In the State · New Haven · Opinion

Using Data To Draw Conclusions Has It’s Limitations, Especially When You Selectively Cherry Pick: Why You Might Not Want To Believe All The Hype Against Amistad

I think it should be a rule: If you’re going to point out the limitations of using school data to draw conclusions, you shouldn’t cherry pick.

To illustrate what I mean, take a look at blogger Ann Cronin’s latest anti-charter school piece which targets Amistad High School in New Haven, a school that’s received national accolades:

“The false reporting of data and the disservice to students and, ultimately, to our country is pervasive. It happens right here in Connecticut, most notably in our charter schools. The graduation rates and college acceptance rates in Connecticut’s charter schools need to be scrutinized. For example, in 2013, Achievement First’s Amistad High School announced that 100% of its seniors were accepted to college. In reality, 38% of those who entered the high school in ninth grade were accepted to college, 25 students out of the original 64 ninth graders. The remaining 39 students were either held back in senior year or were no longer enrolled in the school. So Achievement First’s claim that it graduated all of its seniors was true only if you count the small percentage of students the school allows to be called seniors.

Cronin is on to something at the start of her piece. School data, especially graduation data, can be tricky.

I’ve actually written about this before. Last year, when the state praised itself for increased high school graduation rates, I pointed out that there was no significant increase in college attendance rates. Students were graduating High School, but the amount of those students going on to college did not increase.

She’s right, graduation rates alone don’t prove an improvement but she isn’t telling the full story either.

Why is Cronin rehashing old news?

It’s curious that Cronin brings up data from five years ago, rather than the most recent data which is readily available on the State Department of Education website. It’s probably because Amistad Academy has dramatically improved their student retention rate.

According to the school’s 2015-2016 performance report, Amistad’s four-year cohort rate, which represents the percentage of first-time 9th graders who earn a high school degree in four years, is 82.8 percent. Meaning that 82.8 percent of students who started in freshman year, made it through until senior year.

Cronin is complaining about something that was definitely a problem at Amistad, but not one that the school ignored or hind from. The data she refers to from the 2013 school year was published publically by the school itself and then republished by the The New Haven Independent. The school owned up to the issue and worked hard to reverse the trend.

While I don’t want to assume Cronin’s motives the timing makes complete sense, considering the backlash against Dr. Carol Birks’ recent appointment as Superintendent of New Haven Public Schools. There’s been a whole lot of focus on the fact that Birks serves on the board of Achievement First Hartford.

Cronin bashing using old data is just more fuel to the fire.


What do you think?

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