Why NOT School Performance Scores?

This blog by Gary Rubinstein at "TEACHFORUS" is a great example and explanation of the "inaccurate statistically meaningless scoring process" in New York City (that's where our unqualified candidate for State Superintendent previously worked his magic). Surprisingly, this system shows how the process hurts GOOD schools as well as "BAD." Louisiana's School Performance Score metric is no better!


When Bad Progress Reports Happen To Good Schools — Change ‘em!
by Gary Rubinstein

New York City’s Department of Education recently released their ‘progress reports’ for all the middle and elementary schools for the 2010-2011 school year.

For each school they have a complicated formula that assigns up to 60 points for ‘progress’, up to 25 points for ‘achievement’, and up to 15 points for ‘school environment’. The scores are tallied and out of the 1100 schools, the bottom 3%, which is around 33 are labeled as an ‘F.’ When a school gets an F, they are on probation and could get shut down and turned into a charter school or other sanctions. Even if it doesn’t get shut down, it is pretty embarrassing when schools get this grade, particularly when they know that they don’t deserve this label.

Well, I’ve finally waded through all the instructions about how the grade is calculated. I always figured that the stat was not statistically meaningful, but what I learned about the system surprised even me. Things are so much worse than I figured, and I plan to write in extreme detail in the coming weeks about this rating system and reveal all of the many flaws. For this post, though, I will concentrate on one.

What would the Department of Ed think if out of the 33 schools that got an F were several of the best performing schools in the city? That would be pretty embarrassing, wouldn’t it? It would make one question whether the scoring process was very accurate. Fortunately for them, when I looked at the list of Fs there were no schools with English and Math scores exceeding most of the school in the city — or were there?

So I did a little experiment. Instead of sorting the schools by their letter grades, I sorted them by their final score, which was a number from 0 to 100. The schools with Fs, the bottom 3%, were schools with a final score of 18.2 or less. But what I found was that among the schools with scores of 18.2 or less, there were some schools that did not have Fs. There were three Cs! How could this be, I wondered.

So I downloaded the progress report for one of these schools, P.S. 56 The Louis Desario School. And, as the top of the progress report shows, this school clearly got a C, even though their overall score was 14.9, which put them at the bottom 1 percentile of all schools.

Well, something was up. Then I figured out why. Looking more closely at the ‘fine print’ at the bottom right:

Mystery solved. Schools with average English and Math performance in the top third citywide cannot receive a grade lower than a C. How’s that for a self-fulfilling prophecy?

The message is that this inaccurate statistically meaningless scoring process is good enough for low performing kids, but not good enough for high performing (and low 9% Black and Hispanic percentage in this case, I might add) kids.

I find this loophole offensive. It is just a way to hide the fact that they have developed a horrible grading system. Stay tuned for more posts about the details behind the progress report grading system. When I am through exposing all the flaws, the only appropriate thing for the DOE to do would be to fire whoever came up with the system, have him/her apologize to all the teachers, administrators, and students he/she slandered with this failing label, and to re-open all the schools that were closed based on this phony metric.

Whose "Showdown" is it Mr. Dubos?

My response to Gambit endorsements in BESE District 1 election

Let me clarify the real source of the divide among this year's important race for BESE characterized by Clancy Dubos in his October 18 edition of Gambit as a "showdown."

Classroom teachers - not school board members, school superintendents or unions - are the largest and most significant group of education professionals in the state and a cohort member of the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education. I represent that important group as a National Board Certified Teacher and founding member of the Coalition for Louisiana Public Education.

Classroom teachers
statewide and nationally are leading the opposition to the still miserably failing premise that a "world class public education" can be crafted through community school closures, takeover by quasi-public charter schools with their autonomy from rules and regulations designed to protect our children, expansion of high stakes standardized testing, and replacement of state certified teachers by unqualified college graduates.

Classroom teachers want a qualified education professional to replace incumbent James Garvey precisely because of his unreliable but consistent vote for the failed reforms of the Recovery School District and former Supt. Pastorek's unfettered and poorly regulated issuance of charter contracts.

Reforms were initially sold to the education community as "choice" and "optional," like the new teacher evaluation formula with 50% of the evaluation being based on student standardized test scores and further distorted by a complex value-added metric. After getting the proverbial "foot in the door," Mr. Garvey and his anti-public education promoters are no longer hiding their original intent to force this failing experiment down the throats of every teacher and school in the state.

Classroom teachers are against the privatization and sell-out of our public school system. They proudly service all the challenges public school systems, by law, must address that many charters seek to circumvent because the economies of scale don't exist that would allow them to maintain their autonomous business models: services to special education students, Louisiana's high poverty rate, absenteeism, language barriers, child abuse, nutritional deficiencies, community crime and the simple fact that not all children learn at the same rate or have the same intellectual capabilities.

Teachers aren't vested in the political capital Mr. Garvey and his partners in reform represent. They are committed to the well researched, proven education principles that can bring about true learning for all children that will also contribute to healthy communities and economic opportunities for everyone. I am a highly qualified, award-winning, classroom teacher, and my candidacy for District 1 BESE offers an opportunity for real educators and the tax-paying public to have a voice on BESE, the state's highest education policy-making body in the state.

The election is Saturday, October 22nd. TEACHERS - You can make your collective voice heard!!!!!

Jefferson Parish School Board Superintendent Search

Tonight I attended the Jefferson Parish School Board meeting at Bonnabel High. I didn't get a warm fuzzy feeling!!

The board is in the process of determining a process to select a new permanent superintendent. I made these comments regarding their search when public comment was allowed:

As a long time advocate for children and their opportunities to receive a quality public education - as I, my children and my grandchildren have - it is my hope that this Board will search out a Superintendent whose experience and credentials will qualify him or her to lead this system out of the morass of politics and the culture of failure that the latest iteration of so-called REFORM has brought to some parts of our state.

The new Jefferson Parish Schools Superintendent should only support a system that is held fully accountable to the taxpayers of the community. Should hold ALL schools accountable to the taxpayers of the community. Should hold ALL schools, both traditional and charters fully accountable and required to follow all the rules and regulations designed by BESE to protect our children and support successful education outcomes.

The new Superintendent should honor and support his teachers and provide them with the tools needed to grow their craft the same as any other profession.

Teachers are the vehicle by which our children will attain their individual potentialities - potentials that often belie the mind numbing test and drill mania of high stakes standardized testing that all reputable research shows does nothing to improve learning nor is it able to identify the quantity or quality of learning.

I ask that you search for a candidate who will not throw the baby out with the bath water by simply closing our schools and virtually selling them to the highest bidder or charter management company while firing the teachers and disrupting the communities and children who need stability and community.

I hope he/she will know how to stop the flow of taxpayer money into the bottomless pit of unresearched, unproven and TRULY status quo measures that continue to purportedly "close the education gap" simply by standardizing expectations and outcomes for our lowest AND highest performing students.

Let's do what's right for our children and our communities by appointing a superintendent who is responsive to THEIR needs.

Honoring a Teacher!

I received a donation and this request to publish a note about Donna Driskill's favorite teacher.

"Lee, please accept my donation to honor the memory of the best teacher I ever had Her name is Helen Regas Hibbets and she was from Brooklyn, New York. Ms. Hibbits passed away on January 16, 2010.

She taught me for two years (mathematics) on the southshore in the Jefferson Parish Public School System. Ms. Hibbets was never a Teacher of the Year and was highly suspicious of such title. Her influence on her students is incalculable, both personally and academically."

If you would like to honor a teacher - or if you have been honored - and want to publish it on my blog, let me know.

Which Path to Excellence in Education? by David Cohen

This blog was created by David B. Cohen and posted on InterACT. It was so good that I am posting it in full here rather than try to say the same thing in another way. Thanks David for this great post. Sounds like Louisiana to me!!

October 13, 2011

by David B. Cohen

This blog post was co-authored with Rachel Norton, a school board member for San Francisco Unified School District. Earlier this year she also contributed to this site by sharing her thoughts about school turnaround models. A slightly shorter revision of this blog post was also posted at Beyond Chron, a progressive alternative media site. [Note: on that version, we stated that the Foundation for Excellence in Education had only three board members, a statement based on the contents of their website at the time we wrote that draft. Their website has since been updated to reflect a board of eight members].

It’s not often San Francisco hosts Jeb Bush and Rupert Murdoch, let alone on the same day, but it’s happening this week. Bush is Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Foundation for Excellence in Education. The Foundation brings its National Summit for Education Reform to San Francisco on October 13-14, with Bush and Murdoch among the keynote speakers (agenda here).

We hope they enjoy their stay, but reject their approach to education reform. Will their speeches include disclosures of their personal and family financial stakes in charter schools, educational publishing, and testing and data systems they champion in the name of education reform? As a San Francisco school board member and as a California teacher leader, we believe the Foundation misidentifies the most pressing problems in education, and offers solutions that are not in the best interests of Californians.

Their agenda asks, “How do you turn around a school or school district that has fundamentally institutionalized failure?” Those of us working daily at the school and district level reject that over-generalization, and suggest failure begins higher up. California has slashed funding necessary for adequate staffing and a well-rounded curriculum. Nationally, we rank at or near the bottom in staffing for high school teachers, counselors, administrators, nurses and librarians – but we have not reduced our testing budget. The conference contains no hint of support for distressed public school systems, but celebrates charter schools. Instead of relentlessly promoting privately-managed charter schools, reformers should acknowledge that charters are not a magic bullet; research on their effectiveness mixed at best, as is their commitment to educating all students.

Another speaker, Chester Finn, Jr., advocates eliminating local school boards. We think local control enhances innovation and support for schools. In 2004, San Francisco voters approved the Public Education Enrichment Fund to support preschool, sports, libraries, and the arts. In 2008, voters passed The Quality Teachers and Education Act, focusing on retaining teachers and improving teacher evaluation. Teachers in hard-to-staff subjects and schools receive additional compensation.

We also disagree with supposedly pro-parent reform strategies like the “parent trigger” – another conference agenda item. In California, the parent trigger has meant outside organizers making choices in private, then using questionable tactics to gather signatures for charter conversions. This approach has been used in the Los Angeles Unified School District, though recent analysis showed LAUSD’s privately-managed schools performed worse than those under district management. We prefer authentic parent engagement. San Francisco Unified recently passed a parent engagement policy that calls for the district to move parents away from a “dependency” model and towards an “empowerment” model. Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento has a “Parent University” to educate parents about expectations for their children in high school and college.

The conference addresses the need to improve teaching, but not in ways that will help California teachers. Conference speakers include officials from Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois – states that have put aggressive anti-teacher and anti-union “reforms” in place, though strongly unionized states and nations come out on top in comparisons of student learning. Instead of attacking unions, reformers should look at California’s Quality Education Investment Act, spearheaded by the California Teachers Association, and the National Education Association’s Priority Schools Campaign. These efforts show that union-management partnerships can reform schools without creating labor conflicts.

Conference speakers will tout the use student test scores and “value-added” measurement for teacher evaluation and pay, but all three leading educational research organizations reject that evaluation approach, and test-based performance-pay has a consistently dismal record of waste and failure. Still, evaluations do need improvement. Accomplished California Teachers has published teacher evaluation reform proposals that have the backing of teachers and researchers, and shared this report with lawmakers and school districts. In coming months we will publish recommendations for additional reforms to the profession.

Jeb Bush and Rupert Murdoch’s brand of “reform” is about weakening unions, shifting money from public education to private companies, and increasing standardized testing to the detriment of non-tested curriculum. We reject their vision, in favor of an educational program that empowers local communities with the authority and funding to provide quality schools and a well-rounded education for all students.