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Bank of America Report to the Region: Action Plan from Four Years of SAT 9 Results


Bank of America Report to the Region: Action Plan from Four Years of SAT 9 Results

(January 25, 2002)

In September 2001, achievement results from the SAT9 were released for California schools on the State Department of Education website. The department held a news conference announcing that scores were climbing across the board, except for high schools. Newspapers devoted entire sections to findings for individual schools. California is a high-stakes environment – students are retained or reassigned to summer school; teachers receive bonus checks; schools are identified as “underperforming” and may be taken over by the state. SAT9 scores matter a lot.

These images – schools in peril or achieving incredible growth, young children suddenly mastering literacy, high school students in academic distress – spring from quick reactions to complex data patterns, tables of numbers of considerable complexity and abstractness. This report explores new ways to organize and explore SAT9 scores so that the full range of audiences can better understand the findings as a basis for taking action. The task in understanding schools is not to obtain more information – we have lots of numbers and plenty of stories to the point of information overload. The challenge is to make better sense from the information that we have. At one level, school administrators are given a single number, the Academic Performance Index (API), which combines test scores to place each school on a scale from 100 (poor) to 900 (excellent). At another level, principals and teachers receive thick books of “disaggregated data” that overwhelms them.

This report has two purposes. The first is to present examples of how complex data sources can be displayed to tell simple stories – something akin to the USA Today approach. The second is to suggest some patterns in the data designed to guide action – to show areas of success (keep doing what you’re doing) and problem domains (do something different).

This year’s report focuses on “cohort” patterns in relation to state reforms. A cohort is a group of students who begin kindergarten the same year and stay, for the most part, together through the grades. Most reports look at a single year, or compare the present year with the preceding one. During the past several years, California has initiated several reforms: Academic standards, class size reduction, the SAT9 testing program, accountability programs, and curriculum changes in reading and math. The reforms affect some grades more than others; studying cohorts over the years can help show where these reforms seem to be paying off.

The Bank of America Report to the Region will provide results for the entire state, for Riverside County, for San Bernardino County, and for two selected “high-performing” districts. The report also presents preliminary patterns for “identified underperforming” elementary schools in the region. These results provide important insights into the areas in which student achievement, as assessed by the SAT9, is improving or declining, insights that can direct future actions. The report will also provide a few examples of other findings, all driven by the goal of information designed to guide action:

· The “pipeline” – this graphic displays the flow of students into and through the school systems in the region, which reveal several unexpected events along the way.

· Presentation of primary influences on the API index – achievement is strongly correlated with socio-economic status, but also depends on teacher preparation. The report presents important information on how these two factors influence API scores.

Included are a few highlights from the SAT9 data. Reading and math scores are presented for the state, Riverside County, San Bernardino County and two high-performing districts, one from each county. The results for students from high and low socio-economic-status (SES) backgrounds are shown separately.

California:

· In reading, California students score at the national average through grade 8. In math, they are substantially above the national average through grade 6.

· A “reform” effect shows up in grades 2-4, but “yearly” effects are negligible in the later grades.

· The “yearly” effects were larges following the 1998 and 1999 test years, and changes were small from 2000 to 2001.

· Effects of socio-economic status are very large, for both reading and math.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties:

· Both reading and math mirror the patterns for the entire state, but with noticeably lower scores in reading and slightly lower scores in math.

· Scores for higher SES students were noticeably lower than for the entire state, while low SES students were more comparable to the entire state.

Lake Elsinore Unified School District:

· The most evident difference is the substantial standing in math, especially in the early grades.

· The “achievement gap” between high and low SES students is smaller than for the state in both reading and math, primarily in the early grades.

Chino Valley Unified School District:

· Very substantial gains for grades 2-8 in both reading and math.

· These effects are found across the board for both high and low SES students.

These findings show that these districts have made substantial progress in well-defined ways, suggesting that their programs in these areas warrant attention.

The Bank of America Report to the Region is far from comprehensive. As a work in progress, it lays the foundation for creating an information base that can counsel the Inland Empire about the status of our most critical resource – human potential. The list of “other items” includes special education, English language learners, assessments of student writing, performance on the high school exit exam, and the impact of class size reduction, to name a few priority matters in the K-12 system.

The current report does not cover higher education. The role of the community colleges and the four-year institutions in this region is critical. But we are moving ahead in the creation of an omnibus database, along with the development of models for analysis and representation, all designed to expand our knowledge base.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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