Monday, August 06, 2007

Sound bite style reports: More confusion with multiple measures.

This from Edspresso.
Exposing an Ugly Paradox

Question: How can 6 Nevada high schools in one district get NCLB "F"s and make the "Top 5% of Public Schools" in Newsweek?

The Nevada District's Answer: NCLB including special education programs equally

Edspresso's Answer: The achievement gap

First, consider what Newsweek really means by Top 5%. Newsweek awards this title by taking IB/AP/Cambridge test scores, and dividing by the number of graduating seniors, so the "Top 5% of Public Schools" is really just the "Top 5% of Public Schools' Smartest Kids Who Are Graduating" in the nation.

What's really ugly is that this Nevada district administration blames it on the special education students' scores (13.2% of the district's student body). "More than half of the Washoe County schools getting a failing grade under No Child Left Behind standards did so because of special-education programs, school trustees were told by staff Tuesday."The article uses the Top 5% title to suggest that NCLB isn't grading them properly.

But the whole point is that this paradox is a perfect example of the achievement gap.

Aren't special education students the ones that commonly get left behind? This district's schools are top performing on AP and other college prep courses across the nation; at the same time they're failing the students at the bottom.

The point of NCLB is to expose any problems with even the smallest of groups - problems that used to be completely masked among standardized tests that simply "melted" everyone's scores together.

Superintendant Paul Dugan said, "If we don't make it in one category the whole school is categorized as not making adequate yearly progress."And conversely, if you do make it in one category (IB/AP exams), the whole school is categorized as a Top 5% school nationwide.

Good job, smart students' teachers and smart students' curriculum and smart students' administrators... now what are you going to do about those you left behind?

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