August 2008 Archives

Why the Achievement Gap Matters

skoolboy has explained, much more eloquently than I can, why achievement gaps matter even if the scores of white, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian students are all rising equally: There are a great many social institutions that sort and rank individuals on the basis of test scores and the competencies they represent. Most of these institutions don’t have an unlimited number of positions or slots—rather, individuals are competing against one another for access. When these institutions rely on test scores, and there is an achievement gap among racial/ethnic groups on these tests, the lower-scoring group will be underrepresented. ...


This Week's COWAbunga Award

This week's "Comment of the Week Award" goes to TangoMan for his insightful explanation of why education has followed a different trajectory than medicine in its use of evidence, and what role education schools might play in addressing this problem. I would add that superintendents and administrators are bigger culprits than teachers, who are simply ordered to implement their instructional whims. The full comment is here, and an excerpt highlighting the central themes is below:Here's my hypothesis - teachers don't think like scientists. They're more idealists at heart. They envision a certain role for themselves and they gravitate to ...


skoolboy Peeks out of the Closet

Now that eduwonkette has revealed herself as Columbia doctoral student Jennifer Jennings, skoolboy is gingerly sticking his head out of the closet and looking around. (If I see my shadow, I may go back inside for another six weeks.) skoolboy is Aaron Pallas, a Professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. I study inequalities that are created and perpetuated by the ways schools sort and select children and youth, and the role that education plays in individuals’ adult lives. Recently, I went on the record in the New York Sun on a topic near and dear to ...


NYC Links: Klein Petrilli Barcelona

1)Klein Petrilli Barcelona: Mike Petrilli has a stalker, he says, and it's not the sizzling Javier Bardem. Nonetheless, the NY Times blog chronicles it all here. 2) Welcome Meredith Kolodner!: I'm a little late, but the Daily News has a new education beat reporter who, from this article on NYC's SAT scores, seems to like digging into the numbers. Though the DOE stressed that the number of students scoring at 600 or above went up 3.6 percent, Kolodner recognized that if the average is falling, there must be more low scoring students as well. As she wrote: At ...


Guest Blogger Bruce Fuller: The Benefits and Dilemmas of Centralized Accountability

Bruce Fuller, sociologist and professsor of education and public policy at the University of California - Berkeley, has co-edited a new book, Strong States, Weak Schools: The Benefits and Dilemmas of Centralized Accountability. Below, he provides a Q&A on the book’s findings. Q. Media reports summed-up your findings by saying that teacher responses to the No Child Left Behind Act and state accountability efforts have been “haphazard”, and teachers are feeling demoralized. Didn’t we know this already? A. We do know that teacher associations are eager to revamp No Child following the November elections, and even recraft ...


Cool People You Should Know: Amy Ellen Schwartz

Yesterday, in eduwonkette’s bombshell revelation that she is Jennifer Jennings, a Columbia doctoral student in sociology, she explained that the timing was influenced by the fact that there was potentially damaging misinformation about her identity swirling in the blogosphere and beyond. Many people thought that eduwonkette was Amy Ellen Schwartz. Who is this Amy Ellen Schwartz? Why, she’s a cool person you should know.Amy is the Director of the Institute for Education and Social Policy at NYU, and a Professor of Public Policy and of Education and Economics appointed both in NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of ...


eduwonkette Unmasked

For those of you who pegged me as Amy Ellen Schwartz, Diane Ravitch, Amy Stuart Wells, or Randi Weingarten – what can I say?You were a tad off.eduwonkette is written by Jennifer Jennings, a final year doctoral student in Sociology at Columbia University. I study many of the topics regularly covered on this blog: the effects of accountability systems on race, gender, and socioeconomic inequality, teacher and school effects on cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes, the effect of non-cognitive skills on academic achievement and attainment, school choice, and gender gaps in educational outcomes.When I started this blog last September, ...


Yes, Beltway Wonks, Sampling Error Does Matter

It's in vogue these days to declare the building blocks of statistical inference irrelevant to assessing the performance of schools. For example, Joel Klein recently argued that statistical significance is "a game." Yesterday, Kevin Carey argued that accounting for sampling error - the idea that there is statistical uncertainty in measures from a sample rather than the full population - in the context of NCLB is "silly" because "unlike opinion polls, NCLB doesn't test a sample of students. It tests all students. The only way states can even justify using [margin of errors] in the first place is with the ...


skoolboy Goes to the Olympics, IV: Differences across Schools

skoolboy’s jaunt to the Olympics concludes today with an examination of how much going to one school versus another matters for students’ achievement in different countries. The basic approach is to look at the average achievement in a sample of schools within a country, and to see how much those averages differ from one another. If students were randomly distributed across schools in a country, and each school had similar resources, we might expect to see relatively similar average achievement across schools, and we might conclude that which school a student attends in that country doesn’t matter that ...


Should Teachers Adjust Their Teaching to Individual Students' "Learning Styles?"

Following rave responses to his first video, Brain-Based Education: Fad or Breakthrough?, UVA cognitive psychologist Dan Willingham returns with the unambiguously titled video, "Learning Styles Don't Exist." Any thoughts, teachers?...


AfterEd Gives Disney a Run for Their Money: Watch eduwonkette, Episode I!

AfterEd, a cool new web video channel on education run out of Teachers College, offered to make a series of animated eduwonkette episodes, and I couldn't resist. I already watched their weekly education news roundup, their "student spotlights," and loved their previous animation (teachers, check out Klona, a superteacher who can do it all), and knew they would do an amazing job. And they did.Head over to their site to see "eduwonkette, Episode I", or check it out below:Here are the credits - please give these guys and girls a serious round of applause!Produced by Simon Doolittle ...


Cool People You Should Know: David Figlio

Economist David Figlio, who has extensively studied the intended and unintended consequences of accountability systems, recently made a move from the University of Florida over to Northwestern. Figlio has a knack for the creative - but still substantive - paper: for example, see his papers on the unintended consequences of accountability systems including Food for Thought? The Effects of School Accountability Plans on School Nutrition, Accountabilty, Ability, and Disability: Gaming the System?, and Testing, Crime, and Punishment. More recently, he mounted an impressive survey of Florida principals to identify their responses to accountability pressures. (See Feeling the Florida Heat? How ...


Educational Research Cherry Pickers Need a Union

Over at EdWize, Leo Casey has offered to help Educational Research Cherry Pickers form their own union - they have been working too hard. Will the next cover of Education Next proclaim, "Hasta la victoria siempre?"...


This Week's COWAbunga Award!

This week's "Comment of the Week Award," also known as the COWAbunga Award, goes to Attorney DC, whose understanding of collective action dilemmas cut to the heart of a debate about gender and the workplace:I still disagree [that] it is the responsibility of the parents (husband and wife) to deal with a woman's problems in the workforce due to children, rather than the responsibility of employers.If a husband says, "OK, I will cut back on my hours to help out around the house and with the kids," his employer may fire him.If a husband says, "I will ...


Leonard Sax, Girl Whisperer (Or: Why This Blog is Both Pink & Smart)

I'm beginning to think that Leonard Sax was one of those boys I lapped on the track in junior high who never got over it.Sax's most recent whinefest (HT: Peg Tyre at Why Boys Fail) accuses the feminist movement of ignoring gender differences and ultimately contributing to a "growing gender divide." His evidence? A popular teen novel that features a love triangle involving Bella, "a pretty teenage girl, the gentlemanly young vampire who adores her and the lanky werewolf who is her best friend." That the female protagonist is often saved by boys, and that teenage girls like the ...


Graduation Rates in NYC: The Long View

Last Thursday the NY Sun gave the Times editorial board a well-deserved spanking for ignoring its own backyard. Buried in the piece is a description of Bloomberg's latest temper tantrum, this time over the gall of a reporter for - gasp! - asking questions about the graduation rate:Perhaps in their coverage of the No Child Left Behind law the mandarins of Eighth Avenue have fallen victim to the law of Not In My Backyard. They'd certainly be in good company. Announcing the latest graduation rate results, Mayor Bloomberg could not for his life fathom why our reporter Elizabeth Green ...


Join a Chat about Testing and Accountability in the NCLB Era: Tuesday, August 19th, 3-4pm

On Tuesday, David Figlio - an economist who does great work on the intended and unintended consequences of accountability systems - and I will chat with Ed Week readers about testing and accountability. The event description is below, and you can submit questions here:Raising student achievement has long been a major issue in the American public education system. But with the advent of the No Child Left Behind Act and its testing mandates, even more attention has been directed towards this issue. As states release their annual school report cards, testing and accountability have once again emerged as hot ...


Friday Link Love

1) Goldrick-Rab and Roksa Rock: Sociologists Sara Goldrick-Rab and Josipa Roksa issue a new Center for American Progress report on expanding the federal higher education policy agenda.2) Man with a Plan: Sol Stern proposes a Marshall Plan to improve K-3 reading skills in NYC.3)Because of Race: Mica Pollock's second book of the summer is out....


eduwonkette flies over to GothamSchools: NYC Graduation Rates

NYC Readers - Wondering what's going on with the graduation rates that were released this week? Head on over to GothamSchools, where I will be posting occasionally on NYC education issues, and check out a map of 4-year cohort graduation rates across the city....


Fact Checking "Whatever It Takes" (Or: The Trouble with Heroes)

Over at eduwonk, guest blogger Michael Goldstein points us to an inspirational trailer for a documentary, Whatever It Takes, about a new small school in the South Bronx. This is American education's favorite past-time - find inspirational principal/teacher and tell an uplifting/touching story about how kids from tough backgrounds beat the odds. Preferably, someone easy on the eyes like Hilary Swank or Morgan Freeman plays the lead.I see two problems with this phenomenon: First, it's almost always the case that these heroic tales leave out some critical details. While I'm sure the school profiled in "Whatever It ...


Cool People You Should Know: David Rindskopf

You don't come across statistics ninjas like David Rindskopf, a psychologist who teaches at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, every day. Whether he's making advances in latent class analysis, multilevel modeling, or Bayesian statistics, Rindskopf has paved the way for education researchers to better understand the factors that affect students' performance in school. And his work hasn't gone unnoticed. A few years ago, Rindskopf was elected a fellow of the American Statistical Association, a designation rarely bestowed on scholars outside of a statistics department.Here's how Rindskopf describes his own work:I don't know who ...


skoolboy Goes to the Olympics, III: Socioeconomic Status

skoolboy doesn’t know who was the first to say that the true measure of a society is how it treats its weakest members, but it’s an appealing proposition. All societies have children and adults who vary in their economic, social and cultural status within the society. In virtually every modern society, the more advantaged, as a group, do better than those with lower status, although individuals can rise or fall in relation to their peers. Today’s visit to the Olympics looks at the relationship between a child’s socioeconomic status and proficiency in math and science across ...


skoolboy Goes to the Olympics, II: Gender

On Friday, eduwonkette wondered about how gender figured into my Olympics-inspired international comparison of high student literacy in math and science. Ask and you shall receive, e. Today I’m reporting data on the percentage of males and females in different countries and economies that are high achievers, and within-country differences in these percentages. On Friday, I was looking at the top 5% of students in each country. Today, I’m using the percentage of students in each country scoring at the highest level on the 2006 PISA science and math literacy scales. (Yeah, proficiency scores, but what can you ...


eduwonkette's First COWAbunga Award!

A few weeks ago, Kent Fischer started a great feature on his Dallas schools blog called "Comment Of the Week Award," also known as "the Golden COW." Starting today and every week thereafter I'll follow his example and give the COWAbunga Award to an insightful, interesting, or funny comment on this site.This week's COWAbunga Award goes to two comments, one serious and the other satirical. The first was by Margo/Mom, a terrific regular contributor to this site, who responded to skoolboy's post on America's academic standing in the world. Regarding whether other countries offer "well-rounded" educations, Margo/Mom ...


A New Slogan for New York City: "Reach Out and Test Someone"

A week ago, you submitted 47 slogans for the New York City Department of Education, and I picked one to illustrate. The winning slogan comes from Gary Babad, Chief Satirical Officer at the NYC Public School Parents blog. Congrats Gary, and thank you to everyone who contributed a slogan!...


skoolboy Goes to the Olympics

skoolboy has always found Olympic medal counts by country to be silly. Sure, it's fine to take pride in the accomplisments of one's countrymen and countrywomen. But the Olympics for me are about appreciating excellence, regardless of the flag (or swoosh) on the uniform. Ah, but student achievement! That's a horse race of a different color. We have a venerable tradition dating back at least to A Nation at Risk of comparing the academic achievement of U.S. schoolchildren to the performance of kids in other countries. The Olympics serves as a quadrennial site for seeing how we measure up ...


Olympic Edu-Fencing! The Bob Wise vs. Fordham Edition

It's still a day until the opening ceremony, and the edubloggers have already lined up on the starting line (though without their oxygen masks, it seems). Over at the Alliance for Excellent Education, former West Virginia governor Bob Wise announces his planned reporting on our academic standing in the world. And it seems that all of that smog has gone to his head. Here's an excerpt:Many of the athletes coming here have trained to compete against their foreign counterparts. This is like America’s high school students, who also prepare for many years, and they also must now compete ...


Cool People You Should Know: Suet-Ling Pong

Regular readers know that eduwonkette was an early endorser of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education policy statement crafted by Sunny Ladd, Pedro Noguera, and Tom Payzant, and co-signed by some of skoolboy’s favorite scholars, policymakers and activists. The fundamental premise of the policy agenda is that efforts to advance student’s learning and development need to combine policies intended to improve schools with policies designed to transform the social and economic contexts in which children and youth develop. The approach is described as broader and bolder because it postulates that school improvement—which includes holding schools accountable for ...


An Unchanged NYC Achievement Gap Hits the Papers (Plus, Joel Klein's Postmodernist Turn!)

With her article on New York City's lack of progress in closing the achievement gap, Elizabeth Green demonstrates once again that's she the sharpest and most inquisitive education reporter in New York City. I'm pretty sure she's the second coming of Josh Benton, formerly of the Dallas Morning News, who wowed us all with his analyses of original data.Bottom line: Three NYC professors – Bob Tobias (NYU prof who ran the NYC testing department for 13 years), Howard Everson (Fordham prof and advisor to New York State Ed.), and Aaron Pallas (TC prof) – all agree that there’s not much ...


New York City Achievement Gap Round Robin

Check out these links on the NYC achievement gap dust-up:1) All Tricks, No Treats: Head over to the National Review Online, where dataman Robert VerBruggen takes a stab at the NYC state achievement gap data. In Has NYC Discovered the Trick for Closing the Achievement Gap?, he writes:That question has important ramifications for college admissions and affirmative-action policies. The schools claim the answer is yes....as yours truly will further argue in the ridiculously long post after the jump, that doesn't appear to be the case.2) Madonna Revenge: Achievement gap virgin Mike "Milli" Petrilli argues over at ...


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