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Posts Tagged ‘accountability’

Waiting on School Designations

December 16, 2013 1 comment

For the last few months, much of the public education narrative has been focusing on the release, problems with, and reactions to Oklahoma’s A-F Report Cards. Soon – eventually – the less publicized, but more impactful accountability measure will be released. I’m talking about federal designations.

While the letter grades schools receive don’t require them to take any action, being placed in one of the school improvement designations does. In accordance with Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver, there are three improvement categories.

Focus Schools

  • The 10% of Title I and non-Title I schools in the State that either have the lowest performance for any of the three lowest achieving subgroups in the State within each grade span (elementary, PK-8, middle/junior high, and high school) for reading and mathematics based on the detailed criteria in Section 2.E of Oklahoma’s approved ESEA Flexibility Request and has not been designated as a High-Progress Reward School; or have the lowest graduation rate for either of the two subgroups with the lowest graduation rates in the State

Targeted Intervention Schools

  • Any Title I or non-Title I school that is identified as a D school based on the State’s A-F School Report Card System that has not been identified as a Priority School

Priority Schools

  • Any Title I or non-Title I school that is identified as an F school based on the State’s A-F School Report Card System
  • Any Title I school in the bottom 5% of Title I schools as well as any school in the bottom 5% of all schools (Title I and non-Title I) in each grade span (elementary, PK-8, middle/junior high, and high school) for reading and mathematics based on the detailed criteria in Section 2.D of Oklahoma’s approved ESEA Flexibility Request and has not been designated as a High-Progress Reward School
  • Any Title I-participating high school, Title I-eligible high school, and non-Title I high school in the State with a graduation rate below 60% for three consecutive years
  • Any Tier I school receiving School Improvement Grant (SIG) funds to implement a school intervention model

I know that all sounds confusing, and perhaps a little repetitive, but as always, I’m here to help.

The state selects the three lowest performing subgroups and then ranks all schools for their performance within those subgroups. There is a list for Title I schools, and a separate list for non-Title I schools. Within those lists are separate lists for elementary, middle and high schools. If a school is in the bottom 10% of any of those lists, it is on the Focus School list. If it is in the bottom 5% of any of those lists, it is on the Priority School list. Additionally, any school with a D is placed on the targeted intervention list, and any school with an F is placed on the Priority School list.

(I should also mention that the state will put out a list of Reward Schools as well. However, last year, most schools on the list were less than eager to claim their “prize.” Only 14 of 229 eligible schools applied.)

Here we are, the last week in December before Christmas Break, and schools still have not received their designations. This is problematic for many reasons. First is that each school on one of these lists has to complete an improvement plan. We know that all of the D and F schools will be on a list. We know that all of last year’s Focus and Priority schools will be on a list. But it’s possible that a D school could have been placed on the Priority School list and not even know it. It is also possible that a C school could be on either the Focus or Priority school lists. Each list comes with different requirements.

It is also important to note that last year’s Focus and Priority schools remain on the list (because they have to meet Annual Measurable Objectives for two years after being placed on the list). They have not been told if they made AMOs either, and this also impacts the work that goes into planning. In short, schools do not know how to tailor their improvement plans to satisfy the state’s requirements.

This is inexcusable. Once the testing company certified the data in October, the SDE had all the information it needed to calculate the A-F Report Cards. It also had all the information it needed to calculate the school improvement lists. If school improvement is something meaningful – something more than checklists, boring PowerPoints, and meaningless tasks – then schools need this information in a timely manner. It is also worth noting that the School Status Designation Appeal Form lists a due date of January 14. Actually it lists Friday, January 14, 2014, which isn’t even a real date (I swear I’m buying the SDE an editor for Christmas).

The form states schools will have 10 days to appeal their status. That means they are likely to remain in limbo until after New Year’s Day.

The A-F Report Cards are just window dressing. They require no work from schools, other than answering questions from patrons who seem more than capable of understanding how flawed they are. The NCLB waiver designations require a tremendous amount of work. It’s unfortunate that the SDE is causing that work to be delayed.

Same Straw Man, Different Day

December 14, 2013 10 comments

At first glance, today’s column in the Oklahoman seems like a minor departure for our state superintendent. She acknowledges the effects of poverty on learning. She uses a more conciliatory tone than she does in interviews and on the campaign trail.

Too many children come to school hungry, tired and ill-prepared to learn. More than half of Oklahoma kids in poverty are living with a single parent, many of whom are holding down two or more jobs just to make ends meet. Many of these children don’t have the benefit of an adult helping them with their homework, much less the use of books or a home computer.

That’s why the column is worth a second read. In spite of the subtle differences, the message remains consistent with everything she has ever said. She still believes Oklahoma schools are using poverty as an excuse rather than trying to help children.

Is poverty, then, good enough of a reason to hold these children to low expectations that essentially relegate them to a lesser education?

This is Janet Barresi’s standard Straw Man argument. What she doesn’t understand, having never spent a year teaching children in a high-poverty school, is that every teacher, principal, and staff member works to overcome these obstacles. At the end of the year, no good educator is satisfied with the results. Students take tests, and eventually, scores from those tests are converted into accountability measures.

As reflected by the A-F school grades released last month by the Oklahoma State Department of Education, there is often a correlation between students’ academic achievement and their income level.

That certainly isn’t the case universally. There are numerous cases of high-poverty schools that had exceptional performances. One such example is Southeast High School in Oklahoma City. Despite having 87 percent of its student body eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, the school earned an A overall. In the Putnam City district, Tulakes Elementary School — where more than 83 percent of students are on free or reduced-price lunches — earned a B-plus.

Barresi points to the outliers. Yes, they should be congratulated. Yes, we should delve heavily into exploring what works for them. We should not, however, accept the faulty logic of overlaying anecdotal evidence across every school in the state. If we do, then we should assume that every A school in the state is better than every B school in the state. I would argue differently. I have – repeatedly. A high-poverty school with a high grade has probably worked harder to get it. The B+ earned by Tulakes is probably more impressive than some of the higher grades earned by other schools.

It would be folly to deny the effects of poverty, but that should not, and cannot, allow for its acceptance. Poverty is a factor, not an excuse. We do no favors to children in low-income families when we hold them and their schools to a lesser standard of education. If we lower expectations for some students because of their economic condition, we in effect set them up for a future of closed doors and missed opportunities.

This is a matter of civil rights. A destitute child doesn’t warrant a good education any less than that of kids in comfortable suburbs. Schools alone can’t break the cycle of poverty, but providing a solid education for children in poverty can be a huge step toward giving them a pathway to a different future.

Nobody is arguing that a poor child deserves less of an education. Here she jabs again at her fictitious enemy. The calamity of it all is that she and her enablers know that poverty impacts achievement, but their solution continues to be blaming schools, rather than addressing poverty in our society.

Poverty creates a tremendous challenge for students, teachers and administrators. It will take a tremendous effort, but Oklahoma educators are more than up to the task.

If Barresi truly believed this last line, she wouldn’t continue insulting the profession and its professionals. She tells us in emails that it’s not her fault we aren’t doing our jobs. She calls out the “liberal education establishment” and those who would protect the status quo. She curses and pledges to block teachers from losing “another generation of Oklahoma’s children.”

Lost in this discussion is the picture of what working with students in poverty really entails. Schools not only struggle to meet their academic needs; they also lack the resources to attend to their physical, psychological, and social needs. Students in poverty don’t just lack adequate food and clothing. They are more likely to experience trauma in their home lives that interrupts the learning experience. Few schools have access to mental health professionals or social workers to regularly meet with children. Counselors are tied up managing the state testing program (in the schools that can still afford counselors).

Educators in schools with high poverty levels know that two things are true simultaneously. First, we want all students to succeed. Second, we know that no matter how hard we work we won’t always be successful. Understanding this balance between having high expectations and placing results in context is the key to remaining sane. It is not a lowering of expectations. It is not some Schrödingerian illusion in which two contradictory states exist simultaneously.

Having high expectations does not contradict with the understanding of the effects of poverty on learning. Not at all.

It’s time the state superintendent acknowledges this fact. What educators could use is more support, rather than two throw-away sentences at the end of another misleading opinion piece.

He Who Casts the First Aspersion

December 2, 2013 4 comments

The Oklahoma State Department of Education wants you to know that they too have access to “researchers.” Of course theirs is only one person and comes without the air quotes commonly found during campaign shindigs. Oh, and she’s not from around here.

From the Tulsa World:

A controversial study by researchers at two Oklahoma universities that deems the state’s A-F school grading system as flawed is “misleading,” according to an in-house analysis by staffers at the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

“It’s not to cast aspersions on the researchers at all,” said department spokesman Phil Bacharach. “But we think it’s important to put that research in context, especially if it’s going to be used as a sort of blanket criticism of the grades.”

Nothing against these fine researchers, but their work is misleading. Gee, how could that be seen as criticism?

The SDE has borrowed a “Harvard University strategic data fellow” for two years (at a cost to the state of $85,000 per year) to conduct analysis of … well, of hopefully more than this. While the OU/OSU researchers found flaws with the A-F Report Cards, Clifford found flaws with the design of the study. These include:

  • Using only urban schools representing about three percent of the total enrolled population in Oklahoma
  • Using a population that is not representative of the state population as a whole
  • Inserting controls for poverty and race into the calculations

So many things puzzle me about this article, but Clifford dismissing the sample size is just intellectually dishonest. The OU/OSU study included more than 15,000 data points. From a research perspective, that’s huge. Whatever your findings are at that point, they are bound to be statistically significant. Plus, just last month, Superintendent Barresi said accountability would be calculated for schools on subgroups as low as 10 students, because that is a significant number (as opposed to previous reporting requirements of 30 and 52).

Think about that student count again. The researchers had student-level data for 15,000 students – three percent of the students in Oklahoma. The federal government doesn’t come anywhere close to testing three percent of students for NAEP, yet we have to listen to scores of politicians bloviate over their results. Tomorrow, when international PISA results come out, the sample size will be even less representative. Yet these results will get the words flowing from think tank after think tank.

Clifford conducted her own study, and for some reason, did not control for poverty and race. She also translated results into months and years of learning. The problem is that nothing in the design of Oklahoma’s assessments lends itself to that kind of output. The technical manuals for the tests don’t equate differences between scaled scores to months and years of learning. Honestly, we can all conduct our own studies with our different methodologies. Each would have their merits and limitations. For example, a few weeks ago, I ran regression tests using site-level data and then district-level data. The greatest limitation of my findings was that I was comparing units of very different sizes. Nonetheless, the conclusion that poverty matters more than any other variable was undeniable. As such, the decision to exclude poverty from any model studying student achievement or school accountability probably should come with a thorough and compelling theoretical framework.

As for the finding in the OU/OSU report that a single letter grade is not a clear or reliable measure of school performance, Assistant State Superintendent Maridyth McBee had this to say:

It definitely is accurate in telling everyone what percent of students at that school are proficient in reading, math, science and writing, and what percentage of students are growing from a lower achievement level to a higher achievement level.

If that is the goal, all the SDE has to do is publish test data for schools. What percent of students passed the Algebra I EOI? The A-F Report Card actually doesn’t tell us that. What percent of students passed the third grade reading test? That either.

Not to cast aspersions, but useful data like that wouldn’t give education reformers their talking points.

November Review/December Preview (2013)

November 30, 2013 1 comment

What a month this was! We finally had the release of our A-F Report Cards. We had insult after insult from the state superintendent and a veiled threat from the governor. We also had more people than ever speaking out about it. Parent meetings are becoming more common all over Oklahoma, and at each, the common thread is that state policy makers are out of touch with communities.

It’s no wonder that this blog is getting so much traffic. Allow me to stat-brag with a few numbers.

April – December 2012 31,418 views
October 2013 20,731 views
November 2013 32,243 views*

*as of 11:00 am 11/30/13

October set a record by about 3,000 page views. November blew it away, with more views than I had in the blog’s inaugural year. While I’m incredibly thankful that so many people keep stopping by to see what’s being read, I know that the traffic is more of a result of what’s happening in this state than how I’m responding to it. It’s no wonder then that November saw five of the ten most viewed posts ever on the blog (each with over 2,000 views).

  1. I Too Will Be Damned – At first I thought it was just Superintendent Barresi lashing out irrationally at her detractors (which is a trend). It turned out to be a new campaign theme. Barresi has said, “I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the unions or anyone else in the education establishment lose another generation of Oklahoma’s children,” on multiple recorded occasions now. It’s the biggest slap in the face a state leader has ever given teachers. She’s quickly approaching Chris Christie territory, and this behavior shows no signs of abating. Next thing you know, she’ll be calling schools “failure factories” and wagging her finger in teachers’ faces.
  2. Education Reform Candidate Meeting – This was another place where Barresi repeated the line about being damned. What was interesting about the two hours of video from this campaign event was that Barresi had her positions questioned by a potential challenger, as well as from voters in the audience. Through all the politics, you can hear the fears of parents who have unique concerns for their children and the impact of Barresi’s reform agenda. Remember that these parents vote.
  3. About the Governor’s Letter – After Governor Fallin (or her spokesperson, depending on what you choose to believe) started a fury by questioning whether complaining about the A-F Report Cards would prove counterproductive when asking the legislature for more money, she backtracked and asked for calm. In defending the A-F Report Cards, she resorted to something far short of logic. I countered each point, and apparently, that resonated more with my readers than the veiled threat itself.
  4. Things that correlate to A-F Grades – This was one of my most deeply statistical pieces. Usually, I put a ton of work into calculating data and writing these, only to find the response disappointing. Not only did the post resonate, but it also generated additional research by other readers and bloggers. In short, we keep finding a strong correlation between poverty and accountability measures.
  5. Speaking of Cheap Political Theater – This was the original Fallin post after she made what seemed like a threat. Her spokesperson said it’s wrong to tell parents the law is wrong (which sounded to many readers like a double standard).

What we’re seeing, in addition to continued attacks on public education, is a tightening of the ranks among elected leaders right now. As they attempt to silence discord, both within the Republican Party and outside of it, the clamoring for change grows louder. In terms of her re-election, I’ve always thought Fallin was pretty safe. Maybe that’s why she’s marching lock-step with Barresi now. Or maybe it’s part of a larger strategy to be relevant nationally in 2016. Who really knows?

Fortunately, December is usually a calmer month. We won’t have as many major announcements or political events. Then again, since most of what I write comes as a response to something that surprises me, we may set more records.

Remediation Budgets

November 21, 2013 Comments off

School districts received their allocation notices for two important programs today: the Reading Sufficiency Act (RSA) and Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE) Remediation. In both cases, the funding hardly covers the need.

The RSA program has been in place since 2006. The stakes are higher than ever now, though. School districts have had two years to adjust to the fact that third graders will be retained for an unsatisfactory score. In 2012-13, districts received no RSA funds. In 2013-14, they just now received them, and less than what was given to them in 2011-12.  The SDE was kind enough to provide a PowerPoint telling them that this is all they get, and that they should spend 25% of the money on professional development for teachers. That and supporting Kindergarten through second grade students will leave hardly anything for direct interventions and summer school.

ACE has also been in place since 2006, and as with RSA, funding is nowhere near matching the need. Along with the allocation notice today, superintendents received this information today.

ACE Remediation Funding Allocations FY14

OK State Dept of Ed sent this bulletin at 11/20/2013 01:24 PM CST

Superintendents:

The State Department of Education is now in the process of allocating state funds for ACE (Achieving Classroom Excellence) remediation dollars, and we want to provide you with details on the process. Allocation were made available on November 19th, and payments will follow shortly.

In June, the State Board of Education approved Fiscal Year 2014 funding for ACE remediation for a statewide total of $8,000,000. These dollars help districts prepare students to meet the testing requirements of ACE, and each district is required to provide remediation and intervention opportunities to students who score Limited Knowledge or Unsatisfactory on ACE exams listed below:

  •     seventh grade reading
  •     seventh grade math
  •     eighth grade reading
  •     eighth grade math
  •     any end-of-instruction exam

Districts are provided with ACE remediation funds based on the number of students who qualify for remediation.  Allocations are made on a per-student basis. Here are some key numbers on this year’s allocation:

  • This year’s statewide count for Limited Knowledge is 79,214 (an increase of 8,458 over last year) .
  • The maximum remediation amount for Limited Knowledge is $180 per student.
  • If allocated at 100%, the total amount for Limited Knowledge is $14,258,520 .
  • Available funding is prorated at approximately 27.89% for $3,977,022.
  • Total count for Unsatisfactory is 60,097 (an increase of 22,348 over last year).
  • Max remediation for Unsatisfactory is $240 per student.
  • If allocated at 100%, the total amount for Unsatisfactory is $14,423,280.
  • Available funding is prorated at approximately 27.89% for $4,022,978.

Attached is a detailed spreadsheet on ACE remediation allocations.

Please do not hesitate to contact the ACE office (405-521-3549) regarding allowable expenditures and the State Aid office (405-521-3460) regarding the funding calculations.

My point here is that as the legislature continues emphasizing reform, they need to pay for the programs that support students. While I don’t love ACE, and I absolutely detest RSA in its current form, I want the funding to follow the mandate.

This deficit is entirely on the legislature. The SDE has asked for huge increases for both programs (172% for ACE, 147% for RSA). These increases need to happen.

Meanwhile, we need to have an honest discussion about the impact of budget cuts on accountability, as Okie Funk discusses today.

As I’ve written before, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has shown that Oklahoma has cut education funding by 23 percent since 2008. That’s a staggering cut. It’s simply indefensible to implement a new draconian ranking system of schools after such a decrease in funding. It’s also obvious that when considered together, the funding cuts and the A to F system represent the culmination of a right-wing agenda to damage the credibility of public education here. It’s a classic case of “starve the beast” ideology.

The beast is starving, serving more students than ever, and answering to more mandates and reforms than I can count.

That has to stop.

More Accountability Analysis

November 21, 2013 1 comment

I have great readers; let me start with that. They are astute, and they have initiative.

I think the people who frequent this blog understand that I love a number of things. Kids are first on that list. That’s why I became a teacher. That’s why I’ve dedicated my career to education. I also love the public school system, which is why I’m always interested in making it better. I reject poorly-researched ideas that are more political than productive. Still, I have always believed that this profession is too important for those of us in it ever to be content that we are doing enough. The children are too important. We can always do better.

This leads me to another thing I love: the use of data to contribute to a narrative. I always believe that good numbers tell us something. I also always believe that numbers are never the entire story.

This takes me back to several things I’ve learned from my readers over the past few days. As you’ll recall, on November 6th when the State Department of Education released the A-F Report Cards for schools (and initially for districts), I provided statistics of how the scores broke down by district. Harold Brooks has provided a comment on that post, providing even more details.

I looked at everything labelled HS, MS or JHS, and ES and then binned everything else together into another category. Most of the “other” are single schools in small towns that I assume are elementary, but I’m not going to go through all of that. “Other” also includes schools that don’t follow the standard naming convention in most of the grade file.

The results. First, raw counts:

Grade

HS

MS/JHS

ES

Other

A

21

18

108

21

B

173

81

218

45

C

91

105

250

44

D

21

50

168

34

F

11

28

99

34

Second, by percentages for each kind of school (e.g., numbers under HS are percentages of HS getting that grade):

Grade

HS

MS/JHS

ES

Other

A

41.6

6.4

12.8

11.8

B

34.1

28.7

25.9

25.3

C

17.9

37.2

29.7

24.7

D

4.1

17.7

19.9

19.1

F

2.2

9.9

11.7

19.1

HS is that easiest school to get an A or B (3 out of 7 HS are A, 3 out of 4 are B or better). There’s not a lot of difference in the rest of the categories, but MS/JHS is hardest to get an A.

A good school is a good school. I don’t believe that Oklahoma’s high schools are that much better than Oklahoma’s middle and elementary schools. Last year’s grades showed the same tendency. However, under the previous accountability system (yes, there was one), the converse was true. Elementary schools consistently scored much higher.

Another reader pointed me to this spreadsheet showing all school districts in Oklahoma, their student counts, and the percentages of students eligible for free and reduced lunch. The table also has bilingual student counts, which is information I previously didn’t have. Last week, I ran correlations between school grades (and district grades) and poverty. Yet another reader suggested to me that I run correlations between the grades and poverty, this time only using districts with more than 1,000 students.

Comparison Correlation
All District Grades to Poverty -.52
Large District Grades to Poverty -.80
Large District Grades to Bilingual -.32
Large District Grades to Poverty + Bilingual -.76
Small District Grades to Poverty -.51
Small District Grades to Bilingual -.10
Small District Grades to Poverty + Bilingual -.45

Both factors – poverty and bilingual education – seem to impact large districts to a greater extent. Statistically speaking, there are a couple of factors here. One is that the data for bilingual counts include a lot of schools with none reported. Zeros in statistics skew results (as they do with student grades). Another factor is that there were 131 of the large districts (still a statistically significant sample) and 386 small ones.

My takeaway from this is that while the report cards tell the story of schools’ accomplishments only to a limited extent, and while my analysis from before built on that, there is always more to learn, if you’re willing to unpack the data and find out what is happening. Among our largest schools, we see more variance in socio-economic levels. We also know that urban poverty and rural poverty are not identical.

I can’t state enough how much I appreciate the work that went into compiling this data.

Finally (for this post), I want to point to a graphic that I saw posted several times on Facebook and Twitter yesterday. The article, “How Poverty Impacts Students’ Test Scores, In 4 Graphs,” shows that nationally, students in poverty struggled more than those not in poverty on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) exams in 4th and 8th grade reading in math.

Look for yourself. There’s always more information out there, if you’re just willing to “research” it.

Just Stop Saying Stuff

November 13, 2013 4 comments

We love accountability. We love transparency. We just don’t like tough questions.

That seems to be one of the biggest problems over the last month. The State Department of Education and Superintendent Barresi are a little defensive over the problems with the rollout of the A-F Report Cards. Between the ten or so times site grades changed to the mistakenly posted district grades, it has been a comedy of errors.

There also have been head-scratching statements in the press, such as today’s comment from Barresi in the Broken Arrow Ledger:

“Last year, a big criticism we had was that grades changed without anybody understanding why or being able to see the environment in which they are changed. We thought that was a valid criticism. We were determined this year, to make it totally transparent. And, everyone would be able to see every little change that occurred.”

We’re supposed to believe that the changes, and our ability to view them constantly, were intentional? This follows a snafu, a disavowal, and a lost generation (or two) of children. Even Governor Fallin has gotten in the act, threatening to withhold support of additional funding for schools if the complaining doesn’t simmer down (before she backpedaled clarified that statement). When it comes to speaking, maybe it’s time to understand that less is more.

I’ve posted this before, but it bears repeating. Here are some key dates in the A-F timeline, as it unfolded:

  • 10/26/2013 – Friday nights grade recalculation did not apply the state average increase for growth points. This has been corrected.
  • 10/25/2013 – Corrections applied from data verification requests-
    • Winter EOI Biology, History test data were added to the system and STNs cleaned.
    • Second Time Tests not marked as Second Time Test were corrected for EOI testing records.
    • Second Time Tests removed from 3% OAAP, OMAAP cap.
    • All 8th grade EOI tests count for current 9th grade site.
  • 10/22/2013 – Corrections applied from data verification requests-
    • Added Advanced Coursework Bonus Point to all Middle Schools and High Schools
    • Corrected rounding issues
    • Missing STNs added to OAAP, Winter EOI, Summer EOI Tests (Could affect participation percentage)
    • Corrected middle schools whose data was pulling high school tests into calculations
    • Corrected College Entrance Exam data for multiple schools
  • 10/17/2013 – The issue with the application of the 1% and 2% caps on OAAP and OMAAP tests has been corrected.
  • 10/17/2013 – Issues with the Bottom 25% Growth have been corrected. These corrections caused changes in the site grades.  Please use the subject links from the Report Card Detail Screen to view and verify the students included.
  • 10/16/2013 – Report card details and grades now available to district administrators
  • 10/15/2013 – Final scored files received from CTB

The SDE wants us to see that they repeatedly misapplied their own rules and formulas. That’s nice. It’s sort of like one of those restaurants where you can see into the kitchen. Why then do they not want us to see other things? For example – and again, I’ve written about this before – if you’re looking for API scores from 2002 through 2011, you get the following message:

Please Note: The State Department of Education is currently reviewing historical assessment and accountability reports to ensure compliance with the Oklahoma’s new “Student Data Accessibility, Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013.” Some sites on this web page may be temporarily disabled until compliance is ensured.

As I saw one person write on Facebook, “I do not think that word means what you think that means.” I guess it doesn’t help you continue delivering the message that you invented accountability when you have to provide evidence that an accountability system existed prior to your election.

I also wonder why the SDE doesn’t publish the accurate list of Priority, Focus, and Targeted Intervention Schools from 2012. The list they have here was what the SDE submitted to the USDE as an example, before they had done actual calculations last year. That’s unfortunate if you’re listed here, but you actually weren’t on final School Improvement lists. It’s also unfortunate if you’re a blogger and you thought you’d take some time in the next few days to research whether the listed schools showed improvement. Not that I know anyone like that.

Barresi says one more thing in the article that struck me as strange. In addition to district grades being re-released later this week, she says the SDE “will issue a state grade.” If I’m not mistaken, that has been up on the A-F website since the school grades were released last week. For the record, Oklahoma earned a C-.

Looks like a Monday

October 28, 2013 2 comments

Even though A-F Report Card grades changed again over the weekend for many schools, the SDE is holding firm to the insistence that all data verification requests be completed by 10:00 a.m. … wait, that was this morning? !@#%@#$:

***SDE***Data Verification Deadline

OK State Dept of Ed sent this bulletin at 10/25/2013 04:01 PM CDT

OK State Dept of Ed sent this bulletin at 10/25/2013 04:01 PM CDT

Superintendents, Principals and District Test Coordinators,

Please note that 10:00 am Monday, October 28, is the due date for all Data Verification Requests to be submitted via the Single Sign-on page.  The Accountability staff will continue to work diligently to process all of the Data Verification Requests submitted.  You will receive a response to any outstanding requests by early next week.

Thank you for submitting your Data Verifications so that we have accurate information for our accountability measures.

Maridyth McBee, PhD

Assistant State Superintendent

Accountability and Assessment

405-522-6250

To be fair, they did send out notice on Friday, arguably before the close of business. With more unexplained changed over the weekend though, it really caused some scrambling today.

Conjuring Enemies

October 18, 2013 5 comments

Since it’s Fall Break across much of the state, I assume many of you have been at home, responsibly playing the new SDE A-F Report Cards Drinking Game for the last couple of days. Scores changed again… shot! Phone call to the SDE that doesn’t get past the switchboard…shot! Actual response to a question from a live person at the SDE…double! Superintendent Barresi responded today to the frustration of those who have been watching school report card grades flip back and forth like a metronome over the last 48 hours:

***SDE*** A-F Report Card Update

OK State Dept of Ed sent this bulletin at 10/18/2013 09:42 AM CDT

School districts and schools now have access to review their A-F report card and double check their data and calculations. I understand the experience of the past few days has been frustrating for school and district administrators. I am deeply sorry for the resulting delay and confusion, as are all of us at the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

A commitment to transparency can have an embarrassing downside. That was certainly the case when the grades were posted Oct. 16 even as they continued to undergo several versions. A last-minute correction in the calculation resulted in errors that subsequently had to be fixed. To ensure transparency in this process, the decision was made to leave the grades up as they were modified.

Fortunately, the problems were addressed and corrected during the designated 10-day window for schools, districts and the OSDE to check for errors. That doesn’t excuse the snafu, but only explains it — and we thank you for your patience.

Because of the delay, districts and schools have an extended period, until 10 a.m. Oct 28, to review and seek corrections on their prescribed grades. After that point, the proposed grades will be brought before the State Board of Education at the board’s Oct. 29 meeting for final approval.

Some opponents of school accountability will no doubt seize on the recent delay as yet another reason to postpone, reconfigure or simply trash the A-F report cards. Oklahoma parents, students and all interested parties can rest assured that will not happen. The annual grades are critical to heightening accountability, arming parents with important information and furthering the simple proposition that all children can learn.

Janet Barresi

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

The first thing I want to address is the word snafu – but I don’t have to. Rob Miller has that one for me. As Rob does, I think the acronym fits, but maybe not as much as another one.

Her flippant remark about the embarrassing downside notwithstanding, what I really want to address is the last paragraph, and I’m going to do so sentence-by-sentence.

Some opponents of school accountability will no doubt seize on the recent delay as yet another reason to postpone, reconfigure or simply trash the A-F report cards.

The frustration that has been expressed over A-F Report Cards, going back at least 18 months, is not a product of opponents of school accountability. As I’ve said before, politicians such as Barresi like to pretend they invented accountability. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Test scores have been made available online since the late 1990s. The 1500 point API scale was in place prior to No Child Left Behind and had an 11-year run before being replaced by the A-F Report Cards. Only the current occupants of the SDE feel the need to keep those reports offline now, and only they could justify such action in the name of transparency.

Remember, after last year’s catastrophe, the report cards were completely reconfigured by legislators. One of these was Clark Jolley, who went to Jeb Bush’s conference (at which Barresi also presented) this week to praise their impact on accountability. Nor was it the Education Establishment or rogue liberals that she often invokes as enemies authoring studies blasting both last year’s version of the report cards and now this year’s. It was researchers at Oklahoma’s flagship universities – OU and OSU.

Schools welcome accountability. They want a light to shine on how they are performing, knowing full well that what will be seen won’t always be flattering. The people who lead and work in those schools just want this to be done in a way that is accurate.

Oklahoma parents, students and all interested parties can rest assured that will not happen.

I don’t think that is hers to promise. Last year, the State Board of Education surprised everybody by postponing the release of the A-F Report Cards. That was followed by pointed words from Barresi for pretty much everybody. There could be more changes by the legislature. There could be an unsuccessful primary next summer. Who knows what will happen? I don’t know about you, but I feel neither rested nor assured.

The annual grades are critical to heightening accountability, arming parents with important information and furthering the simple proposition that all children can learn.

The system arms (not a fan of the choice of words here, but we’ll go with it) people with misinformation. Schools are trying to figure out how to get the highest possible grades rather than focusing on children. Even worse, the rules have been different each of the last three years, and the rules for 2012-13 weren’t completed until students had gone home for the summer. The discrepancy between student performance and the overall grades is even more telling.

Reformers such as Barresi didn’t concoct all by themselves the ideal that every child can learn. This has been the focus of teacher prep programs for decades. It means something coming from career educators. It means little coming from politicians such as Barresi, Jolley, and Bush.

Is this a snafu? Yes. To be more accurate, I’d call it fubar.

Quit Picking at It!

October 17, 2013 4 comments

You’ll just make it worse!

That’s what my parents used to tell me when I would fall off my bike and scrape my knee.

We’re up to version 5 of our A-F Report Cards.* There’s no end in sight. Around lunchtime, the SDE sent out the following notice to districts:

***SDE*** Report Cards UpdateOK State Dept of Ed sent this bulletin at 10/17/2013 12:42 PM CDT

Dear Superintendents, Principals and DTC’s,

It came to our attention yesterday that the bottom 25 percent growth on the A to F report card was calculated incorrectly.  A last-minute correction was made immediately before posting that inadvertently caused the errors. We are working to remedy this problem as swiftly as possible, and we will notify all districts once this has been corrected. The date for submitting Data Verification Forms for calculation errors is extended until 10:00 am, Oct 28th.

I deeply regret the challenges you experienced yesterday afternoon.  If additional calculation changes are needed, please submit the Data Verification Form and we will be happy to process it.

Maridyth McBee, PhD
Assistant State Superintendent
Accountability and Assessment

The problems didn’t end yesterday. That needs to be clear. They are ongoing. School districts continue to have deadlines, like the one that was extended earlier this week (due to system problems, not school district procrastination). They meet them. They get their data entered correctly.

Their frustration is evident on the secure site, which includes a discussion forum. Here are some quotes from system users:

Just like Obamacare, this site was not ready for rollout.
When will the scores quit changing? We have seen at least 4 different scores in less than 24 hours. OSSBA and CCOSA were right. This is worthless.
My school has 2 different scores simultaneously.
If I go in as District User I see one score. If I go in as Site Principal I see a different score. Of course this is aside from the fact that each score has changes 4 times at least. The discrepant score are occurring simultaneously.
Please take the keyboard away from the monkey!!
Why have a forum for Q & A when there is no one home to answer our questions? Why release something that obvious was not ready for release. Don’t send me junk I want valid information not this stuff. Our scores have changed several times!
And eventually, this system response:
Announcement from the SDE

I would like to apologize for the lack of SDE responses on the forum. All of our resources are currently focused correcting and verifying the A-F report card and fulfilling all data verification requests. We received the final testing data from the vendor on Oct. 15, and have been working non-stop since then to perform and verify the calculations. Please refer to the homepage for updates regarding the progress of this process, but we expect all known issues to be resolved in the afternoon of Oct.17th.

In light of these challenges, the deadline for submitting data verification requests for calculations has been extended until 10:00 A.M. Oct. 28th.
We completely understand and empathize the frustration that many have experienceed within the last several days, and we please ask for your patience and assistance as we work together to ensure the calculations are accurate when the report cards are released on Oct. 29.Sincerely,
Michael Tamborski

This is a complete embarrassment, and one that the SDE can hardly afford. Their PR is bad enough without the added stress of self-inflicted wounds.

Accountability is the stated commitment of Superintendent Barresi. She needs to hold her staff to a higher standard than this.

*As of 4:00 p.m. 10/17/13

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