The DC Office of the State Superintendent has released a spreadsheet with overall proficiency rates in reading and math and a combination of the two for the spring 2013 DC-CAS multiple-choice test. You can see the whole list here. and look for your favorite school, charter or public.
Overall, percentages of students deemed ‘proficient’ or ‘advanced’ seem to be up a bit from last year. At some schools, the scores went up enormously — which we know is often a suspicious sign.
But there are several major problems with this data:
(1) We have no idea whether this year’s test was easier, harder, or the same as previous years’ tests, since the manufacturer is allowed to keep every single item secret. The vast majority of teachers are forbidden even to look at the tests they are administering, to see if the items make sense, match the curriculum, are ridiculously hard, or are ridiculously easy.
(2) We have no idea what the cutoff scores are for any of the categories: “basic”, “below basic”, “proficient”, or “advanced”. Remember the scams that the education authorities pulled in New York State a few years ago on their state-wide required student exams? If not, let me remind you: every year they kept reducing the cutoff scores for passing, and as a result, the percentages of students passing got better and better. However, those rising scores didn’t match the results from the NAEP. It was shown that to get a passing grade on certain tests, a student only had to guess about 44% of the answers to get a proficient score — on a test where each question had four possible answers (A, B, C, D). (NYT article on this)
(3) In keeping with their usual tendency to make information hard to find, the OSSE data does not include any demographic data on the student bodies. We don’t know how many students took the tests, or what percentages belong to which ethnic group or race, or how many are on free or reduced-price lunch, or are in special education, or are immigrants with little or no English. Perhaps this information will come out on its own, perhaps not. It is certainly annoying that nearly every year they use a different format for reporting the data.
I think it’s time for a Freedom of Information Act request to get this information.