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Full Academic Year – By the Numbers

January 20, 2014

Recently, the Oklahoma State Department of Education announced that beginning immediately, for accountability purposes, the definition of Full Academic Year would be enrollment from Oct. 1 to the time of testing with no lapse of enrollment greater than 10 consecutive days of instruction. Out of curiosity, I reviewed the academic calendars or the five largest school districts in the state. Using what I found online (not adjusting for snow days), I calculated the number of school days between October 1 through the beginning of testing.

District

First Day of School

School Days Between Oct. 1 and April 10

Oklahoma City

August 6

98

Tulsa (traditional)

August 22

114

Tulsa (continuous)

Aug 8

93

Moore

August 16

117

Edmond

August 20

115

Putnam City

August 19

115

The testing window listed on the SDE website is April 10 to May 2, 2014. However, the state writing test for fifth and eighth graders is February 26, 2014. That means students will have about five weeks less instructional time before taking those exams. (It is also important to note that the SDE is encouraging districts to give the third grade reading test early in the window to expedite scoring of those exams.)

This change in definition really doesn’t affect students. Wherever they go, they’ll test and get scores. The impact is on schools in terms of accountability. Specifically, it impacts the schools with high mobility rates. Those schools also tend to have high levels of poverty. Is it fair to punish a school for the score of a student who was only enrolled for 53 percent of the school year? Or best case scenario 67 percent?

I know what you’re thinking. Shouldn’t the school care about educating all of its students, even the ones who may only be there for a little while? ABSOLUTELY! Every student deserves the best we can offer – every minute of every day. But if we accept the premise that A-F grades are about accountability and the reality that the starting point matters, it isn’t realistic to think that 98 to 117 days is enough time for a receiving district to remedy every area in which a child may be short.

No, this change is about numbers. Adding more students means that schools will have more subgroups with enough students to count against them. And since we’re adding from the high mobility population, scores will go down.

Conversely, schools need 94 percent attendance to get the bonus points for that measure. We know that time matters. We just have selective ways of accounting for it.

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  1. January 20, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    So…reading between the lines, this would seem to be a calculated attempt to rank more schools and districts lower, right? Care to speculate on the motive behind this?

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    • January 20, 2014 at 9:03 pm

      No doubt that’s the motive. This will have a stronger impact on high-poverty schools – giving way to the vouchers. Charlatans who tell satisfied parents that their schools are failing will soon find converts.

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  2. Rob miller
    January 21, 2014 at 12:43 am

    Some people have a difficult time believing that anyone would actually want public schools to fail. Yet, combining actions like this with reduced funding; increased mandates; more rigorous standards; higher cut scores; and loss of modified testing makes it hard to argue otherwise. The evidence is too strong. This scenario is playing out in states across the nation.

    This particular concept of determining whether a student is FAY or NFAY and whether he or she counts for a school’s accountability becomes ridiculous as the student’s get older. Five months of learning in third grade can have much more impact than in tenth grade. Our middle school added dozens of new students before October 1; many are years behind academically. Even if they did their best, making up this gap in a few months is unrealistic.

    This is even more insane with English Language learners. A non-native speaker enrolling on September 30th is now expected to test on grade level in math and reading in six months!

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    • January 21, 2014 at 7:06 am

      Excellent point, Rob. The first wave of reforms were in the name of “rigor.” This wave (redefining FAY/NFAY, the parent trigger, vouchers) aims to free public money for private schools and corporate charters – all under the guise of “helping poor kids.”

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  3. Chuck
    January 21, 2014 at 9:38 am

    My question is, Will the amount of money that a voucher is worth be able to pay the full tuition to a private school? If it does, then will the state be funding a child using a voucher with more money than a student in a public school is funded? If the voucher is only worth what a public school recieves for a student, how many “poor” student can afford to make up the difference? It seems to me like vouchers are just another way to give breaks to the people that already have money. The rich keep getting richer!!

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  4. January 21, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    How many High Schools in OK have block schedules where students take the EOI in December? Oct 1- mid December is less than 3 months of learning.

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  1. December 28, 2014 at 10:17 pm
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