Friday, August 8, 2014

Corks pop on Clark St. with a bump in reported test scores

They're jumping for joy and popping the corks down on Clark St. Why? Test scores for students in grades 2-8 reportedly showed some improvement in both reading and math. However, only seventh- and eighth-graders met national reading averages. About 51.5% of elementary school students are performing at national norms in reading and 49% in math, compared to around 46% in both categories in 2013.

If this keeps up, they will have to re-norm the test to make sure half the kids stay below average.

CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is already calling the overall results “incredibly encouraging.” Rahm chimes in: “Improvements in every grade demonstrate that we are building a strong foundation upon which Chicago students can grow and succeed.”

I'm not yet getting into the questions of why 2nd-graders are even tested (or why not 1st and Ks?), or how this will break out demographically? Is the gap between white, black and Latino students continuing to widen? What are scores like at the most touted charter schools, like Urban Prep?
 The key is getting more detailed information, said Paul Zavitkovsky, leadership coach and assessment specialist at UIC’s Urban Education Leadership Program. “Anytime test scores go up it is promising, but until they break it out on family income and race and ethnicity, then we do not know what is going on,” he said. “Those demographics make a big difference.”
Does this mean that CPS teachers are due for high evaluations and raises in pay? Does it mean that authentic learning is on the upswing in Chicago? Or more likely, that there's now a total focus on testing and test-prep, even down to the lowest grades?

I think the question answers itself.

The Sun-Times points out:
The district did not release school-by-school results for the Northwest Evaluation Association tests, as it has in past years. John Barker, CPS’ chief of accountability, said those scores will be released next Friday. That makes it impossible to see whether students scored higher across the district or just at certain schools. The analysis comprises all district elementary schools, including charters. 
As for scores in the so-called "welcoming schools" following last year's massive school closings, Sarah Karp at Catalyst reports:
CPS did provide some averages for the schools designated to take in students from closed schools. In general, there was little movement, and the schools remained substantially below national norms.


  1. Test score data mean nothing unless they are prepared to track individual students, including those whose families have fled to the suburbs. Thanks to Rahm's policies, the city is getting whiter and richer, so it's no surprise if test scores are going up city wide, just like it's no surprise test scores went up in New Orleans when the poorest kids didn't come back after Katrina. I mean, sure, School A's test scores went up - that's great. But what about the kids who used to be in School A but who now live in Lansing? Did their test scores go up? Are they even still in school?

    And even that is for people who give a rat's patoot about test scores in the first place, which I really don't.

  2. The difficulty I have been having from the start is in understanding what the reports of test scores mean. I've had statistics. I have an MS Ed. I should be able understand the reports, but I can't. Maybe the problem is that I've never taught in the public schools.

    When I read the newspaper accounts I never see any recognizable statistical measure being reported. What is the average reading score - the arithmetic mean? What is the variance?

    I have been assuming that the papers report the percentage of kids whose scores fall at or above the lower band (15%????) of some national or State target. If 51% of CPS students are at the the lower band and 49% are below, then if the variance is low, maybe none of the kids are at grade level.

    I've been in contact with the scools, but never get any answer to what is really a very simple question.

  3. It used to be that--at least for the IL State Achievement Tests--a parent, a teacher & an administrator could read listings, %ages, & actual numbers (i.e., Joe answered 5/8 questions correctly in the area of Time Concepts, then would list a few words or one line that explained exactly what area of Time Concepts {e.g--Time elapsed; Converting Seconds into Minutes, etc} Joe was experiencing difficulty/success in). As a teacher, I would make a copy of each report (there used to be 2 originals--one went home to the parents, & the other to the school office & into the child's school file),
    highlight those areas in which Joe needed help, write those into his IEP under Math Goals/Objectives--e.g.--Annual Goal: To improve Math Skills; Objective 1: By such-&-such date, Joe will demonstrate the ability to correctly compute elapsed time.
    THIS is WHAT the purpose of testing SHOULD be--to identify a child's strengths & weaknesses, recognizing his strengths (& letting him know), and, at the same time, teaching him in the areas he needs to be taught, so that he will LEARN (what a concept--teaching for learning!) what he does not yet know/understand, thus acquiring proficiency in grade-level Math. As Walter states above, however, this method of reporting no longer exists, & so the whole purpose of "standardized" (& it is NOT standardized--Pear$on te$t$ have been proven to be NEITHER valid NOR reliable) testing is--well, I gue$$, to make lots of $$$ for the "Always Earning" Pear$on. As all good teachers (who, of course, give class-based tests) know, we test students to find out what they do & do not know, & then we dig in to teach them in areas(which we have found from our teacher-made tests or old school textbook-based tests) they haven't yet quite mastered. But again, as aforementioned, that's old school to a corporation like Pear$on, & Pear$on doe$n't care what we teach, just that we use their test preps and TEACH to the(ir) te$t$.
    Ours is not to analyze why--ours is but to do or die (in the career-sense, that is!).


Agree? Disagree? Let me hear from you.