« New York's Lake Woebegon Effect | Main | Cool People You Should Know: Andrew Ho »

The Unintended Consequences of Focusing on Proficiency

| 9 Comments
FantasticCommenter2008_150px.jpg
I'm totally in awe of the regular commenters here - for me, they are the best part of this site. I had to share this comment by Rachel, who had this to say about the post below:

One of my worries about the emphasis on "proficiency" -- and the lack on emphasis on anything above proficiency -- is the unintended consequence of creating a two-tier, mostly segregated, educational system. Public school teach poor kids basic skills, and parents who want more than basic skills try to figure out how to get their kids into private schools -- or, if they can, move to affluent suburbs.

Now, public schools that teach poor kids basic skills are better than public schools that don't teach poor kids basic skills. But in my district -- which has an interesting demographic mix -- there's a clear tension between the "let's make sure everyone's proficient before we think about anything else" point of view, and the "we need to make sure each kid makes a year's progress every year" point of view.

And it's pretty clear that if parents get the idea that no one at a school is interested in much besides proficiency, you start losing the proficient kids to private schools and charter schools -- which then exacerbates the social inequality that "closing the achievement gap" is supposed to end.

Hat tip to Scott McLeod for making the commenter graphic.
9 Comments

Diana's comment would be more insightful if accurately reflected the actual provisions of NCLB. She's foretting, perhaps conveniently, about the "advanced" level, i.e., the fourth level in the four-tiered system (don't forget "below basic")?

NCLB requires all states to define three levels of academic achievement:

"(II) ... two levels of high achievement (proficient and advanced) that determine how well children are mastering the material in the State academic content standards; and

(III) ... a third level of achievement (basic) to provide complete information about the progress of the lower-achieving children toward mastering the proficient and advanced levels of achievement."

(Section 1111)

Granted the advanced level isn't used in calculating AYP under NCLB's accountability scheme, but the level must be defined and the data must be collected and reported. And, pundits/commenters this could be opining on such data instead of pretending that it doesn't exist.

Oops. Here's a typo-free version:

Rachel's comment would be more insightful if it accurately reflected the actual provisions of NCLB. She's forgetting, perhaps conveniently, about the "advanced" level, i.e., the fourth level in the four-tiered system (don't forget "below basic")?

NCLB requires all states to define three levels of academic achievement:

"(II) ... two levels of high achievement (proficient and advanced) that determine how well children are mastering the material in the State academic content standards; and

(III) ... a third level of achievement (basic) to provide complete information about the progress of the lower-achieving children toward mastering the proficient and advanced levels of achievement."

(Section 1111)

Granted the advanced level isn't used in calculating AYP under NCLB's accountability scheme, but the level must be defined and the data must be collected and reported. And, pundits/commenters could be opining on such data instead of pretending that it doesn't exist.

The lack of emphasis on kids above proficiency (or those far below) has a simple fix and some states have implemented it. It is to include in the accountability system a "proficiency index" that provides extra credit for students who score in levels above the proficiency mark. In short, if all kids scored just proficient, the score would be 100, if the number at the level below is balanced by an equal number above, the score would still be 100. Kids who don't test score zero, while those who test but score at the lowest level get a low score. This is intended to reward schools that show movement of any group upward, as well as maintaining an incentive for supporting higher achievers.

Okay, but what about the kid who wants to do well on college entrance exams, or even college level courses? Are most kids prepared for that? No, and the emphasis is only on passing TAKS. So the middle of the road kids who have the opportunity to bump it to the next level are kind of the kids left behind. The really good teachers are being hammered with teaching TAKS tutorials and doing TAKS pull outs. Those same teachers used to be the ones that inspired the middle of the road kids on to greater aspirations, and better problem solving, critical thinking, creative writing.

sb:

I am not conversant with the rules/regs in Texas, so I don't know if they have implemented a system that incentivizes movement up the levels or not. I do know that TAKS pullout and TAKS tutorials are a really poor way to impact the achievement/content knowledge that is being measured by the tests. I also know that NCLB does not require, suggest, mention or contemplate such things.

In my own state/district I have seen a lot of these things put in place based on two suppositions: 1) students have already been adequately taught the content and 2)students need help in being able to access and demonstrate their knowledge in the testing situation. I know that in my family experience the first suppostion does not hold up. I also believe that if we seriously attacked the first supposition, the second would disapper.

First -- thank you for the kind words Eduwonkette!

Responding to kderosa's comment: Perhaps I should have been clearer. I am aware that there's an Advanced level in NCLB testing -- California actually has five levels Advanced, Proficient, Basic, Below Basic and Far Below Basic. My experience is, however, that schools that are at risk of not making AYP tend to lose focus on the kids scoring advanced, because the incentive structure of NCLB is so focused on the proficiency bar.

This has the potential to produce demographic inequities simply because schools that receive Title I funds are so much more strongly affected by NCLB than schools that don't. So in our district, the risk is that the Title I schools become the schools that focus on reading, math and proficiency, and the non-Title I schools (which by definition have more affluent students) have more leeway to implement Gifted and Talented programs, and focus on art and science rather than just reading and math. Open enrollment and school choice then draw affluent families and successful students to the non-Title I schools, as well as private schools and charter schools.

In contrast to NCLB's AYP benchmark, the California accountability measure (API) does use the number of students at all levels to determine a school's score (similar to the "proficiency index" that Margo/Mom mentions). But at this point the carrots and sticks of NCLB seem to affect school behavior much more than the state accountability measures.

I would suggest that AYP has tended to affect some of the upper middle class schools as well--as they have students with disabilities and many have English Language Learners. I would also suggest that schools that are focused primarily on kids at/just the proficiency level are really in some deep doodoo to begin with. AYP targets started somewhere around the 20th percentile (of school's proficiency rates) and progressed upward (steeply or not so) from there. My recollection is that in California the targets are still pretty low. In essence the unintended (or not) consequences of having no proficiency standard to focus on was that achievement was all over the map--with all the usual suspects always on the bottom.

I would suggest that AYP has tended to affect some of the upper middle class schools as well--as they have students with disabilities and many have English Language Learners.

Yes and no... It's possible for an affluent school not to make AYP, but if it doesn't get Title I funds (which are distributed on the basis on socio-economic status) there aren't any serious consequences for not making AYP. Because federal funding -- in particular Title I funding -- is the main enforcement mechanism for NCLB, all its consequences (good and bad) are focused on schools with significant numbers of poor students.

I posted this a while back on my blog. It's not technical, it just shows how all this nonsense plays out in a staff meeting.

In the faculty meeting on Wednesday we were treated to an explanation of ULSS (an intervention program) as envisioned by the ULSS team, which consists of the principal, resource teachers, some folks who are never there, and a teacher, maybe. The ULSS has been around for 2 years now, and only now are folks trying to figure out its purpose (it has no real purpose other than lip-service).

In another post (just below this one), the original written nearly 6 months ago, I mentioned that I was held in contempt, and "written up" for voicing concerns about how ULSS was being used, as it was described by "a teacher". The delineation of who gets intervention (you know, services) then, AS NOW, goes something like this:

-Teachers are the 1st layer of intervention (WTF??? And this layer is for Far Below Basic Kids--they actually get NOTHING!!)

-Teachers partnered with non-existant, unfunded resource specialists make up the 2nd layer

-The 3rd layer is one-on-one instruction with a specialist (the only real intervention so far in this list!)

-The 4th layer is titled "Multi-layered" and is as nebulous as could be.

So, the district has manufactured the notion that teachers are the first layer of intervention. This notion was manufactured for a purpose. What purpose you ask? Let me tell you the purpose of calling teachers the first layer of intervention: So the district can tell parents of the lowest performing kids that they are getting the intervention they need (They have a teacher. Seriously.).

I was pleasantly surprised that many on staff were just as outraged (finally) this time as I was. The principal had a mutiny on her hands. Of course, if she were being evaluated, the evaluation would show that her lesson failed, and her management was a disaster. This is how most meetings go. We are treated like children, and we are led by a principal who is too willing to pay lip-service to the nonsense, causing the faculty cognitive dissonance, and then wondering why we are not on board. Oy vey!

To sum it up, we are intervening to get out of an NCLB predicament, not to help kids.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

  • tft: I posted this a while back on my blog. It's read more
  • Rachel: I would suggest that AYP has tended to affect some read more
  • Margo/Mom: I would suggest that AYP has tended to affect some read more
  • Rachel: First -- thank you for the kind words Eduwonkette! Responding read more
  • Margo/Mom: sb: I am not conversant with the rules/regs in Texas, read more

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here

Tags

8th grade retention
Fordham Foundation
The New Teacher Project
Tim Daly
absent teacher reserve
absent teacher reserve

accountability
accountability in Texas
accountability systems in education
achievement gap
achievement gap in New York City
acting white
admissions
AERA
AERA annual meetings
AERA conference
AERJ
Alexander Russo
Algebra II
American Association of University Women
American Education Research Associatio
American Education Research Association
American Educational Research Journal
American Federation of Teachers
Andrew Ho
Art Siebens
ATR
Baltimore City Public Schools
Barack Obama
Bill Ayers
black-white achievement gap
books
books on educational research
boy crisis
brain-based education
Brian Jacob
bubble kids
Building on the Basics
Cambridge Education
carnival of education
Caroline Hoxby
Caroline Hoxby charter schools
cell phone plan
charter schools
Checker Finn
Chicago
Chicago shooting
Chicago violence
Chris Cerf
class size
Coby Loup
college access
cool people you should know
credit recovery
curriculum narrowing
D3M
Dan Willingham
data driven
data-driven decision making
data-driven decision-making
David Cantor
DC
Dean Millot
demographics of schoolchildren
Department of Assessment and Accountability
Department of Education budget
desegregation
Diplomas Count
disadvantages of elite education
do schools matter
Doug Ready
Doug Staiger
dropout factories
dropout rate
dropouts
education books
education policy
education policy thinktanks
educational equity
educational research
educational triage
effects of neighborhoods on education
effects of No Child Left Behind
effects of schools
effects of Teach for America
elite education
ETS
Everyday Antiracism
excessed teachers
exit exams
experienced teachers
Fordham and Ogbu
Fordham Foundation
Frederick Douglass High School
Gates Foundation
gender
gender and education
gender and math
gender and science and mathematics
gifted and talented
gifted and talented admissions
gifted and talented program
gifted and talented programs in New York City
girls and math
good schools
graduate student union
graduation rate
graduation rates
guns in Chicago
health benefits for teachers
High Achievers
high school
high school dropouts
high school exit exams
high school graduates
high school graduation rate
high-stakes testing
high-stakes tests and science
higher ed
higher education
highly effective teachers
Houston Independent School District
how to choose a school
IES
incentives in education
Institute for Education Sciences
is teaching a profession?
is the No Child Left Behind Act working
Jay Greene
Jim Liebman
Joel Klein
John Merrow
Jonah Rockoff
Kevin Carey
KIPP
KIPP and boys
KIPP and gender
Lake Woebegon
Lars Lefgren
leaving teaching
Leonard Sax
Liam Julian

Marcus Winters
math achievement for girls
McGraw-Hill
meaning of high school diploma
Mica Pollock
Michael Bloomberg
Michelle Rhee
Michelle Rhee teacher contract
Mike Bloomberg
Mike Klonsky
Mike Petrilli
narrowing the curriculum
National Center for Education Statistics Condition of Education
NCLB
neuroscience
new teachers
New York City
New York City bonuses for principals
New York City budget
New York City Budget cuts
New York City budget cuts
New York City Department of Education
New York City Department of Education Truth Squad
New York City ELA and Math Results 2008
New York City gifted and talented
New York City Progress Report
New York City Quality Review
New York City school budget cuts
New York City school closing
New York City schools
New York City small schools
New York City social promotion
New York City teacher experiment
New York City teacher salaries
New York City teacher tenure
New York City Test scores 2008
New York City value-added
New York State ELA and Math 2008
New York State ELA and Math Results 2008
New York State ELA and Math Scores 2008
New York State ELA Exam
New York state ELA test
New York State Test scores
No Child Left Behind
No Child Left Behind Act
passing rates
Pearson
picking a school
press office
principal bonuses
proficiency scores
push outs
pushouts
qualitative educational research
qualitative research in education
quitting teaching
race and education
racial segregation in schools
Randall Reback
Randi Weingarten
Randy Reback
recovering credits in high school
Rick Hess
Robert Balfanz
Robert Pondiscio
Roland Fryer
Russ Whitehurst
Sarah Reckhow
school budget cuts in New York City
school choice
school effects
school integration
single sex education
skoolboy
small schools
small schools in New York City
social justice teaching
Sol Stern
SREE
Stefanie DeLuca
stereotype threat
talented and gifted
talking about race
talking about race in schools
Teach for America
teacher effectiveness
teacher effects
teacher quailty
teacher quality
teacher tenure
teachers
teachers and obesity
Teachers College
teachers versus doctors
teaching as career
teaching for social justice
teaching profession
test score inflation
test scores
test scores in New York City
testing
testing and accountability
Texas accountability
TFA
The No Child Left Behind Act
The Persistence of Teacher-Induced Learning Gains
thinktanks in educational research
Thomas B. Fordham Foundation
Tom Kane
Tweed
University of Iowa
Urban Institute study of Teach for America
Urban Institute Teach for America
value-addded
value-added
value-added assessment
Washington
Wendy Kopp
women and graduate school science and engineering
women and science
women in math and science
Woodrow Wilson High School