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.

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.

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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.

Convenient timing for APS to improve 26 schools at risk of the OSD

Convenient timing for APS to improve 26 schools at risk of the OSD

I just wrote about Glenn Delk’s response to APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s blog about working to prevent her 26 schools eligible for the Governor’s Opportunity School District from being taken over.

Real motivation over APS hiring OSD policy creator

Carstarphen’s blog states:

People Watch- Meria Carstarphen_0I want everyone to understand that we are developing an aggressive and targeted course of action for school improvement. If we can achieve that, state intervention will be unnecessary. The Board and I share in the belief that that ensuring all students have access to quality education and maintaining local control of education is critical to the health and well-being of Atlanta. Further, we have an obligation to the students, parents and taxpayers of Atlanta to do everything in our power to ensure that our schools improve at a pace that allows them to avoid state takeover.

When I saw the number of APS schools on the potential OSD list, it was clear to me that we didn’t have a day to waste. There are currently 26 APS schools that meet the above criteria, and there a number of other APS schools which are at-risk of eligibility either because they have one or two years of CCRPI performance below 60 and/or they have historical CCRPI performance close to 60.

It just seems more politically motivated or a way to help the image of the district than helping the students. “When you saw the number of schools on the potential OSD list, it was clear you didn’t have a day to waste?”  What did you think about those schools for the first year on the job? What steps had you been taking to help these schools improve before the OSD legislation? Certainly the work needs to be done but, seems like convenient timing that feels more like adults are the focus than the kids.

Carstaphen continues:

We also launched yesterday the eight-week New School Turnaround Strategy Project guided by the Boston Consulting Group, a national group with a strong presence here in Atlanta. Thanks to the generosity of some funders, we have been able to take advantage of their unique expertise in education. This project will include a robust community engagement component that will consist of surveys, focus groups, town hall meetings, and a community advisory panel to help inform our approach.  I will also be collecting feedback from our teachers and principals, especially those who are “in the trenches” every day in some of our most challenging schools.  It is important to me that whatever strategy we develop does not happen “to” our communities or “to” the dedicated staff members who have been committed to some of our most at-risk schools for decades.  I want our key stakeholders at the table and engaged in this important decision-making process. Learn more about how you can help here.

I hope something productive comes of this research project. We are all still trying to figure out what happened with Michael Thurmond’s Bridge Initiative in DeKalb County……thankfully, I heard that Supt. Green won’t even let Thurmond back in the building! He did some good work, but clearly not enough. However, projects like this always look good and sound good but don’t always return actionable items that are followed through on. But all the consultants still get paid….

When I learned that she planned to leave the Governor’s Office at the end of the month, I could not delay. I knew she could be a key component in challenging us to do the tough and smart work as well as help us navigate the system to avoid the OSD. It won’t give APS an automatic pass, but I think it gives us the leverage of advice from an expert who understands the decisions surrounding the creation, mission and structure of the OSD.

Navigate the system to avoid OSD. I can’t believe she actually said “It won’t give APS an automatic pass.” That all sounds like the CCPRI scores will get to 61 so they can’t be included, but will that progress really continue? Or will it simply stall after OSD is no longer a threat?

Real motivation over APS hiring OSD policy creator

Real motivation over APS hiring OSD policy creator

This year legislation passed narrowly to put a constitutional amendment to the voters regarding the state being able to take over what they are labeling failing schools and run them with tax payer monies. AJC gives a quick review:

The proposed change to the constitution would allow the state to take over “failing” schools and close them, run them or convert them to independent charter schools. The schools would be part of a new statewide district for up to a decade. This new superintendent, selected by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate, would have authority to take local property tax revenue to fund both the schools and the opportunity district administration.

Other posts about the Opportunity School District:

Opposition to Gov Deal’s Opportunity School District wasn’t strong enough to prevent passage

GA follows LA & TN to an Opportunity School District

Stop vilifying pro-ed reform Democrats

GA AFT affiliate opposes OSD – big surprise!

The AJC reports that Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstaphen has hired Governor Deal’s policy advisor who crafted the Opportunity School District legislation for the purpose of not allowing her 26 APS schools currently with CCPRI scores lower than 60 to become part of the OSD.

APS logoGlenn Delk, an Atlanta lawyer and long-time advocate for parental choice in education responds to Carstaphen’s attempt to avoid the OSD with education savings accounts. (He has written about these before). He writes:

She concluded her explanation with these telling comments…”Through all of these efforts and community engagement, we can find a path that ensures that all of our schools remain APS schools.  But that path can only be defined by child-centric agendas and not adult-focused ones…”If she and the Board of Education truly put the interests of children ahead of adults, instead of hiring high-priced consultants to “…help us navigate the system to avoid the OSD…”,they would vote to allow APS students to use education savings accounts to choose the school which best fit their needs. The time has come for the Board of Education and its superintendent to stop trying to avoid a state takeover, and instead fulfill what Gov. Deal has called a moral duty to help students trapped in failing schools.

Education savings account sounds like the word “voucher” if you ask me. Also sounds like privatizing social security into personal accounts. Just making an observation that it appears school voucher advocates have re-branded away from the negative connotation of the word “voucher.”

He continues to make the point that APS has had the opportunity to educate these children and haven’t been successful especially for children in poverty or low socioeconomic status.

It’s been five years since the cheating scandal first surfaced.  In those five years, the Atlanta Board of Education has spent more than $3.5 billion in taxpayers’ funds to pay for a school system which has, according to the state’s 2014 CCRPI rankings, 31 elementary, 12 middle and 13 high schools, or over 50 percent ranked D or F.

However, those results don’t begin to show the depth of the problem, given Georgia’s low academic standards compared to the national NAEP results.  Keep in mind that Georgia ranks either dead last, or next to last, when comparing our standards to other states, using the National Assessment of Educational Progress results as the benchmark.

According to the 2013 NAEP results, 88 percent of black 8th grade students in APS are not proficient in math, and 84 percent are not proficient in reading.

Another indicator of the lack of acceptable academic achievement by both APS students, as well as statewide, is the recent report by the ACT that only 11 percent of Georgia high school graduates who qualify for free and reduced lunch met college readiness benchmarks on the four major subjects.

Since over 76 percent of APS students are low-income, APS is clearly not meeting Gov. Deal’s goal of having at least 60 percent of entering 9th grade students ultimately receive a two or four-year college degree.

Delk sees Carstaphen’s action as trying to circumvent the PSD process for the protection of her district, image, and to protect teacher’s jobs – but NOT with the primary objective being student’s education. I mean really – they have had all this time and why now? Because the state has threaten to take some of your schools away? You shouldn’t have needed the Governor to tell you that these schools needed help.

Delk makes the claim that all over the country students are being  segregating students by wealth, income or zip code, which is unconstitutional. Parents deserve school choice and those who can’t afford choices should be able to use the money allocated for their child for a school of their choice that fits their needs.

Atlanta is a microcosm of the state and the country when it comes to the issue of giving low-income minority families the same rights and financial means as wealthier families, to choose the best school for their child.  Those residents with the money to do so have bought a house in the right zip codes where their children can attend Buckhead or Midtown schools such as Jackson or Morris Brandon, where less than 10 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch, or pay $25,000 or more in after-tax income to attend Lovett, Westminster, etc.

While these parents can exercise school choice, the low-income families, who are overwhelmingly black, whose children attend one of the 68 APS schools where the free and reduced lunch percentage is 98 percent or more, have no such choice.

Does Carstaphen really have the best interests of students at heart? or is it district image, her own success, pride and jobs for adults?

GA AFT affiliate opposes OSD – big surprise!

This is AFT GA OSDa flyer I found by the GA affiliate of AFT, which I honestly didn’t even know existed! The beauty of non unionized states. It’s incredible how the union can’t seem to defend it’s own work by it’s own teachers but also stands in the way of all efforts to bring reform.                                                                                                                                                                                   While there are some mixed stories about the truth about education in New Orleans, it has improved and this flyer undermines the progress that has been made in NOLA. I’ve discussed before how Unions blatantly ignore success (unless of course it’s THEIR success).

As I just wrote in Please free our schools from the current education monopoly! there is story after story of schools doing more with fewer resources and that money is not the silver bullet. It’s just all the unions care about and Democrats step in line with unions.

Why are politicians pushing these reform efforts? Because what we are doing now is not working for the minority, low-income students. We need to do something NOW to give parents choices.

Disproportionately suspend and expel students? Why don’t you just look at your neighborhood schools? We need sweeping school discipline reform that incorporates counseling and school guidance not disdain and punishment.

Less local accountability? How well has that been going with the corruption of school funds, the shuffling of ineffective teachers & principals, nepotism at the school department and parents who feel they have no where else to go?

Charter schools do not have the mammoth budget that the larger school district has so there are fewer resources available to develop specialized instruction for special education students and ELL. As I wrote here, parents often choose a traditional public school for it’s special education resources or a charter may make the appropriate referral to a school better suited. That’s not exclusion, that’s caring enough to make sure the child has the best education that can be offered.

Yes, they sidestep some of the standards that traditional public schools are governed by because that is how you break down the monopoly and allow the autonomy teachers, principals and students need to be mores successful.

Stop vilifying pro-ed reform Democrats

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I wrote about Governor Deal’s Opportunity School District bill in these posts: Opposition to Gov Deal’s Opportunity School District wasn’t strong enough to prevent passage & GA follows LA & TN to an Opportunity School District

It’s passage was close and in a heavily Republican state still needed key Democrats to vote. The GA House vote was very close with one vote to spare to meet the 2/3 majority needed. Of course it brought out the worst in people.

My FB feed was full of people bashing Democrats for their vote on this bill and claiming for “new leadership.”

Here is what one of the Democrats who voted for the bill wrote in a press release:

ATLANTA- March 25, 2015 – Today, Representative Erica Thomas (D- Austell) commented on the passage of SR 287.

“Moments ago, I voted “YES” on SR 287, the Opportunity School District (OSD) resolution,” said Rep. Erica Thomas. “I believe – and will always believe – that as a representative of the people of Georgia – we – as legislators – must do our best to serve the interests of our constituents.

While I understand that everyone won’t be satisfied, it is important that we give the people of Georgia alternatives to the current model of education. Plainly stated, what we are currently doing isn’t working. We have to try something new, something big. A lot of people have been lobbying me on this issue, and one thing that concerns me is that the fate of the children – the actual human beings involved – comes up very little. Our children need to be central to the conversation. And so it is through prayer and reflection with our children in mind that I decided to vote “yes.” It isn’t popular, but it’s a chance we have to take to get these schools – and more importantly – our children back on track.”

I thought it was extremely telling that she wrote that when the folks lobby her on this issue the fate of the children rarely comes up. Its all just rhetoric and politics. What we know is that what we have now, isn’t working. And the most powerful stories come from those who tell stories like this from this post: When the only option is a failing school

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.

These stories are real, and from all over the country. And these parents deserve a great school for their child. Let’s give it to them NOW, not the “wait and see” method.

Opposition to Gov Deal’s Opportunity School District wasn’t strong enough to prevent passage

Opposition to Gov Deal’s Opportunity School District wasn’t strong enough to prevent passage

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In this previous post, I discussed the GA is on it’s way to an Opportunity School District. Let’s address some of the dissenters shall we?

State teacher and school board associations, however, are speaking out against the proposal, as are individual education leaders like Clarke County School Superintendent Philip Lanoue, who penned an opinion piece outlining why he believes the Opportunity School District is wrong-headed.

“Educators, school boards and local school communities have the ultimate responsibility for providing engaging learning environments that ensure all students achieve,” Lanoue wrote. “To change the Georgia Constitution to take away that responsibility will fragment communities across the state, and sets a very dangerous precedent for future decisions in educating all Georgia students.”

You know what is setting a dangerous precedent in GA? Continuing to allow “educators, school boards and local school communities” who have guided our schools to low student achievement to continue leading our schools to low student achievement. As stated in my previous post by Senator Miller, “If educators know what need to be done, why aren’t they doing it?”

The Georgia Association of Educators, which represents teachers, has come out against the Opportunity School District, criticizing it as big government.

“It threatens the stability of our local schools and undermines the local control of our community over our children,” the association advised its members in a memo on Senate Bill 133, the legislation authorizing the new school district. “This is a serious over-reach by the governor.”

The GAE is like a union, but not official because we don’t have unions here in GA. But I believe they have a role in teacher contracts and collect voluntary dues. You know what I think threatens the stability of our local schools? Sending uneducated children into the world and wondering why we have so much crime. What is really impacting school stability is poor school culture. When students don’t feel valued at school, they aren’t successful at learning and likely cause chaos. And school culture IS something current school personnel could work on. Serious over reach? No one is still criticizing Gov Deal for removing 6 DeKalb County School Board of Education members and replacing them with the current members who have helped bring accreditation back to the district. Plus, Democrats just spent an entire election cycle promoting education and now that the governor is making an effort it’s an over-reach?

State Sen. Vincent Fort, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat and one of the proposal’s most outspoken critics, said Deal has done little to build confidence in his schools policy after billions of dollars in austerity cuts to education.

“All of that does not make me confident that these people should be the ones to take over failing schools,” said Fort, who plans to propose more investment in community-based education programs. “To say we’re going to take over school systems and change the governance without changing the funding for impactful programs doesn’t make sense.”

Actually Senator Fort, I’m not sure I want to continuing funding school boards, school administrations and ineffective teachers who suck money right out of the education system. How many corruption stories do we need in DeKalb county alone to reaffirm that our electeds are not spending money wisely? When we continue to pay salaries for ineffective teachers who are not helping our students we are throwing money out the window. While we are still shuffling ineffective principals from school-to-school, we don’t deserve more funding. Until we can demonstrate that we are spending money wisely, it is going to be difficult to convince the legislature that we need more money.