"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eagle Eye View: ECSD Five Year Proficiency Indices

WARNING: Mind numbingly boring data analysis to follow. Sadly, I find this kind of stuff fascinating and fun to do. I hope you are better informed by the end of the post.

Click on the post to log onto the DPI WINSS system data section if you want to check the reference points here. Type in Evansville to get to our data.

As often occurs when evaluating data sets, one exercise in number crunching leads to another idea on how to better review the data to get a more complete picture of what the data is trying to tell us. As I was delving into Evansville WKCE Achievement data to figure out the details of how TRIS met AYP criteria, I discovered a series of charts that suggested that the reading proficiency for the district as a whole gradually declined over five consecutive years (all students, combined data) from 2005-2006 to 2009-2010. I thought to myself, "maybe this data isn't alarming anybody because they are only going back one year at a time to view changes."

This post will summarize the results of looking at the district as a whole, treating the data to a "safe harbor" calculation from year 1 to year 5 for Reading and Math for three categories of students: all students, students with disabilities and students without disabilities. This information further encouraged the evaluation of each school in all the above categories to best pinpoint where resources need to be placed to most quickly resolve any issues.

Note: All data refer to the increase or decrease in the percentage of non-proficient students, or those scoring either minimum or basic on the WKCE.

District wide evaluation of WKCE % non-proficient from 05-06 to 09-10:

A). Reading:

All students: 11.5% to 15.5%, which amounts to a 34.8% increase in only five years when treated to a safe harbor calculation ((4/11.5)X100). This concerned me so I broke it down by disability subgroup, which gives data both for students with disabilities and students without disabilities.

Students with disability (SWD): 45.8% to 52.9%, or a 15.5% increase in five years when treated with a safe harbor calculation.

Students without disability(Sw/oD): 5.8% to 8.9%, which amounts to a 53.4% increase in the percentage of non-proficient students in the last five years in this subgroup of the district as a whole when a safe harbor calculation is done.

A first glance at the raw data for these three subgroups draws one's attention to the very high percentage of non-proficient students with disabilities in our district. Further scrutiny of the data by safe harbor treatment will reveal that a healthy portion of the increase in non-proficient students comes from the students without disabilities subgroup. Sure, there is an unacceptably high percent of students with disabilities that has non-proficient achievement and this needs to be addressed. But one must remember that this group accounts for only 14-16% of the student population of the grades tested in the last five years. To wit, 50% of 136 kids is the same as 8.8% of 774. It's all very well to theoretically consider these percents and values, and putting the data in a consistent frame of percentage allows us to easily compare annual data where raw numbers would change, but the bottom line is the kids. From 05-06 to 09-10, the number of students with disabilities that was non-proficient in our district increased from 54 to 72, or eighteen more kids over five years. For students without disabilities, the number of non-proficient students increased from 41 kids to 69 kids in the same time frame, an increase of 28 students. Our number of non-proficient readers in both subgroups is increasing at an alarming rate.

Next we'll take a brief look at the district-wide math data which indicates a relatively flat performance over five years. It is good that the math data has not followed the increasing pattern of the reading data, but flat achievement does not bode well for the next few years as the Proficiency Index to achieve AYP increases by 10.5% a year until 2014, when POOF! all children in the USA will be proficient or advanced.

B). Math

All Students: 17.2% to 16.7%, a 2.9% decrease in five years. At least it's going the right direction.

Students with disabilities: 55.1% to 49.3%, a 10.5% decrease in 5 years. YEAH! Way to go!

Students without disabilities: 10.9% to 11.0%, a 0.9% increase in 5 years.

By these data, it is clear that the entirety of the decrease in percentage of non-proficient students in math was due to the students with disabilities, since the students without disability performance was essentially stagnant. A shout out to all those math teachers and hard working kids.

Now let's delve into the data for each school to see if there's somewhere we need to focus that we haven't discovered yet! I'm doing executive summaries here because I'm sick of typing these numbers in. If you want the actual data, please email me.



All students: 36.6% increase in percent of non-proficient students in 5 years.

Students with disabilities (SWD): 54.8% increase.

Students without disabilities(Sw/oD): 18.9% increase.


All Students: 4.5% increase in the percent of non-proficient students in 5 years.

SWD: 5.7% increase.

Sw/oD: 1.5% increase.

JC McKenna


All Students: 4.1% increasein the percent of non-proficient students in 5 years.

SWD: 16% decrease.

Sw/oD: 64.7% increase.


All Students: 23.9% decrease in the percent of non-proficient students in 5 years.

SWD: 18.7% decrease.

Sw/oD: 23.3% decrease.



All Students: 76.5% increase in the percent of non-proficient students in 5 years.
SWD: 28.6% decrease.*

Sw/oD: 207.5% increase.


All Students: 42% increase in the percent of non-proficient students in 5 years.

SWD: 38.1% decrease.*

Sw/oD: 105% increase.

*Five years ago, 100% of the students with disabilities in grade 10 scored non-proficient on the state achievement test for both reading and math. This anomalous baseline gives the incorrect impression that the programs for these students have dramatically improved. One must remember that this accounted for 9 students at the time. A look at the data over time is instructive. In reading, this percentage immediately dropped to 46.9% the following year but has steadily risen to 71.4% this year, or a 52.2% increase in the percentage of non-proficient students in four years, per a safe harbor index. In Math, the percentage of non-proficient SWD dropped to 56.3% the following year. This index has gradually risen to 61.9% this year, or a 9.9% increase in the percentage of non-proficient students in four years using a safe harbor calculation.

Because the high school data is derived from only one grade, this data is subject to the "grade ability fluctuation" which is exaggerated in smaller districts. Teachers will tell you that every class has its own character and personality as well as abilities. So year-to-year changes should be viewed with caution. But when a pattern persists over the course of five years, it's time to do some serious introspection and investigation as to cause. And then fix it! Continuation down this path at the high school will result in a collision course with the increasing Proficiency Indices prescribed in the NCLB act. Mr. Everson has surely taken these data into consideration as he introduces a new class at the high school to address reading strategies. I don't know what is in place for math yet, but the data suggest that needs to be addressed as well.

Math achievement at TRIS indicates they are holding their own, but need vigilance. The reading achievement data indicate that the problems at TRIS had been going on for a long time and last year they simply reached the threshold at which they no longer met AYP. It will take a sustained effort to maintain the improvement they have achieved this year.

JC McKenna again hits it out of the ballpark in math with decreases in non-proficient math achievement across the board. Go Team! They have also begun to turn around the reading achievement for SWD with a double digit decrease in the percent of non-proficient students over five years.

My greatest concern is illustrated by the universal increase in the percentage of non-proficient students without disabilities at all schools on the reading achievement test. I am really fearful that the root cause of this is limited resources and by extension limited funding. Too many teachers are stretched too thin. Could it be that shifting resources to improve the (inexcusably poor) achievement of students with disabilities has left the rest of the kids in limbo to fend for themselves? There are only so many hours in a day. Focusing intensive resources on one aspect of learning will by definition cause a void in others as N (teaching resources) remains constant. It is a mathematical inevitability. Data at JC McKenna seem to validate this assertion. While the reading achievement of SWD at JC McKenna posted a 16% decrease in the percentage of non-proficient students, the achievement of students without disability has worsened. 3.4% of this subgroup was non-proficient in 05-06 and by 09-10 that had increased to 5.6%, a 64.7% increase by safe harbor index.

The district has spent a lot of money and training time for staff to become adept at Differentiated Instruction (DI). The administration spent much energy trying to convince the Board to which I belonged that this instructional model will meet the needs for ALL levels of learners, be they Special Ed., Moderate or Gifted. In theory, that is true. But examples shown to the board during this time frame inevitably involved special ed. I personally spent years trying to get teachers to provide this "differentiated instruction" experience to our GT children. I pounded tables to get our daughters the kind of instruction they deserved and needed. We finally capitulated and shelled out hundreds of dollars for our daughters to receive the kind of programming that challenged them and kept them engaged in the learning process. Funds that were matched by the district in kind FOR EVERY GT kid enrolled from the district in WCATY (out of district accelerated) programs. Exactly what has the administration offered or threatened these teachers with that I didn't? How did they get them to agree to provide DI? This kind of instruction is NOT assembly line ready as so many teachers are used to supplying. It's a much greater challenge and is not the slam-dunk administration will have one believe. I repeatedly asked for data that would corroborate improvements in achievement where the DI had been implemented and was given minimal or "tentative" data. One person from whom Ms. Daane asked for data was affronted that anybody would challenge the model with a request for data. "Nobody asked for data before they used the abysmal training practices for special ed students in the 60s." Oh good grief. If your model is not robust enough to withstand data scrutiny, keep it to yourself.

So that's my bird's eye view. I hope all the remediation works its magic and the district continues to show improved achievement in reading and math. I hope I am wrong that our average students have been left high and dry, but the data seem to indicate that this is the case. I am not encouraged by this birds eye view of our district's past reading and math achievement. Most of all, I cannot say that I am confident for the future ECSD reading and math achievement indices to pass AYP. Unless the good ship Evansville reverses course, our declining achievements will eventually run afoul of the increasing target goals. I will be very happy if achievement results over the next few years make me eat my words.

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