Favorite

The law of averages 

The Democrat-Gazette loves to banner the news when the Little Rock School District falls below "average" on one standardized test or another. Last week, the five-column headline said Little Rock (and North Little Rock) fell below the national average on a new test of basic skills. Stories on such averages always remind me of the man with one foot in a bucket of ice and the other in a bucket of boiling water. On average, his temperature is about right. As the D-G's excellent education reporters more or less acknowledged down in their story, averages aren't a very good way to judge an unusual school district. The Little Rock District is 70 percent black. Black students, here and everywhere, lag far behind white students in standardized test scores. Little Rock also has a higher percentage of students who live in poverty. Even George W. Bush's underfunded No Child Left Behind program recognizes that an assessment of school district achievement requires a study of subgroups. A new website, www.schoolresults.org, is beginning to offer such information nationwide. It might surprise the bash-Little-Rock crowd. All testing data is not complete, but every Arkansas high school has reported the reading proficiency of 11th graders. How did my kids' high school, Little Rock Central, do? On average, middling. At Central in 2003, 46.6 percent of the students were at or above a proficient level in reading. That's slightly below average against the nation, but somewhat better than the 42.2 percent figure for all Arkansas students. It compares poorly, however, with the averages for the suburban schools to which many white families have fled and with the heavily white high schools of prosperous Northwest Arkansas. Or does it? Following are some comparisons of several high schools, with the percentage scoring proficient in reading broken down by race. Where NA is given, there are too few black students to provide a meaningful figure.
School    Overall  White  Blacks  
LR Central46.677.418.7
Bentonville68.472.1NA
Bryant64.766.3NA
Cabot47.750.2NA
Conway47.553.829.2
So there. A white Central kid reads better than other white kids. Central's black kids are significantly outperformed in Conway, though Central blacks score above the state average of 16.8 percent. Even these conclusions are unfair, of course, without taking home situations into account. Never mind fairness. The people obsessed with school testing intend such data to provide the basis to "fail" schools when any subgroup doesn't perform up to standard. It won't matter that, in the case of black students, there's been a universal failure to close the racial gap. The final goal is to justify vouchers or their functional equivalent, unproven charter schools run by private organizations with tax dollars. You can be sure most of the "new" schools won't target the tired and poor and homeless. A new Little Rock charter school chose West Little Rock as its home and wealthy Chenal Valley as a prime recruiting target. This shell game will enrich some charter school operators and might even help a few kids Tens of thousands more needy students will be starved of resources. On average for the public school haters, that will be just about right.
Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Robert Curfman

  • 50th Anniversary Commemoration

    Our video coverage of the event; nine short videos highlighting some of the speakers.

    Click Here to view the collection.
    • Sep 25, 2007
  • Zell comes to the aid of his party

    The following is a letter John Kerry ought to have sent last week to Zell Miller after Miller regaled the Republican National Convention with snarly, spiteful, angry and dishonest attacks on Kerry, made all the more enjoyable for the wildly cheering Republican delegates by the fact that Miller is a Democratic senator from Georgia.
    • Sep 9, 2004
  • Crazy like a Fox

    Want to get a rise out of someone at KLRT Fox 16, debugging the town’s only one-hour newscast? Just mention the word ‘failure.’
    • Aug 12, 2004
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Neighborliness, in Little Rock and beyond

    I had a parochial topic in mind this week — a surprise plan by Mayor Mark Stodola to address the Arkansas Arts Center's many needs.
    • Nov 19, 2015
  • Bootstraps for me, not thee

    Mean spirit, hypocrisy and misinformation abound among the rump minority threatening to wreck state government rather than allow passage of the state Medicaid appropriation if it continues to include the Obamacare-funded expansion of health insurance coverage for working poor.
    • Apr 14, 2016
  • Trump: The Obama of 2016?

    Conner Eldridge, the Democratic challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, launched an assault on Boozman Monday morning rich with irony and opportunity.
    • May 5, 2016

Most Shared

  • Workers stiffed

    How is it going with the great experiment to make the Republican Party the champion of the sons and daughters of toil instead of the oligarchs of wealth and business?
  • Former state board of education chair Sam Ledbetter weighs in on Little Rock millage vote

    Ledbetter, the former state Board of Education chair who cast the decisive vote in 2015 to take over the LRSD, writes that Education Commissioner Johnny Key "has shown time and again that he is out of touch with our community and the needs of the district." However, Ledbetter supports the May 9 vote as a positive for the district's students and staff.
  • O'Reilly's fall

    Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.

Latest in Max Brantley

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • The end of democracy in LR

    The state Board of Education was scheduled to talk this week about the Little Rock School District, under state control for two years because six of its 48 schools failed to meet an arbitrary pass rate on a standardized test.
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • Internet looting continues

    The 2017 legislative session concluded without passage of a bill to encourage internet merchants to collect and remit taxes on sales in Arkansas, though internet giant Amazon has begun doing so voluntarily.
    • Apr 6, 2017
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Fishing the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Arkansas angler and fishing expert Billy Murray shares his extensive knowledge of the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas

Event Calendar

« »

April

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: O'Reilly's fall

    • O'Reilly should run for president. He's already cleared one major hurdle by proving he's a…

    • on April 27, 2017
  • Re: Intracity tourism

    • I love being a tourist in my own backyard. One of the advantages of being…

    • on April 27, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation