Changes to school wide performance grading

I’m not sure where the healthy medium is between adjusting grading measures to be as far and accurate as possible and when we have made so many grading changes that no one can tell what level any schools are performing at.

AJC writer Ty Tagami reports that the Georgia Board of Education voted unanimously Friday to amend the “weights” used in calculating school performance, downplaying raw test achievement in favor of “growth” in the state’s report card for schools and school districts.

By basing the schoolwide grades on growth vs actual test scores (as much) it should help some schools that dont have high scores but are making progress. Odd thing is that this might actually decrease some scores for higher performing schools because they don’t have as much growth to report (because they already have so many high performing students.) One day we may figure this out!

But the new changes in the school report card are expected to reshuffle rankings for other reasons: Schools with large numbers of low-income students, since they tend to score lower on achievement tests, will likely move up while traditionally high-achieving schools will probably take a hit. That’s because achievement, which counted for 60 percent of CCRPI until now, will count for 50 percent next time. Meanwhile, “progress” — a complicated measure of where each student performed relative to academically similar peers, will count for 40 percent. Until now, that measure, often referred to as growth, was only a quarter of the report card.

The new scoring system also downplays the importance of closing the achievement gap for at-risk groups, dropping the weight in that category from 15 percent to 10 percent.

These new changes are the latest sign of the diminishing influence of raw test scores on schools’ perceived performance. In the recent past, achievement counted for 70 percent of the CCRPI measure.

This will readjust the scores that are being used to determine which schools would be eligible for the opportunity school district which will be on the ballot for voters in 2016 – if not taken down with lawsuits first.


How elite students get elite jobs

I really stand with the idea Paul Tough’s book How Children Succeed covers which is that students who grow up with challenges, whether it be economic, academic, family…etc actually build better character, grit and the ability to overcome obstacles that other students with more affluent lives may not.

This interview in the Washington Post just made another point that demonstrates the disadvantages of students who aren’t from affluent families.

In terms of getting jobs at elite firms, the author of the book Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs by Lauren Rivera describes a few of the inequities that privilege elite students.

The essence of her book is:

Whether intentionally or not, elite parents expose their children to different experiences and styles of interacting that are useful for getting ahead in society. Many of these are taken for granted in upper and upper-middle class circles, such as how to prepare a college application (and having cultivated the right types of accomplishments to impress admissions officers), how to network in a business setting in a way that seems natural, and how to develop rapport with teachers, interviewers, and other gatekeepers to get things you want from those in power.

Another specific point shows that even in college those extra curricula activities help showcase your skills and if you can’t afford to participate because of part time jobs or family commitments, you may miss out on those recruiting opportunities – even if you are at a top university.

employers also use extracurricular activities, especially those that are driven by “passion” rather than academic or professional interest and require large investments of time and money over many years, to screen résumés. But participation in these activities while in college or graduate school is not a luxury that all can afford, especially if someone needs to work long hours to pay the bills or take care of family members. Essentially, extracurriculars end up being a double filter on social class that disadvantages job applicants from more modest means both in entering the recruiting pipeline and succeeding within it.

She also notes that many recruiters are looking for people just like themselves, causing them to often search at the same or similar schools, social circles and attributes that may not lead them to explore all available avenues for recruiting. This practice keeps the same general types of people employed and doesn’t allow for a great deal of outsiders.

The interviewer asks Rivera what her intention was in writing the book. It turn out that there is a great deal of people purchasing the book as a how-to to get an elite job. Rivera says while she thinks it can be helpful for the non elite students to understand that gap and strive to make it more relevant to their lives, her intention was the bring these biases to the fore front and hope that recruiters change their behavior.

She acknowledges though that it may just reinforce the current behaviors and give elite students a firmer leg up in the game.


Unsupported comments on OSD

Unsupported comments on OSD

This week I attended a launch meeting of the Delta Teacher Efficacy Campaign, a collaboration aimed at enhancing student academic achievement by focusing on helping educators. I ended up arriving half way through, but made it in time for the Q & A session. The panelists were Valarie Wilson, head of GA School Board Association; Tyler Barr – head of GA PTA, and Dr. Beasley who is a DeKalb Schools administrator.

Interestingly, the Opportunity School District legislation was a hot topic. It was the first question asked of the panelists.

© Paynich

© Paynich

Valarie Wilson stated on behalf of the GA School Board Association that they oppose OSD in part because it doesn’t state how they are going to help the schools get better and its all about money and procedure.

They asked how many people knew about OSD and only a few hands raised. They kept encouraging folks to read the legislation.

She spoke about how they were working to get schools of the OSD eligibility list. I keep asking “Why did we need to have this proposed legislation to start working on things those schools needed to be done?” and now I am thinking, are we going to stop helping those schools get better after they “get off the list”?

She said that the schools aren’t really failing and its just a scare tactic for shock value to push the legislation. Hmm, that’s a first one I’ve heard. What would you consider failing Ms. Wilson? I think the district clearly has enough problems that failing might be the right way to characterize. Besides, when you don’t admit to what’s wrong with the schools, we also aren’t fixing them.

At the end of the forum I asked two questions: Why now, to help those schools “get off the list,” and if you are such an advocate of equity of school funding – why are you against OSD?

Valarie claims that the work was being done already and that this is just a formal way of recognizing it. She didn’t answer my equity question but did go on to talk about how more affluent communities should be more accepting of funds flowing from their communities to the more at risk communities. However, using school funds to give to state determined failing schools to make them better isn’t the exact same thing???

Beasley said that the Governor doesn’t have any interest in helping our schools and they we, the community and school department have the ability to help our schools. So….WHY haven’t you been doing it??

I have yet to find a legitimate reason not to go forward with the OSD.

Don’t placate us, fix our schools!

Don’t placate us, fix our schools!

This week I attended a launch meeting of the Delta Teacher Efficacy Campaign, a collaboration aimed at enhancing student academic achievement by focusing on helping educators. I ended up arriving half way through, but made it in time for the Q & A session. Here’s one question from a parent that really stood out for me.

This parent stated that she is afraid to send her child to her local public schools in Lithonia and pays to send her child to private Christian school. She wants to know what she should do? (Basically, your schools suck, what are you going to do about it?)

© Paynich

© Paynich

The panelists were Valarie Wilson, head of GA School Board Association; Tyler Barr – head of GA PTA, and Dr. Beasley who is a DeKalb Schools administrator. Beasley replied by noting that schools are a reflection of our community and we should work to get to know our principals. Which I agree with – if the principal is willing to work with parents (unlike former Avondale Elem principal who reined for 10 years!)

He mentioned that we have a great school choice program in DeKalb, basically saying that if you don’t like your school, no problem, go pick one of the others. Problem with that is – parents have to provide their own transportation. What if it isn’t possible for this parent to drop off and pick up at a school across the county?

Basically, he never answered the question. He never admitted any wrong doing, or fault on behalf of the county. This is one of the reasons charter schools are popular, especially in underserved areas. They offer a choice that may not be too far away for a parent to provide transportation. They offer a choice to parents who are otherwise forced to send their child to a private school and pay out of pocket.

There are stories like this all over the state, the country and we are paying them lip service by no fixing those schools. Here is the parent comment from a former post of mine on this topic:

She is entering Kindergarten next year. It’s too late for her to go to a public charter school to get picked for the lottery. The schools around one of her homes (she has 3—long story, don’t ask) is BAD, the school around her other home is WORSE and the school around her last home is THE WORST. She’s a smart kid and I only want the best for her. Private school isn’t a viable option at this point.

We need to do better.



Not a true turnaround effort – Worcester Tech

Not a true turnaround effort – Worcester Tech

I’ve been meaning to write about my thoughts on Worcester Tech in Worcester, MA since last year when Obama gave the commencement speech. This month, an interview with the principal of Worcester Tech came across my twitter feed.  Here’s my thoughts on her interview, the school and what she didn’t say (or that the report did not print).

It’s a very cool school that has an incredible balance between academics and technical experience. Each week students rotate through academic and tech weeks for 90 tech days and 90 academic days. This model actual helps to demonstrate that my theory that you could have elective based classes instead of Math, Science, English, Social Studies and still teach the standards, concepts and skills. They have a great way of introducing students to all the tech disciplines and empowering them to make choices. There is virtually nothing like that in traditional schools. The school is a great opportunity to get a head start and build a great college application.
worcester tech logo


The principal says that the school used to be focused towards strictly students going into the workforce after high school. The test scores where falling and they were going to shut down the school. Instead they turned it around. There is just one item missing from this interview that brings more light to this situation.

Worcester Tech now has an application process. Here is the Application  and the Admission guidelines for the school.  I know this predicament well because I was a middle school guidance intern at a middle school in Worcester. The application requires data regarding grades, attendance, and behavior record. So who do you think is attending Worcester Tech?

In the past the admission requirements were probably weak if at all. That probably wasn’t the right method. But is this the correct method?

Let’s assume that a majority of non college attending kids went to the old school. They probably didn’t have good grades, or good attendance records, or  good behavior records. Those facts probably lead to the decline of the school. So when the “turned around” the school…..where did those students go?

They didn’t turnaround the school. They literally built a brand new different school. And it’s a great school. My two issues are these:

What happens to all the students who used to attend Worcester Tech? The only school in the city that could prepare them for a career after HS is only open to students with good grades, good attendance and good behavior. Basically, the kids who need a great school like this, likely are not getting admitted. This actually sounds like what most people think charter schools do – they selectively choose students and by doing so eliminate “unworthy” students. Most charter schools, through their choice of attendance zones operate in under served communities and through a lottery serve at risk students. But, I will ask again, What happens to the students who used to attend Worcester Tech?

Did you know that only 1/4th of Worcester HS graduating seniors attend a 4 year university? Another 1/4th go to local community colleges (which I hear is where students are pushed towards due to their lack of success) and 50% go directly into the workforce, or at least not to any college directly after school.

So if 95% of Worcester Tech grads go to college – those students are not likely any of the 50% going directly into the workforce.

All of a sudden does Worcester Tech seem a bit exclusive? I’d say so.

Now, I think the school is great. Students who do well in school deserve a chance to get ahead, build their tech skills to get into the best colleges, and learn in an empowering school environment. But on the backs of the students who need that school environment?

Which brings me to my second point, this type of school should be available to all students who wish to attend. There should be enough campuses to accommodate every student who need this opportunity. We should be incorporating more of their school culture and style into traditional public schools. We need more Worcester Tech’s.

But please don’t laud them as turning around a school – when the students who were there to begin with are not there. And we are still not serving those students who need us. Because of the admission reqs, its very likely that the 95% college going graduates would have also gone to college from their sending school. Worcester Tech may not actually be increasing Worcester’s graduation rate. Just moving the numbers around.

Proximity to charter schools increases home values in Metro Atlanta

Proximity to charter schools increases home values in Metro Atlanta

The Andrew Young School Fiscal Research Center recently issued a report titled: Willing to Pay: Charter Schools’ Impact on Georgia Property Values by Carlianne Patrick

Comments below are from a public release of the report by the Georgia Charter Schools Association:

Happy Hispanic Family Portrait in Front of Beautiful House.

The report finds that over a 10-year period home sale prices were 7 to 13 percent higher in areas with the greatest chance of charter school enrollment.

Although there is extensive research on charter school achievement outcomes, relatively little is known about how the general public values these schools,” said Carlianne Patrick.

  • For elementary school neighborhoods: Homes sold for 9 to 13 percent more than similar homes in priority two zones.
  • For middle school neighborhoods: Homes sold for 8.5 to 10.5 percent more than similar homes in priority two zones.
  • For high school neighborhoods: Homes sold for 10 percent more than similar homes in priority two zones.

While this data points to a high demand for homes in neighborhoods with charter school enrollment priority zones, the report also helps refute notions that charter schools erode public schools. The increased home values mean increased tax revenue, which is a benefit for public school districts.

“The results suggest that homebuyers want to live in areas with access to charter schools and are willing to pay for it,” Patrick said. “It’s another way to value school choice, and it’s a win for advocates in Georgia, and across the nation.

From the study:


Table 3 indicates that single-family residences in priority one attendance zone sold for an average 7-8 percent more than similar houses located in priority two zones between 2004 and 2013. These results suggest that households value the choice, flexibility, and accountability that characterize charter schools.

Tables 4-6 present results by elementary grades, middle grades, and high school charters, respectively. Table 4 suggests a 9-13 percent premium for being located in a priority one zone for a charter serving elementary grades. Table 5 indicates a slightly lower willingness-to-pay for middle-grade charter priority zone one admission probabilities, with priority one zone single family residential transaction values 8.5- 10.5 percent higher than priority two zone values. Households pay an average of 10 percent more for similar houses in high school charter school priority one zones according to Table 6.

GA Teacher associations rank 45 of 50 for power & influence

GA Teacher associations rank 45 of 50 for power & influence

Thanks to Maureen Downey for posting this blog about GA’s teacher’s associations and their power in GA last year. Quite a few things to note.

The Fordham Institute & Education Reform Now collaborated on a study called How Strong Are U.S. Teacher’s Unions? A State-by-State Comparison from October 2012.

Interesting notes from the report:

Here are a few highlights:

• Teacher strikes, like the one recently concluded in Chicago, are legal in fourteen states and illegal in thirty-seven.

• Thirty-two states require local school boards to bargain collectively with their teachers, fourteen states permit local boards to do this, and five states prohibit collective bargaining altogether (Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia).

• Twenty-three states are “right to work” states, which prohibit unions from collecting agency fees from nonmembers.* Twenty-eight jurisdictions allow agency fees.

My guess is that the states that allow teacher strikes also are the ones that require collective bargaining. Just to be clear, by “require” it means that someone got the legislature to make it law that districts collectively bargain. You can actually run a district without such requirement. This is where the impression of self preservation is deeply ingrained for me. The unions have helped make it required that LEA’s collectively bargain – and that they will be paid by every employee on their union rolls and and the 28 states that allow for agency fees.

Georgia is one of the few hold outs in allowing unions to form. I’m actually surprised that AL, MS, and LA next door aren’t also in that camp.

GA union power in chart

This study also clarifies for me “right to work.” I thought it meant that there couldn’t be any unions there, but it apparently means that you don’t have to pay agency fees if you are not part of the union. The agency fee is the 60-70% of the union dues that unions collect simply for you benefiting from the bargaining process even if you are not a member. I have spoken at length about these issues, see here. 

As you can see GA teacher associations are listed 45 of 50 in terms of influence in power. Their best rating is of state policies that align with union policies, which seems odd for a state that has seemingly little power. Or it just means that in GA we really don’t need unions to reach policies we can all agree with.

Love this graphic!

teacher union power across US

Taken from Downey’s summary here are the notes on GA:

“Georgia’s teacher associations are weak across the board, not surprising in a state in which collective bargaining is prohibited — and whose politics are fairly conservative. They have few resources and a weak reputation. While teacher employment policies are somewhat union-favorable, charter laws are not, and the associations stayed out of the way when lawmakers enacted reforms en route to receiving Race to the Top award.

Georgia’s two state-level teacher associations (one affiliated with the NEA, the other with the AFT) have limited financial and membership resources. Collective bargaining is prohibited in the state, and just 54.8 percent of its teachers belong to teacher associations (41st of 51 jurisdictions). They bring in $87 per Georgia teacher annually (49th, ahead of just Texas and South Carolina).

On the other hand, Georgia spends a relatively large portion of its state budget on K-12 education (24.4 percent, placing it 9th). Total per-pupil spending is on the low side of the middle ($9,827 per year; 38th), but a relatively high proportion of those dollars goes to teacher salaries and benefits (57.5 percent; 7th)

Compared to teacher unions in other states, Georgia’s associations are not particularly involved in state politics. In the past decade, just 0.33 percent of contributions to candidates for state office came from them (34th); these donations made up only 2.9 percent of the funds contributed by the ten highest-giving sectors in the state (37th). In addition, the associations gave only 0.34 percent of the contributions to state political parties (42nd). Finally, 13.4 percent of Georgia’s delegates to the Democratic and Republication national conventions identified as teacher union members (25th).

Georgia is one of only five states that explicitly prohibit collective bargaining. Although teachers can opt to join local and/or state professional associations those entities may not automatically collect agency fees from non-members who work in districts they represent (a limitation that contributes to the low association revenues.) The state also prohibits teacher strikes.