Despite what the New York Times said: Dating back, let's say, to 2005, Chicago's public school students seem to have shown substantial progress in Grade 8 math.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress—the Naep—is routinely described as "the gold standard" of domestic educational testing. As we noted on Monday, the average scores recorded by Chicago's black kids have grown, a lot, in Grade 8 math, in the past dozen years:
Average scores, black students, ChicagoBy a very roughly rule of thumb, 10-11 points on the Naep scale is often said to correspond to one academic year. On that basis, those average scores seem to represent a lot of progress.
Grade 8 math, Naep
Chicago's Hispanic kids have shown large score gains too—and they were starting from a higher point:
Average scores, Hispanic students, ChicagoThose score gains are impressive too.
Grade 8 math, Naep
(Again, we offer a chastening larger perspective. Across the nation, white kids averaged 291.06 on this test. Asian-American kids averaged 305.37.)
Chicago's average scores exceed those of most other big-city systems. The same is true of the city's score gains since 2005.
Now we offer a significant point. Chicago has recorded large scores gains at the Grade 4 level too.
The Naep tests reading and math in Grades 4 and Grade 8. In Grade 4 math, average scores by Chicago's black kids have looked like this:
Average scores, black students, ChicagoHere again, we're looking at substantial score gains. And for the city's Hispanic fourth graders, average score in Grade 4 math have gone from 217.05 in 2005 to 229.69 in 2015.
Grade 4 math, Naep
In short, Chicago has recorded large score gains at the Grade 4 level too. In light of this recent report by the New York Times, there's an interesting aspect to this.
The Times report seems to attribute a surprising theory to Stanford's Sean Reardon. According to this theory, city kids tend to be substantially behind national norms at the end of third grade mainly because of factors in the home and the community. Positive effects of a skillful school system start to kick in after that.
Stated in its baldest form, this theory seems counterintuitive. Needless to say, that doesn't mean that it's wrong.
That said, these data from Chicago seem to fly in the face of this theory. Why do we say that? Here's why:
The Naep produces no Grade 3 scores. Its earliest testing occurs in Grade 4.
But in Chicago, Grade 4 scores have tended to rise in conjunction with Grade 8 scores. Presumably, social surroundings in Chicago didn't improve a lot from 2005 to 2015—a period in which that city's rising homicide numbers drew lots of national attention, with activists loudly complaining about the closing of neighborhood schools.
That said, scores by the city's fourth graders rose by substantial amounts during this period, hand in hand with the large score gains recorded by Chicago's eighth graders. If the school district's influence only starts kicking in after third grade, that influence seems to have kicked in heavily in Chicago during just that one fourth grade year.
We found a great deal to wonder about in that New York Times report. Early in the new year, we expect to examine several aspects of the report.
As usual, we came away from that report with a few basic reactions. In our view, the New York Times makes little investment in its education reporting.
In our view, Times reporting about urban schools has a largely Potemkin feel. Truth to tell, the Times doesn't seem to care a whole lot about the delightful, deserving, striving kids in Chicago's public schools.
Meanwhile, have you seen that full-page New York Times report discussed on your favorite "cable news" channel? Has Rachel Maddow discussed that report? How about Chris, Chris and Lawrence, or does he just care about desks?
Has that major report been discussed? Has Professor Reardon been interviewed?
We're going to say that the answer is no. So why do you think that is?
Tomorrow: Perhaps a major surprise