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Thompson: Gentrification Caused DC Test Score Increase, Says Merrow

KayaBy now, when any struggling school system continues to issue claims of dramatic gains in student performance, one would assume that those claims would be ignored. 

Until systems like Washington D.C. produce gains on the reliable NAEP assessments for students other than those at the top, one would think that it’s annual boasts about increased learning would draw yawns. 

John Merrow, in A Story about Michelle Rhee that No One Will Print, reaches the common-sense conclusion that D.C.’s latest improvements are largely due to gentrification.

He then cites the following results:

Aiton Elementary School’s DC-CAS scores went down again, from 19.1% in 2012 to 15.9% in 2013.  Its composite math/reading score is below the performance level preceding Rhee’s appointment.

Noyes Education Campus, the epicenter of the erasure scandal, scores continued to decline, from 32.4% to 29.8%.

Ron Brown Middle School declined from 27.1% to 24.7%;

Shaw Middle School’s scores fell from 32.3% to 28.6%;

Garrison Elementary dropped 15.9 percentile points, from 47.8% to 31.9%;

Dunbar High School, once the District’s flagship high school, DC-CAS scores went from 23.7% to 17.3%. 

JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.


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from twitter:

.@drjohnthompson @alexanderrusso In short, you're spreading demonstrably false statements about DC efforts, progress, and record.
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ericlerum 11:12am via TweetDeck
.@drjohnthompson @alexanderrusso where DCPS couldn't improve fast enough, supported growth of high perf charters to serve more students
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ericlerum 11:10am via TweetDeck
.@drjohnthompson @alexanderrusso Created youth engagement office, addressed chronic & systemic issues facing over-age, under-credited youth.
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ericlerum 11:09am via TweetDeck
.@drjohnthompson @alexanderrusso Modernized learning environments across every ward in city.
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ericlerum 11:06am via TweetDeck
@drjohnthompson @alexanderrusso Those served over 25,000 students, targeting highest need wards & schools.
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ericlerum 11:05am via TweetDeck
@drjohnthompson @alexanderrusso Dep Mayor's office started 7 evidence-based programs to address social, emotional, behavioral issues.
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ericlerum 11:04am via TweetDeck
@drjohnthompson @alexanderrusso Blended Head Start funding w regular pre-K (1 of 1st in country to do it) to expand reach of those services
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ericlerum 11:03am via TweetDeck
@drjohnthompson @alexanderrusso Also false. Ensured arts & music reached every school in city. Expanded pre-K.
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ericlerum 11:00am via TweetDeck
@drjohnthompson @alexanderrusso Paul Peterson debunked gentrification myth back in 2011.
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ericlerum 10:56am via TweetDeck
@drjohnthompson @alexanderrusso Gains not nearly as large as they need to be, but there is no doubt poor & of color students saw gains.
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ericlerum 10:55am via TweetDeck
@drjohnthompson @alexanderrusso Scales scores in math up across the board as well during same period. Largely flat in reading.
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ericlerum 10:54am via TweetDeck
.@drjohnthompson @alexanderrusso False. Proficiency rates from 07-11 for poor, AA, His students went up for grades 4&8, math & reading.

Wow! Thanks for the compendium.

I'd already responded to Lerum's misstatement of Paul Peterson's mistatement regarding the National Research Council. The NRC made the same case that Merrow and I do, but Perterson rejected it due to its supposed leftwing bias.

Merrow wrote:
The most disturbing effect of Ms. Rhee’s reform effort is the widening gap in academic performance between low-income and upper-income students, a meaningful statistic in Washington, where race and income are highly correlated. On the most recent NAEP test (2011) only about 10% of low-income students in grades 4 and 8 scored ‘proficient’ in reading and math. Since 2007, the performance gap has increased by 29 percentile points in 8th grade reading, by 44 in 4th grade reading, by 45 in 8th grade math, and by 72 in 4th grade math. Although these numbers are also influenced by changes in high- and low-income populations, the gaps are so extreme that is seems clear that low-income students, most of them African-American, generally did not fare well during Ms. Rhee’s time in Washington.

Lerum wrote that Paul Peterson, when refuting the analysis of education expert Alan Ginzburg and the National Academy of Science, also refute Merrow’s and my analysis. Peterson did no such thing. He and Lerum, apparently, misunderstood that the numbers studied by NAEP went up from an unusually low percentage of low-income students (63%) to the still low sample of 70%.

That was a change in the SAMPLE. It was not evidence that gentrification doesn’t exist or that it hasn’t raised test scores.

In fact, NAEP confirms Merrow’s and my common sense interpretations regarding test scores. From 2002 to 2011, for 8th grade reading, which I’d argue is the single most important metric, scores for the 75th percentile and up went up by 5 points. For the bottom 25 percentile, scores went down 11 points. During that time, the gap between non-low income and low income students increased from 17 to 32 points.


I could continue to go back to previous NAEP reports and find more examples of how 8th grade reading improvements before Rhee were mostly, but not completely concentrated at the top, but after Rhee they were completely limited to higher performing students.

Before Rhee, Duncan famously said, D.C. schools had more money than god. Rhee benefitted in a 20% per student increase in funding. Had Rhee concentrated on investing those resources on the program that Lerum now promotes, I bet she would have seen more improvements than Vance and Janey.

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