Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Relating Academic Data from the Elementary Grades to State Test Results in High School: Implications for School Improvement through Professional Development

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Childhood Education

Relating Academic Data from the Elementary Grades to State Test Results in High School: Implications for School Improvement through Professional Development

Article excerpt

Abstract. End-of-year marks and achievement test results in intermediate grade math and reading were linked to high-stakes test results at the secondary level. The results suggest that analysis of marks and test scores would alert educators to students who may be at-risk. This study is an example of the scientific approach to school improvement advocated by the No Child Left Behind Act. The discussion included professional development needed by teachers, principals, and school psychologists in order to make a research-based realignment of the curriculum and adjustments to the instructional program.


The seminal study of the status of schools in the now classic 1983 A Nation at Risk outlined the need for improvement. Among the many results and suggestions of that study were the needs to increase achievement test results, to improve graduation rates, and to reduce absenteeism. The Koret Task Force on K-12 Education (2003) reviewed the goals of A Nation at Risk and attempted to clarify why so much change was made, yet so little improvement was seen. They found that little attention was paid to K-8 grades, because the assumption was that reasonable levels of basic skills were being provided. However, they demonstrated that children were not acquiring the essential knowledge needed in preparation for high school studies. Furthermore, they supported the use of accurate measures to evaluate the value added by each school. Schools should be rewarded for evidence of improvement, or closed or reconstituted if they fail to show value added. The Koret Task Force advocated for accountability and that complete information about the schools should be readily and conveniently available. Thus, data, reports, forms, and formats should enable easy comparisons for full transparency of school information. That suggests that test results, graduation rates, and attendance must be available, accessible, and simple to interpret.

For two decades, states have been requiring proficiency testing at various grade levels as part of reporting complete information on school performance and developing improvement plans (Airasian, 1987). The focus on national and state testing of student achievement generally serves three functions (Education Commission of the States, 2002). First, it provides a vehicle to inform the public about the effectiveness of schools. Second, it qualifies districts for rewards and triggers state intervention in the educational program. Third, districts and schools use test results as part of accreditation and school improvement processes.

Failure-to-graduate and attendance are other measures of school effectiveness (Rumberger, 1987). The ability to use academic measures in early grades to predict failure in later grades is a logical use of student data. Anticipating which students may have difficulty with later tests, graduation, and attendance would enable prevention and early remediation (e.g., Shapiro, 1988). For example, Lloyd (1978) reported that low teacher grades and weak reading achievement in 3rd grade were related to dropping out of high school. Gleason and Dynarski (2002) reported that low grades and poor test score performance are important indicators of poor academic work in high school. Poor academic work was the best predictor of identifying who dropped out. Barrington and Hendricks (1989) found that failing grades, low achievement test performance, and low attendance separated dropouts from graduates. Dropout was associated with low grades and test scores as early as 3rd grade. They argued that if prevention of dropout (and by congruence, academic failure) is to be effective, early identification is necessary. They suggested that over-identifying students who appear at risk of later academic failure is the better strategy in preventing students from failing to graduate.

In addition to relating test results to failure to graduate high school, monitoring test performance may have other significant school improvement benefits. …

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