Grades Before Test Scores


It’s not all about the test scores, stupid.

That sums up a new University of Chicago study, a groundbreaking analysis of middle-school student performance that lays out which measures best predict success in high school and college.

What matters most for later academic success are middle-school grades and attendance, far more than test scores and demographic factors (race, poverty and the like), concluded the study of Chicago Public Schools fifth- through eleventh-graders. Standardized test scores are not the best predictors of academic success, as our test-crazed world might have us believe.

The real-world implications are clear: the Chicago Public Schools should continue to scale back its intense focus on standardized tests and turn to what matters — boosting middle-school grades and attendance.

The researchers found that attendance and overall grade-point average in middle school were the strongest predictors of actual school performance in ninth grade and 11th grade, both of which strongly predict high-school graduation rates and college success.

This new finding builds on a similar, well-established finding for high schools: grades are by far the most important predictor of getting into college and eventually graduating, more so than ACT or SAT scores or high school coursework.

“Test scores are very good at predicting future test scores but not as strongly predictive of other outcomes we care about, like whether students will struggle or succeed in high school coursework or graduate from college,” Elaine Allensworth, director of the university’s Consortium on Chicago School Research and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Good grades reflect mastery of skills valuable in college and in life in general, such as broad knowledge (not just reading and math), writing and capacity for sustained effort. Standardized tests, in contrast, hone in on a far more narrow band of skills. They have value, but too tight a focus on test prep is counterproductive.

“It actually discourages teachers from spending time on things that are more important for kids,” Allensworth said in an interview.

The researchers also found far less variability in what constituted an A or B grade at schools across the city than one might suspect. There is variability, as much as a half grade point at the extreme, but it’s not enough to undermine the predictive value of grades.

Other key take-aways from the study:

◆ These findings allow schools to identify kids as young as fifth grade at risk of failing in high school based on their grades and attendance records, and to target intervention to boost those two areas, which are more malleable than test scores.

The researchers found, for example, that students’ probability of being on track in the ninth grade goes from 66 to 93 percent, depending on whether their attendance declines (from 97 to 93 percent) or improves (from 97 to 99 percent) in the middle school grades. Students with attendance below 90 percent in middle school are at high risk of not graduating from high school.

◆ The researchers also found that some middle and high schools do far better intervening in these key areas than others. Among middle-school students that saw improvements in attendance, grades and test scores, about half of the differences could be attributed to the school they attended, they found. Schools can have considerable influence in particular over attendance.

CPS in the last year has made improving elementary attendance a priority. Chronic absenteeism, which has been unacceptable high for years, dropped slightly last year, though it’s still early. The school system also has improved high-school attendance rates and significantly improved freshmen pass rates, which is a key predictor of graduation rates.

The freshman on-track rates went up after CPS developed data systems to closely track freshmen and added supports to redirect wayward students. Using the U. of C. report as a guide, CPS should quickly set up a similar data system to track middle school attendance and grades and give schools the time and support they need to make good use of the data. That’s in the early stages, we’ve been told. We urge CPS to make it a top priority.


Joe Zieglar last of DMR employees sentenced by federal judge.


Originally posted on Mississippi PEP:


A federal judge sentenced former DMR chief of Staff Joe Ziegler to three years probation, including 90 days of house arrest for concealing a felony.

Ziegler also must pay $184,487.28 in restitution.

Ziegler was the last of seven former Mississippi Department of Marine Resources employees to be sentenced as the result of federal and state investigations of the agency.

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Mississippi’s Special Needs Campaign



Tell Your Lawmakers to Support Mississippi’s Children with Special Needs!
Many children with special needs across Mississippi have needs that are not being met in the public school system and too many parents can’t afford to purchase privately what the school system isn’t able to provide. According to a recent Clarion-Ledger investigation, only 23 percent of children with special needs in Mississippi ever graduate! Mississippi is failing our most vulnerable citizens and that has to change!

Mississippi House Bill 765 is currently before the legislature and would allow parents of children with special needs to use a portion of state funding that would have been spent on a child in traditional public school to design a custom-made education experience. Parents may spend the money on online classes, personal tutors, and private-school tuition, among other possible uses. These bills will provide real help to children who desperately need it.

HARRISON: TEA Party possibilities and education funding weigh heavily on Republicans in 2015.


Originally posted on Mississippi PEP:


BY: Bobby Harrison | Daily Journal

The Better Schools, Better Jobs group was formed because since it was fully enacted in 2002, MAEP has been fully funded only twice – both election years. And in recent years, the state has fallen further behind in its commitment to local school districts.

At this point, the state’s top two Republicans, Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who will be running for re-election in 2015, have voiced at least reservations about the citizen-sponsored initiative or have expressed downright opposition.

Most Democrats, on the other hand, have expressed support for the proposal, which would put into the Mississippi Constitution stronger language in terms of the state’s responsibility to provide an adequate and efficient education to Mississippi students.

As the coming vote on the education initiative unfolds during the 2015 election season, there also is speculation that some Republican officeholders might be challenged…

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Epps and McCrory will face 49-count federal indictment, U.S. Attorney’s move to seize assets.


Originally posted on Mississippi PEP:

State Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps and Rankin County School Board President Cecil McCrory will be arraigned in federal court today on a 49-count federal indictment.

Epps has abruptly resigned amid a federal investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office has moved to seize his $359,000 Flowood home, his beachfront condo in Pass Christian and two Mercedes Benz sedans.

Epps resigned his $132,700-a-year government job on Wednesday, with a brief letter to Gov. Phil Bryant.

McCrory also abruptly resigned his school board post on Wednesday. McCrory is listed as an owner of companies that have done business with the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Neither Epps nor McCrory responded to calls for comment on Wednesday.

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Hank Bounds on list of finalists to be President of University of Nebraska


Originally posted on Mississippi PEP:


The University of Nebraska’s presidential search committee has named four finalists to replace former President J.B. Milliken.

The finalists announced on Monday are Hank Bounds, Mississippi’s commissioner for higher education; Michael Martin, chancellor of the Colorado State University System; Sally Rockey, deputy director for extramural research at the National Institutes of Health; and George Ross; president of Central Michigan University.

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Gov. Bryant has Dept. Of Revenue looking into tax break for families making under $40K


Originally posted on Mississippi PEP:


It’s too soon to know what kind of tax cuts legislators will consider. They could look at a business-focused break, or at a narrowly focused reduction of income taxes.

“We’re looking very closely at the possibility of an income tax cut for working-class families. So we’re looking at roughly about a $40,000 income and below,” Bryant told reporters last week after Hobnob, a business gathering sponsored by the state chamber of commerce, the Mississippi Economic Council.

The governor, who is seeking a second term in 2015, said he asked the Department of Revenue to check how many people fall into that income bracket and how a tax reduction would affect the state budget.

“If there’s a possibility of looking at a segment of the population and putting some money back into their hands, I would like to do that,” Bryant said. “Now, people might say, ‘Oh, that’s only $100.’ But…

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