Some small rises in 7th grade pass rates

In the 7th grade, there are some small increases in pass rates in both the charter schools and the regular public schools.

One wonders why there are increases in this grade level but not in any of the earlier grades. Michelle Rhee’s own de-facto private populist, Richard Whitmire, told me and others last fall that the decreases in 2010 in  both the charter schools and regular schools in DC were because of a harder, new version of the test. Perhaps. By the same logic, could the rises in the 7th grade (and, we’ll see later, in the 8th grade) merely be  the result of the test being a bit easier this year? I don’t know for sure, but after looking at a lot of test questions in the past, I have no great respect for the test itself.

Could the rises and falls be the result of cheating by adults? I don’t have enough information to say. Rhee and Henderson and the DC Inspector General have done everything they can to stall and sidetrack any investigation, and we don’t know whether the Federal investigation will do anything. I would like to remind my readers that Pearson only questioned the results where a class had a number of wrong-to-right erasures that was three standard deviations above the norm. If the number of erasures was only two standard deviations too high, it didn’t get flagged. If someone gave the answers or questions to the students before they took the test, then there wouldn’t be any erasures at all. If a student stayed home during the entire testing period, or simply refused to answer any questions at all, and then someone else filled in the answers for them, then, again, Pearson’s erasure-rate analysis wouldn’t flag it either.

I will continue going in the same order I did before: pass rates for all regular DCPS 7th graders, pass rates for black DCPS 7th graders, pass rates for all 7th grade charter school students, pass rates for black 7th grade charter students, and fractions of the 7th grade that are black in both groups of schools,=. All of this data is from 2008 through 2011. Sure, I would like to go back more years than that, but only the data for those four years are separated out at the DC/NCLB/OSSE website.

Please note that in all of the graphs, the scale on the left goes from 0% to 100%, so you can see how these rates compare to the nadir and the zenith. Remember that by 2014, which is not far off, a full 100% of all the students in every single subgroup and reporting category will have to be ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’ on these tests, according to the No Child Left Behind act. Which is kind of like saying that 100% of all groups of students will have to be above average. Which is, by definition, impossible. (Especially so for students whose first language is not English and those with learning disabilities.)

Right now, the required AYP goal is for 73.69% of each subgroup to score at the ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’ level in both reading and math. It doesn’t look like even that goal will be reached even by 2014 for any of the groups I have plotted data for. Even though there are lots of Educational Rhee-formers who said that all students could be proficient or advanced if the nation’s public schools would just fire most of their  veteran, unionized teachers: bright but inexperienced new college grads could turn every thing around, for less pay, in two years,  and then go on to join their parents’ law firms or start managing hedge funds or form an educational consulting business and make three times what a veteran teacher does — in private industry. (Bankrolled by the public treasury, but we won’t mention that, will we?)

Well, facts are stubborn things. After four years of turmoil under Rhee, Henderson, Kamras and their followers, and after two years of the punitive IMPACT teacher evaluation system, what do we have? Small, somewhat dubious, and almost insignificant rises in pass rates in two of the seven tested grade levels. Hardly a revolution.

7th grade pass rates, all regular public schools:

Math and reading pass rates have definitely risen for 7th graders. A straight-line extrapolation predicts that at this rate, we’ll have 100% of all DCPS 7th graders proficient in math by the year 2021. Of course that won’t really happen: one reason is that the city will almost undoubtedly change the test by then, and whatever experience teachers have gained over the years for prepping their students for the DC- CAS will become useless. Another one is that almost no data in the social sciences follows a straight line for long periods of time.

Pass rates for black 7th graders in DCPS:

This graph should make you sit up and think. Notice that the math pass rates for all 7th grade DCPS students have been going up fairly steadily. However, this is most definitely NOT the case for the very large subset of all 7th graders in DCPS who happen to be black. Their scores are jumping all over the place, and are still five or six percentage points lower than they were, two or three years ago. In reading, pass rates appear to be significantly higher than two or three years ago, but in the past year there was nearly no change at all. My conclusion is probably that increases in pass rates for asians, whites, and hispanics in the 7th grade have masked stagnation or declines in pass rates among African-American students in DCPS in the 7th grades.

Next: pass rates for 7th graders in the charter schools in DC:

In the 7th grade in the charter schools, the pass rates in reading didn’t change at all over the past two years, though they have risen by about seven percentage points since 2008. In math, the pass rates went up by six percentage points over the last year, and are a full 19 percentage points more than they were  three years ago, which seems significant. Unless, as I was guessing earlier, there was something about the seventh grade tests over the past two years that made it easier for students to pass them. They certainly rose in both the regular public schools and in the charter schools, in 7th and 8th grade math, and the two educational ‘systems’ don’t all use the same methods of instruction. If scores go up because the test is easier, they can also go down because it’s harder. Plus, the socio-economic composition of the student body has significant effects, as all teachers know from personal experience.

Next we have the pass rates for black 7th grade charter students:

Here, not much change over the last 2 years in reading, but a seven point gain since 2008. In math, a four-point gain since 2010, and a 17-point gain since 2008. Is it the test getting easier? Improved instruction? Better teachers? Better cheating techniques? Students working harder? I don’t know.

And, finally, a graph and table showing how the fraction of the 7th grade that is black has changed over time.

Once again we see a slow decline in the fraction of the public school 7th grade student body that is African-American, and a student body in the charter schools that appears to hover between 88% black and 90% black, with no discernable trend one way or the other.

Published in: on August 5, 2011 at 11:35 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. at last, the increase! can’t wait for 8th grade, but beware of 10th grade — I already know it’s down in the comprehensive schools.

    I hope you do a comparison of comprehensive and selective and maybe a comparison of DCPS selective and KIPP and other top-rated charters.


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