Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Grading Schools on the Curve

Superintendent John White’s system for grading schools is about to get really crazy.

With his latest proposed revision of school accountability guidelines to BESE, White attempts to reassure school principals by temporarily grading schools on a curve as more difficult tests are given to students. White explains that for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years, the relative number of A, B, C, D, and F schools will remain the same as 2013-14.  At the same time however, under Whites new rules all principals are expected to improve their school performance scores each year. But that’s impossible if the schools are being graded on a curve. The only way for one school to have its score go up is for another school score to go down. This system is inherently unfair.

Whites new proposals for school accountability are coming as requirements tacked on to the Act 240 subcommittee report.  Act 240 was a bill passed by Rep. Hoffmann for the purpose of improving the teacher evaluation system. But as I explain in the post below, the subcommittee report was manipulated by White to require that all school principals set a goal of raising their school performance scores every year.  In addition, the principal’s quantitative evaluation will be based only on the school performance score. But it is impossible for all schools (or even more than half) to improve their performance scores if the schools are being graded on a curve.

With these two opposing rules, White is guaranteeing, based on statistics that approximately 50% of our public schools will have a lower SPS for this school year and the next school year. The declining schools may be different each year, but when graded on the curve, approximately 50% must decline. So the quantitative portion of the evaluation of half of our principals will have to go down for those two years.

In addition one of the new rules proposed by White that was not considered by the Act 240 subcommittee, requires that the local superintendents be shamed by submitting a report to BESE on any school that has a decline in SPS for two years in a row. (White had a more embarrassing rule for 3 consecutive SPS declines, but it has disappeared from the recommendations to BESE)

How do these new rules affect teachers? What White is driving at is forcing principals to demand that student test scores go up in every classroom each year. White and his friends at LABI and CABL believe that they have finally found a formula that will either drive up student scores or get more teachers and principals fired. What the new rules will do is to force teachers to spend more and more time on test prep instead of real teaching.

The new rules for school accountability and for principal evaluation are in contradiction and impossible to administer fairly. Please ask BESE to send White back to the drawing board before adopting any rules that put principals and teachers in an impossible predicament. (Click here for BESE districtmaps and email addresses) Such rules will only further demoralize the education profession and will not benefit our students in any way.