2015 Aspire Results for Systems and Schools

Want to explore how your local public school system or school performed on the statewide benchmark test, the ACT Aspire?

Using Aspire results, PARCA works with local school systems to analyze performance, building comparisons with similar systems and with the state as a whole. In grades 3-8, students are tested in reading, math, and science. In 10th grade, the tested subjects are English, math, and science. Our key metric is the percentage of students tested who score proficient on a particular test. By scoring at or above proficient, a student is considered to be “on track” for his or her grade level. Students who stay on track should be able to succeed on the college readiness test, the ACT. A student meeting or exceeding the benchmark on the ACT is judged to be ready for success in college.

While systems are often judged on the test results generated by “all students” taking the test, it is important to look deeper at comparisons of how the various subgroups of students perform. Students from low-income backgrounds, as a group, don’t perform as well on these types of tests as students from more higher-income backgrounds. Thus, a school system’s performance should be judged in context. Are nonpoverty students in a school performing as well as nonpoverty students elsewhere? How do the results for poverty students compare to results generated by other systems?

New for 2015 is the ability to compare a school or system’s performance with its results from 2014. Did a school or system improve performance from one year to the next?

The interactive charts below allow you to build your own comparisons between peer schools and systems. Are students in your school succeeding at the same rate as those in the comparison schools? Tabs at the top of the chart allow you to look at the data in various ways.

If you dive deep in the data, you may notice that there are some schools and systems that don’t display results on some measures. There are a couple of reasons for this. In some circumstances, the tested population for that measure is very small. In that case, the State Department of Education doesn’t release results in order to protect student privacy. A second reason data might not be available has to do with the way schools and systems identify poverty students. Traditionally, students who were eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches under the National School Lunch program were identified as students in poverty. In recent years, schools and systems with higher concentrations of poverty have had the option of providing free lunches to all students. In those schools and systems, all students are identified as poverty students. This leaves us unable to compare the performance of poverty and nonpoverty students in those schools.


PARCA Annual Meeting Additional Materials

PARCA’s Annual Meeting was held in Birmingham on Friday, February 5. Its focus was Alabama’s process for formulating budgets.

PARCA’s description of current budget issues can be accessed here.

The presentation made by William Glasgall of the Volcker Alliance describing budget issues in a national context can be found here.

If you want to look at Governor Robert Bentley’s Budget proposal for FY 2017, it can viewed or downloaded here.

For comparison, the links below provide a look at the budget documents from other states.

South Carolina

Virginia

Tennessee

Georgia’s Budget in Brief and links to other budget documents

Mississippi

 


Resources for Understanding Alabama's Budget Process

One resource for understanding budgets is the Budget Fact Book published by the Alabama’s Legislative Fiscal Office.

As February approaches, the Legislature is preparing to return to Montgomery for yet another tough session of struggling with Alabama’s budgets.

The Governor’s Office is in the process of crafting a proposed plan and budget. The Legislature has already begun its process of reviewing budget requests from state agencies.

PARCA’s annual meeting, to be held Friday, February 5 at the Harbert Center in Birmingham, will focus on Alabama’s budget process: how it works now and how it might be improved. The meeting agenda features William Glasgall of the Volcker Alliance, a national nonpartisan effort to rebuild trust in government and improve its effectiveness. Glasgall serves as the Program Director for the Alliance’s State and Local Accountability and Improvement programs, which has focused its research on ways to improve state budgeting and financial practices. Leaders from the Legislature’s budget committee will participate in a panel discussion of the budget process and the challenges the state will face. Gov. Robert Bentley will deliver the luncheon address.

In preparation, PARCA has compiled a sampling of resources available to those who want to better understand the budget process.

You can find an overview about how the various states pursue budgeting in Budget Processes of the States from the National Association of State Budget Officers. The publication explains terms like programs, performance, and zero-based budgeting, and compares states on the approaches they take. The Volcker Alliance’s website features several publications recommending improvements in the way states budget.

Closer to home, the basic law describing how Alabama’s budget process is supposed to work is the Budget Management Act.

For those of you who want to follow the blow-by-blow of the budgeting process during the coming session, here are some key links:

The Executive Budget Office

When the Governor publishes his budget in the coming weeks, it will be posted here as the executive budget, along with budgets from previous years. The Finance Department website also includes budget summary spreadsheets that offer comparisons of the governor’s proposed but with those of prior years.

After they are introduced, The Legislative Fiscal Office also publishes spreadsheets of the budgets under consideration.

Annually, the Fiscal Office also publishes and posts A Legislator’s Guide to Alabama Taxes, with detailed information about tax collections and descriptions of Alabama and also the annual Budget Fact Book, with information about each agency’s budget and performance measures.

For the super budget geeks:

You can find reports on state revenue and spending at Open.Alabama.gov.

In a different spot on the Web, the Department of Finance publishes Quarterly Budget Management Reports that detail year-to-date revenues and expenditures for each agency and Quarterly Performance Reports that are supposed to provide insight into how agencies are doing carrying out their various missions.

But a word of warning, the Budget Management Reports are detailed and dense. The pdf file that includes all spending and revenue by state agencies is 2,627 pages long.  The Quarterly Performance Reports for all state agencies are over 200 pages long, and the depth of information varies widely agency-by-agency.