Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Growing math gap is quirk of labels

I've often said data seldom provides clear answers about education, though it can help people ask better questions.

Latest example:  The case of the growing math gap.

When Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools released its 2011 school progress reports this week,  Carol Sawyer was shocked to see that in elementary schools,  "the disparity between racial/ethnic groups in math"  had jumped from 22.9 percent to 32.5 percent.  Sawyer,  a member of Mecklenburg ACTS and an advocate for disadvantaged students, didn't think that looked right,  given that the socioeconomic gap in math was virtually unchanged.  Was it a CMS typo, she asked?

CMS data guru Chris Cobitz says his first thought was that she must be right.  None of the earlier analyses had shown a big slump in minority math performance;  in fact, CMS fourth-graders logged an exceptionally strong showing on the National Assessment of Educational Progress math exams last year.

But it turned out there was another explanation.  For the first time this year,  CMS carved off Pacific islanders as a separate ethnic group.  In 2009-10,  those students had been counted as Asians,  who traditionally perform well on exams.  So the 2009-10 "racial/ethnic disparity"  was based on the gap between pass rates for black and white students,  he said.  In 2010-11, the very small number of Pacific islanders logged the lowest overall pass rate,  so the latest racial/ethnic gap was based on the difference between them and white students.  The black-white gap showed little change, he said.

Cobitz says questions about the data are helpful,  not only to the concerned citizens who are confused but to CMS leaders trying to paint a clear picture.  "We want the feedback," he said.  Stay tuned for reporting on some other questions raised by the reports,  concerning graduation projections and teacher evaluations.


Anonymous said...

Lies,Damn Lies and Statistics

That is what the dufus cohort of Cobitz, Baxter, and the rest of the overpaid "communication" department is. It is a constant shell game that the employees have known and now the public is seeing through the smoke and mirrors. This systme has lost the trust of EVERYONE.

Wiley Coyote said...

The ends to which government will go to massage the data is sickening.

It's the same is not including "Hispanic" in much of the Census data.

By the way, where are Hispanics in all of this?

Native Americans?

Do we have any Alaska Natives that moved to the area we've taken out of the data?

Folks, if you believe one iota of data coming out of CMS, I have some prime bottom land I'd love to sell you!

Anonymous said...

Great! Now we will have a Pacific Islanders initiative. CMesS will send aministators in droves to spend countless hours on this research (that they have apparently created) with unlimited amounts of taxpayer funds to support how in the world will we reduce this achievment gap.

Data guru my A$$

Anonymous said...

Is there an explanation as to why the ethnic/minority achievement gap is defined as the difference between the very lowest performing group (which in this case is a apparently a very small number of students) and the highest performing group? That makes no sense as it gives a very skewed picture of what's going on. Gaps should be clearly labeled by the ethnic group being used for comparison (I think they always have been before). Of course, a large unlabeled gap probably will panic some and fuel demand for more money and programs

Good for Carol for recognizing that something was wrong rather than assuming that minorities scores had dropped precipitously in the past year.

Sharon Starks

Anonymous said...

SOP (standard operating procedure for educrats), change the definitions of the groups and therefore invalidate all past measures.

Seems this sets the stage for BOCC to extract $10 million per year from CMS to set up an independent commission for goals, measures, effectiveness of spending on extra programs, etc.

Anonymous said...

Ann, is someone going to be able to report on overcrowded classes again this year?


Anonymous said...

Lets make this perfectly clear. Overcrowded classes are in the suburbs.Lets hire more testing and communication people.

There should not be any administrators or educators hired that do not teach at least ONE class.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 9:41...

What do you consider overcrowded?

Which schools?

Anonymous said...

Overcrowded are classes with over 30 students in them.

Some classes in the suburbs have over 40.

Anonymous said...

Overcrowded, in my opinion, is anything over 24 students (urban elementary schools often have 18-22 students per class) in elementary. Anything over 30 in middle and high school.

Wiley Coyote said...


There are no elementary schools in CMS with over 20 students per teacher.

There are no middle schools with over 21 or more students per teacher.

There is 1 high school with more than 30 students per teacher; Cato Middle Colleg, which has 141 students and 4 teachers, The next highest S/T school is Renaissance School at Olympic.

Are there some individual classes with more than 30? Most likely, but the student/teacher ratios reported by CMS don't bear out overcrowded schools.

Take that info with a grain of salt or a shot of tequila.

I'd take the tequila.

Anonymous said...

HIGH SCHOOLS, eh Don Quervo

BolynMcClung said...
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BolynMcClung said...
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Anonymous said...

Mint Hill Middle School has more than 30 students in most classes. That's over crowded in my book.

BolynMcClung said...



Ann reports Pacific Islanders were carved out of Asian/ Pacific Islanders. But the reference below is from the CMS website:

“..Under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the measure for school and district achievement is referred to as Adequate Yearly Progress or AYP. This is the minimum level of academic improvement schools and districts are expected to meet. Achievement is tracked for the school as a whole, as well as each of the following subgroups within a school:

·Native American/Pacific Islander
·Economically Disadvantaged
·Limited English Proficient
·Students with Disabilities …"

Bolyn McClung

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 6:26...

This from the latest data released this week by CMS:

School....S/T Ratio(Computed)(H/Q)

455 MINT HILL MIDDLE....18.4

Like I said. Always question the data if it doesn't look correct.

Some think I'm crazy because I always do.

About $22 million per year is spent on 3,000+/- pre-K students in Bright Beginnings, yet they have not produced any evidence/data since 2000 the program is worth the money spent on it.

Since pre-K is not mandated and the vast majority of parents take care of pre-K needs for their own children, think how far $22 million would go to help alleviate classrooms with 30+ students in them....

...just one example.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't just question their data, but their statistical analysis as well.

I know it's tough sledding, but they sure are slinging around a lot of assumptions in their calculations.

And I would seriously question any analysis where the size of the groups they are comparing change in any dramatic way.

Simply because of the fixed (.82 .92) regression fudge factor they use.

I suspect those values were based on some regression analysis but not for every population.

Due to this, their formula for expected change in individual student scores seems wrong.

It is a formula better used for comparing groups not individuals, especially those scoring among the highest and lowest scores (extremes).

I am fairly sure their regression value is too small for those at the extremes.

But since that affects individuals more than groups, I doubt that they really care much.

I just wouldn't want my "performance" to be judged this way.

Fortunately, it isn't.

Anonymous said...

"In 2010-11, the very small number of Pacific islanders logged the lowest overall pass rate, so the latest racial/ethnic gap was based on the difference between them and white students"

It's interesting how a relatively "small" group mixed in with the Asians made such a big difference.

Has anyone verified whether or not the "Hispanic/Latino" numbers are correct or not.

The reason I ask is that in crime reporting (generally for those who have already left school), there are a LOT of criminals who get counted as "white" who are actually "Hispanic/Latino".

In fact, that may even be what they label themselves (as is often the case for people from the Dominican Republic).

To me a person named Gonzalez or Dominguez is "Hispanic/Latino", but if you look at the arrest records, they are often counted as "white".

Does the same thing happen at CMS?

How do we know it doesn't?

Where are the "ethnicity police" that enforce this?

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there some directive put out recently by the Department of Education that is going to have Hipanic and whatever else like that counted as white because they are non-black?

That will remind of the good ole days at CMS when you were either black or non-black.

By the way, the achievement gap by de facto standards is between blacks (who define themselves as such) and whites (who defines themselves as such like caucasians). Once again, educrats appear to be fudging the definitions and the population to invalid the use of the data when challenged to justify results with extra expenditures.

Anonymous said...

Wiley Coyote 7:43 AM - my kids go to MHM. There are WAY more kids in the AP classes than 30. What a useless statistic. Maybe the general population class where Bubba goes are lower, but not the higher level classes.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 11:30...

As I have said a number of times in various responses to articles, I am sure in a number of schools throughout the district there are more than 30+ students in classrooms.

As I also said, you have to take the data with a grain of salt and make of it what you will.

Personally, I believe having 30+ students per class in AP classes isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Afterall, those students most likely will be going to college where some classes could be double that.

Ann Doss Helms said...

I've been reading but not weighing in -- hectic day. The question about class size is interesting. I had the same reaction as Wiley to the student-teacher ratios in the per-pupil spending report. They really aren't terribly high at any school. But averages don't indicate what's happening in every class, and many can be quite large. My guess is ratios will get much better (as in fewer students per teacher) for this school year, because of the surge of hiring and because the closed schools had some of the lowest student-teacher ratios, which means there were more teachers to move into new settings. But as many have noted, there are still large classes this year.

Anonymous said...

I have been in the suburb high schools:

30+ in the core classes
35+ in elective classes
45+ in pe classes

Call the principal of the high schools and ask the simple question of how many classes at the school have 30+ in them. As a taxpayer you and I have the right to know. Dont believe the damn lies and statistics. Have you seen the boondogle that has emerged this week from the data reports!!! Thank you Ann for finally not taking the shell game as an answer and doing some solid investigating for a change. The public will not stand for the smoke and mirrors anymore.

Anonymous said...

Wiley, I think the important point about class sizes was made in the newspaper article at Mallard Creek HS. First physical classrooms are only so large so you can only get so mnay desks in them. In the Mallard Creek story, students were having to sit on the floor due to lack of desks because you can only get so many desks in the room. So CMS has creatd a safety and fire hazard with rooms so cramped, the teacher can not even move around to help indivdual students.

That is my complaint with large pupil classrooms. What has not been identified yet is that what has caused this has been exodus of many experienced high end teachers and so the same number of students must make do with fewer teachers. Larger classrooms, lessor planning periods.. etc. is the norm.

Wiley Coyote said...

To Anon 7:56 and others....

I agree that there are classrooms with more than 30 in them, as I have previously stated, but my intent is to get people to question the data as I do.

Look at the big picture. Look at how much data just this week Ann and other have uncovered that is false or suspect.

How can CMS run ANYTHING when they have no clue as to what the data really says?

The biggest lie and data boondoggle is the school lunch program that I constantly harp on.

I hope people will begin to see that all this adds up to one huge mess.

Data needs to be streamlined and actionable, where any child of three can look at it and understand it.

The old saying "SISO" applies to CMS on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

Chris "Data Guru" Cobitz

Garbage in Garbage out !!!!!!!!!!!