Comparing Achievement Trends in Reading and Math Across Arizona Public School Student Subgroups

Primary Researchers: Eric Crane, Min Huang, Vanessa Barrat

Publication Date: October 2011


School achievement trends are critical gauges of the effectiveness of school support efforts to raise academic performance. To better monitor school support efforts, the Arizona Department of Education requested that reading and math proficiency data be disaggregated by student subgroup, building on a previous REL West study that reported aggregate results. The current study reports performance results for student subgroups of interest to educators and policymakers.

This brief describes student achievement in reading and math using Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS), Arizona’s criterion-referenced assessment of content proficiency rates for grades 3–8 and 10. Student subgroups are defined based on race/ethnicity, English language learner status, disability status, and economic status. Results are disaggregated by school level (elementary, middle, and high) and by school status as relates to Title I accountability (participating in Title I improvement, receiving Title I funds but not participating in improvement, not receiving Title I funds).

Research Questions

Three sets of research questions guided this study:
•    What percentage of Arizona public school students is proficient in reading, and how do these numbers differ by student subgroup and school level? What are the results when only charter schools are examined?
•    What percentage of Arizona public school students is proficient in math, and how do these numbers differ by student subgroup and school level? What are the results when only charter schools are examined?
•    How do the percentages of Arizona public school students proficient in reading and math differ when the student subgroups are compared across three school types? What are the results when only charter schools are examined?

Key Findings or Outcomes

In both reading and math, proficiency rates differed by student subgroup. Reading proficiency rates ranged from 26 percent for English language learner students to 84 percent for Asian students, White students, and students not receiving free or reduced-price meals. Math proficiency rates range from 34 percent for English language learner students to 86 percent for Asian students. These findings show the extent of these differences and whether such differences remain constant when the data are disaggregated by school level or school type.

The subgroup proficiency rates exhibited a consistent order: students in non–Title I schools had higher proficiency rates than did students in Title I Schools Not in Improvement, and still higher than did students in Title I Schools in Improvement. The lone exception to this pattern was English language learner students, who in Title I Schools Not in Improvement had proficiency rates in both reading and math 4 percentage points higher than did English language learner students in non–Title I schools.

The findings document performance disparities between different groups and highlight areas where school support efforts need to be strengthened. State- and district-level policymakers can incorporate these results into ongoing conversations about how to support Arizona’s students and schools.

Methodology

Data provided by the Arizona Department of Education’s Office of Data Management indicated the school level (elementary, middle, or high), Title I school type (participating in Title I improvement, receiving Title I funds but not participating in improvement, not receiving Title I funds), and achievement by student subgroup and grade at each school. Students’ achievement scores were reported as one of four proficiency levels: falls far below the standard, approaches the standard, meets the standard, and exceeds the standard. Consistent with Arizona practice, students were considered proficient in reading or math if they meet or exceed the standard. The percentages of students proficient in reading or math were computed as the number of students in a subgroup across all schools who meet or exceed the standard divided by the number of students in the same subgroup who took the test.

  • Published: October 2011
  • Research Type: Technical Brief
  • Methodologies: Descriptive
  • Contact info:
    Eric Crane 916.492.4080


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