Saturday, July 23, 2011

NSHS, SSHS off the hook

SS and NS were among eleven of the 18 Indiana schools that were removed from probationary status by the IDE yesterday. Ironically another one was Harding, which was closed in anticipation of being taken over by the state. Six Indianapolis schools and Gary Roosevelt are still in trouble, their future to be decided by the State Board of Education at the end of August.

The "improvement" was not based on raw passing rates but on the difference between eighth grade and high school scores for the classes that took the tests in 2010 and 2011. The statewide results have not been published. so from the data given on the IDE site it's not possible to tell if test difficulty changed. But I'm sure nobody on Clinton Street cares about that.

Tony Bennett said FWCS improved by "compressing a five year improvement plan into one year". In other words they sat on their ass until he put a gun to their heads. He mentioned an incredible sense of urgency which took ten years to materialize. Well, we can't be taking FWEA out of their comfort zone just for the sake of academic improvement. Heckuva job Wendy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

JG proves worst schools are the best schools

In another astounding extension of apologist logic, Karen Frisco argues it's better to send your kids to a lousy school (can you say FWCS) than use a voucher to send them to a good school. Since we're now into the "growth" era, lousy schools with lousy passing rates are more likely to improve than good schools with high passing rates. Therefore, schools with more potential to "grow" are more desirable than those who don't need to "grow". Wonder which category the Ball State School of Jounalism falls into.

Who's the target audience for this kind of drivel? Five years ago an elementary school principal told me that only 6% of the families with kids in FWCS get a newspaper at home. Maybe now that it's available for free on line the readership has expanded.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Finally, an improvement in ISTEP scores

Now that we're in the second year of spring testing, with some confidence in a new baseline, it looks like FWCS made some progress . Overall math scores went up 3% versus the state average while language arts went up 2% versus the state. They even said the results had improved relative to the state, although they only gave out the raw numbers (about 4% in each category). No doubt their $355,000 PR consultant helped them craft the message for maximum positive spin. The numbers look more reasonable this year, however. The 6% they claimed last year did not, especially when last year's high school scores went down 6%, a fact which they never publicized.

It also looks like scores improved more in the early grades, which is also more logical than having the same increase across the board. Eighth grade language arts scores did not improve, however. FWCS middle schools dominate among the bottom five categories in NE Indiana. That's not a good omen for the high schools which are all on probation, especially SSHS and NSHS which are in their fifth year. The high school ECA scores have not been released yet but, based on 8th grade scores last year and this year, it would be surprising if high school scores improved without an easier test.

Even if they can keep it up at 2-3% a year, it's going to be a long haul. Too bad they didn't get serious about ten years ago.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

JG mischaracterizes Mitch's "mischaracterization"

Off to the side of their editorial today the JG listed the parties in the lawsuit against the state's voucher law. They used that list to show that the lawsuit was not filed to preserve the financial interest of the ISTA as the governor charged. Included along with the ISTA were the superintendent of the Lafayette schools (no financial interest there?) a member of the Lafayette school board and several others with no apparent ties (who knows?) to the government education establishment.

Balony. If the suit had been filed by parents or other parties with no financial interest in government schools then we might buy the argument that these parties were concerned solely about the (Indiana) constitutional questions. That would be fine. But as the governor said, the ISTA puts it's interest above those of the kids. The ISTA's charter is to look after its members first. The JG's charter is to look after Wendy.

Monday, July 4, 2011

ISTA gets religion

Well, actually it's the religion they've always had, namely keeping union teaching jobs. Claiming that because the vast majority of private schools where vouchers could be used are religious schools, the union says the voucher law is unconstitutional. Wasn't that issue settled by the Supreme Court a few years ago, saying that vouchers were constitutional if the kids were not given religious instruction? Well no matter, there was no way the ISTA was going to let this pass. The IDE said they expected the suit.

The biggest use of vouchers and the biggest impact on school budgets by far would be in urban areas where government schools are uniformly failing and where they are uniformly resistant to change because of resistance from teachers' unions. Their tenacity in holding on to their jobs traps kids without means in failing urban government schools. The "common schools" provided per the Indiana constitution are interpreted by the ISTA as government run and union dominated are common indeed.

All the reforms passed by the legislature are long term efforts, even without court challenges and delaying tactics. A far quicker tool for change is the strict enforcement of PL221 to take over schools in their sixth year of academic probation. No dumbing down the tests to get them off the hook. No second chances if they don't make it by year six. When they've had five years to change and did nothing until the fifth year they deserve no more time and no more sympathy.