Bending the Curve: Why CCRPI Misleads Educators and Parents
More than a year after students placed their pencils on the desk and closed their 2013 CRCT exam booklets, the Georgia Department of Education released its College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), which is intended to inform schools how they fare relative to others in the state.
While the measure is certainly an improvement on the rudimentary Adequate Yearly Progress benchmark developed under No Child Left Behind, it can hardly be called a success. It continues to miss the most important element of effective evaluations: expected performance.
Few would be shocked to learn that students who live in wealthy neighborhoods and have educated parents on average score higher on the CRCT than students who live in poor neighborhoods and have uneducated parents. Yet, the majority of CCRPI points are awarded with no consideration of expected achievement. Therefore, the measure is intrinsically biased.
This is problematic on both ends of the spectrum. Schools with low-poverty populations are uniformly receiving high scores while schools with high-poverty populations are consistently receiving low scores. Both are missing out on useful feedback. If the intention of the measure is to let school and district leaders know where they stand, achievement should be measured relative to peer schools.
In the interactive graph below, I have taken the CCRPI scores of all elementary and middle schools in the state and plotted them against a percentile rank for free-and-reduced lunch population (FRL Percentile). By clicking the “type” and “district” options on the left, users can highlight the performance of specific districts and also see how local and state charter schools perform. The top 20 districts (by size) are listed first, then the remainder are listed alphabetically. Users can also hover over the circles to see info about the school.
The trend line represents the score one would expect a school to achieve based on its FRL population. Schools above the line are overachievers while those below the line are underachievers.
(additional comments below the graph)
The majority of districts in the state look a lot like Fulton County. They are average performers, and most of their schools are relatively close to the line, with some above and some below. In the schools with low poverty, CCRPI scores are high while the districts achieve low scores at their schools with higher levels of poverty. In the metro area, Atlanta Public Schools, Cobb County, Forsyth County, Decatur City, and Henry County all fall in this category. Fulton results are highlighted below.
One district in the metro stands heads and tails above the rest, and that district is Gwinnett County. As shown in the graph below, virtually all schools in the county outperform what would be expected based on their FRL rates. Even at Corley Elementary School where 95% of students are low-income and almost all are Hispanic/Black achievement is stellar. Gwinnett County is “bending the curve,” a strong signal that something operationally is working right. We should be learning from the district and highlighting their success, but because the data distributed by the state fails to adequately account for expected performance, that message is lost in the headlines.
Two districts in the metro are solidly underachievers. Both Dekalb County and Cherokee county see most of their schools fall below the line. Again, this message is muddled in the CCRPI releases. Dekalb is recognized as a low achiever because it has high poverty, but Cherokee is thought to do fine. It’s only when one benchmarks the county’s schools to others with similar FRL rates that the message becomes clear: Cherokee has some serious work to do.
In order to provide meaningful information to districts, principals, and parents, it is time for the state to again adjust its CCRPI measure, adequately accounting for expected performance given observable characteristics of the student population served. Without these adjustments, the measure will continue to mislead the public, fail to highlight meaningful success stories, and miss out on the improvement that could be achieved by giving school leaders realistic feedback.