Students in Cobb County have a variety of assessments of progress. Sometimes understanding all of the assessment types and the information they yield can be a bit overwhelming. Here is a broad-strokes overview of the kinds of assessments.
Nationally Normed Tests
We have two types of nationally normed tests:
- tests that measure how much you know about a subject area
- what your ability is
These two types of nationally normed tests compare student progress or ability to other students in the nation as a whole. One typically gets results like: "I scored better than 82% of the students my age that took this test." For ability tests, one might get a result that indicates "I have slighlty better ability than the average student." I just made up these examples.
Our students typically take 2 nationally normed tests:
- the ITBS, which measures achievement (or how much you know in a given subject)
- the CogAT, which measure cognitive ability (aptitude)
Remember that nationally normed tests offer a good comparison with how an individual student compares to students of the same age on a broad national level.
Criterion Referenced Tests
These tests test how much students know related to a specific criteria: the state-mandated curriculum. The test given in Georgia is the CRCT. This test is very important as the results determine if a student is below grade level (a score less than 300), on grade level (a score between 300 and 349), or above grade level (a score of 350 or higher).
These tests are given each year in middle school in each subject. Presently, if a student in 8th grade does not earn a score of 300 or higher, by state law, the student will be retained in the 8th grade. These scores are used by the federal government to determine what schools are labeled as "passing" or "failing."
The final type of assessment are tests that are given locally. These tests and quizzes are most frequently made and given by teachers to determine if the students know the state curriculum the teacher is teaching.
In Cobb County we also give another local assessment that the county pays for, the Performance Series, a nationally normed test that provides teachers with immediate feedback about a student's progress on more broadly defined curricular objectives. Complex formulae have been used to predict from these scores what students may need remediation in order to help ensure they pass the 8th grade CRCT.
posted on: June 10, 2005
NCLB (No Child Left Behind)
Reflections from our Principal
In January, 2003, the federal government passed into law sweeping legislation, No Child Left Behind, that I believe will fundamentally change public education in the United States. The law has been described in any number of ways, from the religious right's attempt to get vouchers for their private schools, to an assault on "the soft bigotry of low expectations" for minority groups and the economically disadvantaged, to "either the most brilliant idea or most absurd nonsense to ever come out of Washington. We just don't know which yet.". Regardless of one's personal views, the law is without doubt a complete overhaul of our nation's concept of public education and school accountability with implications that are substantive and long-term.
As I understand the law at present, and I hear and read conflicting information almost daily as people try to make sense of all of the facets of the legislation, NCLB required individual states fashion accountability legislation that meets federal criteria. The federal criteria includes: All students in all public schools in the United States have to be on grade level by the year 2014, and all states are required to grade all middle schools (the criteria differs based on grade level) as either passing or failing based on:
- 95% participation in a standardized criterion reference testing program related to state curriculum In Georgia the CRCT is used for all middle schools.
- Demonstration of Acceptable Yearly Progress (AYP) for Academics based on the results of the standardized criterion reference test for all students who meet an enrollment criteria referred to as Full Academic Year (FAY) The AYP is measured not by school but by subgroups with 40 or more students within the school
- One additional criteria. The second criteria, as chosen by the state of Georgia, is attendance: having less than 15% of the school absent 15 days or more.
An interesting and novel facet of the federal legislation is the requirement that all of the above indicators for passing and failing be measured by subgroups within the school and not the school as a whole. In other words, if the entire school meets the AYP indicators and the attendance requirement devised by the state, but the Hispanic student population or the students with disabilities do not, then the school is labeled a failing school. Success is measured at the individual subgroup level. If the subgroup has a population of 40 students or more within the school, the subgroups listed below are the subgroups used to determine if a school passes or fails:
- Asian/Pacific Islander
- American Indian/Alaskan
- Students with Disabilities
- Limited English Proficiency
- Economically Disadvantaged
Below is more detailed information about each of the three criteria used by the state of Georgia to meet the requirements of the federal legislation.
This indicator is rather self explanatory. Each school is required to test at minimum 95% of the students who attend the school by subgroup. If 40 or more students are enrolled in a school subgroup and fewer than 95% of the students in that subgroup take the test, then the school is labeled a failing school regardless of success in all other indicators.
For example, if a school with 1,200 students has 42 students in the subgroup "multi-racial" and 3 of those students are absent during testing, the school would be labeled a failing school even if those were the only 3 students absent in the entire school because those 3 students represent 7% of the multi-racial subgroup (only 93% of the subgroup would have been tested). Even if every student in the school exceeded all of the AYP criteria, the school would be labeled as failing based on this indicator.
Demonstration of AYP for Academics
In 2003 each middle school is required by the state of Georgia to meet the following criteria by subgroup for all subgroups with 40 or more students if the school is to attain a passing grade on the Demonstration of AYP for Academics criteria:
60% or more of the students in all subgroups of 40 or more students must attain scores on both the Reading and the Language Arts CRCTs of 300 or higher. A score of 300 - 349 is considered "on grade level" by the state. A score of 350 or better exceeds the state definition for on grade level academic performance.
I am told that the Reading and Language Arts CRCTs are averaged together to determine if the criteria is met on this indicator.
50% or more of the students in all subgroups of 40 or more students must attain a score on the Math CRCT of 300 or higher. The same scoring criteria for on grade level performance are used on this test as are used in Reading and Language Arts.
The above percentages, 60% for Reading and Language Arts, and 50% for Math, will increase each year (about 4% for Language Arts and about 5% for math per year) so that the state of Georgia will have every child on grade level within 10 years. In other words, next school year all middle schools in the state must have about 64% of all students in every subgroup with 40 or more students at or above grade level in Reading and Language Arts and 55% of all students in every subgroup with 40 or more students at or above grade level in Math on the state CRCTs in those subjects. The following year the criteria will be about 68% for Language Arts and Reading and about 60% for Math. The criteria will go up every year until 100% of all students are expected to be on grade level in all subgroups of 40 students or more if the school is to be labeled a passing school.
School Attendance Criteria
The present attendance criteria is rather straight forward: less than 15% of a school's student population for every subgroup of 40 or more students can be absent 15 days or more.
If a school does not meet these basic criteria as defined above, then the state applies a set of alternate criteria to the school's data to see if it will pass using one of these alternate criteria. If the school does not pass based on the standard criteria but could answer "yes" to any of the questions below (by subgroup of 40 or more students), then the school is labeled passing.
Confidence Interval: Using the standard error of measurement for the CRCT would the school pass?
Multi-year Averaging: By averaging the data for the past three years would the school pass?
Safe Harbor: Did the school make 10% or more improvement over last year's data?
How then did Mabry do with these criteria? Well, I am please to report to you that our school, without the need for using any of the alternate criteria, was labeled a passing school. Our students met all of the criteria set by the state and federal governments. We were among a minority of middle schools in the county that were labeled passing. About 48% of the schools in the entire state were labeled as failing schools. As you saw above, the criteria are many and stringent.If your school is labeled failing in only one criteria, the school is labeled failing overall. For detailed state reports about Mabry on each of the criteria, visit the State Department of Education links below.
- 2003 State Summary Report for Mabry Middle School
- 2003 95% Participation Report for Mabry Middle School
- 2003 Adequate Yearly Progress in Reading and Language Arts Report for Mabry Middle School
- 2003 Adequate Yearly Progress in Math Report for Mabry Middle School
- 2003 School Attendance Report for Mabry Middle School
Lest we become too confident, in 2003 about 12% of our white students, a subgroup that counts at Mabry, missed the attendance criteria. This is much too close to the 15% criteria set by the state for failing. More importantly to me, when students are not in class, they tend to not learn the QCCs that the CRCT measures.
Implications for the Future at Mabry Middle School
As one can easily see, students at Mabry Middle School score exceptionally high on the CRCTs. Our lowest scores are in the students with disabilities subgroup for math where 76% of the 99 students met the 50% criteria. About 24 children are below gradelevel in this subgroup.
Additionally, I would like to point out that the data reported by the Georgia Department of Education in the above links represents only 2 grade levels that were tested on the CRCTs. Many of our subgroups had fewer than 40 students and therefore were not counted toward labeling our school as passing or failing. However, some of these subgroups may have 40 or more students in them when all 3 grade levels are tested this year on the CRCTs.
At Mabry, the NCLB criteria are not our impetus for accountability. We would want every single child, whether there are 39 other students in their subgroup or not, to achieve at his or her highest levels. Labeling our school as passing or failing is not our motivation for helping every child attain. Our motivation is our unparalleled professionalism, our love for children, our passion for our subject areas, and our commitment to making the future so bright, ya gotta wear shades!
posted on: May 25, 2004