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June 4, 2015

Yet Another Report Touts Record High School Graduation Rates

EdWeek’s annual Diplomas Count report shows that the U.S. high school on-time graduation rate has hit another all-time high with 81 percent of students graduating within four-years of entering high school.  You may remember last month another report found the same. Both reports were based on similar data so it is not surprising they found similar results.

One difference is that this most recent report sheds a brighter light on disparities between different groups of students. An examination of EdWeek’s data shows that in 2013—the most recent year graduation rate data is available—the poverty gap in on-time graduation rates is as large as 16 percentage points in Minnesota to just one percentage point in Kentucky.  Nationally, the gap between white students and their black and Hispanic classmates continues to narrow. Again, the gaps differ significantly from state to state.

While the overall story is certainly good news, the persistent gaps are still troubling. Gaps are particularly large between special education students and the general student population as well as between English Language Learners (ELL) and native English speakers. So while significant progress has been made, there is a lot more work to be done until all students enter high school with a similar chance to graduate high school four years later.

 

The Findings

National Graduation Rates

  • The national graduation rate hit another all-time high.
    • Eighty-one percent of students who entered 9th grade in the fall of 2009 graduated with at least a standard high school diploma by the summer of 2013 — the highest level seen since the late 1960s.
      • Between 2011 and 2013 the graduation rate increased 2 points.
      • Graduation rates had remained relatively stagnant between the late 1960s and early 2000’s.
  • Large attainment gaps also remain between traditionally disadvantaged groups and their more advantaged classmates.
    • 16 point gap between white and black students (71 and 87 percent).
    • 12 point gap between white and Hispanic students (75 and 87 percent).
    • Seventy-three percent of students from economically disadvantaged families graduated on-time.
      • This is 8 points lower than the national average.
    • Just 62 percent of Students with Disabilities graduated on-time.
      • This is 19 points lower than the national average.
    • Only 61 percent of Limited English Proficient students graduated on-time.
      • This is 20 points lower than the national average.

State Graduation Rates

  • Most states have improved their graduation rates since 2011.
    • All but six states (Arizona, Illinois, New York, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wyoming) improved their on-time graduation rates between 2011 and 2013.
    • Nevada made the greatest improvement by increasing their graduation rate from 62 to 71 percent (9 points) during this same time period.
      • New Mexico and Utah both improved their graduation rates by 7 points as well.
  • Large gaps remain between states
    • There is a 28 percentage point gap between Iowa –the state with the highest graduation rate (90 percent)– and the District of Columbia which has the lowest graduation rate (62 percent).
    • Only seven states (Alaska, District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon) have graduation rates that fell under 75 percent while 21 states have graduation rates of at least 85 percent.
    • In Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota there is a 15 point gap between the graduation rates of economically disadvantaged students and their state averages.
      • In six states (Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Hawaii, Indiana, and District of Columbia) the gap is 5 points or less.
    • In Mississippi just 23 percent of Students with Disabilities (SWD) graduated on-time which is 53 points lower than the state average (76 percent). Mississippi had both the lowest graduation rates for SWD and the largest gap.
      • On the other end of the spectrum Arkansas had the highest graduation rate for SWK (80 percent) while Alabama had the smallest gap (3 points).
    • Three states (New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Texas) had graduation rates over 80 percent for black students.
      • Three states (Minnesota, Nevada, and Oregon) had graduation rates of less than 60 percent for their black students.
    • Eleven states graduated at least 80 percent of their Hispanic students on-time.
      • Minnesota was the only state to graduate less than 60 percent of their Hispanic students.

 






May 14, 2015

Proficiency Rates Differ Between State and National Tests

Large gaps in proficiency rates still exist between state and national tests according to a new report by Achieve, Inc. It has been known for several years that more students reach the proficiency benchmark on their state assessment than on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), and that gap remains today. In fact, proficiency rates on most state assessments are 30 percentage points higher than they are on NAEP.  What this means is that if one of these states reported 80 percent of their students reached the proficiency benchmark on their state assessment, than just 50 percent likely reached it on NAEP.

In some states the gap was even larger. In Georgia, for example, the difference was 60 percentage points in 4th grade reading which was the largest difference in the country. In this case 94 percent of 4th graders were deemed proficient on the Georgia state assessment while just 34 percent reached the proficiency level on NAEP. Georgia wasn’t alone. Louisiana, Alaska, and Arkansas all had gaps of at least 50 percentage points. Similar results were found in 8th grade math as well.

However, there were states with small if any gaps. In fact, in New York more students were deemed proficient on NAEP than on the state assessment in both 4th grade reading and 8th grade math. The report also singled out a dozen or so states that had similar proficiency rates on their state assessments as on NAEP, or as the report called them the “Top Truth Tellers.”

The results aren’t entirely surprising. The Achieve report is based on results from the 2013-14 state assessments when nearly all states were still using older tests. Most states will be giving new Common Core aligned tests for the first time this year which will likely lead to lower proficiency rates as was seen in Kentucky and New York — states that have been administering Common Core aligned assessments for a couple years already. What will be interesting is how this analysis will look a year from now when state scores are based on more rigorous Common Core aligned assessments. I’m guessing the Common Core states will see their scores more aligned with NAEP while those who don’t will still have significant gaps. The question remains, will there be more pushback in states with lower proficiency rates or in those with larger gaps? I guess we will have to wait until next year to find out.—Jim Hull






May 4, 2015

ACT now, before time runs out!

In a report released by ACT, the testing company once again sought to explain into the concept of career readiness (part of the now common terminology “college and career readiness”) and to explain what it is in particular that so many students are desired to have and what schools are expected to impart, as well as how best to measure it.

The brief report begins by explaining that college and career readiness are often considered to be measured by the same assessments, however there are several significant differences between these two and that college readiness and career readiness are best measured separately. Stemming from misinterpretations of ACT’s 2006 Ready for College and Ready for Work report, the intention was to highlight that those students who choose to enter the workforce after high school still benefit significantly in school from exposure to academically rigorous standards as do those students preparing for college. Apparently, some saw this to say that by assessing the skills that serve as foundational components of both college readiness and career readiness that these two constructs are then the same.

The recent report explains that when defining and assessing one’s readiness to enter the workforce, there are skill sets that one acquires, from broad abilities that would apply to numerous jobs to specific skills that are job-specific. Accordingly, there are three levels of workplace readiness that follow this general to specific structure: work readiness, career readiness, and job readiness.

Work readiness is the most general form of academic readiness for the workplace. These would be the skills that would prepare any high school graduate for postsecondary workforce training regardless of the intended career or occupation. Career readiness, more directed than work readiness, would be the workplace readiness that would be required for a specific group of careers. For example, whereas all graduates would need foundational work readiness skills such as reading and math proficiency, the fields of health care and construction would generally require different types of skills (for example, the importance of knowing statistics or creating financial statements may be ranked differently by construction and health care professions) regardless of what specific profession is chosen. The last, and most specific, form of workplace readiness is job readiness. This would relate to the skill sets and competencies required or expected for a specific job or occupation.

Similar to our Defining a 21st Century Education report, the ACT report also includes a discussion as to whether including more than just academic skills is appropriate in assessing college and career readiness. In addition to core academic skills (such math, science, and English/language arts), three other skill domains are elaborated. These include: cross-cutting capabilities include those higher-level thinking and social skills (e.g., critical thinking, problem-solving, cooperation), behavioral skills, such as one’s ability to work well in a team setting and managing stress, and navigation skills, such as goal orientation and self-knowledge of abilities. ACT posits that without the consideration of these non-academic components in assessment, the value placed on such skills and abilities will be ignored despite their recognized importance by the education, business, and industry communities. Certainly, an environment fostering these skills would benefit students by way supporting a more comprehensive education. In the very least, it would be difficult to argue against wanting students to have such competencies. ACT concludes that they are currently underway researching how they can aid in examining this more “holistic approach” to career readiness. –David Ferrier






April 30, 2015

Long-Term but No Short-Term Gains in History, Civics, and Geography, According to NAEP

Classroom Observations Yesterday, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the results of the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in History, Civics, and Geography for U.S. 8th graders. Results are provided for the nation as a whole but not for individual states, unlike as they do for the mathematics and reading assessments. Similar to other NAEP assessments, results are given in scale scores (0-500) and achievement levels (Basic, Proficient and Advanced).  Scores are given for overall student performance as well as by race, gender, and income groups.

While scores have remained relatively flat since the last administration in 2010 for each of these subjects, 8th graders in 2014 performed higher than their predecessors a decade or two ago. Much of the growth over the past two decades has been driven by the improving performance of low-performing students. Who for each of the three subjects narrowed the gap between themselves and their high performing peers.

Yet, the same gap narrowing was not typically found when it came to the gap in the percent of black and Hispanic 8th graders reaching NAEP’s Basic Achievement Level relative to their white classmates. While there was some gap narrowing, in most cases gaps have remained relatively unchanged over the past decade or two and those gaps remain quite large in most cases. It is important to keep in mind, though, that because all racial and ethnic groups have improved at relatively the same rate over the past two decades, these racial and ethnic gaps have not significantly changed.

This year’s results may not be worth celebrating but they don’t show any systemic failure either. What they do show is that 8th graders continued to make gradual progress in History, Civics, and Geography over the past two decades despite the increased focus over this time period on math and reading. Unfortunately, there was no significant progress made in recent years. While it could be that improvements will appear in the next iteration of these NAEP assessments, in the meantime policymakers and educators should use these current results to ensure all students are being taught the History, Civics, and Geographic skills they need to obtain a well-rounded education so they can maximize their contribution to society as adults. –Jim Hull

 

The Findings

History

  • Overall scores remained flat since 2010
    • However, 8th graders scored higher in 2014 (267 points) than they did in both 2002 (262 points), and 1994 (259 points).
    • 8th graders are performing nearly a grade level higher in 2014 than they did in 1994.
    • Low performing students -those scoring at the 10th percentile- made greater gains (12 points) between 1994 and 2014 than high performing students –those scoring at the 90th percentile—who gained 4 points.
    • Between 1994 and 2014, 8th graders made significant improvements in three of the four themes assessed—Democracy (13 points), Culture (6 points), and World Role (12 points). They made no significant gains in the Technology theme.
  • There was no change in the percent of 8th graders scoring at or above NAEP’s Proficient level since 2010 as well.
    • Just 18 percent of 8th graders scored at or above proficient in 2014, which is not significantly different from 2010.
    • However, more 8th graders in 2014 (10 percentage points) scored at or above the proficiency level than 8th graders in 1994.
    • Students at this level should be able to incorporate geographic, technological, and other considerations in their understanding of events and should have knowledge of significant political ideas and institutions. They should also be able to communicate ideas about historical themes while citing evidence from primary and secondary sources to support their conclusions.
  • The percent of 8th graders scoring at or above NAEP’s Basic level remained flat as well
    • In 2014 71 percent of 8th graders scored at or above the basic level which was not significantly different than 8th graders in 2010.
    • Yet, just 61 percent of 8th graders in 1994 scored at or above the basic level.
    • Students scoring at or above this level should also have a beginning understanding of the fundamental political ideas and institutions of American life and their historical origins.
  • All racial/ethnic groups made significant improvements but large gaps remain
    • Eighty-four percent of white 8th graders scored at or above the Basic level compared to just 47 percent of black 8th graders and 59 percent of Hispanic 8th graders.
    • However, in 1994 just 70 percent of white, 32 percent of black, and 41 percent of Hispanic 8th graders reached the Basic level.
  • The vast majority of 8th graders discussed material in class
    • Eighty percent of 8th graders said they discuss history in their class at least once a week which is no different from 2010.
    • However, 8th graders in 2014 are more likely than 8th graders in 2010 to watch movies/videos, use computers at school for history/social studies, listen to information presented online, and use letters, diaries, or essays written by historical people at least once a week.

 

Civics

  • Overall scores remained relatively unchanged
    • Between 2014 and 2010 scores improved by 3 points but the difference was not statistically significant. Meaning the difference could have happened by chance.
    • However, 8th graders in 2014 performed significantly better (4 points) than 8th graders in both 1998 and 2006.
    • Low performing students -those scoring at the 10th percentile- made greater gains (7 points) between 1998 and 2014 than high performing students –those scoring at the 90th percentile— whose scores did not significantly change.
  • There has been no change in the percentage of 8th graders scoring at or above NAEP’s Proficient level since 2010 as well.
    • Less than a quarter (23 percent) of 8th graders scored at or above Proficient in 2014, which has remained relatively the same since 1998.
    • Students at this level should understand and be able to explain the purposes that government should serve, as well as be able to describe events within the United States and other countries that have international consequences.
  • The percent of 8th graders scoring at or above the Basic level remained similar.
    • In 2014, 74 percent of 8th graders scored at or above the Basic level, which was not significantly different than 8th graders in 2010 (72 percent).
    • However, more 8th graders in 2014 reached the Basic level than 8th graders in 1998 (70 percent).
    • Students scoring at or above this level should have some understanding of competing ideas about the purpose of government. They should also be able to define government, the Constitution, the rule of law and politics and be able to identify the fundamental principles of American democracy and the documents from which they originated.
  • Gaps exist between white 8th graders and their black and Hispanic classmates.
    • Eighty-six percent of white 8th graders scored at or above the Basic level compared to just 55 percent of black 8th graders and 61 percent of Hispanic 8th graders.
    • However, in 1998, 78 percent of white, 49 percent of black, and 44 percent of Hispanic 8th graders reached the Basic level.
    • White and Hispanic 8th graders had significantly more students reach the Basic level in 2014 than in 1998 (8 and 17 percentage point gains, respectively).
  • The vast majority of 8th graders discussed material in class.
    • Seventy-nine percent of 8th graders said they discussed civics in their class at least once a week, which is no different from 2010.
    • Eighth graders in 2014 were more likely than 8th graders in 2010 to watch movies and use computers at school for social studies.
    • However, they are less likely to discuss current events and take part in role-playing, mock trials, or dramas.

 

Geography

  • Overall scores remain flat.
    • Scores have remained relatively unchanged since 1994.
    • However, low performing students -those scoring at the 10th percentile- made greater gains (7 points) between 1994 and 2014 than high performing students –those scoring at the 90th percentile— for whom there were no significant differences.
  • There has been little change in the percentage of 8th graders reaching the proficiency level.  
    • Twenty-seven percent of 8th graders scored at or above Proficient in 2014, which has remained relatively the same since 1994.
    • Students at this level should possess a fundamental geographic vocabulary; understand geography’s analytical concepts; and solve locational questions requiring integration of information from two or more sources.
  • The percentage of 8th graders scoring at or above the Basic level remained similar.
    • In 2014, three-quarters of 8th graders scored at or above the Basic level, which was not significantly different than 8th graders in 2010 (74 percent).
    • However, more 8th graders in 2014 reached the Basic level than 8th graders in 1994 (71 percent).
    • Students scoring at or above this level should possess fundamental knowledge and vocabulary of concepts relating to patterns, relationships, distance, direction, scale, boundary, site, and situation; solve fundamental locational questions using latitude and longitude and interpret simple map scales.
  • Gaps exist between white 8th graders and their black and Hispanic classmates.
    • Eighty-eight percent of white 8th graders scored at or above the basic level compared to less than half (48 percent) of black 8th graders and 61 percent of Hispanic 8th graders.
    • Yet, in 1994, 81 percent of white, 34 percent of black, and 49 percent of Hispanic 8th graders reached the Basic level.
    • Gaps narrowed from 1994 to 2014 between black and white students by (7 percentage points) and between Hispanic and white students by 12 percentage points.
  • The vast majority of 8th graders discussed material in class.
    • Seventy-nine percent of 8th graders said they discussed geography in their class at least once a week, which is no different from 2010.
    • Eighth graders in 2014 were more likely than 8th graders in 2010 to watch movies, listen to information presented online, and use computers at school for social studies.

 

For more information on NAEP, check out the Center’s report The Proficiency Debate: A guide to NAEP achievement levels.

Filed under: Achievement Gaps,Middle school,NAEP,Public education,Report Summary — Jim Hull @ 11:22 am





April 17, 2015

Early education: Profiles from 10 states

Sometimes getting and maintaining a job can be difficult enough for some people in poverty. To further make matters complicated, when these people are parents, they additionally have to care for others, their children, which includes finding a preschool or childcare facility to look after their children during the day. To highlight what some states are doing to ensure high-quality early childhood education, the Center for American Progress recently released a series of snapshots profiling early childhood policies in ten states drawing primarily from the research of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). NIEER compiles and releases an annual record of early childhood programs across the United States and aids in providing a glimpse at preschool across the nation. In its most recent edition, The State of Preschool 2013 report explains that across the US, the average state spending per child is $4,026. Keep this number in mind as each state is highlighted in turn.

Additionally, general trends are reported that may (or perhaps should) alert many readers. For example, 31 states throughout the nation have annual childcare costs that amount to more than annual community college tuition and fees for in-state students.

Although these states (Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, & Wisconsin) differ somewhat in both their approach and the quality of their early childhood programming, several findings deserve illumination.

Colorado:

  • For children 6-years-old or younger, 43% live in low-income families.
  • Colorado ranks 37th out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($2,159/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Colorado state preschool programs only meet 6 (out of 10) of NIEER’s benchmarks of (high) quality. Colorado programs could increase quality by requiring preschool teachers to hold a B.A. degree or having preschools offer at least one meal per day, for example.

Florida:

  • Over half (53%) of all children six or younger grow up in low-income households in Florida.
  • Florida ranks 35th out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($2,242/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Florida meets only 3 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. Maintaining ratios of 10 children per teacher or less and ensuring that teachers are provided appropriate training and resources are two ways in which these state programs can improve.

Georgia:

  • Fifty-four percent of children less than 6 years of age live in low-income families.
  • Georgia ranks 28th out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($3,599/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Although Georgia meets 8 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality, only 4-year-olds are allowed to enroll in preschool. Opening enrollment to 3-year-olds would be a large step forward in terms of assisting those children most at-risk.

Iowa:

  • Roughly 4 out of 10 children (41%) ages six and younger in Iowa grow up in poverty.
  • Iowa ranks 32nd out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($2,674/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Iowa meets only 6 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. Alarmingly, the programs in Iowa only operate for 10 hours per week, having the programs operate on a full-day schedule would likely be a significant improvement for Iowan families.

Michigan:

  • Every other child (50%) under age 6 comes from a low-income family in Michigan.
  • Michigan ranks 18th out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($4,452/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Michigan meets 7 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. An example of how Michigan programs can improve is by allowing (and ensuring) preschool teachers at least 15 hours of annual in-service training. Additionally, to address earlier issues related to its limited operating schedule, Michigan increased its preschool program to a full-day schedule. Unfortunately, this resulted in fewer enrollments slot available for children.

North Carolina:

  • North Carolina has 1 of 4 state programs across the US that meet all 10 of NIEER’s benchmarks of quality.
  • North Carolina ranks 13th out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($4,960/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Although North Carolina has placed a large investment in its youngest residents, it is not without need. Roughly 54% of North Carolinian families with children ages six or younger are impoverished and greatly benefit from having high-quality early education programs. Unfortunately, these efforts likely only cover the symptoms and do not address any underlying causes for these families being at-risk, although one could argue that perhaps that is not the purpose of early education.

Nevada:

  • Fifty-two percent of Nevadan families with children 6 or younger live in poverty.
  • Nevada ranks 33rd out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($2,397/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Nevada meets only 7 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. Nevada programs can seek higher quality implementation through ensuring that all assistant teachers have at least a C.D.A. (Child Development Associate) credential (or its equivalent) and by providing at least one meal a day to its children.

Ohio:

  • Half of Ohioan families with children 6 or younger are impoverished.
  • Ohio ranks 21st out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($3,927/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Ohio’s preschool programs meet only 4 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. Significant improvements to the state’s early education system will likely be seen if class sizes are kept to below 20 students while maintaining a 1:10 teacher-child ratio. Additionally, requiring teachers to have a B.A. and assistant teachers to have at least a C.D.A. (Child Development Associate) credential (or its equivalent) will help ensure that Ohio children experience the best in early education.

Virginia:

  • Slightly over one-third (36%) of all families with children under six are living in poverty in Virginia.
  • Virginia ranks 23rd out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($3,752/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Virginia meets just 6 of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. Noticeable improvements will likely be seen if teachers are required to have a B.A. and assistant teachers to have at least a C.D.A. (Child Development Associate) credential (or its equivalent) and if at least one meal was provided to children per day. Additionally, Virginia does not serve 3-year-olds in the state preschool programs and their inclusion would serve as a substantial improvement to the early education system, although considerable increases in funding would likely be necessary.

Wisconsin:

  • Forty-four percent of the families with children six or younger in Wisconsin are considered low-income.
  • Wisconsin ranks 29th out of 41 states in per-student funding for preschool ($3,366/student).
  • Biggest challenges: Wisconsin preschool programs meet only half of NIEER’s 10 benchmarks of quality. State programs would see improvements by requiring assistant teachers to have at least a C.D.A. (Child Development Associate) credential (or its equivalent), maintaining teacher-child ratios of 1:10 or less, and offering screenings and support services related to vision, hearing, and health.





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