Thursday, September 22, 2011

FWCS high school ECA test scores still suck

Ever since all five FWCS high schools got off probation, I've been waiting to see the actual results of the ECA exams that helped get them off the hook. No results have been announced by the district or their mouthpiece at the JG, so I dug around on the IDE web site and found them. And they're still pathetic. But the "improvement" required to get off probation was based on the 8th grade scores and ECA scores for "cohort" groups which obviously bears no relation to actual passing rates in the high schools, which are shown below (sorry, but for some reason making a table doesn't work):

State, FWCS, Wayne, SSHS, NSHS. Northrup, Snyder

Algebra I
63.9 (61), 36.54 (43), 29.15 (20), 28.35 (19), 32.46 (32), 33.63 (47), 36.9(47)

English 10
63.6 (63), 50.27 (52), 44.31 (38), 39.83 (53), 46.09 (48), 58.84 (61), 58.9 (57)

Last year's passing rates are shown in parentheses. Overall FWCS declined in both areas. Wayne was the only school which improved in both categories. , The algebra scores are roughly the same as Gary and Indianapolis. I'm confused how the high schools in a "high performance", "A" rated district could perform this poorly. How could they get off probation? Maybe I got the numbers wrong.

No doubt these results will be announced to the public and discussed in a press conference and an upcoming board meeting after they're done "analyzing" them, although they may turn off the TV first. That's part of their policy of "engaging the public" by telling us what they want us to hear. I'm looking forward to the meeting.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

High performance home schooling

After graduating from SSHS (without the benefit of social promotion) when that school was the academic equivalent of a Canterbury and spending decades surviving the brutality of the private sector (performance accountability and the constant threat of extinction) I lost track of the changes in the education system. I could only infer from the declining quality of our company hires that something was amiss. We adapted by hiring high school "graduates" only as temps. Permanent hires had to have two years of "college" remedial education.

After I retired and had time to wander around during the day I was puzzled by all the kids walking around during school hours. When asked why they weren't in school, the answer was usually "we're home schooled, sir". Sir? Home schooled? What's that? First of all how can anybody duplicate the services of the government education system at home? Second, why would anybody want to?

The answer to the first question became apparent through my ten year acquaintance with a home schooling family. The two kids were home schooled until they were through the equivalent of middle school and were then enrolled in a small public high school. The eldest is now a senior who will graduate at or near the top of his class.

The second question was answered the first day I set foot in my former high school.

Both papers have recently run a letter from a home schooling mother complaining about the unfairness of the the voucher law because it requires kids to spend at least a year in public school. She wants to avoid the current "poorly performing" school system, if she chooses to enroll them in a private school. Obviously this mother has not been attending FWCS board meetings or reading the JG or she would have learned from Mark GiaQuinta that we now have a "high performance" district. It just changed overnight. Or perhaps she 's spent some time in FWCS classrooms and saw something closer to the truth.

Why, she then asks, would the legislature restrict access to vouchers when the average private school spends $4500 per student versus $9900 spent by government schools? The state could save a ton of money for every voucher they give out. Obviously this mother doesn't realize that she's over-simplifying the situation. That extra money buys the government system all kind of added features. Nicer ("decent" as GiaQuinta puts it) buildings, more bureaucracy, sports programs, and teachers unions. It buys newspaper stories about home schooling run amuck so they can agitate for restrictions on home schooling which costs the taxpayers nothing. It buys Democratic legislators and lobbyists to keep that extra $4700 coming.

The Republican legislators had to offer the Democrats some kind of sop to come back from Peoria which they did by putting in some obstacles to vouchers. So there's your answer. You should at least hire some lobbyists.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Will the Feds remodel Wendy's buildings?

The JG reported that Pres. Obama may use FWCS as an example of a "high performance" school district with budget constraints that have prevented them from fixing/remodeling their aging buildings. "High performance"? Well, whatever that means, if Obama and Mark GiaQuinta say so it must be true.

Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan actually do deserve some credit in education reform. The "Race to the Top" initiative led to the revision of laws on teacher seniority, teacher evaluations and charter schools in many states, including Indiana, reforms that were panned by the GiaQuinta brothers. Proposing those reforms took some courage considering teachers' unions were Obama's biggest campaign contributors. In fact, Arne Duncan was honored with boos and jeers when he spoke about reforms at the National Education Association convention. That's the national teachers union that counts the ISTA and FWEA as affiliates. (I've only been booed by FWEA teachers at SSHS.) While we're doling out the credits we should include Tony Bennett, who held the gun to Wendy's and the FWEA's heads. Obama won't mention that.

GiaQuinta went on by whining about the age of Harrison Hill where he went to kindergarten and where I went to Jr High School before that. He might have added that Bishop Luers where he went to high school, didn't spend anything on it's building for fifty years. Somehow 90% of their kids pass the state tests every year. How does that compare to SSHS and NSHS where we spent $100 million? Oh yeah, they were almost converted to charter schools.

Whatever. The BS is never going to stop but if we can get money from the Feds, go for it.