SCHOOLED ON CHARLOTTE: Today we have naming of test score gains!

FRIDAY, JULY 19, 2019

At long last, has the Times no shame?
"Today we have naming of parts."

So wrote British journalist and poet Henry Reed in a rueful, ironic war poem. Long ago and far away, as we prepared to march on Iraq, Roger Rosenblatt discussed the poem on the PBS Newshour.

His presentation started like this:
ROSENBLATT (7/29/02): By now one ought to be used to the collision of basic human impulses. Familiar business, especially today, when summer is in full swing all over, and people are going to war all over, all over.

Summer explodes, a bus explodes; grill the suspect, grill the suspect. In the middle of the season of hang gliding, helicopters patrol; and again we take in the harsh attachment of destruction and celebration–the usual, old hat. We've been through it lots before.
In Reed's poem, Reed and his fellow soldiers are subjected to "naming of parts." Today, we ourselves, for the ten millionth time, will have naming of test score gains!

This too is part of an ugly and stupid war. We refer to the war the New York Times runs against the interests of the nation's black and Hispanic children, though always in the most high-minded, lofty way.

The silly, daft, upper-class Times builds its public school reporting around a couple of pretty tales—stories it very much likes. One such story goes like this:
The nation's (giant) achievement gaps are all just a function of test prep.
You'd almost think that nothing could be any dumber than that. But last Sunday, the paper returned to another beloved tale:
Black kids gained ground under desegregation. It's been downhill from there.
At long last, has the Times no shame? At long last, is there nothing that will make its employees stop reciting the pretty stories which make Times readers feel high-minded and good?

We ask this question because, today, we have naming of test score gains!

We've conducted this naming many times in the past. That said, you aren't allowed to know about such gains if you read the New York Times. Nikole Hannah-Jones kept this destructive nonsense alive with her lengthy report this past Sunday. The interests of black kids get thrown down the drain as the Times pursues pleasures like these.

Hannah-Jones seemed to tell a certain story about black kids' progress in school. For the last time, we'll once again post her nugget presentation.

After that, we'll run through the endless, encouraging test score data which are never allowed to bark. In place of such data, you are handed performative portraits like this:
HANNAH-JONES (7/14/19): For years, North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, where the community decided to make busing work, were some of the most integrated in the country, and both black and white students saw achievement gains. The district was forced to return to neighborhood schools after a white family brought down the desegregation order, and Charlotte is now the most segregated district in North Carolina. We should question why in the narrative of busing we remember Boston but not Charlotte.


We now know that school desegregation significantly reduced the test-score gap between black and white children—cutting it in half for some black age groups without harming white children. No other reform has reduced the gap on this scale. Rather, the opposite is true: The test-score gap between black and white students reached its narrowest point ever at the peak of desegregation and has widened as schools have resegregated.
In the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS),"both black and white students saw achievement gains" during the era of desegregation. At one point, Hannah-Jones says this era reached its peak in 1988.

During the current era of "resegregation," CMS has become "the most segregated district in North Carolina," Hannah-Jones says. She doesn't say anything about academic progress in Charlotte-Mecklenburg during this era, but she paints a gloomy picture of progress nationwide.

According to Hannah-Jones, desegregation "significantly reduced the test-score gap between black and white children." Unfortunately, the achievement gap has widened in the era of resegregation, she says.

With these claims in mind, today we have naming of test score gains! We're going to run through those test score gains because the picture painted by Hannah-Jones is highly selective at best and may perhaps even be wrong.

Before we have naming of test score gains, we'll need to have naming of National Assessment of Educational Progress (Naep) programs.

Hannah-Jones links to the Naep at several junctures, though in one case her link is a phantom. Before we have naming of gains, we may need naming of programs:
The Long Term Trend Assessment:
This, the Naep's original program, started in 1971. It tests 9-year-old, 13-year-old and 17-year-old students in reading and math. Its most recent data come from 2012.

As part of the passage posted above, Hannah-Jones links to this Long Term Trend Assessment report to support her claim about CMS schools during the era of busing. Tgat said, there is nothing in that lengthy report about the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. Simply put, the Naep can't tell us about the system's black and white kids during that bygone era.

The Main Naep:
The so-called Main Naep is, in effect, a companion to the Long Term Trend Assessment. In its main component, it tests students in grades 4, 8 and 12 in reading and math.

The Main Naep started in 1990; its most recent published data date from 2017. It produces scores for the kids of every state, and for several dozen urban systems, along with scores for the nation as a whole.

In effect, the Main Naep provides a type of second opinion when combined with results from the Long Term Trend Assessment. As the program's name implies, the Main Naep is now the more commonly cited of the two Naep studies.

The Trial Urban District Assessment:
The Trial Urban District Assessment is a subset of the Main Naep. Within this program, several dozen urban systems participate in such a way that reliable test scores are produced for each system's kids.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg joined the TUDA in 2003. There are no Naep data for CMS in the earlier years which Hannah-Jones describes.
Now that we've had naming of programs, let's proceed with naming of gains. Our basic point is simple:

All groups of kids have produced large score gains during the era of "resegregation!" In various areas, achievement gaps have been reduced during this era, but nowhere have gaps gotten larger. These facts fly in the face of the gloomy picture people like Hannah-Jones simply refuse to quit.

Since Hannah-Jones linked to the Long Term Trend Assessment report, let's review that program first. We'll start with the year 1992, thereby creating a 20-year time span during the era of "resegregation."

Despite the picture Hannah-Jones fashions, score gains have been very large during "resegregation." We calculate these gains directly from the graphs in the 2012 report to which the gloomy Hannah-Jones linked:
Gains in average scores, Long Term Trend Assessment
9-year-old students, reading, 1992-2012

White kids: 13 points
Black kids: 24 points
Hispanic kids: 22 points
Those were enormous score gains over a 20-year period. Beyond that, you'll note that the black/white and Hispanic/white achievement gaps shrank during this period.

Based on a standard but very rough rule of thumb, black kids progressed by something like two academic years during this period. White kids progressed by just one!

We can't vouch for the "accuracy" of such assessments. But this is the study to which Hannah-Jones linked, and those are the data which have emerged during "resegregation."

Elsewhere, large gains were recorded by all groups, leaving the size of the achievement gap unchanged. Here we see the gains in 9-year-old math:
Gains in average scores, Long Term Trend Assessment
9-year-old students, math, 1992-2012

White kids: 19 points
Black kids: 21 points
Hispanic kids: 23 points
Those are huge gains for all three groups. But alas! Because white kids did much better too, the gaps were only slightly reduced.

Again, these large score gains were recorded during "resegregation." Nothing in Hannah-Jones' gloomy dreamscape would prepare a reader to imagine any such state of affairs.

Those were results for 9-year-old students through 2012. The 13-year-old kids produced some large gains too. Here are the score gains in math:
Gains in average scores, Long Term Trend Assessment
13-year-old students, math, 1992-2012

White kids: 15 points
Black kids: 19 points
Hispanic kids: 13 points
As with any data which result from sampling, the numbers jump around a bit depending on the year you cherry-pick as your starting point. If we started with 1996, those gains would look like this:
Gains in average scores, Long Term Trend Assessment
13-year-old students, math, 1996-2012

White kids: 13 points
Black kids: 17 points
Hispanic kids: 16 points
Black kids gained seventeen points in sixteen years on the Long Term Assessment. This occurred during "resegregation," Hannah-Jones' tears to the side.

We've shown you data from the Long Term Trend Assessment. Data from the so-called "Main Naep" tell a similar story, though the data now extend through the year 2017.

We'll stick with data from grade 8, and we'll begin where the program began. Ignoring a minor statistical blip along the way, current score gains in math look like this:
Gains in average scores, Main Naep
Grade 8 math, 1990-2017

White kids: 23.48 points
Black kids: 23.09 points
Hispanic kids: 23.83 points
For all Main Naep data, start here.

On their face, those are very large gains. Those gains were achieved, by all three groups, during "resegregation."

Alas! Because all three groups scored so much higher, the gaps didn't shrink on this measure. If we accept those test scores at face value, the achievement gaps remained the same, though at a much higher academic level.

In grade 8 reading, the gaps did shrink. Starting with the initial testing, the score gains look like this:
Gains in average scores, Main Naep
Grade 8 reading, 1992-2017

White kids: 8.77 points
Black kids: 12.42 points
Hispanic kids: 16.23 points
As a general matter, score gains have been smaller in reading. In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, score gains in grade 8 math were very large from 2003 to 2017, but score gains in grade 8 reading were rather small.

Now we're going to have naming of a few basic points:

We've adjusted for a minor statistical blip in our calculation of the gains in the Long Term Trend Assessment. (On the graphics, you can see the blip occur in 2004.) We haven't done this with the Main Naep. The changes would be minor.

We don't review Grade 12 students or 17-year-old students. Changes in nationwide drop-out rates make year-to-year and decade-to-decade comparisons basically meaningless among these older groups.

The Naep may share our view on this. It doesn't even include Grade 12 in its voluminous Naep Data Explorer, a phenomenal research tool which, as far as we can tell, has never been used by any journalist down through the annals of time.

There of course is a reason for that. As you know, our mainstream journalists rarely traffic in information, data or facts. They traffic in preferred story lines, in the fictions their weak minds prefer.

At any rate, today we've had naming of test score gains! All these gains have occurred during the era of "resegregation." In many areas, gaps have shrunk. During these roughly 25 years, gaps haven't gotten larger.

You'd almost think that score gains like these would be seen as major news. Indeed, you'd almost think that score gains like these would be seen as major good news.

You'd almost think that journalists would want to tell the public about these score gains. But if you thought that, you don't understand the way our "press corps" works.

Also, you may not understand the basic workings of the human brain.

Our journalists love to tell us their stories, their favorite fictional tales. At the Times, Eliza Shapiro jumps over the moon pretending that Gotham's giant achievement gaps are just a result of test prep.

Hannah-Jones likes to suggest that we can only produce academic gains in schools which have been "integrated" on a mid-60s, Leave It To Beaver demographic model.

Also this:

For many years, no one could report test score gains because elites were in thrall to the "education reform" preferred tale, according to which "nothing has worked." These are the novels which determine which facts you're allowed to encounter.

Back to Hannah-Jones. Is it true that progress can only occur in the world of Leave It To Beaver?

We'd better hope that's not true! Given the basic facts of our nation's residential sorting, big urban systems like New York City's will never be "integrated" in the wonderfully pretty, childish way the New York Times likes to imagine.

The gains we've shown you have occurred during the era the Times likes to call "resegregation." At the Times, they weep and cry and hide these score gains. In the process, they throw black kids under the bus as they relish their sick tribal tales.

Down in Charlotte-Mecklenburg's schools, lower-income black eighth graders seem to have made a lot of progress in math. Let's revisit the picture we showed you in Wednesday's report:
Gains in average scores, Main Naep
Lower-income black kids, grade 8 math, 2003-2017

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools: 11.21 points
Public schools nationwide: 8.44 points
Public schools statewide, North Carolina: -1.26 points
Their peers across their state have lost ground as North Carolina has staged a conservative retrenchment. But as this was happening, lower-income black kids in CMS were gaining more than a year!

You'd think a person might want to know why that seems to have happened. But at the Times, score gains like those will always be disappeared. Black kids get thrown under the bus in the process, but our "journalists" retain their prize tales.

Full disclosure! Anthropologists keep telling us that this was the best our species could actually hope to do.

"The human brain was wired for gossip and fiction," these future experts have repeatedly said. Sadly speaking in the past tense from the years which follow Mister Trump's War, they sadly say that Professor Harari basically got it right.

Test scores have gone up and up. The public has never been told!


  1. In the following, all segments in quotes are from a statistical model analysis performed in:


    “We limit our analysis sample to the seven cohorts who were rising first-time sixth-grade students in the fall semesters of 1996 through 2002. ...Those who attended 6th grade in the fall of 1996 ... would have had only one year of exposure to the change in school boundaries. In contrast, students who attended sixth grade in the fall of 2002 spent all of their middle and high school years in the postbusing regime.”
    “Recent work on the effect of court-ordered school desegregation in the 1960s and 1970s shows that racial integration was also accompanied by a narrowing of racial gaps in per-pupil spending and class size (Cascioet al. 2010; Reber 2010; Johnson 2011). This suggests that increased resources, beyond changes in school racial composition itself, may have been an important mechanism for improvements in the outcomes of black students during this period (e.g., Margo 1990; Card and Krueger 1992).”
    “A 10 percentage point increase in share minority of assigned school leads to a decline in college attendance of about 0.6 percentage point for the high school co- horts, but an INCREASE of about 0.5 percentage point in the middle school cohorts.”
    “To address equity concerns and perhaps in anticipation of teacher sorting, CMS paired the new student assignment policy with a program called the Equity Plan, which provided additional funds to high poverty schools for recruitment bonuses for teachers, lower student-teacher ratios, school renovation projects, learning equipment, and supplies.”
    “In 2006, CMS began a program called the High School Challenge, which targeted the four high schools with the highest shares of poor and minority students. ...The program increased teacher salaries in these schools by 15% and offered signing bonuses of up to $15,000... By 2008, the High School Challenge schools had increased their performance on a composite of EOC tests by an average of 12 percentile ranks.”
    “Thus one hypothesis for the pattern of [these results] is that compensatory resource allocation toward high-minority high schools in CMS mitigated the effect of rezoning on academic outcomes in later cohorts.”
    “We can interpret these estimates as suggesting that there is no effect of increases in assigned school share minority on academic outcomes when resources are equalized across schools.”
    “Additional evidence that the pattern of results might be explained by academic improvements in high-minority schools over the period we study can be found in data on measures of upper level and advanced placement (AP) course-taking. For students in the high school cohorts, being assigned to a school with more minority students led to decreased enrollment in honors and advanced math courses (defined as precalculus and above), as well as decreases in the probability of taking an AP science or English course. However, we find no impact on advanced course-taking for the youngest group of students.”

    In summary, their findings suggest the longer a student spent in CMS in the six-year period POST-busing, the better the overall outcome, and is consistent with the further gains made since. The success appears to be due to the extensive and costly efforts made to equalize educational resources across all schools in the system. This is in line with a host of studies of other schools and time periods, and ought to be a major driver of policy.

    1. The basic finding of the report:
      “Our results show that the resegregation of CMS schools widened inequality of outcomes between whites and minorities.”

      And that in a nutshell is Hannah-Jones’ point.

    2. The research shows that Charlotte students benefited from busing, that when busing was banned Charlotte reallocated resources to mitigate the negative impact, which only helped scores among the younger students but did not prevent the resulting large increases in crime. Understanding linear equations is not much help when you are sitting in a jail cell.

      Did busing for school desegregation succeed? Here’s what research says.

  2. The black-white achievement gap in Charlotte in 2017 was a gigantic 45 points, much larger than the national average.

    And it has gotten a bit wider since 2003, ie, post-busing.

  3. The metric that matters is CHANGE in test scores. The gap is irrelevant, unless one believes a 10% drop for blacks combined with a 15% drop for whites is preferable to a 10% increase for blacks and a 15% increase for whites.

    When the data was disaggregated by cohort instead of averaged over all students for six years, the black performance improved, and has continued to this day as resource equalization has more fully kicked in.

    1. Do whites need to be increasing their test scores?

      The gap is relevant.

      It is preferable to see black scores increasing and closing the gap, but that is small potatoes to seeing racial and economic inequality decreasing - a gap that should not require ever higher merits to close.

    2. Sadsack has apparently missed EVERY Somerby education post from the past 5 years where he points out the gigantic achievement gaps, and how they are a serious problem that no one talks one, until Nikole Hannah-Jones talks about them, and suddenly, poof!, it’s all about test score gains. You can show test scores gains for each racial/ethnic group since the NAEP started back in 1972....does that mean the gaps are irrelevant? If so, talk to somerby, because he seems to think they are inordinately important, at least up until a few days ago.

  4. All decent analyses correct for socioeconomic status (SES) in some fashion. In the study cited, only school lunch qualification was used; income, employment, parental education, number of parents were not. (One absurd study considered whether there was an encyclopedia in the home. In 2011!) For this reason, absolute test scores cannot be easily compared between regions, where both income and local cost-of-living would be needed, and factors such as the history of the social environment would be hard to quantify. It might be legitimate, however, to compare CHANGES in disaggregated NAEP test scores across regions.

    There are two issues I can identify that I have not seen addressed. First,
    SES corrections do not account for blacks relocating to take advantage of “superior” white-majority schools, which produces a bias in favor of racial integration. (Blacks who do so may not be the same as those who don’t, even with identical SES, however measured.)

    Second, school integration is not the same as classroom integration, especially for middle and high schools, where various types of Honors/AP/ IB are vastly more segregated than the school average and no efforts are made to include initially lower-achieving students.

    1. Another look at the CMS and busing:

      “Although one more case study will not settle the debate about the effects of desegregation, I will present the results of a new case study[2] relevant to the critical question of whether economic desegregation can raise black achievement and thereby close the achievement gap. This case study uses 2004 and 2005 data to compare black and white achievement in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg district after it had returned to a largely neighborhood school district (in the late 1990s) with black and white achievement in Wake County following implementation of a socioeconomic busing plan in 2000.

      “Most CMS black students were in majority black schools, while most Wake County black students were in majority white schools. The chart below shows very clearly that Wake County black students did not have higher test scores than CMS students, after adjusting for a student’s socioeconomic background. Moreover, the black-white gap was virtually identical in the two school districts.”


  5. Is Somerby over his skis? Who'd blame him with that stomach! Those darn test scores do not interfere with maintaining tribal tales. Somerby largely agrees with the article's five basic claims, he agrees with points 1-3 and he quibbles over 4 and 5, but his main complaint is that the article does not directly focus on a somewhat different subject than what the article was about, the NAEP score gains that have occurred.

    Desegregation, such as it existed, brought about through tools that included busing, broadly-speaking, resulted in a positive impact.

    Did busing for school desegregation succeed? Here’s what research says.

    Charlotte is a bit of an outlier in the desegregation/busing issue. As the NY Times article notes "Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, where the community decided to make busing work, were some of the most integrated in the country".

    Somerby asks "How did Charlotte-Mecklenburg produce those score gains in grade 8 math over that 14-year span? Why are its lower-income black kids outperforming their peers nationwide? "

    Charlotte was heavily invested in desegregation, this would likely have a continuing impact.

    The above linked Chalkbeat article notes:

    "Research on the end of court-ordered busing in Charlotte, North Carolina, showed that this resegregation increased arrest and incarceration rates of black male students. (There was not a clear effect on the academic outcomes of black students, though, likely because the district reallocated extra resources to segregated schools.)"

    The referenced research on Charlotte says:

    "We find that both white and minority students score lower on high school exams when they are assigned to schools with more minority students. We also find decreases in high school graduation and four-year college attendance for whites, and large increases in crime for minority males. The impacts on achievement and attainment are smaller in younger cohorts, while the impact on crime remains large and persistent for at least nine years after the re-zoning."

    Why is Charlotte outscoring other places in the narrowly defined way that so excites Somerby? The research continues:

    "We show that compensatory resource allocation policies in CMS likely played an important role in mitigating the impact of segregation on achievement and attainment, but had no impact on crime."

    So after heavily investing in integration, when forced to end desegregation, Charlotte mitigated the possible negative impact by reallocating extra resources to segregated schools, which helped scores but unfortunately did not help the resulting large increase in crime for minorities.

    1. continuing...

      Yay yay yay, due to their superior 8th grade math scores, Charlotte's black youths will have a leg up on better understanding their prison sentences.

      The research ends with a warm and fuzzy:

      "We conclude that the end of busing widened racial inequality, despite efforts by CMS to mitigate the impact of increases in segregation."

      Who cares about racial and economic inequality when you can hand wave such issues aside with breathless exclamations about 8th grade math scores? Sitting in a cell can be so much more meaningful when you can ponder linear equations and slopes.

      Somerby uncritically asserts:

      "the substantial score gains which could prove to be our salvation."

      Salvation indeed, brother please, watch my eye roll back and to the left.

      Somerby wants you to give up on facing difficult issues:

      "Guess what! There is no way that our big urban systems will ever produce "integration" drawn from the era of Leave It To Beaver."


      "Moving forward, our big urban systems will continue to be heavily "segregated." Urban population patterns make that abundantly clear."

      Fair enough (well gosh Wally, have you ever seen a black person?), but the Chalkbeat article notes:

      "Recent research has shown that even as cities are becoming more residentially integrated, schools generally aren’t."

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