My school is in the third round of No Child Left Behind sanctions. Among other procedures these sanctions call for ‘corrective action’ to be taken.
Arriving at this point wasn’t a surprise. It’s taken many years to get here. Our school has been labeled ‘failing’ for a while but only after seeing last year’s test results do I feel like we’ve failed. No teacher at our school wanted to enter the third round of NCLB sanctions. Round 2, Schools of Choice, was embarrassing enough.
There was pressure to improve our school’s test results. I sensed a change in the tone of my evaluations. Many new teachers were not hired for year two. A veteran teacher was removed. It seemed to me that the pressure was high and morale was low.
Perhaps other teachers felt this pressure more acutely than I. Last year many of them have transferred elsewhere. Of 23 classroom teachers 11 are novice (in their first or second year). In my tenth year teaching I’m the second most experienced teacher at our school.
I’ve wondered how we’ve arrived at this unfortunate point. Each fall we receive our state’s standardized test scores. Teachers, energized and committed, face the challenge. We’ve created systems for tracking student progress, providing extra support, engaging families, growing professionally, and improving instruction. I believe some of these systems have been of great benefit to students.
While I thought these systems were beneficial our data never really showed it. Here’s what it shows: (click the picture for a clearer view)
In 2011 our scores dropped 30% to under 40% of students passing the 4th grade reading MSP. The year before 71.4% of students passed the 3rd grade reading MSP. The test didn’t get harder. The state average pass rate remained flat. This isn’t isolated to one grade. Our 3rd grade reading pass rate fell 13.1% from the previous year. Our 5th grade reading pass rate fell 32.8% from the previous year.
This drop in performance is startling. So what happened? Who knows? I wish I had more answers and fewer questions.
Did the students consistently miss a particular type of reading comprehension question? That could be addressed with an adjustment to the curriculum.
With a 37% mobility rate could the students who left be the ones who passed in 2010. Might they have been replaced with students who didn't pass? How about the families who left because of school choice (a NCLB sanction for schools in step 2 of improvement)? Did the student population change significantly? Are we comparing the same students from year to year?
Did students who narrowly passed the MSP in 2010 narrowly miss passing in 2011? Did a slight drop in performance signify a drastic drop in the percent of students meeting standard?
Did significant numbers of non passing students come from specific classrooms?
Could school community, teacher morale, and the shame & blame policies of NCLB account, at least in part, for a dramatic drop in student performance?
Answers to these questions are important as a school undergoes “corrective action.” I don’t know if anybody is asking these questions. I don’t know if answers are available. But I’d like to know exactly what problem I’m correcting and we all deserve a clearer answer than ‘you didn’t meet adequate yearly progress again.’