Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Simpson's Paradox: Improving in every category

We have appreciated the comments made by people on this board, especially those who have expressed questioning views and differences of opinion. We have been especially grateful to those who pose questions. But as you can tell, we don't have all the answers.

We hope we can all appreciate the freedom we have in this country to express our views. It is one of the greatest privileges that a democracy provides.

For those of you have been skeptical of public schools, we hope you can stand to read some positive news . :-) Read this report by Dr. David Berliner posted by Joe Thomas in a PDF file at Shut up and Teach. Try to read it with an open mind. What you may notice is that the problem isn't one of declining schools. Rather, it is a phenomenon of shifting demographics in this country.

Dr. Berliner points out the statistical phenomenon known as Simpson's Paradox. This is where every subgroup in a population can show dramatic improvement, but the average stays the same.

Read what happened to SAT scores and NAEP scores. You didn't read it in the newspaper that's for sure. Only negative sells. And... no one seems willing or at least eager, to talk about ethnicity, race or cultural norms among subgroups in this country.

Berliner points out areas where America can improve, but also points out that NCLB was sold to our citizens and legislators on the false premise that American schools are failing.

Cliff Notes Version:

SAT Scores over time:

American Indians, Hispanics, Whites = 8 points gain
Puerto Ricans = 18 points gain
Blacks = 19 points gain
Asians = 27 points gain
Urban Blacks = 36 points gain

Total = No change in SAT scores

He tracks NAEP scores the same way. They aren't as dramatic, but still Simpson's Paradox is in play. Average shows little gain, but almost every subgroup has improved. Why? The percentage of students taking the tests has shifted. The immigrant population and ethnic mix has changed the landscape. They are all doing better, but the total mix has changed, camouflaging the dramatic changes these subgroups are experiencing.

It's good news that so many subpopulations have made improvements. It's to be celebrated not criticized. All of America is doing better, but the population has shifted.


At Wednesday, March 16, 2005, Blogger Joe Thomas said...

If you ever get a chance to see David Berliner speak, take it. He is one of the few people I have heard with the ability to break down complex statistical informtation into layman terms and relate it to what matters in life.

His book, The Manufactured Crisis, is a must read.

At Friday, May 11, 2007, Blogger said...

This is the comedic debate of the 21st century. Which animated series is better? "Family Guy" or "The Simpsons"? Here are some comparisons broken down by characters:

First - Stewie vs Maggie

Marge vs Lois

Meg vs Lisa

Brian vs Santa's Little Helper (etc.)

Bart vs Chris

and finally...
Peter vs Homer


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