Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Academic outcomes in Spokane Public Schools persistently weak and deceitfully presented

(Note from the author: Please note that this page, as are all pages on this Web site, subject to change and modification as new information becomes available.)

By Laurie Rogers

The first school board meeting I ever attended for Spokane Public Schools was on Jan. 10, 2007, where I asked the school board about math scores. Then-superintendent Brian Benzel told me scores had been improving but that the district was not yet at its goal of 90% of students meeting standard.
At the time, 10th-grade math scores were at 51.6%, and I thought that was bad.

There is much praise for board directors at this Jan. 14, 2009 board meeting, for all of their hard work and dedication in ensuring the proper education of Spokane students. To put that self-love and self-praise into perspective, the 10th-grade pass rates for math in 2008 had already fallen to 45.9%.

In 2009, they fell to 
42.3%. In 2010, they fell to 38.9%. The school board continued its perplexing tendency to praise itself.

In December 2008, I wrote about how the district's view of AP outcomes was contrary to how the colleges appear to view them, and that this was costing local students seats in the colleges.

In January 2009, then-Spokane superintendent Brian Benzel blamed a 60% pass rate in math (which I thought at the time was bad) on the students.

In February 2009, I wrote about the weak pass rates. (Little did I know then how much farther they would fall.)

In November 2009, I presented SAT/ACT/WASL data to the Spokane math adoption committee I was on, showing that actual academic outcomes in math are grim.

In June 2010, I wrote about how local college remedial rates in math show few district students graduating ready for college-level math.

In September 2010, I showed how the pass rates in math had fallen, and that things were worse than they appeared. The 10th graders needed just 56.9% to pass their math test, and only 38.9% of Spokane 10th graders passed.

In February 2011, at public forums that I held to tell the public about the math problem in Spokane, school administrators came and dismissed the 38.9% pass rate in math for 10th graders as "irrelevant."
In the spring of 2011, with no actual improvement in the Spokane Public Schools math instructional materials, some of the Spokane high school pass rates for math suddenly shot up to around 80%. This dubious phenomenon was replicated around the state in other school districts.

State superintendent Randy Dorn was running for re-election that year, and he did win.

In April 2011, I noted the district's stubborn ability to refuse to see or hear the truth - and to dismiss all informed and learned input from parents, STEM professionals, students, data, and community members.

In July 2011, I wrote about the school district perennially presenting manipulated numbers and reworked outcomes -- all designed to show academic prowess where it doesn't exist.

In October 2013, according to The Spokesman-Review, Spokane Public Schools Superintendent Shelley Redinger said that math outcomes in Spokane are "average" and that's why the school district is focusing on repairing its English/language arts program.

The impression given in the article was that math instruction in Spokane is in an OK place, not great but not terrible, and that attention needs to be paid first to ELA. Such an impression, however, isn't what college
 remedial rates indicate to be true. It isn't reflected in most students. It isn't what I told the superintendent; it isn't what she repeatedly acknowledged to me. It isn't what she told me that the rest of the Spokane community has said to her.  Even board directors appear to have gotten a clue: On Dec. 4, 2013, director Rocky Treppiedi called the district's math program "a disgrace." And it is. 

Dr. Redinger wrote that she chose the word "average" to describe math outcomes in Spokane because district scores are "at the state average in mathematics."

If I didn't know better, I might accept that. However, I do know better.

The school district is not "average" in student outcomes for math -- unless the definition of "average" has come to mean "abysmal." One can't depend on Washington State test scores to accurately reflect student knowledge in math. The state tests are weak; the cut scores (i.e. the passing scores) are ridiculously low and are set after students take the tests; and the scoring has been subjective and often incoherent. In addition, the vast majority of districts in this state also have weak outcomes in math.

Being "average" in a state that struggles in math does not denote success in math. Surely a
$262,000-per-year superintendent knows that.
Below are some indicators of actual academic outcomes in math in Spokane -- not provided by anyone in the K-12 system, but by employees of Spokane Community Colleges in response to my requests. You'll see how many SCC and SFCC freshmen test into remedial math, which level of math they test into, and their general rate of success.
Remedial Rates in Mathematics
at Spokane Falls Community College  (SFCC)
and Spokane Community College (SCC):

** Academic years 2004-2005 through 2008-2009
Remediation rates in mathematics for Recent High School Graduates
Students from Spokane-area high schools only

** Academic Years 2005-06 through 2009-10, with a Five-Year Average
Remediation Rates in mathematics for Recent High-School Graduates
Students from Spokane-area high schools only.

** Academic Years 2007-2008 through 2009-2010
Success rates of Recent High School Graduates Placed Into Developmental Math Courses
(Remedial Math) -- Spokane-area High Schools Only

** Academic Years 2008-2009 through 2012-2013
Remediation Rates in mathematics for Recent High School Graduates
Students from Spokane District High Schools

** Academic Years 2008-09 through 2012-2013
Success rates of Recent High School Graduates Placed into Developmental Math Courses
(Remedial Math) - Students from Spokane District High Schools
** SFCC College Spark grant - 2013 and 2014
Results for the first half of this project, broken down by Spokane high school.
The students tested were Algebra II students, and so theoretically should have been proficient in Algebra I and perhaps also Geometry.

An SFCC administrator explains this project and provides additional clarification. The project was designed to determine curricular alignment between SPS and SFCC. The project is ongoing and scheduled to run through the fall of 2014, at which point analysis and conclusions likely will be available. See this link for a flowchart of the SFCC math classes and their levels of content, so you can see the content Spokane students appear to be missing.

Please stay tuned. More to follow.

This post is copyrighted. The citation is:
Rogers, L. (April 2014). "Academic outcomes in math in Spokane Public Schools." Retrieved on (date) from the Disclosure of Records for Spokane Public Schools Web site, located at: