POV: Poverty and achievement are inextricably linked

Points_view

This Point of View was submitted by Shaker Junior High School principal Dr. Russell Moore of the North Colonie Central School District. Dr. Moore is currently in his 27th year as a principal. You can read more from him at his blog “Moore Perspective.”

The NYS Commissioner of Education, John B.King, Jr., recently posted a letter on a NY public access web site regarding the 2014 NYS assessment results, released in late August.  Included in his letter are two scatterplots of all the New York State results by school, one graph for ELA and the other for math.  Each school is displayed based on their 2014 percent proficient and their reported percentage of economically disadvantaged students.  In other words, the scatterplots (which can be viewed along with King’s entire letter at engageny.org and are reproduced below) show the relationship between academic achievement, as measured by the NYS assessments, and poverty:

math scatterplot

The relationship is fairly clear to see in both scatterplots; as schools’ poverty levels increase their achievement results decrease.  This is not a universal surety, as there are always exceptions to any rule, but the trend is obvious.   And this trend is not shocking or contrary to historical data.  Indeed, there is a clear correlation heavily supported by research between poverty and achievement.  Students of poverty perform worse, in general, on all measures of academic achievement.  I want to stress that there are exceptions to what research clearly indicates.  There are, of course, economically disadvantaged students who do very well academically, in fact, some who do as well as typical wealthier students.

Commissioner King writes, however,

“These results make clear that those who claim that demography is destiny and that we cannot improve teaching and learning until we have first fixed poverty are simply mistaken.  In New York, there are many examples of higher poverty/higher performance schools…this is not to imply that poverty is an unimportant factor – it is extremely important, for all of us.  But the idea that poverty or family circumstances outside of school are insurmountable obstacles for teaching and learning is a fallacy.”

When considered only on the surface, his statement is meant to empower, to reinforce that poverty does not mandate poor performance for every student but instead that any student has the capability to rise above his/her poverty and succeed.  Indeed, while accurate, his statement tends to remove poverty from the equation, which is misleading and even disingenuous.  I encourage Commissioner King to read Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol, in which the plight of East St. Louis schools is detailed.  Kozol would agree that even in the poorest of schools there are individual students who rise above their poverty and succeed academically, but he would stress the obvious:  that doing so is highly improbable.

And that’s where King’s message is misleading.  Academic achievement is strongest where opportunities are richest.  Where do opportunities abound?  Not in poor districts, but in the wealthier ones.  Money is needed to provide opportunities for students, to provide facilities that put students in a proper environment, to provide top quality teachers, to provide programs that allow students to stretch, to provide, well, to provide all that the students in wealthy districts have.   You cannot provide equal opportunities for students until you address the inequity of wealth between districts.  Until you do that, students in poverty will not have anywhere the same opportunities and the trends seen in the scatterplots above will continue, if not worsen.

Commissioner King, let’s be honest.  Your pep talk is empty until there is equitable funding for schools.  You can attempt to encourage all you want but there will only continue to be the exceptions you mention in your letter.  You cannot will away the link between poverty and achievement.

And that is my perspective.

Could students benefit from year-round school?

New York state requires 180 instructional days in the classroom. Historically speaking, those 180 days are spread out between the months of September through June, with July and August serving as summer recess.

But, what if a district took those 180 days and spread them out over an entire 12-month calendar year? At one school in West Virginia, administrators, teachers and parents swear by a year-round calendar that has the same number of teaching days as any other school, but spread throughout the year.

WATCH VIDEO: Could students benefit from year-round school? (PBS News)

Friday Rundown 9.5.14

By now, most students across New York state have returned to school. If you were busy and missed anything this week getting the kids ready for school, we’ve got you covered. Here’s this week’s Rundown.

State backing off on Common Core mandates after so many weighed in (Albany Times Union)

Astorino’s plan: Regents overhaul, Common Core replacement, vouchers (Capital New York)

NYSUT fights back in tenure attack (Albany Times Union)

School lunch prices on the rise (Buffalo news)

Opinion: Cuomo must use state surplus to remedy separate and unequal education system (Buffalo News)

Common Core to sink or swim this school year (Journal News)

State Board of Regents plans easier paths to high school graduation (NY Daily News)

View: Smart Schools bond a bad investment (Journal News)

What it actually takes for schools to ‘go digital’ (The Herchinger Report)

Friday Rundown 8.22.14

Happy Friday! It’s one of the last weekends of summer and schools are gearing up to open. The schools receiving Pre-K grant funding have been released just a few weeks before the school year begins. According to recent educational polling, many support common educational standards, but not the Common Core in particular. Some credit this to the poor implementation, funding questions and issues with the standardized tests. Educators are hoping the Pre-K roll out will go more smoothly. Read about this and more in this week’s Friday Rundown stories.

Poll: Common Core support among teachers plummets, with fewer than half supporting it (The Washington Post)

Schools allotted $4M for pre-K programs (Albany Times Union)

Seeking New Start, Finding Steep Cost (New York Times)

Study these schools (New York Daily News)

Comparing PDK and Education Next Polls (Education Next)

Common Core: State pays schools to reduce tests (The Journal News)

Teachout talks education, energy in run vs. Cuomo (Poughkeepsie Journal)

Smart School Act will show it works (Albany Times Union)

Newest Schenectady graduates used summer school as ‘life lesson’ (Daily Gazette)

Obama’s Learning Curve (Wall Street Journal)

Letter: Laptops top list of schools’ needs (The Journal News)

A shocking statistic about the quality of education research (The Washington Post)

NY ‘fixed’ Common Core tests — and scores surged (New York Post)

Times Union: State disqualifies 320,000 from school tax relief

Via Rick Karlin: Approximately 320,000 New Yorkers have been informed that they won’t be receiving a School Tax Relief, or STAR exemption, when tax bills go out in September.

According to state officials, certain properties have not met New York’s registration requirements, including those who earn $500,000 or more annually, and those who have registered more than one home for the exemption. The exemption only applies to the primary residence.

The average STAR savings is $700, although several factors contribute to the calculation of the actual exemption amount, including the level of assessment in the community and, for Enhanced STAR (age 65 and older) only, an annual adjustment based on the rate of inflation. Prior-year savings under STAR are also a factor, as there is now a 2 percent cap on the increase in maximum STAR savings over the previous year.

Last year, a new law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo meant that all homeowners receiving Basic STAR had to re-register with the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance in order to continue receiving the exemption in 2014 and beyond.

Most New York state homeowners are familiar with the STAR program launched in 1998-99. Originally intended to assist senior citizen homeowners (age 65 and over), STAR was quickly increased and expanded to include residential properties of other school district taxpayers.

Local school districts are reimbursed by the state for property tax revenues that go
uncollected as a result of STAR exemptions. Since its inception, STAR has shifted more
than $3.4 billion from the local tax burden to the state.

Friday Rundown 8.15.14

The back to school season has many of us thinking about going to bed earlier, shopping for school supplies, studying and textbooks. Reporters are evidently thinking the same, in addition to pension costs, budgets and the newly released 3-8 test scores. For more information, check out these stories from this week’s Friday Rundown.

Release of Grades 3-8 Assessment Scores

N.Y. school pension costs will rise 7.8% (The Journal News)

Not Everyone Has the Tools to Become Rich: How Our Childhood Shapes Our Ability to Succeed (Huffington Post)

SUNY project helps top teachers master skills to benefit students (Middletown Times Herald Record)

Private contractors cut school costs (Times Union)

Second year of Common Core tests shows math scores inch up, English scores flat (The Journal News)

Language on N.Y. ballots raises concerns again (The Poughkeepsie Journal)

Michelle Rhee Prepares To Leave CEO Job At StudentsFirst, Group She Founded (Huffington Post)

No, third grade is not the year when kids go from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’ (Washington Post)

Going broke sending the kids back to school? Average cost of school supplies tops $100 (Today.com – NBC News)

The Teen Who Woke Up Her School (Huffington Post)

Common-Core Math Textbooks to Get Online Ratings (Education Week)

Math scores up, ELA remains flat, on 3-8 assessments

New York students showed progress in Common Core-based math exams in 2014, but scores on English Language Arts assessments remained largely stagnant.

On Thursday, the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) released district and school results for the English and math assessments that students in grades three through eight took in the spring of 2014. This is the second year the exams have been aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards.

According to NYSED, students statewide made “significant” progress in math, increasing from 31.2 a year ago to 35.8 across all grades combined. The percentage of students scoring at the partial proficiency level and above also rose in math, from 66.9 to 69.6 percent.

Students made slight progress in ELA, – 31.3 percent in 2013 to 31.4 percent in 2014 – though progress varied across the need/resource categories.

Both Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and State Education Commissioner John King described the Common Core implementation as a “transition period,” but both praised the progress made.

“The test scores show that students from all economic, race, ethnicity and geographic backgrounds can and are making progress,” Tisch said. “This is still a transition period. It will take time before the changes taking place in our classrooms are fully reflected in the test scores. But the growth we see is directly attributable to the dedication and determination of so many classroom teachers and school leaders across the state.”

Last year, the scores provided a new baseline for student performance based upon the changes taking place in classrooms across the state and the country. 2014 is the first year a “matched students” approach is being taken, measuring student learning growth and providing more applicable data that compares the performance of one year’s students at a particular grade level against the next year’s cohort at the same grade level.

State assessments do not factor into a student’s grades. State test scores are used to help determine which students may need extra help and the best ways to provide extra academic support.

Regional Summary of 3-8 Exam Results:

Mathematics

Students statewide are doing better in math. The percentage of students who met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4) increased from 31.2 to 35.8 across all grades combined. The percentage of students scoring at the partial proficiency level and above also rose, from 66.9 percent to 69.6 percent.

A smaller percentage of students met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4) in the Big 4 city school districts than statewide. However, year-to-year performance increased in each Big 5 city school district, and New York City performance approached statewide levels.

  • Buffalo: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 11.4 in 2013 to 13.1 in 2014.
  • New York City: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 30.1 in 2013 to 34.5 in 2014.
  • Syracuse: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 7.2 in 2013 to 7.6 in 2014.
  • Rochester: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 4.8 in 2013 to 6.8 in 2014.
  • Yonkers: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 16.1 in 2013 to 21.1 in 2014.

Although the achievement gap remains statewide, an increased percentage of students across all race/ethnicity groups met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4).

  • Black students: the statewide percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above across all grades combined improved from 16.1 in 2013 to 19.3 in 2014.
  • Hispanic students: the statewide percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above across all grades combined improved from 18.9 in 2013 to 23.1 in 2014.

ELA

Students statewide are doing slightly better in ELA. The percentage of students who met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4) increased from 31.3 to 31.4 across grades combined. The percentage of students scoring at the partial proficiency level and above also rose, from 69.0 percent to 70.0 percent.

A smaller percentage of students met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4) in the Big 4 city school districts than statewide. Year-to-year performance increases were largest in New York City and Yonkers, and New York City’s performance approached statewide levels.

  • Buffalo: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 12.1 in 2013 to 12.2 in 2014.
  • New York City: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 27.4 in 2013 to 29.4 in 2014.
  • Syracuse: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above stayed the same, at 8.5, from 2013 to 2014.
  • Rochester: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 5.6 in 2013 to 5.7 in 2014.
  • Yonkers: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above improved from 16.9 in 2013 to 18.7 in 2014.

In New York City, an increased percentage of students in all race/ethnicity groups met or exceeded the proficiency standard (by scoring at a Level 3 or 4). For example:

  • Black students: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above across all grades combined improved from 17.2 in 2013 to 18.6 in 2014.
  • Hispanic students: the percentage of students scoring at Level 3 and above across all grades combined improved from 17.2 in 2013 to 18.7 in 2014.

Measuring Student Progress in Grades 3-8 English Language Arts and Mathematics [PDF]

 

NYSUT plans to shred symbolic contract in protest

New York teachers are planning to protest the privatization of public education by shredding a symbolic contract with giant testing company Pearson.

The protest by leaders of New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) will be held Monday, August 11, at 7:30 p.m. on the steps of the State Education Department.

According to NYSUT, teachers will feed the symbolic Pearson contract into paper shredders. The protest – which will be joined by New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento and United University Professions President Fred Kowal, among others – is part of NYSUT’s three-day endorsement conference, where local union presidents will weigh the voting records and make recommendations on candidates for state and federal office.

“This protest underscores, once again, the undue corporate influence on the education of children,” NYSUT President Karen E. Magee said. “We are speaking out against deep-pocket forces that want to privatize public education and erode due process rights.”

Friday Rundown 8.8.14

A good Friday morning to you. For most New York school districts, the first day of school is less than a month away. Can you believe that? Here’s your Rundown from the last week.

State Ed releases half of Common Core test questions (Buffalo News)

NY Minute: Cuomo considers tax break, school aid for $4.2 billion in extra cash (Syracuse Post Standard)

School reforms that actually work (The Washington Post)

Three takeaways from The Colbert Report’s teacher-tenure talk (Chalkbeat)

A lesson from South Korea: Student resistance to high-stakes testing (The Washington Post)

Gov. Cuomo signs law requiring coaches to report signs of child abuse (NY Daily News)

Boston Research Finds Kids’ Brains Benefit From Playing Music (WBUR)

Cracking the Girl Code: How to End the Tech Gender Gap (Time)

NY to invest $14M to promote stem cell education (Utica Observer Dispatch)

The Top Twitter Feeds in Education Policy 2014 (Spoiler alert: @edspeaksNY did not make the list, though we would appreciate a follow from you!) (Education Next)