Douglas County’s Middle School CCRPI dropped by 3.6 points (a 5% decrease) from 2016 to 2017, and is now below the state average (68.4 compared to 73) for the first time in a few years. Why did it decline, and why was it three points below the state for 2017?
The first table in the spreadsheet below compares the major CCRPI components from 2016 and 2017. Achievement (a composite measure of success from a single year) remained essentially the same; Progress (basically the change in test scores from the previous year relative to groups of similar students across the state) declined by 3.2 points; Achievement Gap (the success or progress of the lowest 25% of students relative to state norms) declined by 1.7 points; and the Challenge points (up to 10 extra bonus points earned through a variety of means) dropped from 0.5 to zero.
Since the biggest drop was in Progress points, let look more closely at this component first.
The Progress points are based on the percentage of students who experience “typical or high growth” from the previous year of Milestones exams. It is referenced to a 75% benchmark, which means a school gets all 40 points if 75% of its students meet this criteria. In 2016, 64.8% of Douglas County students met the criteria; in 2017, this declined modestly to 62.5%
Note, though, that “typical or high growth” is defined relative to other students throughout the state. This number then does not mean necessarily that 62.5% of students saw an increase in test scores! If the typical student’s test scores were flat statewide, then students who show no improvement will earn a school progress points.
This decline in “growth” numbers was likely concentrated among the lowest 25% of students because the Achievement Gap also declined.
Even though the drop in Challenge Points is small, it is worth looking at closely. In 2016, the district earned its 0.5 challenge points because its disadvantaged populations/sub-groups (Economically Disadvantaged, English Language Learners, and Students with Disabilities) met their test score targets in 1 (of 12) areas : Language Arts for Economically Disadvantaged. In 2017, none met their test score targets!
Note that these targets are set relative to the sub-group, so they are already significantly lower than state test score norms as a whole.
That accounts for the decline. Compared to the state in 2017 only, we see that Achievement, Progress and Achievement Gap were lower. Since we have already discussed the latter two, let’s scrutinize the Achievement component.
The second table breaks down the Achievement points. The biggest gulfs here with the state are test scores: we have more students failing tests, except for Language Arts (indicators 2 through 4) and fewer students are scoring at the top two levels of exams (indicator 10; which means fewer finish the year at grade level!).
It should concern us all deeply that only 38% of our Middle School students are on grade level in any given subject. By 8th grade, schools can predict with high reliability whether their students are on a pathway for being prepared for college upon graduation based on test scores. Scoring “Proficient” or higher indicates that a child is on that trajectory.
This number does not tell us how many students scored Proficient on ALL 4 subject areas. If it is 38%, that would mean that every child who scored Proficient on at least one exam, also scored Proficient on the other 3, and that the other 62% scored Proficient on none. It is likely, then, that much LESS THAN 38% are on a college ready path in ALL subjects.
The power to improve our schools lies in the local community. We have to hold school leaders accountable, while also recognizing that educating children is the work of the whole community. It will take a collective efforts by parents, grandparents, business leaders, in concert with the school system to bring about major improvements.