Friday, December 14, 2007

Why NYC Private School Kids Drink Frappuccinos

Edudiva and others asked for more analysis on NYC private school attendance (prior posts here and here). Below is a map displaying the proportion of K-12 kids that go to private school by neighborhood. Thanks to my friend "soupa prof," this map makes it easier to see which NYC neighborhoods send high proportions of K-12 kids to private school. (Click on the map below to enlarge.)

NYC K-12 Private School Enrollment by Census Tract, 2000
In the map below, soupa prof also marked every Starbucks location in Manhattan with a green dot. If we adopt education policy's traditional logic - i.e., correlation equals causation - we can conclude that going to private school starts kids down the crooked path of frappuccino consumption.

Manhattan K-12 Private School Enrollment and Starbucks Locations

Or! Maybe Starbucks locate in affluent neighborhoods - as Ms. Frizzle has noted, peppermint mochas and crack are about the same price. Thanks to skoolboy, here's a graph plotting the percentage of students attending private school in a given census tract against median family income. The graph shows a remarkably strong relationship between the two; the correlation is .85.

In short, the Benjamins explain the frap addictions of our well-heeled NYC kids.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Three to Read While the Weather is Icky

1) Take the New Yorker's Rudy quiz. I'll help you with one question - former schools Chancellor Rudy Crew (and animal enthusiast?) said this about the other Rudy:

He is not bound by the truth. I have studied animal life, and their predator/prey relations are more graceful than his.

2) Two on merit pay: Prea Prez on Bushwick Community High School's rationale for rejecting merit pay and Teaching in the 408's thoughts on how merit pay could work.

3) Malcolm Gladwell's review of James Flynn's new book, What is Intelligence?

Ed Schools Eat Children, Kill Puppies

Big shoutouts to my man A-Rus for his post on Whitney Tilson's bile-laden assault on Linda-Darling Hammond. According to Tilson, "She is about as bad as it gets in terms of education reform." He sums up by writing:

I think that Linda Darling-Hammond is little more than a thinly disguised shill for the teachers unions and that her ideas, if adopted, would likely result in much higher spending and little or no improvement in our schools.

This isn't the first time Tilson has gone after ed schools. Apparently, from a screening of "Two Million Minutes" at Harvard Grad School of Ed., we can generalize about all graduate schools of education: "What a pathetic collection of Mad Hatter's Tea Parties these schools are!" (See Bob Compton's posting and Tilson's commentary here.)

Edu-profs - I guess the cat is out of the bag: Linda Darling-Hammond is heading up your coven. And her wicked rules? All ed school grads have to memorize the Communist Manifesto and stop shaving their legs. At convocation, they sacrifice an investment banker, drink his blood, and then kiss Reg Weaver's ring. And then the real Mad Hatter's Tea Party begins...

In all seriousness, it would be more productive if ed reformers learned to critique and play with a modicum of civility. (See "Attack the ideas, not the idea haver" here.)

If you want to read something more thoughtful about ed schools, try David Labaree's The Trouble with Ed Schools, which attempts to explain why ed schools are everyone's preferred punching bag. But he's part of the coven (Stanford Grad School of Ed), too, so beware.

Just Desserts and School Closings

School closings are the mystery dessert of the ed reform menu. We don't know a lot about it, but it sounds really good. Or at least different.
In looking around for evidence to include in this post, I was astounded by just how little we know about reconstitution.

By reconstitution, I refer to closing schools and reopening them in the same building with the same kids, but potentially different faculty and a different principal. It appears this is the game plan for the elementary and middle schools that will be closed. (This, of course, is different than what's happened in NYC small schools, where an extensive school choice system means that new schools reopen with different kids, different staff, and different principals.)

So what have researchers who've studied reconstituted schools concluded? The best paper that I found is by University of Maryland researchers Betty Malen and colleagues, who studied reconstitution in Maryland. They outline the assumptions of reconstitution plans, i.e.: 1) that reconstitution will bring in a more talented and committed principal and faculty, 2) that changes in the composition of the faculty supports the process of redesigning the school, and 3) that these redesigned schools ultimately improve student achievement. Malen et al. concluded that none of these assumptions held up. In particular, they found that there weren't a cadre of super teachers waiting in the wings to take jobs at the hardest schools.

Studying reconstitution in Chicago, Fred Hess came to a similar conclusion: "Reconstitution did not prove to be a successful school improvement strategy." (Hat tip to Mike Klonsky and George Schmidt for helping me understand reconstitution in Chicago.) The University of Maryland's Jennifer King Rice put it best in her article when she wrote:

Our analysis found school reconstitution to cause far more disruption than meaningful redesign of school policies and practices. Our findings suggest that policymakers should consider carefully the potential negative effects of reconstitution and whether they have sufficient resources to effectively support the policy before relying on this approach as a mechanism for school improvement. A common assumption in many low-performing school communities is that any change is better than no change at all. We would argue that such an assumption is not justified. The reconstitution initiative that we studied is a good example. School reconstitution did not enhance school capacity for reform, but rather depleted resources, leaving troubled schools more troubled than before being reconstituted.

Like jalapeno chocolate mousse, reconstitution may sound good in theory - even tempting. But as the cognoscenti have waxed about Max Brenner, not everything should be made into a dessert.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about another side of the reconstitution issue - that is, does the threat of school closure lead to improvements? - and will then take a look at some of the NYC data next week.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Where NYC's Gossip Girls (and Boys) Are

Earlier, I posted the percentage of NYC K-12 kids attending private school by Community School District, but let's get specific. From which neighborhoods do NYC's private school kids hail? Here's a fun pre-Gossip Girl teaser. Not like I watch it or anything.

You'll want to click on the image below to enlarge; darker blue regions mean that higher proportions of K-12 kids are enrolled in private school. The legend is at the bottom of the map. If you'd like a better copy of this image, email me.

NYC K-12 Private School Enrollment by Census Tract, 2000

The three census tracts in Manhattan with the highest proportions of K-12 kids enrolled in private school can be found at the following addresses. No shocker, but they're all on the Upper East Side:

1) East63rd-70th between 5th and Park : 87.6% of K-12 kids attend private school

2) East 58th-63rd between 5th and Park: 87.5%

3) East 91st-96th between 5th and Park: 86.0% (This is the census tract of the GG school, which is on 93rd, east of 5th Ave.)

(Note: These are the top three census tracts in Manhattan of those that have at least 25 kids enrolled in K-12. There are actually 5 census tracts in Manhattan where 100% of kids are enrolled in private school, but there are only small numbers of kids enrolled in K-12 in these tracts- i.e. less than 25.)

Many thanks to skoolboy for the data and to soupa prof for the map; one of these two edu-boys (skoolboy) will be making a guest blogging appearance in the not-so-distant future.

Gossip Girl Meets GIS: Private School Enrollments in NYC

Based on a series of novels by an Upper East Side private school survivor, "Gossip Girl" is a new teen drama that details the lives of the "rich and the popular" teens on the Upper East Side. It's certainly not high art, but all the hype got me wondering what proportion of NYC K-12 kids go to private school by neighborhood.

The 2000 Census includes data on school enrollment - and with the help of skoolboy (thank you!), who processed these data, here's what I found out:
  • In 6 of the 32 community school districts, 25% or more of the K-12 students are enrolled in private school. These districts are marked in green below. (Sorry about the ramshackle map - no time for GIS tonight.) In Manhattan's District 2, a whopping 43% of all K-12 students are enrolled in private school. Other heavy private school districts include Manhattan's District 3 and Brooklyn's districts 14, 20, 21, and 22.

  • In 11 of the 32 community school districts, 15% - 25% of the K-12 students are enrolled in private school. These districts are marked in blue below.

  • For the blue/green colorblind, see the table below which lists the percentage of K-12 students enrolled in private school by district.

Percentage of K-12 students Enrolled in Private School by
Community School District
(green>=25%; blue=15.0-24.99%)

And for anyone who is curious, here is a write-up of "Gossip Girl" in the New Yorker and the trailer:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Closing Time (or, Oops! I Did It Again.)

Yesterday, NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein wrote an op-ed in the New York Post ("Closing Time") outlining the rationale for closing schools in NYC. Klein explained:
Starting in 2002, we began phasing out and shutting down schools that had a history of failure. These decisions...were an acknowledgement that the schools weren't remotely educating students - and that they weren't going to get better on their own.
To demonstrate the success of prior school closings, Klein provides us with the example of Bushwick High School in Brooklyn:
Bushwick HS had a graduation rate of just 23 percent. We replaced it with four new small schools, which now make up what we call the Bushwick campus. Last year, the new schools had a combined graduation rate of nearly 60 percent -almost triple what it once was. The students literally paraded through their neighborhood in June, demonstrating the pride that they feel for their schools and their community.

If the intent of school closings is to clear out the students who previously attended the "failing school," replace them with higher performing students, and declare victory, Bushwick is a marked success.

The tables below compare the incoming 9th grade students at Bushwick High School with the incoming 9th graders at the small schools that took Bushwick's place. Bushwick stopped taking 9th graders through the formal admissions process in September of 2002, but continued receiving "over the counter students" (OTCs)- students who have not been placed in any school, who are transferring, or who arrive in the middle of the year - in the 2003-2004 school year as well. Zoned schools like Bushwick represent combinations of the formal admissions process students and OTC students; while the small schools do receive OTCs, the proportion of the student population comprised by these students is much smaller.

How was the old Bushwick different from the schools that replaced it?
  • The most notable differences include the ELL population and the percentage of students who come into 9th grade proficient in reading and math. Bushwick 9th graders were 30.6% ELL, while in their first year, the new small schools served between 19.5 and 26% ELL. Even more drastically, 83% of the Bushwick OTC kids were ELLs.

  • On most other indicators listed in Table 1 below, the Bushwick 9th graders were lower performing than the 9th graders attending the new small schools. This is particularly true of the Bushwick OTC students.
Table 1. Characteristics of Incoming 9th Graders at Bushwick Campus
(click to enlarge)

  • Though the small schools are supposed to serve more ELLs as they grow, Table 2 below demonstrates that they are actually serving fewer ELLs over time. By September 2005, the small school 9th graders were between 14.8 - 17.5% ELL; recall that Bushwick served 30.6%.
  • Table 2 below shows that the second year classes (04-05) at the Bushwick small schools are significantly more advantaged than the first year classes. (The more disadvantaged population of the first class is a result of the small schools missing the first round of the admissions process in their first year, leaving them to choose from lower achieving students.)

  • While the last Bushwick 9th graders had fewer than 10% of students proficient in both reading and math, the Harbor School had 20.2% proficient in reading and 45.5% in math in 2004; the Academy for Urban Planning 9th graders had 24.1% proficient in reading and 22% in math. Even when the percentage of proficient incoming students drops in 2005, they are still much more likely to be proficient as 9th graders than the Bushwick students were.

    Table 2. Characteristics of Incoming 9th Graders at the Bushwick Campus, September 2004 and 2005

This is an "oops! I did it again" moment for the Department of Education. As I wrote in a previous post, the DOE already made this mistake by declaring victory at Evander Childs in the Bronx.

Can the DOE out-oops Britney? We'll see.

Monday, December 10, 2007

If only I had my invisibility cloak...

Philissa at insideschools reports that Jim Liebman could have used an invisibility cloak at the City Council Report Card hearings today. Patrick Sullivan posts additional details, and the NYT weighs in here.

Sounds like a youtube sensation in the making. Cloaks and jokes aside, see my prior posts about NYC report cards for more serious insights (archived here).

Do Value-Added Models Add Value? A New Paper Says "Not Yet."

Value-added models are all the rage. Last week, the Gates Foundation donated 4.5 million to Houston to fund value-added measurement of teachers' effectiveness and to award bonuses based on teachers' "value-added." Similarly, NYC is developing a system to provide value-added estimates to principals to aid in tenure decisions; last year, Dept of Ed official Robert Gordon suggested that up to 25% of new teachers should be dismissed based on such estimates. In other words, districts are planning to make significant decisions based on these measures.

A formidable challenge to value-added models is the issue of non-random assignment of students to teachers. (See longer posts about this issue here and here.) If students were randomly assigned to teachers, differences in their students' performance could be cleanly attributed to something the teacher did. Accurately measuring the effects of teachers would require this type of assignment.

Of course, students are not randomly assigned to teachers. Parents do not mindlessly flip a coin and leave their child’s placement with a bad teacher up to chance; we know that principals and guidance counselors often heed parents’ wishes in the teacher placement process. Parents aside, we also know that principals non-randomly assign kids to teachers based on their sense of which teachers are good with certain kinds of kids.

My central point here is this: if assignment is non-random, some teachers will spuriously appear to be doing much better than others. And spuriousness is an ugly problem to have on your hands when teachers' incomes and jobs are in question.

Jesse Rothstein, a Princeton economist whose work I've written about before, wondered just how big of a problem non-random assignment is for value-added models. He had a clever idea that I will call the "back to the future hypothesis." Rothstein reasoned that students' future 5th grade teachers cannot have causal effects on their 4th grade achievement gains. In other words, the future should not be able to predict the past if students are randomly assigned to teachers.

In an elegant new paper, Rothstein finds that 5th grade teachers - teachers in whose classes 4th grade students have never sat - have effects on students' 4th grade gains almost as large as their actual 4th grade teachers. That's pretty good evidence of non-random assignment.

Needless to say, this is very bad news for the folks hoping that value-added models will give them an accurate and reliable measure of individual teachers' performance. Read the whole paper at the link above.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Cool teachers you should know: Toni Molnar-Port

Toni Molnar-Port is a 9th year Biology teacher at Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey. Born and raised in Trenton, Ms. Molnar-Port's commitment to her hometown led her to take a job at the high school she attended.

Her colleague reports that Ms. Molnar-Port emphasizes experimentation and laboratory work in her classroom. As a result, her students come to see themselves as "scientists in training." One of her favorite units is environmental science, in which she takes students to the local marsh to collect and test specimens of all kinds. During her summers, Ms. Molnar-Port has coordinated and led a science camp for middle school girls from Trenton and Philadelphia.

Ms. Molnar-Port is not only an expert teacher herself, writes her colleague, but "the kind of teacher that you are always grateful to have down the hall. Whether you are pulling your hair out or celebrating a small victory, she's the go-to person for support." She is known at her school for reaching out to new teachers to provide mentoring, and is currently hosting two student teachers.

Her advice to new teachers? Ms. Molnar-Port provided this excerpt from a guide for new teachers that she wrote with a colleague:
1. Build relationships — get to know your students, their families, your colleagues, and your school’s local community. Think of the time spent building these relationships as an investment, one that will pay off for both you and your students. People are experts in their own lives, and their insights may have valuable implications.

2. Search for your students’ strengths—it is very easy to make a list of things people don’t know or can’t do. Find opportunities for all students to be successful. Make sure you provide opportunities for your students to demonstrate to you what they already know and can do. Once you know this, building upon these strengths often comes naturally. Labels can help identify some students for extra support, but all too often they become the lens through which we view someone. Resist this temptation.

3. Examine your own perspectives, and understand those of others—try to look at what you teach and how you teach from someone else’s point of view. What messages are you sending, intentionally and unintentionally?

4. Include students' own experiences as a springboard to learning whenever possible; this keeps the content relevant and allows students to make important contextual connections.

5. Consider that learning to teach is a lifelong process—approach your teaching with questions that relate to your goals. Keep track of the things that you’d like to improve or change, and follow through.

6. And most of all, be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to make mistakes, and ask others to allow you to set things right when you do. Extend this courtesy to your students as well. If they came to us perfect, we’d hardly need to teach them at all.
Keep up the good work, Ms. Molnar-Port!

You can nominate a "cool teacher you should know" by emailing me at eduwonkette (at) gmail (dot) com.

This week: Closing Schools

Last week, the New York City Department of Education announced that it will close 13 schools based on the schools' report card grades. This week, I'll discuss the theory of action behind closing schools, explore the evidence on school reconstitution/closing, and analyze some of the NYC data.

Tuesday: Closing Time (or, Oops! I Did it Again.)

Thursday: The Theory & the Evidence

Coming soon: Fun with data