March 11, 2010

Early Education on Education

Justin Katz

On last night's Matt Allen Show, Andrew described his series of recent posts tracing standardized test scores across Rhode Island. Stream by clicking here, or download it.

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As I listened to Andrew it occurred to me that what this study doesn't consider is that in the districts in the upper right hand corner of the chart, the students in the 11th grade and the 8th grade are the same students. For those districts in the lower left, the students being tested are almost completely different students.

I'm not sure a testing program that ignores the student mobility factor can validly measure the success of a school district's efforts to overcome low scores.

Posted by: John at March 11, 2010 6:54 AM

Adding the mobility data would take this from being the Wright Brothers version of the analysis, to a solid twin-engine propeller design. BUT with that said, the lack of the data at this stage (since I wanted to start from the same NECAP numbers the MSM frequently reports) is why this analysis begins with the absolute numbers that change in each district. If you look at the change in 8th to 11th grade results in the urban districts, you'll see results like a gain of 112 students proficient in reading Woonsocket, a gain of 634 student proficient in Providence, a gain of 40 students proficient in Central Falls, etc. I'll throw it back to you here (understanding fully that we don't have the answer yet) -- are you willing to say that the gains, as well as the losses, are mostly likely due to student mobility? Or could this be a clue that some urban high schools are doing something right that they're not getting enough credit for?

And furthermore, if the results above were simply the result of student mobility, you would expect to see something similar reflected in the math scores. However, between 8 and 11, the three communities listed above are in the lower-half of the changes in mathematics proficiency.

The points that I think are worth immediately following-up on from this are that

1. It's possible that the biggest problems in "urban education" aren't with the high-schools, but in the middle schools in junior-highs. I'm not claiming that nothing should be done to change things at a school like Central Falls high (because there's no rule that says an urban district has to wait to improve itself, until the suburbs go first), but the NCLB statistics that red-flag Central Falls High as the major problem in the Central Falls district may be a hot-air balloon, compared to the info presented here.

1A. If the problem is indeed much stronger in certain grades in certain subjects than in others, it has big implications for the first-a-socialist-revolution, then education-reform crowd, because it would start to make clear that some specific problems with either pedagogy or curriculum at certain ages is a bigger problem than one's overall place in the class struggle, or however it is that the progressive left would put it.

2. There is an obviously system-wide problem with mathematics education in the Rhode Island public schools, especially at the high-schools, the source of which needs to be tracked down.

Posted by: Andrew at March 11, 2010 9:02 AM


I don't know the reason math scores continue to suffer. I can speculate though. "Investigations Math"

Schools suck at teaching math and use a completely erroneous approach. THey teach process rather than teach a foundation of facts follwed by the reasoning aspects of math that comes through maturity.

Simply put...they suck at it and keep doing more wrong things instead of just teaching freakin' math!

Successful math students get there in spite of their teachers, not because of them.

Posted by: John at March 11, 2010 8:41 PM
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