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Old 01-14-2015, 09:56 AM
 
Location: Dallas, TX
2,346 posts, read 5,791,659 times
Reputation: 2284

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The reason has to do with the grade cutoffs. Greatschools uses a fixed algorithm that assumes a standard 9-12 configuration.

Plano West has only grades 11-12. (9th and 10th graders attend either Shepton or Jasper.)
Allen has only grades 10-12. (9th graders attend a separate "freshmen center".)

In both cases, that skews the population of students taking the STAAR exams.

This can be most clearly seen by looking at Plano West's English results. The Plano West students achieved a "proficient" percentage in the 65% range for English III, but only 26% for the previous course, English II.

As bencronin04 points out, how can that possibly be correct? The numbers ARE correct, but still very misleading, as only the English III results reflect on the whole student body.

First thing to understand is this: the English II exam is ordinarily given during the SOPHOMORE year, not during the junior or senior year. Therefore, the vast majority of Plano West students never take the English II exam at Plano West. They already took it once (and passed it) at their previous school.

Therefore (and this is the key), the only kids who would take this test at Plano West are those who previously completely FLUNKED it one time already at their previous school. There are something like 1400 kids in a grade at Plano West. Of those, there are, I dunno, maybe 50-100 who have to re-take the English II exam as a junior. That's what's shown on greatschools.

In effect, you're judging the entire student body on its lowest 5-10%. It's not surprising that the (small) universe of kids repeating the test, who have already demonstrated an inability to do well on it, are not able to move up to the top tier of performance on it. If you were to force ALL the juniors to re-take the English II exam, you'd get results more in-line with the English III results.
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Old 01-14-2015, 10:20 AM
 
4 posts, read 7,005 times
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I wonder does the same apply to Allen? Or should we just stop looking there?
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Old 01-14-2015, 11:06 AM
 
Location: Dallas area, Texas
2,234 posts, read 2,757,219 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jefrina View Post
I wonder does the same apply to Allen? Or should we just stop looking there?
Lookout other factors than just GreatSchools (I've found that site to be messed up). Look at TAKS and STARR and SAT and PSAT and ACT. I think that Allen has a good school, if the Freshman Center/10-12 grade schools work for you. Plano's High School (9-10) and Senior High School (11-12) worked well for me and for my son and now for my daughter.

Don't rely on just one site to make your decision. Do your homework and figure out what you want from the high schools and what will work best for your student. We can't really answer that for you but will give you lots of opinions (but they are just OUR opinions).

I am a nerd but found my niche of friends at PSHS. I would have not done well at a smaller school. Same for my son and daughter. Only you know your kid.
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Old 01-14-2015, 11:46 AM
 
Location: Dallas, TX
2,346 posts, read 5,791,659 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jefrina View Post
I wonder does the same apply to Allen? Or should we just stop looking there?
Yep. In fact, a posting on greatschools.org, by an Allen teacher, explains the situation, including the numbers involved.

Quote:
Quote:
The test scores being used for Algebra 1 (46 students), Biology (27 students), English (150 students), English 1 Reading (44) and English 1 Writing (82 students), and World Geography (78 students) are reflective of students that did not pass at the first administration when the student was in ninth grade at the Lowery Freshman Center and retook the tests at Allen High School (10-12).
For example, according to greatschools.org, Allen's Lowery Freshman Center has a 97% proficient percentage in Algebra I, and 91% in English I Reading. By comparison, Allen High School gets a 43% in Algebra I, and a 34% in English I Reading.

Did the student body get markedly less intelligent from 9th grade to 10th grade? Uh, no. Those are NINTH grade tests being taken by 10th graders - those who flunked it before, or perhaps are behind a year in their coursework - either way, only the far left tail of the bell curve. That small, skewed sample is not a valid representation of the entire student body.
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Old 01-14-2015, 12:09 PM
 
4 posts, read 7,005 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big G View Post
Yep. In fact, a posting on greatschools.org, by an Allen teacher, explains the situation, including the numbers involved.



For example, according to greatschools.org, Allen's Lowery Freshman Center has a 97% proficient percentage in Algebra I, and 91% in English I Reading. By comparison, Allen High School gets a 43% in Algebra I, and a 34% in English I Reading.

Did the student body get markedly less intelligent from 9th grade to 10th grade? Uh, no. Those are NINTH grade tests being taken by 10th graders - those who flunked it before, or perhaps are behind a year in their coursework - either way, only the far left tail of the bell curve. That small, skewed sample is not a valid representation of the entire student body.

Even the freshman center is ranked rather low though - it's ranked a 7. So still lower than west McKinney and substantially lower than Frisco. Wonder why?
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Old 01-14-2015, 12:37 PM
 
41 posts, read 72,719 times
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These websites are flawed and you can't rely on them. Both schools are above average and do a fine job of educating their students. You can't go wrong with either one. If your focus is academics then go with Plano. They produce better results every year with similar or weaker demographics. You can look at results of previous years and they top SAT/ACT/AP/IB/Merit Scholarship/Presidential Scholarship/Intel and other science fairs/college admissions and other lists that indicate that they are a solid district. Obviously, they must be doing something right.
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Old 01-14-2015, 01:51 PM
 
Location: Southlake. Don't judge me.
2,810 posts, read 3,564,894 times
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thanks for breaking out the numbers! I'd noticed that Greatschools' ratings suddenly were off for Plano and Carroll and a few other districts and thought the 9-10/11-12 split might be the reason. Nice to see the math behind the problem with their algorithms.

Greatschools may still be useful, but at this point I'd recommend anyone to check SAT/ACT scores and other criteria, and if looking at a high school in a district also look at the elementary ratings if using Greatschools. For example, All of Carroll's elementaries are rated as 10s, as are the two intermediates, before the 9-10 and 11-12 are rated as 9's. At least that's not as egregious as the Plano ratings. Anyway, anyone checking these districts should consider the question raised upthread "do all the students suddenly get dumber, or is there perhaps something amiss with the ratings?" Unless a comment about the high school is something like "proud of the lead pipes and peeling lead paint in the cafeteria", it's probably the latter.
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Old 01-14-2015, 01:59 PM
 
21 posts, read 24,177 times
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Under the community ratings section for Allen HS, a teacher (?) wrote the following:

'The test scores being used for Algebra 1 (46 students), Biology (27 students), English (150 students), English 1 Reading (44) and English 1 Writing (82 students), and World Geography (78 students) are reflective of students that did not pass at the first administration when the student was in ninth grade at the Lowery Freshman Center and retook the tests at Allen High School (10-12). Those tests are apart of Lowery s state accountability to AHS. The test scores represent the % passing of this subset of students (re-testers). In addition, Great Schools included some Texas Education Agency state benchmarking field test data that we were asked to give using English 3 and Physics EOC's which are not a part of the state accountability system. For further clarification, Geometry, Algebra II, Chemistry, English 2, English 2 Reading, English 2 Writing, World History, US History are all End-of-Course exams first administered at AHS and are apart of the state accountability for Allen High School. Clear as mud I am sure!!'

Sounds like a similar issue situation at Plano West and elsewhere.
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Old 01-15-2015, 07:56 AM
 
Location: Frisco, Tx
419 posts, read 1,344,200 times
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Last year, Allen was rated a 9 and Plano West was a 10. So not sure what's up with Great Schools there. Both are excellent high schools, Plano West and Plano senior generally are considered some of the best high schools in the area. Usually in the top 5 public schools outside of DISD's mess of magnet schools that shouldn't be counted as public. They rank right up there with Highland Park and Coppell.

Frisco Public Schools aren't as bad as what is often portrayed by others on this board. Great school district, otherwise they wouldn't be the largest exemplary district in the state, but Plano has a better curriculum and tends to rank higher academically in SAT/ACT scores as well as some other factors too numerous to wade through in a post.
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Old 01-15-2015, 01:38 PM
 
Location: Southlake. Don't judge me.
2,810 posts, read 3,564,894 times
Reputation: 3595
Quote:
Originally Posted by DFWMike View Post
Frisco Public Schools aren't as bad as what is often portrayed by others on this board. Great school district, otherwise they wouldn't be the largest exemplary district in the state, but Plano has a better curriculum and tends to rank higher academically in SAT/ACT scores as well as some other factors too numerous to wade through in a post.
I think the issue that comes up is that at least some people believe or portray Frisco schools as being the equal or about the equal of Plano. They're not. That said, Plano schools are probably "pound-for-pound" the best in all of DFW and are top 5 (well, Plano East is top 10) even without accounting for demographics. Frisco schools are quite good, but are more top 15 to top 25 (depending on the high school) rather than in the top 5.

Given that there are ~140 "open enrollment" publics in DFW, that puts Frisco at a high tier, just not quite in Plano's league.

Last comment, since the subject comes up a zillion times - a LOT of school metrics is (are?) tied to demographics. There's a huge correlation at the campus level between the socioeconomic status ("SES") of the student body and the school test score results. What this means is that there's a lot of "self-selection" going on: children with parents who have more education and/or place a higher priority on education and/or have more financial assets to direct to education, will tend to cluster in certain districts. This means that a good deal of the difference in district performance is tied to factors other than quality of teaching and all that. Short version - YOUR kid (the generic "you" in this sentence), with YOUR family emphasis on education and resources to direct towards it, probably won't do that much better or worse from one district to another, in most situations. So a kid whose parents value education and make it a priority will likely get a darn good education at almost any school, even if it's not one of those top 10 or 25 or whatever in DFW. This forum skews well above average in SES, so we focus a lot on schools and districts that the vast majority of DFW residents can't realistically consider (or can only with great sacrifices in various areas). There are a whole lot of kids going to school in Mesquite or Lancaster or Irving or Grand Prairie or wherever who will get solid educations, go on to college (with at least some going to highly rated colleges) and experience a whole lot of success in their lives, even if the average SAT score of their high school isn't spectacular. It's easy sometimes to get so caught up in these rankings that we forget that.
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