A Story of School Performance Score Intrigue!

Herb Bassett is a Louisiana teacher who can actually figure out what the heck State Superintendent John White is doing with School Performance Scores.  This story written by Herb is fiction based on reality.  Only the names have been changed to protect those students, teachers and schools screwed by White.

I have several questions about this scenario:

1.  How many principals could/would figure this out and actually waste time trying to game the system?

2.  How many principals will be so outraged that they will get his/her arse down to the Department of Education, BESE meeting December 3, 4, and 5th to testify on behalf of their schools?  I will be there as always wondering where they are.  The press will be there also, and I have a feeling that if principals showed up, they might actually write about this crap.  Then the public would know how their tax dollars are being STOLEN!

3.  Does U.S.Ed realize this shell game is going on in Louisiana or are they so busy poking their noses in state business mandating crappy national standards and high stakes standardized testing, which is forbidden by law, that they don't have a clue?  (personally, I think they know EXACTLY what is going on because educators all over the country communicate with them daily about this hoax.  I know I will send this to Arne and friends and follow up with a call asking if this is LEGAL!

4.  Will our state legislators and Congress people respond to this blog when I send it to them?  They are facing an election cycle soon and educators and parents are making a list and checking it twice!  Who will step up to the plate when the spring legislative session opens to file bills that will prevent this kind of "school uniform" crime?  I know I will be there testifying so they can't say "we didn't know."

5.  When will the State Attorney General or Legislative Auditor conduct a full investigation into the goings on of LDE and RSD?  I know I will send this to them and ask who is responsible for stopping ethical and criminal activities at LDE/BESE.  I know the Ethics Administration will take no action as evidenced by their refusal to intervene in the perceived conflicts of interest between several BESE members and the organizations from which they or their relatives benefit financially.  For example, The Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools (run by BESE Pres. Chas Roemer's sister), Teach For America Louisiana directed by BESE member Kira Orange-Jones'.  The Council of Chief State School Officers (partner with NGO in creating Common Core) full time consultant contract with BESE member Holly Boffy.

6.  Was John White's recent noblesse oblige that will  evidently delay the coup de gras of COMPASS evaluation for teachers simply an attempt to delay the inevitable filing of lawsuits in that regard?  Will it provide him with a get-out-of-Dodge pass?  Will he try to follow in the steps of his predecessor Paul Vallas or will there be nothing left to salvage after he is thrown under the bus by his benefactors?  Oh, I forgot, his other predecessor Paul Pastorek was generously rewarded for his alligator tears au revoir.

8.  Is my opinion that this kind of manipulation of school performance scores, upon which federal and state funding is predicated, is illegal activity shared by anyone else?

The Tale of Camelot Middle School

This tale, while fiction, is based on the reality many Louisiana elementary and middle school faced this year under the new School Assessment System.

Camelot Middle School had one hundred students. Last year the school got a C.  The principal at Camelot Middle School, Mr. Humphrey, wanted the school to earn an A this year.

He knew that the school needed to earn 100 points to get an A.  Since the school had 100 students, each student needed to earn one point for the school.  Then it would get an A.

Johnny was a 5th grade student at Camelot Middle School. If Johnny scored Basic on all his iLEAP tests, he would earn one point for his school.  Because Math and ELA are more important than Science and Social Studies, Johnny would earn 1/3 of a point by scoring Basic in Math, and another 1/3 of a point in ELA. Science and Social Studies would count for 1/6 of a point each.

Last year, Johnny did not score Basic.  He scored Approaching Basic on his Math and ELA tests.  Last year, that earned at least some credit toward the school's grade.

The Department of Education changed the rules this year.  Approaching Basic would no longer earn credit toward the school's grade.

If Johnny did not improve, he would not earn points for his school this year.

The Deparment of Education promised to give Bonus Points to Camelot Middle School if it could improve Johnny more than other students like him.  The school could get the Bonus Points even if Johnny did not raise his score to Basic this year.

"We have this amazing new machine called the VAMulator," claimed the Department of Education, "it will tell us if Johnny did better than other students like him. However, to earn Bonus Points, you must have at least 30 percent of your non-proficient students do better than the VAMulator thinks they should. You also must have at least ten non-proficient students."

"Great, I have exactly ten of those non-proficient students!"said principal Humphrey. "Johnny scored 250 last year on his Math test. What does he need to score this year to get Bonus Points?"

"You don't understand," said the Department of Education, "that is not how the VAMulator works.  To be really precise, we put all the data for every student into the VAMulator at the end of the year, and then it tells us how well each student peformed."

"Oh, I see," said principal Humphrey. "So I can look at Johnny's teachers' VAM scores at the end of the year to see if he earned the Bonus Points."

"You don't understand," said the Department of Education, "the U.S. Department of Education told us to twist some of the dials on the VAMulator when we calculate the Bonus Points. It gives us different results for the Bonus Points than for the teachers."

Principal Humphrey grimmaced and shuffled back to his office.  He was confused, but filled with resolve to help Johnny.  He reminded himself that he got into education to help kids, not earn Bonus Points from a machine.

Principal Humphrey thought about it for a while. "If the VAMulator is so good at predicting how  students will do, then I would think that about half of the students would do better than predicted and about half would do worse. This sound like a pretty good deal, since only 30 percent have to do better than expected."

Principal Humphrey hired a teacher's aide to work with Johnny every day to help him.

Two months into the school year the Department of Education announced a rule that special education students could earn double the Bonus Points if the VAMulator said that they did better than other students.

Susie was a special education student. She worked hard and scored Approaching Basic on her LEAP tests last year.  Principal Humphrey took the teacher's aide from Johnny and assigned her to help Susie every day so that she might earn the double Bonus Points. That would really help Camelot Middle School get an A.

Then in April, the Department of Education very quietly changed the rule.  It would not be special education students who would earn the double points, but students who scored Unsatisfactory last year.

Mr. Humphrey was exasperated.  He had worked so hard to help Susie so that she would earn the double Bonus Points for the school.  But Mr. Humphrey had seen many changes throughout the year from the Department of Education, so he was not surprised.

He did ponder why students who were Unsatisfactory last year would get double Bonus Points.

"I thought the VAMulator could tell if a student did as well as other similar students. Doesn't the VAMulator compare Unsatisfactory students to Unsatisfactory students?  I would think that if you put all the Unsatisfactory students together and compare them to each other, about half would be above average.  And if you put all the Approaching Basic students together, about half of them would be above average.  The double Bonus Points don't make any sense. I must not understand..." he thought to himself.

Mr. Humphrey realized that Bobby scored Unsatisfactory on his tests last year, so he took the teacher's aide from Susie and assigned her to help Bobby. The teacher's aide worked really, really hard with Bobby. There wasn't much time before the tests, but she and Bobby gave it their best effort.

By testing time everyone was tired and stressed, but all the students at Camelot Middle School tried very hard on the tests.  Principal Humphrey was proud of them because they were so serious about the tests.

The test results came in and they were fantastic!

Last year, Camelot Middle School had a very weak 6th grade. Those students moved on to Camelot Junior High this year. The incoming fourth grade class, however was very strong.

Camelot Middle School's proficiency rate jumped to 92 percent.

Principal Humphrey began totalling the points the students earned toward the school's score.

92 students scored Basic on all their tests.  Each earned a whole point for the school.  The school so far had a score of 92 points.

8 students, including Johnny scored Approaching Basic on all their tests. They did not earn any points for the school. All eight had scored Approaching Basic last year, so principal Humphrey was not too disappointed with them.

However, both Susie and Bobby improved this year all the way to Basic!

Principal Humphrey calculated. There were ten students eligible to earn Bonus Points, and each could earn points for ELA and for Math.  There were 20 test results to look at.

The VAMulator would surely give Bonus Points to Susie and Bobby since they reached proficiency.

Susie would get Bonus Points for her ELA and Math scores. Those two would be ten percent of the 20 test scores that the VAMulator would consider.  That ten percent would earn the school one whole point.  (0.1 * 10 = 1)  Principal Humphrey thought it was ironic that Susie earned more in Bonus Points than she did in regular points (1/3 of a point each) for ELA and Math.

Bobby did the same, but he was Unsatisfactory last year so he would get double Bonus Points. That would earn the school 2 Bonus Points. (0.2 * 10)

Principal Humphrey looked at how the other students had performed on their teachers' VAM scores.  He felt certain that five more students would earn Bonus Points.  That brought the Bonus Point total to eight.  The score would be 100 and Camelot Middle School would get an A!

In the middle of the summer, the Department of Education announced that students who moved to Basic would not earn Bonus Points. "These students earn regular points for their schools by scoring Basic, so the school has already been rewarded for making progress with them," said the Department of Education.

Principal Humphrey exclaimed, "What a crappy system!  If Susie and Bobby had scored a little lower, my school would have gotten a higher score. Now Camelot Middle School will only get a 97 B."

Principal Humphrey was right.  Bobby got 2/3 of a point for the school by scoring Basic in ELA and Math, but the school had to forfeit the two Bonus Points he had earned.  If Bobby had only scored Approaching Basic the school would have gotten two points instead of 2/3 of a point.

At the end of the summer, the Department of Education finally sent the VAMulator results to principal Humphrey.  He had been correct about the students meeting their targets.

He opened his school score expecting a 97, but was surprised to find it was a 92.

Principal Humphrey called the Department of Education. "Where are my school's Bonus Points?" he asked. "We worked so hard."

"You don't understand," said the Department of Education. "You have to have ten non-proficient students to get Bonus Points."

"But I do," fumed principal Humphrey.  "I even hired a teacher's aide to help them make wonderful achievements.  We even moved Bobby from Unsatisfactory to Basic!"

"Ahh," said the Department of Education, "there is your problem.  You now have only 8 non-proficient students, not ten.  Congratulations on your excellent work, we are very proud of you"

Principal Humphrey wept.

Changes made to the formula have led to real increases in student achievement,” said Superintendent John White...

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