New York

For most students, no benefit to a school's F grade, study finds

A study examining whether getting poor grades on city progress reports prompted schools to improve their students' test scores found little evidence of such a boost. The study, released today by the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, asked the question by comparing schools with progress report raw scores that were roughly the same, but just different enough to get different letter grades. In fact the two groups showed about the same amount of progress — except in fifth-grade math, where students in failing schools made "significant and substantial improvement" compared to their peers in schools that had been assigned a grade of D, according to the study. The progress reports assign letter grades to schools based primarily on improvements in students' test scores. Since the first reports were released a year ago, the program has been the subject of sustained criticism: Parents and teachers have complained about unfair stigmatization of good schools, and statisticians have charged that the reports are driven as much by error as by actual school improvement. The study's architect, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Marcus Winters, called his findings "mixed-positive" in favor of the progress reports. Those findings were the subject this morning of a panel discussion sponsored by the Manhattan Institute featuring Winters, Columbia University economist Jonah Rockoff, and two officials from the Department of Education's accountability office, including its CEO, James Liebman.
New York

Many open questions in state's "Growth for All" accountability plan

Not only is New York State proposing a "proficiency plus" accountability model that will take both absolute proficiency and student growth towards proficiency on state reading and math tests into consideration, it is also looking at creating a "growth for all" system to reward schools who move already proficient students to even higher levels of proficiency, and, perhaps, penalize schools where proficient students do not make additional gains. This part of the accountability system would not require federal approval, presenters stressed at last week's public forum on the model. According to the presentation by Ira Schwartz of the state education department, many ideas are still on the table for where to set the bar for growth, how to compare students and schools, and what positive or negative incentives schools could expect under the new system. First, the state must determine what schools should strive for in educating students who already test proficient. Is it enough that students continue to test above the proficiency cutoff, or must they show one year's growth or more when scale scores are compared? The question echoes this summer's debate over whether to emphasize the "proficiency gap" or the "achievement gap" in looking at student performance. Asked whether some parents and educators might choose to improve the teaching of non-tested subjects such as art, music, and physical education rather than devoting more resources to helping proficient students score even higher, Schwartz responded that the Regents had specifically asked for a way to hold schools accountable for the growth of all students. Next, the state must decide how to compare schools. New York City's Progress Reports got a nod for their peer group comparison,
New York

State's accountability proposal projects growth towards proficiency

In October, New York State is submitting a growth model proposal to the U.S. Department of Education, I learned at last week's public forum on the proposal. What would school and district accountability look like under the new model? For grades 3-8, schools would earn points towards meeting Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) for each student scoring proficient or above (a level 3 or 4 on state tests), but would also earn full points for level 1 and 2 students whose growth indicates that they are on track to become proficient within a four-year period. A simplified example of how the growth model would determine whether a student is on-track to proficiency. The graph above provides an oversimplified example. The blue line represents the cutoff score for proficiency at each grade level. Bill and Ted each start out 100 points below proficient. In 4th grade, Bill has gained enough that he is now only 70 points below proficient. As you can see by the red line, if he continued to grow at this rate, he would reach proficiency easily by 7th grade. Therefore, Bill is deemed to be on-track to proficiency, and his school would get full credit towards Annual Yearly Progress for him. Ted, on the other hand, is still 95 points below proficient in 4th grade. He made more than a year's growth, but if he continues to grow at this rate, he will not reach proficiency by 7th grade. Ted's school would not get full-credit towards AYP for him. Of course, in real life, students don't grow at exactly the same rate every year.