Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Miscalculations of District's Summer Report Confuses Scores for Grades 2 through 7 in Reading (SRI) and Mathematics (SMI) Diagnostic Assessments

Recently, the Hoboken School District released its District Progress Report #3 (Summer 2012). In many ways, it is a very typical "good news" type of publication that districts provide to parents and the public. The report includes district goals, sum me reading lists, some date on attendance, a number of mini-reports from each of the individual schools in the district (Brandt, Calabro, Connors, Hoboken High School and Wallace), some discussion of sports and a listing of students making the Honor Roll. There is also a letter from the Board President as well as some words from key district administrators (you can view the entire report as a PDF below).

One area of particular interest to me as well as some concern was a story entitled "Hoboken Students Demonstrate Strong Achievement" and contained information about pre and post test scores on the SRI (Scholastic Reading Inventory) as well as the SMI (Scholastic Mathematics Inventory) assessments.

One need only look at a recent post on a local blog to see how the misuse of this diagnostic information has been used to give a sense that state mandated test scores are on the rise. Please Click HERE to view the misleading blog entry.

Many regular readers of my blog will recall I brought the SRI into the district back in June of 2008. Having being used effectively for the next academic year (2008-2009) it was all but abandoned when Interim Superintendent Carter entered the district in September 2009 and the political group known as Kids First took full control of the Board of Education.

In the Summer 2012 Report SRI and SMI scores are reported from two time points. One at the start of the school year (September 2011) and one at the end of the school year (June 2012). Its unfortunate that this rather simple diagnostic test was given at only 2 points. The tests are fully computerized and intended to be given at multiple points throughout the school year (we gave them at the end of each marking period- giving 4 time points). Even more unfortunate is that someone reading this report may be confused and believe that the districts achievement (mandated) test scores are rising. This is unfortunately not the case. These are NOT the NJASK scores or the HSPA scores which are mandated by No Child Left Behind legislation. Rather, this is simply an in district diagnostic test intended to provide feedback for instruction.

More unfortunate is there appears to be a major error in the reporting of the percentage gains made during the 2011-2012 school year. When a quantity grows (gets bigger), then we can compute its PERCENT INCREASE.

This is a simple calculation:

PERCENT INCREASE = (new amount -original amount) / original amount

Unfortunately, this simple formula was inappropriately applied and the numbers reported by the district were reported incorrectly...and all errors make it appear that student gains were greater than realized.

Another error is that the percentages of the June 2012 administration of the SMI totals to 110% (25% + 30% + 22% + 33% = 110%). This is an obvious mistake and one that also leads to confusing post test results.
To be clear, the scores on these diagnostics are informative and positive but it is disappointing that they are riddled with computational errors (click picture to ENLARGE and see Excel spreadsheet). It also would have been informative to know 1) how many students took the assessments (n), 2) number of students who took the assessments per grade, and 3) did all students take both the pre and the post assessments.

It will be interesting to see how the actual Spring 2012 NJASK scores for Grades 2-7 correlate with these non-NCLB diagnostic scores. THAT would be an informative analysis and one that would show clearly the utility of the SRI and SMI diagnostics as well as how effectively they are being used by district Directors, Supervisors, and Curriculum Coordinators in providing effective instruction in grades 2 through 7.


So, what is the SRI? The SRI is group-administered screening assessment for identifying students’ reading levels and identifying students who are reading substantially below grade level. The SRI requires students to choose words to complete cloze sentences that represent the main idea of a short text. It includes a wide range of narrative and expository texts of increasing difficulty. The SRI provides teachers with scores that are on the same scale as the Lexile Framework—a readability scale making them easy to interpret and useful in matching students with texts that have a Lexile level.

What is the purpose of the assessment? -
“The tests are based on a powerful new system, called the Lexile Framework that can help you accurately assess your students’ comprehension levels and match them with appropriate texts for successful reading experiences.”

What is the test actually measuring?
Students’ ability to get the gist of short, narrative fiction and non-fiction passages sufficiently to correctly fill in the blank in short, summary sentences.

Overall Strengths
■ Matches students to texts using Lexile scale.
■ Scale is useful for showing growth over time.
■ Efficiency in identifying students who are reading significantly below grade level.
■ Usefulness for leveling students – the readability formula (a way of determining the difficulty level of a text)
provides a simple way for teachers to gauge the difficulty students experience when reading texts of various levels.

Overal Weaknesses
■ Does not provide information about skills such as analyzing, evaluating texts on an aesthetic basis,
appreciating or comparing texts.
■ Vocabulary is not assessed separately.
■ The SRI does not distinguish where the breakdown in comprehension occurs.
■ Length of the test; students could get tired because there are 54 different short passages.

Read more from an independent report by Carnegie Learning: CLICK HERE

The SMI (Scholastic Mathematics Inventory) is a research-based, computer-adaptive math assessment program for students in Grades 2 – 8+ that measures math understanding on The Quantile Framework® for Mathematics. The most powerful feature of SMI is its ability to administer fast and reliable low-stakes assessment to inform instruction and make accurate placement recommendations. Aligned to the Common Core State Standards, SMI helps educators forecast student achievement to those important goals.

Summer 2012 Newsletter

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