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
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
one spreadsheet and released it on September 12, 2013. They
also created a new handy, dandy web tool to see suspension
rates by district.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
I was just playing around with the recently updated data on the
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
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
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.”
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 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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