Gains/Scores by State for Anglo Students

April 10, 2018

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Sorry-nodded off before posting the final piece of the ethnic trilogy. On to other subjects…


On 8th Grade Math, Massachusetts Leads with Hispanic Gains, Virginia with Scores

April 10, 2018

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A number of state Hispanic sectors closed the gap with the lowest performing statewide Anglo sector (274) in 8th grade math, which is good #MOARRR!

2017 NAEP-Scores and Trends for Black Students

April 10, 2018

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

A few months ago I speculated that a statewide Black population would catch up to a statewide Anglo NAEP score. It got close in 8th grade math with Arizona’s Black students scoring 272 and the lowest scoring statewide Anglo score coming in at 274. Here’s a chart on 8th grade scores and gains in math since 2003 (Black students did not make the minimum size for NAEP to report scores in several states):

Indiana and Arizona can thumb wrestle later for the championship.


NAEP- First Report from the Front

April 10, 2018

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So the data went live at midnight EST. The national data is basically flat on all four tests. Most single cycle differences are not statistically significant, so I’m looking at longer periods of time, but the 2015 to 2017 champ looks to be Florida. More details on this later but I’m resisting the temptation to bring Sally back pending further analysis…but only barely!

The short run (2015 to 2017) state level data doesn’t look terribly exciting. I’m still digesting the longer run state level data, but up top there’s a chart to tide you over. NCLB required all states to take math and reading NAEP starting in 2003, so here is the full period (2003 to 2017) gains for 8th grade math and reading by state. These are numerical gains subtracting 2003 from 2017 scores by state.

The 2003 to 2017 period is a natural one to examine, but so too is the post 2009 period, for a few different reasons. The 2009 NAEP happened both in the early days of the Obama administration and during the outset of the Great Recession. NAEP redid the 4th and 8th grade science exams that year. The inclusion of “non-tested” subjects is healthy in my view given concerns over curriculum narrowing. According to my bleary eyes two states have made statistically significant gains in all six exams for the entire available period- Arizona and Mississippi. For the 2009 to 2015 period it had been AZ alone. Arizona and Mississippi were also the only states to make statistically significant gains on all of the math and reading tests during the 2009 to 2017 period. Several states however had statistically significant gains in 3 out of 4 of the math and reading exams between 2009 and 2017-including California, Hawaii, Indiana and Wyoming. On the downside, I have not yet added up the number of significant statewide declines in scores during this period, but there are many of them.

Arizona had three flat aggregate statewide scores and a decline in 4th grade math between 2015 and 2017. At first blush Arizona and Colorado charter schools crushed the academic ball again in 2017, will dig further into details/subgroups but for now:

There is more good news in statewide charter sectors, haven’t touched the TUDA yet, stay tuned.

Will it Never Be Day?!? NAEP preview

April 9, 2018

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Shakespeare’s Henry V includes a scene in the tent of the French nobles in which the Dauphin prattles on an on about how many of the English he plans to slaughter on the following day in the battle of Agincourt. “Will it never be day!?!?!” the Dauphin exclaimed. Careful what you wish for…

NAEP’s 2017 results for Math and Reading for states and select large urban districts will become available tomorrow. I’ve got my basement primed with six laptops and a case of Monster energy drinks. Mrs. Ladner is planning to occasionally open the vault to hurl additional pizza boxes downstairs before quickly re-sealing civilization’s final defense against anarchy. A few notes:

Large score movements either up or down are rare so up is better than down but when examining a statewide average score. On the math and reading tests 10 points roughly equates to an average year worth of progress (e.g. if we did a random assignment exercise and had one group take the 4th grade math test as 4th graders and the other group as 5th graders we would expect the 5th graders to score about 10 points higher). Most gains or declines are of the incremental variety (1-3 points) but they can add up over time like in Arizona, or cancel themselves out like in New York:

Was the 2015 NAEP a disappointing blip or the start of a new trend?  A mere quarter century of national math improvement at both the 4th and 8th grade level came to an end in 2015. We’ll find out tomorrow.

If a trend, cry HAVOC and let slip the dogs of spin!  Put me down as skeptical on some sort of lagged impact of the great recession given things like:

This will be a big NAEP for the Common Core project. I have not seen any reason to doubt the Tom Loveless analysis that measured the impact as a tiny positive. A tiny positive however was not what was promised. Let’s see what happens next.

Discipline Reform. I’ve been reading the debate on the discipline reform efforts of the Obama administration. I have no idea whether discipline reform had an adverse impact on academic performance, but if we are looking to subject the notion to conjecture and refutation, I would take the most interest in the score trends of low-income students of color in early adopting jurisdictions, and I would take a greater interest in 8th grade scores/trends.

Computerized testing.  They piloted it in 2015, and then delayed the release of the 2017 NAEP to further study whether to make additional adjustments. Peggy Carr, the acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, told reporters last week “We have the full weight of scientific, psychometric evidence behind the release. We are comparing apples to apples. I think we can all be confident without a shadow of a doubt that we are going to be looking at true performance.” Perhaps understandably given the pressures involved some state chiefs took an interest in technical aspects of NAEP testing shortly after being briefed on their state scores, but the National Center for Education Statistics has a head start several years in the running on studying this issue, so I tend to believe them, unless Arizona scores tank, in which case…just kidding. 

Stay tuned to this jayblog channel and remember…



Derek Jeter for “The Higgy”

April 5, 2018

Image result for marlins "The Great Sea Race"

It was bad enough that Marlins fans had to suffer under previous team owner Jeff Loria’s inept management of the team (after impressively winning the World Series twice in the first ten years of the team’s existence).  And it’s even worse that a new ownership group led by former Yankee star, Derek Jeter, has dismantled what may have been the best outfield in baseball to conserve cash since the new owners seem financially exhausted immediately after having made the purchase. But the action that has significantly detracted from the human condition and made Jeter worthy of a nomination for the William Higinbotham Inhumanitarian Award is his decision to cancel The Great Sea Race.

Since 2012 the Marlins have held a race among mascots dressed in sea creature outfits during the 6th inning of home games.  This contest between Bob the Shark, Julio the Octopus, Angel the Stone Crab, and Spike the Sea Dragon, however, has come to a halt under the new ownership led by Jeter.  The exact reasons have not been given, but it appears that the new ownership group seems to view baseball as a serious enterprise, deserving of reverence.  As one commentator put it: “[Jeter] doesn’t want fans to have anything to smile about this year.”

The late, great Bill Veeck understood what baseball was really about — fun.  As owner of the Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Browns, and Chicago White Sox he packed the games with bread and circuses to make the experience entertaining.  He hired Max Patkin, the “Clown Price of Baseball,” to coach the Indians.  Patkin “had a face seemingly made of rubber that could make many shapes. He was rail thin and wore a baggy uniform with a question mark (?) on the back in place of a number, and a ballcap that was always askew. While some derided his act as corny, he became a beloved figure in baseball circles…”

In St. Louis, “some of Veeck’s most memorable publicity stunts occurred during his tenure with the Browns, including the appearance on August 19, 1951, by Eddie Gaedel, who stood 3 feet 7 inches tall and is the shortest person to appear in a Major League Baseball game. Veeck sent Gaedel to pinch hit in the bottom of the first of the game. Wearing elf like shoes and ‘1/8’ as his uniform number, Gaedel was walked on four straight pitches and then was pulled for a pinch runner.  Shortly afterwards ‘Grandstand Manager’s Day’ – involving Veeck, Connie Mack, and thousands of regular fans, enabled the crowd to vote on various in-game strategic decisions by holding up placards: the Browns won, 5–3, snapping a four-game losing streak.”

And in Chicago, Veeck was the first to introduce an electronic scoreboard that lit up, made noises, and shot fireworks when the White Sox hit a home run.  And in one of my greatest childhood memories, Veeck organized Disco Demolition Night, in which local DJ, Steve Dahl, dressed in a military uniform, drove a Jeep into center field, and blew up a pile of disco records during the middle of a double-header.  Dahl got the crowd so riled up that they stormed the field, causing enough damage that the White Sox had to forfeit the second game.  It was hilarious!  Veeck was also the one to convince Harry Caray, who was the announcer for the White Sox at that time, to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” to the crowd during the 7th inning stretch.  Caray tried to refuse but Veeck said that he had a recording of Caray singing and would play it over the audio if Caray refused to perform it live.  Caray continued this practice of singing to the crowd when he moved to the Northside to become the announcer for the Cubs.  Thus was a much-loved baseball tradition born.

Veeck’s teams also played very well.  Under Veeck’s leadership, the Indians won their first pennant in 20 years in 1948.  In 1959, Veeck’s White Sox won their first pennant in 40 years. But Veeck understood that most teams fall short most years, so they have to offer their fans something other than victory to keep everyone entertained.  Yes, they should offer quality play, but sometimes even that is beyond the reach of most teams.  As we Marlins fans (can I use the plural for that?) wait for the team to rebuild with only moderate chances of being successful for many years, can’t we at least watch some frickin’ fish run around the outfield?

Jeter seems to represent the type of baseball fan who has watched Field of Dreams a few too many times.  The game is not a sacred ritual, deserving of church-like propriety.  It’s entertainment. It should be fun. For trying to make us all eat our baseball vegetables and taking away The Great Sea Race, Derek Jeter is worthy of The Higgy.


Hess and Gallo Get Words Wrong in NRO

April 4, 2018


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

In NRO today, Rick Hess and Sofia Gallo accuse the school choice movement of using “overheated” and “alarmist” rhetoric. They assert that since school choice is the opposite of neighborhood schooling (which all smart people know to be true, since we say it and we’re the smart people), choice advocates need a new, toned-down rhetoric to convince jumpy soccer moms that choice is no big deal and won’t have any big effects on anything.

How is this wrong? Let me count the ways:

1) “School choice advocates are wild-eyed ideological extremists” is a timeworn smear used by the Blob to demonize reformers, and anyone paying attention should have seen through it by now. For Hess and Gallo to resort to this lazy stereotype is offensive. The examples they bring to justify their claim that choice advocates are overheated and alarmist (choice is like Uber for schools!) redefine the whole concept of “weak tea.”

It is Hess and Gallo whose rhetoric is overheated and alarmist, in claiming that choice advocates are overheated and alarmist.

2) Hess and Gallo admit that choice is not only increasingly successful politically, it is growing more popular over time. Their efforts to create the impression that choice has a public perception problem (choice underperforms when compared to pie-in-the-sky hypothetical utopian alternatives in heavily biased survey questions formulated by the servants of the Blob at PDK!) don’t change the basic facts.

By Hess and Gallo’s own showing, choice is winning in statehouses, winning in governors’ mansions, and winning in public opinion polls. No doubt that success will ebb and flow in the future, as it has in the past. But choice has better public perception today than at any time in its history.

3) School choice is not in tension with local control, it is local control. For half a century, governance of district schools has moved further and further out of the local neighborhood and up the bureaucratic ladder, from the building to the district to the state and federal levels. There is no plausible plan for reversing that movement, other than school choice.

The only possible future of “neighborhood schools” is neighborhood schools of choice. Nothing else but choice will return governance of schools to the neighborhood level.

Because guess what neighborhoods are made up of? Parents. And parents who are given school choice exercise that choice as members of their local communities, gathering information and forming relationships in neighborhoods.

4) Parents tend to like their own schools, so Hess and Gallo recommend that choice advocates adopt a message along the lines of “choice won’t change schools.” Because that’s how you sell a reform – argue that it doesn’t matter and won’t change anything.

Or perhaps the message will be, “choice won’t change schools for people like you, it will only change schools for those other people. You know the ones we mean.”

Jay has been pointing out for years that the biggest mistake education reformers have been making is to argue that their policies will benefit a small and relatively powerless portion of the population, and offer no benefits to larger and more powerful constituencies. Hess and Gallo want choice to double down on that strategy.

5) To the extent that choice advocates could do better in framing their rhetoric, the problem is not that choice is percieved as a threat but that choice is percieved as of limited value because it is disconnected from moral imperatives like justice, equal opportunity, diversity and freedom. School choice advocates often assume that when they talk about markets they are affirming those imperatives, but in fact the language of markets does not and will not invoke those commitments for most people. A new language of school accountability through choice is needed to connect school choice to the things that matter most.

We shouldn’t talk as if choice should matter less, but as if it should matter more. Because it does.