Did States Race to the Top?

Oct 29, 2015 by

SUMMARY STATEMENT OF ARTICLE:

In sum, based on a quick, preliminary study of NAEP data from many states that received funds to participate in the Race to the Top program, it appears that no state raced to the top or anywhere near the top over the past six years. Indeed most of the studied states not only failed to keep up the pace of previous progress but also were in most respects altogether flat in their achievement trajectories.

I repeat one more time: this is a first look at data. It has generated a strong and worrisome hypothesis. I welcome other and deeper looks.

From an eyeball review of the trajectory of National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores in the states that received the most funding for Race to the Top, it would be very hard to argue that states raced to the top or anywhere close to the top. The far better case is that most participating states raced nowhere.

I recognize fully that eyeball analyses are extremely imperfect and that there are far more sophisticated tools that must be used to come to definitive conclusions. I invite those who have, and are good at using, such tools to assess the matter here. But one thing eyeballs are good for is developing hypotheses. And one clear hypothesis jumps out at the eyeballs from the data.

And this is the hypothesis of this piece: the states who received the greatest support from this program in no way raced to the top, if such a race is measured by progress on the NAEP. Flatness is the single word that best characterizes the trajectory of subgroups in these states on 4th grade reading and math and 8th grade reading and math.

There are some minor exceptions to the trend, which will be noted, but states generally didn’t even keep up the pace they were on prior to 2009. And, in most respects, the funded states failed to make it to or near the top. Indeed, even worse, for most, progress stalled altogether, with results in 2015 generally no better than results in 2009.

What this means and how this happened are not the subject of this essay, though such questions ought to be addressed in a most serious and sober way. This essay is purely about describing “the race” itself as a failure and putting forward the further hypothesis that nothing appeared to happen generally in the past several years to make it show any signs of success by 2015.

As I mentioned above, the “methodology” here is an eyeball review of graphs on the Nation’s Report Card of the trajectory of scale score for Black (B), Hispanic (H), and White (W) students from 2009 to 2015 in the grades and subjects mentioned. If the reported scores are within a narrow band of approximately two points either way on either end of that period, a note is made that the results are flat. If there is a gain or loss of less than approximately five points, a note is made that the gain or loss is slightly up or down. If the gain or loss is approximately five points or more over the period, a note is made that results are up or down, as appropriate.

Hearing a variety of moaning, but respected researcher friends in my head, I want to state the big caveat again: I KNOW this is rough. I KNOW its imperfections. Please test out my hypothesis, if you want to confirm or deny. Do remember I have set a low bar for myself. I am not attempting to make any sort of case at the margins. I’m simply saying that Race to the Top saw virtually no state race to the top of anything, or anywhere near the top, but rather saw virtually all funded states pretty much racing nowhere. That’s the contention I am laying out; so, if one is to be rebutted, if a rebuttal is in order, it would be that assertion.

Here are the states that were reviewed and the observations for them:

1. Delaware

  1. 4th grade reading – B and H slightly down; and W flat.

B.  4th grade math – B, H, and W flat.

C.  8th grade reading – B down; H slightly down; and W flat.

D.  8th grade math – B, H, and W slightly down.

II.  Maryland

  1. 4th grade reading – B and W flat; and H down.

B. 4th grade math – B and W slightly down; and H down.

C. 8th grade reading – B, H, and W flat.

D. 8th grade math – B slightly down; H flat; and W down.

III. Tennessee

  1. 4th grade reading – B flat; H up; and W flat.

B. 4th grade math – B, H, and W up.

C. 8th grade reading – B slightly up; H up; and W slightly up.

D. 8th grade math – B flat; H and W slightly up.

IV. Georgia

  1. 4th grade reading – B up; H slightly up; and W slightly up.

B.  4th grade math – B and H slightly up; and W slightly down.

C.  8th grade reading – B flat; H slightly up; and W up.

D.  8th grade math – B, H, and W flat.

V. Massachusetts

  1. 4th grade reading – B flat; H slightly up; and W flat.

B.   4th grade math – B slightly down; H and W flat.

C.   8th grade reading – B, H, and W flat.

D.   8th grade math – B slightly down; H and W flat.

VI. Florida

  1. 4th grade reading – B slightly up; H flat; and W slightly up.

B.   4th grade math – B, H and W flat.

C.   8th grade reading – B, H, and W flat.

D    8th grade math – B down; H flat; and W slightly down.

VII. Ohio

  1. 4th grade reading – B flat; H down; and W flat.

B.   4th grade math – B down; H up; and W flat.

C.   8th grade reading – B flat; H slightly up; and W flat.

D.   8th grade math – B, H, and W flat.

VIII. North Carolina

  1. 4th grade reading – B, H, and W up.

B.    4th grade math – B slightly up;  H and W flat.

C.    8th grade reading – B flat; H slightly down; and W flat.

D.    8th grade math – B and H flat; and W down.

IX. New York

  1. 4th grade reading – B, H, and W flat.

B.    4th grade math – B down slightly; H and W flat.

C.    8th grade reading – B flat; H up; and W flat.

D.    8th grade math – B flat; H up; and W slightly down.

In sum, based on a quick, preliminary study of NAEP data from many states that received funds to participate in the Race to the Top program, it appears that no state raced to the top or anywhere near the top over the past six years. Indeed most of the studied states not only failed to keep up the pace of previous progress but also were in most respects altogether flat in their achievement trajectories.
I repeat one more time: this is a first look at data. It has generated a strong and worrisome hypothesis. I welcome other and deeper looks.

Source: Did States Race to the Top? – Sandy Kress | Weebly

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