Education Letter to the Editor

Confusing Numbers From ‘It’s Being Done’ Essay

May 01, 2007 1 min read

To the Editor:

I’m puzzled by this statement in Karin Chenoweth’s Commentary “‘It’s Being Done’” (April 11, 2007): “Today a higher percentage of Stanton students meets state math and reading standards than Pennsylvania students as a whole.”

According to the Web site of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, students at M. Hall Stanton Elementary School in Philadelphia scored below the state average on six of the eight statewide tests they took in 2006. They scored behind the state average on 3rd grade reading, 3rd grade math, 4th grade reading, 4th grade math, 6th grade reading, and 6th grade math; two of those scores (4th grade reading and 6th grade reading) were significantly below the state average. Only on 5th grade math and 5th grade reading did Stanton’s students beat the state average.

How do you get from those results to Ms. Chenoweth’s sentence? And, if in fact Stanton’s students are behind the state average on most of their tests, why is she using that school to demonstrate how poor students of color are being educated “to high levels”? If those scores represent high levels of educational success for poor minority students, we’re in worse trouble than I thought.

Paul Tough

New York City, N.Y.

AUTHOR’S RESPONSE: I appreciate Paul Tough’s clarification. The sentence, indeed, should have read: “Today a higher percentage of Stanton’s 5th grade students meets state math and reading standards than Pennsylvania students as a whole.” In my book, “It’s Being Done”: Academic Success in Unexpected Schools, I discuss Stanton’s data, including the uneven grade-level results, in much greater detail.

The good news is that, despite the school’s recent and remarkable progress, no one at Stanton thinks the job is done. The school’s teachers and administrators continue to ask themselves what more they can do to help their students achieve at high levels. Their hard work and good progress deserve recognition and support.

Karin Chenoweth

A version of this article appeared in the May 02, 2007 edition of Education Week as Confusing Numbers From ‘It’s Being Done’ Essay