More than 100 audience members at a Jan. 29 report session, predominately Kyrene administrators and teachers, heard an Arizona State University professor report that there has been no measurable increase or decrease in Kyrene AIMS scores as a result of a class-schedule restructuring program.
Dr. David Garcia presented the results of a three-year study to determine the impact on middle-school student scores from a comprehensive organizational change implemented in 2005.
In that year, class periods were reduced to six periods a day from eight, and the length of each period increased to 68 minutes from 45.
Also as part of the project, reading and writing classes, which had been divided into tseparate periods, were combined into one, educators wanting to know what impact the changes would have on the scores.
Surprisingly, Garcia indicated, the results showed that the new school-day schedule had little impact on the scores.
“At the district level there was only a 1 percent change,” he said.
“In the end, over time, you come to the conclusion there was really no change in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding the standards during this three-year period (grades 6 through 8 from 2005 to 2008).”
“You’re probably wondering whether or not Kyrene is an anomaly,” he said. “I did look at statewide trends. And, it is almost exactly the same.”
The study concluded that Kyrene achievement trends are largely consistent with statewide results and that organizational changes are less influential on achievement than changes in teaching and learning.
In addition, the study included a teacher satisfaction survey, taken in 2006 and again in 2008.
The study showed that teacher satisfaction in Kyrene schools improved on average by 6 percent by 2008. Finally, the study tracked student disciplinary referrals from 2004 through 2008.
During the period of 2006 to 2008 class disturbance referrals doubled from 987 to 1,856. And, the number of tardies between 2006 and 2008 doubled from 165 to 343.
Jenny Doering, a member of the Kyrene Parenting Network, said that in 2005 parents were told that the classroom program changes were implemented to save money for the district, and wanted to know the answer to that question. “Where’s the money savings?”
“If AIMS scores are not improving, perhaps they (Kyrene School District officials) should re-evaluate the current model,” said Doering.
Kyrene School District Community Relations Director Nancy Dudenhoefer said, “We cannot draw any conclusions to the study at this time and are waiting to see the results of the entire study in four weeks.”
Marty Starling, a science teacher at Aprende Middle School, offered her opinion of the outcome:
“In all honesty we don’t know why it had little effect on AIMS scores; however the fact that scores did not go down as a result of the model is a good thing.
“Many opponents to the change in model thought it would have a detrimental effect on scores. I also agree with Dr. Garcia’s comment that the instrument of measure (AIMS scores) doesn’t measure everything. For example, most science teachers feel the longer class period is a benefit for science learning as it gives more time for completing and processing labs. It would be interesting to see how our AIMS science scores compare to the state scores as a result of the change.”
However, the other side of the story at this meeting was not the charts and graphs and the lengthy deliberation of statistical analysis. Most impressive was the huge turnout at a public meeting of over one hundred and twenty five Kyrene educators, staff and administrators on a Thursday evening to hear the results of a an important study few Kyrene parents were moved to attend.
The educators questioned the data, the methodology of the study and the model itself. And, they asked what conclusions were drawn from the results. Dr. Garcia responded that no conclusions were drawn because they were not an objective of the study. Yet, no one left the room frustrated or disappointed. Not even the green flier passed out at the beginning of the meeting, reminding all those in attendance of yet further cuts in spending for education, was able to distract or discourage the educators in the room from continuing to assess and reflect on the numbers measuring student achievement.
In spite of the lack of change in AIMS scores, Dr. Garcia told the attendees that their approach to implementing and then following up on program changes was laudable.
“Let me start out by congratulating you. I have been in small researching schools since graduate school, and doing something like this is extremely rare.
“Most school districts initiate policies without doing research at all.”