One of the great consistencies in the behavior of the current N-MUSD administration is its avoidance of any bad news. Coupled with the feeble attempts at spinning what would otherwise be bad news and you have a small group of people who are trying mightily to be less than forthcoming with the public.
The latest example is the headline that is currently on the home page of the N-MUSD website, which reads, “Students Show Growth in Statewide Assessments.”
On the surface, yes, some students did show some growth. But the headline could easily be misunderstood that ALL students showed growth in ALL assessments or that ALL students showed growth in SOME assessments.
Neither of those is true.
For starters, I will mention two facts that are not stated anywhere in this puff piece:
- District-wide, 37% of all students FAILED to meet the state standards for English (ELA).
- District-wide, 47% of all students FAILED to meet the state standards for math.
- 73% of the students at Estancia failed to meet the 2019 state standard for math.
And here another bit of school-site data you won’t find in the district’s reporting: At CdM High, the percentage of students who failed to meet the state standards for English is 31%, a 4% increase over the last year.
Below you will see each of the district facts that were presented, along with my reply in italics.
Here we go:
1. “When compared to 2015 baseline assessments, NMUSD students show a growth of nine percentage points in students meeting or exceeding ELA standards, and a growth of seven percentage points in students meeting or exceeding math standards.”
You know you’re in trouble when you have to reach back four years to relate some good news. In this case, the two stats mentioned break down to annual increases of 1.8% in ELA and 1.4% in math. That’s the new low bar that counts for good news by this administration.
2. “Looking at the past five years of data, 22 schools showed growth in both ELA and math, with 12 schools showing double digit growth, including Adams, Rea, and Sonora Elementary Schools at the top of the list.”
“22 schools showed growth…” That’s over the past five years. But how much growth? After all, even half a percentage point is “growth.” As for the three schools with “double digit [sic] growth, well, it’s not hard to get to 10 points (double-digits) over 5 years – that’s only 2% a year. Oh, and the 2019 scores for those three “double digit” [sic] schools should be noted:
a) At Rea, 66% of all students failed to meet the 2019 state standards for ELA, and 72% failed to meet the 2019 state standards for math.
b) At Adams, 40% of all students failed to meet the state standards for ELA, and 50% failed to meet the 2019 state standards for math.
c) At Sonora, 35% of all students failed to meet the state standards for ELA, and 41% failed to meet the 2019 state standards for math.
When the 2019 scores for these three schools are averaged, 47% failed to meet the ELA standards and 54% failed to meet the math standards. But for some reason, that’s missing in the district’s report. Go figure.
(I could do this all day…)
3. “Fourteen schools show double digit growth in ELA, with six schools (Adams, Newport Heights, Paularino, Rea, Sonora and Whittier Elementary Schools) showing a growth of 20 percent or more.”
Remember that this is compared to data over the past five years of testing – not from last year. All but one of these schools had (almost) nowhere to go but up. Oh, and once again the actual “double digit” [sic] figure is not mentioned.
4. “Third grade students in particular show a 16 percent growth in meeting or exceeding ELA standards. English learners showed a nine percent growth and Reclassified Fluent English Proficient (RFEP) students (students that were previously English learners now reclassified as fluent English proficient) show a ten percent growth.”
Again, that’s since the 2015 reporting. Most of us would really rather see the new results based on last year, not some convenient, selective reporting of a five-year process.
5. “Eleven schools show double digit growth in math, with third and fourth grade assessments showing a growth of nearly 13 percentage points and 12 percentage points, respectively.”
Um, what schools, specifically? Here again – it’s not what they’re saying, it’s what they are not saying.
6. “Students with perfect scores in both ELA and math have more than doubled in the five years of the assessment, with Ensign Middle School, Corona del Mar High School, Newport Coast, Andersen, Kaiser, Mariners, Davis, and Newport Heights Elementary School having the most perfect scores.”
The misdirection is in the first four words: “Students with perfect scores.” So how many students achieved perfect scores at each school? Amazingly – not – that info is not provided. Then there is the “more than doubled” entry. So if only one kid in each school got a perfect score in 2018 but only three kids in each school got perfect scores in 2019, that counts as “more than doubled.” You don’t see those numbers because it could reveal information in this claim that would wreck the spin.
7. “The most perfect scores in ELA and math have been in seventh, eighth and 11th grade.”
So what? Oh, and will someone please let me know what “most perfect” is vis-a-vis just “perfect”…
8. “When compared to last year’s data, 25 schools show growth in students meeting or exceeding ELA standards, with a districtwide growth of more than three percentage points. In math, 19 schools show growth, with a districtwide growth of two percentage points.”
Hey, great! But here, they’ve abandoned the five-year analysis. Hmmm, why is that?
9. “Sixteen schools show a growth in both ELA and math, with Adams Elementary School showing double digit growth in both.”
Yes, Adams showed “double digit” [sic] growth. Should we celebrate the fact that the current scores show that 40% of the kids that school still failed to meet the 2019 state standards for math and 50% failed to meet the 2019 state standards for English? Does anyone at the district connect these scores with the fact that parents around the school are sending their kids elsewhere due to academic performance?
10. “Adams, Rea, and Whittier Elementary Schools and Monte Vista and Estancia High Schools show double digit growth in ELA. Fifth and eighth grade in particular show the highest growth with approximately six and five percentage point growth, respectively. English learners in particular show a growth of more than seven percentage points in ELA while Reclassified Fluent English Proficient (RFEP) students show a four percentage point growth.”
Here we go again: Adams. Rea. Whittier. Monte Vista. Estancia. This is low-hanging statistical fruit.
11. “Adams, Sonora and Victoria Elementary Schools show double digit growth in math, with fourth and fifth grade in particular showing the highest growth of more than five and a half percentage points and nearly six and a half percentage point growth respectively. English learners show a growth of nearly three and a half percentage points in math and RFEP students show more than two percentage point growth.”
See last answer.
12. “All schools in the Costa Mesa zone show growth in ELA, while all schools in the Corona del Mar zone show growth in math.”
Again… “growth” – how much? Where?
It’s not what they say, it’s what they don’t.
You want spin? I’ve got some for you…
At Newport Harbor High, 34% of all students failed to meet the 2019 state standards for English and 59% failed to meet them for math. That’s UP from 2016 when 27% failed to meet the state standards for math and 53% failed to meet them for English.
As I wrote, I could do this all day.
What we need is some honesty in reporting these numbers. No one is looking for perfection, all we want is the truth. Yes, we can handle it. Just tell us that progress is being made but we have some areas on which we need to work harder. Something like that.
And finally, here’s a good example of a point I raised in yesterday’s post. The statement on this happy news was not from the super, but from one of the assistant deputy associate vice-president supers:
“Seeing our lower grades have steady growth is a testament to our intentional efforts and supports at the elementary level,” said Deputy Superintendent Russell Lee-Sung. “We are pleased to see our investments having positive results and will continue toward accelerating the progress through middle and high school,” he said.
Translation: “Yada, yada, yada.”