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Freefall

Original post made by OhlonePar, Duveneck/St. Francis, on Sep 5, 2008

Well the scores are out and as I predicted, Ohlone's scores fell--even more dramatically than I would have thought--down to 881 (hello Barron Park). Was it only three years ago or so that the scores were 929?

This is what you get when you have a school administration trying to do too many things at once--trying to assemble the MI/Ohlone mash-up in all its whacky details instead of making sure the current students were learning and that teachers were staying on task instead of devising ways to welcome our MI "brothers and sisters" as one MIer once put it.

Congratulations Juana Briones--great score climb there--49 points. Parents from there have always said great things about the school, it's nice to see it pay off quantitatively.

Comments (35)

Posted by Link?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 5, 2008 at 11:45 am

Can you supply a link if available?


Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2008 at 12:14 pm

What I thought was fascinating - at back to school night for JLS, we heard the spanish class for 8th graders, has 35 kids per class, and 20 year old text books, and all the while we know Ohlone is spending hundreds of thousands on MI. Its official, we're in the twilight zone. I wonder what our friend Camille Townsend has to say about this kind of gross disparity in resources from school to school and program to program WITHIN the DISTRICT? Probably 'who cares'.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Web Link

Isn't this interesting - 2nd grade panic anyone? - No Way, not here! (see previous MI threads for denial denial denial of..) And very interesting advice here on how to orchestrate the lobbying campaign for your cause (should you be interested or find your program in need of diverting attention from alarmingly low test scores...) All from our very own. Very cool.


Posted by Another JLS Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2008 at 12:45 pm

Yes Parent

At JLS, we heard not only about the 35 students per class, but also had a demonstration of their only technology, a video tape so old it spoke about using Pesetas in Spain. Oh and we had to buy our textbook (well it is actually a workbook and not able to be used a second time, but we still had to buy it).

I wonder what technology is being used in the MI classrooms?


Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 5, 2008 at 12:53 pm

FWIW, my Terman child last year was in a Spanish class with 34 or 35, which shocked us. Though someone pointed out the alternative was two classes of 17, which would have been nice but I can understand if that class size is too small. The surprise of it all was that my kid had a great year, loved Spanish, loved the teacher, and learned a ton.

But I generally agree - the emphasis on elementary language seems a little off, given that our established middle school program is certainly nothing to write home about (though our particular teacher was great).


Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 5, 2008 at 1:16 pm

I (gasp!) saw the scores in hard copy in the Merc. I assume that this
Web Link will get you there.

Parent,

Hmmm, extra funding--maybe that's why our clocks work!

Seriously, it's kind of ridiculous to have such an inequitable distribution of resources within the district. 35 kids is ridiculous for a language class--where ideally you'd have small enough groups that everyone would have a chance to speak in the language.

Back to Ohlone (business as usual for me, right?)

The great weakness of project-based learning schools is that they're not easy to run--they take a lot of administration and teacher training. Ironically, it takes a lot of organization and management to create an effective less overtly structured environment. If you're doing differentiated instruction--you've got to stay on top of each kid's performance--you have to be creative and forward thinking in devising projects that work for a particular class.

It's real work for the teachers. When you've got the right teacher--it makes you want a do-over for your own elementary education. When the focus isn't there, you see slippage and disorganization.

While scores aren't everything, you've got to wonder why a school's score would drop so dramatically. Nothing like this happened with any of the other schools in the district. The only other big swing was with Juana Briones--and that was a good thing.

Well, actually I'm not wondering.


Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 5, 2008 at 2:41 pm

At Briones, part of the improvement likely comes from fewer overflow students, who sometimes spend only part of the year there. Having had 2 kids go through Briones, I must say the teachers are generally very good - both my kids had two different, but equally outstanding, 5th grade teachers, for instance. Especially impressive given the economic, ethnic, and language diversity in the school.


Posted by parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2008 at 2:59 pm

do JLS or Terman have Spanish in 6th grade?


Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 5, 2008 at 5:05 pm

Me Too,

Is Juana Briones at capacity then? Where are the overflows going this year?

I've just had the ongoing impression that Juana Briones parents feel a lot of loyalty to the school. I don't hear or see them complain.


Posted by SkepticAl
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 5, 2008 at 5:11 pm

I have a sincere question here:

Is there a problem?

Test scores go down. Okay. Based on a few more questions missed on one particular test, do you think the kids really know significantly less than they would have a couple/few years ago? Do you think they're less skilled in the areas you care about most? Are your greatest concerns for your children measurable in these tests? (Creativity, innovation, collaboration, writing, problem solving?) Do you think their long-term prospects have really changed or shifted for the worse?

If I were an administrator or parent at a school where test scores moved dramatically, yes, I would be interested in knowing why, if possible. There will be some fluctuations no matter what, though. And test scores are only one indicator of what's happening at a school, and when you get down to it, a relatively weak indicator. It's conveniently packaged data that allows for comparisons, but few people really take into account the shallowness of the comparison. At a Palo Alto elementary school, each student (I think) comprises more than 1% of his/her grade level. Are there any statisticians/researchers out there who are going to draw firm conclusions based on testing of different students taught by different teachers in different conditions at different times, where each student's data can have that much impact on the results?



Posted by Me Too
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 5, 2008 at 5:21 pm

Not sure if Briones is at capacity - my kids are no longer in elementary. Non-overflow enrollment there has definitely increased from what I have heard, which may be demographic, or related to the new housing development on El Camino, which I believe attends Briones.

Briones has a good family community in my opinion, though I haven't much basis for comparing with others in PA.


Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 5, 2008 at 5:59 pm

SkepticAl,

I agree there are score fluctations and Ohlone's slight drops during the last two years didn't concern me--but this drop is sizable and Ohlone has moved from the middle of the pack to near the bottom.

So as a three-year trend that has accelerated, yes, I do think there's a cause for concern. Not because of the test scores themselves, but because it raises a question of what's going on. It's not a massive change in demographics. It's not something that's affecting the rest of the district. It's a big drop at one school after two years of smaller drops--at a time when there's relatively little change in the rest of the district. In other words, not a case of one year being artificially high due to a couple of class geniuses.

So what's that about? On the ground, I've seen a staff that's focused on creating a new program--that and the ongoing weakness in the 2/3 cluster are, I suspect, at the root of the slide. But I'd like to know.

There has *always* been an issue of whether MI was too much for Ohlone to bite off and chew. Since last year was heavily devoted to MI curriculum development--I *do* wonder if we're seeing some side effects from that.

Am I going to pull my child from Ohlone because of the school's scores? No. But I'm going to pay attention and ask questions.


Posted by JLS parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2008 at 6:45 pm

Parent:

JLS does not have Spanish or any other foreign language in 6th grade. Foreign language classes start in 7th grade. I believe this applies to the other middle schools in Palo Alto as well (except maybe for immersion programs, I am knowledgeable about the Spanish immersion program and whether it continues at the middle school level).

Reading the comments about the Spanish classes at JLS I am glad my child did not sign up for Spanish there this year in 7th grade. I doubt much real learning can happen in such a large foreign language class.


Posted by JLS parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 5, 2008 at 6:53 pm

I am NOT knowledgeable about the Spanish immersion program **


Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 5, 2008 at 9:00 pm

there is not a spanish immersion program at Jordan this year due in part to interfering parents who forget the diistrict runs the schools.


Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 5, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Hmmm, so they didn't get anything worked out on SI at Jordan did they? So are the kids from SI taking Spanish at all then?


Posted by Thinking
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 6, 2008 at 9:10 pm

Here's my take on the test scores at Ohlone.

If you have multiage classes, you are not going to study grade level standards every year except with 1/2 your class. Therefore, you aren't going to have as high scores as schools that cover standards with each grade. If you send your kids to Ohlone, you are buying into something different than test scores. In life there are tradeoffs. Sometimes Palo Alto folks don't like that, but it is hard to serve many masters.

If there are classes of 35 in Spanish, you can bet other classes are smaller and the 35 is an anomaly. It is hard to make classes all the same.


Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 6, 2008 at 9:22 pm

Thinking,

Ohlone's been mixed-age for years--both when it was in the middle of the pack and now since its slide downward.

The instruction's actually differentiated--so a subject will be studied in grade-appropriate ways. There's actually a greater range of instruction, say, in reading than at a standard school--a K/1 class will have nonreaders and kids reading at fifth-grade level in the same class--and each is working at his or her level. It's why some parents of gifted kids want their kids in the program--there's a degree of flexibility there.

My issue is not with Ohlone not having high scores, per se, but why they've been dropping the last three years and why the drop has been accelerating.


Posted by from personal EXP
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 6, 2008 at 9:29 pm

I wouldn't read too far into the test scores. Students that score Advanced earn 1000 points. Students that score Proficient earn fewer points and so on. A school, such as Ohlone, could have a significant number of students just miss the "advanced" cut-off and receive proficient scores.

There are lots of other reasons as well that could explain a drop or rise in API. Don't stress the numbers. The kids are ok.


Posted by Compare the year over year STAR test reports.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2008 at 10:19 pm

I just did a comparison of the STAR test report pages for Ohlone for 2007 vs. 2008. While overall the test scores are lower this year across all grade levels, there seems to have been a more precipitous drop for the 2008 fourth graders vs. the 2007 fourth graders.

For example, in 2007 2% of the Ohlone fourth graders scored far below basic in English language arts, but that number rose to 18% in 2008.

Likewise, in 2007 3% of the Ohlone fourth graders scored far below basic in Mathematics, but that number rose to 10% in 2008.

Was there something going on last year in the 4th/5th classrooms? Had there been turnover and a significant number of new or inexperienced teachers brought on board at the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year?


Posted by Mama
a resident of Duveneck School
on Sep 6, 2008 at 10:40 pm

I don't understand how to interpret the scores. If Duveneck is at 967, every student is on average, scoring 483 in each subject? The "Advanced" range is 402-600 per language arts and math. I find it hard to believe that each student is scoring that high. My children score in the "proficient" (350-401) and "advanced" range and they do well in school.

My husband says that interpretation of stats is not that easy and that the school on whole is doing well, but it does not mean that each child is necessarily scoring in the advanced range. Any statisticians out there who can simplify this?


Posted by See the API web pages
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 6, 2008 at 11:01 pm

Mama,

No, it does not mean that on average every student is scoring 483 in each subject. You need to review the API web pages for an explanation of how the API is calculated.

Look at the "Information Guide" for a basic explanation of the calculations. Or if you want to give yourself a headache and crossed eyes you can look at the "Calculation Spreadsheets Base and Growth" for an indication of the complexity involved in calculating the school API.

Web Link


Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2008 at 12:22 am

personal EXP,

I'm not stressing over my kids. I would like to know what's going on.

Compare,

Thank you for looking closely at it. I don't know of anything particular happening in the 4/5 cluster--it's traditionally been pretty strong--but 18 percent scoring far below on reading is kind of worrisome. That's nearly one in five fourth graders--that shouldn't be happening in Palo Alto, frankly. I almost wonder if it's a scoring mistake or poor test administration in a classroom.


Posted by Mama
a resident of Duveneck School
on Sep 7, 2008 at 10:15 am

See the API,

Thank you for the web link. Page 24 of the web link addresses the API Calculation. It describes how it is calculated but there is no way to figure out the average of what each student is scoring because the Scale Calibration Factor (which we do not know) is added to the school's average test score.


Posted by Review STAR test results
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2008 at 11:38 am

Mama,

If you are trying to gauge average student performance then you should look at the STAR test report pages. There you can see the mean scale scores for ELA and Math for all grades.

Go to this link and then enter "Santa Clara County", "Palo Alto Unified" and "Duveneck Elementary" to

Web Link


Posted by Mama
a resident of Duveneck School
on Sep 7, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Review STAR,

Thank you for the web link! That's exactly what I was looking for.


Posted by Personal EXP
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 7, 2008 at 7:18 pm

O-Par,

You can't compare one set of 4th graders vs. the following year's 4th graders. It's apples and oranges. The best way to "read" these scores is to follow a single child's growth over the years.

I have seen scores rise and fall each year based on the students involved... those in the pocket sample.

Again, I wouldn't worry. The scores will probably go up next year.


Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2008 at 7:40 pm

Personal EXP,

They've been going downward for the past three. I think you're missing the point of my concern.


Posted by Comparing California Standards Test (CST) Results
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 7, 2008 at 11:15 pm

"You can't compare one set of 4th graders vs. the following year's 4th graders. It's apples and oranges. The best way to 'read' these scores is to follow a single child's growth over the years."

Personal EXP,

In point of fact, comparing one set of 4th graders vs. the following year's 4th graders is one of the only valid comparisons you CAN make, per California Department of Education:

"When comparing results for the CSTs, you are limited to comparisons within the same subject and grade; that is, grade two English–language arts in 2007 compared to grade two English–language arts in 2008 or grade six mathematics in 2007 compared to grade six mathematics in 2008. No direct comparisons should be made between grades or between content areas.

Two types of comparisons are possible: (1) comparing the mean scale score; or (2) comparing the percent of students scoring at each performance level. The reviewer may compare results for the same grade and subject across years within a school, between schools, or between a school and its district, its county, or the state. When making comparisons, the reviewer should consider comparing the percent of students scoring proficient and advanced. This is because the state target is for all students to score at or above proficient."

Web Link

Web Link

Personally, I would say that focusing on a single child's scores year over year, can give parents SOME general insight into how the child is doing. For example are the scores in the broad range of "proficient" or are they "far below basic" or "advanced"?

However, focusing on a specific scale score is not productive. For example, comparing a mathematics scale score of 500 one year to a mathematics scale score of 450 the next. In this example, both scale scores are in the advanced range. Is this child's mathematics prowess really so different one year vs. the next? Probaby not. Perhaps the year over year difference could be chalked up to a bad night's sleep the night before the test the second year, leading to a couple of careless errors.

However, if that same child's scale score had fallen from 500 ("advanced") to 325 ("basic"), then I might question the reason behind this. Was the instruction adequate for that child during that school year? Was this a year in which the mathematics subject matter became fudamentally more difficult? Is there something else going on with that child that could have caused the slide?

Back to the original subject, I think that it is concerning that a sizable number of 4th graders at Ohlone fell into the "far below basic" range in both ELA and math last year. I imagine that the district is concerned as well.


Posted by Personal EXP
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 9, 2008 at 6:35 pm

CST Results,

The reason the CDE informs you that the only comparison you can make is this year's 4th graders vs last year's 4th graders is because that's the ONLY information they make available to the public. It's flawed data if you use it in this manner.

I review STAR data on a semi-daily basis. I have given presentations on STAR information. To be honest, I'm not that comfortable coming this year's 4th graders to last year's 3rd graders, even though they're the "same" kids. It's not a fair comparison, but alas it's the best we have aside from following a single student throughout the STAR process over a length time period.

Also, please note that a score of 600 on the STAR test (math or English) is a perfect score. A single missed question will drop your score to 560. A 2nd wrong question will drop your score to 525. A 3rd question drops your score to 495... and so on. The "1000" point score is based on scoring advanced on the test (usually in the 400-425 range qualifies as the low range of advanced).

OhlonePar,

Decreasing over a three year span is not a "big deal" if the drop is a measly 20 points a year. I'm not saying shouldn't be addressed (and I'm sure it is), but if you scroll back Ohlone's scores for the last 9 years, they've always ranged from 880-913 (with one score outside that range). The average over these years is 896.5 (not including the one score outside the common range). There is a reasonable range of +/-5% from that average. Ohlone is within that range.

I'm happy to answer questions, but scoring in the 880 range isn't a horrible thing.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 9, 2008 at 6:40 pm

I have found that a better way to judge these scores is look at last year's 4th grade results and compare them against this year's 5th grade results, and so on. This means that you are comparing the same group of kids to see how they have progressed over a grade level. This tends to be a very informative comparison.


Posted by Curioso
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2008 at 9:41 pm

I have a question. My child missed no questions on the math test. Is this something to write home about, or is this commonplace?


Posted by Personal EXP
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 10, 2008 at 9:15 pm

In a grade of 200 kids, we had anywhere from zero to ten kids score a perfect 600 on the math exam. It's not uncommon. It's impressive though.


Posted by here we go again
a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 13, 2008 at 10:38 pm

Right, blame everything on MI. Unbelievably predictable behavior from OP.


Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 14, 2008 at 12:35 am

Here we go again,

You're kind of late on this one.


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