The AJC reports that APS is looking at CRCT gains in five elementary schools after the newspaper’s analysis identified unusual deviations. The schools are Toomer, White, Morningside, West Manor and Wesley International Academy.
The story — which is complex and which you ought to read — notes that the schools have unique circumstances that could explain the deviations. APS school chief Erroll Davis told the paper, “Those schools are all on the radar because of the jumps, but we don’t know yet whether there are plausible explanations. I would certainly not jump to a conclusion that cheating has occurred.”
According to the AJC:
They were registering exceptional gains on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, so exceptional that an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found the odds of such increases range from about one in 700 to one in 21,000.
The odds that these improvements were obtained by honest means aren’t as long as the AJC has found in the past, but they are still statistically unusual. Principals and parents say the improvements were due to exceptional efforts, but others say the scores deserve a closer look.
Increases of the magnitude found by the AJC in this year’s test are “unusual,” said Kathleen Mathers, the executive director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. She didn’t review the newspaper’s work but said such score jumps ”may warrant a closer examination of the test environment.”
Three of the schools accused by state investigators of cheating in 2009 — Toomer, White and West Manor elementary schools — were among those registering unlikely increases in their CRCT test scores this year. For instance, the third-graders at East Atlanta’s Toomer notched a 75 percent increase over the rate at which the third-graders in the prior year met or exceeded the state standard in math for 2011.
Experts working for new Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll Davis, who was hired in the wake of the cheating scandal, reviewed the AJC’s findings and saw the same sharp increases when they ran the numbers themselves.
Enrollment declines of a fifth or more at three of the schools — Toomer, White and Wesley International Academy, a charter school — could explain some of the improbable score increases. But Davis said the increases merited scrutiny and that system officials would look into it.
A reader already sent me a deeper look at Morningside Elementary, questioning whether the historically high-achieving intown school had lost some of its disadvantaged students who could have contributed to lower scores. These issues are not raised in the AJC news story, but bear exploration.
Here is the reader’s note:
Look at the Morningside Fifth Grade numbers for reading…if there is 3+ Standard Deviation each SD is appx 4
Avg Score Exceeds Failure
2008 849.74 55.4 4.6
2009 852.33 57.1 2.1
2010 858.79 67.6 1.6
2011 871.88 84.4 1.0
The observation is that failure rates have been decreasing and that the “exceeds” group has been consistently increasing. So the real question is cohort groups. These classes need to be compared Third Grade Scores to Third Grade scores. Is it a population/cohort group difference? Is the current class cohort group in question just that much better to begin with?
Has Morningside done a better job of teaching to the test?
Secondarily, has Morningside with its large population of transient, shelter students excluded them from the test scores. More accurately: Aren’t the shelter students from Midtown now at SPARK, who would have been at MES two years ago (for this class)? The timeline for the school opening and funneling Midtown students out of MES to SPARK needs to be factored in to the analysis, and AJC I don’t think had the knowledge of this to do so…
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog