Sunday, August 09, 2009

AYP Texas: Statistical Snake-Oil Hits a Gusher And We Should Buy Some For New Mexico Right Now

I spent my weekend trying to understand new AYP counting rules Texas somehow roped the U.S. Department of Education into accepting.

Oh, that's not right: I actually spent a nice weekend at home, sprinkled with a bike ride out to the Rio Puerco and a partial night at the bizarrely crowded Marble Street Brewery.

But enough about me, let's talk explosions of dense statistics.

Texas did real, real good on their version of the standards-based assessment this year (the TAKS). And I say that as a former, lapsed Texan. Real, real good. Okay, the graduation rate sucks in Texas, too, but the scores this year was great compared with 2008.

But looking deeper, you can see the mention of something called the Texas Projection Measure. And that's where my weekend (outside of bike rides and beer) comes in. You see, despite what many of us in the K-12 teaching game in New Mexico may think, other states are doing all kinds of "interesting" things when it comes to standardized testing and scoring of said testing.

All kinds of things. And 99.7% of readers of this blog have probably tired weeks ago of me pointing out these "interesting" things. But I'm tellin' ya...it's interesting man, really!

I'd never make it in a sales job. Anyway, here's the deal.

The Texas Department of Education submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education that Texas be allowed to use this mind-twistingly complicated statistical model to predict how kids who failed this year's TAKS will most likely do on the TAKS two years from now. And...here's the good part...and if the statistical model showed that these failing kids now would most likely pass two years from now they'd go ahead and just count the kid as passing now.

I swear I'm not making that up.

And the U.S. Department of Education accepted this statistical thingamabob, the Texas Projection Measure.

And as you find buried about midway in the Austin American-Statesman story linked above:
The introduction of the Texas Projection Measure helped schools climb the accountability ladder. More than half of the 2,151 exemplary schools in the state were bumped up to that level because of the measure.
Now ain't that sweeter than a field of bluebonnets under an azure Texas sky? Especially as news story after news story from the Lone Star State is proudly reporting the scores as evidence that, once again, Texas is a whole 'nother country where just about all the kids are "exemplary".

Still, some are critical of the Texas Projection Measure. A Frances Deviney from something called the "Center for Public Priorities" says it:
"does a disservice to the students and the schools by masking the true number of kids still struggling to meet the state's academic standards."
Now I tend to think differently about this than Frances Deviney. I say if you talk somebody into letting you play a baseball game where you get five outs and the opponent gets three, you do it. If you can rig it so your batters get four strikes, run 75 feet to first base instead of 90 and get to throw spitballs....well, then I'm damn well gonna hock up a loogie and get to pitchin'.

And that's basically what's happening here. Texas is giving themselves (with Fed blessing) five outs. New Mexico still gets three. Or really only one, considering that's all it takes to "fail" on the 37-part AYP scoring.

So I admire what Texas is doing here, and Georgia and all the other states who have created more "sophisticated" rules here than we have in New Mexico. I admire them and am very, very, very pissed off at my State Department of Education for not having the gumption to do the same.

And here's another reason I admire Texas and blame New Mexico. In fact, here's the real reason. The Texas Projection Measure is an attempt to create what's called in the business a "growth model" for student performance. Instead of simple one-size-fits-all "proficiency" scores, Texas is trying to create individualized scoring that shows significant and proven growth in student skills.

Now it may also be true that all the statistical mumbo-jumbo has a political motive, one of waiting out the current insane No Child Left Behind requirement and giving Texas a year or two of cover until a new NCLB is created.

Nevertheless, New Mexico needs to learn two lessons here:
  1. Other states are successfully petitioning the Feds to allow for flexibility in standardized test scoring.
  2. Other states are creating "growth models" that take into account the skills and needs of individual students.
And here in New Mexico, in Albuquerque where the latest AYP scores show 9.9% of its middle school Special Education students were "proficient" in Math, we can't even get a damn alternative assessment for kids meticulously screened, tested and monitored as having significant educational deficits.

I don't care whether you call it cheating, gaming the system or want to feel better and just call it a "growth model"...not doing something like our whole 'nother country to the East is both stupid and incredibly hurtful to our students.

1 comment:

Randolf said...

So when does the AYP rules committee meet again? Let me backtrack, what is the committee's name? Who sits on the committee? Is there such a committee? What type of tasty pastries do they eat? Who are they and lets talk to them. This is the obvious point of intersection. Meet with these folks, have the PowerPoint ready and educate/persuade. Brief them on all the creative thingamabobs out there being employed by these other states.
Ever forward captain!