Tears for Beers

January 11, 2017

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb wrote a piece on Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s recent State of the State address. Money quote:

Ducey wasn’t a party to the deep cuts to K-12 education that were made after the bursting of the housing bubble knocked a big hole in state revenues. In fact, during his governorship, per-pupil spending, adjusted for inflation, has gone up, not down. Try to find an acknowledgement of that in the education funding debate.

In his speech, Ducey pointed out that “Arizona students are improving faster in math and reading than any other kids in the country.” That’s true.

Yet, there is a curious lack of curiosity about this development. In fact, Matt Ladner, a scholar with the Foundation for Excellence in Education, is about the only person in the state documenting it and inquiring about its causes. Everyone else is crying in their beer.

Bob’s kind remarks require two clarifications. First I made a professional transition a couple of months ago. Second, it is only bloody well near everyone else crying in their beer in Arizona, rather than actually everyone else. Crying in your beer is a bad look after all. A select few of us are just way too busy celeNAEPing our progress and trying to figure out ways to get more for it.


Anyone want to bet against Arizona for the 2017 NAEP?

December 13, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So Lisa Graham Keegan and I finally had the opportunity to collect on our bet with Mike Petrilli on the 2015 NAEP.  You may recall that Mike bet us before the release of the 2015 NAEP results for Reading and Math that Arizona’s NAEP scores would decline. Using our spidey-sense, LGK and I bet Mike that they would be going up, not down.  Arizona’s NAEP scores did go up. Mike was a good sport and quite appropriately paid his debt to us in copper cups (one of the state nicknames is the Copper State).

Depending upon how you examine the data Arizona is either near or else is at the actual top on gains. Measured by student cohort over time, Arizona’s 4th grade class of 2009 made more progress on Math and Reading between 4th and 8th grade scores in 2013 than any other state. Arizona’s 4th grade class of 2011 achieved the same pinnacle in their 2015 scores as 8th graders. (NAEP Math and Reading exams are both scaled and timed to allow such comparisons). The gains for Arizona charter school students dwarf those of Arizona as a whole, or any other state.

So anyhoo, the term “Wild West” is being thrown around as if it is a term of derision by some of those uncomfortable with the selection of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Here in the actual Wild West we wear the term with pride. The Arizona charter school sector has a majority minority student population, scored like a New England state on all six NAEP exams, and shows consistent results on the state PARCC exams.

Let me know when your state pulls something like that off, because I will be happy to celeNAEP with you. In the meantime, NAEP will be giving state level exams in Reading, Math and Writing in just a few weeks! Let’s see what happens next…


Where Do You Consistently Find the Highest NAEP Scores? Where Everybody Knows Your Name

October 28, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So hidden deep in the NAEP data explorer is a variable for school enrollment.  Yesterday we saw how Arizona charter schools crushed the ball on the 2015 NAEP science exams, but I was curious- would there be evidence suggesting that small schools of choice perform especially well? NAEP provides such a number in a crosstab for Arizona charter/district by school enrollment. Small district schools in Arizona performance is nothing to write home about, and are probably mostly rural. Arizona’s small charter schools-schools of choice-however, well, that is a different story. These are the 8th grade science NAEP scores for Arizona charter schools with 399 or fewer students compared to statewide averages for all students:

small-school-science

I thought that was interesting, so I checked to see how this would look in the 2015 NAEP Reading exam for 8th graders. Well-

small-school-reading

Well but the whole thing would fall apart in the math test. Except, it didn’t:

small-school-mathematics

Obviously this evidence is only suggestive, but do keep in mind that we have a large number of formal studies finding positive outcomes associated with attendance at small high schools. So perhaps high quality education involves authentic community with a shared vision of what constitutes high quality learning, and this process is facilitated by the ability of a child and parent to choose. It certainly appears to be the case out here in the Cactus Patch. Let’s call it the “Cheers theory of learning” in that you want to go where everybody knows your name. If that is you want to learn to read, figure some math, and understand science. If you prefer to fade into the background and then drop out of school- we’ve got plenty of Big Box schools to choose from as well.

So you see dare Normy....

So you see dare Normy dare used to be this big Foundation that had a great idea but then…


Arizona Charters Blow the Doors Off 2015 NAEP Science Gains

October 27, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Ok sports fans, I know you are all chomping at the bit, wanting to know “but Ladner, how do Arizona charter school science gains compare to statewide averages?!?” Oh I am glad you asked, here it is for 4th grade:

4th-grade-science-gains-charter

Hmmm…almost twice the gain as top ranking Arizona as a whole. Would it be running up the score to note that Arizona would not have done nearly as well without charters? I’ll just skip that part for now. Here are the NAEP 8th grade science gains:

naep-8th-grade-science-gains-charters

Well, would you look at that-twice as large as the largest state gain.  I’m crunching these out on a Prescott Library computer after taking a mountain bike ride on a “day off” but feel free to run the numbers for yourself here. I’ll breakdown subgroups later when I have more than 16 minutes left on my public computer use.

In the meantime I’m just going to go out on a limb here and say that there just might be something to this whole parental choice thing. Just maybe.


The Best Pound for Pound Math Education by State in America

August 2, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The deeper you look into the NAEP the better things look for my home state.  Earlier I showed you that Arizona led the nation in overall academic gains in both 2013 and 2015. Today let’s take a close look at math, and student subgroups- both in terms of gains and overall performance.

Starting with Anglo students- how did their gains look in 2015? The chart below subtracts the 2011 NAEP 4th grade math scale points from the same cohort’s 2015 8th grade math scores for Anglos.

Anglo math gains

Ok so they led the nation in gains- but that might not matter because their scores could still be low. Except they aren’t:

Anglo math scores

Arizona is in striking distance of everyone but the absurdly gentrified right side of the tracks sections of DC. So moving on to non-Anglo students, the NAEP can also track Black students- here were gains by state in 2015.

Black math gains

Well would you look at that? Number one again. Hmmm.  Well but it still might not mean much because the overall scores….could..still.be…….low?

Black math scores

Hispanic students gains/scores are merely spectacular rather than absolute tip of the spear:

Hispanic math gains

Ah well it gives us worlds yet to conquer, as do the scores:

Hispanic math scores

You don’t have to trust me- look the numbers up for yourself. Ok and then there is this to consider:

Ok so someone try to make a case that a state other than AZ deserves to be considered the pound for pound mathematics champion of the United States. I’ll have my gloves laced up and will be ready to give you a canvass nap in the comments section (unless you have a decent case to make) but I’m declaring Arizona to be the pound for pound state math champion.

P.S. (almost forgot…)

 


Arizona Leads the Nation in NAEP Gains-Now It is Time to Go from Good to Great

July 14, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

For you incurable skeptics, here are a few charts on Arizona’s glorious six-year (and counting?) reign as the NAEP gain champion, starting with 2009 to 2013:

Math NAEP gains 2009 to 2013

So just to provide some play by play here- Arizona 4th graders were 9 points below the national average on 4th grade math in 2009, but when this cohort reached 8th grade in 2013, they were only 4 points below the national average- within striking distance of the national average.

Here is what happened in the next cohort we can track in NAEP math- 4th graders in 2011 to 8th graders in 2015.

NAEP Math Cohort gain 2015

So in 2011, Arizona 4th graders scored five points below the national average on 4th grade math, still ranked in the bottom 10 of states. In 2015 the same cohort of students scored 2 points above the national average on 8th grade math. This was the first time in the history of the NAEP that Arizona had scored above the national average in any NAEP exam in any subject.

So where does this leave Arizona? Unfinished to be sure, but headed in the right direction. NAEP 8th grade scores are more reflective of the overall quality of a school system than 4th grade scores in my opinion, as you have additional years of schooling. In 2015, Arizona had moved to within the margin of error of the national average on both NAEP math and reading (slightly above in Math, even more slightly below in Reading). Arizona students were below the national average and outside the margin of error on both Math and Reading in 2009.

Of course the national average itself is a milestone but not a resting place- the United States does not rank well against other countries. We need to keep it up. Arizona was never going to become even an average performing state without above average gains, and no other state matches the gains seen by Arizona students over the last six years- so a bit of celebration is in order:


Guess which state had the largest overall NAEP gains in 2013…

July 13, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I’ve already been happy to report that measuring NAEP gains between 4th grade scores in 2011 and 8th grade scores in 2015, Arizona banked the largest overall gain in achievement. Just out of curiosity I decided to rank the states during the previous period (2009 to 2013) the same way- 4th grade scores in 2009 compared to 8th grade scores in 2013. I did this separately for Math and Reading.

Any guesses on which state came in first in overall gains? Here is a few clues:

Arizona wins again! First in overall math gains, fifth in overall reading gains, highest overall combined ranking. Feel free to pop out and take notes- we’ve been doing this since (at least) 2009. Yes, feel free to bring your golf clubs.

Oh yes- I almost forgot: