Test scores inch up in Oakland, Alameda County

California’s 2010 California Standards Test scores are in.

Wonder how Oakland stacks up to other districts in Alameda County? Here’s a spreadsheet of the districts, sorted from highest to lowest percentages of English and math proficiency. On the second worksheet, you can also see how the scores in each district changed from 2009 to 2010.

OUSD trends: Oakland’s public schoolkids scored better than they did the year before. More of them met the state’s proficiency goals in reading (41 percent, up 4 points) and math (44 percent, up 5 points), and fewer tested poorly (31 percent scored “below basic” or “far below basic” in reading, and 36 percent did so in math, an improvement of several points).

The district’s elementary schools made solid — and in some cases, dramatic — improvement on the California Standards Tests, based on a school-by-school analysis prepared by the district’s data whizzes. The middle schools’ numbers moved in the right direction, too, especially in math (with the exception of West Oakland Middle School, whose math scores rose spectacularly last year and fell pretty far this year, though not all the way back down).

But the scores remained flat at most of the school district’s high schools, particularly those in East and West Oakland. In math, all but four at least 18 of Oakland’s high schools have proficiency percentages in the single digits. (As one reader rightly noted, my original count didn’t include schools with grades 6-12, which were included in the middle school section.)

Here are some schools whose student proficiency scores went up at least 15 percentage points in reading and/or math. Let me know if I’m missing anyone!

Burckhalter – 15 points in math (71%)
Martin Luther King, Jr. – 15 points in reading (38%)
Manzanita Community School – 17 points in math (61%)
Markham – 22 points in reading (55%), 15 in math (60%)
RISE – 18 points in reading (36%)
Manzanita SEED – 29 points in math (73%)
Maxwell Park – 15 points in math (46%)
Piedmont Avenue – 16 points in math (67%)

Alliance Academy – 15 points in math (32%)
Community Day – 23 points in reading (27%)

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Hot R

    On the issue of why high school scores are so embarassingly low in Oakland (“flat” is way too kind, Katy)- three things…Is it possible there is a migration of middle class parents away from the high school after middle school thus bringing down the soores, and it is equally possible that the students are not adequately prepared, and/or the staff does not teach to the standards which the kids are then unable to meet? Perhaps a combination?

    Oakland cannot (or should not) have a high school where “proficiency” is in the single digits as that would mean there are just a handful of students at these schools who after 9-11 years of school can academically function at any more than a basic or below basic level. Think of the low function of every classroom, where high school teachers must be continually working at 4th or 5th grade level or below thus perpetuating the low scores.

    Please no attacks on the “inaccurate” statistical analysis of the CST tests or excuse making for parents, teachers or administrators.

  • Nextset

    My point would be that OUSD has few “schools”. I would prefer that the non-functioning “students” be flunked out of the real schools and encouraged to transfer out to vocational training programs where they belong.

    Any school worth it’s name is not going to retain 11th graders reading at 4th grave level – or 6th grade level, or even 8th grade level. They’d be gone to a better place for them. Voc Ed., Ditch Digger U, Motel Maid Academy, anything that would get these people started in trades. When you are going to work with your hands all your life, you’d better start early.

    It’s the unwillingness to do this that has employers feeling they cannot trust any OUSD diploma.

    And if I had a more or less normal child on an academic track I would not want them in a building with 11th grade “school” children reading at 4th grade level. Not a good idea.

    You don’t teach people that slow, you train them. Train them at something they can survive on. And that is not higher math and literature.

  • Katy Murphy

    I guess I should have said they were low and flat!

    The reasons behind the scores are complex, I’m sure, but I’ll offer one (big) factor: truancy. The data at some of the high schools is very sobering. I’ll post it soon.

  • J.R.

    Thats not just slow, thats being in “STASIS”.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Katy, your quick look at the spreadsheets you attached seem to have led you to an erroneous statement. High school scores are not flat. They improved by about as much as the district as a whole in ELA, and by almost as much in Math. It is important to note that the three largest Oakland high schools, Skyline, Oakland High, and Tech, which educate more than half of the district high school students, all showed solid gains. Each of those school reduced the number of students scoring Below Basic and Far Below Basic in both ELA and Math, and all three increased the numbers scoring Proficient and Advanced in both areas.
    If you look at the high school summations for both the high school network executive officers, Duffy and MacDonald, you will see that the total scores in all Oakland High Schools rose as well, with low scores reduced by more that 3 percent and high scores up by more than 3.
    Here are two reasons the gains are not even greater.
    1. The CSTs are not the tests that matter the most for high schools and their students. The High School Exit Exam is used by the state to determine AYP and high school graduation, so most of the attention is placed there.
    2. No Oakland high schools received QEIA grants. These grants, which provide for significant reductions in class sizes fueled some of the greatest growth in elementary and middle schools.

  • Hot R

    But Steven: The scores are still very low. Why didn’t the other schools get class size reduction grants? And even if these tests “don’t matter the most” what does that mean – that students and teachers in Oakland don’t take the tests seriously, with the exception of the CAHSEE? I know you are a veteran teacher. I can’t believe you still think that excuse flies. As you know,the state ratings for high schools are based on a formula which involves CAHSEE and STAR test scores. Do you claim those state rankings for high schools do not represent huge problems in Oakland too?

    I am sure you know as an experienced teacher how difficult it is to differentiate instruction when you have most of a high school class functioning at 4th or 5th grade level, and only a few who are proficient. Only a master teacher can accomplish that task. This is a huge problem for high schools in the District, and one of the reasons I was astonished by the discussion in another topic about people thinking about sending their kids to Oakland High.

  • oakteach

    The high school tests are not a) as consistent as the middle school versions and b) in some cases stop completely after 10th or 11th. For example, our 10th graders this year took 5 standardized tests at CSTs (Math course, ELA, History, Science course, and a general “Life Science” test, which is a course they aren’t even enrolled in). Our 11th graders are taking a CST that is disconnected from the class they’re enrolled in (End of HS summative math vs. Math Analysis). So in short: all high school students are not tested, some are tested in courses they’re not enrolled in, and the bulk of CST results are coming from only the 9th and 10th grade. Which makes it difficult, but not impossible, for the CST’s to reflect school progress as a whole. CAHSEE is one measure, but again that has it’s limitations. So CST’s are much better for elementary/middle, where every kid is tested and they are tested in courses they actually take.

  • oakteach

    Sorry for the poor grammar above. (it’s vs its, prepositions). Smart phone auto-correct isn’t always correct.

  • oakteach

    Oh and ps. Colieseum College Prep is 6-12, with high school in double digit proficiency.

  • Katy Murphy

    Good point, Steven. The overall averages for the district’s high schools is clearly important.

    I wasn’t referring to the average scores of students at the high school level, however, but the number of individual schools that posted significant changes. The district coded in green all of the schools that gained at least 2.5 percentage points proficiency in reading and in math. By my count, seven of the district’s 23 high schools did so in reading, and six did so in math. None of them showed significant declines in math (which were highlighted in red), and three did in reading.

    In other words, 13 of the 23 had no significant changes in reading scores (up or down), and 17 had no significant changes in math.

  • Katy Murphy

    Thanks for pointing that out, oakteach. CCPA (and probably others) was included in the middle school section of the district’s analysis, but I should have realized that. I’ve made the change.

  • The real issue

    Katy – Are you planning on doing something like this for CAHSEE data?

  • Katy Murphy

    Sure, I can do that.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Hot R, in addition to the excellent points Oakteach makes, consider the state-wide results on these tests. Tenth and eleventh grade state-wide proficiency results drop from 54% proficient to 45% and 43%, slightly larger drops than Oakland’s, although Oakland test results start 20% lower. The tenth and eleventh grade tests are just harder than those at most other grade levels, and student scores are lower for that reason. This is a defect in the tests, not the students. The same problem shows up with third grade English scores that are always lower than second and fourth grade scores. The test and its scoring standards ended up being harder in that particular grade. These are problems in test design and always occur in testing systems.
    Comparing Oakland scores to the statewide scores it is apparent where the problem occurs. Oakland scores are close throughout elementary school (even ahead at two grades in Math) then it falls way behind at 6th grade. Why? Because many parents of high performing students move their children out of OUSD schools at that grade. (We know that because the district generates matched test score reports that show that the difference in scores of the students who stay in the system does not account for the system-wide drop.) None of this is meant as an excuse. We need to do better at all levels, but analyzing test scores always requires comparing how your students did opposed to others on the same test.
    The QEIA program that funded lower class sizes was based on a lottery. All of the small Oakland high schools were too new to qualify for the program (you needed several years of low test scores, and those schools had not been in existence long enough to qualify). Oakland High and Tech were in the lottery, but by the time their numbers were drawn, the money was gone. Oakland middle and elementary schools were luckier.
    Yes, it is hard to differentiate across a wide range of ability levels, but by high school many classes are ability grouped. In higher math classes, AP classes, and Honors classes you usually have only the better performers. There is no reason to be astonished that parents would be considering Oakland High. It has been providing many of its students with an excellent education for years.

  • Debora

    My daughter’s principal was told over the school year by a number of parents that the teacher did not know the content in math (she specifically said to not ask questions because she did not know the answer and the students democratically votes on whether the answers to the math homework were correct – whether or not the answers were correct, majority ruled whether they were MARKED correct).

    The same teacher chose not to teach vocabulary and spelling after November and no proofreading, editing or reading skills at all in fourth grade and the test scores from last year to this year really show it.

    If you look a third grade 2009- who are the fourth graders in 2010 – those students lost significant ground in both math and reading. The principal has a lot of work to do with the teacher (maybe the union will help in building the teacher’s skill set) and the fifth grade teacher will now have to teach fourth grade content before the work can begin on fifth grade content.

  • Donna

    Hot R @ 6: No, the kids, at least the older ones, don’t take these tests seriously, at least from the report I receive. They know they don’t *count* personally, same with the PSAT. Marking bubbles at random, goofing off, and generally being disruptive occurs to some extent. This interferes with the concentration of the other kids. They all know the CAHSEE (high school exit exam) counts, so behavior is much better.

  • oakey

    Deborah @16: In the Washington DC district, Michelle Rhee fired 5% of the teachers this summer and warned 10% more their jobs were in danger for failure to perform their jobs.

    If Michelle Rhee ran the OUSD, do you think that teacher in your daughter’s school would be returning this fall?

    Would the students of OUSD be better off?

    Would the taxpayers be more inclined to give the district more money?

    The way things are now in OUSD, the worst that can happen to that teacher is they would be subject to the Dance of the Lemons. Probably has already happened to him/her in previous years at OUSD.

  • J.R.

    Unfortunately the tax paying public is pretty much stuck with these lemons, and you cannot always make lemonade out of every lemon(some are rotten and need to be tossed). I will put a link which shows procedurally how difficult it is to get rid of teachers, the way the rules are written(very nebulous)makes it extremely difficult) and you can read it for yourself.


    For all intents and purposes(except for homicide and sexual misconduct)teaching is for life, that is the reality. As taxpayers we need to change those rules, and its hard because politicians are in these peoples pockets.

  • Debora


    I believe this teacher is on the principal’s radar. I also believe the principal is working with this teacher and I know the union protected her when the principal tried to assess the teacher and bring her up to speed. I overheard this from the teacher herself.

    The teacher moved from a third grade teacher, teaching a curriculum in which she knew all of the subjects except math and knew about 80% of the math as well to fourth grade where she moved past her comfort level in the curriculum to be taught.

    If she were teaching in Washington DC she would have been moved back to third grade or she would have been in the initial 5%. The students would be best served if this teacher brought her own educational level and teaching beyond the grade level standards to teach students along a broad spectrum of abilities and academic rigor. If she is either unwilling or unable to do so, she should be gone.

    I believe that she should be given three months to do so. The class from last year deserves to have the district and the union are responsible for providing the additional resources the students need to be brought up to grade level because they can see where the students were academically at the end of third grade, where they should be at the end of fourth grade and the academic gap that currently exists.

    I believe if the students were given what they need in additional resources this year to make up the deficit in teaching the Oakland taxpayers would, even in this economy, vote in a parcel tax.

    I believe if the students are not given the resources to make up what they were not taught, Oakland taxpayers will say no, enough is enough, no more money until you can manage your teachers, your time and your resources more effectively.

    I feel for the principal, but I feel for the students even more. For the most part, every one of these students is capable of achieving at phenomenally high levels as they have demonstrated in second and third grade CSTs.

  • Hot R

    Sorry Steven and Oakteach – these are just sad excuses (test design and kids don’t take it seriously). As you know there are sample questions online, a parent guide, and a state approved textbook used in each class, all of which are geared specifically to the California teaching standards for each discipline. Steven, I will bet you that when you were teaching you knew the content of each test, the state standards, and would prepare your class well for any standardized test and would never have explained away a low test score with the excuse you just gave.

    And really whose fault would it be Oakteach if the kids are not taking it seriously, despite the fact that the CAHSEE and STAR testing are the main ways schools are rated? I’ll answer it for you. It would be the teacher and the administrators of the OUSD who have to do a much better job of folding instruction on the type of questions given on this test into their classes. And the PSAT is a great predictor of SAT scores, along with being a qualifier for the National Merit Scholarship program. Too bad some counselor, teacher, or administrator is not doing their job communicating those facts to the kids and preparing them for the exam.

    The CAHSEE, given as a rite of passage test which students must pass to graduate, is an 8th grade level test, so don’t brag too much about high school students being able to pass that after 5 attempts or so.

  • lisa

    Let’s talk about Institutionalized Cheating. It is my understanding that when the CST test began, absolutely no questons could be reviewed that resembled the test. Now Oakland has benchmark assessments at least 3 times a year that are nearly identical to the test questions and the State acutally posts Release Quesions from prior year tests. This is no more than what we do to get a Driver’s License..and you want to equate quality eduationn with playing this game. Please! Think long and hard about this deception.

  • lulu

    Scarcity of opportunities; parents who need support; kids who need to see possibilities…all this is class related. Please stop with the test score smoke screen! Someone!

  • Steven Weinberg

    Hot R, You asked a question and several of us tried to answer in an honest and straightforward way, and you have branded our replies as “sorry excuses.” To me trying to measure educational progress is about helping students, not placing blame, so explanations are not excuses. It is just plain factually true as Oakteach pointed out that some high school students are required to take CSTs for subjects they are not currently studying. It is also true that the number of CSTs in high school is greater than at other grade level, and it is difficult for students to do their best work if they have already been testing for 3 hours. There is no question that these tests are harder to score well on than those at lower grades, and the state-wide results show this.
    If all these problems were corrected Oakland high school students would score about the same at they did in middle school, since previous year’s scores are a fairly accurate indicator of future performance. Those results would still be far from satisfactory, and we should do everything that can be done to improve them, but we cannot let a cursory analysis of these scores lead us to believe the problem is primarily in the high schools.
    I appreciate your belief that when I was teaching I would have done such a good job that I would not have to explain any low scores. Would that were true. Although I worked my last 9 years as coach for new teachers and the test coordinator at my site, and so did not teach any classes since the CSTs were created, but I did have students take other standardized tests over the years, and their performance on the tests generally equalled their performance in earlier years. At best I was able to move some of them beyond where they had previously tested, but I have never seen any teacher who was able to dramatically change the scores of an entire group of students (and that is based on the analysis of thousands of tests scores for over a hundred teachers). Standardized tests don’t just evaluate one year’s learning, so it is very hard to take students who have never made even a single year’s progress in one school year and have them make multiple years’ progress in that same amount of time. Real progress requires incremental improvement year after year.
    (I should mention that all my experience has been in middle schools, so I cannot speak about what is possible on elementary grade tests.)

  • oakteach

    Thanks Steven for an eloquent explanation. Hot R’s response unfortunately mirrors the ignorance most of the general public (and an appallingly high percentage of educrats) have about what genuine data can be inferred from a standardized test. You can’t use year to year comparisons for non-sequential courses (hence the limitations of what the LA Times did for their teachers), and you sure as hell shouldn’t be testing kids in subjects they don’t take. However, I refuse to accept the argument “they don’t take it seriously” for the high school level kids. That is the school’s responsibility to make happen and an argument I will never make, so please don’t attribute it to me. Pay attention.

    Test scores are abysmally low in Oakland. We all know that. And few (if any) teachers would deny that is a problem. But when people (increasingly the know it all general public) continue to viciously misdiagnose the problem, it becomes more difficult to gain the momentum to actually fix it. Perhaps close in magnitude to the challenge of educating our students is the negative effects of the mis-education of our adults.

  • Hot R

    OK – then let’s talk about specifics. I assume you both accept my contention that if kids are not taking the test seriously, then administrators, teachers and counselors are to blame.

    Isn’t it in the least disturbing to anyone in this discussion that some OUSD students are taking the “wrong” test? But I assume you are not arguing that any more than a small percentage are taking the wrong test for the class they are assigned. And who’s fault is that? OUSD schedules the classes and the tests, just like districts do across the state. Apparently Piedmont, Alameda, and Berkeley students are taking the RIGHT test because they understand the correlation between school ratings and testing. This just seems very incompetent.

    And Steven, although past test scores are a great indicator of future test scores, isn’t it also true that students, classes, schools, and districts are capable of making progess? Look at the statements made by public relation officers for OUSD and every other district in the nine Bay Area Counties following publication of the STAR test results. Each one pointed out some “progress” which had been made (even Oakland). The way you explained it the siutation is hopeless. Or maybe the PR department should just come out and state “the kids are taking the wrong test, the tests don’t measure true achievement, and the kids don’t take it seriously” and let the firestorm commence.

    One cannot explain away low test scores, with a flippant comment about “non-sequential” tests being irrelevant (English, Math, History are all sequential). The Rubicon has already been crossed as high stakes testing is reality. Spending time arguing that it means nothing for teacher ratings or student achievement is truly a waste of time.

  • Oakland Teacher

    Berkeley students are not taking the “right test” as stated above. Berkeley high students do not even take the test at a high enough rate for the school to be included in ratings. They have been threatened by the state with financial repercussions, although I don’t know if they were carried out. It has been an ongoing problem for years there. HS students do not take the CST seriously, and in Berkeley, they often don’t take it at all, just not showing up on those days. The students who are on a more academic track tend to show up and give it some effort, so on some level may even swing the scores artificially high.

  • J.R.

    “HS students do not take the CST seriously, and in Berkeley, they often don’t take it at all, just not showing up on those days. The students who are on a more academic track tend to show up and give it some effort, so on some level may even swing the scores artificially high”.

    I knew there had to be a reasonable, intelligent reason for certain districts to perennially under-perform, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the teachers or students are not academically up to par(except for the hills, that is).

  • On The Fence

    What is wrong with OUSD?

    “Clearly it’s the fact that teachers in the Oakland public school system are incompetent! Did you hear about the teacher who couldn’t even read at a 3rd grade level?!?”

    “No, you’re mistaken. They are not incompetent this is a union problem. They’ve all become corrupt with the ABSOLUTE WORLD POWER-UNION POWER! It turned them from dedicated, college educated, public servants to lazy, money grubbing swindlers!”

    “Both of you got it wrong, morons!” This is about money. The rotten ‘haves’ against the poor subjugated ‘have nots’. Let’s level Oakland and get rid of the ‘hills’ vs ‘flats’, we can just be one big mound of dirt!”

    “But studies have shown that money isn’t where it’s at-it’s wealth. Wealth is not a measure of simply how much one makes today, it’s much, much more.”

    “Not wealth, sillies! Sorry folks, but we’re gonna hafta talk about race. So, ummm, come on…. let’s talk about race…..”

    “Please don’t turn this into race! Isn’t that what always happens? Let’s call a spade a spade. The problem with the schools nowadays is the testing. Testing doesn’t tell the whole story and never will!”

    “Testing my foot! The only ones who really care about testing is the uber-rich testing industry and the corrupt textbook publishers!”

    “The whole problem here is lack of personal responsibility. Stop shifting the blame! The buck stops with you, parents!”

    “I thought that arguement ended decades ago! Always looking to cast aspersions on the mothers! “Did you hug them enough?” “How was their early education?”,
    “Did you drink a glass of wine in your last trimester?!?” Stop it! Stop blaming meeee!!!”

    “Relax girlfriend, parents can only do so much. Personal responsibility has to fall on the kids. I say, no more entitlements for kindergarteners! Toughen ’em up. If they want to learn they will and if they don’t, then kick ’em to the curb early!”

    Egads, that felt good!

  • http://www.movingforwardeducation.com Lacy Asbill

    I want to take a moment to focus on what IS working well, and offer congratulations to MLK Elementary and their 38% ELA gain! This just goes to show what a dynamic new leader and strong community partnerships can do to transform a school in a single year! Not only are their scores up, but parental involvement and support also went through the roof. Think about it–last year at this time, a new principal found her school on the possible closure list, and this year, they’re an improvement leader in the district! Congratulations to MLK!

  • J.R.

    Bravo, and kudos to the MLK principal,staff, and parents. Good job!

  • Chauncey

    Let the excuses begin for the flatlands!!

    By the Way, yes Arise and Aviation should be closed- (Arise is led by a fomer OUSD Principal right? A Bayces crony?

    Overall-damn charters still whipped some tail in comparison. One day the board will either get it or they will dissappear. If I were a board member I would include charters under my watch.

    It shows their pro union schools and no accountability to oakland”s overall community,

  • oakteach

    The “wrong test” is administered by the state. Not a site problem. Motivation is a site problem, and any school or admin worth their weight would acknowledge that.
    ELA is sequential, Math is sequential for 6-7 and again Alg 1 – Alg 2. In between is Geometry and they aren’t tested for Pre-Calc and above. History and Science are NOT sequential from a growth standpoint – there are no overlapping standards from one test to the next (“sequential” in this context). So back to my original statement: CST’s can only be used to measure growth in those specific cases (and if looked at by strand, not just overall score), but are NOT a growth model in any other light. That in itself does not excuse low scores. But in the case of high schools, the only course taken in sequence for this purpose is ELA. Geometry is sandwiched between the two math courses. So if you wanted to see TRUE growth trends, you would have to look at 3 years of math data, not just 2 years to get a comparable measure to the middle school sequence.

    There is nothing flippant about my comments. It’s an attempt (probably in vain) to get all the arm chair quarterbacks to focus on more accurate measures of school progress. Good test scores can hide bad schools, and vice versa. It’s not about excuses, it’s about digging below the surface to find what is truly effective (which the LA times started to do, albeit in a limited way).

    The truth goes the other way as well: there are some middle schools on that list that showed “growth” in proficiency because the 6th graders are coming in higher (as a result of stellar progress at the respective elementary schools). In reality, those schools are actually losing ground: the proficiency “growth” of those schools is actually less than the increase caused by the incoming students. But those schools won’t be identified for any support because the data ignorant folk will focus on those schools below a cut mark (even if they are improving their students). So the schools that are doing nothing for kids slide by, while schools that may be growing low students get criticized. (Case study: Alliance and Elmhurst CP were both on the infamous state “list” for failing schools this past year. They had the largest growth I think of any middle schools. They are accelerating the students they get faster than most if not all, but are still identified as “failing” because people can’t read data.)

    Unfortunately there are a finite number of resources and manpower in education as it stands, and pointing out the inaccuracies in data interpretations should not be seen as “flippant” if it helps identify the schools that are in TRUE need of help. I’m not arguing data means nothing. I’m arguing that the average bear does not take the time to look at what the numbers actually tell them.
    If you want to know what a school is REALLY doing based on test scores, you need to do one of two things:
    1) Look at the cohort matched scores for sequential courses to identify if real growth is taking place or kids are just coming in higher or lower.
    2) Give the same test at the beginning of the course and the end of the course. Compare THAT growth across teachers and schools.

    Education is a very esoteric field to start. There’s no checklist to success. And student performance data is one of the few concrete things we have to measure success, so it tends to be over valued and used in cases it shouldn’t. Data is a tool, and like any other tool it has to be used correctly to be effective. The way most lay people read data is equivalent to building a bookshelf with a toothbrush.

    That’s my rant.

  • http://www.tigerthegecko.blogspot.com maestra

    As a teacher in the flatlands for 8 years, a couple of thoughts:

    -yes, there are bad teachers teaching and teachers who don’t understand basic math.
    -yes, if those teachers are tenured, it is almost impossible to get rid of them
    -no, the older kids don’t take the tests seriously. some of the younger kids take it so seriously that they have anxiety attacks and throw up.

    there are many, many problems. One that I have not seen mentioned here (and this is not an excuse, just a fact that we should think about) is the transience at some schools. The 20 kids I started with were never ever the 20 I ended up with. There are so many homeless kids and kids with custody battles going on that they move in and out of schools. This is tragic for them for many reasons, as they get lost in the cracks, but as a purely practical test concern, it means that “my” test scores don’t accurately reflect who I have taught.

    The most extreme year was when, in a class of 19 kids, my top four students moved in late April, right before the test, and I got four students who could not read, one of whom would not mark any answers on the test at all. That’s almost 25% of my class that went from grade level to far, far below. That may have been extreme, but it’s worth considering.

  • J.R.

    That is a very valid point about transient children, it is becoming more common every day.

  • Hot R

    Look, I care about all those kids too. My heart breaks when I read these stories of low achievement. The schools seem in a death spiral, and even the responsible adults seem unable to stop them from spinning out of control. It is hard to make a teacher responsible for a student who is absent 2 days a week, or is new to the class as Maestra describes. Clearly, Oakteach knows what she is talking about, but I fear that no matter what method was used to measure achievement at the high school level, there would be none due to a variety of socio-economic issues which are exacerbated in the classroom and condemn all but a handful of kids to failure. This makes it even more remarkable that some kids can rise above it all and succeed.

    However, I do not think the low test scores will have anything but a negative effect on the Oakland parcel tax vote.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Oakteach, while I agree with many of your points I want to point out that the dip in matched scores between fifth and sixth grades are largely a result of the difference in the difficulties of the tests at the two grade levels. The California Department of Education testing site specifically says that test scores cannot be used to compare students from grade level to grade level. I understand the urge to do so because it would be a better measure of school and teacher effort, but you have to measure each school or teachers’ results against the average for the district (I would prefer the state average, but it is not available, as far as I know.) As long as the CSTs have been given the district average for sixth graders has been lower than fifth, seventh higher than sixth, and eighth lower than seventh. If you don’t compensate for the differences in the tests, most seventh grade teachers end up looking good, and most sixth and eighth end up looking bad.

  • oakteach

    Hot R – agreed. Bottom line: Oakland under performs. But the success stories prove that it’s possible. And the quicker we stop wasting our time with useless data points and start looking at the stuff that can really determine competency, the better.

    Appreciate the push back. But no one’s been able to get data (that I know of) that separates the social factors for the 5/6 drop (middle school transition). From a purely scientific standpoint, the difficulty between the two tests doesn’t match the drops seen. Granted, I have a skewed perspective: both of the schools I worked at, the 6th grade teachers got the HIGHEST matched scores of anyone.
    As for the 7/8 drop, that is transparently due to the switch to Algebra (and the former general math test, which penalized each kid by a level).

    Hence my second suggestion (and the only true way). Pre and post test for the course. Compare that data. The first suggestion was grounded only in peoples’ insatiable desire to use those tests as growth models. I know the cohort matched scores are flawed, but if people are going to continue to use CST’s to measure “school growth,” they might as well do it as close to the truth as possible.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Oakteach, I appreciate push back too, and I took another look at the statewide data and I have to revise my statements. The big increase in state-wide scores in ELA has left middle school ELA scores fairly consistent across the grade levels, but there is a big and consistent gap between 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade ELA scores, with scores going down each year in 3rd, up in 4th, and back down in 5th, but not a low as 3rd. It appears to me the scoring of the third grade test is harder and the scoring of the fourth grade test is easier. I think the same thing is happening with the sixth grade math test, but there is less evidence for that from the statewide data, since the scores don’t recover in 7th grade. (When I last checked Oakland data, I believe they did, but that was several years ago.)
    Your theory about the effect of middle school transition on test scores may be correct. I would like to see figures comparing K-8 schools and K-6 schools with 6-8 schools for changes in matched 5th 6th scores.