Friday, June 13, 2014

Overachieving Schools and Underachieving Schools

The blog post headline is a bit misleading as it is individual students doing the achieving/underachieving, but we'll stick with the story line.

Head over to Grading Atlanta (look at April 25th entry) for lots of research on public education and test scores.  The author has posted an interesting chart.  The chart plots test scores and the schools' percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunches.  

The author states that a school with lots of students receiving free or reduced lunch scores lower than a school with fewer students receiving a free or reduced lunch (FRL).  Of course he has evidence to prove this as correct.  However, there are schools with a higher percentage of FRL students that test better than schools with a lower FRL population.  

First, visit his web site HERE and select DeKalb County.  No surprise that you will see most DeKalb schools fall below the line of expected achievement.  in other words, the majority of schools in DeKalb are full of students underachieving.  Take a look at Gwinnett schools.  Most of their schools are overachieving.

From GradingAtlanta:
One district in the metro stands heads and tails above the rest, and that district is Gwinnett County.  As shown in the graph below, virtually all schools in the county outperform what would be expected based on their FRL rates.  Even at Corley Elementary School where 95% of students are low-income and almost all are Hispanic/Black achievement is stellar.  Gwinnett County is “bending the curve,” a strong signal that something operationally is working right.  We should be learning from the district and highlighting their success, but because the data distributed by the state fails to adequately account for expected performance, that message is lost in the headlines.

From the Grading Atlanta web site:

Bending the Curve: Why CCRPI Misleads Educators and Parents

More than a year after students placed their pencils on the desk and closed their 2013 CRCT exam booklets, the Georgia Department of Education released its College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), which is intended to inform schools how they fare relative to others in the state.
While the measure is certainly an improvement on the rudimentary Adequate Yearly Progress benchmark developed under No Child Left Behind, it can hardly be called a success.  It continues to miss the most important element of effective evaluations: expected performance.

Few would be shocked to learn that students who live in wealthy neighborhoods and have educated parents on average score higher on the CRCT than students who live in poor neighborhoods and have uneducated parents.  Yet, the majority of CCRPI points are awarded with no consideration of expected achievement.  Therefore, the measure is intrinsically biased.

This is problematic on both ends of the spectrum.  Schools with low-poverty populations are uniformly receiving high scores while schools with high-poverty populations are consistently receiving low scores.  Both are missing out on useful feedback.  If the intention of the measure is to let school and district leaders know where they stand, achievement should be measured relative to peer schools

In the interactive graph below, I have taken the CCRPI scores of all elementary and middle schools in the state and plotted them against a percentile rank for free-and-reduced lunch population (FRL Percentile).  By clicking the “type” and “district” options on the left, users can highlight the performance of specific districts and also see how local and state charter schools perform. The top 20 districts (by size) are listed first, then the remainder are listed alphabetically.  Users can also hover over the circles to see info about the school.

The trend line represents the score one would expect a school to achieve based on its FRL population.  Schools above the line are overachievers while those below the line are underachievers.

Above the line is good, below the line not so good

Why do DeKalb schools underachieve while Gwinnett schools overachieve?  Many parents place the blame on the quality of the teachers hired over the years.  Others blame the many programs forced on teachers over the years.  Place blame where you want - numbers don't lie.

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