In fact it's so bad, I think I mangled the data somehow. Feel free to perform a reality check.
I'm using school district level data from S&P's School Data Direct. Specifically, I'm using the data set from 2005 since it is the latest year containing financial and demographic data. I'm also using scores from the PA State test, the PSSA, for the 11th grade since it represents the end-product of a public school education in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania has 501 school districts. 127 school districts reported test scores for black students. The remaining 374 school districts presumably had less than 10 black test takers which I believe is the reporting cut-off in Pennsylvania. About 13,206 black 11th graders have scores included in the datas et.
Black students are highly concentrated in a handful of school districts. 70% of all black students in reporting school districts are concentrated in the following 10 school districts: Erie City, Harrisburg City, Norristown Area, Penn Hills, Philadelphia City, Pittsburgh, Pocono Mountain, Upper Darby, William Penn, and Woodland Hills. In fact, 2/3 of black students are enrolled in the Philadelphia School District alone.
With this in mind, let's look at the data.
First let's look at school district expenditures for these ten schools.
|School District||Total Exp||z-score||Instr Exp||z-score|
Erie City (180)
|Harrisburg City (309)||$14,887||1.42||$7,635||2.13|
|Norristown Area (171)||$14,775||1.38||$8,008||2.54|
|Penn Hills (200)||$11,779||0.18||$6,270||0.63|
|Philadelphia City (6,617)||$13,498||0.87||$4,919||-0.86|
|Pocono Mountain (185)||$13,441||0.84||$5,432||-0.29|
|Upper Darby (199)||$9,541||-0.71||$5,551||-0.16|
|William Penn (238)||$12,328||0.40||$6,826||1.24|
|Woodland Hills (176)||$12,611||0.51||$6,863||1.28|
I've given the mean and weighted mean to show the effect that the Philadelphia School district, which contains a substantial majority of the tested black students, on the data. The numbers in parentheses are the number of tested black students in reading (math numbers were similar).
(A quick word on z-scores: the z-scores are given in standard deviation units. Here's a graph you can use to convert z-scores (white) to percentiles (yellow.)
So what does the data tell us?
These ten school districts are not starved for funding. All but two (Upper Darby and Erie City) have total expenditures above the State mean ($11,322). The weighted mean tells us that the mean black student is enrolled in a school with more expenditures than about 84% of PA school districts. So much for racist funding.
I've also given the data for instructional expenditures to give you an idea how much money actually makes its way into the classroom. Unfortunately, Philadelphia's wasteful ways, with instruction accounting for only 36% of total expenditures, brings the weighted mean down to the 36th percentile. This is unfortunate, but as we know from previous analyses school expenditures are only weakly correlated with student performance (and to make Stephen Downes happy: at least in Pennsylvania for at least the year 2005 (feel free to generalize up to your zone of comfort)).
Now let's see how black students are performing in these ten school districts. You better sit down for these numbers.
|State Mean (All)||52.8||--||69.1||--|
For State mean (All) I'm giving proficiency scores for all students in Pennsylvania, not just black students.
Talk about an achievement gap. For math, the achievement gap is -2.57 sd and for reading it is -3.54. This means that the mean black student in these ten school districts is performing at below the first percentile. 99 percent of students in Pennsylvania are outperforming them. (Like I said, I'm suspicious of these scores, but I can't seem to find the error.)
These results are fairly consistent across the ten schools. All ten schools perform poorly. The achievement gap tends to be in the neighborhood of a standard deviation, but the gap in most of these schools is double and triple that.
I'm not sure exactly what's going on in these schools, but it's a safe bet to say whatever it is it isn't working for these kids. And, bear in mind that about half of the black students have dropped out by this point, so these scores are likely for the top half of the curve.