Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How do I explain?

The state of Michigan released their latest version of the school accountability scores today. It is color code!

  • Green
  • Lime green
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Red

My guess is that you know exactly which color is better than the other.

Here are scores from two middle schools in Michigan. One is orange (bad) and one is yellow (caution). Guess which school is which.

Group % Proficient
All 85%
Bottom 30% 50%
Asian 97%
African American 59%
White 83%
Economically Disadvantaged 56%
Students with Disabilities 55%
Group % Proficient
All 59%
Bottom 30% 10%
Asian 70%
African American 37%
White 62%
Economically Disadvantaged 48%
Students with Disabilities 39%

Can you guess which is which? Which school has a lower rating than the other?

That's right! The school with 85% proficient overall and which had 50% of its bottom 30% proficient was orange.

To make the point clear, the school with the higher test scores overall and higher scores within subgroups - some significantly - was rated as less effective than the school with the lower test scores.

Now the state would argue that the new "color coded" system is not designed to compare schools. The state would argue that it is based on goals met and goals not met.

But each school has different goals based on subgroups. If you have few subgroups you have few scores. Each school has different goals.

There is a nuance to the system that clearly will be lost in translation.

The colors evidently have very little to do with actual performance.

The state system expects you to stand on land that you cannot stand on. Each parent is now, as we speak, looking at the color of theirs school and comparing it to the color of other schools. Parents will assume incorrectly that schools with orange are worse that schools with yellow and that schools within yellow are all the same.

Here is another example.  Two yellow schools. According to Vanessa Kessler, a deputy superintendent at the Michigan Department of Education, yellow doesn’t mean a school is average. Yellow, she said, “is caution.”

Group % Proficient
All 81%
Bottom 30% 37%
Asian 96%
African American 54%
White 78%
Economically Disadvantaged 56%
Students with Disabilities 43%
Group % Proficient
All 66%
Bottom 30% 9%
Asian -
African American -
White 68%
Economically Disadvantaged 53%
Students with Disabilities 34%

One school has 81% of its students proficient; the other has 66% of its students proficient. One has 37% of the bottom 30% of its student proficient and the other school has 9% of its bottom 30% proficient. Yet both schools are rated the same. Both schools are yellow.

It is not true. These schools are different. One school I would suggest has higher achievement and is more successful than the other. Yet the state rates them both the same.

Now some may argue that I am biased. Some may argue that I disagree because the schools in my district are rated poorly.

The schools in my district can improve. The schools in my district can get better.

To have a system that so fundamentally miscommunicates to the public, to parents, to school staff suggests that the system is broken.

The system is fatally flawed.

1 comment:

  1. This is so bizarre---it makes me curious about those who came up with such a convoluted plan. I'm wondering what color their schools were.....