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In NYC Middle Grades, Fewer High Achieving ELA Students, Even As Passing Rates Increase

In grades 5-7, grades that have seen sharp increases in ELA passing rates over the past two years, the percentage of New York City students scoring in the highest performance category has decreased substantially. You can find those results here. Interestingly, this is only true for ELA, not math.

* In 2006, 8.7% of 5th graders scored at Level 4 on the ELA. This year, only 4.3% did.

* In 2006, 7.1% of 6th graders scored at Level 4. This year, only 2.2% did.

* In 2006, 4.7% of 7th graders scored at Level 4. This year, only 1.6% did.


Anyone have ideas about what's going on here? Fordham's report on high achieving students in a NCLB era provides some insight, I think.

Where can I see all the figures?

I would like to know if my hunch is correct: that the greatest increase across the board was in the number of students scoring at level 2 (accompanied by a drop in students scoring 1).

If this is true, that would be quite telling. It certainly seems to be true about 7th-grade ELLs, according to the stats in yesterday's Daily News article.

Another cut at these data is a synthetic cohort analysis, contrasting 3rd-graders in 2006 with 5th-graders in 2008; 4th-graders in 2006 with 6th-graders in 2008; 5th-graders in 2006 with 7th-graders in 2008; and 6th-graders in 2006 with 8th-graders in 2008. For each of these 2006 cohorts, here's the change in the % at Level 4 on the ELA over the two-year period:

3rd-graders: -0.9 percentage points
4th-graders: -3.7 percentage points
5th-graders: -7.1 percentage points
6th-graders: -4.2 percentage points

Here's what it looks like for math:

3rd-graders: +0.8 percentage points
4th-graders: +0.4 percentage points
5th-graders: +2.0 percentage points
6th-graders: +1.7 percentage points

Skoolboy, Good call.

Diana, The results are here:

It's been my long-held understanding that Level 4 really doesn't matter. The heart of the test is at Level 3 - are students meeting the minimum standard (the determination of which is a different matter)? The New York State accountability system doesn't contain any extra rewards for students at Level 4. It would seem that if Level 4 mattered, schools would receive 2.5 or triple credit for students at Level 4. That doesn't occur. Accountability is based up the number/percentage at Level 3 AND 4 (schools do get penalized for Level 1's so we know that the level does matter, for what it's worth). Many schools get hung up on the count of Level 4's and lose valuable time "moving 3's to 4's". In NYC, this focus is understandable (although not good practice) given their value-added model but outside of NYC, it makes no sense. Time can better be spent looking at multiple measures of student learning.

I would like to see an analysis of the achievement gap. All the news reports seem to indicate that the achievement gap narrowed, but I can't seem to find the data broken down by race/ethnic group.

Hi ADH - I have asked the DOE for scale score data by race/ethnicity from 2002-2008. It does not appear to be available anywhere online. I'll let you know what I find out...

It would also be interesting to look at the performance for Reading First schools. The first group began in 2004 so those that began in kdg. would be in 4th grade this year. The 3rd grade students of 2004 would be this year's 7th graders.
How do their ELA performances compare to their required Terra Nova comprehension scores over time?

It is hard to make sense of this data without comparing this year's tests to those of the previous years, or seeing students' longitudinal data.

I was wrong about the drastic increase in level 2 (except for the 7th-grade ELLs). The spike in 3s is greater overall--but where do they come from? How many scored 4 last year? how many 2 or 1? how many stayed the same? And why was there such a drastic rise in level 3s (or, for ELLs, 2s) on the 7th-grade ELA test in particular?

We need quite a bit more information.

Skoolboy's analysis is the first that has made sense to me. Math went up, reading went down--when you are looking at the progress of cohort groups. We seem to have real difficulty when it comes to walking and chewing gum. While I am certainly no expert on NYC, it would seem that education in general falls prey to efforts put lots of eggs in one basket--and to do so in such a way as to avoid actually building capacity. So, as soon as one thing is boosted (whether it is reading or math or low performers or high), it is on to the next perceive area of weakness and all the resources are reshuffled to make a difference there.

As an example, my own district used "reading coaches" to boost lower grade reading scores. This may have happened. Whether it was because of increased skill and ability that was developed or just the additional warm bodies remains to be seen. And it will be seen, because the district "retrained" the literacy coaches over the summer to because "math coaches."

If I had to guess, I would look for a boost in math scores and decline in reading.

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Margo/Mom: Skoolboy's analysis is the first that has made sense to read more
  • Diana Senechal: It is hard to make sense of this data without read more
  • Vic: It would also be interesting to look at the performance read more
  • eduwonkette: Hi ADH - I have asked the DOE for scale read more
  • ADH: I would like to see an analysis of the achievement read more




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