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New K-12 Achievement Data Available from Federal Education Budget Project

Published:  September 3, 2013
The Federal Education Budget Project (FEBP) today announced new K-12 achievement data available on its website for the 2010-2011 academic year.  The data are available at the state level, as well as for each of the 13,776 traditional public school districts throughout the country. Specifically, we added in the 2011 percentage of students who scored at least proficient in mathematics and reading on state standardized tests in fourth grade, eighth grade, and high school.  
To check out your local school district, visit the FEBP database and begin typing your school district name into the PreK-12 search box. Once you’ve selected your district, check out the Achievement section of the page at the bottom. There, you’ll find the new student achievement data, with the state average listed below for comparison. Mouse over the title – “4th Grade Reading District NCLB” – for a definition and source. You can also compare each district to others that are within 10 percent of the same proficiency level on a number of variables – just click the “compare” button when you mouse over the title.
NOTE: Hilliard City School District (OH)
We have a five-year snapshot of state and school district-level performance in FEBP (stretching back to the 2006 school year in the downloadable files), illustrating progress toward the benchmark set by No Child Left Behind (NCLB) of 100 percent proficiency by the 2013-2014 school year.
Beware, though: Because every state has set its own benchmark for student proficiency, data are not comparable from state to state, at least until some states start reporting accountability under common exams.  Further, states periodically update their definitions for proficiency – often through adjusting the “cut scores” on their state standardized tests – which creates additional barriers for comparing the data longitudinally, even within a state. 
Data for the state of Michigan for the 2010-2011 academic year illustrate this challenge. Michigan tests students each fall for the previous year’s learning (for example, students were tested in fall 2011 to demonstrate their 2010-11 school year proficiency). In the 2010-11 school year, students’ proficiency levels plummeted. That’s because the state adopted “more rigorous ‘cut scores’” for the state exam, the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP), that reflect a more rigorous college- and career-ready standard (Michigan.gov). They also raised the cut scores for the Michigan Merit Exam, the state’s high-stakes high school assessment, so high school scores also declined in the most recent FEBP data. This is all in preparation for the state’s anticipated switch to the Common Core-aligned assessments in the 2014-2015 school year.
Those challenges will confront other states as well. As states adopt the Common Core-aligned exams, they’ll be starting over on these accountability metrics. Scores are expected to drop for many students under the new, more-rigorous standards.
And many more changes are coming to the data for states in the 2011-12 academic year, and even more for the 2012-2013 academic year. That’s because over the past two years, states began receiving waivers of many of No Child Left Behind’s accountability provisions from the Department of Education. So far, 39 states and a group of school districts (called the “CORE Districts”) in California have received waivers. In many cases, this will affect the way these states report their student achievement data by altering the definition of proficiency and redefining the groups of students on which states report. 
Tennessee is one of the many states that has made changes to the way it reports student achievement data. Under NCLB, states only count students in schools that are enrolled on or prior to the twentieth day of the school year; under Tennessee’s NCLB waiver, starting in the 2011-2012 school year the state will include all students enrolled at some point during the school year for federal reporting purposes. We have this complication, and more, to look forward to starting with next year’s data.
In the meantime, find out how your district has measured up over the years. The data are also downloadable in an open data file here.

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