Leading the day – everyone is talking about this David Brook’s column. They’re stunned to learn that Whitney Tilson is a blogger…I especially like the last line, which is an important point in today’s debate.

But there is also pension news in two lawsuits (MN and CO), important if you follow that issue.  More from Denver Post. And here’s a good debate on school finance featuring Michael Rebell and Rick Hanushek.

Update: Check out Conor Williams on Brooks.

20 Replies to “Clips”

  1. You gotta love a guy who puts words in the mouth of Diane Ravitch, who trashes her without citing a single study, a single statistic. Such is the state of American journalism (in the NY Times, no less). What’s the matter with Kansas? The same thing that’s the matter with the rest of us.

  2. I take it back. He does indeed have a single study and a single statistic, which he introduces after accusing Ravitch of cherry-picking studies and statistics.

  3. The “reformers” smell defeat. Look for real changes in the coming year (hint: equity). As always, teachers, parents and other concerned citizens will work on behalf of all children and strive to break the shameful status quo of poor and minority children trapped in segregated urban schools and white, privileged in “good” schools.

    The people who put children first are the ones who care for them: parents and teachers.

  4. Linda:

    Implying that reform-minded folks don’t care about children is really despicable. This is another instance of your “intense and heated persistence” to slander your opposition.

  5. I said,

    “The people who put children first are the ones who care for them: parents and teachers.”

    I assume this includes “reform-minded folks.” Does it not?

  6. It includes everyone debating this issue, not just parents and teachers. You seem to be implying that some people involved in education don’t care about children. Could it be that you are here referring to the reformers whom you suggested are smelling defeat?

  7. It would appear that Conor Williams is either unaware of the differences between his former school’s demographics and those of its surrounding district, or he thinks that there is no difference between growing up in a household earning 131%-185% of the Federal poverty guidelines and one earning 0%-130%.

  8. For a family of 4…

    Annual Income Eligibility for Free Meals: 0-130%, $0-28,665
    Annual Income Eligibility for Reduced-Price Meals: 131-185%, $28,665-40,793

    It’s not readily apparent how the difference between 80/7% and 40/32% numbers for free lunch and reduced-price eligibility for the district and AF, respectively, bears out in terms of exact dollars, nor is it readily apparent if (and to what extent) test scores in the district for the two student groups differ.

    Conor’s response to you, however, is worth reposting here (since some anonymous asshole derailed his thread):

    “How low-income is low-income enough to be an explanatory factor? Are reduced-lunch students only casually hampered as learners, while free lunch students are completely incapacitated for learning? When does this cease to be a relevant excuse when evaluating school quality? For every additional percentage increase in low-income population, does a school earn the right to perform two percentage points worse on applicable tests?”

    I just can’t imagine how those differences alone would account for the vast differences seen in the test scores. Are you suggesting they do?

  9. “Tone troll”
    Are you sure you’re in grad school and not middle school, Chris?

    I thought “asshole” applied to the thread here.
    I read Conor’s blogue, but I can’t agree with asshole as the descriptive word.

    Cocksucker is a much better choice.

  10. As for Conor’s point: ““How low-income is low-income enough to be an explanatory factor? “, it would appear he doesn’t know what it is like to live like that day to day.
    I don’t think Conor would be squirreling away chicken nuggets into his pockets for his weekend meals.

    (Nor do I. But my family did open our house to a mother and her 2 children. She lived off our generosity, food stamps and WIC for half a year. Before coming to stay with us, the county put her up in one of those old, roach infested, rundown motels that you see along Highway 101.)

  11. Yes, Chris, it’s too bad that an asshole derailed Conor’s post, although it’s unclear to me why the asshole’s posts couldn’t be deleted and/or moderated. Conor did offer to publish any response that I had to his rebuttal as a separate post, though, which was a nice gesture.

    I didn’t state that the distinction between reduced-price and free was solely responsible for the gap in test scores–you are glossing over the other points I made with respect to ELLs and special ed students.

    AF Crown Heights enrolled ZERO ELLs in 2009-2010 out of 826 students (to be fair, they did enroll a single ELL the prior two years). Even allowing for the homogeneity of much of District 17, which is 10% ELL overall, this is a smell-test-failing number. The tiny zoned district middle school that shares a building with AFCH is 5% ELLs, e.g. AFCH also has considerably fewer special ed students on the books–12.5% last year vs. 18% for the district and 22% for the aforementioned district middle school. Even before we get to the big difference in reduced/free ratio, the case for making an apples-to-apples comparison is coming undone.

    In nationwide 4th-grade/8th-grade NAEP reading and math scores, the gaps between reduced-price eligible and free-lunch eligible kids are almost as big as the gaps between non-eligible and reduced-price eligible. See here:

    Now, I’m merely a New York City public school parent, not a wonk or a statistician or education researcher, so as far as the NAEP data is concerned, I can’t do much more than point to it and say that it has to mean something and it can’t mean nothing.

    But as someone who has kids at both Title I and non-Title I city public schools, I also have a decent real-world (anecdotal and sample-size challenged, to be sure!) notion of what the benefits of coming from a reduced vs. free family might be: the reduced-price family is more likely to have two parents, to have a parent or parents who work (which in this day and age, is practically a guarantee that the parent achieved at least a HS diploma), and depending on the number of kids, might even have a parent with a stable union/city/state job with excellent benefits. The reduced-price family is almost certainly not homeless or destitute (10% of the enrollment at the zoned district middle school currently sharing AFCH’s building is living in temporary housing). And the reduced-price family is more likely to have an adult who volunteers at the child’s school.

    In a district as impoverished and challenged as District 17, one could argue that the reduced-price families are the success stories, basically the closest thing the district has to an upwardly mobile social class. (It bears mentioning that the overwhelming majority of the best-scoring charters in NYC also have a higher proportion of reduced-price and lower proportion of free-lunch eligible students than their districts.)

    I don’t think that it was fair or intellectually honest of Conor to make such a sweeping pronouncement on the basis of an intra-building comparison of unadjusted state test scores without mentioning or accounting for these significant differences.

  12. Tim,

    I’m not Conor, but I imagine his decision to close comments was prompted from getting disgusted by the usual emptiness found within internet dialogue. I think you should take him up on his offer, though, as I find it sort of odd that you addressed your thorough reply only to me.

    ***”I didn’t state that the distinction between reduced-price and free was solely responsible for the gap in test scores–you are glossing over the other points I made with respect to ELLs and special ed students.”

    Ok, I’ll add that onto my question: are you suggesting the differences with respect to income and ELL/SPED enrollment numbers would alone account for the vast differences seen in the test scores?

    District 17 has 8% LEP. Even assuming that all of the LEP kids score below proficient, that would translate into just an 8% drop in %proficiency. This is small compared to the large gains AF placed over the district. Your cited SPED numbers would similarly have a relatively small effect on the numbers.

    You point out that there are gaps between reduced-price eligible and free-lunch eligible kids, but this difference is not always statistically significant. Do a statistical test on the 2009 NAEP data for NYC and this is what you’ll find:

    Reading, Grade 4:

    Reduced-price lunch: 227
    Free lunch: 213

    Math, Grade 4:

    Reduced-price lunch: 247
    Free lunch: 234

    Reading, Grade 8:

    Reduced-price lunch: 258
    Free lunch: 249

    Math, Grade 8:

    Reduced-price lunch: 278
    Free lunch: 269

    The latter is statistically insignificant, meaning the differences in test scores between free lunch and reduced-price eligible students likely was due to chance, yet AF’s 8th graders trounced the district’s numbers in math.

    Furthermore, several of AF’s scores were equivalent or higher to even that of the state, which is composed of a smaller proportion of students from low-income families.

    Given all of this, Conor had it correct when he said that AF has done a great job with a population of mainly poor students from the same community. You are correct that there are differences in demographics, but these are minor and their impact minimal when compared to the large gains posted.

  13. I’m coming late to this discussion, so I’ll stand mostly on the comment that I made on my own blog (and I heartily concur with Chris’ stats analysis).

    One small thing, though: I shut down comments on the post because it was the beginning of a holiday weekend and I wasn’t planning on being online often enough to moderate any ongoing discussion. Rather than address the comments one-by-one, whether the spam/decency filters caught them or not, was just not something I wanted to deal with this weekend.

    It’s perhaps worth noting that I got a handful of “You are Hitler” emails in response. Internet commenting is PRODUCTIVE!

    While we’re trading anecdotes, it’s probably worth noting–in response to Tim’s last comment here–that I never had more than 5 students/class with two actively-involved parents (living together or not). My classes ranged from 27 to 30 students. This is only to point out that I didn’t see any significant correlation between students qualifying for reduced-lunch and more traditional family situations. It’s possibly true that there’s some correlation there, but I never saw it.

    Also, please note that AF has more detailed testing numbers on their website from 2008-9, and these are even more impressive than the ones they show on the website graphic I referred to in the post.

  14. A clip Andrew missed.
    Investigation: Hall knew — or should have known — about cheating
    AJC exclusive: Criminal charges could follow scathing report

    The findings suggest the national accolades that Hall and the school system have collected — and the much-vaunted academic progress for which she claimed credit — were based on falsehoods. Raising test scores apparently became a higher priority than conducting the district’s business in an ethical manner.

    The investigators’ report, officials said, depicts a culture that rewarded cheaters, punished whistle-blowers and covered up improprieties. Strongly contradicting denials of cheating and other irregularities by Hall and other top district executives, the report describes organized wrongdoing that robbed tens of thousands of children — many of whom came from disadvantaged backgrounds and struggled in school — of an honest appraisal of their abilities.

    At the same time, the document apparently provides a scathing assessment of the school system’s handling of the scandal, accusing district leaders of hampering the special investigators’ efforts to uncover the truth. The investigators reportedly accuse Hall and her top aides of refusing to take responsibility for the district’s problems.

    The report also will detail potentially criminal acts by district officials, the AJC has learned.

    In an effort to maintain Hall’s high profile in national education circles, the superintendent and her top aides reportedly tried to hide unflattering information as far back as 2006. District officials illegally altered documents related to the test and withheld material that should have been released under the state’s Open Records Act, the report is expected to say.

  15. Chris, ~8% here from the ELLs, ~10+% there from the special ed kids (and no MRE kids at AFCH) — pretty soon it adds up!

    And I’m slightly confused by what you wrote re NYC 2009 NAEP scores, as they support my stance on reduced-price vs. free lunch, not yours. On Grade 4 Mathematics, Grade 4 Reading, and Grade 8 Reading, reduced-lunch scores were quite a bit higher than free lunch and the difference was significantly significant. Reduced price also outscored free lunch on Grade 8 Mathematics, but the difference was not statistically significant.

    Furthermore, the differences between non-eligible and reduced-price NYC students on the 2009 NAEP were statistically insignificant in Grade 4 Mathematics and Reading and Grade 8 Math. Put simply, reduced-price kids are more similar to non-eligible kids than they are free-lunch kids. And to reiterate, AFCH enrolls 40% of free lunch kids vs. 80% in the district.

    Knowing all this, I’m less impressed with AFCH’s performance vs. the state averages. An astounding 40% of children living in New York State qualify for free lunch, and that’s the exact same percentage of free-lunch eligible kids at AFCH.

    I have no problems with Conor’s claims that his school did a wonderful job. But we have no idea how they’d do with an enrollment that is district-typical, and what they have now isn’t even close. Conor, you would be well within your rights to accuse me of nit-picking, except for the fact that a reader’s likely takeaway from your post would be “same kids/no excuses.”

  16. Tim:

    I took the assumption to an extreme to prove a point, that even if all ELLs in the district failed to meet proficiency it would not explain the large differences in scores. Looking at district’s testing data for ELLs, I find I don’t even have to make it:

    Grade/Subj % Prof. for non-ELL % Prof. for ELL

    3/ela 43 29
    3/math 51 34

    4/ela 38 14
    4/math 48 28

    8/ela 27 4
    8/math 35 18

    To illustrate this point, recall that 90% of the 8th graders at AF scored proficient in math; only 60% of them in the district did so. To determine the extent that ELLs could have caused this disparity, assume there are two groups of 100 8th graders with one of those groups containing 8% ELL, the other none at all (representing the district and AF , respectively). The numbers for math play out as such:

    (100 * 35) / 100 = 35% proficiency

    [(92 * 35) + (8 * 18)] / 1000 = 33.64% proficiency

    Again, it’s a minor effect. Influence from SPED students given the demographics wouldn’t be much more. You’ll notice these numbers are nowhere near the size of differences between AF’s and the district’s test scores. So, no, it doesn’t just add up. There’s something else going on.

    ***”And I’m slightly confused by what you wrote re NYC 2009 NAEP scores, as they support my stance on reduced-price vs. free lunch, not yours.”

    Not really. I was showing that the differences between the groups may not always be real, as in the case of 8th graders with math. Despite the absence of the effect that you claim explains the data, there was phenomenal differences between AF and the district, and I’ll repeat them again for emphasis: 90% and 60% proficiency, respectively, for 8th grade math. That example alone is enough to disprove your argument.

    Before I go on, can we agree that the example I’ve highlighted in this comment, 8th grade math, specifically cannot be explained due to “district-[a]typical” enrollment?

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