Monday, September 1, 2008

Lebanon Math Scores

I've been thinking about this and this on and off all weekend, as well as having conversations with others about it. I don't really have much to say, but I do wonder about this:

According to figures from Finch, the principal, 47 percent of Lebanon High School students failed Algebra I in the third trimester of the 2007-08 school year. Another 21 percent squeaked by with a D.

Finch said he did not check other classes or other trimesters for comparison.

First, the third-trimester thing. It seems to me that that's not going to be very representative (LT has another data point that supports this claim), since the third trimester is going to have the highest percentage of students who have already failed Algebra I at least once, which is going to create a skewed view of the scores, since the repeat rate for failing is pretty high. As well, I thought math classes at LHS were all two trimesters long - Algebra IA and IB, for example. I don't recall any IA classes being taught in the spring trimester, so what this probably really means is people who are failing IB.... right?

Oh, and yeah, those are high failure rates. That should go without saying.

The second thing is the assertion that Finch hadn't checked other trimesters or classes. Unless the LCSD is using incredibly outdated technology, it shouldn't have been hard to find more data. So either Finch did check, and told less than the whole truth, or didn't check, which is a mistake. Alternatively, I suppose he could have asked for more data but not had it by the time the story ran.... but why not just say that? I find it hard to believe Finch - or someone in the district - doesn't have that data on hand when the district declares an academic emergency.

In any case, as bad as the scores from the third trimester of last year are, what would seem to be more important (and more statistically significant) would be either the trend over three or more consecutive years of third-trimester Algebra I scores, or even the trend of scores by trimester over the course of the whole year. One data point has limited value.

Of course, there is this:

Although the number of students receiving passing AYP math scores improved slightly last year over the previous year - from 48.62 to 50.34 percent, the standard is 59 percent. In 2006-07, schools met standards if 49 percent of students passed the assessment tests. The percentage will continue to increase every two years until 2014 when 100 percent of students will have to pass.

This is another way in which NCLB is a pile of garbage: Standards change every year without any regard for what's actually happening on the ground. And it will never be the case that 100% of students pass a standardized test. That's a fantasy. (That we should be getting rid of asinine standardized testing altogether is a whole different blog post.) The other thing is the rate of increase: from 49% to 100% in seven years? Seriously? That's the stuff of legends.

One last thing: If I remember correctly, the majority of the math teachers at LHS who were teaching low-level math classes when I was there were very young and, as a group, very new. This was true with only one exception I can think of. I'm not suggesting that this alone can explain the scores, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't a factor.


Anonymous said...

7:54 PM: Shimmin asks about a goal that was in previous reports but not present in this one: "Schools will enhance communication and involvement with parents."
Why didn't Debi bring this up to Steve BEFORE the meeting?
Work TOGETHER people!

Dennis said...

It's possible that the question did not occur to Shimmin until the meeting.

It doesn't seem like she intentionally sandbagged Kelley, at least not to me.

It seemed more like Kelley was unprepared/didn't do his job and got caught flat-footed. That's how it looked to me, anyway.

Anonymous said...

To anon 10:09...

How could Debi have known before the meeting that Kelly was going to leave this particular goal out of his report?

You are looking way too hard for something to critize.

Anonymous said...

Steve Kelley was going over some of the goals of the district, so usually no big deal. It looked like Debi was following along on her list. She then noticed he left one off. I don't think the board had a copy of his report before the meeting, as he gave each board member a copy of his presentation just as he was starting. I don't think Debi was doing a gotcha, but I was impressed that she caught it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not saying Mr. Kelley couldn't be more prepared.
That may be true--on the first day of school I'm sure he had had a VERY busy day and things may have gotten lost in the shuffle.
Based on his behavior of trying to set up communication meetings, round-tables, etc., I don't think he thinks parents should be left out of the loop.
Many of the parents who feel most disenfranchised are the one who are not involved in those kinds of things.
You said: It's possible that the question did not occur to Shimmin until the meeting.
Debi should not say everything she thinks at the time she thinks it.
I'm saying she should stay away from Rick Alexander's model, and instead ask Mr. Kelley before or after the meeting so he can be sure it is part of the presentation next time.
There was already tenseness in the room from parents who don't feel connected.
It would have been more prudent of her to access that situation and act accordingly.
Maybe she did.
She comes across as very naive but is she really?
If she isn't she is being very deceptive and taking people in with her "innocence" while she shoots a bullseye at someone she is supposed to work WITH, to make the District the best it can be.
I don't see her behaviors as being much different from Rick Alexander's, she just does the same thing in a softer-voiced, more hesitant, "nicer" way.
They both (Debi and Rick) seem to take every opportunity to make the Administration look bad.
Debi wants people to give her allowance (she is newer, she is really a nice person, she is really trying to do the right thing, etc.) but she doesn't want to extend that same hand of understanding to the Administration.
Who are just imperfect people themselves after all.
Rick wants to get rid of Jim Robinson so badly he jumps on anything that might make that possible.
You asked, Dennis, if he even listens--yeah, but that is the only thing he is listening for.

Dennis said...

Anon @ 9:20 .... I just don't see how her question was inappropriate. She didn't ask with rancor, she didn't accuse him of anything, she didn't pester him about it. She just asked, Kelley said he may have omitted that particular goal, and, I believe, she asked if it could be included in the future. Done.

That's a perfect example of good communication, in my book. Putting it behind closed doors is not a good idea - what's the advantage of that in a district with such a rough history?

I don't necessarily think Kelley was leaving anything out intentionally, either, but there's no way of knowing if Shimmin thought the same thing. And the oversight of that particular goal - increasing communication to parents - could be seen as really suspicious at a time when such communication is even more necessary.

No, I think it was a good catch on her part.

And, for the record, I don't think assuming she's as malicious as Alexander is a good idea, for two reasons: First, there's little to no evidence that it's true; and second, because one can't give her the chance to do her job if one is constantly reading malicious intent into everything she does.

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