Thursday, January 3, 2013

Researchers Discredit LA School Rating System

The linked study here by Herb Bassett, is the most recent study that discredits the school performance and grading system used by Our Louisiana Department of Education. That study cites specific (BESE Bulletin 111) rule changes - made as late as June 2012 - and shows their effects on the SPS scores. Mr Bassett's study is related to the analysis by Dr Mercedes Schneider reported on this blog on November 27th that showed a major disparity in 2012 between SPS scores for high schools and combination schools compared to the SPS scores for elementary and middle schools. These studies taken together show that school performance and therefore letter grades for our public schools are constantly being manipulated by our DOE in ways that make them invalid for rating the performance of our public schools. Yet the general public has been led to believe that such school performance scores and letter grades really tell us something about the quality of instruction taking place in each of our public schools.

These studies explain how most of the apparent gains in school performance in 2012 by high schools across the state were really caused by a change in the calculation of SPS.  Mr Bassett's study demonstrates that approximately 11.6 points of baseline growth for our high schools were caused purely by rule and calculation changes in the SPS and had nothing to do with real student performance increases. Yet based upon this flawed system, the public is subjected to press releases from our overpaid DOE public relations specialists crowing about these imaginary "gains" by some of our public schools. (35% of high schools in 2012 were rated as "A" schools compared to only 8% of elementary schools and only 18% of middle schools.) Next I suppose based on this manipulated rating system, the DOE is bound to proclaim that our middle school and elementary school teachers are just not rising to the challenge as much as our high school teachers! But if you think these developments are ridiculous, just wait until our schools are rated using the results of testing based on the common core standards. I believe there is no way to transition from the present school rating system to the new common core system that will have any validity whatsoever.

All of the above inconsistencies and false gains occur because the entire school rating system is invalid to begin with. A valid school rating system would be based upon the positive educational environment and quality of instruction actually being provided in a school, not just on the performance of students on standardized tests. As the excellent analysis provided by Educators for All explains, our present school rating system simply tells us the average level of poverty of students attending a school. It tells us absolutely nothing about the quality of instruction. Yet the public is led to condemn and encouraged to shun some of our public schools based upon the demographics of the students attending.

It is ironic that the same system gives most schools in the Louisiana Recovery District "F" or "D" grades even though the DOE touts them as "most improved". Eventually some of the media are bound to notice that the RSD schools have the second to lowest performance in the state using the present rating system. Superintendent John White and his SPS manipulators have a "fix" for that too. Starting with the 2013 report, White will award bonus points for schools that show improvement in low performing sub groups. The Bassett study shows how some schools will be favored because of high numbers of low performers.  But you can only fool some of the people some of the time. Unbiased media are bound to notice eventually that the ACT scores of RSD graduates are so low that almost none of them qualify for even community college success.

The sad thing is that even if a school is actually doing a good job of addressing the needs of at-risk students, the system condemns its teachers and administrators. That's because in comparison to schools serving more privileged students, these schools will be classified as failures. Even if the public school scores a "C",  parents will be encouraged by the Governor and White to send their children to voucher schools that have no accountability measurements at all!

Monday, December 31, 2012

A special message

Best wishes to my readers:
I hope the new year brings better policies and much needed support for our public schools. I believe our public schools and teachers in Louisiana have been doing an excellent job for which they have received little appreciation and recognition. I yearn for the day when our teachers, who I believe are among the most dedicated of all public servants, are granted the right to teach as professionals. I believe teachers know what their students need to get the most of their education. But until they are really empowered to teach with creativity and to involve their students in the joy of learning instead of spending inordinate time in prepping for standardized tests, Louisiana will continue to suffer with the mediocrity called "education reform"!
(click here for the test teacher song)