Wednesday, December 9, 2009

statistics & NCLB

In this past Sunday's Washington Post there was an article about the problems with the rise and fall of test scores in schools in the District. As the writer points out, a lot of it comes down to pure statistics. A school's success and failure is not necessarily about teaching and learning- it's about numbers and all the different factors that keep the numbers from reflecting actual progress. Anyone still wondering if the NCLB system works should read below:

Educators say several factors contribute to schools losing ground, some rooted in basic statistics. Those with small enrollments -- and therefore small testing samples -- are more vulnerable to wide score swings. Many of the public schools that produced big jumps in 2008 and declines this year, including Simon, Garrison and Hendley elementary, tested fewer than 150 children. Maury elementary tested fewer than 100.
New waves of children arrive each year, often with new sets of learning issues. Key teachers and administrators depart. Peggy Mussenden, principal of Aiton in Northeast, where math proficiency quadrupled in 2008 but fell back significantly in 2009, said losing a valued assistant principal hurt.

-Bill Turque, Washington Post, Sunday, December 6th

My school doesn't have to worry about the small numbers- we seem to get new children daily. But that gain in attendance is one of the factors that influences our data. I'm ready for a measurement that will fairly show the progress of our students instead of punishing us for factors beyond our control. I don't mind being held accountable- just as long as we're not being held accountable for whether or not its raining in China.

1 comment:

John Wills Lloyd said...

Maybe schools could assess kids' actual performance (e.g., words read per minute on passages of known difficulty) on a frequent schedule (e.g., weekly) and publish those on their Web sites. Sure, there should be codes for kids rather than their names (but the parent of each student could know the code or her or his daughter or son). I think I'll post a blog entry about this!