GAPS IN CHICAGO: Chicago's schools have been on the move!

THURSDAY, MAY 31, 2018

Part 3—A somewhat arcane report:
Based upon our most reliable data, it's easy to see that Chicago's schools have been performing much better.

We refer to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (Naep), the long-standing federal testing program which is often called "America's Report Card."

There have been rampant cheating episodes on some state testing programs. Some state testing programs have been poorly constructed.

In the forty-plus years since the Naep's inception, it has been assumed that the Naep is competently constructed—and that it's much less susceptible to cheating or technical manipulation than the various state-run tests.

The Naep is commonly called "the gold standard" of educational testing. And it's easy to see, from Naep results, that the much-maligned Chicago Public Schools seem to have been headed in the right direction—in the last decade, let's say.

Unless something's wrong with the basic Naep data, Chicago's eighth graders have been making great strides in math. Here are Chicago's most recent average scores from the Grade 8 Naep math test:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, Naep
All students, Chicago Public Schools

2017: 275.63
2015: 274.88
2013: 268.87
2011: 270.36
2009: 263.61
2007: 260.41
2005: 258.09
By 2017, the average eighth-grader in Chicago was scoring 17.5 points higher than her counterpart from twelve years before. Applying a standard, very rough rule of thumb, that represents a gain of something like 1.75 years in academic achievement.

That would be a massive improvement. Meanwhile, this is what the numbers look like for Chicago's Hispanic kids, the system's largest demographic:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, Naep
Hispanic students, Chicago Public Schools

2017: 276.14
2015: 275.31
2013: 270.18
2011: 271.48
2009: 268.46
2007: 264.52
2005: 262.55
By that very rough rule of thumb, Chicago's Hispanic eighth graders outperformed their counterparts from 2005 by roughly 1.35 academic years.

We'll offer depressing context tomorrow, but those would be very large gains. It's also true that these score gains are much larger than the corresponding gains recorded by the nation's kids as a whole.

Where Hispanic kids in Chicago gained 13.5 points in math, Hispanic kids nationwide gained only six points over that twelve-year span. If we accept the basic worthiness of Naep data, Chicago's kids have been making enormous strides in math. They've been substantially outgaining their peers in the nation as a whole.

Along the way, Chicago has risen toward the top of the charts on the Naep among the fifteen or so comparable city systems which participate in the program's "Trial Urban District Assessment." Tomorrow, we'll offer examples of what we mean.

How has Chicago done this? Before we leave this toddlin' town, we'll show you what the New York Times' Emily Badger saw when she visited Lavizzo Elementary School. The visit was part of her reporting for the lengthy news report which appeared last December.

Badger described activity in that school which would make a decent person's heart sing. You haven't heard about this on your favorite corporate cable channel because, within that corporate realm, the massively overpaid corporate denizens don't care about this sort of thing, or about the beautiful kids who attend Chicago's schools.

If we assume the basic worth of Naep data, it's easy to see that Chicago's schools have had something going on. If our tribal heroes cared about black and Hispanic kids, they'd want to let us know about this. They'd very much want to know what is producing these changes.

When that lengthy news report by Badger and Kevin Quealy appeared, it of course generated exactly zero discussion. That said, it appeared beneath a hard-copy headline which was perhaps misleading:
New Measure Shows Where Students Learn the Most
In truth, Chicago really isn't the place "where students learn the most." We'll offer a ton of depressing context tomorrow.

That said, Chicago really may be one of the places where test scores have risen the most, in recent years, for individual student cohorts—for groups which proceed from the end of third grade through the end of eighth grade, five years later. Headline to the side, that was the specific claim in the Stanford study which was discussed in that New York Times report.

That claim can't be checked through data from the Naep, which is administered in Grades 4 and 8, and which generates data for only a few dozen individual school districts. (The Naep generates data for every state and for the nation as a whole, and for a few dozen large school districts.)

That said, we've compared Chicago's Grade 4 Naep scores in recent years to its Grade 8 Naep scores four years later, and we've found the same phenomenon reported by Stanford's Sean Reardon. The score gains recorded from Grade 4 to Grade 8 (four years later) are much larger than the corresponding gains recorded by the nation as a whole.

Reardon's metric in this recent study is perhaps a bit arcane or eccentric. Like almost everything else on earth, it has some obvious shortcomings, at least as it was reported in the Times piece.

In principle, the reliance on "aggregate" scores can hide a lot of sins. (We'll note an example tomorrow.) Meanwhile, the desire to work with Grade 3 scores requires use of the state testing programs on which massive cheating has sometimes occurred.

It's also true that no student cohort goes through five years intact. Some students will leave a big urban system during the five years after Grade 3. Other students will move into the system. The group you're testing in Grade 8 is not the same group you tested in Grade 3, five long years before.

Reardon's metric may not be the best for popular journalistic purposes. It's easy to show that Chicago's schools seem to be making major strides in the more straightforward, old-fashioned way, through comparisons llke this:
Average scores, Grade 8 math, Naep
White students, Chicago Public Schools

2017: 305.81
2015: 317.35
2013: 293.92
2011: 296.03
2009: 288.87
2007: 286.88
2005: 281.07
Those darn white kids have been rocking the world! With a bit of statistical jumping around, we're looking at very large score gains.

If we accept Naep data as basically valid, the city of broad shoulders seems to be taking long strides. That said, is Chicago really the place "where students learn the most?"

You may already have noticed at least one problem. Tomorrow, we'll bring the note of sadness in, much as the poet described.

As we do, we'll point to the problem we all live with today. We'll point to a major challenge.

Tomorrow: Not even close to the most

You'll find few journalists there: For all Naep data, just click this. From there, you're on your own.

22 comments:

  1. "You may already have noticed at least one problem. Tomorrow, we'll bring the note of sadness in, much as the poet described. "

    It would be nice if Bob could get to his point. A single post would do it, but he prefers this teasing, cliffhanger style.

    The problem that Bob asks us to discern is, most likely, that the achievement gap Hispanic vs White has grown since 2005, according to his data.

    Not sure if Somerby is implying that the Times news report fails to mention achievement gaps, but here is a quote from the article:

    "Mr. Reardon’s data shows that every demographic group within the district is growing at rates well above the national average, with Hispanic students outpacing whites. But while growth is broadly distributed, the pattern in Chicago and across the country means that black-white achievement gaps aren’t narrowing much even in the districts with the strongest growth."

    So, no need for Somerby to bring that "note of sadness" in; it's already there in the report.

    Will Somerby suggest reasons why the gaps persist or grow? Will he suggest ways to tackle them? Does he believe it is even possible to narrow or erase the gaps? He hasn't made his thinking clear about that. Why get hung up on achievement gaps without at least trying to answer these questions? And more fundamentally, why is he fixated on this?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The "point," for which you need to have explained, is not necessarily the specific issue of Chicago's schools, or the breakdown of white, black or Hispanic, or even the issue of Trump's "spygate," but rather the overall problem of the failure of the journalists and media to report accurately and competently on any given subject. Instead narratives are generated, with distortions and falsehoods.
      Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky co-wrote "Manufacturing Consent" which goes into greater detail this problem, which they describe as propaganda, in regard to several issues and events over the past fifty years, including Vietnam, Nicarauga, and Cambodia. Read it and become enlightened, instead of the whining, petulant complainer that you seem to be.

      Delete
    2. @anon 1:11
      I will refrain from insulting you as you insulted me. Did you pick up your idea if civil discourse from Somerby?

      At any rate, please state the "distortions" and "falsehoods" contained either in Reardon's study or in the NY Times article. Be specific.

      Delete
    3. The failure of journalists to report accurately and their propensity for creating narratives mirrors the way individuals communicate in real life. Chomsky, being a major paranoid, attributes motives to this tendency that may not exist in the way he thinks. People are not tape recorders of experience and they do not report back in that way either. They extract meaning according to their own interests and give back summaries that gloss irrelevant details (by their purposes). That isn't nefarious. It is the way the brain works.

      Delete
    4. "The failure of journalists to report accurately and their propensity for creating narratives"

      It's been a while since I read Manufacturing Consent, but I'm pretty sure its idea is the opposite of what you're describing here.

      The establishment designs narratives, and the so-called "journalists" merely deliver texts to fill the predefined templates. That's neither their 'failure', nor their 'propensity'; it's their job.

      Delete
    5. Yeah, Chomsky. .. I'm still waiting for anon 1:11 to state the specific distortions and falsehoods contained in the article Somerby is discussing. I suspect anon 1:11 didn't actually read the article. You can't just assert that something is false without supplying evidence to back up that claim. That is unfair and intellectually dishonest.

      Delete
    6. 1:11 sounds like a general point: 'you can't trust them'. It's a very healthy attitude, I'd say. And one doesn't need to research and take apart every article to maintain it.

      Delete
    7. So Mao, like Anon 1:11, doesn't bother with the details, like reading the articles and critiquing them on their merits. It's a lot easier that way, isn't it?

      Healthy skepticism is one thing. Blanket distrust is another; it perpetuates one's own prejudices. It may prevent you from learning a truth that your distrust blocks from you.

      And a skepticism of "them" includes a skepticism of anyone passing themselves as some kind of expert, whether it's Rachel, Noam Chomsky, or Bob Somerby.

      Delete
    8. "And a skepticism of "them" includes a skepticism of anyone passing themselves as some kind of expert, whether it's Rachel, Noam Chomsky, or Bob Somerby"

      Most certainly.

      I don't think it prevents you from understanding what's going on in the world, though. As for 'a truth', you're right (unless it was a typo): there are many 'truths'. Statistics are easily manipulated, selectively picked out to fit agendas. For various reasons they may not reflect the underlying phenomena. What's the point. Use common sense.

      Delete
    9. Use common sense. That's a new one. Did you just invent that phrase? That's what I'm arguing. And the original commenter is asking common sense questions of Somerby based on the specific freaking article that he has spent several days and multiple posts specifically discussing and critiquing.

      Delete
    10. Having worked for several Fortune 500 corporations, I know for a fact that there is no job in which someone reviews the media and writes narratives on specific topics to be dictated to those who present news and entertainment.

      If Chomsky is going to hypothesize that narratives come from corporate overlords, he needs to explain why we cannot find such people generating and disseminating narratives at work in such corporations. And don't tell me the CEOs or Board Chairs do it themselves, cause they don't.

      That's the problem with conspiracy thinking. They fail at the level of execution. When you think about the specifics as they would have to happen in order for a conspiracy to be true, it all falls apart.

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    11. Ever heard of editorial boards? Think tanks?

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  2. "If our tribal heroes cared about black and Hispanic kids, they'd want to let us know about this. They'd very much want to know what is producing these changes."

    When it comes to gaps between Hispanic and white kids, the reasons are usually related to demographics. In the case of Hispanic kids, the difficulties are often related to English speaking ability, whether English versus Spanish is spoken in the home, recent immigrant status and similar circumstances. It is not related to a lack of respect for education, a lack of literacy culture, or social problems such as drug and alcohol problems in the home. It used to be related to frequent moving from place to place due to migrant farm working or seasonal employment, which decades ago was the primary way Mexican-Americans got to Chicago and other Midwest areas. Now that is not as big a factor as Hispanic workers have found access to more permanent jobs in manufacturing and food processing. Kids have had fewer interruptions to their schooling as a result.

    Reasons for African American gaps are different. They are rooted in the longstanding attack on literacy dating back to slavery, the obstacles presented by poverty and social problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, family instability, and parenting practices that result in lack of stimulation and experience during early childhood. These kinds of deficits are more difficult to remedy than the ones experienced by Hispanic kids.

    For Hispanic kids, rapid improvement in later grades is almost predicted by early bilingualism or Spanish as a first language. Learning two languages early in childhood makes it more difficult to acquire language in the first place but creates later cognitive advantages due to added mental flexibility and code-switching later on, resulting in better learning down the road after initial challenges are overcome. The main problem is how to enable kids to learn other subjects (math etc.) while competence in English is being acquired, and schools have figured out how to do that.

    The simplest answer to Chicago's improvements may just be a change in the source of Hispanic immigration, a switch from migrant employment to less transient work ensuring more continuity in schooling for their kids. Or it could be that in second and third generation families, fewer Hispanic kids are learning Spanish as a first language. But how will Somerby know whether that is true or not if he only examines NAEP data?

    https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/hispanic-population-grows-and-spreads-but-opportunities-dont-follow/

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/hoy/ct-mexicans-and-hispanics-largest-minority-in-chicago-20171013-story.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. If I read in the newspaper that fewer car accidents are occurring because of better brakes, would I want to know the specifics of how those brakes worked or would I just want to make sure my car was equipped with them?

    Why does Somerby think that lack of interest in the nuts and bolts of education equates to a lack of caring about whether kids learn? Realtors know that one of the first questions buyers with children will ask is about the quality of local schools, so they have that info at hand. That suggests that parents do care about quality of school, even if they don't delve into the details about how kids are taught.

    So what is Somerby's basis for claiming that no one cares about education of kids, minority or otherwise?

    ReplyDelete
  4. "That said, it appeared beneath a hard-copy headline which was perhaps misleading:
    New Measure Shows Where Students Learn the Most"

    The headline in the digital version of the article is:

    "How Effective Is Your School District? A New Measure Shows Where Students Learn the Most"

    And the online version of the article includes a really nice searchable database with this description:
    "Compare your school
district with its neighbors. Use the search box here or elsewhere on the page to see how your local school district compares with others in its county or nearby"

    I typed in my local district and it returned the three data columns "growth after 5 years, national percentile, and median income" for my district and a ton of surrounding districts, even quite small ones. (The focus of the article is the growth rate of schools from 4th to 8th grade).

    I don't recall Somerby mentioning this feature. If he is limiting himself to the hard copy version of the article, then he is missing this really nice tool.

    Also, Somerby says this:
    "If our tribal heroes cared about black and Hispanic kids, they'd want to let us know about this. They'd very much want to know what is producing these changes."

    The problem is that this was addressed in the article itself:

    "Between all these changes, it’s hard to untangle what’s been most effective, said Elaine Allensworth, who leads an education research consortium at the University of Chicago that works with the district. But she is confident the results are real."

    So, NO ONE KNOWS the definitive answer, including education specialists.

    ReplyDelete
  5. To amplify the question posed by AnonymousMay 31, 2018 at 11:59 AM:

    Here is a collection from just the past few days of the targets of Somerby's wrath:

    "We liberals! We care a great deal, as we basically should, about microaggressions at Yale. But what would it take to make us consider the average black kids across the whole state of Connecticut? "

    "We liberals! We weep for the poor elite children of Yale. As for the low-income kids of New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport and Stamford, we quit on those kids a long time ago. "

    Both from http://dailyhowler.blogspot.com/2018/05/gaps-and-man-at-yale-state-of-play.html?m=1

    Today it's:

    "You haven't heard about this on your favorite corporate cable channel because, within that corporate realm, the massively overpaid corporate denizens don't care about this sort of thing"

    So, the people or groups who don't care: overpaid corporate denizens who work at "our favorite cable channel", and liberals.

    (No word on whether the overpaid corporate denizens at Fox or conservatives care. )

    Now, it's one thing to claim that MSNBC hosts don't care; their relative lack of coverage of education can be argued to support that claim. However, it's quite another thing to claim that liberals don't care; that is a false and slanderous assertion. It certainly goes well beyond the bounds of "media criticism." Surely that must be obvious to everyone.

    And Somerby can't or won't separate "liberals" from "journalists."

    ReplyDelete
  6. I still think Somerby is missing the point of the article. It discusses a different way of looking at school achievement, rather than simply using test scores. It is reporting on an examination of improvements in scores from fourth to eighth grade as an alternative criterion. This method could help save schools that might otherwise be shut down. The article is not focused on achievement gaps, although it does mention that these gaps are there and that they persist. A single news article isn't required to contain every possible bit of information known to man. It needs to be focused on a more or less narrow topic. Somerby should engage that topic in this case, rather than using the article to make his usual broader complaints about "corpororate denizens", "liberals", etc.

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