LIMNING THE DATA FROM THE LATEST NAEP TUDA! Again, Charlotte-Meck does just OK in a trial assessment: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2005
WHO WE ARE: Bob Herberts column in this mornings Times gives us a look at who we are. Herbert discusses the views of Paul Shroeder and his wife, Rosemary Palmer; their son, Lance Cpl. Edward Shroeder, was killed in Iraq this past August. Corporal Shroeders parents oppose the war; in this, they may be right or wrong. But note the remarkable qualification Herbert felt he had to include:
HERBERT (12/5/05): In Mr. Shroeder's view, President Bush's war policies have been both tragic and futile...How primitive is the mind of contemporary humans, at least inside the American discourse? Three years into this conversation, Shroeder and Herbert both feel, quite correctly, that they have to include that highlighted statement. The need to include this obvious statement shows us something about who we are; in particular, it shows how weak and primitive our thought processes are. But yes, we humans really are just this dumb—if we judge from the goony discussions which pervade talk TV and talk radio.
You can criticize the war and support the troops! Shroeder and Herbert still feel they must say this explicitly. And why must this obvious statement be made? In part, because mainstream journalists have sat and stared while pseudo-con hacks have made a joke of our discourse. Yes, the human mind can be very weak—and in certain upper-class press corps preserves, the human heart is rather weak too.
LIMNING THE DATA FROM THE LATEST NAEP TUDA: And yes, thats actually written in English! Last week, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released the results of its 2005 Trial Urban District Assessment (TUDA). On Friday, David Herszenhorn reported the results in Gothams Times, in this New York-oriented piece. Since weve been assessing the Charlotte-Mecklenburg system in the past few weeks, well focus on Charlotte-Mecks scores in this most recent NAEP TUDA.
How did Charlotte-Mecklenburg do? You must be careful in assessing these data. Remember, Charlotte-Mecklenburg is a sprawling, urban-suburban system. For purposes of this NAEP study, Charlotte-Meck is an urban district—but its much less urban than other districts involved in the study, with a much less impoverished student population. In this years grade 4 math assessment, for example, here are the percentages of students who receive free or reduced-price lunch:
Students receiving free or reduced-price lunch, 2005 NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment (grade 4 math)On the whole, Charlotte-Mecklenburg kids are much less poor than kids in these other urban districts. In most categories, comparing Charlotte-Mecklenburg to these other districts is a clear case of apples-to-oranges.
Yes, its tricky to compare Charlotte-Mecklenburgs black kids to Chicagos black kids; Chicagos black kids may be much poorer. (Theres no way to tell from the NAEP data.) Presumably, though, one comparison would be somewhat less tricky. How did Charlotte-Mecklenburgs low-income students fare, compared to low-income kids in the other districts? That is, how did kids who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch perform on the various measures? Even this comparison is tricky (more below). But given the data which NAEP provides, it seems to be the only comparison which is even imaginably valid.
So: How did Charlotte-Mecklenburg fare among kids who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch? In 2003, Charlotte-Meck had modest success among this group (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/18/05). In the new 2005 assessment, Charlotte-Mecklenburg does better than most other districts among these lower-income kids. But again, its performance is mixed.
In the Trial Urban District study, NAEP tests reading and math, in grades 4 and 8. Among lower-income kids, heres how Charlotte-Mecklenburg fared:
Results among students receiving free or reduced-price lunch, NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment, 2005Among these eleven districts, Charlotte-Mecklenburg scored near the top on the grade 4 tests—and in the middle at grade 8. Remember: This involves performance by the various systems lower-income students—by students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
Does this performance suggest that Charlotte-Mecklenburg has been working a small revolution in public schooling—a small revolution with enormous implications for public schools nationwide? We would suggest that, while Charlotte-Mecklenburg would seem to be a perfectly decent system, those claims from the web site of Making Schools Work qualify as a bit of hype. But readers should absorb one more warning. Even the comparisons offered above may involve some apples-to-oranges.
In the comparisons were offering here, were comparing Charlottes lower-income students to lower-income students from the other trial districts. But uh-oh! The criterion used here (free or reduced-price lunch) is a fairly crude measure. Kids dont have to be very poor to qualify for reduced-price lunch. On a state-by-state basis, NAEP reports the percentage of kids who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Here are the figures for ten states:
Percentages of public school students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, 2005 NAEP dataQuestion: Are Charlottes lower-income kids as poor as those in Chicago or Atlanta? More specifically, among the kids were discussing here, might Charlotte have a higher percentage of reduced-price kids, and a lower percentage of truly impoverished, free lunch kids? Theres no way to tell from the NAEP data. For this reason, this NAEP criterion is a fairly crude measure. If we really want to know how these districts compare, we would likely want to get more potent measures of student poverty.
But alas! In general, American newspapers like to tell pleasing tales; theyre much less drawn to hard information. Tomorrow, well show you how a few newspapers have handled the fairly murky info from this latest, inconclusive NAEP TUDA.