What We Didn’t Learn from the Education Cities Report on Oakland and Educational Equality

Last week Education-Cities.org released a report detailing the education equality index, a purported measure of the size of the gap in performance of low income and non-low income students on state exams.  From the beginning something seemed a little off when I looked at the list of the schools in Oakland with the lowest gaps.  And this is not to take anything away from those schools, they are all doing great work.

However, I will bet anyone dollars to donuts that they tend to over-represent Asian students and under-represent Black ones.  I didn’t go through all the stats, but only Conservatory of Vocal/Instrumental Arts (COVA) Charter School and KIPP Bridge Charter School had more than 20% Black students, with each serving 61%.

Note that both of these are charters, and while I do have some issues with the charter sectors serving of African American students, these are some real and substantial bright spots.

I also had an issue with the actual data used, as the report stated– “Disclaimer: Because California Department of Education did not record 2014 test results, 2013 scores were used in place of nonexistent 2014 scores. Learn More”  So this is 2012-2013 data, and it does not reflect the Common Core exam, the SBAC, which is supposed to measure what is really important.

Alexander Russo did a really solid job of looking at the data and other analysts, and there are many issues here, for the data geeks click the links to see some regression graphs etc, but here is the summary of some concerns,

However, concerns began to bubble up on Twitter, including from The Seventy Four’s Matt Barnum, Mathematica’s Stephen Glazerman, and others. Why did states with higher poverty rates do better on the equality index?, asked Barnum and others.  Rutgers’ Bruce Baker Tweeted that the Equality Index “may just be least meaningful/useful/valid ‘equality’ ‘index’ I’ve seen in a long time.”

The result of these concerns was a story from The Seventy Four titled Education Cities and GreatSchools to Admit Flaw in Statewide Rankings of School Inequality: “The index it released last week ranking the school inequality gap in 100 cities and 35 states was faulty in its state comparisons.” Some additional concerns about the study can be found in this Gadfly blog post from Colorado’s Van Schoales.


I applaud the effort by Education Cities, and this is an important and understudied aspect of school performance.  All the data is out there.

We were scratching sticks with burned ends when I was in grad school, but there has to be some smart young man or woman that could actually crunch our data in a more nuanced and valuable way.

We can do statistical analysis to find schools that are serving subgroups exceptionally, we should be able to measure disproportionate discipline, and this data is available for all schools—charter-run and district-run.

While I know this is not as easy as it sounds, there was this dream that we would one day identify effective practices in schools and share them throughout school systems.  To dig beneath the surface of the data to understand what is actually happening.

I can show you high performing schools, that recruit high performing students, and keep them level, and I can show you moderately performing schools that take low performing students and accelerate their learning.  I hope that someone in Oakland will invest some resources (it won’t take much) to really build out a valid and reliable way to analyze our data and present our tentative findings in ways that are actionable for policymakers and families.

We are swimming in data right now, but without the analysis we are choking, rather than drinking it down.


Here were the top 10 schools according to the report

Up to 10 schools in each city with small or nonexistent achievement gaps that serve a student population where the majority are from low-income families were eligible to be recognized in the following list. Learn more

  • American Indian Public Charter School
  • American Indian Public High School
  • Cleveland Elementary School
  • Conservatory of Vocal/Instrumental Arts School
  • KIPP Bridge Charter School
  • Lighthouse Community Charter High School
  • Lincoln Elementary School
  • Oakland Charter Academy
  • Oakland Charter High School
  • Think College Now School


What do you think?

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