More on Poverty and Segregation in DC Publicly-Funded Schools

According to the educational DEformers who have seldom (or ever) tried to teach in an inner-city or rural poverty-stricken, segregated school, all one needs to do in order to ‘smash’ the ‘achievement gap’ is to fire all the veteran, unionized teachers and hire new and inexperienced but somehow ‘excellent’ college grads, close the old ‘failing’ schools, and all will be peaches and cream and light and wonderfulness.

In DC, nearly half of all students now attend charter schools.

Many of those schools remain completely segregated both by class and by race, as I have shown, just as many of the regular public schools were (and are).

Well, how do these new charter schools do?

Actually, not very much better. Certainly the millennium has not come.

I present to you three graphs that I made using the stats released by DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education. On the x-axis, I added the rate of poverty and the rate of segregation to produce an index that goes from 0% (impossibly un-segregated with 100 or more equally-represented ethnic groups and no kids on free and reduced-price lunch) to 200% (which means 100% black and/or hispanic and 100% eligible for free or reduced-price lunch).

On the y-axis I graphed the average of the ‘pass’ rates in math and reading.

You will see that an enormous number of schools line up on the far right-hand edge of the graph. Those are the high-poverty, highly segregated schools. Only a very small fraction of schools (both regular public and charter) are anything else.

This graph is for ALL publicly-funded schools, both regular and charter:

poverty segregation and average dc-cas proficiency rate - 2013


Notice that the linear correlation between segregation & poverty on the one hand, and average achievement on the other, is fairly strong and negative. R-squared is 0.49, which means that the correlation coefficient R is about 0.7.

Next, let’s look at just the DC public schools:

poverty seg + avge dccas prof - regular dc public schools only


You will notice that the correlation is a bit higher: R-squared is 0.62, which means that R itself is nearly 0.8. Most of the high-poverty and high-segregation schools have proficiency rates between 10% and 55%.

And now let’s look at the same graph for the DC charter schools:

poverty seg + avge dccas prof - charter schools only


To their credit, the charter schools do appear to have a weaker correlation between my poverty&segregation index and test scores. R-squared is about 0.29, which means that R is a bit more than 0.5.

Do the charter schools seem to have some magic bullet, so that all of the schools with segregation & poverty indices of 190% or more are all scoring at the top of the charts? No way. The cluster of schools at the far right-hand end of this graph still score fairly low: between 18% and 65%, instead of between 10% and 55%.

Of course, we don’t exactly know how that happens. A difference that small can easily be obtained by rejecting incomplete applications and pushing out certain students.

You also can see that there are essentially NO charter schools with average proficiency rates over 85%, but there are ten such regular public schools.

If there are any requests to see my spreadsheet, I’ll post it as a Google Doc. Just post a comment. (Sorry, the comments button is really tiny and hard to see, but it’s under this text on your screen.)


Poverty, Segregation, and Test Scores in DC

While looking at the latest released NCLB test scores in Washington, DC, I was struck by the enormous number of students who are stuck in completely segregated schools, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for civil rights and justice.

100% black student body and 100% of them on free or reduced-price lunches (i.e., poor) is the most obvious group of schools.

Followed by another very large group of schools that are 90-99% black & hispanic and 100% poor.

Very, very few schools have an actual mix of white, hispanic, black, and asian students.

This is true for both the regular public schools in DC and for the publicly-funded but privately-run charter schools.

Out of a  total of 181 DC schools for which I have data, 23 have ‘perfectly’ segregated student bodies — that is, every single kid is black and/or hispanic,  AND every single kid is eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.

Here is the list:

  1. Aiton Elementary
  2. Arts + Technology Public Charter
  3. Beers Elementary
  4. Burrville Elementary
  5. C. W.  Harris Elementary
  6. Center City (Congress Heights campus) Public  Charter
  7. Center City (Shaw campus) Public Charter
  8. Ferebee-Hope Elementary
  9. Garfield Elementary
  10. Howard  Road (MLK campus) Public Charter
  11. Howard Road (main campus) Public Charter
  12. Integrated Design Electronics Academy (IDEA) Public Charter
  13. Johnson Middle
  14. Martin Luther King Elementary
  15. Ludlow-Taylor Elementary
  16. Malcolm X Elementary
  17. Maya Angelou (Evans campus) Public Charter
  18. Meridian Public Charter
  19. Options Public Charter
  20. Randle Highlands Elementary
  21. Septima Clark Public Charter
  22. Simon Elementary
  23. Stanton Elementary

Teacher and Administrative Churn — It’s Not A Bug, It’s A Feature of Education Deform in DC and Elsewhere

Continuing to look at the report to the DC auditor’s department from EdCORE, let’s focus on what has happened to DCPS staff, both teachers and administrators. I lifted the following graphs from the report and added my own notations (mostly in red).

principal churn in dcpsAccording to the report, nearly two-thirds of all principals in DCPS have only one, two, or three years of experience in our system. Less than 16% of all DCPS principals had more than 6 years of experience in DCPS.

principal churn by poverty level

And it’s also clear that this principal churn hits high-poverty schools the hardest. As you can see above, in high-poverty schools, 71% of the principals are new, compared to only about 43% in the low-poverty schools. Constant churn of staff and administrators and teachers in high-poverty schools is profoundly demoralizing: teachers with connections to the community are able to relate to students because they know the parents well, often live in the community, belong to churches, coach sporting or other events, and have a profound, stabilizing impact. When a principal or teacher comes to a school and then leaves after a year or two (or less), and this pattern repeats over and over, then human connections are lost.

Interesting chart here shows that contrary to the anti-veteran-teacher propaganda, first- and second-year teachers get lower ratings on IMPACT than more seasoned teachers:

ratings for new and returning teachers - dcps - 2010-2011

This next graph shows that if you want to keep your job, it’s best not to teach in a high-poverty school. Teachers in low-poverty DC public schools are four times more likely to get a “Highly Effective” rating than teachers in a high-poverty school. And teachers in the high-poverty schools are three times more likely to get a “Minimally Effective” score than teachers in the low-poverty schools.

teacher ratings by school poverty 2010-2011

This next graph shows that as a consequence,  there is a much higher ‘churn’ rate in the high-poverty schools. 32% of the teachers leave the system EACH YEAR in the high-poverty schools, versus 13% in the low-poverty schools. movers leavers stayers in teachers by school poverty levelHow does this constant churn affect the students? It’s not good. See for yourself:

percent of students at or above prof in math by student ethnic and povertyAfter the uptick in scores resulting from teachers learning how to teach the test after SY 2006-7, there has not been the ‘smashing of the achievement gap’ that was predicted by the EduDeformers. Kids who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunches still score the lowest; black students as a whole continue to score almost as low as them, and DC’s white students still continue to score at phenomenal levels.

(Note: Washington DC has essentially no white working class component. Almost all non-hispanic whites living in DC have either considerable wealth or a lot of education, or both. We don’t have uneducated white truck drivers or welders or white single moms who are high-school-dropouts working two crappy jobs. Clearly, we do have white waiters and bartenders and such, but they often have college degrees… and no kids… White DC students have the highest NAEP scores in every subject, year after year, than any other subgroup in any other state or city in the US. Don’t believe me? Look at the NAEP yourself.)

percent students at or above prof in reading by ethnicity and FRL eligibilityThe previous graph shows pretty much the same thing except I left “FRPL” as it was originally, instead of spelling it out; it means “Eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch” — if you are indeed eligible, then your family is poor. And, this is a graph for reading, instead of math.

percentage of students at or above prof in math by poverty decileThis is my last graph for today. I used their data and tried to make it clearer. It shows how students do by poverty decile of the student body as a whole. ‘First-decile’ schools means the 10% of schools — like Mann, Key, Janney, Lafayette and so on — that have the smallest fraction of FRPL students, i.e., poor kids. The tenth-decile schools are the schools with the highest fraction of kids in poverty — I’m willing to bet they found a lot of schools where the entire student body is eligible for free or reduced price lunches.

I did find it interesting that the kids in the tenth (last) decile actually outscored the students in the seventh decile. Not sure why that is.

Poverty Isn’t Destiny?

Quite a few Ed Deformers say that Poverty Isn’t Destiny. They say that it doesn’t matter if a child has been subjected to lead poisoning, separation from parents, violent or otherwise cruel child abuse, inadequate nutrition, and has lacked dental or health care and the love and care of a family during the first, crucial years. All it takes is for a Bright Young Thing fresh out of college to work her butt off for two years before she goes to work for a bank — and all of those handicaps will be overcome, with no extra dollars invested, and maybe even less!

Or maybe not.

Lots of teachers have been working their butts off for many decades, doing their best, believe it or not (for the most part).

Here are two three graphs from Wisconsin that show how close the connection between the poverty rates and student achievement levels, at all of their schools for which they provide data. My data come from here and are for SY 2011-2012. In fact, you can download the entire spreadsheet for the state of Wisconsin if you click on this link:

In both all three graphs, the percentage of students at the schools is along the horizontal (X) axis. In the first two, the average achievement score at the school is along the vertical (Y) axis.

In this first graph, Wisconsin uses a 100-point scale for overall student achievement.

wisconsin school overall student ach score by pct of poor kids

That is an incredibly strong correlation between poverty levels and student achievement. The fewer the proportion of poor students at a school, the better the achievement scores at that school.

I had Excel compute two correlation “trend” lines – one straight, in black, and one curved, in red following a third-degree polynomial, since it looks like we have a serious “Matthew effect” going on here. In either case, the R-squared and R values are very elevated, showing that, in fact, poverty is in fact destiny for a lot of kids.

The next graph is for reading only, but it shows essentially the same trend. School reading scores go from 0 to 50.

Wisconsin school READING scores by pct of poor kids

There are very few real-life correlations between two entities stronger than what you see in these two graphs.

This next graph is a little different, for two reasons: the y-axis is math, and it’s the percent of students deemed ‘proficient’ on whatever test Wisconsin is using. It also shows a very strong correlation.

wisconsin school poverty rate versus percent of students proficient in MATH

Widening US Educational Achievement Gap Between Rich and Poor?

A Stanford professor has analyzed data for the past 50 years, concluding that the gap in educational achievement between the wealthy and the poor has become considerably wider since about 1960; it’s now roughly twice as large as the black-white gap, when it used to be roughly the reverse!

A quote from his article,

The widening academic achievement gap between the rich and the poor: New evidence and possible explanations

In this chapter I examine whether and how the relationship between family socioeconomic characteristics and academic achievement has changed during the last fifty years. In particular, I investigate the extent to which the rising income inequality of the last four decades has been paralleled by a similar increase in the income achievement gradient. As the income gap between high- and low-income families has widened, has the achievement gap between children in high- and low-income families also widened?

The answer, in brief, is yes. The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier. In fact, it appears that the income achievement gap has been growing for at least fifty years, though the data are less certain for cohorts of children born before 1970. In this chapter, I describe and discuss these trends in some detail. In addition to the key finding that the income achievement gap appears to have widened substantially, there are a number of other important findings.

First, the income achievement gap (defined here as the income difference between a child from a family at the 90th percentile of the family income distribution and a child from a family at the 10th percentile) is now nearly twice as large as the black-white achievement gap. Fifty years ago, in contrast, the black-white gap was one and a half to two times as large as the income gap.

Published in: on December 23, 2012 at 11:56 am  Comments (1)  
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Staff Seniority Versus Percentage of School in Poverty

I was under the impression that our highest-poverty, lowest-achieving students were being saddled with our most inexperienced teachers.

Apparently, that’s not quite so.

Brand-new teachers abound everywhere in DCPS, and continue to quit in droves in the middle of the year or after just one or two years. It’s not just in high-poverty schools: it’s everywhere.

This graph shows the lack of correlation between the median hire date of all staff at all DC public schools that I could find data on, and the percentages of students deemed eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The latter status is generally used as our only way to judge the students’ families’ poverty level. The median hire date is the date where half of the staff were hired before that date, and the other half were hired after that date.

I tried running a linear regression, and the correlation was so low (o.o2) that it’s not worth considering.

What is significant is the fact that we have in DCPS about twenty schools that have less than 50% of their students in poverty, and we have about a hundred (yes, roughly 100) schools with very high poverty rates.

Here’s the graph:


Published in: on February 27, 2012 at 8:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A rant concerning education

There is fraud in many, many realms of work and human enterprise. Including lawyers, doctors, businessmen, accountants, engineers, policemen, nurses, painters, taxi drivers, politicians, ‘reformers’, housewives, babies, children, students, the retired, stockholders, hunter-gatherers, soldiers, officers, spies, writers like me… (Sorry if I left out your favorite group; I got tired of typing this list) We are all sometimes crooked, no? Including some teachers.

But I think the problem is deeper. Yes, there is an awful lot of corruption and outright graft in education (as it is in many other areas). But I think that education and upbringing of the next generation is one of the most important things we can do. The last thing we really want is to have gangs of unemployed, disengaged kids hanging on street-corners, engaging in thuggish and criminal behavior, getting locked up for various offenses, engaging in violence and so on … regardless of whether their freaking math and reading test scores were ‘proficient’, ‘advanced’, ‘basic’, or ‘below basic’ – that’s not really important. What’s important is, are they becoming good human beings, or otherwise? And is it the sole job of the classroom teacher to fix all that? I don’t think he or she could if they tried. And, lord knows, they have been trying. And in the past 10 years they have been forced to work harder and harder, to no real human avail nor real improvement.

One could easily make the argument that we don’t spend nearly enough money on education. Heck, every single student should begin learning a foreign language soon after they learn to write their own. Plus, they should get really good coaching in some sort of physical endeavor (not necessarily a sport). Plus, they should all learn to play a musical instrument and to cook good food. And to appreciate good literature, music, and other cultures. And learn how to use various tools (metal, wood, software, and much, much more).

And to learn how society actually does function, and how it SHOULD work, why it works the way it does instead of the way it should, and to try to figure out ways from get from the actual present situation to an improved situation.

We are doing very little of any of this with our most underprivileged young society members. The kids who are raised in our ghettoes very seldom get to learn any of that stuff. Instead, society waits until they do something really, really wrong, and then locks them up. But it’s really, really expensive to keep someone locked up for 30 or 40 years – at about $20,000 per prisoner per year, that’s six hundred thousand to eight hundred thousand dollars ($600,000 to $800,000) per prisoner. It would have been a lot cheaper in the long run to invest in after-school programs to seriously engage students in sports, music, and much, much more, including lots of field trips to museums, zoos, mountains, beaches, factories, farms, and much, much more.

Instead, we are narrowing our educational goals more and more onto things that really don’t matter very much at all. (Have you actually LOOKED at the inane questions they ask on these dinky standardized NCLB tests? They were written by people who have absolutely no experience in the real world, or chose to ignore everything they ever learned about it.)

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