The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette devoted a significant amount of real estate in the Sunday newspaper to some number crunching by the Walton-financed school reformers up at the University of Arkansas.
Over two pages, every school in Arkansas was reduced to a single number, an average percentile score on a national standardized test, the Iowa test. The ranking showed that scores vary widely by school, even within districts. This wasn’t exactly a surprise. School districts are not filled with fungible students, all created and distributed equally.
To me, the most significant part of the reporting was contained in a smallish sidebar on the third page of the three pages devoted to the numbers. In it, one of the UA faculty was quoted in the third paragraph as saying something that sharply devalued everything that had gone before. The ranking in the two-page chart, Gary Ritter said, was “darn close” to a ranking of students by their families’ income. It was another duh moment, but nonetheless welcome that it was noted in the statewide paper.
You can get to a fuller recapitulation of the test data, plus minority enrollment and the poverty index for each school at this link. The UA researchers have further crunched the numbers to show where schools perform better than expected based on family income, but I don’t yet have a link to that analysis. It is a comparison that could cause some discomfort, or at least alter perception a bit. Follow along if you will: