Friday, November 23, 2012

A fresh focus on grim gaps

Under our new "Unbridled Learning" approach to accountability, if a school's results show a particular student subgroup to score at rock bottom, the state steps in to ensure new, more intensive planning to raise those results. 

That is, the Kentucky Department of Education identifies "focus schools" where any subgroup's results in any subject falls in the bottom 1 percent for all students.  (Formally, the rules say the scores are in the "third standard deviation," but bottom 1 percent is easier to remember and understand.)  

The chart above summarizes this year's identifications of 372 groups scoring at that very low level, spread over 244 schools, with plenty to puzzle over:
  • Reading: why are more than half of these severe gaps clustered in one subject?
  • Mathematics: how did one discipline avoid any gaps of this sort at all?
  • Students with disabilities: what are the effective responses when one student group has three-quarters of the deepest gaps?
  • Low-income: what should we think about the fact that only 2% of the identified gaps involve this group we know to be disadvantaged?
While we're puzzling, let's notice that it's the right puzzle. This analysis uses a consistent standard (bottom 1%) for all subjects and all groups, allowing us to do this kind of comparison of where the gaps occur.  That's a nice step forward in thinking about a problem that isn't nice at all.

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!