Monday, August 8, 2011

A homeschooling update. Kind of.

Last week, I received this in mail:
You are looking at the state testing results for all the schools in my city. This table shows the percentage of students that can read and do math at grade level. These scores are shown at grades 3, 4, and 5 (the grades they test). The table compares each school grade's score to the state average scores.

Take a look at it. Don't worry, I'll wait. Trust me. You want to see.

The first thing you should notice is that in 5th grade, our state proficiency scores are at 41.9% in math, and 51.9% in reading. Uh-huh. This means that less than half of my state's 5th graders are able to do math at their grade level. And that slightly over half are able to read at grade level.

And that's not the best part.

The second thing you should notice is my school. Pate. Let's start by comparing the 3rd grade math scores to the 5th grade math scores. At 3rd grade, 44.7% of 3rd graders can do math at grade level. That's less than the (still alarmingly low) state average of 51.5%. At 4th grade, 22.5% are testing at grade level in math. That score is almost half that of the (even more alarmingly low) state average of 44.4%. And finally, by 5th grade, only FIFTEEN POINT TWO PERCENT (Yes, 15.2%!!) of the 5th graders at my elementary are testing at grade level in math (compared to the still low state average of 41.9%). That means that in a three year span, the students in my elementary school that can perform At. Grade. Level. in math drops by almost TWO THIRDS.

It's possible I am overly excited about this. Do any of my school teacher friends want to correct me here? Want to tell me that testing is not a very accurate reflection of actual knowledge? Or maybe that there is a 50% margin of error?

I should mention that I received this table as a piece of a letter giving me the option to transfer to a school that met AYP standards.†  I can transfer my child to one of the three schools in our district that did meet AYP, provided that the schools are not too full. But... does there appear to be a glaring, obvious transfer choice to you?

†AYP stands for Adequate Yearly Progress and is the measurement tool for No Child Left Behind. It does not require that all schools meet a certain average, it simply requires that each school meets a yearly progress goal. If a school doesn't meet the goal, it doesn't pass. You can probably find your own school's AYP scores on your state's education website, provided your state participates in No Child Left Behind (and most still do).


  1. scary. I'm really interested in what you decide to do. If you do end up homeschooling, I hope you post about all the hows. I'm thinking about it myself.....

  2. I can only give you anecdotal information, but I've recently spent a lot of time administering standardized tests to students K-2. My company just made a math placement test, and in order to validate the questions, we had to test 1000s of students. I went to about 5 schools (in Idaho and Utah) and tested an average of 4 classes each. A few years ago I did the same thing for a reading placement program, going to schools in Las Vegas and Idaho.

    Based on my experience, I do not trust test scores at all. In my opinion, all test scores really indicate is classroom behavior. Classrooms ruled with an iron-fisted teacher=accurate scores. More open classrooms where students sat in groups and had more freedom to move around=inaccurate scores. Unless they are locking each child individually in a room during the test, the scores can't be accurate. (And even if they were doing that, the anxiety alone would affect scores.) Kids look at what their neighbors are doing. Kids don't pay attention. Kids need to go to the bathroom. I saw many kids circle the correct answer, look at their neighbor circling the incorrect answer, and then change their answer. I saw kids fill out the whole test before I had even gotten through the first two questions. One girl broke down in tears over the test and had to be taken to the nurse.

    Also, the rules on test administration are ridiculous. I must read the question exactly so. I can only repeat it a certain number of times. This does not generate an engaged learning environment where students are preforming at their best.

    All that said, I wouldn't discount test results all together. I don't know of a better way. (Though the computerized testing programs my company develops definitely has advantages.) I think learning is best measured by an engaged parent. You'll know if your kids can read, even if they freeze up on the test. I've had good teachers and bad teachers, but my education was always excellent because my parents were involved.

  3. some children are left behind in the womb. as my mom often says - and she's a teacher.

  4. Actually we were just discussing this very thing this morning at our faculty meeting (Sunset). Some of our grades missed meeting the requirement by 1 point. Our principal did his own calculating and we were between 70-80% in all areas. Don't believe everything you read about test scores. If one sub-group (i.e., SPED, ethnic group, etc.) does not meet the expectations, the entire school fails.

  5. Yes! I agree with Roseann. AYP scores are extremely deceptive for the reason she stated. Also, they graded last year's test differently than in years past, making it hard to compare to previous years. The written portion counted for 40% rather than 20%, putting less weight on multiple choice than before. That doesn't change the fact that we want those scores to go up!

  6. Move. To. Prosper.

    I'm not gonna say it again.

    Until, of course, they next time I say it. ;)

  7. No, move to Issaquah. Then when you're the RS pres, I can be your secretary and we can rule the old ladies with an iron fist.

    I think test scores have to be taken for what they are--a measure of how well the kids in that class do on that test. Are there other deal-breakers at the school? No PTA? A dreary physical environment? We're leaving our current district (Federal Way) because of test scores, but also because of all the poverty and lack of English speaking that sucks up resources and leaves bright, functioning kids at a disadvantage.

    Have you been to the school? To a PTA meeting? Met the principal? Observed a classroom? What about the schools available for transfer? That might give a more well-rounded picture than just the paper in the mail.

    If the final answer is that homeschooling is right for your family, more power to you. Also, I hope that if it's right, it's because of all the great things about homeschooling rather than just all the awful things about your public schools.

  8. I'm with Janette on this:) Holy Moly that is nuts - get thee to Prosper...please :)

  9. Okay, I'[m with Janette on this one too!!!

    What I want to know is whether or not Universities take these test scores into consideration or consider who they may have been sitting next to during the test or if the child had good teachers every year.

    Doesn't every child deserve a scholarship to an ivy league school especially when test taking is so difficult?

  10. Don't move to Prosper, move to St. George! We love you and know that whatever you decide to do, Grace, Claire and Weston couldn't be in better hands.

  11. No Child Left Behind is an imperfect solution to a horrendous public education problem. Imperfect because it was written and passed by egotistical, agenda-driven politicians and enforced by barely literate bureaucrats in the Department of Education. Scores haven't really improved and have fallen in many cases, despite increased funding each year.

    I blame bureaucrats and teachers. No offense. And not ALL teachers. Just the lazy, dumb ones who teach to the lowest common denominator while "leaving behind" those students who want/need a more accelerated pace.

    I remember in 4th grade my teacher taught us that mass is the same as weight. I asked dad for help with my homework that night and he was shocked that she was so careless. He taught me the difference in a simple yet accurate way and wrote a note to the teacher. She responded that while she understood the correct definition, she didn't have time to teach it accurately because she needed to prepare us for the WASL which equates mass with weight. She passed the buck. This happened over and over again in my K-12, public education. Especially in Washington.

    I give teachers credit though. They have the impossible task of educating kids with limited funding, measly pay, dissatisfied/apathetic parents and standardized tests to teach to. But that's kind of the point. Shouldn't our teachers be better equipped to handle these challenges? So how come when I remember my teachers I think of people who are of average intelligence who want a steady paycheck and the opportunity to educate with their agenda when occasion permits? That being said, I had several excellent teachers who didn't fit this mold.

    Anyway, there are my two cents.

    One thing's for sure: it'd be a shame to squelch your kids' undeniable intelligence in public school.

    PS. You can homeschool my kids too. :)

  12. No, no, move to SOUTH CAROLINA, where scores are low and we can just home school our kids together!!! =)

    Just thought I'd jump on the bandwagon.

    I'm so glad you are posting these things...I'm 1 year behind you and I'm finding all of this fascinating.

  13. No Child Left Behind = No Child Get Ahead

    Good luck with the homeschooling adventures! You'll be great!