Part 2—A quick trip back through the years: Could it really be true? Could Chicago be the place "where students learn the most?"
That's what the headline seemed to say on the New York Times report. The report appeared in mid-December of last year. Needless to say, it has generated exactly zero discussion.
It has generated zero discussion because nobody actually cares. As is blindingly obvious, no gives a flying flip about Chicago's low-income kids who, or so it seemed we were told, are the students who "learn the most."
No one cares at your liberal journals. Rachel and Lawrence don't care. They would greedily gulp the hemlock before they'd deign to discuss Chicago's kids. We know that because more than five months have passed—and no one has said a single word about the high-profile Times report, which seemed to say that Chicago's kids are the ones who "learn the most."
Briefly, let's be fair. For those who read the Times report—for those who got past the headline and the photograph of the six beautiful little girls in a Chicago elementary school—for those who actually read the report, the Times report didn't exactly say that Chicago's largely low-income, "minority" kids are the students who "learn the most."
That isn't exactly what the Times said. More specifically, the Times report said this:
BADGER AND QUEALY (12/13/17): It’s true that children in prosperous districts tend to test well, while children in poorer districts on average score lower. But in this analysis, which measures how scores grow as student cohorts move through school, the Stanford researcher Sean Reardon argues that it’s possible to separate some of the advantages of socioeconomics from what’s actually happening in schools.The headline had overstated what the report really said. According to the actual report, Chicago's kids "test below the second-grade level" at the end of third grade. But over the next five years of school, the average student in Chicago records six years of academic growth.
In Chicago, third graders collectively test below the second-grade level on reading and math. But this data shows that over the next five years, they receive the equivalent of six years of education. By the eighth grade, their scores have nearly caught up to the national average.
Badger and Quealy go on to say, partly through the use of a graphic, that this is the largest amount of growth recorded in any of our nation's 200 largest school districts. In one of their interactive graphics, the reader can see that only a limited number of smaller school districts record more growth from Grade 3 through Grade 8 than the Chicago Public Schools, the nation's third-largest school system.
According to the Times report, kids in Chicago don't exactly "learn the most." But on average, they record nearly the largest academic gains of any group of kids in the nation during the five-year period from the end of third grade to the end of eighth grade.
The record six years growth in five years time—or at least, so says Stanford's Sean Reardon. The Times report is based on the data from his latest nationwide study.
We've cited Reardon's work many times at this site. Way back when, in April 2013, he became the first person we ever saw break the code of silence concerning this nation's Naep scores—more specifically, concerning the large score gains which have occurred on this "gold standard" of domestic educational testing over the past several decades.
Because no one cares about any of this, no one mentioned what Reardon said. Let's recall the jailbreak he staged away from that noxious silence code. We enter his essay in progress, as he dispels a few myths:
REARDON (4/28/13): Before we can figure out what's happening here, let's dispel a few myths.Say what? Average test scores have been rising—for example, by two years in math by the age of 9? Our public schools are not in decline? As the overall scores go up, the racial gap is narrowing? Could Sean Reardon say that?
The income gap in academic achievement is not growing because the test scores of poor students are dropping or because our schools are in decline. In fact, average test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the so-called Nation's Report Card, have been rising—substantially in math and very slowly in reading—since the 1970s. The average 9-year-old today has math skills equal to those her parents had at age 11, a two-year improvement in a single generation. ...
The widening income disparity in academic achievement is not a result of widening racial gaps in achievement, either. The achievement gaps between blacks and whites, and Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites have been narrowing slowly over the last two decades.
Here at this site, we'd been attempting to "dispel those myths" for years when this essay by Reardon appeared—and we'd learned that it can't be done. And sure enough:
Inevitably, no one mentioned what Reardon said when he broke the code of silence that day. That's because no one actually cares about any of this—and certainly not about the lives and interests of Chicago's low-income kids.
In that five-year old essay, Reardon wasn't focused on "racial" achievement gaps. He was focused on the gaps between kids from higher- and lower-income families.
That said, if you read between the lines in the passage we've quoted, you could discern another fact from what Reardon wrote. The average Naep scores of black and Hispanic kids had been growing rapidly too. That explains how "racial gaps" had been narrowing, even as the average American fourth-grader was two years ahead of where her parents had been in math.
When he broke the code of silence, Reardon took a permanent place our radar screen. Five years later, just last month, the Washington Post let an amazing thing occur—the editors let Arne Duncan state the same basic facts:
DUNCAN (4/2/18): Since 1971, fourth-grade reading and math scores are up 13 points and 25 points, respectively. Eighth-grade reading and math scores are up eight points and 19 points, respectively. Every 10 points equates to about a year of learning, and much of the gains have been driven by students of color.Displaying the inevitable ineptitude, Duncan understated the amount of academic growth recorded since 1971. He did so by failing to "disaggregate" those test scores, which also come from the Naep. Had he sifted the data that way, he could have described such apparent advances as these:
It should be noted that the student population is relatively poorer and considerably more diverse than in 1971. So, while today's kids bring more learning challenges, they perform as much as 2 1/2 grades higher than their counterparts from half a century ago.
Average scores, Grade 8 math, NaepWhy have we omitted results from 2015 and 2017? Simple! In the past few years, at the height of Duncan's miraculous reforms, average scores have dropped back a few points for both groups of kids!
Nationwide, public schools
Black students only:
Hispanic students only:
We'll post those disappointing scores below. But over the thirteen-year time span we're displaying, Duncan's (standard) ten-point rule suggests that black and Hispanic eighth-graders improved in math achievement by almost two academic years! Unless there's something wrong with those data, black kids were (and still are) way ahead of the black eighth-graders who had come before!
Simply put, the American public has almost never been allowed to hear such facts. Nor have you ever seen anyone inquire as to why that steady academic growth has seemed to come to an end in the past few years.
You've never seen that question raised or discussed! Most simply put, Rachel and Lawrence and other top stars don't care about low-income "minority" kids, and certainly not in Chicago!
The indifference of our corporate elites kept the public from hearing about those very large score gains. That same contempt for low-income kids has kept the public from being told that years of impressive academic gains now seem to have stalled.
Last December, along came Reardon again, this time making a surprising claim about the kids of Chicago. You haven't heard a word about that because, as an obvious matter of fact, nobody actually gives a flip about those non-elite kids. Your favorite stars care about students at Yale!
From the end of grade 3 to the end of grade 8, do Chicago's public school kids really record academic growth which almost goes off the charts? On the other hand, if Chicago's schools are so goldarn good, why were the city's kids scoring so poorly at the end of third grade to begin with?
You've asked two very good questions! Tomorrow, we'll examine the large growth displayed by recent Chicago cohorts on the Naep, from the end of the Grade 4 to the end of Grade 8.
On Friday, we'll offer you some gloomier news. We'll show you why it was almost obscene when a headline told us, in typical fashion, that Chicago is the place "where students learn the most."
You'll hear none of this from Rachel, Lawrence or Chris. Their handlers want you entertained by the nightly excitement of The Chase. When it comes to Chicago's kids, they feel quite sure you don't care.
Tomorrow: From Grade 4 to Grade 8 on the Naep!
The end of an era: Here are the average Grade 8 Naep math scores from the last two test administrations:
Black students only:Why have those scores slid back a few points? We don't have the slightest idea. Also, nobody cares!
Hispanic students only: