A. ACHIEVEMENT ANALYSIS
1. Expected Levels of Achievement
School system effectiveness is somewhat related to the socioeconomic status of the community and the educational levels of parents. Recent studies have suggested that early childhood experiences affect learning and development, with children from impoverished environments generally achieving at lower levels than those from more enriching situations. An article in the April 21, 1997, issue of US News and World Report, for example, supports the notion that improving social and family conditions, particularly in the early years, can enhance development.
Achievement has also been associated with child rearing practices, assertive mothers generally rearing children who achieve at higher levels than those reared by less assertive mothers. (See Guy Odom, Mothers, Leadership, and Success, Houston: Polybius Press, 1989.) The effective school research has abundantly demonstrated that achievement levels between poor and affluent students can be narrowed considerably while increasing levels of achievement for all students. Nevertheless, the criteria of effectiveness are generally met at a higher level when student populations contain a small percentage of free and reduced lunch students (an indicator of poverty levels) and the educational level of parents is high school completion or above. We can generally assume that school systems which have better entry level characteristics than the state average will meet the criteria of effectiveness at a higher level than those whose entry level characteristics match or are below the state average. Entry level characteristics used for predicting student achievement levels are items such as:
In this audit, the items used to predict the levels at which the effectiveness criteria should be met by the Fort Worth Independent School District include:
Educational researchers and auditors realize that predictions and judgments cannot be made from a single indicator. Therefore, the audit uses a multiple variable approach to making recommendations and arriving at conclusions. It is the same method used by various state departments of education to establish accountability and validate school effectiveness. It was initially developed by the South Carolina Department of Education (Division of Public Accountability) and has been used in several other states. If a number of variables indicate something, and all the variables are in the same direction, then the confidence level of the prediction, or the conclusion, is well established. This is a commonly accepted practice in educational auditing.
It is important to note that since 1993, the Fort Worth Independent School District with its 77,000 students, 7,800 employees and 112 schools has become the ninth fastest growing urban school district (with over 50,000 students) in the United States Such growth brings with it an added set of challenges, complexities and opportunities. To predict school results for the Fort Worth Independent School District, we find these conditions:
Given these factors, the Fort Worth Independent School District should establish the following effectiveness levels:
2. Early Grade/Upper Grade Analysis
Generally, students achieving at a certain level in early grades should continue to achieve at that same level in upper grades. When this does not occur, a more rigorous academic program should be provided at upper grade levels. Uniform achievement from grade level to grade level is known as "value added" achievement.
An analysis of the data in the Fort Worth Independent School District indicates that student achievement declines slightly as students progress through 10th grade, as indicated by performance on both the norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests.
3. Cross-subject Analysis
Cognition is the process by which knowledge is acquired through the use and interpretation of environmental symbols. When groups of students achieve results which indicate aggregate performance at a particular level in one cognitive area, the group should be expected to achieve aggregate performance at that same level in other cognitive areas. Individuals can do just as well in one cognitive area as in any other cognitive area, unless the learning process is in some way impaired. Equalization of expectations of cognition among groups should not be applied to individuals within those groups.
The data in the Fort Worth Schools indicate a need for greater effectiveness in the teaching of reading and mathematics in the upper grades, as indicated by performances on both the norm-referenced and criterion-referenced tests. Students perform at higher levels in the lower grades, with declining achievement through 10th grade.
4. Advanced Placement Analysis
Having an Advanced Placement program in the high school creates a stronger academic press for the students and higher expectations for student achievement. The ability of the district to be successful in this effort is related to its willingness to retrain its teaching staff and to establish a more rigorous curriculum.
In the Forth Worth Schools, approximately 20% of eligible students participate in Advanced Placement programs, which exceeds the effectiveness level of 10%. The percentage earning eligibility for college credit, however, should be improved. This can usually be accomplished by training teachers and adhering to the Advanced Placement curriculum. Improving test-taking skills can also help students obtain higher levels of achievement.
The Fort Worth I.S.D. is commended for enrolling a significant number of qualified students in Advanced Placement courses, but it should make greater effort to provide more rigorous instruction which should result in producing 65% of the Advanced Placement tests taken attaining a score of 3, 4 or 5.
5. Achievement/Grade Point Average
Grade Inflation Analysis An analysis of grade point averages indicates the highest grade inflation occurs in the lowest achieving schools. This is suggestive of low expectations for those students who most need to have higher expectations. Schools with grade inflation tend to reward low quality work and grades may not reflect actual learning levels. In school systems where grade inflation has been lowered, student performance has increased substantially.
In the Fort Worth Independent School District, we find that the grade point average is 2.85. The mean for the cohort group is 2.4 and the effectiveness level is 2.2. This indicates grade inflation does exist in the district which in turn can lead to lower student achievement. To attain the effectiveness level of a 2.2 GPA, the district should encourage teachers to assign grades appropriate to the level of student work. Doing so will reward high quality work and will raise expectations for all students.
B. ATTENDANCE ANALYSIS
1. Student Attendance
Currently, student attendance is at 93.56 percent. The effectiveness level is 94 percent and the mean is 90 percent. Student attendance rates in the Fort Worth I.S.D. are above the mean of its cohort group but below the effectiveness level. The District should be able to reach the effectiveness level in this area with some additional effort. A school-by-school analysis should be conducted to improve attendance at schools which have the lowest attendance rates. Disclosure of attendance levels to students and parents is helpful in attaining higher levels of attendance.
1. Student Attendance
Strategies to improve attendance levels include the following:
2. Teacher Attendance
Currently, the teacher absence rate is 5.81 The effectiveness level is 5.5 days per teacher per year and the mean is 7.5. Teacher attendance is a proxy indicator of effectiveness. Generally, the higher the absence ratio the less effective is a school system.
In the Fort Worth Independent Schools, a teacher absence rate of 5.81 is very close to the effectiveness level of 5.5 for the cohort group. With some additional effort, the district can achieve the effectiveness level in a one-to-two year period. Policy development and close monitoring of attendance can be helpful in reducing teacher absences. In computing the absence rate, both long-term absences and professional leave days are excluded from this analysis. The rate represents those days of absence which are under the control of teachers (see Appendix E: Formula for Computing Teacher Absence Index).
3. Drop-Out Information
The drop-out ratio in this audit is established for grades 9-12 on a cumulative basis. In the Fort Worth Independent School District the cumulative drop-out rate is 9.6 percent. The effectiveness level for this demographic group is 15.2 percent or lower. The mean is 18 percent. The district is commended for its holding power and achievement in this area.
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