What to do about Deciles?

After 12 years in UCFSD, ~95% of UHS graduates will continue their education at a college or university.  Selecting the right college is an important decision, and many students seek admission at some of the most competitive institutions in the country.

For many of our parents, admission to the best college is the prize for which sacrifices have been made, by both the student and the family.   It can carry tremendous emotional significance.  It often feels like the quality of child’s future opportunities depend on that admissions decision.  And let’s face it …. Competition for those slots is high.    As parents, we want our children to have every possible advantage in that competition.

A year ago, one of our parents observed that one of our policies might actually be creating a disadvantage for our students.   The culprit?  Our decile ranking policy.

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Family Background and Student Achievement – An Example

Student achievement is significantly influenced by non-school factors.  While demography is not entirely destiny, it is well-known that academic achievement is correlated with factors like the income of parents, family structure, and the level of education achieved by parents.  The Coleman Report from 1966 is credited with this discovery.

So let’s take this insight and see how it can help us understand student achievement and school performance.

Let’s compare two area schools, Pocopson Elementary and Greenwood Elementary.  Pocopson is the largest elementary school in UCFSD;  Greenwood is just across Route 1 from Longwood Gardens, and is in the Kennett Consolidated School District.  On a map, the catchment area for Greenwood runs up against UCFSD boundaries.

Take a look below at the academic achievement stats for both schools in 20 13-14.   Question:  which school is doing a better job educating its students? Continue reading

Schools Matter for Student Achievement, Don’t They?

Ever since the Coleman Report was published 50 years ago, it has been well-known that student achievement is impacted mostly by many factors outside the classroom.

If you want to predict student performance, non-school factors will explain a majority of the variability in observed outcomes.  (The ‘outcomes’ include how much a student knows, whether they will be admitted to a competitive college, how much additional education they will pursue, and how much they will earn in their future career.)

Which non-school factors have the most explanatory power?  Researchers have found that these factors go a long way in explaining much of the performance differences between students: Continue reading

What’s at stake with Testing (Part 5 – Conclusions)

In the past few weeks, I have examined whether the PSSA deserves to be call a high-stakes test.   My conclusions have been:

  • The PSSA does not impact student grades, promotion, placement, or college admission. (see post)
  • For our teachers, student test scores do not have a detectable influence on the outcome of the teacher evaluation system, nor on teacher pay, employment, or individual reputation. (see post)
  • And for school districts, the PSSA impacts neither finances nor the level of state involvement in local school governance. (see post)

The PSSA does impact the reputation of a school community, through the School Performance Profile.   But school districts have always had reputations, and parents have always sought out good school districts in which to raise their kids.

If the evidence demonstrates that the PSSAs are low stakes tests, why does the “high stakes” label continue to be used?  (Examples here and here and here.)   What is going on?
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State of the Blog – Year End 2015

It was a busy year on the blog:

  • Published 95 posts
  • Reached ~2,400 readers in 71 countries
  • Doubled email subscribers
 Here are the most popular posts of 2015.  Perhaps you missed one?
  1. How Well Do We Pay UCFSD Teachers?
  2. How Does Teacher Pay Work?
  3. How Much Do UCFSD Teachers Earn?
  4. Update on Contract Negotiations  [note:  not current]
  5. My Comments on Class Size and Hillendale 3rd Grade
  6. The Value of Teacher Benefits – Part 1
  7. The Value of Teacher Benefits – Part 2
  8. My Vision for our School District
  9. Are Board Certified Teachers Highly Effective?
  10. PSERS – An Emerging Problem

Thank you for reading and taking an interest in our schools!

The easiest way to follow the blog, as many readers have discovered, is to follow on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.

Or, you can subscribe by email to make it even easier.   Simply click on the ‘follow’ button in the right margin of the blog and provide your email address.  Then when there is a new post, you will receive an email with a link to the new post. Click the link and you will be transported right to the new entry.

If you use an RSS reader on your phone (like Feedly or Flipboard) you can also add the blog’s URL (www.robertcsage.com) and integrate my posts with your other feeds and blogs.

Enjoy the holiday break, and I’ll see you back here at the blog in 2016!

thank you international

 

 

What’s at stake with Testing (Part 4 – Schools)

In my previous posts on the stakes of PSSA testing, I argued that the stakes were low for students. (see part 2)  Last week, I made the case that there is also little at risk for teachers. (see part 3)  So where are the “high stakes” on PSSAs?

Perhaps there are high stakes for schools and/or school districts.  Let’s look at the four main ways a school district could be impacted by the PSSAs:  levels of state funding, amount of state oversight and regulation, consequences to administrator employment, and impact on local property values.

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What is at stake with Testing (Part 3 – Teachers)

Tests with “high stakes” are those that have significant consequences (positive or negative) for students, teachers, or schools.  In my first post, I linked the origin of the phrase to the accountability movements of the late 1990s and 2000s.

Next, we looked at the PSSA and the stakes for students.  My conclusion was that the stakes for students are low.   Today we look at the what our educators have at risk with PSSAs.

PSSA – Teacher ‘Stakes’

For our teachers, there is the potential for real impact.  If teacher performance is linked to PSSA results, then it is possible the a teacher might experience financial, career, and reputation impact from the PSSAs.   But to determine the actual impact, we need to understand the inner-workings of the our “teacher effectiveness system”. Continue reading

What’s at stake with Testing (Part 2 – Students)

In my first post on “What’s at Stake with Testing”, I defined “high stakes”, and looked at the history of the phrase “high stakes testing”.

Framework

The term “high stakes” refers to any situation where there are large consequences — upside and downside.  Usage of the phrase “high stakes” in the mid-20th century most often referred to gambling … a situation where the player can lose everything ‘staked’, but also reap outsized rewards.james bond

We can visualize the ‘stakes’ of any situation, including gambling and testing, using a 2 x 2 matrix.  “High stakes” situations are those where the potential gains and losses are large — the upper right quadrant.

stakes matrix

In the next three posts we will look at the PSSA, and the consequences of test results on students, teachers, and schools.   Up first:  our students. Continue reading