February 18, 2011

NECAP: Following a Cohort

Marc Comtois

Most of the analysis of NECAP scores seems to focus on the year to year improvement of results at a given grade level. For instance, we'll read something like "the percentage of students at School X who are proficient and above in Math is 55% this year, which is 5 points higher than last year." Well, that's comparing two different groups of kids. What if we look at the same cohort through the years, instead?

For the first time, this last round of NECAP scores allows us to look at results for one particular cohort--the 11th graders--from the time they were first tested in 6th grade (in the Fall of 2005) until this past fall. Obviously, you can't control for the changing makeup of the cohort as kids come and go, but these changes get smoothed out over time (with the possible exception of the private school flight that occurs between Jr. High and High school).

I took a look at my hometown, Warwick, and came up with the below. I used overall numbers because, while analysis could be broken down by student race, family income, etc., I wanted to focus on the "big picture." Numbers are percent of students proficient and above for the given subject.

First, here are the overall numbers for Warwick as a whole:

Warwick Schools - 2010 Gr.11 Cohort % Proficient & Above

2005 Gr.62006 Gr.72007 Gr.82010 Gr.11
I then broke it down by the three sub-districts (ie; High Schools and their feeder schools). I compiled the raw numbers for the feeder elementary schools (including those closed since 2006).
Aldrich Jr. High/Pilgrim High

2005 Gr.62006 Gr.72007 Gr.82010 Gr.11
Write  30%53%

Gorton Jr. High/Warwick Vets High

2005 Gr.62006 Gr.72007 Gr.82010 Gr.11
Write  33%39%

Winman Jr. High/Toll Gate High

2005 Gr.62006 Gr.72007 Gr.82010 Gr.11
Write  50%68%

Analysis: Writing proficiency certainly increased from 8th grade to 11th. Without exception, reading scores for this cohort were better in 11th grade than they were in 6th, though there were some ups and downs along the way. That's the positive. The negative are the math scores, which consistently trended down. Difficulty of the subject is one reason--math just gets harder as you progress.

Overall, it's a mixed bag. Warwick has a handle on reading and it looks like writing is coming along--more kids are getting better at both as they progress through Warwick schools. But math is a big problem as kids are getting less proficient as the difficulty increases. While that may seem to make intuitive sense, it's not a good result. We need to prepare our kids to compete in the global marketplace against kids who don't have such mathematical shortcomings. I know that Warwick recognizes the problem and is trying to take steps to address it. Only time will tell.

Source: NECAP Reporting