Sunday, August 24, 2003

Editorial: Sig's achievement extends beyond its demographics

Someone commented on my post from last night (two posts down):

I would just like to say that the reporting of those statistics is grossly inaccurate. Yes, Signature School has a better average than EVSC. However, Signature School probably had about 1/5 (if not less) the test-takers that EVSC did, due to the small student body. In addition, most Signature School students are enrolled in honors and/or AP classes, which no doubt prepare them better for the tests. If the EVSC honors students were scored comparatively to the Sig students, the results would be more realistic. Note also the minorities and free lunch percentages. Disadvantaged schools are more likely to perform poorly on tests, and Signature School obviously is not a disadvantaged school. Sig vs. Bosse - obviously, Sig will be much better on paper than Bosse. This article is ridiculous. There is no way to accurately compare the results of 50 or so Sig students to hundreds of EVSC students, which nullifies this entire "report".
Anonymous | 08.24.03 - 8:28 am | #

Dear Anonymous,

I am a Sig student, so my analysis of Sig's achievement will be biased. But notice that I did not claim that this article shows that Sig has a superior academic program. I attempted to be as objective as possible in my post. In listing stats from the Courier and Press article, I made sure to include the free lunch and minority statistics, because it does bring up the legitimate question that you bring up: how much of Sig's success is based on the socio-economic standing of its students?

While attending Sig can bias my view, it also lets me have an inside glimpse at the Sig system and compare it to the system I witnessed at Reitz. And my opinion: Sig has higher academic achievement than the EVSC has. This achievement is not based on its students' wealth

Sig has less disadvantaged students...but keep in mind that disadvantaged students from the EVSC often don't take the SAT or other college-entrance exams; the general SAT/ACT/AP taking population of both the EVSC and Sig is middle/upper class. Yes, some disadvantaged students in the EVSC take the SAT...but Sig DOES teach disadvantaged students. And proportionally, I would suspect that the demographics of the standardized test-taking popluations of the EVSC and Sig would be very similar. There are no publically available demographic breakdowns (i.e. what percent of minorities or disadvantaged students actually take the SAT at all?) of the EVSC or Sig's test-taking population, so I may be right, or I may be wrong on that point.

But for a more concrete example, you challenge Sig to release a comparison of its students vs the EVSC's honors students. First, this comparison is not exactly fair as the EVSC's honors students by definition take honors or advanced placement classes...Sig students generally take honors or advanced placement classes but some students take advanced (which is one level below honors) or special education classes. But even in this uneven comparison, Sig has high scores. Before Sig was a full-time charter school, its half-day students took their AP tests at their home schools--the Sig students earned a large amount of the 3s, 4s and 5s that the EVSC received. Last year, in its first year administering AP tests by itself, Sig received great scores. In AP English Language and Composition, Sig students received roughly five 5s and 9 fours...that is for a group of students that numbered around 40. I don't know the EVSC's scores as a whole, but talking to some of my friends at Reitz, 5s were extremely rare in their class. Many bright students I know received 2s and 3s. This comparison of Sig to EVSC honors students gets even more unbalanced when you look at our AP science and math scores. AP Calculus is one of the tougher classes to receive a 5 sister, the Math Team captain at Reitz 3 years ago, and a friend of mine, the Math Team captain 2 years ago at Reitz, both received 3s on the AP Calculus test. Sig's first year scores AP Calc scores (phenomenal by ANY standard):

score# of students

And AP Computer Science scores were even better. I do not know all of the AP Chemistry scores, but there were several 4s and 5s--scores that the EVSC has not received regularly for several years (at Reitz, the AP Chem class was really Chem II, and was not geared to prepare you for the AP test--that may have changed last year with the new chemistry teacher there).

While you only disputed the academic portion of the Courier and Press report, you seem to dislike Sig in general. If that is the case, please look beyond the academics; Sig has an outstanding community service program with an active Key Club, Student Advisory Council, and PTSA. Sig's core classes (such as AP World History and International Awareness) promote a greater understanding for the world around us, which is bound to play a large part in America's future. And Sig's learning environment lets self-motivated students excel in whatever they chose to do (academics, theater, art, speech, music, multimedia) without distracting influences such as sports pep rallies and mandatory reading periods.

Please don't interpret my response to your comment as hostile. I only intend to show you and other readers of SM that Sig is not a school based on its students' wealth. Sig is a school based on the learning environment that it generates. At the same time, Sig is not a replacement for the EVSC. It is not necessarily a model for how the EVSC should be run. The EVSC has to deal with a wider range of issues involving the mundane (such as running a school cafeteria, bus system, or large sports teams) to the explosive (school violence and illegal drugs) that come with running any large school. Sig has been blessed with not having to deal with these issues, and so it can focus on its academics. Perhaps that is why Sig has a record of high achievement.

Thank you for the comment. I hope you and others continue to bring up issues about Sig that need clarification; feel free to post a rebuttal if you feel it necessary.


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