The article, “Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing,” which appeared in The Atlantic on July 15, highlights some of the fundamental disparities in educational resources within our school districts by analyzing access to textbooks to comment on the “economics of testing.”
Meredith Broussard, a data-journalism professor at Temple University, revealed through her investigation of Philadelphia District Schools the massive impact that access to educational materials has to a student’s ability to succeed in school, specifically with regard to textbooks made by the “Big Three” test publishers and standardized-test success. This correlation was evident in Philadelphia, where the average school had only 27 percent of the books in the district’s recommended curriculum, and fewer than half of the district’s students managed to score proficient or above on the 2013 PSSA.
Broussard uses these flaws that exist in the Philadelphia School District’s budget, resources, and management to shed some light on our misplaced reliance on data and the fact that “even the best data-collection system is useless” without competent people to manage it. Broussard notes from her investigation that “the Philadelphia schools don’t just have a textbook problem. They have a data problem—which is actually a people problem. We tend to think of data as immutable truth. But we forget that data and data-collection systems are created by people.”