A fascinating blog post, “Does Poverty Cause Low Achievement?“, by Richard Rothstein of the Economic Policy Institute cautions researchers against using poverty or family income when crunching numbers to come up with education policies. He argues that poverty in and of itself doesn’t cause low achievement. And flawed educational research conclusions have been made by using poverty in data analyses.
Granted, there are far more dire consequences to the federal government shutdown that this. But it’s really hard to write for the blog this week. The Census website, where you can find school district and funding data, is down.
As is the National Center for Education Statistics.
One of the most widely used math curricula in elementary schools, Investigations in Number, Data, and Space, also known as simply “Investigations” or by its developer’s name, “TERC,” was found to underperform three other elementary school curricula. The three that performed better were Math Expressions, Saxon Math and Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley Mathematics (SFAW), also known as “enVision” Math.
I was surprised to see this article by Christopher Cousins in the online version of the Bangor Daily News, “Data from schools show widespread use of restraint and seclusion, b….” Cousins reports that 800 of Maine’s 185,738 students were restrained at schools during the 2012-13 academic year in order to deal with their emotional outbursts. Often, the students have special needs.
The College Board, which administers the SAT, issued a report yesterday (September 26, 2013) bemoaning that only 43 percent of SAT takers in the 2013 graduating class were college and career ready. That means 57% are not ready. What does that mean? The College Board set an arbitrary cut off, that is a 1550 SAT score, above which students have a 65% probability of obtaining a college grade point average of a B- or above.
The New America Foundation on Sept. 24, 2013 released 2012 state and school district pre-kindergarten data, which the think tank says has never been published before. Their Funding Per Child widget allows users to see which districts in a specified state spend most and least per child on pre-K.
Dave Levin, co-founder of the KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) network of charter schools, has a lot to be proud of. His schools, which focus on inner-city minority students, are now operating in 20 states and producing admirable test results and impressive numbers of college graduates.
The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) released preliminary findings from a national survey of nearly 450 K-12 district technology leaders from 44 states on September, 16, 2013. Of course, the survey missed about 12,000 school districts and likely, the ones that responded might be more technologically advanced than many that didn’t. But I was struck that 57% of the elementary schools, and 64% of the secondary schools report 100% of their classrooms have wireless internet connectivity.
Anyone who cares for or knows a disabled child has likely wondered how to educate that person to lead a productive adult life. Is it best to educate the child in a conventional classroom, mixing disabled with non-disabled together? Should parents be more involved in a disabled child’s education? Depending on the severity of the disability, should the child be pushed to prepare for college or be tracked into a technical career? The questions go on and on.
The Center for Civil Rights Remedies, part of The Civil Rights Project at UCLA, aggregated publicly-reported school disciplinary data into one spreadsheet and released it on September 12, 2013. They also created a new handy, dandy web tool to see suspension rates by district.
Aimee Rogstad Guidera founded the Data Quality Campaign in 2005 as a temporary advocacy group to get every state to set up its own longitudinal data system by 2009. Today, every state has a data system that tracks students from kindergarten onward.
(edited for length and clarity)
Q: Why didn’t you go out of business after you accomplished your original mission?
A new Institute of Education Sciences study conducted by Mathematica found that middle and high school math teachers from Teach For America and the TNTP Teaching Fellows programs were as effective as, and in some cases more effective than, other math teachers in the same schools. It’s a note-worthy finding because TFA teachers are often criticized for not having enough teaching experience.
Bill Roberts writes in The Idaho Statesman on September 13, 2013 that teachers throughout the state of Idaho are unable to make good use of a much heralded Schoolnet data system because test score data arrive months too late and because some of the data is riddled with errors.
One teacher reported that she “never got test scores from April’s Idaho Standards Achievement Test last May as she expected. She didn’t see the scores on Schoolnet until fall – too late to examine them for lessons for that new school year.”
I was away on vacation and asked our newest Hechinger Report writer, Aisha Asif, to fill in. She interviewed RAND’s Laura Hamilton, who argues that states should wait a couple years before judging teachers’ performance based on the new common core test scores. But Hamilton acknowledges that few states will be able to do that. I also found it interesting that Hamilton rejects the conventional wisdom that it can be more accurate to average several years of student test scores when evaluating teachers. – Jill Barshay
Sam Boonin is the vice president of products at Zendesk, a software company that collects online inquiries from customers and turns them into support tickets. Zendesk’s software is used by more than 30,000 companies and institutions, from Sony and Adobe to Twitter and Groupon. And so Boonin decided to sift through the customer satisfaction surveys to see which industries are doing the best job in solving customer problems.
Karen Gross, President of Southern Vermont College, has an interesting piece on vtdigger.org on why it’s not a good idea to judge a university or college by its graduation rate and the prospective earnings of its graduates.
The National Center for education statistics reports that only 6 percent of undergraduates earn money through work-study programs. Yet 71 percent receive some sort of financial aid, such as grants or loans.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report in July, complaining that charter school data is so incomplete that it could not determine whether charter schools are avoiding non-English speaking students. “Specifically, for over one-third of charter schools, the field for reporting the counts of ELLs (English Language Learners) enrolled in ELL programs was left blank,” the report summary said.
Searching the internet for recipes, academic papers or ex boyfriends is easy. But if you’re a teacher looking for a lesson plan, a textbook excerpt, or a fun brain teaser to share with your class, good luck.
Since President Johnson’s War on Poverty Program in 1965, policy makers have been trying to equalize education spending across the United States. The lofty goal is for schools with lots of poor students to have access to the same resources that schools with rich kids have. But researchers and advocates for the poor have pointed to loopholes in Title I funding that effectively allow affluent schools to operate at higher levels of funding than low-income schools.
Here’s another data puzzle I’ve been thinking about. Why is it that more and more kids have college educated parents, but high school test scores are not improving? In 1978, only 32 percent of the parents of 17-year-old students had obtained a college degree. In 2012, 51 percent of the parents of 17 year olds had a college education. That’s a gigantic 59 percent jump in parental education. Why isn’t it making a difference?
Early warning systems to detect high-school drop outs are all the rage in education data circles. See this post on a new early warning system in Wisconsin. Like the Wisconsin example, most data systems focus on identifying middle school students. But what if researchers could use grades, attendance and behavior data to identify at-risk students as soon as possible — as early as first grade?
In the Spring of 2013 Wisconsin tested a a data-driven early warning system that can identify which middle-school students are at risk-for dropping out of high school. After 5800 students were identified for teachers and counselors to work with, the principals of these schools were surveyed on whether they were already aware that these students were having trouble. With regard to most of the these students, the answer was, “yes”. The principals knew about them before the data told them.
But principals admitted that some of the students were not on their radar screen.
I was surprised to read on Jessica Bennett’s tumblr blog that male sources outnumber female sources on the front page of the New York Times, even on the subject of education. Technology, politics, sure. But shocking that there are 8 male sources for every 3 female ones, when 76 percent of teachers are female.
Inside Higher Ed reports that a pilot group of 18 colleges are stumbling to release data on their education outcomes and post-graduation employment. “(T)he holes in the data were too large,” writes Inside Higher Ed’s Paul Fain, in explaining delays to the Gates Foundation-funded Voluntary Institutional Metrics Project.
Fewer students are enrolled in private schools and there are fewer private schools in the United States than there were two years ago. That’s according to the latest private school data, released on July 9, 2013 by the National Center for Education Statistics.
I was just playing around with the recently updated data on the College Affordability and Transparency Center, and I was struck by how many smaller liberal arts colleges are among the most expensive four-year private non-profit institutions. I expected to see more universities with expensive graduate departments and science labs.
Here’s a bit of data that confirms what we already suspect. According to a 2012 survey by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), fewer than 20 percent of 17-year-old high school students (19 percent to be exact) say that they read for fun on their own time almost every day. That is the lowest percentage since NAEP began asking that question to U.S. elementary, middle and high school students. Back in 1984, more than 30 percent of 17 year olds said they read for fun every day.
Is U.S. high school a wasteland? Or are teenagers getting a better education today than they were 40 years ago? That’s a puzzle offered in a release of national test scores on June 27, 2013 by the National Center of Education Statistics.
The obesity rate among college graduates is significantly lower than for high school drop outs or those with only a high school degree. This obesity gap exists not only in the United States, but also in 23 other countries around the world, according to a new data report, Education at a Glance 2013, by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released on June 25, 2013.
The Australian teaching system has long been revered in the United States. Even today Aussie is the biggest professional development consultancy in New York City. Back in Australia, the government is trying to use data to track the teaching profession more closely. A first annual data report on the teaching profession was recently released in May 2013 that looks into what kind of people go into teaching.
I was just starting to poke through the National Council on Teacher Quality’s first Teacher Prep Review, published June 2013, which makes a data-rich argument that the nation’s teacher training programs are admitting some of the weakest students in the nation and spewing out unprepared teachers at the end. I was struck by how few of the nation’s most prestigious and famous teacher training programs were in it.
A controversial 2009 law in India outlawed the practice of holding failing students back and making them repeat the entire year of school in classes 1 through 8. In India, it’s called “detention” and at least one student union staged a protest this Spring to bring detention back, arguing that automatic promotion undermines academic quality and standards.
A New York Times front page story and a Lumina report released Thursday, June 13, 2013 examine the sharp increase in college graduates. In 2012, more than a third of young American adults (25 to 29 years old) had at least a bachelors degree compared with less than 25 percent in 1995. That’s a 36 percent jump.
Schools are kind of like Congress. Most people claim they hate Capitol Hill, but they like their own representative. Similarly, people say the U.S. education system is broken, but they like the school that their kids go to. I’ve been doing alumni interviews for Brown for more than 15 years and my first question is always, “So, how do you like your high school?” One would think this is an opportunity to show off some critical thinking. But the answer is invariably something like, “I love it. My school is great.”
The MIT Technology Review posted, “As Data Floods In, Massive Open Online Courses Evolve,” on June 5, 2013. Writer Tom Simonite reports that both Coursera and Udacity data show that “a large subset of students who prefer to skip videos and fast-forward as much as possible.” Udacity is already restructuring courses to reduce the amount of video and is rerecording old videos.
A math curriculum that reduces how much new content elementary students are exposed to each day was found to be effective, according to an analysis by Mathematica Policy Research. Mathematica looked at two studies that focused on Saxon Math, a curriculum designed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
The New America Foundation, a non-partisan think tank in Washington headed by Anne-Marie Slaughter, is calling for more federal funds and school time for teachers to use student data to change how they teach. The report, “Promoting Data in the Classroom,” written by Clare McCann and Jennifer Cohen Kabaker, was published on June 4, 2013.
A May 28, 2013 blog post from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation by Micah Sagebiel notes that after a decade of collecting and analyzing education data, since the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, that classroom instruction is no better for it. So far, all this education data has mostly been used for “accountability” purposes, that is, to show how bad teachers are or how little students are learning.
Last week on May 23, 2013 the Global Partnership for Education launched an Open Data Project that consolidates education indicators from 29 developing nations, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The World Bank Development Data Group and the aid data organization Development Gateway are supporting it. The data posted so far is uneven and scanty. For many nations, a lot of data is not available.
Poverty is getting so concentrated in America that one out of five public schools was classified as as a “high poverty” school in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Education. To win this unwelcome designation, 75 percent or more of an elementary, middle or high school’s students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. About a decade earlier, in 2000, only one in eight public schools was deemed to be high poverty. That’s about a 60 percent increase in the number of very poor schools!
This just in: colleges are unable to rein in their costs and keep hiking their tuition bills. For in-state students at public 4-year universities, tuition and fees increased 7 percent after adjusting for inflation between this academic year (2012-13) and the 2010-2011 academic year. During the same period, tuition and fees at all 4-year nonprofit institutions increased 3 percent (to about $24,300), again after adjusting for inflation.
New York City may spend more per student than most districts in the United States ($19,597 during the 2009-2010 school year according to the U.S. Census), but one education scholar’s number crunching shows that the city’s schools are underfunded.
In a May 3, 2013 HuffPo story, ‘We’re Number Umpteenth!’: Debunking the Persistent Myth of Lagging…, Alfie Kohn takes issue with the conventional wisdom that American students are slipping behind their peers abroad. Kohn is partly right. The international ranking tables are largely a reflection of how much poverty you have in your nation. Countries with the lowest poverty levels rise to the top. Countries with the highest poverty levels sink to the bottom.
Correcting mistakes may be an essential part of a good education, but that doesn’t apply inside the branch of the U.S. government that compiles and keeps education statistics. Indeed, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) knowingly leaves in errors that are discovered two to three years later. And then this error-ridden data is used by education policy makers to make decisions.
It’s a myth that “bullying” at schools is a worse problem today than in the past, according to a task force report released on April 30 commissioned by the American… Indeed, major categories of bullying, such as being threatened by a weapon on school grounds have remained stable — between 7 and 9 percent — between 1993 and 2009. The percentage of high school students who say they’ve been in a physical fight has declined fro
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.