Saturday, August 31, 2013

Update on Bonus Points Issue

Barbara Leader of the Monroe News Star has written an excellent article on the bonus points issue. There are many examples around the state where schools are not receiving the points they were promised by the DOE.

White is quoted as explaining this as a case of poor communication instead of the state changing the rules after the fact.

Scott Richard, Executive Director for the School Boards Association has suggested that school boards may want to send resolutions of protest to BESE.

I am still suggesting that all affected schools protest this matter to their legislators. The legislature mandated the school grading system and they have a responsibility to make sure it is administered fairly.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

DOE Changes Rules for School Bonus Points

Shortchanges Schools That Made the Most Progress

Some of the schools that made the most progress in improving the achievement levels of low performing students in Louisiana public schools will be denied bonus points promised before the beginning of the school year because they have performed too well!! That's the conclusion some principals are coming to after receiving a memo from Ms Baghian of the DOE informing the schools that they would not be receiving bonus points because the improvement in their students' scores moved them to the proficient level. According to the memo, schools will get bonus points only if the students scores of the sub-groups improve but remain below the proficient level. This particularly penalizes schools that have made the most progress in improving student performance for previously low achieving students. It can actually lower the letter grades that some schools were originally qualified to receive. The following is quoted from an email sent to the DOE by Iberville Parish Superintendent, Dr Edward Cancienne: "The decision to withhold bonus points from schools that brought non-proficient students in the super subgroup to proficiency has had a negative impact on the letter grade of the individual school and on the morale of the entire Iberville Parish School System."

The original proposal approved by BESE for awarding bonus points said nothing about students in sub-groups remaining in the non-proficient category in order for their schools to receive bonus points. It simply does not make sense to change the rules after the end of the school year to penalize the schools that made the most progress in working with low performing students. The whole purpose of the new rule was to get more students performing at proficient levels.

Such a rule change, after the fact, once again demonstrates the amateur nature of the administrators at our DOE. Such erratic rule changing is destructive of the morale of the dedicated educators who are working in the real front lines of education. These people need respect and support, not silly numbers games that can adversely affect the reputations of schools and educators.

The writer of this blog is sending a letter of protest of this action to BESE and to the Education Committees of the legislature. I encourage all educators affected by this unfair action to send emails and make phone calls to BESE and the legislature. I strongly urge educators to contact their legislators about this matter because they have the power to correct this foolishness even if BESE members are not willing to act to support their own policy!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Indiana Retired Teacher on A-F School Grading

I believe this article applies perfectly to Louisiana and our dysfunctional school grading system

This week, the Fort Wayne Community School Board passed a resolution 6-1 stating the board would, “no longer publicly recognize schools based on the letter grade assigned to a school based on the A-F grading system.” This system was put in place by former superintendent Tony Bennett, who has been accused of rigging grades to help GOP donors.

Phyllis Bush is a retired educator who has written an open letter to parents and educators about Indiana’s flawed rating system to encourage other local school boards to accept a similar resolution.

Lately I have grown so weary of all of the labeling and grading of children that when I drive down the road and see a car proudly sporting a bumper sticker which proclaims,”My child is an HONOR student at “X” school or when I see a school sign board boldly proclaiming, “We are an A school,” I wonder if the purpose is to honor that child and that school, or is it to let others know that they are not good enough?

Since buildings are not people, I wonder how a building can receive a grade, unless of course, it comes from a building inspector. I also wonder how it must feel to students and teachers who go to a C school in a nearby neighborhood? I also wonder how it must feel to be a valedictorian at a school which receives a C, D, or F rating? Does that mean that all of the work that that student has done to excel academically is for naught? I also wonder if my neighborhood school receives a lower grade, what does that rating mean to my property value? What does it mean to my community?

Politicians keep saying that parents need to be able to choose which school their children should attend, but I would contend that they already have those choices. While our legislators assume that the reason a family would choose a school is because of a dubious letter grade, I would counter that people choose schools for a variety of reasons, the least of which is an arbitrary grade. Perhaps, many people choose their schools because they want their children to attend neighborhood schools within walking distance from home. Some choose schools because of programs like Montessori or New Tech or IB. Some choose schools because of music or arts programs. Some choose schools because they have talked to friends and neighbors and church members and found that a particular school seems like a good fit for their child. I have never heard anyone say that their kids are going to this or that school because of the state letter grade any more than I remember any kid ever coming back years later to walk down memory lane to remember some awesome test I gave.

Accountability has become the catch phrase of the reformers; however, for many reformers/policy makers/politicians/know-it-alls, data seems to be the only means of assessment that they understand. However, this flies in the face of what most educators know. If a test is to be meaningful, it should only be used for diagnostic or for evaluative purposes. Tests should give us information about what skills and concepts have been mastered and which skills and concepts still need more work. Most teachers can assess what is happening in their classrooms by walking up and down the aisles, by looking at student work, by looking and listening to what the students are saying and doing, and by reading the clues of the classroom environment. Can those things be measured on a data sheet? Probably not. However, most of us know a good school, a good class, a good teacher when we see it.

I have no issue with holding teachers to the highest standards; however, why do we not hold that same level of accountability to students, to parents, to administrators, and to policy makers? When we single out teachers and schools as the only ones who are to be held accountable, that does make me wonder what the real agenda is. Why in the world should we siphon even more tax dollars out of all already cash strapped schools to pay a dubious testing company with some mysterious grading system to come in to evaluate students, teachers, and whole school communities based on a test score which may or may not have any bearing on what the teachers are teaching or what the students are learning.

Perhaps, one solution might be to untie the hands of teachers, administrators, and school boards and to allow them to create programs and assessments which are instructionally sound. Instead of hampering the classrooms with the latest, greatest experts’ ideas, why not trust them by giving them the resources, the class sizes, and the support needed to improve what has been judged so harshly?

Perhaps we should include parents and teachers in this very important discussion.