Inconsequential and Consequential Differences in the Georgia Score Card Data

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The Georgia Department of Education (GDOE) released two year’s worth of data based on CRCT tests.  The CRCT data is used to grade each school in Georgia, on a 100 point scale.  The score is determined by four numbers weighted as follows

  • Achievement on CRCT–60 points
  • Progress on CRCT–25 points
  • Achievement Gap Size & Change–15
  • Challenge Points–10

Inconsequential Differences

The Georgia Department of Education today released the second College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), based on data from the 2012 and 2013 school years. Georgia’s elementary schools saw a one-year increase in scores from 74.9 to 78.5 (+3.6), middle schools saw a one-year increase in scores from 73.9 to 75.0 (+1.1) and high schools saw a one-year decrease in scores from 73.0 to 72.0 (-1.0).

But no matter how you look at this data, the change from one year to the next is inconsequential.  In Figure 1 we have created charts for each year and placed them next to each other.  The pattern is nearly an exact duplicate.

Figure .  Georgia State Data for the Years 2012 and 2013 next to each other.

Figure 1. Georgia State Data for the Years 2012 and 2013 next to each other.

Figure 2 shows the same data in the traditional bar graph format.  Again, as you look a the data, there is little difference from one year to the next.

Figure  Bar Graph Comparing CCPR from 2012 and 2013

Figure 2. Bar Graph Comparing CCPR from 2012 and 2013

Consequential Differences in the Score Card Data

There are two maps that show some of the consequential differences in the CRCT data.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper has provided a map of data by school for the metro Atlanta area that includes a significant part of the 1.6 million school children that attend Georgia Schools.

The map reveals a pattern that is consequential.  There are differences that are quite clear in score ranges, and how they are distributed in the metro Atlanta area.  Scores for each school can range from less than 60 (red dots) to 90 or greater (dark green).

If you just focus on these two data points, there is an obvious difference in scores based on geography.

Click on it, and it will take you to AJC’s interactive map where you can look at the data for each dot.  Each dot is a school.

Figure 3. Map of Metro Atlanta Schools by CRCT Scores

Figure 3. Map of Metro Atlanta Schools by CRCT Scores


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Figure 4 is a map of a region extending from Atlanta to Athens based on poverty.  Poverty data shown on the map ranges from below 11% to above 23%.  I’ve also superimposed the poverty percentage by county.  Please be cautious in using these numbers.  For example, Fulton County poverty rate is 18.9, but if you were to focus on the northern part of Fulton, the rate would be below 11%. The same is true for Cobb and Dekalb.

There are three oval shapes on the map.  The red oval shows a concentration of schools (red dots on the map in Figure 3).  This region of the map, except for Clark County (Athens), has very high poverty levels.  This is not a startling finding.  In many reports on this blog, we have reported research studies that show that number one factor contributing to a student test score on exams such as the CRCT, is poverty.

Notice that many of high scoring schools are in low poverty areas of the map.

The current wave of “reform” based on core standards, and student test scores would have us believe that the major factor influencing the performance of students is the quality of the teacher in the classroom.  Out-of school factors, and the variety of differences among school leadership, curriculum, and teacher collaboration are not considered.  If educators bring up the issue of the effects of poverty on student achievement, education leaders such as Joe Klein, formerly of the NYC schools, and Michelle Ree, formerly of the D.C. schools insist that performance in school by all students should be the result of the effectiveness of the teacher; poverty levels should have no effect. This is nonsense.


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Figure 4. Map of Poverty in the Atlanta region and Georgraphical location of CRCT Scores Trending Higher and Lower. Poverty Map Source: Poverty USA.

No Tinkering, Please

Reformists have been “tinkering” with schools, K – college.  This “tinkering” is playing havoc on teachers, students, and parents, and there seems to be no end in sight.   We’ve tinkered with achievement test scores, achievement test score gaps, graduation and drop out rates, teacher VAM scores–you name it.

The release of Georgia’s CRCT data plays into the hands of tinkerers.  Tinkerers are machine age thinkers.  They see the school as a K-12 factory and they focus on cause-effect relationships.  They keep tinkering with this variable and that, but schooling has resisted change.  The results of the CRCT are available on online, here for 2012 and here for 2013.  The results are broken into parts–subjects and departments of math, reading, science, social studies, language arts.  We are stuck in this paradigm in which schooling is reduced to discrete and disconnected parts, and the focus is on testing each of these parts each year thinking that our tinkering will change the results.  They do not.

The system of education must be thought of as a whole.  If we think of school as separate from the community within which it resides, and we tinker with in-school variables, we are behaving mechanistically, and if we test again next year, the results will be the same.

In Georgia we are spending nearly a billion dollars tinkering with one variable because we are stuck in a mechanistic model.  The idea is, if we can really change this one variable, then everything else will change, especially student test scores.  You’re wondering, what variable is he talking about?

He means measuring teacher quality.  That’s right, we spend about a billion dollars using student test scores, and a complicated, yet invalid mathematical model to analyze student test results. We do this to check on the effectiveness or the value a teacher adds to student achievement on the same test that is used to come up with this conclusion. I didn’t make this up.

We mandate that all students sit for several weeks taking tests to evaluate their own teachers. Professor Stephanie Jones, at the University of Georgia asks, Is this a violation of child labor laws?

The state of Georgia, being one of the Race to Top winners is locked into a system of evaluation wherein 50% of a teacher’s evaluation will be based on these CRCT tests.  It makes no sense to do this.  A teacher works within a system–be it an elementary, middle or high school, and the learning of students in a teachers class is effected more by out-of-school factors, than factors that the teacher has some control.  The test score that a student gets on a the CRCT is the result of that student being in a system.  It is not a cause-effect relationship.  There are too many variables that affect student learning, and least of these may in fact be the teacher.

What do the leaders in the Georgia Department of Education think about this?  I didn’t hear much of a discussion yesterday or today in the media or from the DOE about the connection between test scores and poverty.  I didn’t hear them talk about new paradigms?  I didn’t hear them question the VAM model that will be used to check on our teachers. I didn’t hear anything.


What do you make of the State of Georgia’s score card data?

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University.