Let’s Compare Apples to Apples When Evaluating Pueblo’s Public Schools
September 11, 2014
In recent editorials the Pueblo Chieftain has been singing the praises of Pueblo District 70 Schools (D70) and, in parallel both implicitly and explicitly, criticizing Pueblo District 60 (D60) for failure to achieve similar TCAP testing results. I needed a good set of data for my Statistics classroom so I decided to dig in to the TCAP data hoping to learn more about TCAP scores in general while exploring how well D70 was actually performing relative to D60.
The TCAP data are like most data sets produced by large government agencies, i.e., a big mess and far more difficult to interpret than necessary. But, I’ve seen a lot worse.
I downloaded the 2014 Math, Writing and Reading scores to see what I could learn. Boy, there’s a lot of data to sift through. Probably someone could do a doctoral dissertation analyzing the Colorado TCAP data. I don’t have time for that…at least not at the moment. So, for now, let’s look at the difference in economic circumstances between the two school districts.
The most readily available indicator of economic status by school and by district are the % Free and Reduced Lunch figures. Conveniently, the Colorado Dept of Education breaks down the testing results into 3 categories: (1) students qualifying for free lunch, (2) students qualifying for reduced lunch and (3) students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunch.
Here’s a table summarizing what I found:
Anything stand out to you?
What jumps off the page at me is that D60 educates more children receiving Free Lunch than the total number of students in D70. Somehow, I missed that in the Chieftain’s reporting.
Let’s say you’re a teacher and the principal asks you to choose between 2 classrooms, both with 30 students. The principal reminds you that the fate of your job, the school and the entire school district depends on you getting your students to succeed on a set of culturally biased standardized tests. As a professional educator you know that academic success is closely correlated with economic status. In classroom A you have 19 kids receiving free lunch and in classroom B you have only 9 kids receiving free lunch. Which classroom would you choose?
If we’re going to hand out trophies to D70 and castigate D60 let’s be sure to provide appropriate context. D60 has, by far, the more difficult task. To read the Chieftain you might mistakenly assume both districts are in the same boat.
I plan to dig further on this. Next post will likely explore the relationship between TCAP scores and % Free-Reduced Lunch eligibility. So stay tuned and, in the meantime, don’t be so quick to throw D60 under the big yellow bus.