August 16, 2007
District SLC Grant - Examining the Data From Earlier Grants, pt. 3
Because the recent MMSD Small Learning Communities (SLC) grant submission failed to include any discussion of the success or failure of the SLC initiatives already undertaken at Memorial and West High Schools, I have been examining the data that was (or in some cases should have been) provided to the Department of Education in the final reports of those previous grants. Earlier postings have examined the data from Memorial and the academic achievement data at West. It is now time to turn our attention to the data on Community and Connection, the other major goal of the West SLC grant.
West's SLC grant, which ran from 2003/04 to 2005/06 (and highlighted in the tables below), targeted 6 goals in the area of increasing community and connection amongst their students.
The available data suggest that West's restructuring has not had the anticipated effect on these measures. While I have been more than skeptical about the impact of the SLC restructuring on academic performance, I did expect that there would be positive changes in school climate, so I am surprised and disappointed at the data.
2.a. Suspension and Expulsion data -The final report claims that "Progress has been made overall for both suspensions and expulsions at West High." We reach a very different conclusion when we examine the data available from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). I don't know what to make of the large discrepancies in the numbers reported by West in their final report and those on the DPI website (West reports a much higher number of suspensions), but I am inclined to believe that the data DPI collected from the District is the data we should rely on. That data shows that number of students suspended and more importantly the percentage of students suspended has actually increased over the time course of the SLC grant. Note that percentages are the more appropriate statistic to examine because they take into account the number of students enrolled which has declined over this period of time.
Examining the suspension data on the DPI website revealed that the increases in the suspension rates amongst West High students were particularly pronounced for 9th and 10th grade students - the students specifically targeted by the SLC restructuring and implementation of a core curriculum.
2.b. Safe and Supportive Climate - This goal was supposed to be assessed by examining changes in ratings of physical and emotional safety and school connected-ness on the District climate survey. Although climate data is supposedly collected from students each year, this data is not presented in West's Final Report. However, information presented in the recent MMSD proposal suggests that there haven't been any changes at West. In that proposal, it is noted that 53% of West students agreed with the statement "I am an important part of my school community." This percentage is essentially unchanged from the 52% of students in 2001/02 whom West said reported feeling attached to their school, when the school applied for their initial SLC grant.
2.c. Stakeholder Perceptions - Two types of data were to be examined: There were supposed to be student, staff, and parent surveys developed during Year 1 of the grant. The only survey data presented in the Final Report is an examination of staff survey data (as a parent, I never saw any parent survey). While the report notes the majority of survey items that had increases in positive responses from 2004 to 2006, there was also a significant decline in the number of staff responding to the survey, and this subject attrition leads one to wonder if there has been a change in staff perception over time or if those staff who did not support the grant simply decided not to respond. The report notes that 90 staff members responded in 2004 and only 60 responded in 2006. This 1/3 reduction in the number of respondents is even more striking when you consider that West had 238 staff members listed in its directory for 2006/07, so we have gone from a response rate of less than 50% to a rate of just above 25%.
The second type of data used to examine this goal was the number of police calls to West High, and the Final Report notes that "trends are positive" I don't have access to Madison Police Department data for the entire period of the grant. However, police department data available on the Madison Parents' School Safety Site indicates that there were 80 police calls to West during the Fall 2006 semester alone, much higher than the 60 reported in the Final Report for the entire 2005/06 school year.
2.d. Extracurricular Participation - While the Final Report notes that "Overall, student leadership and participation in extra or non-academic activities, two goals of the SLC initiative at West and both important for affiliation with the school, seem to have been enhanced by the One Lunch, Advisory, and Resource Hall restructuring.," no actual numbers are reported.
2.e. Student Leadership - Evidence of student leadership was supposed to be the number of student leadership opportunities at West. As noted above, no data is presented to support the claim that the number of these opportunities have changed.
2.f. Parent Participation - This was supposed to be examined by analyzing the percentage of parents of color who attended school functions. There is no mention of this data, in fact, there is no mention of this goal, in the Final Report. Anecdotally, I can report that over the last 3 years of PTSO meetings there have not been any noticible increases in the number of parents of color in attendance.
As a statistician and as a social scientist, I want to say that I am appalled by the quality of the data that has been assembled to support the contention that the restructuring at Memorial and West has produced the desired changes in student achievement or in school "connected-ness." I don't see any evidence that leads me to believe that the current SLC grant proposal will be any more successful.Posted by Jeff Henriques at August 16, 2007 12:16 AM
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