Sunday, December 5, 2010

Has the Courier-Journal spoken incorrectly on a point of fact?

I believe the Courier-Journal included an untrue statement in this morning's "Stop and Think" editorial.  Addressing the Jefferson County School Board's decision not to renew Superintendent Berman's contract, the editorial asserts that "percentages of students testing proficient in basic academic skills have risen steadily."

I respectfully submit that since 2007, proficiency levels in Jefferson County Public Schools have risen steadily only in high school writing.  In every other tested subject at every level, proficiency declined in one or more of the last three years.  Looking at the three-year change, proficiency is flat for elementary reading, and down for mathematics in high school, writing in elementary and middle schools, and science and social studies at all three levels.  The district saw net three-year proficiency gains only in elementary and middle school mathematics and in high school writing. I see no reasonable way to characterize Jefferson County proficiency results as having "risen steadily" in recent years.

Here are the district's elementary level results for reading and mathematics for the last four years:
Reading results went down in 2008 and 2009, with a 2010 return to exactly the 2007 level.  Mathematics results went up in 2008 and down in 2009 and 2010, with a net increase of 1.34 percent compared to 2007. Neither trend could be called rising steadily.

Here are the middle school results, showing reading results going down, down, and up, with a net decline of 1.23 percent from 2007.  Mathematics results went up, up, and down, with a net gain of 1.41 percent compared to 2007. 
At the high school level, reading went up, down, and up, with a net result 0.53 percent lower than 2007.  Mathematics went down, up and down, with a net result 3.26 percent lower than 2010.

Overall results, combining all three levels, show reading results down, down, up, with 2010 results 0.54 percent lower than 2007.  In mathematics, the trend was up, up, and then down, with the 2010 results 0.92 percent higher than 2007.


For science and social studies, 2010 results were lower at every level than in 2007.  For writing, 2010 results were lower at the elementary and middle levels but higher for high school, as shown in the table below.

I will, of course, be delighted to consider any data the Courier-Journal may have relied on and to update this report if I have overlooked a way to analyze the results which would justify the editorial's factual assertion.  Pending seeing such an analysis, I respectfully submit that Jefferson County "percentages of students testing proficient in basic academic skills" have been mostly stagnant or in decline in recent years.

Source note: Nearly all of the data reported above came from the Kentucky Department of Education's 2009-10 Interim Performance Report: Jefferson County Public Schools, run date 11/2/2010, available here, with my arithmetic combining the proficient and distinguished percentages shown here.  The one exception is that the graph combining all three levels uses data from the Kentucky' Department of Education's No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress Reports for 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, available here.

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