Home > Uncategorized > A-F Proposed Revisions Part One: Student Achievement

A-F Proposed Revisions Part One: Student Achievement

February 25, 2013

The proposed rule changes are alarmingly scant in reflection of the concerns raised by more than 300 school superintendents last fall. And these changes are dramatically short of the complete overhaul suggested by the OU-OSU report last month.

Sapulpa Superintendent Kevin Burr

Rather than just trying to patch and tape and fix, I thought it would be better to just wipe the slate clean and start over with a new set of rules, particularly after the research documented fundamental flaws with the system.

 Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne

Those opposed to A-F can twist it around. They throw up their hands and go back to their offices and close the door. That’s not acceptable. Children in poverty have special challenges, so how are we going to get them to proficiency?

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi

As I mentioned Friday, the SDE has issued new proposed rules for the A-F Report Cards. The public comment period is open until March 25. Hopefully this time, they will listen to critical input.

The rollout of school grades last October was a disaster, and frankly, a waste of time. By the time schools received their reports, their improvement efforts were well under way. Schools typically take the earliest achievement data they get and use this information to start planning for remediation and intervention. Nothing in the A-F Report Cards was what you would consider new information. Accordingly, they changed very little. This does not mean, however, that teachers and principals are throwing their hands up, closing the door, and giving up. Anyone who spends meaningful time in schools knows this.

The proposed rules offer little in the way of substantive change. I’m going to take multiple posts this week to go through the four sections of the report card. That way I can be thorough and not just sit at the computer and punch out a 5000 word blog post. My critique will include original concerns expressed last spring with the first draft of the A-F Rules, ongoing concerns from their release last fall, and concerns of researchers from both the OCU report and the OU/OSU report.

As you’ll recall, the A-F Report Cards are divided into four sections:

  • Student Achievement (33%)
  • Student Growth (17%)
  • Bottom Quartile Student Growth (17%)
  • Whole School Performance (17%)

I made a quick table of ten elementary schools yesterday to illustrate some trends in these calculations. I’ll use that throughout the week as I go through the different sections. I may add a different table for secondary schools when I get to the Whole School Performance discussion.

School

Free/Reduced Lunch %

Student Achievement

Student Growth

Bottom Quartile

Whole School

Letter Grade

A

3.5%

101

98

***

96

A

B

13.4%

97

91

80

96

A

C

24.8%

104

93

***

96

A

D

25.9%

100

92

97

96

A

E

30.1%

97

98

70

96

B

F

37.2%

90

96

51

96

B

G

59.8%

83

90

63

95

B

H

62.6%

101

80

78

96

B

I

68.4%

88

82

70

96

B

It doesn’t really matter which schools these are, where they are, or how big or small they are. For the sake of this discussion, the poverty column is also irrelevant. The Student Achievement factor consists of all test scores for a school – not just reading and math, and not just regular education. Modified tests count too. Scores are calculated following this math:

  • Advanced 1.2 points
  • Proficient 1.0 points
  • Limited Knowledge 0.2 points
  • Unsatisfactory 0 points

The OU/OSU report complained that these scores do not seem to follow any recognizable metric. In theory, if every tested student scored exactly Proficient, the Student Achievement factor would be 100. Falling to Limited Knowledge causes a significant drop. Increasing to Advanced causes a minor gain. This scale is arbitrary. Looking at the numbers above, can you tell me anything about the percentage of students passing the tests?

This is actually an improvement over the first draft of rules that the SDE issued. At that time, Limited Knowledge was worth nothing. In any case, these scores fail to recognize that student achievement exists along a spectrum. The cut points for each test are somewhat arbitrary themselves. That is what makes assigning scores this way so meaningless.

The OU/OSU report also expressed concern about the fact that this treatment of the scores introduces grouping error into the results. Nothing in the revision issued last week corrects for this. In fact, the first section of the report cards is completely unchanged. This tells me that the SDE feels like they got this right the first time.

I should mention that one event this year will likely cause scores to drop. The social studies tests are being revised and given to students as a field test only. Last year, most schools got a boost from scores on those tests, which typically have very high scores.

In Part Two, I will look at proposed changes to the Student Growth section, which was the focus of a last-minute compromise that the governor’s office almost ironed out between school leaders and the SDE. I’ll even get into a discussion of why the proposed solution really wasn’t that beneficial.

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