Rocky Mountain HIGHHHHHH!!! (Charter Test Scores!)

July 19, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Colorado’s Department of Education released a study of state scores showing that the state’s charter schools scored higher than districts on the state exam. So in 2015 Colorado charter school students also rocked the NAEP.  The charts below will slice and dice the NAEP 8th grade math exam by subgroups, and displays Colorado charter students only to the top 10 scoring states by subgroup.  Colorado charter students did very well on the other NAEP exams as well, scoring for instance near the very top in overall 8th grade reading, but we will use 8th grade math for purposes of illustration.

Colorado Anglo students attending charter schools came out on top compared to the states with the top overall math scores for Anglos:

CO charter 1

Colorado Hispanic students attending charter schools were near the top (Anglos and Hispanics were the two groups numerous enough for NAEP to report on for Colorado charters):

Co charter 2

What about for kids whose family incomes qualify for a Free or Reduced Price lunch under federal guidelines?

Co Charter 3

What about kids above the FRL threshold?

Co Charter 4

Finally there is always a chance that charter schools have a smaller percentage of English Language Learners and/or Special Education students. The chart below therefore only compares the scores of general education students in Colorado charter schools to general education students in the top 10 states.

CO charter 5

How should folks in Colorado feel about all of this? Approximately like:

Colorado Charter Schools CeleNAEP Good Times

July 18, 2016

Colorado Charter School 8th grade math NAEP

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Chalkbeat Colorado reports on a new Colorado Department of Education study that found Colorado charter school students scored higher on state exams than their district counterparts.  I’ve been waiting for this state data to become available because Colorado charter school students crushed the ball on the 2015 NAEP (see above).  More details later but subgroup analysis for Colorado charters looks very favorable as well- FRL eligible CO charter students score in a photo finish loss to the statewide average in MA but ahead of every statewide district system score, etc.

Checker Finn: Ed Reform as the Faber College Pan-Hellenic Disciplinary Council

July 18, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Checker Finn wrote a read-worthy lament for the state of ed reform for Hoover. Read the whole thing but this paragraph in particular caught my attention:

Exacerbating the disagreements on those questions is the self-righteousness that seems to have swamped this field in recent years. Education has never been a mirth-filled realm, but when I first got into it a lot of participants could still smile, occasionally giggle, even tell the odd joke—and the chuckles were, often as not, bipartisan. Today, however, practically nobody seems to have a sense of humor, at least not about anything bearing on ed reform. Is it because of our unfunny national politics? Because social media and 24/7 news mean that even a short chortle can be turned by one’s foes into evidence that one is making light of something? I’m not sure about the cause, but I can attest that it’s hard to make common cause with people who can never share a spoof or jest.

Practically nobody?!? It is alas a lonely task, but we continue to hold this last, best outpost of making light of things in ed reform-especially the deeply misguided and doomed to fail yet uhhh-gain sorts of things. We have been spoofing and jesting here at JPGB non-stop since 2008 and ed reform continues to provide plenty of material.

Checker makes an important point-social justice warriors make for poor dinner guests. It reminds me of this Charlie Rose debate about the 1960s when Barbara Ehrenreich droned on sternly while PJ O’Rourke’s related that his fondest 1960s memories involved LSD and picking up hippie women at protests.

Lighten up, Francis-we may as well keep a good sense of humor during what constitutes a protracted process of figuring things out.

Expert Ratings- A Cautionary Tale

July 15, 2016

GB Screenshot

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A few months ago, I was on a panel discussing the incorporation of user reviews into the K-12 space for things like digital courses and ESAs. One of my fellow panelists expressed skepticism about the entire project until I noted that Rotten Tomatoes allows both “expert” and “user” reviews of movies. With this, he expressed contentment so long as the experts got their own ratings for separate consideration.

It has long been my experience using Rotten Tomatoes however that the user ratings tended to be much more reliable than the critic reviews. Last night I got a double barrel reminder of this when I allowed a 74% fresh critic rating convince me to go see Ghostbusters before the audience score came in (the studio released the film yesterday).

The 44% rating of the audience is incredibly generous. The 74% critic rating reveals some sort of deep divorce from reality. This movie is about as terrible as:

Star Trek V

Apparently 2o+% of people are just unwilling to admit that they paid to see a bad movie. What more proof? The critics nailed this one:

Highlander 2

Sometimes both the critics and the audience gets it wrong, but the critics get it more wrong. This would be the case with Ghostbusters 2016 and:

Jones Sometimes the critics and audience agree on a stinker:


So in the end, I’m happy to have “expert” reviews included, but if 74% of them thought that the hot mess I saw last night was a good movie, it says something important about relying solely on experts. Like everything else in life “experts” are not to be trusted.

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:

The Greene-Polikoff Wager: An Update

July 12, 2016


(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)

In 2014, Jay made a wager with education policy wonk Morgan Polikoff regarding how many states would, after 10 years, still be a part of Common Core (defined as having “shared standards with shared high stakes tests-even if split between two tests”). The loser owes the winner a cold beer.

At the time the wager was made, the states had almost unanimously adopted Common Core so Morgan was confident but Jay thought political support for CCSS was a mile wide but an inch deep.

Morgan noted that “At last count, 1 state out of 45 has repealed the standards.”  I responded: “I’m sure gay marriage opponents felt similarly triumphant in 2004. How many states have effectively implemented Common Core?” […]

According to Heritage’s count, 15 states have already refused to join Common Core, paused implementation, or downgraded or withdrawn from participation in national tests.  I just need all of these states to continue toward withdrawal from Common Core and 11 more to join them over the next ten years.  I like my chances.

Just a few months later, Jay posted an update:

With the withdrawal of Iowa this week from the Smarter Balanced testing group, there are only 26 states that plan to use one of the two national tests to assess their students during the 2014-15 school year.  It’s true that 35 states remain part of the two testing consortia and some of the 9 states that have delayed implementation of the common tests may begin using one of them in the next few years.  But it’s safe to say that several of those 9 delayed start states will never follow through.  And some of the 26 states actually using a common test in 2015 are already making noises about withdrawing.  See for example reports coming out of Wisconsin and South Carolina.
If one more state that is currently using one of the common tests drops it than decides to follow through on implementation, I will have won the wager.  And we have more than 9 years to see that happen.

So how is the bet looking two years later? Well put it this way: Jay can probably already taste that beer. From Education Next:

State participation in the consortia declined just as implementation of the new standards and tests was set to begin. The pace of withdrawals quickened over time, particularly for PARCC, which five or six states left every year between 2013 and 2015 (see Figure 1). As of May 2016, just six states planned to implement the PARCC-designed assessment in the 2016-17 academic year. SBAC also faced attrition but fared better and still retains 14 states that plan to use the full test. (That figure includes Iowa, where a legislative task force has overwhelmingly recommended the SBAC assessment, though as of early 2016 state officials had yet to formally accept the recommendation.) By early 2016, 38 states had left one or both consortia, short-circuiting the state-by-state comparability that the tests were designed to deliver (see Figure 2).


“Oh, how the mighty have fallen!”


Common Core in retreat.

Note that these charts do not reflect the fact that Illinois has just replaced PARCC with a “revamped” version of the SAT for its high school students. Students in grades 3-8 will still take the PARCC, so perhaps Illinois should count as half a state for purposes of the Greene-Polikoff Wager.

Of course, it’s always possible that the remaining CCSS states will work out the kinks, opposition will fade as people get used to the testing regime, and then the political winds will shift again and states will re-enter one of the CCSS testing consortia. A lot can happen in eight years. But there is no denying that Jay was prescient in his read of the situation.


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