Forget about measuring student outcomes. Can we even measure student numbers? A couple of weeks ago, I started pulling data from the NY Times website that displays the citywide testing scores (I was interested in exploring the relationship between poverty and test scores at a finer resolution than I had previously).
Here’s the problem: the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) numbers–the ones the federal government uses–and the state numbers don’t agree. I’m not referring to educational outcomes: they don’t even have the same number of students. Let’s look at New York City. The NCLB numbers* state that NYC has 939,317 students. But if you look at the K-8 test data, NYC has 1,116,427 students. At best, only one of these numbers can be correct. If anything, we might expect the numbers to be the other way around: some students won’t take the exams, or aren’t counted in the aggregate scores (e.g., learning disabled students).
But we shouldn’t have more students taking tests than are enrolled.
What’s insane about all of this is that we are using these data to determine if teachers and principals should be fired, if schools should be closed. And we can’t even get the same (or even similar) student numbers.
This is some educational reform, I tells ya.
*As best as I’ve been able to determine, these are the NCLB data.