Thursday, August 4, 2016

Bassett Analyzes Progress on High School Tests

Note to Louisiana Educator readers: Herb Bassett, an educator in LaSalle Parish, has for the past several years proven himself to be an excellent independent analyst of data on student testing. His work has been featured before on this blog.

The 2012 reforms referred to by Mr. Bassett include primarily the Jindal backed Acts I and 2 of the 2012 legislative session. Act I drastically reduced teacher tenure protections, did away with teacher seniority rights, and introduced a merit pay system for teachers based partially on student test scores.  At the same time, the lack of state funding for the merit pay plan caused many school systems to greatly reduce automatic pay increases for teachers based on years of teaching experience. Act II greatly increased the availability of charter schools and vouchers as alternatives for parents to choose in educating their children. Enough time has now elapsed to allow us to begin to see how these reforms have affected student test scores. This analysis relates only to high school end-of-course testing.

LDOE quietly posted the individual high school End-Of-Course scores Tuesday, Aug 2. This testing data for various critical high school courses lets us compare how students in Louisiana performed before and after the education reforms of 2012.

In a nutshell, the progress Louisiana's students and teachers were making statewide before the reforms has slowed dramatically and is beginning to stall completely.

The legislature passed a package of strong education reforms in the Spring of 2012. The test scores earned in 2012 are the result of progress being made before the reforms. I use that as a baseline to then measure progress post-reform. Growth up to 2012 is the product of Louisiana's teachers and students pre-reform. Statewide growth since 2012 I credit to the reformers.

High School students take six End-Of-Course tests; English II, English III, Algebra I, Geometry, Biology, and U. S. History. The six tests were phased in one per year from 2008 to 2013; we can measure growth up to 2012 of four that became part of the school accountability system that year, before the reforms influenced achievement.

All four of those subjects showed robust proficiency growth prior to the education reforms. Afterward, growth slowed to a crawl.

The table shows the initial proficiency rate, the 2012 proficiency rate and the current (2016) proficiency rate for each subject (statewide data). While growth has continued since the education reforms, it has slowed dramatically in these subjects.

Before the reforms, overall proficiency growth in the four subjects averaged 6.71 points per year. After the reforms, the growth slowed to merely one point per year. This is the difference between a car on a highway traveling just over the speed limit of 65 m.p.h.  and a car slowly crawling along at ten m.p.h. in a parking lot.

We were cruising down the highway before the reforms, now we are in the parking lot.

Test score gains over time have been the driving forces in education since No Child Left Behind.

Test score gains, made rapidly, are the reformers' preferred measures of success.

The reforms have utterly failed to hasten or even maintain the rate of progress we were already making.

The reforms of 2012 - and the reformers who pushed them - have now failed by their own measures.

There always is nuance worth exploring, but I will save that for another time. Reformers want fast test score gains - we see only the slowing of progress here.

Herb Bassett