Georgia Teachers Continue to Impress: 2014 CRCT Results in Context

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In this post I am going to show why I think Georgia teachers continue to impress, especially when we look at the 2014 CRCT results in the context of the past decade.

In the wake of the Vergara v California tentative decision in which the plaintiffs claimed that lurking in many California classrooms were “grossly ineffective teachers.,” you have to wonder what is their evidence.  They had NO facts to support this contention.  The data they did present was in the form of opinions, and discredited VAM data in which good and bad teachers are identified using student test scores.

For more than 30 years, I worked with thousands of teachers, not only here in Georgia, but in many other states, and countries.  When I first read the Vergera v California decision, and saw the phrase “grossly ineffective teachers,” I had to admit that I must have lived in another universe.  There may be ineffective teachers in our classrooms, but the court case only reinforced my view that the teaching profession is under assault, and that the assault is being led by what Diane Ravitch calls, The Billionaire’s Boys Club.  In the Vergara case, the club member was David Welch, founder of Students Matter, an organization set up just for the Vergara case.  Welsh was able to use millions of dollars to hire a legal team of who’s who in constitutional law, which was the basis for the Vergara case.

Around the country, state departments of education are releasing the results of standardized tests, many of which are mandated through the No Child Left Behind Law.

In Georgia, we give the Criterion Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) to students in grades 1 – 8 in reading, language arts, math, science, and social studies.  At the high school level End of Course Tests (EOCT) are given in math, science, social studies, and English language arts.

On June 13, the Georgia Department of Education released the 2014 CRCT scores for the state, along with scores from last year for comparison (school and district results will be released later this month).

Figure 1 shows the 8th grade CRCT test results for the past seven years in reading, language arts, math, science and social studies.  The line graph clearly shows that scores in all tested subjects have trended up.  Since 2008 (actually, we can go back to 2000, the year the CRCT’s were used) the scores have gone up.  Three linear trend lines are included in the chart for reading, math and science, and all of them show growth, not stagnation, or depreciation.

There are 8 graphs in the chart.  The blue, red, green, purple, & light blue shows the CRCT scores for the five tested subjects that are identified on the right side of the chart.  The other three graphs are straight lines, each trending up, that shows the linear trend for reading (at the top), then science and finally math.  If, like the judge in Vergara Lawsuit claims, that there is a causal link between student scores and teacher ability, then we might conclude that teachers in Georgia are doing a good job “and have caused student scores to go up.”****

Figure 1. CRCT 8th Grade  Scores with Linear Projections for Tested Subjects

Figure 1. CRCT 8th Grade Scores with Linear Projections for Tested Subjects

***However,  I don’t believe that there is a causal link between student test scores and teacher ability.  If there is, it’s very small.  There are simply too many other variables that affect student’s ability to do well on standardized tests.  Very credible research shows that at best, only 30% of student’s academic success is attributable to schools, and that teachers are only a small part of the effect of school.  As noted elsewhere, the most significant factor affecting a student’s academic success is socioeconomic status (See, Berliner and Glass, 50 Myths and Lies That Threaten America’s Public Schools: The Real Crisis in Education.)

Trends

Look at Figure 2.  In this chart, we’ve used a control chart using average scores calculated from 8th CRCT scores in reading, language arts, math, science and social studies.  We might think of this as a student’s “CRCT Average” (aka Grade Point Average).   Based on the data for the past seven years, we have calculated the upper and lower control limits for the CRCT Average, and we see a controlled increase in scores over the years.   There are no radical changes from one year to the next, and indeed, over the seven-year period, student scores fall within predicted limits.

We can say, based on this data, that Georgia teachers have done nothing but help students improve their scores on the CRCT standardized tests.  Perhaps we could add that as students work with Georgia teachers, scores go up.

Figure 2. Trend of Average Score on 8th Grade CRCT's in Tested Subjects
Figure 2. Trend of Average Score on 8th Grade CRCT’s in Tested Subjects

Variation

When we look at the average scores for Georgia on the 8th grade battery of CRCT tests in reading, language arts, math, science and social studies, we notice that the variation is within the limits we would expect, but more importantly, the variation in scores has decreased over time.

This is important.  Public school education in Georgia, based on these data show a system that is stable, not unstable, nor failing.

Figure 3. Variation of CRCT Scores
Figure 3. Variation of CRCT Scores

Improving education is clearly a goal of teachers.  By and large teachers are dedicated professionals who are interested in helping their students learn, and learn to love the subjects they teach.

Teaching is an art, not a business that some think can be regulated by an accountability system that provides little flexibility for teachers to carry out their work with students.  The so-called reform of education is based on an industrial culture that sees teaching as a mechanical system that can be measured, weighed and evaluated using spreadsheets.  This nonsense.

But…

This is a serious problem, in Georgia and around the country.  Bureaucrats (many of them former teachers) at the Georgia Department of Education have become convinced that teachers and schools can be monitored and evaluated with big data that is pouring into their computers at an ever increasing rate.

This is not what teaching and learning are about.

As long as this blog exists, it will be based on the art of teaching and the wisdom of practice.

It appears to me that the wisdom of practice is alive and well in Georgia.  What do you think?