City notes high numbers of double-digit declines
As we continue to dissect our data of the Maryland School Assessments scores, there are lots of things that rise to our attention when comparing city schools' performance with the rest of the state.
Today, we wrote about Baltimore leading the rest of the state in the number of instances where schools noted double-digit declines. Our analysis was based on comparing 2009 and 2010 scores across all grades, all schools, and all subjects tested.
We did this for the entire state. Prince George's County saw the second highest instances of double-digit drops, with 131; Montgomery had 39; Anne Arundel noted 30; and Baltimore County had 26.
On the heels of a cheating scandal, and confirmation of a new investigation of a school's test scores, schools CEO Andres Alonso asserted that there are a number of reasons why these declines can take place. Below, I have provided Alonso's entire response, sent yesterday, about what could have happened in the schools that noted the top declines.
"There are many reasons why scores in schools can go down. First at all, teaching is not an exact science. School experience variation. There are many schools that go up and then come down. What we hope, is that they go up over time.
"Staff might change, especially principals and teachers in tested grades. Given our retention rate for teachers, and how small some of our schools are, schools can experience very significant changes in staff from one year to another.
"Schools might have different programs, for example, when schools lose an after school program. There might be conditions that interfere with the testing process in a school in a given day. Approaches to instruction might have changed. Sometimes, in small samples of tested kids, a drop in the scores of a few, can mean large percentage points drops in the aggregate score of a school.
"Under NCLB, school scores measure not growth for individual students, but scores for changing groups of kids. And changes within proficiency levels are not reflected, nor the fact that some children that might have just scored proficient a year ago can drop back to basic in the following year. When we look at a schools' scores, we examine all these variables and many others to look at the meaning of both improved and decreased scores."
"In terms of the greater instance of drops, they make sense in the context of flatter overall scores in reading, and more modest scores in math. Last year, there were simply more schools improving, across the board, reflecting the huge jump in the district average. Same for the year before. There should have been more drops this year, given the overall scores for the district."
"Finally, once again, when we believe there are unexplained changes, we investigate and ask MSDE to partner with us in the investigation. We do not comment on individual investigations or provide information that can cast suspicion on a school without a thorough investigation and clear evidence. It is irresponsible for anyone to draw conclusions merely from a drop of scores."