Oakland Unified reported in its November Board meeting that its schools had an average 0.15 point improvement (recall that scores are from a 1-6 scale). 51 schools showed improved scores while 35 decreased in scores. Of course, we know that averages often mask interesting differences. Let’s look at the distribution of OUSD schools’ growth in SPF scores.
That’s quite a distribution; many schools are making substantial gains (0.25+, which translates to moving up a quarter of a tier) but many others have lost substantial ground. We wondered if the gains are evenly spread or concentrated in certain tiers (i.e. are the top schools also improving the most overall?).
We put together this visual representation so that we can dig in deeper.
In other words, many of the low-performing district schools (Tier 1) have improved over the course of last year! Tier 2 schools had very similar growth stats: 64% of the Tier 2 schools improved in the last year. It was heartening to see the equity-driven efforts at OUSD making a positive impact.
Tier 5 schools largely did not improve, but also didn’t drop enough to yield a change in tier. (i.e. like the difference between an A and A-.)
One big surprise: many of the schools whose scores dropped were doing OK (Tier 3). 56% of schools who received Tier 3 status in 2014-15 performed worse in 2015-16. Sad! It’s like the problem of an average student: he or she receives less attention when the teacher focuses time on catching up the students who are behind (Tier 1, 2), while the high-performing kids (Tier 4, 5) have outside support to excel even if they don’t get attention in class.
Food for thought: what is the strategy for the Tier 3 schools (i.e. “okay but not great yet” schools) in Oakland? How do we help them go from good to great, without losing momentum on improving the Tier 1 and 2 schools? With OUSD deep in budget and prioritization conversations, this decision of how best to improve schools for as many children as possible will be front and center.
In a future post, we’ll will dive deeper into which changes most affected gains and losses in schools’ SPF scores (i.e. SBAC results or suspension rates? Whole school changes or closing an achievement gap?), and how those might connect to OUSD initiatives and priorities.
What’s Next for SPF?
Oakland has 130 public schools. So far, the SPF is currently only published for the 77 district-operated traditional schools. That’s only 64% of the public schools in Oakland! We have been glad to hear that OUSD is collaborating with charter schools to develop a version of the SPF for charters so that data on ALL public schools are accessible and can be understood by everyone.