New York

What Counts as a Big Effect? (II)

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.
New York

Schools get instructions about how to protect against swine flu

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.
New York

CSA, UFT spar over Bronx barricading, until a Web site is revealed