Since the NAEP results were released last week, there has been a good deal of what, at best, can be called incomplete information in newspapers and elsewhere. I want to give you the facts. The facts are not uniformly positive, but, generally speaking, this is a story of good progress that is consistent with the overall picture.
Here is an overview of the facts:
The NY Times article has a clear graphic displaying the state test versus NAEP discrepancy. (This is a larger problem that Fordham has dubbed the "proficiency illusion.")
Suddenly, when it's time to talk about reading, all comparisons are made with respect to 2002. I want to give you the facts: this is because there are no gains when you compare the 2007 scores with the 2003 scores.
3) Whether black-white and Hispanic-white achievement gaps are closing depends on how you look at it.
Let's take 4th grade math as an example. Viewed through a certain lens, Klein is correct to say that the achievement gap is closing. If you look at the percentage of white students at or above basic in 4th grade math and compare this with the percentage of black students at or above basic, the white/black gap has shrunk 10.4 points (from a difference of 29.5 to 19.1) since 2003.
But if you compare the percent of students at or above proficient, the black/white gap has actually grown from a gap of 30% to a gap of 33%. Hispanic kids have gained slightly on white students (by 2%). On the other hand, the white-Asian, black-Asian, and Hispanic-Asian gaps have all grown significantly. The black-Asian gap in the percentage of students at or above proficient was 35% in 2003; by 2007, it is 45%.
Klein, not unlike Bush, is a true believer; he's sure he has the policy toolbox to fix NYC's schools. And I do believe that his commitment to educational equity is genuine. Ironically, it is the strength of this commitment, coupled with his belief that his policies represent the one "true way," that makes him either unwilling or unable to reckon with the hard facts. But at the end of the day, empirical evidence should trump one's fanatical faith in particular policy solutions.
The New York City Dept of Ed has demanded "data-driven decision making" from its educators, but is now asking us to deny the data. NYC leaders see what they want to see, and they expect us to follow suit. Selective cognition, though, is dangerous stuff in policymaking. For the sake of the kids involved, let us hope that those running the Department of Ed will begin to look at all of the evidence and evaluate their policies accordingly.