Test Scores!

Given the political stakes in D.C. with the upcoming election I figured the release of the latest round of test scores would occasion a free-for-all.  But so far pretty measured.

Just as last year’s scores shouldn’t have been a cause for loads of celebration, this year’s shouldn’t cause people to freak out – especially because elementary scores seem to be slightly down across the city, in charter and non-charter public schools.   And regardless the overall trends are in the right direction (as Michael Casserly points out in the paper released by DCPS today) and some ebbs and flows are par for the course.

Update: Longer WaPo look at this.   Here’s the paradox of all the data that is now available.  On the one hand it’s giving a lot more analytic bite to understanding school performance.  But on the other it’s creating a short-term perspective on ups and downs, like following a sports team in the playoffs.   Here the overall trends are going in the right direction — in a city where for too long students faced catastrophically long odds of success — and so a one-year dip should be examined but it’s not cause for alarm.

In terms of the politics here, obviously the stronger message for Fenty and Rhee in an election year would be uninterrupted upward movement.  But they can credibly point to the overall trends and cite a lot of progress  under Rhee and have a credible and powerful message on education and these scores don’t really change that.  To counter that narrative, City Council Chairman Gray, who is challenging Fenty, released a set of education proposals the other day.  WaPo ed board unpacks here.

4 Replies to “Test Scores!”

  1. some ebbs and flows are par for the course.
    That would seem not to be the view of those who want to tie teacher evaluations and retentions to test scores, in particular the newest DCPS rock star, the principal of Sousa Middle school.

  2. we can make it a free-for-all, if you want?

    i love the notion from michael casserly in the wapo article, that test scores are kind of like the stock market! and that this is somehow desirable or ok.

    i’ve got a good bet we won’t treat the teachers as well as we’ve treated the bankers and their banks the last couple of years, if the scores keep reflecting the bull and bear cycles.

  3. Edlharris, I agree that the “ebbs and flows” argument suggests that a teacher should not be judged on one year’s worth of test scores. But I see nothing in that argument that prevents us from judging teachers on three or four years worth of scores, from which we should be able to discern trends and make more informed decisions.

  4. Probably not.
    But the professional education reformers toss around this evaluate by test scores as some cure-all.
    The ironic part to this idea that the engineer of using test scores to evaluate teachers over at the District of Columbia Public Schools, Jason Kamras, that while he was teaching math at Sousa Middle School in the District (which by the way was featured in the WPost in part due to the bullying tactics of its principal), the SAT-9 math scores dropped.

    Hmm. In both reading and math, the scores at Sousa were mostly going down during his tenure. And the school definitely did NOT make AYP, despite what his bio says. In fact, only about 14% of the 143 students at Sousa scored Proficient or Advanced in math that year; that’s about 20 students. Were they all Kamras’ students? I don’t know. If he had 4 or 5 classes of 20 to 25 students each, which is a normal teaching load, then he had from 80 to 125 students. Even if all of the ones who scored Proficient or Advanced were in Kamras’ classes, then 20 out of 80 is only 25% and 20 out of 125 is only 16%. Neither percentage would meet AYP in 2005. So, unless I(Guy Brandenburg) am making some grave error, the claims being made about Kamras’ student’s AYP scores don’t measure up.

    What is the value of having a *SUPERSTAR* teacher?

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