At the June 6 meeting of the Alachua County School Board, Taylor Gilfillan, Director of Data Analytics, Accountability and Evaluation, and the Alachua County Public School (ACPS) Data Team presented the most recent “ABC Report” (an update on Attendance, Behavior, and Core Academics).
For attendance, ACPS has set of goal of at least 95% of students in attendance each day. The Scorecard below shows a negative trend for every metric presented, with most metrics getting worse between February and May 2023. Not only is the district missing the goal by 7-8% for the most vulnerable groups of students, it is not making progress toward the goal.
The report includes 13 pages of attendance tables and charts; the tables below show attendance rates by month for each school.
Of the 38 schools listed, only 13 met the attendance goal at the start of the school year, and that dwindled to only two schools in May 2023.
Of all the “SI” (Special Interest, schools with D or F grades) elementary schools, only one (Alachua Elementary) was consistently above 90% attendance, suggesting attendance correlates with school and student performance (the 2022-23 SI schools are Alachua, Idylwild, Lake Forest, Metcalfe, Rawlings, Shell, and Terwillegar Elementary – all near the bottom of the attendance chart). We’ll come back to that.
The next section covers behavioral goals, looking at days of out-of-school suspensions, overall district- and school-level discipline outcomes, and percentages of students with certain numbers of offenses. Here’s the Scorecard:
This entire table and all the associated slides in the report are most likely unreliable because, as I mentioned in 2018 when the school board introduced its original equity plan, “It’s easy to narrow the suspension gap by not suspending students that deserve it.”
To illustrate my point, every page in the behavior section of the report (pp. 16-31) states: “‘Discipline offenses’ are reported acts of misconduct that have been assigned a disciplinary consequence by a school administrator. This data does not include referrals for discipline that have not yet been processed or assigned a disciplinary action.” In other words, we don’t know what these numbers actually represent because there is an incentive to not track behaviors the district does not want to track (as we reported last year).
Data reliability aside, the report gives us the below table (page 20):
A disclaimer at the bottom of page 20 lists the proportion of students for each category in the 2022-23 school year to “identify disproportionalities between groups”: 5.1% of students are Asian (less than 1% of discipline offenses), 33.8% of students are Black/African American (64-73% of discipline offenses), 13.2% of students are Hispanic (7-10% of discipline offenses), 7.4% of students are Multiracial (6-7% of discipline offenses), and 40.2% of students are White (11-19% of discipline offenses).
Like the attendance goals, the ACPS behavior goals seem completely unconnected to the reality of the actual conditions in the schools and classrooms, and the goals listed at the top of the chart aren’t consistent with the numerical goals in the chart. ACPS has a goal that out-of-school suspension days should be proportional for student groups, but they also have a goal that out-of-school suspension days for African-American children should be under 65%, almost twice the proportion of those students in the schools. Even with selective discipline, the latter goal was not met, which means the proportional goal (33.8% of out-of-school suspension days) is a fantasy.
The percentages are consistent from month to month, but the actual number of discipline offenses increased throughout the year. Page 24 shows average daily discipline offenses by month and grade group (pages 25-27 break it down by school). Overall, all grade groups ended the year with more daily discipline offenses than in the early months of the school year. Rather than setting politically-motivated goals based on skin color, maybe ACPS should focus on simply trying to provide a safe learning environment.
As I wrote (and ACPS ignored) in 2018: “The school board needs to realize that education is a two-party process. The schools teach, but it’s up to the students to learn. We can’t allow the students who don’t want to learn (or how we deal with them) to impact the ones who do.” That statement has nothing to do with race. ALL the kids disrupting the learning process should be dealt with. Those who attack teachers or commit serious crimes (see pages 29-31) should be dealt with by the police and the criminal justice system, not ACPS.
The last area discussed is by far the most important because it is the actual mission of the school system: core academic goals. The ACPS goal is to have at least 62% of students meeting grade-level expectations. Think about that: the goal of ACPS admits that over a third of the students will not meet grade-level expectations. It turns out that student performance is much worse than ACPS’ own pessimistic objective: only middle school Algebra and Geometry students (i.e., students on accelerated tracks for math) beat that lowly 62% goal.
The report devotes lots of pages to showing off the district’s poor academic performance (pages 32-56), but thanks to a switch to “progress monitoring” at the state level, it only shows progress during the school year over three “progress monitoring” (PM) windows. The charts do not compare results to previous years or to other school districts in Florida. (Rest assured, Alachua Chronicle will do that comparison when the data are available to the public as we did with 2021-22 data, although the changes in testing will make year-over-year comparisons difficult.)
Here’s how the performance looks by school:
Those color-coded tables look a lot like the attendance tables. Maybe if ACPS focused on keeping kids in school and getting the troublemakers out of school, the academic performance numbers will improve. There is some hope for the future since School Board Member Diyonne McGraw started emphasizing discipline problems in February.
Since the 2018 equity plan focused on the black-white performance gap, the report dedicated several pages to the racial breakdown of academic performance (pages 46-49). Here’s the short version:
The fact that student performance either stays steady or declines as students progress from elementary to middle to high school suggests that the “experts” who are running our schools are not really experts at educating children.
Board member comments on report
At the June 6 meeting, School Board Member Kay Abbitt said, “I do have a couple of questions about what we’re going to do differently with our subgroup of black and African American students. Because even at schools that perform well, that subgroup does not, so it’s all across the district. I’m particularly concerned with SI schools, about what we’re going to do differently next year. Because while there were some gains at one particular school where I have more in-depth data, we can’t continue to make those gains every year–[the kids] won’t even be on grade level by the time they get through fifth grade. At that SI school in particular, in third grade, 14 of the 72 kids were proficient.”
Abbitt asked how many of the students who were not proficient were promoted to fourth grade in spite of that. She said at one SI school at the end of the year, “62% of the kindergarteners were not on grade level, 76% of the second graders, and 71% of the first graders… But I’m going back again to these SI schools, who still have kids who are not getting the instruction they need. A lot of these kids do not have [certified] teachers in their classroom, which I have been saying since November. And so I want to know what we’re going to do different starting next year… We can’t keep doing the same thing.”
Member Sarah Rockwell added, “So, we’ve discussed SI schools and the test results for black students; what hasn’t been mentioned are the test results for students with disabilities, and these are consistently lower at every school than even our black students. And we are failing our students with disabilities. And we need to take a really hard look next year at what we are doing in our Tier 2 and Tier 3 academic instruction for these students, at whether they are staffed correctly, so that they’re getting the amount of services and the amount of funding that they should be getting. Because we, quite frankly, have a huge problem here, and I don’t hear that talked about, I hear the achievement gap between our black and our white students discussed regularly, but not the achievement gap between our students with disabilities and our students without disabilities.”
Gilfillan responded that not all students with disabilities take the monitoring tests that are used to compile the reports and said he would like to change that in the future so the district could monitor those students’ progress.
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