Do Test Scores Matter?

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Never having gone to a school fair I thought it would be interesting to experience one in Hartford. On December 15th, Trinity College hosted a Regional School Choice Magnet Fair. This was definitely a new experience for me. First I was shocked to see how many schools were being represented at the fair. All together there were about fifty different schools, all ranging in grade levels. The schools represented were either operating under Hartford Public Schools (HPS) or Capitol Region Education Council (CREC). All the schools had up fancy boards with vivid images of the school facilities, students, and vibrant descriptions of what the school could do for any body’s child-It seemed kind of superficial. The way the schools were describing themselves and basically selling their schools to any who would listen was interesting to experience. It was shocking to me, that I was also getting approached by representatives to possibly attend their school. Also representatives advertising for elementary education would approach me and ask if I had a child, nephew or younger sibling looking for school.

What I also found interesting was how these schools were selling themselves not only in their presentation but also with the pens, water bottles, key chains, and book bags they were handing out. It seemed more like a company giving away merchandise or incentives then a school advertising for students to apply.  I also noticed they had a specific table just to address transportation issues.  Also I was captivated when I saw a row of computers on the side of the fair with the choice applications open and ready to be filled out. Being that throughout our Cities Suburbs and School course a critical facet discussed in school choice is transportation, I thought it would be a lot more beneficial if there were more then just one table addressing all transportation concerns. I was also impressed by how many people actually came out to the fair. It was pretty packed when I got there at nine in the morning. One critical facet that we spoke about in school choice that was not brought up once in any conversation was that of test scores. Yes test scores. While walking around and hearing school pitches I heard a number of comments pertaining to student racial diversity, and the schools physical location, but not a single thing about test scores or CMT performance. I believe that now the significance of test scores has slowly decreased and other factors are more effective in pulling people in.

This reminded me of the report entitled School Choice in Suburbia: Test Scores, Race, and Housing Markets. The report explicitly stated that although test scores matter, their power has diminished over time, and the racial composition of the school has played a dramatically more influential role in determining house prices in West Hartford in recent years.[1] The reason why I chose this specific is excerpt is because it is favoring the notion that test scores have indeed long since shrunken in importance. However I feel this makes sense especially in the state of Connecticut after the Sheff I and Sheff II rulings. There is now a statewide focus on reaching mandated quotas in an active reform movement to desegregate schools. Overall I was happy and pleased to have been able to partake in this experience. But I do wish that they made these events mandatory so every child is exposed to every school choice possibility.




[1] Jack Dougherty, et al., “School Choice in Suburbia: Test Scores, Race, and Housing Markets,” American Journal of Education 115, no. 4 (2009): 523-48


How to Lie Using Maps

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Both of these maps were generated using the exact same information, however both maps portray two very different interpretations. Surprisingly enough, just like statistical data can be manipulated to show to sharply contrasting graphs, simply manipulating the legend and the number of buckets presented in the map can also skew maps, and produce two very different diagrams. Bucket is a term used to define percentage intervals represented by different colors on the map. These maps were generated by strategically merging two sets of given data, one set was the school district racial composition data used in the Sheff v. O’neil case and the other set was the Connecticut town boundaries based on the 2010 census.

Map 1 – Sharp Racial Differences

Key for Map 1







Map 2 – More Widespread and Diverse

Key for Map 2







First I entered the data as is and produced a general map. Then using the change the map style option I adjusted the buckets to two separate extremes. First I only used two buckets with a percentage interval from 0 .0 to 0.5 and from 0.5 to 1.0. By using only two buckets I was able to portray sharp racial differences for this specific Connecticut region. To produce my second graph I divided the map into eight percentage intervals (buckets). The eight buckets in this map started at 0.0 and increased by 0.125 until 1 was reached. In doing this I was able to produce a map with more colors thus portraying a more widespread diverse map. It took a matter of a few minutes to manipulate these maps and depict two completely different stories. This makes me think about maps I have analyzed and interpreted in the past and if they were possibly manipulated for what ever the reason maybe.