February 2009 Archives

A spatial analysis of school district performance in Minnesota

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Each year the Department of Educational Psychology holds Graduate Student Research Day to showcase research conducted by its graduate students. About 90 people attended this year. I was one of six students who delivered a presentation. My fellow presenters--Ruth Swartwood, Cengiz Zopluoglu, Alicia Ayodele, Ben Seipel, and Breanne Byiers--all did an excellent job. Many other students shared their research via posters, all of which were outstanding.

My presentation, "A spatial analysis of school district performance in Minnesota, demonstrating spatially enabled evaluation," consolidated some of my earlier posts to this blog and summarized the paper that I am scheduled to present at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) meeting in San Diego.

By looking to other social science disciplines that have become spatially enabled, I identified some ways that applied educational researchers can make better use of geographic mapping and spatial statistics. For example, we could enhance survey data and minimize respondent burden by spatially referencing the primary data and joining secondary data from the Census Bureau. Extending the promising uses, I spatially analyzed school district performance in Minnesota in 2007 and found the following.

  • Neighboring school districts influenced performance to a small degree in limited instances (i.e., reading proficiency of third graders in poverty).
  • Several school districts were found to have outperformed their neighbors, including Randolph, Medford, Orono, and Royalton.
  • Six clusters of adjacent, correlated school districts exhibited low reading proficiency, suggesting they should collaborate to improve preschool and early elementary reading efforts.

You can click on the image to access the full presentation:

Rokia Traoré concert at The Cedar Cultural Center

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I saw Rokia Traoré perform at The Cedar Cultural Center last night. My familiarity with Ali Farka Touré and other Malian artists had me expecting a good show. My friend, Shane, heard a good preview on Minnesota Public Radio (at minute 2:17) and was psyched, too.

Rokia and her band exceeded our expectations. They packed the house and had everyone dancing. Rokia's singing was forceful at times and sultry at others, such as when she sang Gershwin's "The Man I Love" to honor Billie Holiday. I looked around the audience and saw many jaws drop when she showed off her vocal prowess, not to mention her dance moves. The band was tight and having a lot of fun. As a Kentucky boy, I especially liked the banjo-like riffs from the Malian guitar. Their one encore song lasted about twenty minutes, segued in and out of Fela Kuti's "Lady," and featured a solo by each member of the band. Shane, Amy, and I went to Palmer's afterwards, where we sat around the bonfire and swapped concert reviews with other folks who had been there.

Don't miss her when she comes to your town!

Below are some video clips from last night's concert. In the first clip, watch Rokia get rid of her mic stand so she can dance freely. She plays guitar in the second clip.

Some favorite R commands

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If Rlogo.jpg was a band, and if that band had a greatest hits album, and if the album featured R commands instead of songs, then the following commands should be counted among the greatest hits (or the most obscure hits).

  • windows(record=T) #place this near the top of your script to record all charts; enables scrolling through and compare charts with page up and page down
  • oldpar <- par(no.readonly=T) #assign default graphical parameters to an object, to be called back later with par(oldpar)
  • windowsFonts(Garamond = windowsFont("TT Garamond")) #add a new font family to the standard database
  • file.choose() #allows you to choose a file interactively instead of specifying the path and file name in quotes
  • describe() #a better alternative to summary(); from library(psych)
  • qq.plot() #plots a quantile-comparison chart with confidence bands; in library(car)
  • prplot() #a function in library(faraway) that produces partial residual plots
  • Make.Z() #normalizes all variables in a data frame, available in library(QuantPsyc)
  • ci.rc() #calculates a regression coefficient confidence interval, in library(MBESS)
  • hccm() #another from library(car); calculates heteroscedasticity-corrected covariance matrices for unweighted linear models
  • lmer() #a function in library(lme4) that fits linear mixed models
  • identify() #use this function in library(graphics) to label points in a scatter plot