One must start somewhere. I’ve been playing around with the results from the DC-CAS for 2010 (about which the WaPo and Rhee and Fenty have either been quiet or tried to spin). So far, I have some good graphs and tables for the 3rd grade. Here goes.
First, a graph and table of the total number of students in all of DCPS 3rd grade classes from 2007 through 2010, according to figures on the OSSE-NCLB-DC-CAS website. You can see that there have been some rises and some drops. Most recently, there was a drop of about 160 students last year – roughly 6 to 8 classrooms.
Next, a graph and table of the ethnic/racial composition of the entire 3rd grade DCPS cohort. I left out students identified as American Indians, since we have so few in DC at all in any grade, and I combined Asians/Pacific Islanders with non-Hispanic Whites, since both groups are fairly small, but should not be neglected. You will see that the 3rd grade in DCPS is still over 75% non-Hispanic African-American (black), but that the proportion of black students has been slowly decreasing, while the proportions of whites, asians, and hispanics have been slowly rising.
Now let’s look at the percentages of DCPS 3rd graders who either live in poverty, are deemed “educationally disabled” (i.e., are eligible for Special Education classes, or are not proficient in English. The current acronyms for the latter category are LEP (Limited English Proficiency) and NEP (Non-English Proficient). Here is the table and graph:
As you can see, our 3rd graders are getting relatively poorer as time goes on (an increase of about 5%), and there is a slightly higher proportion of students who are just learning English (an increase of about 3 or 4%), but the proportion in Special Education hasn’t changed a whole lot over the past 4 years.
By request, here are the overall “passing” rates on the DC-CAS for all DCPS 3rd graders over the period 2007 through 2010. (Reminder: Michelle Rhee was appointed AFTER the 2007 DC-CAS testing.) By “passing”, I mean the percentage of each group that is deemed “proficient” or “advanced” by the publishers of the DC-CAS, and by the writers of the No Child Left Behind act.
Next, let’s look at the “passing” rates on the DC-CAS over the period 2007-2010 for the various groups.
First of all, pass rates in the 3rd grade for reading and math for all black DCPS students:
As you can see, there was a drop of about 5% in pass rates in 2010, both in reading and in math, among African-American 3rd grade DCPS students. In fact, pass rates in reading for 2010 are essentially the same as in 2007, and in math, the pass rate in 2010 is very close to the pass rate of 2008. So much for the claim of Rhee & Fenty & the Washington Post that our current DCPS administration is constantly “boosting test scores.”
Secondly, the pass rates in the 3rd grade for all Hispanic DCPS students:
The drop in pass rates for 2010 in both subjects is about 10%, twice the drop rate for black students. In fact, the pass rates for Hispanic 3rd graders are now LOWER than they were in the spring of 2007!
Now, the pass rates for 3rd graders who are either Asian-American or European-American:
As you can see, there has not been a lot of change in these numbers over the last 4 years. The small rise in reading pass rates for 2010 is just about canceled out by the small decline in the math pass rate – both in the neighborhood of 2%.
What about the gaps between the pass rates of various groups? Here come some more graphs and tables.
First, the gap between the pass rates of whites and of blacks, in both reading and math:
This graph and table shows the difference in pass rates between Black and White 3rd graders in both reading and math. Here, the lower the gap (or difference), the better – at least if you are in favor of equality. As you can see, the gap suddenly rose a lot in 2010, wiping out just about all the progress that had been made over the previous 3 years.
Next, let’s look at the gap between Hispanics and whites:
Michelle Rhee has no explanation whatsoever for this, according to accounts published online in WaPo.
I can think of three likely reasons:
One, the IMPACT evaluation system has caused the vast majority of teachers to try to teach using her Teaching and Learning Framework system. A number of teachers have complained to me that IMPACT and TLF take all of the creativity, imagination, and fun out of teaching, and as a result, their teaching now bores the students so much that they learn less. (It seems to me that DCPS teachers these days are working harder than ever, dotting even more bureaucratic Is and crossing more bureaucratic Ts than ever; many teachers that I have spoken to feel that much of it is unnecessary…)
Two, since the publishers of the DC-CAS have finally released the test items they used in 2009, this probably means that they used different test items for 2010. Possibly the new items were even harder, or even more poorly-written than the previous questions; this might be enough to make the scores drop. (As a veteran math teacher, I know that I can pretty much predict the pass rate on a test or quiz depending on how hard I make the questions!!!)
Three, over the past few years, DCPS has seen a mass exodus of experienced elementary teachers, and their replacement by untrained, inexperienced “newbie” teachers who frankly don’t know what they are doing. The new teachers have a lot of energy – at least at first – but they burn out at an alarming rate, which means that there is very little continuity in teaching at the local school level. I hear of schools (charter AND public) where the vast majority of teachers have taught less than 2 years, and where 3-year teachers are considered veterans. One thing I have to agree with Michelle Rhee with: it took me about 3 years to get any good at teaching. She, of course, left for greener pastures, fame, and fatter paychecks. Unlike her, I stayed in the classroom for another 28 years, and (mostly) anonymity.