Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gaming the tests makes AYP meaningless

As expected, grades 3-8 across the state, not just FWCS, got "better" this year as test difficulty on the ISTEP+ dropped in the second year after moving to spring testing. Whereas 47% of middle and elementary schools were in the watch or probation category, that number dropped to 27% in just the last year. Anyone who would bet money that such an improvement is possible in one year, should be taking out credit default swaps.

With high school testing changing from Graduation Qualifying Exams to End of Course Assessments, the state has not yet decided how to determine AYP for the high schools. When ECA's were give two years ago, the results were not counted. The statewide passing rates were then around 40%. Last spring they came up to about 60%. Again such an "improvement" is not possible in one year without dumbing down the tests. Despite easier tests, the results for our local high schools, especially the LEAD schools are still so bad (around 50% passing in English and 20% in math) that it would be hard to get worse. All five FWCS high schools are now on academic probation. How can the high schools all get worse while the lower grades are all doing better? They can't.

So you can bet that the ECA's will get easier again next year and our high schools will dodge the bullet. The state doesn't really want to take them over anyway. But to avoid that by gaming those tests they will also lose their credibility. FWCS didn't have any credibility to start with. With the IDE declaring victory, we'll have to see if the Republican legislature figures out what's going on. But don't bet on that either.

Friday, November 12, 2010

JG finally writes about high school scores

Today's JG article about the high school ECA's, coming well after the elections naturally, is pretty much on target about the miserable state of our high schools. The high schools are at the end of the line, where the rubber meets the road, so to speak and show the effect of socially promoting half our students through middle school. What the article didn't contain were the individual scores. Although no FWCS high school looks good, the LEAD schools are awful especially in Algebra I, where NSHS LEADs with 32% passing, followed by Wayne at 20% and SSHS at 19%.

In FWCS' defense the ECA's are harder than the GQE's they replaced (just as the spring 3-8 ISTEPs were easier). The state dropped 6% in both math and English vs. the GQE's, but even after adding 6% to FWCS scores they would still be bad. Well at least we won't have to endure another unctuous press conference, just the usual blather by Krtista Stockman.

We have two new board members now, Julia Hollingsworth and Lisa Olinger who actually know what's going on in our classrooms. Whether they can bring the rest of the board into reality remains to be seen. And the reality is that, even if everything went well at lower grade levels, it would be a decade or more before the LEAD high schools would come back. If I were GiaQuinta, I would be begging Tony Bennett to take them off Wendy's hands.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A "Canterbury Tale" for election day

According to the recently released scores on the high school End of Course Exams ( an embarrassment still being "vetted" by Wendy until after the election) only 20 % of the students at my Alma mater, SSHS, now a "LEAD" school , passed the state test over the Algebra I course they had just taken. At Canterbury school the passing rate was 100%. There is one Canterbury student, however, who has not been able to receive credit for passing the ECA because he didn't take a course called "Algebra I" and the bureaucrats at the IDE don't know how to deal with that. Oh, yeah, the student was a fourth grader.

Forty years ago there was no Canterbury. There was no need for a Canterbury because parents with talented children wouldn't have been concerned about sending them to FWCS. But even though incumbent FWCS board President Mark GiaQuinta, wasn't intimately familiar with the situation at South Side, he knew enough to send his kids to Canterbury High School instead.

Can our high schools ever regain their former excellence? Not with a board whose purpose is celebrating the satus quo. Not with a board that wouldn't address reality without the threat of state intervention. Not with a board that isnt' willing to start with K-3 and insure the gains there eventually pay off in the high schools. Not with this board.