A few months ago, a front page story appeared in the Fifty Center celebrating Mammoth Elementary School’s API (Academic Performance Index) score rising more than 30 points, topping 800.
While the increase in the API score is impressive, some State educators believe school scores have been artificially inflated thanks to the introduction of the California Modified Assesssment (CMA) in 2009.
The CMA is a simpler version of the STAR California Standards Test (CST), upon which API scores are derived.
Federal guidelines mandate that no more than 2% of all students should be taking the CMA.
According to an article by John Fensterwald from the Silicon Valley Education Foundation (SVEF), “starting three years ago, students with disabilities who did poorly on the annual California Standards Tests, the chief component of schools’ and districts’ API scores, started taking a new and easier version of the test: the CMA. On the CMA, large numbers scored proficient, whereas they had previously scored below basic and far below basic. As a result, schools were given credit for higher API scores than they should have received.”
According to Doug McRae, an educational measurement specialist who wrote a column for the SVEF in April, CMAs are now being administered to about 4.4% of the total STAR enrollment for grades 3-11, or about 40% of California’s special education enrollment.
In an expose published in the Sacramento Bee last month, Bee journalist Phillip Reese maintained that “The CMA has inflated gains on the regular STAR test by about 25% statewide.”
McRae thinks that number should be 40%.
Reese quoted McRae as saying, “It’s the old business of if you want your test scores to go up, don’t test the lower-scoring students.”
How does this relate to Mammoth? First, a cursory look at API Scores within Mammoth Unified.
School ‘07 ‘08 ‘09 ‘10 ‘11
Mammoth Elementary 754 749 773 773 805
Mammoth Middle 721 762 784 799 803
Mammoth High 718 727 716 750 747
District-wide, 11 total CMA tests were administered in 2009, 32 in 2010 and 68 in 2011. By school, 28 CMAs were administered at Mammoth Elementary in 2011 and 38 CMAs were administered at Mammoth Middle School.
Approximately 8% of Mammoth 5th graders took the CMA in English.
Approximately 10% of Mammoth 6th and 7th graders took the CMA in math and English.
Just two years earlier, only one Mammoth Middle Schooler took the CMA.
Sixteen Mammoth Middle Schoolers were classified as Students With Disabilities in 2008, the year before the CMA was created. That was out of a student population of 241, or 6.6% of the student body.
In 2011, 31 students out of a student piopulation of 235, or 13%, were classified as Students With Disabilities at Mammoth Elementary,
If you think Mammoth is alone in funneling kids into the CMA, think again.
At Home Street Middle School in Bishop, 8% of 7th graders and 12% of 8th graders took the CMA in English in 2011.
More than 10% of students at Lee Vining and Bridgeport Elementary Schools took the CMA in English in 2010.
Again, Doug McRae:
“In plain English, the CMAs are easier tests than the CSTs. We do not know just how much easier the CMAs are, and that is a major flaw in the entire effort to introduce CMAs in California – it is possible to generate estimates for the comparability of CMA scores to CST scores, but that work has not been part of the CMA test development effort. Thus, we are flying blind when it comes to knowing exactly what a CMA proficient score means when translated to the CST scale of measurement. This work needs to be done before we can use CMAs with integrity for applications like contributions to API calculations.”
Finally, I tried to figure out some apples-to-apples comparisons to show what progress, if any, is being made at Mammoth Elementary. I thought the best measure might be results on the CST separated out by the category, “Students with no reported disability.” By this measure, it appears Mammoth Elementary is making decent progress based upon how kids are faring by the time they’re ready to move on to Middle School.
Grade 2 3 4 5
% of proficient & above, 2009, english 54 48 61 53
2010 43 45 66 55
2011 47 38 69 63
% of proficient and above, 2009, math 71 48 49 49
2010 55 58 60 26
2011 68 59 76 52
Geisel achieved the Silver Sombrero (a sobriquet for baseball players who strike out three times in one game) last week. In his story about Thai’d Up’s 10th anniversary, he managed to get every name Mike Coco referenced from his days at the Alpenrose incorrect.
They are, says Coco, Max, Myriam and Hilde. Geisel had it Matt and Miriam Thilde. To use another baseball term, Geisel “Bucknered” that one.
Lunch didn’t fare much better. He had Katie Maloney Bellomo’s letter as a response to Paul McFarland, when it was actually a response to Margy Verba.