Thursday, August 3, 2006

You've got to believe in the magic of the tests

Archived Post from Yahoo 360

August 3, 2006
Small schools researchers should have waited a year 

Thanks to Chicago ed gadfly Alexander Russo for reminding us of the magic in Chicago's test scores. His District 299 blog "Mel Gibson And Small Schools" carries the latest "Renaissance 2010 Report" on Chicago's 100 new small schools which includes this upbeat announcement:

New Schools Reach New Heights on 2006 ISAT Test
The Office of New Schools is proud to announce that Chicago’s new schools had a 19.1 percentage point increase in the percent meeting/exceeding ISAT composite scores. This increase is higher than the citywide score increase of 15.2. Congratulations to all of the new school administrators, educators, and students for a job well done and reaffirming our mission! 
Thursday August 3, 2006 - 01:34pm (CDT)

But wait a minute. Didn't we just finish reading the Consortium's report about the new small CHSRI high schools that are also part of Ren10? Didn't we just see the media headlines in the Sun-Times, "Small schools gain, but test scores don't show it," or on Chicago Public Radio, "Small Schools Have No Big Advantage"? 

Haven't we been told over and over again during the past two days that small schools were making kids lives better but that lagging test scores meant failure? Didn't the Consortium study report that the small schools weren't r-r-r-rigorous enough and that their low scores were attributable to weak principals and poor professional development? Wasn't it Russo himself who wrote in Catalyst that, "Improving teaching is a low priority at small high schools?"

More importantly wasn't it me in my last blog, listing possible reasons for those weak test scores in the study and even downplaying their importance? Well all I can say now is, what the hell was I thinking?

Of course, the Consortium study was looking at high schools and the high school scores for 2006 haven't been released yet, for some unknown reason.

But it turns out that the Consortium study may have been looking at the wrong scores, the PSAE tests from 2005. If they would have just waited a year instead of putting all their research eggs in one test basket, they may have also seen a 19.1 jump in the scores at the new small schools, weak principals, poor PD and all. 

Of course we don't know what this year's high school scores will reveal. But could it be that the new elementary schools have suddenly become amazingly more rigorous in just one year and that the new high schools did not? I don't think so. 

And silly me once again for not realizing how important a single standardized test score could be in evaluating the new small schools. Here I've been looking at silly things like dropout and attendance rates, year-to-year growth of the kids, safe, trusting school environments and skilled, qualified teachers. 
Now that I've read the Ren10 report instead of that negative Consortium report, I'm once again a believer in the magic of the tests.

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