Blog: Education by the Numbers
There’s a provocative online opinion piece, No Rich Child Left Behind, posted April 27th on the New York Times website by Stanford education professor Sean Reardon. His analysis of test-score and income data leads him to conclude that the achievement gap between the richest and the poorest has grown 40 percent worse over the past 30 years. The rich are now outpacing the middle class by as much as the middle class outpaces the poor.
Yet another study seems to indicate that white and Asian middle-class families benefit more than minority and lower-class families from open enrollment programs where students can choose to go to public schools outside of their neighborhoods.
Anyone interested in how data science might transform education should read The Dirty Little Secret of Big Data Projects. David Dietrich, an impressive data geek consultant at EMC’s education unit who’s been involved with a big data lab at MIT, wrote that 80% of your time on a data project will be spent on the tedious, unsexy task of cleaning up the data.
The national debate over making student and teacher records more accessible is playing out in the state of Florida. Last week (week of April 8th, 2013) the Florida Senate voted to consolidate education records in a single, online database. It’s still far from becoming law, but the debate is quite similar to the one over the new inBloom database.
At the end of March, the Hoboken school board voted to increase taxes by 4 percent to pay for the school budget, which spends $23,716 per student, the second highest in the state of New Jersey. It struck me how much school spending has changed since I went to school, when wealthier districts consistently spent more on education than poor districts. In New Jersey, for example, the state kicks in money to help raise the performance of 31 poor communities.
A new national database of personal student information understandably has parents and privacy advocates alarmed. As reported elsewhere, the new inBloom database houses information on millions of school children from nine states and includes names, addresses, telephone numbers, disciplinary records and learning disabilities.
There’s been a surge in the number of high schoolers taking college classes, and it’s not the nerdy bright kids anymore. That’s the takeaway from some new data tables published by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) that were publicly released in March, but dated February 2013.
The fetishization of data has hit both education and journalism. And that’s why I’m starting this datablog. My aims are many. I plan to list and summarize which data sets and studies are available on certain education topics as a resource for journalists and other lay people. I’d like to write about interesting people who are crunching education data. And I will write about new data studies or stories about the use of data. At times, I will try my own hand at some data analysis and graphs.