There’s renewed scrutiny around what Secretary of Education Arne Duncan accomplished in his previous position as head of the Chicago Public Schools. Andrew Coulson writes over at Cato about what his sleuthing has uncovered:
So to get a reliable measure of Duncan’s impact, I pulled up the 4th and 8th grade math and reading scores for Chicago on the National Assessment of Educational Progress — a test that is much less susceptible to massaging by states and districts. I then compared the score changes in Chicago to those for all students in Large Central Cities around the nation, and tested if the small differences between them were statistically significant. Not one of them is even remotely significant at even the loosest accepted measure of significance (the p <>Chicago students did no better than those in similar districts around the nation between 2002/2003 and 2007, a period covering virtually all of Duncan’s tenure in Chicago.
This would be all well and good, and we could trust Coulson’s excellent analytical skills. Or we could trust the analysis that the National Center for Education Statistics has already done on the same data. Back in December, when Duncan was only a candidate for his new job, I wrote about what they found:
Since Duncan took over in 2001, Chicago has made statistically significant progress in fourth and eighth grade math and fourth grade reading scores. They’re up across all subjects and grades for low-income students, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners (ELL). Low-income students narrowed achievement gaps in all but fourth grade math, while students enrolled in special education and ELL students closed gaps in both eighth grade subjects….The racial achievement gaps have not narrowed as much as we’d like, but blacks are scoring higher in 3/4 categories and Hispanics on all four.
These achievements, while not dramatically amazing, are pretty solid, and Duncan deserves credit for more than adequately steering the nation’s third largest school district.