On Friday, I began talking about what counts as a big effect. Turns out I'm reinventing the wheel, as there is an excellent paper by Carolyn Hill and her colleagues at Manpower Development Research Corporation on this topic, entitled "Empirical Benchmarks for Interpreting Effect Sizes in Research." But I'll press onward nevertheless. Last month, the federal Institute for Education Sciences released the third-year report on the evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides vouchers for K-12 children and youth in the DC Public Schools who win a lottery to attend a private school. The key outcomes in the study were scale scores on the Stanford Achievement Test (SAT-9) in reading and mathematics. (Scale scores are converted from "raw" scores based on the number of correct responses to the test.) The evaluators found that, after three years, students who were offered a voucher scored 4.46 points higher on the SAT-9 reading test, which represented an effect size of .13. This effect was statistically different from zero. Interestingly, the impact of being offered a voucher on reading scores was not reliably different from zero for male students. In mathematics, there was no evidence of a positive effect of being offered a voucher: after three years, students offered vouchers scored .81 points higher on the SAT-9 math test, an effect that was not statistically different from zero, and which corresponded to an effect size of .03. Based on how these effect sizes equate with percentile changes, these are pretty small effects, and the presence of an asterisk denoting statistical significance for the effect of being offered a voucher on reading scores for girls alone, and no effects on math scores for either boys or girls, doesn't justify the political spectacle that surrounds the program. After three years, the net movement in reading for voucher students starting at around the 34th percentile nationally is about five percentiles; in math, it's about one percentile. Anyone who thinks that effects of this size are altering the life trajectories of DC children is kidding himself.
On many issues, they're at odds, but right now the teachers union and city are working together to stop the spread of swine flu, the potentially dangerous virus that first emerged in Mexico and has now infected schoolchildren in Queens. A confirmation that students at a Queens Catholic school were diagnosed with swine flu sent officials into a frenzy this weekend about how to deal with the disease and its accompanying panic. According to a United Federation of Teachers spokesman, union president Randi Weingarten spent part of her Sunday on a conference call with the city Department of Education and the UFT's Health and Safety Department. The UFT and DOE last night issued guidelines for schools, encouraging teachers to maximize air circulation by opening classroom windows and to stay home if they feel sick. The DOE also instructed school nurses to place surgical masks immediately on students who have a fever over 100.5 degrees and any other flu-like symptoms. Both sets of full instructions are after the jump. Earlier this weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that dozens of students at a Queens Catholic school are suspected to have contracted swine flu, although none has become seriously ill. (Two of the cases suspected there are the daughters of State Sen. Malcolm Smith and City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., according to Liz Benjamin at the Daily News.) Some Brooklyn students might have escaped exposure after the DOE cancelled their spring break trip to Cancun. Parents from MS 447 were angry about the last-minute cancellation, which the department said was needed because of heightened violence in Mexico. I'm guessing those parents are feeling relieved right now.
Eva Moskowitz and Randi Weingarten will debate this week on NY1's evening news talk show. (GothamSchools' Flickr.) Two education leaders who have been dueling via press releases, bristling statements to reporters, and dueling events in Harlem will come face-to-face this week, in a debate broadcast on NY1, the local TV news channel, spokespeople for both leaders have confirmed. The debate is scheduled for this Thursday night. Randi Weingarten, the leader of the politically powerful teachers union, is preparing to debate Eva Moskowitz, the former City Council member-turned-charter school operator, on Dominic Carter's evening talk show, "The Road to City Hall." The teachers union spokesman, Brian Gibbons, said that NY1 contacted Weingarten and asked her to appear on the show with Moskowitz. Weingarten said yes.
The story about the Bronx teacher, Francisco Garabitos, who barricaded himself in a classroom and caused three schools to be evacuated this morning before being taken into police custody, keeps getting stranger. Earlier today, United Federation of Teachers President Weingarten apparently placed some of the blame for the incident on Garabitos's principal, Dorald Bastian. She later distanced herself from those comments after a disturbing Web site operated by Garabitos came to light. I didn't make the press conference that Weingarten held as soon as she returned this afternoon from Washington, D.C., but judging from the statements I've just received from the principals union and the city Department of Education, she must have had some harsh words about Bastian. Here's what Chiara Coletti, the principals union communications chair, had to say: There's only one issue in the case of MS 328 and Francisco Garabitos. Mr. Garabitos — a teacher and a UFT Chapter Chair — threatened to bomb a school and blow up the 1200 children inside of it. He barricaded himself within a school room, pretending to wait for the bomb to go off. This is a serious criminal act. Dorald Bastian, the Principal [of] MS 328, did everything he could do to protect the school today, and he and the NYPD should be thanked for their work. It's astonishing that the President of the UFT is now finding fault with the Principal, when one of her chapter chairs has committed a hideous crime directed against children.
A line of parents that wrapped around the block, blue and orange balloons, and a carefully choreographed program greetged hopeful families and political supporters last night at the admission event for the four Harlem Success Network charter schools. In addition to the main event, the naming of admitted students, the evening featured a barnstorming speech by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein (in the video above), a surprise announcement about charter school funding from State Sen. Malcolm Smith, and political exhortations from Eva Moskowitz, Harlem Success's lightning rod CEO. "I wish we could open them faster and have spots for absolutely everyone," Moskowitz said about her schools to the thousands of assembled parents. But she said, "There are special interests and even elected officials who don't support the growth of charter schools." Moskowitz has sparred for years with the teachers union over her aggressive school reform strategies. For the thousands of parents in attendance, politics took a distant second to anxiety about whether their children would be among the 475 selected from the 3,500 entered into the lottery.