A while back, Enlighten-New Jersey posted an interesting item comparing high school proficiency assessment (HSPA) data from four school districts. Their comparison of
Conveniently, the State of
If you've ever worked with or designed large databases, you'd be appalled at what I found. There are no key fields, and no indices, in any of the 25 tables provided. The same values (
Fortunately, I've finally found some time to look at the data and pull out a few interesting comparative charts. I decided to start out looking at the elementary school Assessments of Skills and Knowledge (ASK3 & ASK4), Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment (GEPA), and High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA). Enlighten had shown a wide gap in performance between pairs of Abbott and non-Abbott districts with strong negative correlations between spending and performance, and I wanted to understand whether or not these were just extreme examples of indicative of a trend. Instead of per-pupil spending, however, I decided to look first at the staff information that was available - administrator and teacher salaries and ratios per student. Each of the following graphs shows the relationships between student performance and one of the staff factors. Red indicates the percentage “partially proficient,” i.e., not proficient in the tested material.
Students per administrator
Average Administrator SalaryLike the number of students per administrator, there is no clear relationship between administrator salaries and student proficiency.
Teacher ExperienceAgain, no very strong trends present themselves here. There is an interesting spike in failing grades at the top end of the scale, but statistical testing shows it is no different than the overall mean. Teacher Salary If you expected teacher salaries to have a strong relationship to overall student performance, you’d be wrong.
One of the standard claims made by the teachers unions, and many administrators, is that having fewer students per classroom improves performance. In the tables provided by the state, it’s a bit difficult to get at that number and relate it to performance. The Salary table I’ve been using here includes the ratio of students per administrator (field name dstad), and the number of faculty per administrator (field name dfacad), each at the district level. I’ve combined the two, dividing dstad by dfacad to arrive at number of students per faculty member. As you can see from the graph, there is no strong relationship between student-teacher ratio and performance. The spike at the high end looks interesting, but again is not statistically significant.
So what does correlate with performance? At a school board meeting a while back, our district superintendent told the board that research had shown the only factor that could be repeatably shown to relate to student performance was the economic means of the community in which they lived.