The test results: Lots of numbers, not much light.
Sacramento Bee. Aug.29,2007.
Peter Schrag has a long history of commenting on public education. He is well informed. He has not demonstrated an understanding of “Voices in the Classroom,” nor the teachers day to day reality, but he does understand public policy at the state and national level.
His column of Aug.29, in the Sacramento BEE argues that the tests results provide lots of numbers, not much light.
Correct. The numbers do not tell you much, particularly averages with claims of proficient, basic, etc.
According to Shrag,,
“it's still true that, over all, middle class students do far better than the economically disadvantaged. In English, 60 percent of nondisadvantaged students score at proficient levels or above compared to 29 percent of economically disadvantaged students. In math, it's 52 percent vs. 31 percent.”
Schrag says, overall. I am not certain what scores he is looking at. But, according to his report there is a 60% proficient as compared to 29% proficient. It seems that is 31% difference.
So, I looked up the scores by race. I chose to look at 4th. Grade English Language Arts. For Economically disadvantaged 24% are proficient. For advantaged, 29% are proficient.
On the same test, Black children scored 24% proficient compared to White students 29% proficient.
Given these differences, which do you work on? (Hint, you can’t change race but you can change poverty). As evidence, between 1959 and 1973, the U.S. poverty rate was reduced from 22.4% to 11.1 %. Concerted government effort can reduce poverty.
While we can not change race, we can attack racism including institutionalized racism that establishes different expectations for groups of students. In California the primary instruments for resisting racism in k-12 have been taken away from us: Prop.209, Prop. 227, and the virtual abolition of multicultural education under the pressure of standards and accountability. What remains is culturally responsive pedagogy.
And, “there was no overall score change from 2006 to 2007 in the percentage of students rated proficient in math…”
Now, I may not understand these scores. I invite others to explain what I am missing. But, it looks to me like we should acknowledge the racial differences and work on the class differences.
Yes, we should look for explanations of the racial differences- but we know what causes the class differences. And, we are not addressing these differences. It almost seems as if we are talking about the racial differences to avoid fixing the class differences. After all, that would cost money.
I am not diminishing the racial differences. But, if we are not working on the class issues, what do you think we are going to do with the racial differences? And, the racial difference theories are speculative and with very limited firm data. I am familiar with the literature on these differences. They are reviewed in my book. ( the same name as this blog) Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education. (2004) I am currently working on the 4th. Edition.
Kent State : After 45 Years
11 hours ago