I Say the Future is Ours if You Can Count

April 13, 2018

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Yesterday we went over how states have done very little to improve in 8th grade math since 2009, but how many state charter sectors rocked it. Let’s see about reading, starting with the states:

There are more declines in scores than statistically significant gains in that first chart-some states more lost than others, but a lost decade nationally. Next let’s look at statewide charter sectors-these are the states with charter sectors large enough to make the sample in both 2009 and 2017 in 8th grade reading:

Once again, just as with math, Excel had to move the growth axis scale for several state charter sectors. You will appreciate this better when the following chart combines statewide averages and state charter sector averages:

So in this chart ideally you would like to see high scores and high gains, but there is no shame in just very high scores.

Can you dig it?

Can you dig it?!?

CAN YOU DIG IT?!?!?!?!

Charters CeleNAEP Good Times During “Lost Decade”

April 11, 2018

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The news overall is grim. You want to be in the top right quadrant of this chart. Some states thankfully did land there-including the state with the largest student population- but many only barely due to small reading gains. If you need the dot size to push you in, it doesn’t count-better luck next NAEP.

You don’t want to land in the top left or in the bottom right, and you most of all don’t want to see your state in the bottom left quadrant (declines in both subjects). Mike Petrilli used the phrase “lost decade” to describe the results. Some states seem far more lost than others, but it is hard to find fault with that assessment overall.

The two main reform strategies employed since the 1990s have involved test-based accountability and increased parental choice. During the era covered by the top chart, the test-based folks swung for the fences by creating a federal incentive for states to adopt a preferred set of academic standards and to pass statewide teacher evaluation systems based upon the scores on those tests. Gigantic investments of political and financial capital supported these policy changes, but it is hard to characterize the results as much more than disappointing.

Now some of you will be thinking around about now “oh yeah but we’ve expanded choice during this period as well!” That is true, and while we have numerous studies establishing positive competitive effects on district schools from choice programs, few states have choice programs going at a scale to place a large amount of pressure on district enrolments. NAEP does however allow us to track state charter sector gains over time. Sixteen state charter sectors had scores for 8th grade math and reading in both 2009 and 2017, allowing the following calculation:

Excel had to change the scale of the axis for the above chart. You may not have noticed. Putting state averages and state charter sector averages into the same chart will help:

Suddenly those statewide gains in Arizona, California and Mississippi (i.e. the good ones) from the first chart don’t seem so impressive eh? I’m thinking out loud here and inviting you along for the ride. Gains aren’t everything, so the next iteration will include achievement and gains by subject area, but for the huge gainer sectors (spoiler alert) they didn’t get that way with low 2017 scores. I could go on about standard errors being bigger for charter sectors and whatnot, but who are you going to believe a boring statistics lecture or your own lying eyes? If someone can explain why random error would systematically dramatically favor charter sectors, I’m all ears and the comment section eagerly awaits your thoughtful challenge.

In fact there is a white lie in the above chart-some of the sectors and states that look meh in this chart immediately above had very high scores in both 2009 and 2017, and while not ideal there is no crime in holding your mud with high scores. Last year my friend Robert Pondiscio convinced me that combining achievement and gains to provide a clearer picture, so here goes for 8th grade math:

In this chart you either want to have large gains, or high scores, or preferably both of these things. I’m for instance not inclined to criticize Idaho charter schools for modest gains given that they outscore Massachusetts and all despite spending about half the amount per pupil.

Well…yup it is officially time:


Arizona Charters Crushed the Ball Again But They Have Competition Out West

April 10, 2018

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Arizona charter schools continued to display impressive scores and gains on the 2017 NAEP. Note as always that only a random assignment study properly conducted could hope to isolate the role of school quality in all of this, and that such studies are not only unavailable but also are impractical for a statewide system of schools- not all of which are oversubscribed (a precondition for a random assignment study). Thus the role of average school quality in driving the above results remains a holy mystery- likely to be hotly debated, impossible to be resolved in this world. I and others will be digging into Arizona charter subgroup scores in the days ahead.

Now, behold the nothing burger that has been net American academic progress since 2009 (first set of columns). On the math and reading tests 10 points approximately equals a grade level worth of average academic progress (the science exams have a different scaling). Net American progress equals nothing, nothing, next to nothing a tiny bit of something in 8th grade reading.

The middle blue columns are the statewide numbers for Arizona. As you can see they consistently surpass the American nothing-burger. The final set of gains are the gains for Arizona charter school students.

Some of Arizona’s neighbors also have charter sectors that crushed the ball- starting again with Colorado. I’m happy to say that Nevada’s sector made the minimum reporting requirements for NAEP this year, and the results look good. Give me some time to dig, but a monster story may be California charters:


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…

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…