The Alabama Department of Education measures scores from the 2015-2016 ACT Aspire test in four categories: In need of support, close, ready and exceeding readiness.
Information presented at a community meeting July 13 detailed some of Gadsden’s scores, painting a bleak picture of student readiness in math and reading.
However, the numbers were pulled only from column three – the “ready” percentage. The percentage of student scores “exceeding” readiness was not mentioned.
Leaving those numbers out makes a substantial difference in some grade levels and subjects, according to Gadsden City Schools Director of Improvement, Accountability and Curriculum Rhonda Perry.
As presented, the number led school board member Wayne Watts to conclude for those gathered July 13 that a 17 percent “ready” score for third-graders in reading meant that 83 percent of students were not ready.
That’s not quite the case.
Looking just at the third-grade scores, 17.63 percent of all Gadsden students were readying in reading; another 10.33 percent exceeded readiness.
The numbers still need to be better, Perry said, but the combined ready/exceeding ready percentage of 27.99 is closer to the state ready/exceeding ready percentage of 36.77.
Neonta Williams, founder of Black Alabamians for Educational Options, organized the community meeting earlier this month, and plans another for 6 p.m. July 31 at the Downtown Civic Center.
She said there was “no specific reason” she presented the “ready” numbers, but did not present the exceeding readiness percentage. She said she selected the “ready” percentage to discuss at the meeting because she didn’t want to overwhelm people with the numbers.
Perry said the numbers can be overwhelming. The state website provides detailed breakdowns of percentages among several subgroups in spreadsheet format.
Still, if a school system is going to be judged on the numbers, Perry said it’s important to provide numbers that give an accurate picture.
“The scores are not where we want them to be,” she said. They are not as low as they were portrayed at the community meeting.
When Williams addressed the Gadsden City Council in May, she provided documents that included the state Department of Education scores for the 2015-2016 ACT Aspire. At that time, she provided copies of a spreadsheet with scores that included scores in the four categories: In Need of Support, Close, Ready, and Exceeding Readiness. In addition, columns on the spreadsheet gave percentages “passing” and “failing.”
The failing measure was a combination of In Need of Support and Close percentages; the passing measure was Ready and Exceeding Readiness combined.
The difference is notable: Among all Gadsden third-graders, 41.56 percent were “ready” in math; 17.63 percent in reading. Looking at the combined ready and exceeding numbers, 59.19 passed in math; 27.96 in reading.
Looking at the percentages in this light doesn’t brighten the picture of the achievement gap Williams sought to call attention to in the meeting earlier this month.
The racial breakdown on the passing percentage among Gadsden third-grade scores was as follows:
Black – 50.83 in math, 20.44 in reading;
Hispanic – 25.53 in math, 4.26 in reading;
White – 76.28 in math, 42.95 in reading.
Hispanic – 8.11 in math, 22.85 in reading;
White – 38.21 in math, 57.69 in reading.
Black – 2.40 in math, 15.98 in reading, 3.05 in science;
Hispanic – 0.0 in math, 12.00 in reading, 3.23 in science;
White – 22.91 in math, 38.46 in reading, 29.37 in science.
State scores for all Alabama students show gaps as well.
Among Alabama third-graders the passing percentage breakdown is:
Black – 59.19 in math, 36.77 in reading;
Hispanic – 49.03 in math, 22.06 in reading;
White – 69.82 in math, 47.53 in reading.
Black – 31.12 in math, 45.21 in reading;
Hispanic – 13.10 in math, 28.92 in reading;
White – 41.38 in math, 54.74 in reading.
Black – 5.62 in math, 16.85 in reading, 8.68 in science;
Hispanic – 10.41 in math, 22.18 in reading, 14.53 in science;
White – 24.78 in math, 40.51 in reading, 32.15 in science.