February 14, 2008

RI School Performance - Getting Past Simple Categories

Marc Comtois

Learning First Alliance/Rhode Island is out with a report (h/t) in which they try to explain that the simple categories used to describe the progress (or lack thereof) of our schools are insufficient to the task. They have a point. Earlier this month, when digging into the latest reports on our state high schools, I noticed that some schools dubbed with the "Insufficient Progress" tag were actually outperforming the majority of other RI schools and, conversely, that a few schools making "Adequate Yearly Progress" were well below the average.

While I tended to focus on the fact that tagging a school with AYP sometimes obscures just how below average the school is, the LFA/RI report looks at it from the other direction.

Each year Rhode Island schools are evaluated on student performance on the statewide assessments in English language arts/reading and mathematics. The percentage of students meeting or exceeding proficiency often times gets overlooked by school classifications. We want to focus on the rest of the story. This story includes the increase in student performance in English language arts and mathematics at all grade levels, the percentage of schools commended for their sustained improvement, and the misconception that schools labeled as making insufficient progress are not improving.
It is worth remembering that AYP does denote, well, "Progress." But LFA/RI is going further by explaining that insufficient progress in a few categories is enough to doom the overall rating of the school. They provide several examples of how the general label obscures the overall progress being made. Their ultimate goal is to "start focusing on the positive." Their case is compelling and adds a different perspective to our overall evaluation of the degree and pace of Rhode Island's effort to better it's education system.

Finally, while LFA/RI condemns the overly-simplistic classification system set up by No Child Left Behind, they say very little about the fact that the implementation of NCLB--flawed though it is--has given us a system of accountability such that we can measure the improvements LFA/RI now laud.

ADDENDUM: Incidentally, I was trying to find some stuff at the RI Dep't of Ed. web site and apparently the domain name has expired. What's going on, a budget crunch or something?

UPDATE: Via commenter Bob W., RI Dept of Ed is here... http://www.ride.ri.gov/

I think I knew that, but I tried the Google route and then the ri.gov route and both showed it as www.ridoe.net.

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RI Dept of Ed is here...


Bob Washburn

Posted by: Bob Washburn at February 14, 2008 2:41 PM

Thanks Bob

Posted by: Marc at February 14, 2008 3:14 PM

I commented on Marc's earlier post on precisely this issue.

I would like to express my appreciation for this post. There is good and bad in the public schools. Exclusive focus on one or the other tends to force everyone to lock horns and blocks progress.

Accountability is good, but fair measures of performance are necessary.

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at February 14, 2008 6:13 PM

I apparently don't know how to use links properly here. Sorry

Posted by: Thomas Schmeling at February 14, 2008 6:19 PM
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