Students around the country are nearing the midpoint of the school year and will be receiving report cards documenting their achievement to date. But students aren’t the only ones receiving report cards this time of year. States and districts have been receiving A through F grades based as well. January has brought a flurry of report cards with Education Week, The Brookings Institute, and StudentsFirst all releasing report cards on our public schools with dramatically different results.
If you live in Massachusetts you’re schools would receive the honor of valedictorian according to Education Week’s report card by earning a B in student achievement. On the other hand, StudentsFirst’s report card indicates that your schools are in need of remediation by earning a D-plus. Conversely, Louisiana would take valedictorian honors according to StudentsFirst’s report card while Education Week’s report card shows Louisiana school barely passing by earning a D-minus.
So if you live in Massachusetts or Louisiana are your schools honors or remedial schools? It depends. Each of these report cards grades states on very different sets of criteria. These criteria are based on the priorities and opinions of the organizations that developed the report cards. Meaning, the report cards are an evaluation of how well states and districts have met the standards that each organization advocates, not an evaluation of the actual effectiveness of their schools, which is like receiving a grade on a test based on how you studied instead of how well you actually performed.
Keep this in mind when other report cards are released. Knowing what is actually being graded can go a long way to more accurately evaluate the quality of the schools in your state or district. For example Education Week grades states based on their student achievement but doesn’t fully account for differences in student demographics. StudentsFirst grades states based solely on policies that organization advocates and doesn’t include measures of student outcomes. The Brookings Institute grades large districts in a similar manner by grading the districts primarily on policies they believe increases school choice and competition but does include a measure of student outcomes.
Of course, these are not the only report cards that grade our public schools but they represent the fact that the grades are based on whether schools are doing what the organization wants our schools to do and not on the actually effectiveness of our schools which a report card should really represent. –Jim Hull
ACT results for the Class of 2013 were released today and despite the drop in overall scores, more high school graduates are prepared for college. The decline in scores may be due to the fact for the first time ACT is including students who required accommodations, such as more time to take test, in the overall results as well as the fact that there as a dramatic increase in test-takers because both groups likely consist of a number of lower-performing students.
With that in mind, although scores declined it is important to point out that the percent of graduates considered “college ready” in all four subjects increased, and has been increasing for several years even though many more traditionally disadvantaged graduates are now taking the ACT. This shows our high schools are graduating more students ready to succeed in college.
But the results also show that progress has been slow and uneven between subgroups, requiring schools to double and even triple their efforts in making sure all students are adequately prepared for college-level work. To do so, high schools need to ensure that all students are taking the courses they need to succeed in college. Unfortunately, as CPE’s latest report Out of Sync found, most states do not require the courses students need to succeed in college for students to earn a high school diploma. As more graduates plan on enrolling in college, it is more important than ever that a high school diploma represent a student who is ready for higher education, whether it as a two-year or four-year institution. – Jim Hull
Below is summary of the major findings from the 2013 ACT report
- The nation’s graduating Class of 2013 had an average composite score of 20.9, which was a decrease from the 21.1 from both 2012 and 2009.
- At this score, an average high school graduate has about a 72 percent chance of getting admitted into a good college.*
- Scores decreased by two-tenths of a point on the reading (21.1), math (20.9) and science (20.7) tests between 2012 and 2013, while scores on the English (20.2) test declined by three-tenths of a point.
- Scores declined for every ethnic/racial group.
- White graduates saw a decrease of two-tenths of a point between 2012 and 2013 (22.4 to 22.2).
- The average black graduate score was 16.9.0 in 2013, which was one-tenth lower than in 2012 but the same as in 2009.
- The average Hispanic graduate score was 18.8 in 2013, which was a tenth of point lower than in 2012 but a tenth of a point higher than in 2009.
- Of the 31 states where at least 40 percent of graduates took the ACT:
- Minnesota achieved the highest composite score of 23.0.
- 74 percent of Minnesota graduates took the ACT
- Idaho, Iowa, and Wisconsin had the next highest scores of 22.1 apiece.
- Of the nine states where 100 percent of graduates took the ACT:
- Utah had the highest score at 20.7, followed by Illinois (20.6) and Colorado (20.4).
- Tennessee (19.5), Louisiana (19.5), and North Carolina (18.7) had the lowest scores out of this group.
- Twenty-six percent of 2013 high school graduates were college ready in all four ACT subject tests (English, Reading, Math, and Science), which is one percentage point increase from 2012 and a 3 percentage point increase from 2009.
- Of the 31 states that had at least 40 percent of their graduates take the ACT, Minnesota and Michigan were the only state where more than 50 percent of their graduates were college ready in at least three of four subjects.
- Less than 30 percent of graduates in, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Mississippi, & Tennessee were college ready in three of four subjects.
- Graduates who achieve these benchmarks are ready to succeed in first-year, credit-bearing college courses in the specific subjects ACT tests, according to ACT research. “Success” is defined as a 75% likelihood of earning a ‘C’ or better in the relevant course.
- Black and Hispanic graduates are less likely to be college ready than their white peers.
- The percent of black graduates meeting all four benchmarks remained at 5 percent between 2012 and 2013 while the percent of Hispanic students increased from 13 to 14 percent.
- However, these percentages are much lower than the 33 percent of white graduates who met all four benchmarks in 2013 which is up from 32 percent in 2012.
- Between 2012 and 2013, the percentage of graduates who scored at or above the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks increased from 31 percent to 36 percent in science, but declined in the other three subject areas.
- Over the same time period there was an eight percentage point drop in the proportion of graduates who were college-ready in reading (52 to 44 percent), a three percentage point drop in English (67 to 64 percent) and a two percentage point drop in math (46 to 44 percent).
Core Course Rigor
- Seventy-four percent of ACT test-takers completed the recommended “core” college-preparatory curriculum, which is down from 76 percent in 2012 but still significantly higher than the 70 percent in 2009.
- High school graduates who completed a core curriculum earned composite test scores 2.7 to 3.1 points higher than graduates who did not complete a core curriculum.
- A three point increase in an ACT score for an average graduate increases his or her chances of getting admitted into a good college from 72 percent to 81 percent.*
- Black and Hispanic graduates were less likely to have completed a core curriculum than white graduates.
- While 76 percent of white graduates complete a core curriculum, just 69 percent of black graduates and 72 percent of Hispanic graduates did so.
- About 54 percent of all 2013 high graduates took the ACT, compared to 52 percent in 2012 and 45 percent in 2009.
- More minority graduates are taking the ACT.
- In 2013, nearly 28 percent of ACT test-takers were Hispanic or black, compared to 22 percent in 2009.
- Furthermore, the percentage of test-takers who were white decreased between 2009 and 2013, from 64 percent to 58 percent.
For more information on how to use college entrance exam scores to evaluate your school, check out the Center’s Data First Website.
* Data based on calculations from the Center for Public Education’s Chasing the College Acceptance Letter: Is it harder to get into college.
Research has consistently shown that the most disadvantaged students are less likely to have an effective teacher than their more advantaged peers. This is not only true across districts but within districts as well. Some have blamed this phenomenon—at least in part—on policies that prevent school leaders from replacing ineffective teachers and have argued that if principals were given the flexibility to move an ineffective teacher to another school within the district (called forced transfer) more disadvantaged students would have access to high quality teachers.
To date, there has been little research on whether such flexibility would lead to the intended outcomes. But a recent study found in fact that flexibility can lead to greater teacher effectiveness in low-performing urban schools. The study is not definitive since it is based on only one school district (Miami-Dade). But it found that principals in low-performing schools identified low-performing teachers– as measured by their value-added scores and number of days the teacher was absent—for transfer and were able to replace those teachers with more effective teachers in terms of both test scores (value-added scores) and fewer teacher absences. While the less effective teachers were more likely to be transferred to a much higher performing school with fewer disadvantaged students, unfortunately they were no more effective in their new school. Of course this leads to bigger discussion about what districts should do with ineffective teachers which is a topic for another post.
Such findings give credence to the theory that greater district flexibility in teacher assignments will lead to a more equitable distribution of teachers so disadvantaged students can get their fair share of effective teachers. In the long-term such a policy can have a big effect on narrowing achievement gaps as research has consistently shown the tremendous impact effective teachers have on student achievement.—Jim Hull
Minority students have made significant gains over the past four decades in both math and reading, according to the 2012 long-term NAEP results. While most white students made significant gains as well, achievement gaps narrowed considerably since minority students made much larger gains than their white peers. However, large achievement gaps still remain.
9 Year olds
- U.S. 9 year old have made significant gains.
- Since the first year of NAEP in 1971, student achievement in reading has increased significantly from 208 to 221 (13 points, or just over a year’s worth of learning). There was also significant growth from 2004 to 2012 (5 points), but it remained relatively flat from 2008 until the present.
- Gains were made by students at all performance levels.
- Students scoring in the 10th and 25th percentiles each saw gains of 19 points, thus strengthening the lower percentile performance overall.
- Students performing at the 50th, 75th, and 90th percentiles each saw gains from 1971 to 2012 by 15, 9, and 6 points, respectively.
- These increases indicate an overall trend of improvement across all performance subgroups.
- Racial achievement gaps have narrowed significantly over the past four decades.
- The Black-White achievement gap narrowed from 44 points in 1971 to 23 points in 2012.
- Black students increased there scores 36 points over this time period, while White students improved their scores 15 points.
- The Hispanic-White achievement gap narrowed from 34 points in 1975 (the first year for which data was available for Hispanic students) to 21 points in 2012.
- Hispanic students increased their scores 25 points from 1975 to 2012, while White students nudged up 12 points in the same time period.
- Nine year-olds were the only age group to see a significant decrease in the gender gap from 1971 to 2012.
- In 1971, boys earned an average score of 201, while girls scored 214. By 2012, this 13-point gap shrunk to a 5-point deficit with boys scoring 218 and girls scoring 223.
13 Year Olds
- U.S. 13 year olds have made significant long- and short-term gains.
- Since 1971, student scores in reading has increased significantly from 255 to 263 (8 points, or nearly a year’s worth of learning). Scores also improved from 2008, the last time NAEP was administered.
- Students made improvements in reading scores across the spectrum of performance levels, with significant gains from 1971 as well as short-term gains since 2008.
- Lower-achieving students made the most modest gains (up 6 points from 1971), while each of the other higher-performing quintiles gained 8 or 9 points on average since 1971.
- Racial achievement gaps have narrowed significantly between initial testing and 2012.
- The Black-White achievement gap diminished from 39 points (1971) to 23 points (2012).
- Black students increased their scores by 25 points (roughly 2.5 years of learning), while White students achieved a 9-point gain over this time.
- The Hispanic-White achievement gap narrowed from 30 points in 1975 to 21 points in 2012.
- Hispanic students increased their scores by 17 points from 1975 to 2012, while White students achieved an 8-point gain over this time.
- The percentage of 13- and 17-year-olds who read for fun has diminished over time
- The percentage of 13-year-olds reported they read for fun dropped from 35 (1984) to 27 (2012) percent, while 17-year-olds saw their percentages drop off from 31 (1984) to 19 (2012).
17 Year olds
- On average U.S. 17 year olds have made little progress since 1971.
- Overall scores were not significantly different between the first NAEP reading testing in 1971 (score of 285) and 2012 (score of 287).
- Lower performing students have made modest gains
- Scores at the 10th percentile were 7 points higher in 2012 than in 1971.
- Scores that 25th percentile increased by 4 points between 1971 and 2012, while scores at the 50th percentile increased by 1 point.
- Students at the highest percentiles (75th and 90th) saw modest decreases in both long-term (since 1971) and short-term (since 2008) average scores.
- Achievement gaps have narrowed significantly between 1971 and 2012.
- The Black-White achievement gap narrowed by 27 points (from a 53 to a 26 point gap) between 1971 and 2012.
- Black students increased their scores by 30 points (roughly 3 years of growth) since 1971, while White students saw a 4-point improvement.
- Black students also showed short-term growth (from 2008) with a 3-point increase, while White students’ average reading scores remained constant.
- The Hispanic-White achievement gap narrowed by 20 points (41 to 21 point gap) from 1975 to 2012, while Hispanic enrollment was rapidly expanding.
- Hispanic students increased their scores by 22 points from 1975 to 2012, while White students saw only a 2-point gain in the same time period.
9 Year olds
- U.S. 9 year olds made significant gains.
- Since the first year of NAEP in 1973, student achievement in math has increased by two and half years’ worth of learning (25 points). However, there as been no significant improvement since 2004.
- Similar gains were made by students at all performance levels.
- In fact, students currently scoring at the 10th percentile score about the same as students at the 25th percentile did in 1973.
- Furthermore, students currently scoring at the 75th percentile score about the same as students at the 90th percentile did in 1973.
- Achievement gaps have narrowed significantly over the past four decades.
- The Black-White achievement gap narrowed from 35 points in 1973 to 25 points in 2012.
- Black students increased there scores by 36 points while at the same time White students improved their scores by 27 points.
- Today’s Black students score as well as White students did in 1986.
- The Hispanic-White achievement gap narrowed from 23 points in 1973 to 17 points in 2012 while the Hispanic enrollment increased from 5 percent in 1978 to 26 percent in 2012.
- Hispanic students increased there scores by 32 points from 1973 to 2012.
- Hispanic students score similarly as White students did in 1992.
13 Year Olds
- U.S. 13 year olds have made significant long- and short-term gains.
- Since 1973, student scores have increased by 19 points which is nearly two years’ worth of learning. Scores also improved from 2008 the last time NAEP was administered.
- While students at all levels made improvements, lower-achieving students made greater improvements.
- Scores at the 10th percentile were 27 points higher in 2012 than in 1978.
- While scores at the 90thpercentile increased 16 points between 1978 and 2012.
- Achievement gaps have narrowed significantly between 1973 and 2012.
- The Black-White achievement gap narrowed by 18 points (46 to 28 point gap).
- Black students increased there scores 36 points while at the same time White students improved their scores 19 points.
- Black students acquired about three and half more years of learning than they did in 1973.
- The Hispanic-White achievement gap narrowed by 14 points (35 to 21 point gap), while the Hispanic enrollment increased from 6 percent in 1978 to 21 percent in 2012.
- Hispanic students increased their scores by 32 points from 1973 to 2012.
- Hispanic students acquired about three more years of learning than they did in 1973.
- More 13 year olds are taking Algebra than ever before.
- In 2012 34 percent of 13 year olds took Algebra compared to just 16 percent in 1986.
- Nearly three-quarters of 13 year olds had taken at least Pre-Algebra in 2012, up from just 39 percent in 1986.
17 Year olds
- On average U.S. 17 year olds have made little progress since 1973.
- Overall scores were not significantly different between 1973 and 2012.
- However, lower performing students have made modest gains.
- Scores at the 10th percentile were 12 points higher in 2012 than in 1978.
- Scores at the 25th percentile increased 11 points between 1978 and 2012 while scores at the 50th percentile increased by 6 points.
- Achievement gaps have narrowed significantly between 1973 and 2012.
- The Black-White achievement gap narrowed by 14 points (40 to 26 point gap) between 1973 and 2012.
- Black students increased their scores 18 points while at the same time White students improved their scores 4 points.
- Black students acquired about two more years of learning than they did in 1973.
- The Hispanic-White achievement gap narrowed 14 points (33 to 19 point gap) while the Hispanic enrollment increased from 4 percent in 1978 to 22 percent in 2012.
- Hispanic students increased their scores by 17 points from 1973 to 2012.
- Hispanic students acquired nearly three more years of learning than they did in 1973.
- Nearly four times as many students took Calculus or Pre-Calculus in 2012 than in 1978.
- In 2012 23 percent of students took Calculus or Pre-Calculus compare to 6 percent in 1978. Just two decades ago just 10 percent did so.
- In 2012 just 22 percent of students’ highest math course was geometry compared to 53 percent in 1978. In 1992 44 percent of students did so.
For more information on NAEP, check out the Center’s report The Proficiency Debate: A guide to NAEP achievement levels.
While charter schools are more effective than they were in 2009, their performance is not much different than the traditional public schools (TPS) their students would have attended according to a new study conducted by the Center for Research and Education Outcomes at Stanford University (CREDO). The study updates their 2009 report which found that 83 percent of charter schools were no more effective than the TPSs. The current study not only examines the most recent data on charter schools but also includes 11 states that were not included in the 2009 study to bring the total to 27 states. It is important to note while only half the states are represented in the study, they enroll 95 percent of all charter schools students making the findings nationally representative.
Charter schools are overall more effective than they were in 2009
- In math, charter school students now make similar achievement gains as they would have had they attended their local traditional public school (TPS). This is an improvement over 2009 where charter school students lost 22 day of learning each year.
- In reading, charter school students gained an additional 8 days of learning each year compared to a loss of 7 days each year in 2009.
- Charter schools had a greater impact on the learning gains of disadvantaged students than TPSs.
- In particular, Black and Hispanic students in poverty made much greater gains in charter schools than if they attended their local TPS as do Hispanic English Language Learners.
- On the other hand, white students make greater gains if they attend their local TPS rather than a charter school.
The vast majority of charter schools are no more effective than Traditional Public Schools
- In math, students in 71 percent of charter schools were no more effective than TPSs.
- Students in 31 percent of charter schools made less achievement gains than if they attended their local TPS.
- Students in 29 percent of charter schools made greater achievement gains than if they attended their local TPS.
- In reading students in 75 percent of charter schools were no more effective than TPSs.
- Students in 19 percent of charter schools made less achievement gains than if they attended their local TPS.
- Students in 25 percent of charter schools made greater achievement gains than if they attended their local TPS.
The effectiveness of charter schools varies significantly from state to state
- In 12 states, students in charter schools made greater achievement gains in math than if they attended their local TPS. While in 13 states charter school students made fewer achievement gains in math than if they attended their local TPS. In two states there was no difference.
- Charter schools in New York City, Rhode Island and Washington, DC had the greatest positive impact by increasing student learning by 94, 108, and 101 days respectively.
- On the other hand, states such as Ohio, Utah, and Nevada had negative impacts by decreasing student learning by 43, 43, and 137 days respectively.
- In 16 states, students in charter schools made greater achievement gains in reading than if they attended their local TPS. While in 8 states charter school students made fewer achievement gains in reading than if they attended their local TPS. In three states there was no difference.
- Charter schools in Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington, DC had the greatest positive impact by increasing student learning by of 86, 86, and 72 days respectively.
- On the other hand, states such as Arizona, Arkansas, Nevada, Oregon, and Texas had negative impacts by decreasing student learning by 22, 22, 108, 22, and 22 days respectively
- In 11 states students in charter schools made greater gains than if they attended their local TPS in both math and reading.
- Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, Update New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Washington, DC.
The CREDO study is by far the most comprehensive and rigorous study of our nation’s charter schools. It may appear the study provides conflicting results by finding on-average charter schools are more effective than traditional public schools (TPS) where at the same time finding that the vast majority of charter schools are no more effective than the TPSs. However, this is likely due to a small proportion of highly effective charter schools that serve a large number of poor and minority students, particularly, at the middle school level which pulls up the overall charter school average. These are the areas where charter schools have the greatest impact which strongly suggests that charter schools are most effective when they located in areas serve a large number of disadvantaged students.
While charter schools did show improvement in terms of increasing their average achievement and increasing the proportion of charter schools outperforming traditional public schools, the evidence shows that the charter schools typically perform similarly to traditional public schools. -Jim Hull
For more information on charter schools, check out the Center for Public Education’s Charter Schools: Finding out the facts and Searching for the Reality of Virtual Schools.