Meeting recap: 2012 achievement overview

Another relatively light agenda, with the meatiest item being an overview of the district’s achievement results from the 2011-12 school year.  The highlights of our results on the California Standards Test were previously reported several weeks ago, so tonight’s presentation was intended to dig deeper into the results and brief the Board on how they will inform curriculum and instruction for the current school year.

Probably the most interesting results were the “matched student cohorts,” which compare individual students’ CST scores in 2011 with their scores in 2012, then counts the number of students who remained proficient or advanced or who moved up a level (say from Below Basic to Basic) between 2011 and 2012. According to the analysis, of 30,301 SFUSD students in grades 3-11 who took the English/Language Arts CST in 2011 and again in 2012, 70 percent (or 21,084) moved up at least one level or remained Proficient or Advanced.

Similarly, of 17,087 SFUSD students in grades 3 – 7  who took the CST in Mathematics, 173 percent (or 12,538) moved up at least one level or remained Proficient or Advanced.

Deputy Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero also highlighted several groups of “celebration” schools,  from top-performing schools to schools that are closing the gap for specific student subgroups. There are 27 schools in the district where 75 percent or more of the student body is proficient or advanced on the CST:

  • John Yehall Chin ES
  • Grattan ES
  • Robert Louis Stevenson ES
  • George Peabody ES
  • Lafayette ES
  • Yick Wo ES
  • Rooftop K-8
  • Dianne Feinstein ES
  • A.P. Giannini MS
  • Alice Fong Yu K-8
  • Ulloa ES
  • Claire Lilienthal K-8
  • Sunset ES
  • Alamo ES
  • Francis Scott Key ES
  • McKinley ES
  • Argonne ES
  • Lowell HS
  • Clarendon ES
  • Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila (ES)
  • Sherman ES
  • Lawton K-8
  • Miraloma ES
  • West Portal ES
  • Jefferson ES
  • Presidio MS
  • Ruth Asawa HS for the Arts (SOTA)

Schools that are closing the gap for one specific subgroup, English Learners (meaning the rate of improvement for ELs at those schools was greater than the rate of improvement for all students at the school), are:

  • Argonne ES
  • Garfield ES
  • Gordon J. Lau ES
  • Sunset ES
  • Hoover MS
  • Lowell HS
  • Paul Revere K-8
  • Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila (ES)
  • Grattan ES
  • John Muir ES
  • E.R. Taylor ES
  • Roosevelt MS
  • Washington HS
  • Cleveland ES
  • Bret Harte ES
  • Rosa Parks ES
  • A.P. Giannini MS
  • Lincoln HS
  • Lawton K-8

It’s still important to recognize, however, that while we have made a modest dent in the achievement gap, it’s still very much apparent in our test results.  In 2012, 74 percent of White and Chinese students scored Proficient or above on the CST –compared to just 38 percent of Latino students and 36 percent of African-American students.  In 2008, 66 percent of White and Chinese students scored Proficient or above, compared to 28 percent of Latino students and 23 percent of African-American students.  The comparison shows a modest narrowing of the gap in achievement between groups, but 38 percent proficient is nothing to write home about. We need to do better, and at this rate, we won’t close the gap anytime soon.

So what is the district doing to accelerate our progress?  Implementation of a common core curriculum — a set of standards, milestones and assessments that helps teachers across the district teach to a common set of expectations so that my 5th grader in School A is being taught the same material as your 5th grader in School B–is proceeding. This should not mean “dumbing down” what is taught or holding back students who are ready to move ahead ; it should also not be a scripted curriculum.  Instead the “core curriculum” should foster a common understanding of what a 5th grader should be able to do, regardless of challenges or advantages outside of the classroom.  If your 5th grader needs to be challenged, teachers should still have the tools to guide him or her to a higher level. And if my 5th grader is struggling, supports should be in place to help him or her succeed. Nevertheless,  teachers in School A and School B should be using the same yardstick to determine which students are doing well and which students are not — in other words, I don’t want your “advanced” to be my “basic”.

Superintendent Carranza did stress several times tonight that we are moving from “a confederation of independent schools” to a “unified school system,” which will definitely raise red flags in some quarters. I think the Board needs to know more about what that means at the classroom and school level, because I don’t like the idea of “wall walkers” coming through schools and demanding uniformity in everything from lesson plans to student work. On the other hand, if a “unified school system” means consistently and uniformly high expectations across the district, and a culture that stresses supporting the classroom with actual resources as opposed to “good luck, you’re on your own,” then I’m interested.

Tonight’s presentation also included some discussion of how to share the best practices we are discovering in our Superintendent’s Zone schools; these schools are accelerating students at twice the rate in English/Language Arts compared to the district as a whole and three times the rate in Mathematics compared to the district.  Part of the answer was (as I feared it would be) that the money we are spending in those schools has made a difference. I’m glad that we have made progress in the 14 Zone schools, but we can’t afford to duplicate our Zone spending in non-Zone schools. Our challenge this year is to figure out, now that we know some specific strategies that work in our schools, how to implement these strategies — common planning time, intensive job-embedded professional development and coaching for teachers — for little or no money if we aren’t able to develop/find/win (there’s a big election coming up) more money.

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7 responses to “Meeting recap: 2012 achievement overview

  1. “We found a 9.1 % growth in CST ELA Proficiency, from 22% to 31% proficient between 2008 and 2012.”

    I just saw this after commenting on the API post. I calculated 21% to 30%, which is very close to Ritu’s calculation. There is still a significant achievement gap, but I’m glad to see that the gap is narrowing.

  2. If the conclusion really is that spending more money does increase student achievement… well, that’s important! How often do we hear critics of school improvement funding efforts accuse supporters of “throwing money at the problem”? Whenever funding problems with public education are brought up, there are naysayers who are quick to point out that simply “throwing money at the problem” is not the issue, and the “real” problem is unions or teachers or some other scapegoated group. What’s interesting is to see how much money many of these same critics are willing to spend on their own child’s private education, or to donate to fundraising drives (or even sell their kids chocolate bars at their workplace). Clearly, at some level they believe that paying more for education is a worthwhile investment… for their own child, at least!
    I’m very interested to see if we can show that smart investment in under-performing schools has actually shown here to yield measurable results. Of course, it’s easy to point to new programs and structures as the “real” game-changers, but those things cost money! At the root, can we hold this up as evidence that adequately funding public education can actually deliver measurable improvement?

  3. Yes, if you add back in all the students who have been removed from CST testing, and average it all out, there are still test score gains, (The 9.1% is not what I came up with, but Ritu has access to more data than I do)
    but here is what they keep claiming:
    “ African-American and Latino Students Show Double-Digit Growth in Proficiency over Five Years”
    which is not true.
    I just want the numbers to be truthful, and for them to add back in all the students removed from testing over the last 5 years, before they write their headlines.

  4. @Katy – last night after the meeting, Ritu showed me a new analysis she had done that was interesting. She took all African-American students who took the CMA and assumed (for the purposes of the analysis) that all of those students would have scored basic or below on the CST, then included them in the total number of students tested. According to the note she gave me: “We found a 9.1 % growth in CST ELA Proficiency, from 22% to 31% proficient between 2008 and 2012.”
    Anyway, no one is saying that the level of achievement for African-American students in SFUSD is good or cause for celebration — if you listened to the meeting last night (I’m sure you did) then you heard Richard say “it’s time to stop clapping” and figure out how to move these students toward proficiency much faster.

  5. Nobody seems to understand that when you remove the lowest scoring students from the equation, (which is what SFUSD has done, over the last five years) the scores look so much better than they really are. It’s very clear that the BOE needs its own fact-checkers, instead of relying on central office spin. After looking closely at how they interpret the achievement data, I’ll never trust any numbers they release again.

  6. Hi Paula — there are Federal School Improvement Grants funding programs at nine of the 14 Superintendent’s Zone schools (the Nine schools are referred to as the SIG schools in district shorthand). And yes, those grants end after this school year so the work of this year is to figure out how to fund the most effective programs after the grants end.

  7. Thanks for this recap Rachel! Quick question – does the grant funding the Superintendent Zone schools end after this school year 2012-2013? It looks like it does from the district website but just wanted to confirm. I think it is a 3 year grant that started in 2010-2011.