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Obfuscatory report cards

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The kids' report cards came home this week. The grades are E for exceeding the standard, M for meeting the standard consistently, P for progressing towards standard, N for not meeting the standard, and N/A for standard not assessed this term.

Duncan's first grade report card has 26 Ms and 3 Ps on academic performance. Margaret's third grade report card has 7 Ms and 17 Ps. So relative to grade level, Duncan is doing a lot better than Margaret, right?

Not so fast. The report card doesn't say whether an M means meeting the standard of where the student is expected to be at the present time, or meeting the standard of where the student is expected to be at the end of the school year. For items that are expected to be completed in one quarter, there may be no difference, but some items may stretch out for multiple quarters, or even the entire year.

Duncan's teacher grades relative to where the student is supposed to be at the end of the current quarter. His report card actually says he's very slightly behind the curve. Margaret's teacher grades relative to where the student is supposed to be at the end of the current year. It's much harder to tell where she is relative to where she should be, since we don't know which items should be completed at the end of the first quarter, but if we assume a linear progression from all P at the beginning of the year to all M at the end of the year, she might be slightly ahead of the curve. Certainly a student exactly following the expected progression in Margaret's class would still have a lot of Ps.

So the better progression would be represented by a worse report card. It's almost as if this system were designed for obfuscation rather than communication.
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On December 1st, 2016 07:43 pm (UTC), Elizabeth Nugent commented:
It gets better...
Don't forget about the Es. Your children don't have any on their report cards. Does that mean they're not excelling? No. Because no assessment asks children to do more than grade level work, it is impossible for them to demonstrate that they are ahead of grade level, even if they are. No one has asked Duncan to spell a third-grade word or to read a second-grade text, so you have no idea whether he could do either, and neither does his teacher.

Obfuscation indeed.
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On December 1st, 2016 08:56 pm (UTC), psychohist replied:
Re: It gets better...
Yes. According to Margaret, her teacher explicitly said she didn't give out Es, presumably for this reason. Duncan could presumably get Es if he were at a level farther along in the school year than end of first quarter.

However, we also know that at least one kid in the other 3rd grade class is being assigned homework beyond 3rd grade level. We're now worried that there may be some hidden tracking involved that is working against Margaret.

Edit: turns out Duncan's teacher doesn't give out Es either.

Edited at 2016-12-02 03:17 am (UTC)
On December 2nd, 2016 11:32 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) replied:
Re: It gets better...
"Duncan could presumably get Es if he were at a level farther along in the school year than end of first quarter."

Not if they never ask him any questions about upcoming material. And your edit shows that they probably don't.
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On February 16th, 2017 07:41 am (UTC), psychohist replied:
They slipped up
Fortunately the school slipped up and used computer adaptive tests starting in third grade. They don't affect the report card, but I was able to get results from the teacher.

Margaret's math started the year at grade level 3.5 and is 4.5 at mid year. Her reading was 2.2 at the beginning of the year and 3.2 at mid year.

Her report card shows all Ms except for one P in math, which if you remember that her teacher grades relative to end of year standards, is pretty consistent with the test.

When I talked to Margaret about the report card and tests - at her request - she immediately calculated projections for the end of the year. Then she looked thoughtful but I don't know if she was projecting going to MIT at age 13.

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On December 7th, 2016 02:24 am (UTC), twe commented:
It's perplexing that the have an E rating, but won't use it. What's the point of having it?

We have a similar sort of ranking (Very Good, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement, Progressing with challenges) but they seem perfectly capable of assessing when kids are above grade level in things, esp. reading & math, which they have set things up in a way that grade level falls in the middle of the spectrum of possible outcomes. (for example, there's a nightly fluency reading assignment where you have your child read out loud for 1 minute and note how many words they read correctly. Grade level is in the 50-70 range, but the passages go up to 200ish words) It seems like it should be possible to assess enough to give out Es.
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On February 16th, 2017 07:29 am (UTC), psychohist replied:
I believe the point of having it is to assess students that are ahead of grade level, to see whether they too are progressing.

I believe the point of not using it is to triage away the students that are ahead of grade level, so all resources can be used to bring students who are slightly behind grade level up to grade level to maximize the MCAS results on which the school is graded.

Edited at 2017-02-16 07:43 am (UTC)
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