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October Review/November Preview (2013)

October 31, 2013

If I made a habit of assigning subtitles to months, there would be several choices for this October. Most would probably include the word snafu, which apparently not everybody knows to be an acronym with a military origin. Those of us partaking in Twitter had a pretty good time with that one!

Frankly, my readers and I have a lot of concerns in public education these days. As school districts scramble to account for bad ideas such as the 3rd Grade Retention law (with no funding), they don’t need the distraction of an A-F Report Card system that offers no value to the public. I had to laugh today when Superintendent Barresi posted to her campaign blog that superintendents need to focus on kids rather than “ridiculous political theater.”


She fails to understand (or chooses to pretend to the contrary) that the A-F Report cards are nothing but “political theater.” They are a cheap stunt intended to separate schools into groups and play into the hands of charter school operators, who are just waiting for a more permissive path into our state. They have no statistical meaning. The criteria are poorly selected, and the formula is nonsense. Making things worse, the SDE can’t even figure out how to use it.

Two things should come as no surprise then. First is that it was another record month for the blog. As of this writing, there have been more than 20,000 page views in October (eclipsing the 17,900 from August). That’s pretty good considering (a) I write anonymously and in my spare time, and (b) I don’t make a penny from this. The second is that three of the top five (and eight of the top ten) posts from this month concern the report cards:

  1. Simply Outraged – This brief 141 word post more than doubled the next most-viewed entry. It was a simple, quick response of emotion to the fact that grades were changing almost as quickly as administrators could view them. Little did we know what the next few weeks would hold.
  2. Stuck in the Middle with A-F Report Cards – Readers who have been with me for long enough know that I can’t resist a good classic rock, movie, or poetry reference. More so, you know how much I love it when our state politicians are whisked off to conferences to hobnob with Jeb Bush. I assume no taxpayer dollars were spent on the trip, but it did not sit well with many of the state’s school administrators that Barresi and Sen. Clark Jolley were off playing in Boston while the A-F system caused problem after problem.
  3. One More Delay – While schools were verifying their testing data early this month, the SDE sent an email to superintendents letting them know that thousands of fifth and eighth grade writing tests still needed to be re-scored. There was no explanation of why this was happening six months after students took the tests. What was explained later on, after the A-F extravaganza began in earnest, was that regardless of the outcome of the re-scoring (of thousands of tests statewide), the results would not be counted in schools’ report cards. While it is equally possible that the excluded scores would be positive or negative, this points another finger at the testing company, the SDE, and the usefulness of the A-F grades.
  4. In Defense of Opt Outs – You have probably heard that the SDE is deeply concerned that Jenks parents thought for themselves and opted their children out of field tests. How dare they want to limit the wasted time their children have to endure?! The problem, from the SDE’s perspective, is that they don’t believe the movement was parent-driven. I have two thoughts: yuh-huh, and so what? Jenks Middle School parents claim the opt-out movement was their doing, not principal (and fellow blogger) Rob Miller. I’ve looked over a number of statutes since this witch hunt was revealed. I don’t see what laws they think he or the parents broke. As I said at the time, the SDE should carry on as if this never happened. No good can come of it.
  5. The Pot We Watch – We’ve made a big deal out of the delays in test results and the release of A-F Report Cards. These are the distractions. There are many other pieces of data or funding that the SDE hasn’t made available to districts either. The SDE holds all the cards and apparently wants to lord them over schools. This is what we’ve come to expect from the agency that promised to be “less regulatory and more service-oriented.”

What does November hold? For starters, there will be a special State Board of Education meeting to approve the final A-F Report Card grades and award a new testing contract on November 6th. I also expect Barresi to persist with the lie that school districts can give teachers a $2,000 raise without additional funding. As always, expect a surprise or two as well.

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