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States Lack Uniform Data on Education Gap, Teachers College Researcher Argues

Dearth of Reliable Information Hinders Local Accountability for Educating Poor and Minority Children
Dearth of Reliable Information Hinders Local Accountability for Educating Poor and Minority Children

In April 24th lecture, TC's Richard Rothstein documents need to develop a state-by-state report card on progress toward closing America's education gap

"America is committed to closing the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children, but we have almost no information that tells us which states are doing a better job in meeting this goal than others," says
Richard Rothstein, the 2005-2006 Distinguished Tisch Lecturer at Teachers College, Columbia University, and author of the influential book Class and Schools.

Rothstein -- who is designing a national report card on progress toward educational equity -- will present his findings on state-level data this Monday, April 24, at 7 p.m. in Milbank Chapel on the Teachers College campus at 525 West 120th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. The talk will be the last of three by Rothstein that have comprised the 2006 Tisch Lecture Series, Towards a Teachers College Report Card on Equity in American Education.

In his first lecture, in early January, Rothstein argued that America has traditionally embraced broad goals for education, and that the current narrow focus of the federal No Child Left Behind Act on reading and math skills is an historical anomaly. He proposed a new report card on educational equity that would judge the nation's schools on their ability to instill not only basic academic skills, but also critical thinking, social skills and work ethic, citizenship and civic participation, physical health, emotional health, appreciation of the arts and literature, and preparation for skilled work. The report card would measure a range of variables within each of these categories.

In his second lecture, using national data comprised of more than 175 indicators measuring his eight areas of education equity, Rothstein quantified the "equity gap" between the nation's white and black students on a percentile basis. (Rothstein focuses on the black-white achievement gap as an equity measure because American society's roots in slavery make this gap
of overwhelming moral importance and because more complete data are available on black-white than on other inequalities.)

In the lecture to be delivered this Monday evening, Rothstein will offer only a few indicators -- for illustrative purposes only -- to show the difficulties involved in similarly quantifying such a gap at the state level and comparing gaps from state to state. The lecture focuses on seven states -- Alabama, Illinois, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Texas -- that have relatively large black populations that are typical of other states in their regions.  

"At this point, reliable indicators simply are not collected that would enable us to make overall conclusions about relative equity within or across states on these eight areas," Rothstein says.  "That's a significant gap in important information that needs to be rectified."

For example, in measuring basic academic skills his seven-state sample, Rothstein finds that Texas has the best black student performance, while North Carolina has the smallest black-white gap (Illinois has the largest).  

But this doesn't tell a definitive story," he says, because state-level data exists only up through  the eighth-grade, whereas at the national level, data is available on students up through the 12th grade.

"Clearly eighth grade performance in basic academic skills is an incomplete measure of student achievement, while performance in twelfth grade is a much better indicator of how a student will perform post-high school," Rothstein said. "Yet eighth grade data is all we have at the state level -- and even on this measure, we don't have the data for all states."  

Similarly, state-level data on students' social skills and work ethic are woefully lacking.  Rothstein was able to collect state-level data on only two indicators that make up this larger area -- participation in summer sports leagues and summer employment while in high school -- whereas at the national level, he was able to collect data on more than a dozen indicators.

"Obviously, participation in sports leagues tells you very little about either social skills or work ethic, but again, at the state level, that's all we have," Rothstein says.

At his third and final lecture in this series, Rothstein will present additional state-level data and discuss the formidable problems currently faced in assessing equity at the state level.  

During the next year, Teachers College plans to commission state-level surveys that would enable judgments to be made about overall state-by-state equity in the eight goal areas, balanced by their relative
importance. "Such reports should provide incentives for policy makers to redouble their efforts to achieve equity, secure inthe knowledge that they are not being asked to do anything not already being done in other states, and that by undertaking efforts to achieve balanced equity, they are not spurring the unintended consequence of improving equity in one goal at the expense of greater inequity in others," says Rothstein. "A data collection system to support such a judgment is feasible, but not presently on the national agenda. Teachers College, through its new Campaign for Educational Equity, will step into this data void and begin commissioning national assessments and surveys that would permit us to know where equity is closest, and farthest, from being achieved."

Teachers College is the largest graduate school of education in the nation. Teachers College is affiliated with Columbia University, but it is legally and financially independent. The editors of U.S. News and World Report have ranked Teachers College as one of the leading graduate schools of education in the country.

Teachers College is dedicated to promoting equity and excellence in education and overcoming the gap in educational access and achievement between the most and least advantaged groups in this country. Through programs of teaching, research, and service, the College draws upon the expertise of a diverse community of faculty in education, psychology and health, as well as students and staff from across the country and around the world.

For more information, please visit the college's Web site at www.tc.columbia.edu.

THE CAMPAIGN FOR EDUCATIONAL EQUITY
TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

MICHAEL A. REBELL ∙ LAURIE M. TISCH ∙ ARTHUR E. LEVINE
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ∙ BOARD CHAIR ∙ PRESIDENT, TEACHERS COLLEGE
525 WEST 120 TH STREET, BOX 219, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10027
212 -678 -3412 -'ó FAX 212 -678 -4068 -'ó www.tcequity

Published Sunday, Jun. 18, 2006

States Lack Uniform Data on Education Gap, Teachers College Researcher Argues

Dearth of Reliable Information Hinders Local Accountability for Educating Poor and Minority Children

In April 24th lecture, TC's Richard Rothstein documents need to develop a state-by-state report card on progress toward closing America's education gap

"America is committed to closing the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children, but we have almost no information that tells us which states are doing a better job in meeting this goal than others," says
Richard Rothstein, the 2005-2006 Distinguished Tisch Lecturer at Teachers College, Columbia University, and author of the influential book Class and Schools.

Rothstein -- who is designing a national report card on progress toward educational equity -- will present his findings on state-level data this Monday, April 24, at 7 p.m. in Milbank Chapel on the Teachers College campus at 525 West 120th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. The talk will be the last of three by Rothstein that have comprised the 2006 Tisch Lecture Series, Towards a Teachers College Report Card on Equity in American Education.

In his first lecture, in early January, Rothstein argued that America has traditionally embraced broad goals for education, and that the current narrow focus of the federal No Child Left Behind Act on reading and math skills is an historical anomaly. He proposed a new report card on educational equity that would judge the nation's schools on their ability to instill not only basic academic skills, but also critical thinking, social skills and work ethic, citizenship and civic participation, physical health, emotional health, appreciation of the arts and literature, and preparation for skilled work. The report card would measure a range of variables within each of these categories.

In his second lecture, using national data comprised of more than 175 indicators measuring his eight areas of education equity, Rothstein quantified the "equity gap" between the nation's white and black students on a percentile basis. (Rothstein focuses on the black-white achievement gap as an equity measure because American society's roots in slavery make this gap
of overwhelming moral importance and because more complete data are available on black-white than on other inequalities.)

In the lecture to be delivered this Monday evening, Rothstein will offer only a few indicators -- for illustrative purposes only -- to show the difficulties involved in similarly quantifying such a gap at the state level and comparing gaps from state to state. The lecture focuses on seven states -- Alabama, Illinois, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Texas -- that have relatively large black populations that are typical of other states in their regions.  

"At this point, reliable indicators simply are not collected that would enable us to make overall conclusions about relative equity within or across states on these eight areas," Rothstein says.  "That's a significant gap in important information that needs to be rectified."

For example, in measuring basic academic skills his seven-state sample, Rothstein finds that Texas has the best black student performance, while North Carolina has the smallest black-white gap (Illinois has the largest).  

But this doesn't tell a definitive story," he says, because state-level data exists only up through  the eighth-grade, whereas at the national level, data is available on students up through the 12th grade.

"Clearly eighth grade performance in basic academic skills is an incomplete measure of student achievement, while performance in twelfth grade is a much better indicator of how a student will perform post-high school," Rothstein said. "Yet eighth grade data is all we have at the state level -- and even on this measure, we don't have the data for all states."  

Similarly, state-level data on students' social skills and work ethic are woefully lacking.  Rothstein was able to collect state-level data on only two indicators that make up this larger area -- participation in summer sports leagues and summer employment while in high school -- whereas at the national level, he was able to collect data on more than a dozen indicators.

"Obviously, participation in sports leagues tells you very little about either social skills or work ethic, but again, at the state level, that's all we have," Rothstein says.

At his third and final lecture in this series, Rothstein will present additional state-level data and discuss the formidable problems currently faced in assessing equity at the state level.  

During the next year, Teachers College plans to commission state-level surveys that would enable judgments to be made about overall state-by-state equity in the eight goal areas, balanced by their relative
importance. "Such reports should provide incentives for policy makers to redouble their efforts to achieve equity, secure inthe knowledge that they are not being asked to do anything not already being done in other states, and that by undertaking efforts to achieve balanced equity, they are not spurring the unintended consequence of improving equity in one goal at the expense of greater inequity in others," says Rothstein. "A data collection system to support such a judgment is feasible, but not presently on the national agenda. Teachers College, through its new Campaign for Educational Equity, will step into this data void and begin commissioning national assessments and surveys that would permit us to know where equity is closest, and farthest, from being achieved."

Teachers College is the largest graduate school of education in the nation. Teachers College is affiliated with Columbia University, but it is legally and financially independent. The editors of U.S. News and World Report have ranked Teachers College as one of the leading graduate schools of education in the country.

Teachers College is dedicated to promoting equity and excellence in education and overcoming the gap in educational access and achievement between the most and least advantaged groups in this country. Through programs of teaching, research, and service, the College draws upon the expertise of a diverse community of faculty in education, psychology and health, as well as students and staff from across the country and around the world.

For more information, please visit the college's Web site at www.tc.columbia.edu.

THE CAMPAIGN FOR EDUCATIONAL EQUITY
TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

MICHAEL A. REBELL ∙ LAURIE M. TISCH ∙ ARTHUR E. LEVINE
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ∙ BOARD CHAIR ∙ PRESIDENT, TEACHERS COLLEGE
525 WEST 120 TH STREET, BOX 219, NEW YORK, N.Y. 10027
212 -678 -3412 -'ó FAX 212 -678 -4068 -'ó www.tcequity

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