Lies, O’Malley Lies, and Statistics

Last week Governor O’Malley tweeted this claim about the test scores of Maryland’s low-income students.
Don’t be fooled by this statistic, because it is couched in a similar deception O’Malley uses to have you believe he’s cut the state budget. 
The tests O’Malley refers to are the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 4th and 8th grade reading and math assessments.  NAEP is commonly known as “The Nation’s Report Card.”
While Maryland’s low-income students did see gains, the disparity gap, that is the difference between their scores and their non-low income peers still remains high.
I’ve compiled the test score data for Maryland’s low-income students on the NAEP math and reading assessments for 4th and 8thgraders over the last decade.  The data reveals persistent, and in one case, contra O’Malley, growing disparity gaps.

There is a still 26-point disparity gap on the 2013 NAEP 4thgrade reading assessment, and a 23-point gap on the 8th grade reading assessment.  This is the same test which Maryland excluded large numbers of special needs students, more than any in the nation.  The 8th grade reading gap is still 3 points higher than it was in 2007.
Between 2003-2013 4th grade math disparity gap actually increased two points from 28 points to 30 points.
The 8th grade math gap dropped two points from 2003, but remains at 28 points, five points higher than in 2007.

Much like O’Malley’s budget fiction, the test score gains are in fact reductions in the rate of increase of the disparity gaps.
In fact, in 2011 and 2012, Maryland ranked 50thin the nation for the 8th grade math poverty gap according to Education Week’s Quality Counts report—the very same report that ranked Maryland schools number one in the nation.  In the latest report Maryland improved to 37thoverall in that category.   As I detailed in last Friday’s Baltimore Sun all that glitters is not gold with the Education Week ranking.
Since 2002, Maryland has increased K-12 education spending—one of the largest line items in the state budget—by $3.2 billion, a 110 percent increase.  In total, the state has spent $55 billion on K-12 education.  That number does not include funds expended by the federal and county governments.
This drastic increase in K-12 spending is due to the Bridge to Excellence or Thornton law, which mandated automatic, annual state K-12 education spending increases to address disparity gaps not only between poor students and their wealthier peers, but between White students and minorities. 
For $55 billion, the return on investment for Maryland taxpayers has been persistent achievement gaps. 

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