Monday, September 1, 2008

What was the WASL grade 4 Math Test testing?

The fourth grade Math WASL results are particularly shocking, as they dropped 4.7% on a year to year basis.

What is going on?
There are much larger problems than this 4.7% on potential statistical scholars. There was a drop of 16.2% for these fourth graders scores from their scores as third graders one year ago.

Statewide scores were significantly down but particularly shocking are the results for grade four from two schools that are teaching actual mathematics. ( As opposed to books that are well aligned to the WASL that are part of the USA reform math movement, which produces increasingly poor results for USA in international math comparisons).

North Beach has used Saxon for several years and Schmitz Park began using 100% Singapore in 2007-2008. SP teachers are enthusiastic about Singapore.

Since NCLB sanctions are WASL linked, I have to ask what is going on at OSPI that we still have this lame test in place.

Look at results in Math for Schmitz 4th graders in 2008 and compare it with their results in 2007. Do the same for Saxon at North Beach and the statewide results. Why does Dr Bergeson remain in office and a bigger question is what has the State Board of Education been doing the last decade? The Gov. appointed many of those on the State Board the others are elected by school directors in this state.

There is not a single person on the state board with a degree in a mathematically technical field. No degrees in Math, Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, or Computer Science.

Look at the drop from 3rd grade 2007 to 4th grade 2008.
First statewide, then at Schmitz Park and then at North Beach.


Grade LevelReadingMathWritingScience
3rd Grade 70.9%69.6%

4th Grade 76.6%58.1%60.2%
5th Grade 71.9%59.5%

Grade LevelReadingMathWritingScience
3rd Grade 70.4%68.3%

4th Grade 72.3%53.4%62.1%
5th Grade 75.3%61.0%

Statewide drop = 69.6% - 53.4% = 16.2%
Schmitz Park with Singapore in 2007-2008 school year:

Grade LevelReadingMathWritingScience
3rd Grade 92.3%92.3%

4th Grade 93.6%74.5%87.2%
5th Grade 86.0%75.4%

Grade LevelReadingMathWritingScience
3rd Grade 88.5%96.2%

4th Grade 78.6%60.7%87.5%
5th Grade 87.8%87.8%

Schmitz Park drop = 92.3% - 60.7% = 31.5%
North Beach with Saxon for several years:

2006 -2007
Grade LevelReadingMathWritingScience
3rd Grade 80.8%92.3%

4th Grade 94.6%91.9%86.5%
5th Grade 95.0%87.5%

3rd Grade 90.6%84.4%

4th Grade 83.3%70.8%66.7%
5th Grade 94.6%89.2%

North Beach drop = 92.3% - 70.8% = 21.5%

The idea that the grade three test in 2007 and the grade four test in 2008 are measuring the same subject tested on the same cohort of students seems impossible, given these results. I know the cohorts were the same. I guess the test is not testing the same subject. The question now is: "what subject is the WASL Math actually testing?" as it does not appear to be mathematics in any consistently measurable way.

Does either Dr. Bergeson or the SBE have an explanation ?
I sure have no clue about this beyond the fact that we are spending large sums of money to produce total nonsense.

Side note Seattle Elementary scores should have improved this year as math increased from around 45 minutes per day to 75 minutes per day and lots of dollars went into materials and coaching. In my opinion the Seattle Plan of Everyday Math is very problematic, considering the daily time on math increased by 66% these results are not very good. Again these are WASL Math results and what does that mean?

Here are Seattle's changes compared with our state's changes.
Seattle change from spring 07 to spring 08 minus the state's change in that period.
Grade Level Math
3rd Grade 2.40%
4th Grade -0.90%
5th Grade 1.50%

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had a real math test with meaningful results to discuss? So why don't we? We certainly spent an incredibly expensive amount to get this travesty. ---- The answer is extremely poor leadership.


Anonymous said...

The WASL is not a longitudinal study - its designed to compare schools and similiar age groups.
The fourth grade test is more difficult than the third grade test.

Its not likely that the difficulty is with the alignment of the test. However, the topics could be out of sequence. I haven't taught elementary school math, so I would am more of a traditionalist.

Schmitz Park kids would be learning long division definitely by fourth grade. While WASL might be emphasizing statistics and probability? STill its difficult to do any sort of math without standard algorithms and knowledge of fractions.

Also, look at the parallel drop in reading scores. This suggests a new population of students. Your table is a bit awkward to read. The SP fifth grade scores went up 12 points and is well above the state average. The drop of a point reflecting the loss of content from 4th to 5th grade is also well below the state average. To make comparisons, you should be looking at data from the upper and middle grades, not primary.

The numbers of students is probably too small to be significant, in which case I would say there is a new group of students at this school.

How long has Schmitz Park been implementing Singapore?

What percentage qualify for Title I or perhaps these are ELL students or should be classified as such.

Anonymous said...

One thing that Schmitz Park might be observing is a growing exodus of unhappy students from other schools in the area.

I certainly observed this in Mount Vernon where Latinos from as far as Mount Baker School District enrolled their children. It was interesting the effect that the WASL and NCLB was having on creating these regional enclaves of minorities (gentrification).

Anonymous said...

My argument was schools that welcome these refugee minorities despite the obvious affect to test scores should receive extra funding, since the school which originally benefited from their presence, but failed to teach them (usually by setting them up in a portable on an individualized learning plan) should be publicly condemned.

Obvious candidates are schools that fail to meet Hispanic AYP and have declining enrollments of Hispanics, when obviously the community is substantially Hispanic (above average percentages of Latinos).

This should apply to schools which enroll Native Americans or for that matter any community where large numbers of minorities are represented.

I was not very popular in Washington.

Anonymous said...

North Park has a similiar decline in reading scores from third to fourth grade and an improvement in fifth grade math scores.

The topics are probably out of sequence (I doubt that matters) and there is a new population of students attending both North Shore and Schmitz Park.

Parents that want the traditional curriculum are sending their children to these schools. There is probably evidence of new transfers to both these schools.

Anonymous said...

It might be more productive to compare changes over two years instead of one and put more weight on math scores in middle school. Also, reading scores provide you with some background information that might be relevant to what you are seeing wrt changes in math scores.

dan dempsey said...

The WASL starts at grade 3.
SP and North Beach are elementary schools that end at grade 5.

It looking at ITBS tests from 2000 to 2005 at grades 3 and 6 state averages never fluctuated for cohort groups like this.

One has to wonder what is supposedly being measured on the WASL math test to get fluctuations of over 16% in pass rate from grade 3 to grade 4 for the same cohort statewide. Remember that with OSPI's thrust the most alligned books of TERC/Investigations and Everyday Math each have 1/3 of the elementary students in the state learning from each one.

80% of the state's middle school students are learning from Connected Math books.

Again the idea that the WASL is being used as a testing instrument for math on which NCLB sanctions are assigned is insane. Validity and reliability are not ideas that come to mind when I think of Math WASL. I think of instability instead.

Anonymous said...

Look for a corresponding drop in reading scores; that would tell you this is a different mix of students from the preceding year.

There will be substantial differences in what the two populations have been learning and it will take two years of reeducating to bring one group back to proficiency. One year lost plus new material.

Fourth grade is a pivotal year.

Anonymous said...

An interesting study would be to look at the effect of reading level on mathematical achievement in the fourth grade. It looks substantial for Schmitz Park a 14 point drop in reading corresponds to the 30 point drop in mathematics.

The WASL data can't be normed, but it does give you clues as what type of problems students are having difficulty with.

In California I have 5 groups of mixed 9-11th graders taking a science class that meets college requirements including a lab.

The majority are not able to convert units either by multiplying or dividing. They are unfamiliar with multiplying and dividing fractions.

YET our high school still continues to teach these kids AND they can enroll in adult education classes, learning centers, alternative programs.

My point is California has the infrastructure to catch these students BEFORE they become dropouts. I thanked my Principal that this was one of the most trouble free school years I have ever started. Teachers have got to stay real and focus on kids and curriculum. Unlike Washington, I have the freedom to write my curriculum, so long as I teach standards. There are teachers that rely on their textbooks, but teaching is more than just that. Washington is just plain hopeless. But if they can live with it, so be it, the rest of the world will go on.