Sep 25 2012

New Orleans: Joke Of The Day

I almost feel bad for these guys.  My sense is that they so want to believe that their reforms are working that they view every score release through this lens and they don’t even realize how pathetic they are.

In this latest press release they call their AP results a ‘surge’ because the number of students ‘taking’ the AP went up by 17% while the NUMBER of students (NOT the percentage) getting a 3 or better went up by 18%.  Do they realize that this is meaningless?  Those percentages are basically the same number, which is what you’d expect.

At least they had the decency to include a link to the College Board’s summary.  Here are some statistics quoted directly from the report:

Key Highlights
• Louisiana’s percentage of AP Exam participation increased in every subgroup.
• The percentage of students participating in AP Exams increased by 17.4% since 2011 and by 68.8% over the last five years.
• While more students are participating in AP courses and taking more exams in 2012, Louisiana’s percentage of scores of 3 or higher
has held steady at 43%.
• While the percentage of exams with scores of 3 or higher has increased among Black test takers, the 18% success rate is well below
the national average for Black students.

So the percent getting a 3 or higher has ‘held steady’ at 43%, which is extremely low.  Yes, I guess the reasoning is that they are letting more students take it, which should bring their scores down as they let the riff-raff in so ‘holding steady’ is something to celebrate, but 43% is awful, and 18% of Black students getting a 3 or better is also not something to celebrate.  Out of 1,516 Black test takers, that’s 374 who got a 3 or better.  Keep in mind that as more and more schools force their students to ‘take’ the AP as it artificially makes the schools look better with more test takers, it has gotten much easier to get a 3 since the test is graded on a curve based on how the testing pool does.

Another statistic that the press release fails to mention is that for the SAT, the combined mean score for Black students has gone DOWN by about 120 points compared to five years ago, approximately 40 points for each section.

They had graphs for all three SAT sections.  Here is the math one, though the others are similar.

The corporate reform movement ‘needs’ New Orleans to succeed.  Though they can spin the numbers all they want and brag about increasing the number of test takers, it is pretty clear that they have no evidence of success.  I really don’t know why reporters out there don’t look into this themselves.  I mean, I know that I’m a savant when it comes to this kind of thing, debunking this latest claim in about 30 minutes, but couldn’t a reporter down there spend a few hours looking into this?

6 Responses

  1. TeachmyclassMrMayor

    They don’t cover it, because either their bosses (isn’t almost all media owned by Murdoch, or does it just seem that way?) won’t let them…or they are also in the tank for the “reform” movement, like Jonathon Alter, and others.

  2. Jacob (CM '00)

    I don’t follow your argument, Gary. Participating in an AP class and doing well is a great indicator for being ready for college level work. If you increase the % of students taking APs without reducing the percentage of students who are doing well, it provides one data point that supports the idea that more of your students are ready for college level work. Changes in median test score are often likely to be driven by changes in the composition of who takes the test, so in the case of the SAT, you would want to know how the percentage of students taking the exam changed over the same period.

    • eminnm

      I don’t think anyone, even the most hardcore reformers, are pointing at this Louisiana stat and saying, “Aha! Our work here is done!” But I’m with Jacob, if more kids are taking a rigorous test and more kids are passing it, even if it’s only proportionally the same percent of kids passing, that seems like a good thing to me. Also, that SAT stat is for the whole country, no? Hard to find one lacking based on the other when the sample population is not entirely the same.

      • skepticnotcynic

        No, I actually don’t think it’s a good thing, because you are focusing on things that do not matter when it comes to elevating kids out of poverty. The more emphasis you place on exams like these, the more tradeoffs you have to make in actually working with disadvantaged students to provide them skills that will make them marketable in a world where most jobs do not give a crap about your AP and SAT scores. The world only provides you an income and security if you have skills that are wanted or needed by others. AP and SAT scores are a luxury for those who have been reared in supportive homes where parents emphasize education. They are also meaningful for those who come from low-income communities who have the potential and work-ethic to survive in more rigorous courses. Even some of my naturally bright students who have the ability, do not belong in my AP courses, since they are unwilling to put in the effort or have the discipline to survive in these courses. For most students, in order to do well in AP courses you need to be reasonably intelligent and have a decent work-ethic. If you struggle a bit with the content and lack the skills to be in the course you have to make-up for this deficiency through shear grit and determination. Therefore, we should not be putting students in these courses just because we want to raise meaningless data to justify the careers of people who do not have the slightest idea how to educate children. The last thing I want in my classroom is more students who neither want to be there or have the ability to be there because of some ridiculous and half-ass attempt to raise academic standards in this country.

  3. Steve M

    A 43% passing rate in low SES urban and rural schools is actually not that bad. I think you’ve become a bit too used to seeing higher AP scores. However, what is happening to African American students’ average SAT scores is quite alarming, as it has occurred over a period of only five years.

    Has Louisiana dramatically increased the number of AA students taking the SAT over that time (and thus account for the drop as lower achieving students now take the test)? Or, has there been a true drop in AA students’ overall performance?

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By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

Region
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Subject
Math

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