This next graph shows much the same thing, but the data is broken down into ethnic/racial groups. Again, these lines are about as flat (horizontal) as you will ever see in the social sciences,

However, I think it’s instructive to note that the gap between, say, Hispanic and Black students on the one hand, and White and Asian students on the other, is much smaller than the gap between the 10th and 90th percentiles we saw in the very first graph: about 30 points as opposed to almost 100 points.
naep 12th grade math by percentiles over time

 

The third graph shows the  NAEP math scores for 12th graders since 2005, since that was the first time that the test was given. The psychometricians atNAEP claim there has been a :statistically significant” change since 2005 in some of those scores, but I don’t really see it. Being “statistically significant’ and being REALLY significant are two different things.

*Note: the 12th grade Math NAEP was given for the first time in 2005, unlike the 12th grade reading test.

naep 12th grade math by group over time

 

And here we have the same data broken down by ethnic/racial groups. Since 2009 there has been essentially no change, and there was precious little before that, except for Asian students.

Diane Ravitch correctly dismissed all of this as a sign that everything that Rod Paige, Margaret Spellings and Arne Duncan have done, is a complete and utter failure. Her conclusion, which I agree with, is that NCLB and RTTT need to be thrown out.

 

Trends in DC’s regular public schools and charter schools: 4th grade math NAEP, TUDA

I continue here in showing you the results of my calculations for how the charter school students and regular public school students in Washington, DC have been faring on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, since the 1990s.

Some of my previous columns were quite simple: I just cut and pasted graphs from the NAEP and NAEP TUDA results, or asked the built-in software for how white, black, hispanic, special education, or free/reduced-price-lunch kids did at the 4th and 8th grade in math and reading.

If you look at my previous graphs, you will notice that, on the whole, the trends AFTER 2007, when Michelle Rhee was installed as the very first DC chancellor, looked just about the same as the trends BEFORE that date.

Today, I did a little math to figure out how black fourth-grade charter school students did in math in DC, in comparison with their counterparts in other large cities, in the nation as a whole, and in the regular DC public schools.

The math goes like this: I figure that the DC state weighted average for any given group or grade level (say, 4th grade African-American students taking the math NAEP) equals the weighted average for regular DCPS at that grade level, times the enrollment at that grade level, plus the product of the charter school weighted average score at that grade level and the charter school enrollment at that grade level; all of that divided by the total enrollment.

Or, if Q = DC state average. and R = DC regular public school weighted average, and V = DC regular public school enrollment, and S = DC charter school weighted average, and W = DC charter school enrollment, and X = V + W = total enrollment in publicly-funded schools in DC, both regular and charter, then

Q = (R*V + S * W) / X

And since I could find everything except S in the literature, then I could simply solve for S. My result:

S = (X*Q – R*V)/W.

And here are my results:

dc, dcps, charters, national - black 4th graders, math, naep, 1996-2013

 

My conclusions?

For black students at the 4th grade in math, the post-Rhee trends in the charter schools are about the same as the trends in DC public schools were BEFORE Rhee was appointed. However, it looks like the trends overall in the regular public schools seem a bit worse.

If past trends had continued, and Michelle Rhee had not become chancellor, the overall educational results might have been very similar to what they are today — inequalities and inequities of course included, because we have lots of that here in Washington, DC.

By the way, if anyone finds a mistake in my work, please let me know by leaving a comment.

Has Mayoral Control of Schools in DC Succeeded or Failed? A 10-year Record of Data

In the past few posts, (#1, #2, #3) I’ve merely cut-and-pasted graphs or text that the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCESpublished two days ago on their website as part of what has become a very widespread, longitudinal survey of statistics illustrating educational progress or problems in the large urban school systems of the USA; this one was called the NAEP TUDA.

The only modifications I did to the graphs were cutting out the ‘fine print’ that few of my readers would look at anyway, and adding some notations and color for clarity.

(BTW, if you want to look at the fine print, go right ahead! It’s all findable at that same website.)

This time, I actually lifted a few digital fingers and asked the NCES web site to produce some simple tables of longitudinal and cross-sectional data for DCPS and a few other cities. Nothing complicated: I just wanted to see how black, white, and Hispanic  students have been faring, along with those in special education and immigrant kids learning English for the first time, compared with ‘regular’ kids, and compared with tbejr counterparts among alloother large public urban school systems. Then I had Excel plot the data. Here are my first two such graphs, exploring whether mayoral control of schools (and all that went along with that, such as eliminating tenure and turning education over to private corporations) helped or hurt.

I think the results are obvious.

Here goes:

4TH GRADE math naep tuda scale scores for black, white, hisp - nation + DCPS

 

Lots of information in this first graph, but you have to pay a little attention.

(1)    Notice how high white students in DCPS score on this graph (solid red line, at the top). Those students, some of whose siblings I’ve taught at Alice Deal JHS/MS, are the highest-scoring subgroup that I know of in the entire NAEP/NCES/TUDA database. Overall, they continue to do well, and in the fourth grade, for math, the only departure from a straight-line trend was 2007. Their rate of growth in test scores exceeds that of white kids in all urban public school systems, probably because white kids in DC overwhelmingly come from professional, educated families. We don’t have any trailer parks or other sizable population of white working-class kids in DC, ever since the massive “white flight” of the 1960s. (You have to go elsewhere to find characters like those on “Honey Boo Boo”!)  In any case, overall, no real change pre-Rhee to post-Rhee, other than the fact (not apparent in this graph) that the proportion of white students at most grades has vastly increased in DCPS: in a word, because of gentrification. In any case, white kids in DC continue to score a lot higher in 4th grade NAEP math than white kids in other public urban school systems (dotted green line near the top).

(2)    Among Hispanic students, it appears that the trends after 2008 in DCPS for fourth-grade math students aren’t so favorable to the pro-mayoral-control side of the argument: from 2003 through 2009, their scores were increasing at a pretty amazing rate (solid purple line) until they matched the scores of Hispanic students in all US urban school systems (dotted purple line). After that year, those scores went down or leveled off. Again, no miracle.

(3)    Among black students at this grade level, if the trends for 2003-2007 had continued, the bottom orange line for black 4th-graders in math would be a bit higher than it is now, largely because there was in fact no growth from 2009 to 2011.

(4) It’s a bit harder to see, but the hispanic-white and black-white achievement gaps at this grade level continues to be a lot larger in DC than it is in the nation’s urban school systems. Twice as wide, in fact. So, again, no sign of success.

Overall: no evidence here whatsoever of any of the promised miracles. In fact, if anything, growth was a little worse, overall, after Rhee, than it was before Rhee.

Now let’s look at achievement levels for 4th grade math students with disabilities (ie special education), ELLs (English Language Learners) and those in regular education, both here in DC and in all US urban public school systems. Here, I chose to plot the percentages of students who are “Basic” or above, rather than the average scale score. You could plot scale scores yourself, if you like.

pct students basic or above DCPS and nation by disability - 4th grade math NAEP TUDA

(A score of “Basic” on the NAEP corresponds to “Proficient” on the DC-CAS and other state-administered NCLB and RttT tests.)

Notice that most of these lines show an overall upward trend for this period. The top line (dotted, green) is the percent of all public-school, regular-education students in urban public school systems who score “Basic” or above on the fourth-grade math NAEP. The  solid, maroon/brown line represents the same measurement for regular 4th-grade math students here in DC. Notice that both the dotted green and solid brown lines are going up pretty steadily, with no particular change in trend on either side of the vertical orange line. Which means that mayoral control seems not to have changed  to past trends one way or the other.

The olive-colored, dotted line represents percentages of fourth-grade students of English as a second language in all of our urban public schools. As you can see, the trend is a slow but steady increase. However, in DC public schools, since 2009, the corresponding line (solid, sky blue) is trending downwards. Why? I have no idea, but it’s not a favorable argument for continued mayoral control, since before Fenty and Rhee took over DCPS, the trend was certainly upwards.

With special education students, I used a dotted purple line for all national urban public school students, and a solid orange lines for those in DC public schools. I have no idea why the percentage of 4th-grade math students scoring “Basic” or above went down across the nation’s cities after 2008, while it had been going up modestly but steadily before that date. Clearly, the trends in special-education scores in DCPS are even more mysterious: a continuation of past trends in 2009, a fairly large drop in 2011, and a fairly large increase in 2013. In any case, if you were to extrapolate the orange pre-Rhee line past the central line, I suspect you’d come to about  the same place we are in right now (2013).

Again, this is evidence that all the churn, upheaval, anguish, money, and curriculum impoverishment of the past 6 years in the District of Columbia has all been for naught. We would have gotten the same results with the system we had in place beforehand.

 

My conclusion: any progress in DCPS appears to be a continuation of trends that show up very clearly as going back ten years, well before the DC city council, with the blessing of Congress, abolished the school board and handed control of the public schools over to a chancellor appointed and responsible to a mayor.

Published in: on December 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm  Comments (2)  
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