It’s nice when people you don’t even know back up what you’ve claimed.
This morning, a group I don’t actually recall hearing of before issued a press release saying about what I recently wrote. They agreed that there was little or no agreement between the test results on the NAEP for the public schools in Washington DC — on the one hand — and what DC’s officials claim the DC-CAS standardized tests show.
This group, Better Bolder Approach to Education (BBA), had way more facts and figures than I did, and their preliminary report is about 15 pages long. Here is the meat of their conclusions:
“Within the next few weeks…DCPS … will release selected data from the 2014 DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS) that they will likely assert demonstrate an increase in student proficiency. They may also likely claim substantial gains for low-income and minority students and, possibly, progress in closing race- and income-based test score gaps, as they did last year based on 2013 DC-CAS results.
[We, BBA, are ] … producing a report explaining why these gains are exaggerated and, in some cases, non-existent, and how lack of data transparency, combined with cherry-picking specific numbers, has enabled DCPS and OSSE to paint a false picture of progress. Moreover, our report will show clearly that low-income and minority DCPS students (and other groups of disadvantaged students) have, in fact, lost ground to their more advantaged peers in the past few years under Chancellors Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson.
“The report will also explain how excessive pressure has contributed to this gaming of scores… [and ]… explain … why these gains are exaggerated and, in some cases, non-existent, and how lack of data transparency, combined with cherry-picking specific numbers, has enabled DCPS and OSSE to paint a false picture of progress. Moreover, our report will show clearly that low-income and minority DCPS , as well as the multiple negative consequences on students, teachers, and the system as a whole.”
They go on to say,
” DCPS claims of “historic” gains in students who are “proficient” and “advanced” should be reflected in large increases in scale scores, which are the basis for the cut scores. They are not. Mean scale scores range from a low of 45.81 (2010 3rd grade reading among African American students) to highs of over 70 among white students in math). As per the data that are illustrated in Figure A, 2009-2013 gains in reading scale scores are minimal (they range from 0=-0.25 in 6th grade to 2.77 points in 4th grade, for an average of 1.6 points). Math gains are slightly larger, with an outsized 6.25-point gain among 6th graders raising the average to 2.99.
“Given the 99-point scale for tests, these are far too small to support large proficiency gains.
And then they display this graph, which shows that gains in average scale scores have in fact been very, very small:
Keep in mind that these scale scores go from 0 to 99! If after 3 or 4 years of hard work, I found that average scores on my students’ final exams had only risen from a 51 to a 54, I don’t think I would be talking about ‘historic gains’!
Naturally, the DCPS spokesperson belittled the BBA report as follows:
Melissa Salmanowitz, a D.C. schools spokeswoman, said the school system is confident in the accuracy of D.C. CAS results that showed widespread gains.
“It’s incredibly disappointing that this group refuses to believe what is clear in the D.C. CAS data, that our students are making historic progress,” she said. “They’re using fuzzy math and distortions to create a narrative that simply is not true. Every indicator, from test scores to attendance to student satisfaction, shows how DCPS is moving in the right direction.”
From my own experience, I believe the BBA way more than I do anybody from DCPS bureaucracy, since they are making it harder and harder to find any information at all.
I will conclude by linking to the three blog posts that I recently wrote urging folks NOT to believe the self-serving rhetoric that is sure to emerge from the spokespeople at DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), DCPS, or the DC mayor’s office.