"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Friday, January 9, 2015

How Do Schools in the US Really Perform

In the United States, if a parent finds out that his or her child has been labeled as an English Language Learner, should this be a reason to worry? If an Individualized Education Program (IEP) gets written for a child, is this bad news? If a child is born Black, Hispanic, or Native American, is the destiny of that child in the United States educational system pretty much decided? Are schools in the US really able to bring the best out of every student?

Lamenting on how US students perform on international standardized exams can perhaps make us pause and examine how schools in America are really performing. These test scores, unfortunately, do not provide the complete picture however. For instance, achieving a good average score in these exams is not necessarily an indication that schools are doing well. Brian Butler, a principal at Mason Crest Elementary School, draws attention to an article posted in TeacherMatch TalentTalk.


Oftentimes, good students actually perform well in spite of attending schools of low quality. The following excerpt from the article posted in TeacherMatch TalentTalk recommends a more honest way of gauging how much a school has really contributed to the learning of a student:


Answering the questions posed in the above excerpt can be found in the field test data from Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Below are the scores for students with disabilities who have been assigned individualized education plans:

English Language Arts



Mathematics

Above graphs drawn from data provided by 

Comparing Grade 3 against Grade 11 results leads to a very clear conclusion. Performance levels are getting worse. There is no growth to talk about. With each year, schools are actually increasingly failing these students. One may argue that this group of students is particularly challenging. That argument, however, does not hold water since the same dismal performance is seen with black students and other minorities. It holds as well for economically disadvantaged students. The above are not longitudinal data, but there is no indication out there that contradicts the assertion that most US schools are currently unable in growing and developing students.

In California, a longitudinal study is available that relates education outcomes to language learner classification. In the following figure copied from this study, RFEP corresponds to Reclassified Fluent English Proficient. The modal time for this reclassification is at 4th grade so "target" includes students who have been considered proficient in English right at 4th grade, while "pre" corresponds to students who have been reclassified quite early (2nd grade - 3rd grade), and "post" are those who have been reclassified after fourth grade. IFEP are children who said "yes" to the initial survey question (“Is a language other than English spoken in your home?”), but are deemed English-proficient at the beginning of school after testing. EL are those students who have never been reclassified while EO are students who said "no" to the initial survey question.


With regard to IEP students, simply examining how these pupils are taught provides enough evidence to draw conclusions. The following paper recently published in School Mental Health, for examples, raises a serious concern: "Less than one fourth of interventions appear to be evidence based."

Seeing the above depressing results, it does appear that we are grading US schools very leniently as in the following 2015 Quality Counts rating of states by the Education Week Research Center:


STATE
GRADE
TOTAL SCORE
MASSACHUSETTS
B
86.2
NEW JERSEY
B
85.5
MARYLAND
B
85.2
VERMONT
B
83
NEW HAMPSHIRE
B-
82.4
CONNECTICUT
B-
82.3
WYOMING
B-
80.6
PENNSYLVANIA
B-
80.1
NEW YORK
B-
80
MINNESOTA
B-
79.9
WISCONSIN
C+
78.9
VIRGINIA
C+
78.7
RHODE ISLAND
C+
78.5
MAINE
C+
77.1
DELAWARE
C+
76.7
NORTH DAKOTA
C+
76.6
ILLINOIS
C
76.1
OHIO
C
75.8
WASHINGTON
C
75.5
KANSAS
C
75.5
COLORADO
C
75.5
NEBRASKA
C
75.4
HAWAII
C
75.2
IOWA
C
75.1
INDIANA
C
74.3
ALASKA
C
73.5
WEST VIRGINIA
C
73.5
FLORIDA
C
73.4
KENTUCKY
C
73
MONTANA
C
72.8
GEORGIA
C-
72.1
MICHIGAN
C-
71.5
MISSOURI
C-
71.4
NORTH CAROLINA
C-
70.8
UTAH
C-
70.5
ARKANSAS
C-
70.2
TENNESSEE
C-
70.1
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
C-
70
TEXAS
C-
69.7
SOUTH DAKOTA
C-
69.6
OREGON
C-
69.5
CALIFORNIA
D+
69.2
SOUTH CAROLINA
D+
68.9
LOUISIANA
D+
68.5
ALABAMA
D+
67.7
IDAHO
D+
67.7
ARIZONA
D+
67.6
OKLAHOMA
D+
67.6
NEW MEXICO
D
65.5
NEVADA
D
65
MISSISSIPPI
D
64.2
U.S.A.
C
74.3


The above figures and graphs do not provide comfort to parents of English Language learners, IEP students, Blacks, Hispanics, and economically disadvantaged children. Instead of progress, students regress. In a realistic assessment, this actually means F....

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