I did a survey of achievement data in our district since about 2005. There was a distinct change in the distribution of achievement level statewide last year. Basic and Advanced have largely switched places for Math and Reading across the board. I attended a seminar way back in 2008 on how the WKCE authors set the achievement levels for the test. There was a panel of experts that helped set the bars for each achievement level, Advanced, Proficient, Basic and Minimal. They gave the test with those recommended scoring levels to a pilot group and found out the a majority of students would fail to meet the Proficient or Advanced level. In response, our wise DPI dumbed down the test in the name of Federal Revenue Dollars and have failed Wisconsin school children for over a decade with this false "achievement" test. Having long doubted that well over 80% of Wisconsin kids were proficient or advanced in every topic, I had been skeptical of the rigor of the test before this seminar and was immediately plunged into cynicism afterward. I imagine the original recommendations of the experts on what constituted Advanced, etc. in fact align with the NAEP standards now imposed on our schools.
Even though the state does not use the AMOs in a school or district report card, I really think it's important to keep an eye on these metrics. So, here they are for each school in our district. I know many folks may have glazed eyes within the next two paragraphs, so I understand if you want to skip this summary.
Levi Leonard Elementary: AMOs do not apply to K-2.
TRIS: There are four groups at TRIS for which there is a sufficient population (20) to enable the school to report achievement data in a confidential manner. All students, White not Hispanic, Students with Disabilities and Economically Disadvantaged.
You've likely read my rant on how the DPI uses the 95th percent confidence intervals, enabling a truck to drive through the range of data considered statistically the same as the target value. They're still doing it, so I am reporting three types of outcomes, those that outright meet the target AMO, those that outright fail to meet the target AMO and those that meet the target AMO even though the value is lower than the target because it is considered statistically the same as the AMO.
Reading: In 2011-12, only the Economically Disadvantaged Group met the Reading AMO outright. The groups All Students and Students with Disabilities squeaked in under the statistical Confidence Interval. One of the largest groups, White not Hispanic failed the AMO outright. Last year, the Economically Disadvantaged group was once again the only group that met the Reading AMO outright. All Students and White not Hispanics both came in somewhat below target but within the confidence interval (CI) established for that sample size, so they get a qualified "Yes-CI." This is a little disconcerting because these two groups are the largest and will have a greater impact on future scores. Students with Disabilities failed to meet the AMO outright with only 7.7% scoring proficient or advanced on the WKCE where the target AMO for this group of kids is 25.8% this year.
Math: Three of the groups met the Math AMOs outright both years: All Students, White not Hispanic and Economically Disadvantaged. There is a disturbing downward trend in the data for most of the groups that signals potential problems next year when the targets go up. The only group to increase achievement level in Math was Economically Disadvantaged. The fourth group, Students with Disabilities, began 11-12 by meeting the AMO. A combination of a huge drop in this group's achievement level and a big increase in the AMO made them fail to meet the 35.6% target by more than 20%. Had they been able to even maintain the achievement level of the prior year, they may have passed under the CI.
Overall: TRIS outright met 62.5% of the AMOs set for it in 2011-12, outright failed 12.5% of them and the remaining 25% of the AMOs fell into confidence interval limbo, neither outright passing muster nor failing, but for government purposes is considered to have met the standard. Modest gains in reading levels were off-set by some pretty substantial increases in the AMOs this year, resulting in a stalemate in reading results. In 2012-13, TRIS outright met 50% of their AMOs, outright failed 25% of them and passed another 25% using statistical CI. The negative data trends in math were undoubtedly caused by a lower priority given to a subject they initially had 100% compliance with, setting themselves up for this lack of achievement. Maybe the problem at the elementary school isn't as much the math curriculum but more a matter of prioritizing Reading over Math. If you don't spend the time necessary on the subject at hand, no progress will be made.
JCMcKenna Middle School: The Middle School adds a fifth group for which they are required to report achievement data, Hispanic.
Reading: In 11-12, none of the five groups met the AMO outright, but two were within the CI, All Students and Hispanic. This year, the All Students category met the goal outright even though the target increased and three met the goal through the help of the statistical CI calculation. Only Students with Disabilities did not meet the goal but the percent of students scoring proficient or advanced more than doubled from 5.7% to 11.9%, still far short of the higher 25.8% target.
Math: In 11-12, the All Students group met the goal outright and three others were saved by the statistical CI. The percent of Students with Disabilities that scored proficient or advanced was about 9% lower than the target value of 28.2%. This year, every group showed improvement, with only Students with Disabilities falling short of the increased goal of 35.6% scoring proficient or advanced, despite increasing this value by over 3%.
Overall: JCMcKenna outright met 30% of the goals this year, outright failed 20% of the AMOs and met half of the AMOs using the statistical CI. This is a significant improvement over their AMO results from last year where they met 10% of the goals, failed 40% of the goals and met the remaining 50% through statistical CI. Reading started out with the most disadvantage and has started a big turnaround. They should have some kind of recognition for being the only school to make these kind of gains!
Evansville High School: Only grade 10 is assessed at the high school at this point. Only two groups had sufficient population to report data in 2011-12 (a very small class of 101): All students and White not Hispanic. By the following year, the larger class had enough Economically Disadvantaged students to add a third category to report.
Reading: Both groups comfortably met their AMOs for Reading in 2011-12. The increase in target value and decrease in performance by both groups put one of the groups into CI limbo in 2012-13 (White not Hispanic). The "All Students" group nudged into compliance because the value can be either the previous year's value or an average of the two previous years. The actual reading result in 2012-13 was lower than the AMO. If they keep up this trend, compliance will become elusive. The group new this year met their AMO outright.
Math: In 2011-12, one of the two groups outright met the AMO and one met it through the CI. In 2012-13, both of the original groups from the previous year had descended into CI limbo while the new group met the AMO outright.
Overall: EHS outright met 75% of their AMOs in 11-12 and met 25% of them through statistical CI. The following year, that had changed to meeting 50% of their AMOs outright and 50% of them through statistical CI. Modest gains in the percentage of kids scoring proficient or advanced were, in most cases, more than offset by an increase in the AMO, thereby forcing more of the measurements into the CI limbo.
I know this is a lot to digest at once, which is why I separated it from the report card posts. My general impression from evaluating the school report cards and the AMO results is that ECSD is treading water. There seems to be a shining glimmer of hope at JC McKenna. Even though they have the lowest percentage of meeting AMOs outright, they have made significant progress in the first two years. Everyone else is resting in their mediocrity. Kudos to you Middle School Staff. Keep up the good work.