Debunking a miracle school can be tedious work. Debunking an entire district is, generally, even worse.
But when I heard about the recent ‘miracle’ in Denver, I was pleasantly surprised when I got the opportunity to explore Colorado’s excellent data system called SchoolView.
Within a few minutes, I was able to produce awesome pictures like this
In the above image, the 180 3-dimensional bubbles (homage to the bubble scan-trons on the standardized tests that produced them?) represent the 180 schools. The size of the bubble is proportional to the population of the school. The higher achieving schools have bubbles higher on the graph, the lower achieving ones are lower on the graph. How far left and right is based on the nebulous ‘growth’ metric, which I learned about recently with regard to New York City’s way of comparing schools.
According to the state website ‘growth’ for a school is a number between 0 and 100, which is calculated by taking each student in that school and comparing his/her score on the CSAP test to the score of all other students in the state who had gotten a score similar to that student on the CSAP the year before. Then all the students ‘growth’ scores are sorted and the middle score becomes the growth score for that school.
If you go to the website, it instructs you how to interpret this score:
What is considered typical growth?
The answer depends on whether you are referring to student growth percentiles (individual-level scores) or median growth percentiles (group-level scores). As defined by Colorado State Board of Education rule, a student growth percentile for a single child that falls within the 35th-65th percentile range reflects Typical Growth. When referring to median Growth Percentiles, such as for a school or demographic group, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) considers a median of 50 to be typical growth for school or group. The statewide median growth percentile in each subject and grade is the 50th percentile. When examining medians for schools, grades, subjects or groups, it is useful to look for differences from 50 when investigating growth. These data are particularly useful for benchmarking purposes and to understand how other schools or grades are doing in addressing problems in the educational system, such as the frequently observed achievement gap between poor and non-poor students. Comparing median growth percentiles for these two groups within a school or district can tell us whether existing achievement gaps might be closing. There is currently no single “rule of thumb” for deciding what are low, typical, or high growth median growth percentiles.
So a ‘typical’ score is somewhere between the 35% and the 65%. In other words, this stat is completely bogus.
Colorado’s SchoolView data center enabled me to get the growth statistics and also the achievement statistics to investigate the Denver miracle.
First, I looked at the absolute test scores and learned that they have changed very little in the past 3 years.
But they didn’t claim victory based on their absolute test scores, but on their ‘growth’ which they boasted they had one of the top 3 growth stats in the state.
Well, their easy to use (for me, anyway, but not, apparently, for anyone working for The Denver Post) website enabled me to quickly find the growth metrics for black and Hispanic students and compare them to what they considered ‘adequate’ growth.
Here they are, with some commentary:
The larger bubbles on the bottom represent black and Hispanic students. When you ‘roll over’ the bubbles with your mouse you learn black students have 49% ‘growth’ vs. 88% ‘adequate’, while Hispanic students have 54% growth vs. 79% ‘adequate’.
Black 46% vs Adequate 58%
Hispanic 51% vs Adequate 60%
Black 50% vs Adequate 70%
Hispanic 51% vs Adequate 71%
Now, I’ll admit that I don’t understand how to interpret all these statistics, which I think is the point. They make up new statistics that are very confusing and then use them to declare miracles when really all the reform they’ve done there hasn’t amounted to much.