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School Issues: Students Smarter in Kindergarten than Third Grade

Miriam Bowers Abbott Miriam Bowers Abbott School Issues: Students Smarter in Kindergarten than Third Grade
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Last week, former Columbus City Schools board member Steph Groce unleashed her intellect and slew of education documents on her new website.

This week, she dropped the bombshell.

Groce looks at Kindergarten Readiness scores at local schools, and compares those scores to performance data on third grade proficiency tests.

The results of the comparison are horrifying: children enter the school system ready-to-learn. By third grade at Columbus City Schools, those children are left behind on the proficiency tests.

While some schools, such as Fairmoor and Avondale, see huge improvements in student achievement between kindergarten and third grades, 48 of the 69 schools in Groce’s report see declines in student performance.

Among those 48 schools are buildings with great technology; 21 of the 48 schools already offer preschool.

Consider a high-performing school such as Winterset; 96.4% of its kindergarteners enter ready-to-learn. By third grade, only 74.4% pass the reading section of the proficiency test. East Linden Elementary provides preschool: 64.3% enter ready, only 40% pass the proficiency test in third grade. (The comparison tables can be viewed in their entirety at educatecolumbus.org.)

Groce points out that building comparisons aren’t a statistician’s ideal: students move around. However, crediting a problem of this magnitude to student mobility seems wholly irrational.

It’s also been argued that proficiency testing fails to measure student achievement. Even so, proficiency tests aren’t going anywhere: they will continue to be the standard by which Ohio schools are measured. Like it or not, local schools celebrate good proficiency test scores.

That leaves Columbus with a bigger problem. It’s not a political problem. And it’s not a problem that’s fixed with preschool or technology, or a unilateral takeover of the schools by an unelected commission.

CLICK HERE for more ongoing information and discussion on the Columbus Education Commission.

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  • This is interesting information but what might be more interesting would be to compare this same info to similar stats for other districts. For example, how do other large urban districts compare, like maybe Toledo, Dayton, Cincinnati, etc. How do the stats compare to charter schools within the Columbus District? to other districts in Central Ohio like Upper Arlington or Worthington or SW City Schools? Might we discover that many school districts have a similar problem? or that Columbus is actually better than some of the other urban districts?

    More important, and seemingly lacking in ALL of the things I read about Columbus City Schools is the issue of poverty. If you do the research, I think you find that one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, contributors to failing schools is poverty and its systemic and generational impact on schools and chilren in those schools.

    While I applaud the desire of all involved to “fix” Columbus City Schools, it might make sense to think about “fixing” poverty in Columbus as a starting point.

  • kelly_S

    I am disappointed that someone as bright as Ms. Groce would push such misleading data. KRAL is designed to do one thing — assess readiness for Kindergarten. It is done by the teacher individually for each student. KRAL determines which children will need more assistance, which are “on target” and which might benefit from additional enrichment. It in no way indicates the likelihood of future success on a standardized test given three years later.

    Whether public preschool or preK is helping (or hurting) is a legitimate question. Ms Groce’s analysis is not helping.

  • Superfluous

    Lisa and Kelly-

    While obviously CCS faces multiple challenges,

    1) There are models that are working with students that by any measure are living in poverty. Just because other large urban districts also have lousy schools does not mean CCS is off the hook.

    2) The primary reason that being ready for kindergarten doesn’t correlate to success on a standardized test later is that the education they receive is not equal. Let’s look at why Fairmoor and Avondale might be showing success, and unless the reason is manipulating test scores, see if it can be brought to schools like Winterset.

    3) Part of the point Ms. Groce made by posting this is that no one will make available the student-level data that would allow more meaningful assessments.

  • Superflous – Nowhere did I ever suggest that if other large, urban schools are having lousy results that it would mean CCS is off the hook. I’m just suggesting that it might be interesting to know if all large, urban schools suffer the same problem or if perhaps some highly-regarded suburban schools might also have these issues, too. Or if CCS is really the only place in the universe that this occurs, then maybe it does point to something uniquely wrong with CCS. We won’t know until we examine the data Ms. Groce posted about CCS in comparison to all kinds of other schools. I’m just suggesting that data in a vacuum is data in a vacuum. It might be helpful to have more data for comparison. And has it occurred to you that there might be a couple other factors that happen between Kindergarten and Grade 3 that might have an impact on how children perform other than just “that the education they receive is not equal”? It is not fair to attribute the difference soley to un-equal education when so many other environmental and personal factors could contribute to the student’s performance.

  • lizless

    At the end of the day, it’s all in the last paragraph. The commission is pushing “good ideas” for reform with zero evidence behind them. Sounds like a recipe for another ten years of failure.

  • I wonder if there is a way to tell which schools have community partners that come into the school with reading programs.

  • Good question. This guy: http://www.kidsohio.org/, might have that answer.

    I know there is lots of research that suggests that building a community with clear, high expectations of success does impact student performance. Community partners can help build that environment. (And, anecdotally, I know that Avondale, mentioned above, has a really good relationship with Mount Carmel)

  • Superfluous

    Lisa- yes, it has occurred to me that there might be a couple (of) other factors between K and 3 that might have an impact on how children perform on standardized tests. One that I can think of is removing kids who aren’t likely to perform well from the roles so that they don’t hurt your system’s scores.

    But in the school my kids attend, the success rate actually went down about 20%, so unless we have the world’s worst fixer or the fixer is somehow biased against that school, I don’t think that was the issue here.

    I am interested. What other factors do you see causing one in five of the kids in a particular building to go from school-ready at 5 to subpar in reading by 8?

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