Archive for the ‘NAEP’ Tag

Beware of false prophets:Is GA capable of leading the nation?   Leave a comment

Although some people may beg to differ, I do not consider myself to be a pessimist. Simply stated: I am a realist because I have enough motivation and common sense to look at things as they actually are, how they could/should be, and then I compare the two. I believe that I am fair in my comparison of the two; perhaps even a little lenient at times, but fair nonetheless.

As I browsed Maureen Downey’s GetSchooled blog for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, I came across several quotes by State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox that caught my attention. Cox was speaking at the DeKalb Rotary Club and discussed how Georgia’s new Math Standards (based on Massachusetts’ 10 year old standards) will allow our state to surpass the model state. Hmmm. Let me make sure I understand this: Georgia has adopted standards 10 years after another state, and not only will we surpass that state, but we will also ‘lead the nation’ in academics? Pick-up any research book on educational change, and chances are you will read something to the effect of meaningful educational change only taking 3-5 years. We missed the bus 5 years ago.

Cox also alluded to Georgia’s performance on the recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) administration. According to Cox, Georgia is keeping up with or outpacing the nation in almost every demographic. Talk about double-talk” keeping up with or outpacing and almost. Those vague words and phrases should automatically make everyone (or maybe just me) run to the NAEP web site to see exactly how much ‘out pacing’ Georgia is actually doing. Since NCLB was supposed to address the opportunity gap for certain groups (Black, Latino/Hispanic/ELL/SWD/FARL), education policy experts and administrators focus on the scores of those groups first.

Let’s look at the NAEP Math performance of the  3rd grade Students with Disabilities. The national average score is 220. Here is the breakdown of performance by state:

  • 24 states performed above the national average, with Massachusetts having the highest average of 227;
  • 6 states performed at the national average of 220;
  • 21 states, including Georgia, performed below the national average, with D.C. having the lowest score of 193 and Alabama with a 194.

This is only one example of a state-by-state comparison. Anyone interested in looking at scores for other content area/grades can do so at the site. You can generate very specific reports for any subgroup.

It is great that our state’s education leader wants to emulate the success experienced in Massachusetts, but I believe that we waited too late to implement the necessary changes. I can’t help but wonder:

  • How my kids were retained during the 10 year ‘wait-and-see’ period?
  • How many of those retained kids could have been successful with the new curriculum?
  • How many kids dropped out because they felt hopeless?

No, Cox has not been in office for the last 10 years, but what Georgia needs to improve education now is a leader who is abreast of research, policy, and not afraid to make executive decisions. In my opinion, Cox does not possess any of those. She is better suited for a position at the local level. If Georgia plans to be a serious contender in education reform, we need someone who will roll-up their sleeves, hire people based on education, experience, and ability-not someone who is under pressure from his or her political party. A real leader knows that you can only mislead the public for so long with vague statements, such as ““No matter how you measure it, our graduation rate is improving,” (Cox, 2009). In reality, the graduation rate is only improving for certain groups, but when you use the average rate, it does imply that our graduation rate is steadily increasing. A leader who knows that only 44% of its SWD population graduates would not insult the constituents with false prophecies. Yes, Georgia is ready for change, but leading the nation will require considerable change within the infrastructure-from the top down.

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Being minority or poor should not dictate level of academic achievement   9 comments

DISCLAIMER: Sorry for so many numbers!

As I perused the AJC’s ‘Get Schooled’ blog this morning, I came across Maureen Downey’s post about a new study by the Southern Education Foundation. Interesting read.The South has become the first region in the country to have both the largest population of poor and minority students. Other than that exact statement, I am not too sure why this topic is newsworthy. Demographics are changing. Didn’t we already know that? If I am not mistaken, back in 2000 experts predicted that Hispanic/Latinos would become the largest minority group, surpassing Blacks/African Americans. What I find disturbing is the correlation between minority status and/or poverty with low academic expectations by the ‘experts’ and public education institutions. I guess I missed that lesson during my certification program. For the record, let me reiterate my platform: I do not buy into stereotypes and I refuse to become one. What I would like to see is some research that emphatically (and empirically) proves that if you are poor and/or minority, you cannot and will not learn anything or perform on par with White, Asian, and affluent students. I don’t want to see NAEP stats or AYP data; I want to see research that says minority students are incapable of learning, must accept someone else’s limitations, and resolve to be underachievers. That is essentially what this correlation is saying. By the way, wasn’t a similar correlation spewed before? Like in The Bell Curve?

It’s time for these so-called education foundations and think-tanks to call a spade a spade (no racial overtone intended). When are we going to really start digging and revealing what is really going on in the South? I will share some statistics on Georgia, since that is where I live. Let’s look at the population growth/changing demographics in Georgia for the past 5 years (3-5 years is a good span when tracking change):

2004-05 State Student Enrollment: 1,515,646

  • Black/African American: 38%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 8%
  • ELL: 4%
  • FARL (low-income): 48%

2005-06 State Student Enrollment: 1,559,828

  • Black/African American: 38%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 8%
  • ELL: 5%
  • FARL: 50%

2006-07 State Student Enrollment: 1,589,839

  • Black/African American: 38%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 9%
  • ELL: 5%
  • FARL: 50%

2007-08 State Student Enrollment: 1,609,681

  • Black/African American: 38%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 10%
  • ELL: 5%
  • FARL: 51%

2008-09 State Student Enrollment: 1,615,066

  • Black/African American: 38%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 10%
  • ELL: 6%
  • FARL: 53%

The above information is not awe-inspiring alone, but when we look at the state’s Special Education demographics for the same groups/years we get a completely different perspective. The following information is not available on the state’s web site; I obtained it through an Open Records Request.

2004-05 Special Education Enrollment: 242,565

  • Black/African American: 39.9%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 5.5%
  • ELL: 2.3%
  • FARL: 54.4%

2005-06 Special Education Enrollment: 241,773

  • Black/African American: 40.2%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 6.1%
  • ELL: 2.7%
  • FARL: 55.3%

2006-07 Special Education Enrollment: 244,210

  • Black/African American: 40.1%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 6.8%
  • ELL: 2.9%
  • FARL: 58.5%

2007-08 Special Education Enrollment: 235,016

  • Black/African American: 40.2%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 7.3%
  • ELL: 2.9%
  • FARL: 59.5%

*2008-09 Special Education Enrollment: 224,064

  • Black/African American: 40.3%
  • Hispanic/Latino: 7.8%
  • ELL: 3.1%
  • FARL: 61%

What does all of this mean?

  1. For at least 5 years, minority and/or low-income students have accounted for at least 50% of the students in Special Education (except 04-05. slightly under 50%). Believe me when I say the numbers for Gifted are almost the polar opposite.
  2. None of the think-tanks have factored in misdiagnosis, tracking, etc. into their formula for why minority and low-income students continue to underperform when compared to White, Asian, and affluent students.
  3. Georgia has a history of misdiagnoses and ‘directing’ African American students into Special Education programs. See here.

Simply put, does anyone find it strange that African Americans make up 38% of the state’s total student population, yet the enrollment in Special Education has been holding steady at 40%? Even more unnerving is the fact that 61% of students in Special Education are from low-income families. There is some overlap: Students from the other categories also fall into the low-income group. In my opinion, this is more newsworthy than the (obvious) fact that Georgia’s Hispanic/Latino student population has grown every year. The growth for Blacks/African Americans is not as noticeable. I await the critics’ rhetoric about single parent familes because you cannot tell form the SEF’s study or state data which students have two parents or which two-parent households are considered low-income. Pretty soon the superficial variables will be eliminated and people will have to admit the real problem. That should be interesting.

*Unusual drop in enrollment; waiting on Open Records Request from OCR to find if some form of corrective legal action was taken to address enrollment disparities.

NAEP Data: It is what it is   2 comments

Georgia’s State Superintendent of Schools, Kathy Cox, released the December 2009/January 2010 newsletter. It included a list of the 17 schools that moved-off the NCLB ‘Needs improvement’ list, as well as a summary of Georgia’s performance on the 2009 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP). The assessment, administered every 2 years, compares academic performance of 4th and 8th grade students across the country in areas such as Math and Reading. With the exception of the SAT and ACT, it is the closet thing we have to a national assessment. I believe I may have blogged about this topic before but I feel it’s important to revisit it because I have a problem with people presenting data without using full disclosure.

One thing we need to keep in mind is that the national average is just that: An average of scores from all 4th and 8th graders across the country. I did not find the word average anywhere in the article; I read it four times.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results show great improvement in Georgia.

Let’s analyze the data to see exactly what determines ‘great’ as opposed to say ‘good’ or no improvement at all. Data for AYP *subgroups is listed below.

4th Grade Performance Math (2003 to 2009>6 year period>4 administrations)

  • GA (All Students) 230-236; +6 points >1.5 gain/admin
  • Nation (All Students) 234-239;+5 points >1.25 gain/admin
  • GA (Free & Reduced Lunch) 219-225 +6 points >1.5 gain/admin
  • Nation (Free & Reduced Lunch) 222-228; +6 points >1.5 gain/admin
  • GA (Black Students) 217-221; +4 points > 1.0 gain/admin
  • Nation (Black Students) 216-222; +6 points > 1.5 gain/admin
  • GA (Hispanic Students) 201-212; +11 points > 2.75 gain/admin
  • Nation (Hispanic Students) 199-204; +5 points > 1.25 gain/admin

The article stated that Georgia is “…leading the nation in improving student achievement,” (Cox, 2009). For some reason the performance of Students with Disabilities (SWD) and English Language Learners (ELL) were omitted from the newsletter, so I decided to check the NAEP site for those numbers.

GA ELL Population

  • 2009 > 220
  • 2007 > 212
  • 2005 > 208
  • 2003 > 208

Nation’s ELL Population

  • 2009 > 218
  • 2007 > 217
  • 2005 > 216
  • 2003 > 214

GA Students with Disabilities Population

  • 2009 > 215
  • 2007 > 219
  • 2005 > 218
  • 2003 > 209

Nation’s Students with Disabilities Population

  • 2009 > 220
  • 2007 > 220
  • 2005 > 218
  • 2003 > 214

Although Georgia’s ELL population performed higher than the national average for 2009, performance in other years has been considerably lower, with 2 years of no growth at all. The scores of the SWD group have been on the decline for the past three administrations, while the national average scores have improved. Perhaps that explains why those two groups were omitted from the newsletter. Just a thought. If anyone is interested, I will probably (meaning definitely) do a state-by-state comparison of each subgroup and compile some sort of ranking for each. I will likely start with SWD since I am a former Special Education teacher.

Thanks for reading!

 *AYP subgroups=those groups of students identified as having a ‘gap’ in their achievement compared to White, Asian, and economically advantaged students: Blacks, Hispanics, Students with Disabilities (SWD), and English Language Learners (ELL).

Is your state’s Department of Education misleading parents and constituents?   Leave a comment

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) testing results for 2009 were released this week. The NAEP is the only nationally administered assessment that randomly tests America’s 4th and 8th grade students’ to measure whether students know what they should at those grade levels, with special attention on the Mathematics assessment. The exam is actually administered every 2 years by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a component of the U.S. Department of Education. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on the question at hand: Is your state’s Department of Education misleading parents and constituents?

The practice of reporting ‘half-truths’ or omitting important data is very disturbing to me, both as a parent and an educator. According to the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia’s students showed ‘significant improvement’ on the 2009 NAEP; the state was one of 15 to show such improvement. By Georgia standards, what constitutes ‘significant improvement?’ Apparently for 8th grade students, only three points. In 2007, the average score for Georgia’s students was 275 compared to 280 for the nation. This year, Georgia’s average increased by three points to 278, compared to 282 for the nation. Over a 2-year period, Georgia has managed to close the performance gap between the national average by only one point. Fourth-grade NAEP performance remained relatively the same, with only a one point gain over the same 2-year period. In 2007, Georgia’s 4th graders averaged 235 compared to 239 for the nation. Two years later, the score increased to 236 for the state but the national average remained the same.

Despite the small gains made by Georgia’s students overall, there still exists a significant achievement gap for Blacks, Hispanics, Free and Reduced Lunch-eligible (FARL), and Students with Disabilities (SWD) when compared to White and Asian students. Of the 8th grade students performing ‘Below Basic,’ 72% were reported as having a disability, 50% were Black, 47% FARL, and 41% Hispanic. When compared to White and Asian students, the disparities are magnified because 18% and 14%, respectively, scored ‘Below Basic.’ For more detailed information about the performance of AYP subgroups, click here.

As parents we must remain vigilant in finding and demanding the truth from our education officials. If parents do not have full disclosure they are essentially prevented from making informed decisions about where and how their children are educated.

Posted October 17, 2009 by moniseseward in Uncategorized

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