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The schools that didn’t make the list

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, March 11th, 2010 at 8:41 pm in school reform, state news, test scores.

This week, people in districts throughout California were left wondering why some schools escaped the state’s “persistently lowest-achieving” list, while others — some of them, with higher scores and greater gains — were deemed failing.

It all boils down to size. If a school reported fewer than 100 test scores in any of the last three years, it was taken off the list, regardless of its scores. I’m not sure why, though it would seem the state wants to target larger, more traditional schools rather than alternative schools, which tend to be smaller (and, often, to have lower test scores).

Without this small-school rule, Oakland would have more schools on the list, according to another long list of low-performing schools posted as an addendum (Attachment 6) to the state board of education agenda. These schools were initially in the bottom 5 percent of the Title I (or Title I-eligible) schools statewide when sorted by student proficiency rates in math and reading, Hilary McLean of the state department of education explained. They were removed from the final “persistently lowest-achieving” list because of their size.

(Though, I should note, some of these schools might have also made enough improvement in their API scores — at least 50 points in the last five years — to have made it off the list that way, too. They were removed from the analysis before the API score gains were taken into account.)

Which schools were excluded because of size? Two charter schools — LPS College Park and Oakland Aviation High — most of the district’s alternative schools, and nine high schools in East and West Oakland that were born out of the small schools movement.

Do you think the size exemption (which, in state department of educationese, is called the “minimum n”) makes sense from a policy perspective? Do you agree with it?

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  • Brian Rodriguez

    Inotherwords, like Alice, take one pill and make yourself “small” and you escape scrutiny and taxpayer ire? That is truly “curiouser and curiouser.” It is obvious poorly performing schools have no incentive to report their scores.

  • Gordon Danning

    I imagine that it is tough to get statistically significant results when you are testing a small number of students; I imagine that is why the small schools were excluded.

    As to whether it makes sense, or is equitable; well,assuming for the sake of argument that “failing” schools are, in fact, failing, it certainly is not equitable for students at those schools to be stuck in the status quo merely because of the notion that large and small schools must be treated equally.