2009 October 17 Saturday
US NAEP School Score Progress Stopping?

The release of the 2009 NAEP scores on student performance serves as another occasion to take a look at the hopes of liberals that more school spending, teaching to tests, and longer school days and years can make a difference on student performance. Progress stopped for 4th graders. Charles Murray says progress in raising black scores was faster before No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation increased the pressure to raise black and Hispanic scores.

Mark Schneider nailed one problem posed for No Child Left Behind (NCLB) by the new math results—the gains in math prior to NCLB were larger than they have been since. There’s another problem Mark didn’t take up: No progress in achieving the most highly touted objective of NCLB, closing the gap in black and white test scores. From 2004 to 2008, the difference in scores went up by a trivial 2 points for 9-year-olds, down 2 points for 13-year-olds, and was unchanged for 17-year-olds.

The 2009 Grade 4 State Results make interesting browsing. You need Flash enabled. First, you can hover across the green (smarter) states and see that Massachusetts is smarter and generally ice box states are smarter. Then pop down the combo box below "National Public" which probably says "Average scale score" and choose "At advanced". Then a different picture emerges: Colorado, whose "Average scale score" of 243 is bested by a number of states still manages to beat them in the percentage of students scoring "At advanced".

Now click to the White tab with "Average scale score". Suddenly the ranking of states changes dramatically. Texas becomes a contender, tying North Carolina at 254. I suspect that's at least due to migration of engineers and software developers into their burgeoning tech sectors. Many of the Ice Box states become also-rans with only Minnesota, New Hampshire, Massachusetts (clearly the smartest state), Connecticut, and New Jersey staying in the running. Kansas becomes a contender. So the white brains distribution doesn't fit my intuitive expectation.

For whites West Virginia is unsurprisingly the bottom of the barrel at 233 followed by Alabama at 237.

But the real acid test (and a big surprise) of where's the brains is on the White tab on "At advanced". Maryland vaults to the lead at 15% and Minnesota and Massachusetts tie for second place with 14% at the advanced level in mathematics. North Carolina is in third place with 13%.

The Asian/Pacific Islander tab shows much higher numbers for "At advanced" with Kentucky at the top with 35%. Since APac encompasses a huge amount of genetic diversity this leads me to wonder whether Kentucky just has children of immigrant professors in engineering and science from an especially smart ethnic group.

Try browsing around in the data and see what patterns you find. If you aren't easily depressed then click on the Black and Hispanic tabs and choose "At advanced". Hispanics in Montana do best at 4%. Why is that?

Update: I almost missed the Washington DC results. DC has by far the highest scores for whites at the advanced level: 33%! Yet blacks in DC score 0% at advanced level. Two parallel cities in the same boundaries. The children of our rulers are very smart. Lobbyists obviously have brains. This probably explains how Maryland can best Massachusetts and Minnesota. The Puritans and the Swedes aren't as smart as the national cream of the ruling crop. What percentage of the white population of DC are Ashkenazi Jews? Top lawyers work in DC.

Update II: Why is all this happening? Read about the Voldemort View: the View That Must Not Be Named.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2009 October 17 05:14 PM  Education

OneSTDV said at October 17, 2009 6:44 PM:

Geez, three posts in one day?

Randall Parker said at October 17, 2009 7:23 PM:

I like to think about politics on Saturday. It is like a break from a week of science and technology.

I do better when I focus on one blog or the other. There's a different mindset to writing each one. My technical job during the week gives me a mindset that maps more easily to science and technology issues. So I do more FuturePundit posts during the week. But as the week nears an end fewer research announcements are made. Most science-related press releases come out on Mon-Wed. So I have less to think about for FuturePundit by Saturday and I'm tired of it anyway.

Clarium said at October 18, 2009 10:53 AM:

Randall, you saw the Clarium paper right?

You agree that the return on education (as an investment) is very low and should be considered consumption? The return on investment is probably low because education is a signal and doesn't increase human capital significantly. What do you the the ROI would be if there are transhumanist nootropics or even eugenics?

I wonder if it is "economically efficient" to simply cut a large portion of education spending (although the government would spend on people who actually have requiste "g") and use the money saved for make-work jobs. Of course, make-work jobs are extremely "inefficient," but immigration restriction and protectionism are options which are regarded as "inefficient" by most economists. (Immigration restriction and protectionism also reduce budget problems, as the first order effects for the former would be less benefits for illegals and the latter revenue from tariffs. The second order effects include higher wages and that would at least preserve the tax base from being beaten down by wage deflation. Furthermore, those two policies would reduce demand for state services because real wages would be up.)

How "economically inefficient" is it to obtain a signal such as education, than simply to enact policies such as protectionism and make-work jobs? Education is inefficient since it is a signal and doesn't increase GDP significantly. In Sweden, I heard they are encouraging more people to go to university, not because they think it is an "investment" in human capital, but because it ties up people for a few years. This keeps people out of the labor force and lowers the headline unemployment number. The unemployment number from Sweden is depressed due to make-work jobs (called "labor market political activities" there) and people on early retirement.

Randall, you said that I am not too realistic about the US and other ethnic groups. (You say this when I am in a euthymic state when I talk about Sweden and Denmark) There is one reason why I chose this name now.

"I think I'll rename myself now to "Clarium". The new name will reflect an anti-immigration bias (which is appropriate for this blog), and will show my affinity for global macro hedge funds."


Fuck you Peter Thiel... why did you lose 8% in September... I liked your hedge fund and still do... I still like your anti-immigration views though. I hope Thiel would be more vocal and proud about his views on immigration.

ziel said at October 18, 2009 7:08 PM:

I'm somewhat surprised that the Massachusetts black score (236) exceeds W.Va's white score (233).

Randall Parker said at October 18, 2009 7:14 PM:


I found that result surprising and interesting as well. Have the smarter whites in West Virginia just left the place every generation?

I am also interested to know if cold weather causes people to develop into smarter people. If so, the migration southward is lowering the US national IQ. Better to raise your kids in Minnesota or New Hampshire?

sg said at October 19, 2009 11:52 AM:

How does Massachusetts black crime compare to West Virginia white crime?

etienne marcel said at October 20, 2009 2:14 PM:

One result that struck me: the Texas Hispanic 4th grade math score (233) was far higher than the equivalent in California (219). Why would that be?

JerseyBrett said at October 20, 2009 7:40 PM:

Are any statistics available for similar tests in Europe? It would be interesting to compare the test scores for American whites to Western Europe. I simply get infuriated when the media blindly compares overall American test scores to Finland, Denmark, etc.

tommy said at October 23, 2009 1:33 PM:

"One result that struck me: the Texas Hispanic 4th grade math score (233) was far higher than the equivalent in California (219). Why would that be?"

Purely anecdotal, but Texas seems to have a higher percentage of mostly white Mexican-Americans. Perhaps Texas has a greater percentage of Mexican-Americans who were members of Mexico's middle and upper classes arriving prior to, or during the course of, the Mexican Revolution. Modern immigrants are arriving from the lower echelons of Mexican society. It is also possible that there has been more intermarriage with whites among the Tex-Mex community. Genetic studies of Mexican-American populations might be revealing.

Another possibility is that California's scores are depressed by the recent influx of illegal immigrants to the state and that scores will indeed rise somewhat in future generations. However, given what we know about Hispanic educational performance over multiple generations, I wouldn't place too much money on the prospects of substantial improvement.

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Web parapundit.com
Go Read More Posts On ParaPundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright ©