Monday, August 27, 2007

The Educational Color Line in Montgomery County

The recent discussion on schools at Esrati, For the Love of Dayton and the excellent Dayton Daily News "Get on the Bus" blog led to me to surf into the Ohio Department of Education website, which turns out to be a great resource for information, as they publish all sorts of info, available for download in Excel format or as .pdf.

If one is so inclined one can run one's own numbers on school districts, both as comparisons, and as time series, as data goes back to 2001 (depending on the level of detail). The near term data has demographic shreds and sub shreds, and has it down to the school building level, which is pretty granular. The data is suppressed for confidentiality purposes for small counts (which is what the census does, too).

Since there was a bit of controversy about a Fairborn officials remarks that the black students scores lowered his districts overall score, I decided to look at racial composition and comparisons, which in this area is pretty much black and white, as other "racial' groups like Asians and Latinos are not in large numbers, under 10% in all cases, and under 5% in most cases.

Starting out with some basic demographics of the student population, showing black and white percentages for the various school districts in Montgomery County (I only looked at Montgomery here). What's interesting is the relatively high percentage of blacks in districts one would not thing of having a minority presence, such as Huber Heights and Northmont. And also how lily white western Montgomery County is.

Then looking at some scores by school grade and "race” for math and science and reading and writing, for the Dayton school district, as it has been in the news so much. These are the percent of students testing at or above proficiency for the various subjects, at different grade levels...

What is striking here is the relatively high scores for the 11th grade, across the board. What would account for that one wonders?

Were these high school students better prepared, or have the poor performers dropped out by the 11th grade, and we are seeing just the better students?

And there is also that drop in the 4th to 5th grade math scores, where these cohorts are testing a lot worse than the younger kids, and the older age groups. Maybe something up with that test?

Now lets take a look at black students' scores in districts having a larger amount of black students, comparing between districts

It seems all over the place, but note Northmont. Northmont is one of the top three districts in Montgomery County, achieving an unqualified "excellent" rating on the recent report card, and one can see black students scores in this district are pretty high relative to other districts with significant amounts of black students. Also, that 4th-5th drop in math scores one sees in Dayton appears in the suburban districts as well.

Getting back to the Fairborn officials' complaint. Do blacks drag down scores? It depends on the district. I took the average of the percentages for both white and black students for all grade levels, and then subtracted to find the gap between white and black scores. Note that this could be either a gap either way. For example in Trotwood-Madison white students under perform black students in certain subject for certain age cohorts. One sees this in other districts, too.

So a smaller gap would show that the district is doing a good job teaching both blacks and whites, while a higher gap shows less of an equality of outcomes, where one group is not being brought along at the same rate as the other.

Again, Northmont ranks the best, with the smallest gap between racial groups, and does this without lowering overall scoring, as it has a higher % of black students yet ranks higher on the school report card then some "whiter" districts.

I am not a social scientist, so this is just a seat-of-the-pants interpretation. I do think its interesting to see how Dayton's 11th grade proficiency is really not too bad, given the bad press we have been hearing.


Greg Hunter said...

Great Analysis Jeffery. Love data collection and crunching.

Unknown said...

Does your last chart showing the "gap" correlate with median income by race? I.e., is there higher median income for black households in the Northmont school district and lower median black household income in Dayton, etc.?