One More CAPT Post – Free/Reduced Lunch Eligibility and Hartford County Test Scores
Posted by whforums on July 25, 2008
Ok. So, in general, I’m a pretty open-minded person. And to be honest, I didn’t expect arguments of such conviction surrounding the last set of numbers I ran (where I argued that part of West Hartford’s struggle in its peer DRG group was rooted in a much higher Free/Reduced Lunch ratio). So it got me to thinking – what if I’m wrong? I’ve read several articles about the impact of poverty on school success, and I’ve talked to teachers who have told me about the impact of poverty on school success. But what did I have to go on besides those things – especially when it came to making claims about West Hartford and its DRG?
So, here’s what I did. I took all of the towns in Hartford county (minus Marlborough and Burlington, which share high schools with towns from other counties – and also minus Hartland, who I couldn’t find CAPT numbers for) and found their Free/Reduced Lunch eligibility rate for 06-07 (the most recent numbers available). I then found their 2008 CAPT average at “Goal” (the average percentage of students who met the high achievement rate of “Goal” across the four sections of the exam).
That allowed me to produce the chart below. I color coded it as a stoplight:
Red: More than 20% of students eligible for Free/Reduced.
Yellow: Between 10 and 20% of students eligible for Free/Reduced.
Green: Fewer than 10% of students eligible for Free/Reduced.
As far as the 2008 CAPT Exam in Hartford County goes, there is a definite correlation between percentage of students eligible for free/reduced lunch and percentage of students reaching “Goal” on CAPT.
1. In this extremely limited sample, there is a correlation between poverty and test scores that at the very least implies that the consequences of poverty conspired to have a negative impact on standardized testing in Hartford County in 2008. This should not be misunderstood as the statement “the poor can’t learn.” It should be understood to imply the broader argument that, generally speaking, students in poverty face specific social and psychological consequences that may create an uneven educational terrain. Initiatives like Project Choice may temper some of the interpersonal consequences of poverty and may have a positive impact on test scores, but I have no data to defend or challenge that assertion, nor is an examination of that assertion the purpose of this post.
2. Not a single “red” district outperformed a “Green” district, though Bristol came close. (I know I write about Bristol a lot. I don’t know why).
3. West Hartford outperformed every other “Yellow” district and 3 “Green” districts. Also of note: West Hartford finished within 4 CAPT percentage points of Glastonbury, despite a 9% higher rate of Free/Reduced eligibility. If you go in the opposite direction, Enfield, which had a 9% higher rate of Free/Reduced eligibility than West Hartford, finished 26% lower on the CAPT.
4. I’m extremely interested in two pieces of data, if anyone has them:
a. How does poverty spread itself across West Hartford’s elementary schools, and how does it reflect itself in elementary CMT scores?
b. How do West Hartford students eligible for Free/Reduced lunch perform against students eligible for Free/Reduced lunch in other districts?
5. As I think should be obvious, taken as individuals, “rich kids” will door poorly and “poor kids” will do well – in school and on this exam. My argument is strictly about probability and how that probability plays out in the gross generality of a district’s test scores.
Please Understand That I’m Not Arguing That:
1. Free/Reduced lunch eligibility is anything more than one indicator of a district’s potential success.
2. I am not arguing that there is a direct relationship between Free/Reduced lunch eligibility and the overall quality of a district. To judge this one indicator, someone good at math would need to look at the rate of Free/Reduced lunch and compare it to the overall score. This might begin to separate over and underperforming districts. However, it seems self-evident to me from the color coding that, according to this one indicator, West Hartford is overperforming.
1. I know very little about statistics. All I did was take the average of the 4 “Goal” scores on the 2008 CAPT to produce an average “Goal” score for each district. I welcome any revisions to these numbers from someone who knows more about what they’re doing than I do.
2. In some districts, students did very poorly on one section or very well on another section, and this skews numbers. For all I know, a whole district was coming down with the flu the morning of the math section.
3. I do know one thing about statistics – small sample sizes are bad. I openly grant this is a small sample size – but it’s the biggest sample size I have time to run numbers on. I might cobble together numbers over the previous 8 years, but that’s a project that would take at least a month (if not more) to complete. For this reason, I’ve tried to limit my claims to arguments about the 2008 CAPT results in Hartford County exclusively (while allowing for a few broader implications).
4. These numbers do not reflect “Proficiency” or passing rate – they only reflect the high achieving numbers at “Goal.” I have absolutely no idea if a “Proficiency” chart would look the same as the one above (though every instinct I have says it would look similar).
5. There’s no way (that I know of) to control for district size in these numbers. West Hartford is a large district – you would think it would be easier to identify struggling students in smaller districts (and you would think it would also be easier to get them the resources they need). I could be totally wrong about that, too.
Regardless, with the one indicator of Free/Reduced lunch eligibility in mind, I stand by my prior claim that to compare West Hartford’s test scores exclusively with more affluent districts is not a fair way to judge the success of our teachers, students, curricula or system.