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Nip/Tuck for NYC Progress Reports?

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Yesterday's Principals Weekly (a weekly email sent to New York City principals) foreshadowed some possible changes to the NYC Progress Reports. (You can read earlier posts on progress reports here.) Some proposed changes include:

1) The new system may assign separate grades for each element of the progress report. In other words, schools could get an A for the overall proficiency category, a C based on their students' test score growth, and an F based on the learning environment surveys. This is a very positive step. (Diane Ravitch made a powerful argument for this change in the fall.)

2) The Progress Reports compare each school to a group of similar schools. In the fall, the elementary and K-8 "peer indices" were created using demographics; the new proposal is to use "the average ELA and math proficiency rating of students in the testing grades" instead.

3) To address ceiling effects, the new Progress Reports may count any level 4 student (the highest performance level) who remains at level 4 as making one year of progress.

4) A "progress adjustment" may be made for special education students who take the state ELA and math tests in consecutive years. I am not sure how DOE plans to adjust scores, but this appears to be a response to Leo Casey's special ed post on Edwize.

Read the full Principals Weekly excerpt on Progress Reports below, or see Elizabeth Green for more details.

From Principals Weekly:

Since the release of the Progress Reports in November, the Office of Accountability has gathered feedback from principals, teachers, parents, the UFT, the CSA, and others. Based on careful consideration of all suggestions received, we are considering the following changes to the elementary/middle/K-8 Progress Reports. Additional changes may be considered based on your feedback, and we will announce final decisions about the changes later this spring. If you have questions or comments about the proposed changes, please email [email protected] We will announce proposed changes to the high school Progress Reports in March. The list of changes under consideration is as follows:

* Additional Credit – lower the minimum number of students required for additional credit eligibility from 20 to 15 so that more schools qualify

* Attendance - exclude Pre-K students from the attendance measure

* Elementary/K-8 Peer Index - calculate the peer index for elementary and K-8 schools using the average ELA and math proficiency rating of students in the testing grades. Student demographics would no longer be factored into the peer index.

* Letter grades by Progress Report category – add letter grades (A-F) for each section of the Progress Report (School Environment, Student Performance, and Student Progress)

* Level 4 students - any student who is a Level 4 in consecutive years qualifies as making one year of progress

* Regents Exams in Middle Schools - a middle school student can qualify as making one year of progress in Math either by a) maintaining or improving his/her proficiency rating on the state math test from one year to the next or b) scoring 85 or higher on the Math A Regents exam

* Special Education - reflect the additional challenge schools undertake when serving special education students by giving a progress adjustment for each such student who takes the state ELA and math tests in consecutive years

If adopted, the proposed changes would have the following effects on next year's Progress Report:

* Grade Cutoff Scores – grade cut-off scores would be adjusted to coincide with what the grade distribution would have been for 2007-08 using the 2006-07 Progress Report rules

* Peer Groups – elementary/K-8 schools would be assigned new peer groups for next year based on the new peer indexing methodology

* Peer and City Horizons – peer and city horizons would be updated to take into account the new peer groups, the revised metric definitions, and an additional year of data

* Targets – the 2006-07 rules would be used to determine whether a school met its pre-existing target; going forward, new targets would be based on the 2007-08 rules
4 Comments

This issue of "peer schools" is very interesting to me, eduwonkette. How should we decide that one school is a "peer" of another? Is it that the schools enroll similar kinds of students (whether defined by standardized test scores such as ELA and math tests or the socioeconomic mix of students), or have similar resources (e.g., class size, overcrowding, per pupil expenditures, etc.), or both? Or is there some other criteria we ought to use? I'd like to know what your readers think.

Schoolboy,

Excellent point. The key is the unquantifiable nexus between the critical mass of generational poverty, as well as years in dysfunctional schools, and life experiences, especially trauma.

Episodic poverty, for instance caused by a divorce, is not comparable to generational poverty. Being trapped temporarily due to a lack of transportation or an illness is not comparable to being trapped in gang life among families with generations of incarcerated moms and dads, or mental illness, or addiction.

We may not be able to quantify it from a distance, but the differences are real and obvious, and easily recognized by students and parents. Consequently, people make choices, and those choices then effect the critical mass of generational problems/pathologies vs. episodic set-backs.

This is a pattern that should be clear to anyone with "street smarts." In fact, we I was a kid we distinquished between being poor, and being in poverty. But it seems lost on techies who have never taught or never sent their own kids to high poverty schools. No formula exists but we know that the effect is geometrical in the challenges that are caused.

Again, Malcolm Gladwell says it best in his accounts of "tipping points." There is no comparison between a school that is 50 to 60% poor (since the national average for poor public school students is 47%) and a school that is 90% poor or more. And often there is difference between between a high poverty elementary school and a middle school. Parents often feel safe sending their kids to neighborhood elementary schools, but they would never send their kid to the middle school in the neighborhood. As one middle school principal told me, test scores drop by more than 50% between the late spring in 5th grade and the early fall in 6th grade. "If we can ruin so many students in six weeks of class," he mused, "we must be pretty good. We couldn't do so much damage so quickly unless we really worked at it."

Elementary/K-8 Peer Index - calculate the peer index for elementary and K-8 schools using the average ELA and math proficiency rating of students in the testing grades. Student demographics would no longer be factored into the peer index.

Isn't there something a little circular about that?

I have the same confusion as Rachel above; if you're ranking schools based on peer groups constructed of schools w/ similar test scores, comparing their overall score levels and/or gains, what information does that yield?

That among schools w/ the lowest test scores, one school has slightly higher scores and/or has made slightly more gains than the others -- and thus deserves an "A" rather than an "F"? I don't get it.

The reason that this made a little bit of sense for middle and high schools is that the system constructed peer groups according to students' previous test scores (8th grade scores for HS, 4th grade scores for MS -- why not 5th grade scores? I guess because 5th grade state tests are newer?).

But in ES, they intend to use 3-5th grade scores to construct peer groups, since there aren't any scores (yet anyway) at the K or pre-K level.

I don't get the rationale for this and wish someone w/ more expertise in this area would clarify what this means.

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  • Leonie Haimson: I have the same confusion as Rachel above; if you're read more
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  • john thompson: Schoolboy, Excellent point. The key is the unquantifiable nexus between read more
  • skoolboy: This issue of "peer schools" is very interesting to me, read more

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