Some basic information: What the heck has been going on in Chicago's schools?
You're asking an excellent question! Last Wednesday morning, the New York Times ran a lengthy report featuring the apparent improvement in that beleaguered city's schools.
At least, the Times did so in its hard-copy editions, where the lengthy report by Emily Badger consumed an entire page, the first page of the National section.
On line, Badger's report may be harder to spot. At the Times' "Today's Paper" site, Badger's report isn't listed in the National section at all. Efforts like this rarely get a lot of play from the Times.
We plan to study Badger's report at the start of the new year. For today, let's take a look at some recent test scores from Chicago.
Badger is reporting on a new study by Stanford professor Sean Reardon. In hard copy, her report ran under this upbeat headline:
"New Measure Shows Where Students Learn the Most"
Not without reason, Chicago's schools are the stars of Badger's report. It might be worth reviewing some recent data about the performance of kids in that city's schools.
Judging from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (the Naep), the performance of Chicago's kids has been on the rise. Here are some average scores in eighth grade math from the past decade. Scores from this year's Naep testing aren't available yet:
Average scores, black students, Chicago Public SchoolsFrom 2005 to 2015, that average score rose by more than 17 points. By normal reckoning, that's a very healthy improvement. According to a (very) rough rule of thumb, 10-11 points on the Naep is said to represent roughly one academic year.
Grade 8 math, Naep
Assuming those test scores mean what they seem to mean, black kids in Chicago are doing much better in math. That doesn't mean that Chicago couldn't do better. Here are the average scores, nationwide, for some groups of American kids:
Average scores, American public schoolsBlack kids in Chicago averaged 262.09. That put them a few points above the national average for other black kids, but it left them far behind the average score for white and Asian-American students. We need to keep such facts in mind when we start talking about schools and school systems "where students learn the most."
Grade 8 math, 2015 Naep
White students: 291.06
Black students: 259.85
Hispanic students: 269.47
Asian-American students: 305.37
Chicago's improvement since 2005 exceeds that of most other city school districts by a substantial amount. That said, there are a few other urban systems whose black kids scored higher than their peers in Chicago on this most recent test.
Here are the average scores for some of the several dozen cities which take part in the Naep on a basis which permits the publication of citywide average scores:
Average scores, black studentsChicago's black kids outscored their peers in most of those city school districts. That said, if our goal is a world where black kids perform well on a national and international basis, all those systems have a long way to go—as do we all.
Grade 8 math, 2015 Naep
Los Angeles: 254.66
New York City: 260.66
Washington, DC: 256.66
There are a million educational facts in our nation's various cities. For today, we've looked at Chicago's black kids only, and only in Grade 8 math.
Chicago's scores have gone way up in Grade 8 math during the period under review. Tomorrow, we'll offer a few more sets of data. At the start of the year, we'll review Badger's report, which advances some theories by Professor Reardon which strike us as somewhat peculiar.
You'll see few discussions of this matter. The truth is, nobody cares about any of this. Few things are quite so clear.
To access Naep data: To access Naep data, just click here. From there, you're on your own.
The NCES produces a ton of data. It's just that nobody actually cares about such matters as this.