Value-added: What values are being measured? Do we only value test scores?

In his meeting at North Atlanta High School, APS school chief Erroll Davis referenced the controversial district study measuring how much value schools are adding to their students.

At the meeting Tuesday, Davis said North Atlanta High added 10 months of learning  to its students in a single year. The average is nine months.

In contrast, Davis said Early College High School at Carver added 17 months with a much higher population of  students, 80 percent, receiving free and reduced lunch than North Atlanta.

Atlanta is looking at both teacher and school-level value-added as part of its Effective Teacher in Every Classroom initiative. Using test scores, researchers are calculating how much “learning” Atlanta students gain in the standard school year.

The AJC has a great story up this morning on the new program with a list of the scores for all APS schools. In Atlanta, the highest value-added was the 17 months at Early College High School.

The lowest was posted by Therrell School of Health and Science where students only gain 4 months of learning in a full school year.The next lowest score was found at Atlanta Neighborhood Charter Middle School where students gain 5.2 months of learning in a year. 

With that backdrop, here is a community letter written by Matt Underwood, the principal of the Middle Campus and executive director of Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School.

Dear ANCS Families & Friends,

How do you measure the effectiveness of a school? That is a question that has been explored for as long as we have had schools, but, it has been especially prominent in national debate about educational policy in the past several years with an increased focus on “accountability” in various forms. The No Child Left Behind Act passed a decade ago made school-level standardized test scores the basis of categorizing schools and attaching consequences to those schools that did not make “adequate yearly progress.”

More recently, the federal government’s “Race to the Top Program” ties increased federal funds to teacher and school evaluations that include standardized test scores and other data in determining “college and career readiness” performance of students. As much as these efforts try to boil “success” down to a single number or letter, assessing students or teachers or schools is substantially more complicated than that, a fact that has been on my mind these past few weeks.

I recently had occasion to visit Maynard Jackson High School where more of our students are heading these days, and, while there, several different teachers commented to me that students from our school were more “self-aware” and “intellectually-engaged” and “confident” than most other students. Observations like these are a testament to the work of our students (and their parents!) but are also reflective of the impact of our school’s educational program and teaching. Similar remarks this year about our students from teachers and administrators at Grady, Carver, and Decatur High Schools and from college of education professors who observe in classrooms at our school and many others gives me good reason to believe our work is benefitting students.

So I must admit I was a little surprised initially when I was recently informed that our middle school does not seem to be adding as much “value” to students as other middle schools in the Atlanta Public Schools. An APS-led initiative to measure the effectiveness of all of its schools is leading the district to generate a “value-added” score for each school that purports to control for a variety of factors among students – poverty, disabilities, transiency – in order to show how many months of learning students gain at one school as compared to other schools.

On the face of it, such a score would seem to give a good measure of a school’s teaching and make it easy to put all the scores into a chart and say that one school is better than another school. How then could we somehow be falling short in adding value according to one measure when other sources seem to be telling us quite the opposite?

A recent major study on the use of value-added assessments in schools gives a good explanation as to why I was seeing this disconnect. An easy-to-read article that summarizes some of the key findings of this study – written by an expert on educational accountability – can be found here (and I highly encourage you to read it), but one line from the article captures the most important point: “Value-added models provide important information, but that information is error-prone and has a number of other important limitations.” Though a value-added score tells us something about our school, what it tells us is limited and, like all measurements, subject to errors.

APS calculates its value-added scores solely by using student performance on the subject area tests of the CRCT. On the spring 2012 CRCT, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standards in grades 6-8 in Reading, English/Language Arts, and Math surpassed that of the district in all areas except for 6th grade math, and the differences ranged from anywhere from 5% to 15% higher depending upon the test.

Despite evidence that warns against using student performance on tests in science and social studies that are not vertically scaled in determining a school’s value added score, the APS model lumps all the tests together. Tracking student progress in reading comprehension through the Reading CRCT is understandable given that the skills of reading comprehension can be scaled over time, but to determine how many months of learning a student has gained by comparing his performance on the 7th grade social studies CRCT  (which focuses on facts related to world history) to that of the 8th grade social studies CRCT  (all about Georgia history) makes no sense.

Compounding this problem for our school is that by orienting our teaching towards helping students to develop essential skills in scientific problem solving, critical thinking, and historical analysis we do not engage in a more memorization-based approach to curriculum and instruction that might lead to higher science or social studies CRCT scores.

Indeed, the main limitation of value-added scores as they are currently being calculated is that they measure only one type of “value” to the exclusion of others. Aside from the inherent problems of using only the results of one test taken on one day as the main indicator of a student’s learning or how much value has been added by his teachers or school  (What if a student has a bad day? If students learn “tricks” for guessing correct answers, is the test really measuring learning? What happens if students [or teachers] cheat? and so on…), a reliance on standardized test scores does not capture the enormous benefits of all of the other essential features of the educational program at our middle school.

Is there value in asking students to revise their work when it does not meet the standards and then reflect on their growth from this process? Do students gain from spending time preparing for and then presenting a portfolio of their learning to a public audience to make the case for their promotion to the next grade level? How about learning Spanish, creating works of art, or even the interactions during recess? Does our advisory program help students to better navigate the turbulence of adolescence?

We know each of these elements of our school adds value to our students because our students, teachers, parents, and alumni tell us so in surveys, in informal conversations, and in our observations. But,  if a “value-added” score does not take these into account, should we reduce or cut these parts of our work so that we can allocate the bulk of our time and resources to the one (and, only, apparently) piece of data that matters to get a higher score? I think I know what the answer would be.

Since experience gives me little reason to believe that those who make decisions about such matters will do more than pay lip service to finding methods of assessing student learning and growth beyond multiple choice standardized tests, it is my work – all of our work, really – to capture and communicate the impact of the ANCS educational program in quantifiable and tangible ways as much as possible.

We have some of these pieces already in place –annual surveys, student-led conferences, portfolios and exhibitions – and we are working to better document each of them and to search for new ways of tracking the value we “add” to students.

All students–whether at ANCS or elsewhere–are complex individuals with differing strengths and weaknesses. They deserve ways of assessing their performance (and, by extension, the performance of their teachers or schools) that acknowledge just how unique they are as human beings and recognition that there is value in many skills and knowledge that cannot be shown by filling in a bubble.

Sincerely,

Matt Underwood

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

67 comments Add your comment

Mitch

October 11th, 2012
3:14 am

“Every human endeavor can be improved” This applies to education just as it does to everything else. Often times, our expectations from education are unrealistic. Much of this testing and measuring is a game we play to make us feel like we are doing something good. We must challenge ourselves on the critical issues facing our families, the state and the nation. How are we doing? In my eighty plus years, I have never seen so much opportunity and so few people stepping up to the plate. Maybe we need more attention to attitude than history and calculus.

Mary Carol Sears

October 11th, 2012
3:50 am

To reduce education to a mere set of numbers is a travesty. Those of us who were lucky enough to find some passion while we were in school know this. If science or drama or poetry or pure math turned us on, it was neither the cause nor the result of doing well on computer-scored tests.
And please, if we must talk about those bubble-fill test scores, at least let’s talk some sense. That “months of learning” convention was invented as a short-hand for explaining test results to parents. It is intrinsically nonsensical. Learning does not progress in equal, measurable monthly units. The real measuring is done in percentile ranks and standard deviations. And, by the way, by definition one half of the population will always be below the median. That’s what “median” means.

concerned

October 11th, 2012
5:55 am

Value Added measures were put into place in other parts of the country first and I am adding the postings by an incredibly dedicated MATH teacher who went through the VAM analysis using NY data as that was what is already in place. http://garyrubinstein.teachforus.org/2012/02/26/analyzing-released-nyc-value-added-data-part-1/
VAM is not a reliable indicator of improvement and is only one metric, a very poor one at that, to measure an educational outccome.
ALL parents in the APS and public schools systems of Georgia should be aware that these SLO exams that your children have been taking are trying to pinpoint inaccurate interpretations of your own children’s teachers. Errol Davis has used a poor and invalid educational measure and used it in an extreme way to do some greater entities bidding. He has now established that in his mind, VAM scoring is enough to come in and do what ‘he feels needs to be done’ regardless of the culture of the school. Tuesday night parents and students united to exclaim that schools are a community and Davis, and POLITICIANS, are using inaccurate means to dismantle public school communities.
VAM measures means that the extra time that teachers and others put in to support students in a million ways- extra extra tutoring, one on one conversations about family/ life goals/ relationship woes/ MONEY and politics issues will be erased. Those millions of silken threads that help tie these communities together, unpaid for and off clock hours, that teachers and staff do to help make school communities a place of pride and integrity. These teachers are and will be too exhausted and too scared to even spend on extra minute beyond what it takes to teach to the test or they won’t be able to feed their own children who will be subjected to the same colder and more remote education as well.
VAM is wrong, it is a bad educational strategy, and to hold up that as a rationale for taking radical action speaks volumes for why this administration will have highly educated and stellar teachers heading into other careers.Parents and stake holders have to understand the unintended consequence of having a room full of VAM tests, the extra money that goes into making and ‘guarding’ them for test security, and the fact that these schools are out of paper and ink for their own students to do their own school work. These VAM tests and the use of VAM measures is being fought against at the state and the national level and are an egregious abuse of MATH and a poor excuse for an administration to be so coldly dictatorial.
The national letter writing campaign against VAM is going on now with a mass mailing to go out to Obama on Oct 17
http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/495795893778500/?context=create

or through another blog http://dianeravitch.net/2012/10/06/spread-the-word-about-october-17-campaign-for-our-public-schools/#comment-41990

and there is an additional student driven campaign that is directed to both parties that is going on through to day. It was posted in this weeks New York Times but I can’t find the link. I will update it when I can.

These educational ’statistics’ are not valid and has been demonstrated with this current administration, they are used in ways that the originally designers never intended. They could definitely be a way to get rid of teachers who either not with a current school leadership ideas ( like oh say cheating on standardized tests so that the principle looks good, keeps their job and even gets a bonus). Atlanta has just been through a terrible testing crisis where egregious abuses of power were exposed and now we are heading right back into the belly of the beast and Errol Davis is lighting the way with his erroneous use of not even accurate enought to call statistics to justify his actions.

Peter Smagorinsky

October 11th, 2012
5:59 am

“Compounding this problem for our school is that by orienting our teaching towards helping students to develop essential skills in scientific problem solving, critical thinking, and historical analysis we do not engage in a more memorization-based approach to curriculum and instruction that might lead to higher science or social studies CRCT scores. Indeed, the main limitation of value-added scores as they are currently being calculated is that they measure only one type of “value” to the exclusion of others.”

Thanks to Matt for making this point so well. It seems to obvious to so many of us, but it’s just too complicated a way to evauate people in all their complexity for the policymakers, who want to size up a person with one number.

concerned

October 11th, 2012
6:10 am

Adding value measures when you approach the very high end of performance, like the AYP measures , it gets incredibly difficult to improve the bar. Getting a student to a level four out of four means that there is no where else to go and hence, a teacher will not show any improvement and truly CAN, and in other parts of the country, are removed for this incredibly illogical use of VAM

Early College does NOT have the same population numbers as North Atlanta and comparing the two schools. Students self select to go into Early College and to take the whole homogeneous population of North Atlanta and compare it to a smaller and more self selecting group of students at Early Carver is not an accurate portrayal. Comparing schools in this way is inaccurate and breeds dissension not cohesion in a school district. Being proud of Carver and its admirable success should be extolled and it should not be a club to punish another school with.
WE are a district of students. Business model thinking does not make for a healthy environment to teach, to learn or to live.l

Chris Murphy

October 11th, 2012
7:37 am

Davis keeps pointing to Carver EC as a model, yet someone (Hello, AJC?) should compare the stat’s they put vs. their SAT scores: something doesn’t add up. Carver is 3 ’schools’ on one campus; the other 2 are on the state’s Priority list, meaning in the bottom 5%. Why doesn’t APS allow NAHS to do the same statistical dissembling? And I’d still like to see someone (Hellloooo, AJC?) point out that NAHS doesn’t have an 80% or 62% graduation rate: they had 440 freshman in the class of 2012, and 188 seniors.

Chris Murphy

October 11th, 2012
7:51 am

Matt Underwood, et al, at ANCS have done a great job with very little in the way of resources. (Thanks for posting this, I had forgotten to set up a monthly credit card contribution to the school.) One thing I have found about the school’s students is that many are allowed by their parents to do poorly; in other words, there isn’t an emphasis on or support for academics at home, so they do not do well on the standardized tests, like similar kids at other schools. But, they have been taught how to study, how to analyze, how to sort information, and whether they currently choose to use those skills or not, those measures do not show up on test scores.

Kristin

October 11th, 2012
8:05 am

And on a slight tangent, this notion of measuring schools’ effectiveness only by scores (and only one or two key scores) affects more than just teacher performance. These scores help determine property values around Atlanta. As people move to the area, realtors and others tout these high scores as a reason to move into a particular area and sometimes pay a premium for a house, and low scores as ignoring certain areas all together. By using that metric as a filter and determining factor, the real estate industry is helping build more value and wealth in districts with high scores.

Rebecca Earnshaw

October 11th, 2012
8:06 am

On the elementary campus at ANCS, the children, faculty, and some parents gather each morning to share a short ritual of student performances, announcements, always concluding with a song. Until my daughter began attending the school, I thought it was a bit of mumbo-jumbo, but morning meeting has become my favorite time of day. Each day my daughter feels part of a community that is teaching her valuable lessons: to care about others, to take responsibility for problems and for finding solutions, and to love and value her unique self. Rating schools based on VAM is not only a statistical inaccuracy; it’s also moving us away from the things that are truly important.

indigo

October 11th, 2012
8:32 am

Politics has always played a part in Georgia education, but now it’s gotten completely out of control.

Bottom line – expect Georgia students to be near or at the bottom in academic achivement for now and the foreseeable future.

Mortimer Collins

October 11th, 2012
8:36 am

Value added? LOL…can we please step out of the mid 90’s and into the current times.

Tom

October 11th, 2012
9:08 am

How can we expect Georgia students to dig their way out of the quagmire that is the state of education in this State when we elect a Congressman who basically tells them that real science is evil?

Chuck Shick

October 11th, 2012
9:19 am

I would much rather have a child who actually understands the material than be able to take and pass a stadardized test. Every time CRCT rolls around (and it seems to come around often), my kids teachers get into “hunker down” mode and that’s all they can focus on.

I often try to engage my kids as to what they are being taught at school. It makes for good conversation and I get a chance to see what they are actually learning. My daughter (8th grade) can recite dates, names and statistics regarding the American Revolution, but can’t tell me why the colonists would risk everything to gain freeddom from the King.

I would much rather her be able to express the passion and sacrifice of the day than to be able to tell me dates and stats. She will someday forget the numbers, but will never forget the emotions.

That is how our “teach to the test” mentality is hurting our schools.

Bill

October 11th, 2012
9:20 am

I am a retired educator. I have always thought to base anything on a score is stupid, What if in any other field of endeavor your livelihood was based on just one day’s performance, You might not be feeling good that day, you may have a problem you are working on, or you may not be a good test taker, i have two advanced degrees but i was admitted to both programs on probation because I did not do well on the standardized test given for admission, Because I was given a chance.I teachers in determining at what level you are currently functioning. TO ME, THAT IS THE ONLY LOGICAL REASON FOR TESTING.

Solutions

October 11th, 2012
9:34 am

All this theory when the reality is some kids want to learn, so don’t care one way or the other, and some resist and disrupt learning. Why not sort them into those 3 categories, and tailor the education package to each group? Those who want to learn should advance rapidly (is it not amazing how much the same kid can learn as a college freshman as opposed to the almost useless senior year of high school?), those who do not care should be given the basics and a little positive reinforcement, and those who resist force fed the info via repetition and punishment.

Atlanta Mom

October 11th, 2012
9:39 am

We are going to use a test that included the question: who is Andrew Lloyd Webber –to measure our school’s improvement? Really?

william Turcotte

October 11th, 2012
9:41 am

14 oz of milk , 2 small eggs and 3 cups of flour is great for baking a cake , but not for ” making ‘ a child .

Atlanta Mom

October 11th, 2012
9:56 am

What tests are used at the HS level? No CRCTs there.

Realist

October 11th, 2012
9:57 am

Let it go! Give support to the new administration and hopefully all this analysis will not necessary. Remember NAHS is getting, an unheard of, 100 million dollar school! They should have the means to educate anyone who comes through the doors!

Realist

October 11th, 2012
9:59 am

“will not be necessary”

Pride and Joy

October 11th, 2012
10:13 am

If Atlanta test scores were acceptable, no one would be asking if test scores are the right measurement of learning. If test scores were even marginally acceptable Atlanta would be singing their praises. Why is it that this blog has bi-polar disorder?
When SAT scores increase by a paper-thin margin, this blog treats it as big, positive news that our school are performing well. Yet, when other measurements are dismal, the validity of any test score is questioned.
It can’t be both ways.
Test scores do matter. Until human beings can read minds and know what knowledge another human being understands, tests will be around to measure learning.
I mean, do you want your surgeon or your car’s mechanic or the electrician who wires your home to just be able to do it because they showed up to clss everday without some kind of test to prove they understand and can perfrorm the required skills? Of course not.
Test scores do and always have measured learning. We do a pitiful job of teaching in Georgia. We always have.

Ron F.

October 11th, 2012
10:16 am

“leading the district to generate a “value-added” score for each school that purports to control for a variety of factors among students – poverty, disabilities, transiency ”

What an amazing analysis of the fallibility of statistical measures that purport to “control” for lifestyle factors. Mr. Underwood’s spot-on commentary speaks to the heart of the issue. When you try to reduce learning and human growth to a number, you cannot effectively do it. This is exactly the discussion education leaders need to be having, from local schools all the way to Washington DC. After decades of gathering, parsing, and fretting over test score numbers, we’re still not willing to understand that learning is more than just a test score. I think Mr. Underwood makes a very valid point about Social Studies, where subject matter changes year to year. You cannot effectively use those scores and compare year to year.

I applaud Mr. Underwood and the work his school is doing. Whether charter or traditional public, schools that focus on students and real learning (not just a standardized test score) are making progress and preparing students to be productive, successful adults. That is the goal, and we have to discuss methods to assess student growth that go beyond just a test score. That information matters, but only as one piece of the puzzle needed to understand how effective a school really is.

In a school system where innovative student-focused leadership isn’t as important as following the emperor’s mandates, Mr. Underwood is taking a huge chance posting this letter, and I am proud of him for it. We need more like him in all schools if we’re going to change and improve them.

Pride and Joy

October 11th, 2012
10:16 am

Chuck Schick’s and others’ comments prove my point. He says “Every time CRCT rolls around (and it seems to come around often), my kids teachers get into “hunker down” mode and that’s all they can focus on.”
Teachers in GA public schools teach to the test YET the kids still fail the test!.
This is proof that most GA teachers are unqualified. NOT ALL but most.

Maureen Downey

October 11th, 2012
10:17 am

Atlanta, I believe the eight EOCTs are being used.
Maureen

Atlanta Mom

October 11th, 2012
10:25 am

Maureen,
EOCTs won’t work. As I understand it, they are finally comparing 3rd grade scores to those same student’s 4th grade scores (instead of comparing this year’s third graders to last year’s third graders).
EOCTs are not progressive. There is only 9th grade literature for instance. No similar test for 10th grade.

Another comment

October 11th, 2012
10:28 am

This state will continue to fail and fail it’s student until they get rid f this ridiculous one track college for all diploma. We must have a college prep diploma (Regents) and then General and provide real Vo-tech carrier ready options employers are clamoring for and have $18 – $20 jobs available. Very few people need Calculus! I have an Engineering degee and haven’t used it since college. We used to conduct poles in my office an the last time my Mechanical Engineers used it was 20 yrs ago before computer load calculation programs. The rest hadn’t used it since college. So a whole bunch of people just give up and drop out of school when then could have thrived in a technical math class and could run high tech electronic manufacturing equipment.

Another comment

October 11th, 2012
10:36 am

Also classes needed to be separated out aptitude, performance and behavior. It is such punishment to hold back the above average student for the 80 IQ kids and the ones that don’t want to be their. The children left behind are the 105, 110, 115, 120 and up who just didn’t eithe have the political pull to get into Target or Tag or had a bad day on that test day.

The Dixie Diarist

October 11th, 2012
10:41 am

What if there was a school where students were advanced to the next grade based only on their emotional and social maturity and intelligence? Even if a kid’s an intellectual genius. Even if he performs at the highest academic level, or beyond, he can’t go to the next grade until he quits whining, moaning, screaming, shutting down, shouting, pounding his desk with his hand, rolling his eyes, huffing, and breaking things.

Or all ten in one class period.

The first thing you begin to notice about a person you meet for the first time is not how rich they are or how educated they are. The first thing you notice is if the person has any manners. Guys, I tell them, despite your challenges, you’re capable of learning and using manners.

I tell my students this genius information every day. And when they huff about it, we role play social skills and manners until they pound their desks.

http://www.adixiediary.com

The Dixie Diarist

October 11th, 2012
10:43 am

Manners! One day, right in the heat of a parent-teacher conference, it finally happened: a mother answered her cell phone and started talking as if she was the only person in the room. We all looked at each other, dumbly. I finally said to the mother as sarcastically as I possibly could, and with a wave of my hand … Oh, please. Take your time. She did.

Uh, manners! One time I had a mother say to me about her son … Well, good luck with him, she said, because he’s one straaaaange little guy. He really was one strange little guy, so I wasn’t shocked at all when she muttered those words to me. But, mom, right in front of him?

Maureen Downey

October 11th, 2012
10:53 am

@Atlanta, I just read that on the APS site that “HS EOCT teachers instructing 9th Grade Literature and Composition, American Literature and Composition, Math I, Math II or Biology will a receive value-added score.”

Here is an APS piece on the value-added program: http://www.atlanta.k12.ga.us/site/Default.aspx?PageType=3&ModuleInstanceID=1000&ViewID=7b97f7ed-8e5e-4120-848f-a8b4987d588f&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=1523&PageID=628

The AJC has a story coming on the value-added scores.

The Deal

October 11th, 2012
11:01 am

@Pride and Joy, EXACTLY my sentiments! Thank you for saying it better than I can. On one day, you have a blog posting praising a district for its paper-thin positive margin on test scores, on another, you have a thoughtful and insightful piece on how you cannot reduce a child’s educational experience to a number. You can’t have it both ways, Maureen.

John Konop

October 11th, 2012
11:08 am

A simple question:

In America based on IQ at best we could prepare 30 to 40 percent of kids. Why do any of you think we can beat the bell curve on IQ in preparing students for college? Are we just not spending to much time trying to beat the bell curve with gimmicks, instead of just preparing kids for life based on aptitude?

Ron F.

October 11th, 2012
11:13 am

“Test scores do and always have measured learning. We do a pitiful job of teaching in Georgia. We always have.”

If you’ll continue to pound that drum, I’ll continue to pound the response:

Get a degree and a certificate and come show us how it’s done. It’s easy to criticize and another thing entirely to DO something about it.

Tony

October 11th, 2012
11:19 am

Value Added is a pipedream. The current methods being used are nothing more than hocus-pocus mathematics. The current models do not provide reliable results and are not a reasonable means to judge teachers’ effectiveness.

Tony

October 11th, 2012
11:22 am

Let me add to Ron F’s 11:13 response –

If Georgia is doing such a pitiful job with teaching, why have we risen to such high status with our Advanced Placement results? 13th in the nation in performance on AP exams is very good. There are other indicators that refute the claims of poor performance. Please don’t try to use the same old tired story about SAT scores.

Private Citizen

October 11th, 2012
11:23 am

“Sadly, everything Communism said about itself was a lie. Even more sadly, everything Communism said about Capitalism was the truth.”

John Konop

October 11th, 2012
11:31 am

Tony,

The hidden secrete about education is we have been doing well and improving on high end aptitude students for years. We are now preparing 300 percent more kids for college than when I went to school. The group we are hurting is the other 60 to 70 percent that should not be forced into 4 year college prep high school or out. If you look at the data it is very clear! SAT scores starting going down when we started testing way more students. If you look at the top end we are doing fine.

John Konop

October 11th, 2012
11:39 am

We have been sold the gimmicks in hopes of changing the bell curve ienmath 123, No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, now this……….Why does anyone really think any gimmick can change the bell curve on IQ.

Maureen Downey

October 11th, 2012
11:39 am

@Tony, I think there is a legitimate issue with folks on this blog demanding improvement in schools and then shouting it down when it appears.
Georgia schools are improving. They are better than they were 30 years ago, 20 years ago and 10 years ago.
And it has to be noted that the improvement is coming at a time when resources are being cut dramatically. (People keep talking about spending going up, but enrollment has gone up, expectations for student performance have gone up and the cost of health benefits for the largest workforce in the state has skyrocketed. Georgia now has many more poor kids and many more kids for whom English is not their native language.)
Many people see schools through the single lens of their child’s experience. That’s understandable, but it is not productive or relevant to policy discussions. You can’t make sweeping judgments by anecdote.
My own kids did great in public schools by every measure — from SAT, AP, ACT to their college and graduate school performance. So, by my experience, public education deserves top marks.
But there are 1.7 million other public school students, and my personal experience can’t speak to them. Nor can the bad experiences of some of the posters speak for all those kids, either.
So, you have to look at the big picture.
And that picture shows improvement.
Maureen

Private Citizen

October 11th, 2012
12:14 pm

Now, I could be wrong because I have not fully examined this, but do not tests cost money and are there not private companies that provide these tests? Imagine if you have one of these companies and your business model has plateued. For example, you sell 100 million tests and there it stays for 10 years. Well, businesses have a requirement / desire to grow. So how do expand and grown this business? If you could get an additional test to be required, then you would sell 200 million tests a year. If you could get five tests to be required, then you would have 5 times the business and revenue and be back in the good times. This is the only reason I can think of for peculiar requirement in K12 government to require so much testing. Private schools don’t do it. Government schools outside the U. S. don’t do it. In the U. S. government school schoolhouse, days and weeks are blocked out during the school year and the school is put in lock-down for testing where no one can even go pee if they have to. At some schools, this is done several times during the school year, not just once at the end of the year. Now that what I call “testing saturation” is in place, the management caste uses it as the hub of a wheel around which everything else revolves. No matter that more classrooms than not do not have support materials. Teachers are expected to go “steal stuff from the internet” for their curriculum materials. In under-resourced counties, teachers are told to go online and search and find resources from other school districts that publish materials online. Kids do not have eyeglasses. I’m talking about 20% of the students in some Georgia counties. But the testing mantra is untouchable, has increased, and frankly, is being used by political hacks to substantiate their various initiatives. At some point the thinning of staff will be done and they can thin no more. At some point the various charter initiatives will take hold and may prove a stop-gap to egotistical amateur school boards as finally there will something to limit or otherwise reign in their antics. But this still does not change that for-profit testing has invaded government schools and everyone is expected to accept and make-believe that there is something legitimate about it. the kids and the teachers are forced to accept this weird rhythm that chops up and dominates the school year. It really acts like brainwashing, the effect of it. And then there are the smart kids who figure out how to perform highly, so these kids think they are hot stuff and become so self assured that they have no concept of the greater knowledge they are missing, deeper greater knowledge and awareness. The type kid I am describing repels any such knowledge like that stuff you can spray on your windshield that repels water / rain. So even the smart kids get brainwashed.

If I had a few extra minutes, I would inventory the frequency of required testing and what companies are involved and, as the saying goes, follow the money. It is sort like dealing with some insurance agencies, where you are paying them money and then they start telling you what to do.

Private Citizen

October 11th, 2012
12:17 pm

I have a hunch that the money that used to go for resource materials is now being paid to the testing companies.

Hillbilly D

October 11th, 2012
12:24 pm

Georgia schools are improving. They are better than they were 30 years ago, 20 years ago and 10 years ago.

Not saying that’s right or wrong but how do you measure it?

Private Citizen

October 11th, 2012
12:29 pm

The French philosopher Michel Serres is visiting as faculty at Stanford University. Someone asked him how the U. S. is doing. He paused and then said, “Not good. No one studies Latin or Greek – the language of the Bible.”

Private Citizen

October 11th, 2012
12:40 pm

Hillbilly D, I think Ms. Downey to be indulging in some opinionating. It brings to the fore, though, that with the advent of the internet, there is a different and greater consciousness than prior. I have noted how some metropolitan “success story” schooling encourages students to build web sites and use web logs. I have also seen Georgia rural school district where no students are encouraged for such dangerous activity and I would fear for any teacher who directly set to having students build websites or use blogs. Much of this state is highly repressive and policy is recognized by the vacuum or absence of many things. This is one reason why treatment of workers is important, so that skilled educators can do their work without being accosted.

Southside Parent

October 11th, 2012
12:50 pm

What if, at Dunbar, 2013 CRCT results show 35% of 5th grade students failed to meet state minimum standards on math? If we look at this isolated as the data is normally produced, that’s a terrible CRCT result. But, when these same students were in fourth grade (2011-12 CRCT), 68.1% failed to meet state minimum standards on math. The value added metric captures the movement on the tests among a specific group of students.

I believe test scores and test analysis can add incredible value to teacher and school evaluations, especially for students who are behind on core content and for recognizing those teachers and schools who are moving their kids forward. But we all must be vigilant on the limitations of those numbers. Underwood’s points are well made, especially on the nonsensical application to non-pyramidal knowledge approach in middle school social studies and science.

Southside Parent

October 11th, 2012
12:53 pm

As to Carver EC, it’s not simply a self-selected group. Because of the Georgia State early enrollment component, it is the *only* APS school with competitive admissions. That is a huge reason why the school is so amazing, just as NAHS’s magnets & Grady’s magnets were. Yet Davis repeatedly pretends Carver EC is an apples-to-apples comparison. I am generally supportive of Davis, but he’s too smart for me to believe he doesn’t know in his heart that is a disingenuous comparison.

Southside Parent

October 11th, 2012
12:59 pm

@Maureen: Is APS releasing the school level value added scores on Friday? Or will this weekend’s AJC article be on the general approach to value added?

SDR

October 11th, 2012
1:00 pm

Southside parent, Washington High School also has an Early College program, so Carver is NOT the ONLY school with competitive admissions.

d

October 11th, 2012
1:20 pm

@Maureen – yes, we are using EOCTs…. but my question is how do you show a year’s worth of growth from Biology to Physical Science or US History to Economics when those courses are very different….. or from 9th grade literature to American Literature which is given 2 years later?

Maureen Downey

October 11th, 2012
1:34 pm

Southside: Don’t know what APS’ plan is, but the AJC will be releasing the school-by-school results.
Maureen