Explaining CCRPI Results – High School, Part 2

In 2017, Douglas County high schools, collectively, earned 1.6 “Challenge Points” on the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) for the performance of “disadvantaged” populations: Economically Disadvantaged (ED), English Language Learners (ELL), and Students with Disabilities (SWD). This compares with 0.5 points for the state as a whole. Can we conclude from this result that these vulnerable populations are learning more and are better prepared for life after high school?

To answer this question, we need to first look at how the points are calculated. The calculation essentially is the product of the proportion of all students in one of these three categories (which determines the maximum possible points in this area) and the number of “performance targets” met by these subgroups. There are nine types of targets for each of the three groups: eight are EOC exam performance and one is graduation rate, resulting in 27 targets total.

The proportion of these three subgroups in Douglas County schools is very close to that in the entire state (60.7% compared to 62%). Hence, that variable in the equation has a minimal effect. Douglas County students, though, met 7 of 27 targets, whereas the State as a whole only met two:

Douglas County                                                                  Georgia

ED – Graduation Rate                                                         ED – 9th Grade Literature EOC
ED – 9th Grade Literature EOC                                        ED – American Literature EOC
ED – American Literature EOC
ED – Economics EOC
ELL – Graduation Rate
SWD – Graduation Rate
SWD – Geometry EOC

This difference of five targets met results in the positive differential of 1.1 points compared to the State. Yet notice that three of these five targets are graduation rates. Douglas County is graduating these subgroups at a higher rate than the State. The fact that there are two more EOC targets met may suggest to you that these students are learning more, and thus the higher graduation rate is legitimate, but what does the actual test score data reveal?

Table 1 shows the weighted EOC exam proficiency rates for these subgroups. In this formula, students who score at the “Proficient Learner” level are weighted 1.0, while those who score “Developing Learner” are weighted 0.5. Thus, a score of a 50 could mean that 50% were Proficient, or that 100% were Developing, or some combination thereof.

ED EOC Scores

Table 1 – EOC Performance and Graduation Rates of Disadvantaged Subgroups (bold means subgroup targets were met; green means outperformed the State, though targets were not met. 

Douglas County students had lower exam scores in 18 of 24 areas, yet the graduation rates were 7 to 11 points higher for each group. We can conclude from these results that more students graduated while achieving less, which further confirms that the district’s higher graduation rates are NOT the result of higher achievement but of lower academic standards. Furthermore, since Proficiency on these exams is the level indicating that students are ready for college-level work, it is also the case the fewer of these students are prepared for college.

Perhaps this is why fewer Douglas County graduates, as a whole, are enrolling in college in recent years. For example, according to the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, 64% of 2015 high school graduates statewide enrolled in college (including technical schools); whereas Douglas Co. graduates enrolled at a 58% rate.

It is reasonable to conclude then that these subgroup graduation rates are inflated relative to actual achievement. Together they result in 0.7 more Challenge Points. Combined with the fact that the TOTAL graduation rate, which includes all students and is thus likewise made higher by these subgroups’ rates, results in at least 1 more Achievement Point, then altogether questionably high graduation rates are the cause of at least 1.7 additional CCRPI points.

This small amount is not trivial. It accounts for over half the positive differential with state high school CCRPI, and it allows, potentially, for high schools to avoid accountability under the district’s “Strategic Waiver” contract with the GA DoE. This consequence is especially galling considering the fact that the waivers include regulations affecting students who are ELL and SWD. For example, the school system can now enlarge class sizes for these groups to whatever size they wish and still receive additional funding for them, whereas prior to the “waivers” this funding was contingent on staying below certain class size maximums.

This situation reeks of injustice. If our high schools, and thus the administrators who run them, look better from higher graduation rates resulting in higher CCRPIs, and these higher scores come at the expense of properly educating the most vulnerable students in the school system, then people in power are benefiting at the expense of the poor and marginalized. Is exploitation taking place in our high schools?

This is the final post in a series on 2017 CCRPI Results. See also:

Elementary CCRPI

Middle School CCRPI

High School CCRPI Part 1

Explaining CCRPI Results – High School, part 1

 

high school

In contrast with the elementary school and middle school CCRPI, Douglas County’s high school CCRPI increased in 2017 (by 1.3 points) and also beat the state CCRPI (by 3.2 points) . In view of persistently low levels of high school student achievement in Douglas County and the fact that many recent graduates are not doing well in college , how can we account for this result?

Table 1 breaks down the main components for CCRPI for the District versus the State.  Douglas County scores exceed the state by one point or more in Achievement (a composite measure of success from a single year); Progress (basically the change in EOC test scores from the previous year relative to groups of similar students across the state); and Challenge (up to 10 extra bonus points earned through a variety of means). Let’s analyze each of these in order.

HS CCRPI t1

‘Achievement’ is comprised of 18 indicators, which are grouped into 3 categories: ‘Content Mastery’ (#1-8) is a weighted average of passing rates on the eight EOC exams and counts for 40% of the points; ‘Post High School Readiness’ (#9-16) includes a variety of indicators predictive of career and/or college success and counts for 30%; and ‘Graduation Rate’ (#17-18) includes both the 4-year and the 5-year rate and counts for 30%. Table 2 shows the relative weight of each indicator, and compares the points Douglas County earned on each with the State.

The eight indicators in which the District outperforms the State are in bold (see Indicator Key at bottom). Three are EOC exam scores; two are graduation rates. Of the remaining three in Post High School Readiness, two (#s 12 and 13) have to do with completion of courses or a sequence of courses, and not with achievement assessed independently of the schools, which means they can be driven up by lowering standards and inflating grades. For example, we know that nearly 100% of students pass AP courses in Douglas County, even though only 10-15% take and pass AP exams. This high course pass rate is the main reason why the district scores high on indicator 12.

Notice the contrast between indicator 12 and indicator 11, which is called the “College Readiness” Indicator. It is the percentage of graduates meeting at least one of a list of achievement known to predict for success in college. Only 63% of Douglas County graduates qualified, compared to 73% for the state, yet more are passing “accelerated courses” like AP.

HS CCRPI t2

To assess the impact of these indicators on the overall CCRPI, it is helpful to look at the relative contribution of each of the three categories. Table 3 shows the “weighted achievement’ of each category.  Douglas County earned 71% of the possible achievement points compared to 69% from the state, resulting in a 1.1 point differential due to higher scores in Post High School Readiness and Graduation Rate. How much of this difference is due to REAL achievement?

HS CCRPI t3

Indicator 10 requires students to pass an “end of pathway assessment.” These are technical skills tests linked to industry standards. I know very little about what these entail, but if they are indeed assessed by experts external to the schools, this would be a legitimate and significant achievement. However, as already explained, Indicators 12 and 13, which together account for over 2/3rds of the 0.85 point difference, merely require completion and thus can be driven up by manipulating/inflating grades.

As for Graduation Rates, we know that these are too high relative to real measures of academic achievement. If graduation rates were proportional to real achievement, the Douglas County’s rates would be lower than the state’s. Thus, at least 1 point of the CCRPI difference is due to Douglas County’s inflated graduation rates.

Finally, the Challenge Points are also 1.1 points higher than the State. Challenge Points have two sub-categories: the performance of disadvantaged students and “exceeding the bar” points that can be earned in nine different ways. Both the district’s and the state’s Challenge Points were earned in the former category. Does this mean, then, that Douglas County’s disadvantaged students (economically disadvantaged, English language learners, and students with disabilities) are doing better than disadvantaged students throughout the state?

That is a complicated question, and will be the focus of Part 2 of this post.

INDICATOR KEY

1 – Weighted percent of students scoring at Developing Learner or above on the Georgia Milestones Ninth Grade Literature EOC (required participation rate >= 95%)
2 – Weighted percent of students scoring at Developing Learner or above on the Georgia Milestones American Literature EOC (required participation rate >= 95%)
3 – Weighted percent of students scoring at Developing Learner or above on the Georgia Milestones Algebra I/Coordinate Algebra EOC (required participation rate >= 95%)
4 – Weighted percent of students scoring at Developing Learner or above on the Georgia Milestones Geometry/Analytic Geometry EOC (required participation rate >= 95%)
5 – Weighted percent of students scoring at Developing Learner or above on the Georgia Milestones Physical Science EOC (required participation rate >= 95%)
6 – Weighted percent of students scoring at Developing Learner or above on the Georgia Milestones Biology EOC (required participation rate >= 95%)
7 – Weighted percent of students scoring at Developing Learner or above on the Georgia Milestones US History EOC (required participation rate >= 95%)
8 – Weighted percent of students scoring at Developing Learner or above on the Georgia Milestones Economics EOC (required participation rate >= 95%)
9 – Percent of graduates completing a CTAE pathway, or an advanced academic pathway, or an IB Career Related Programme, or a fine arts pathway, or a world language pathway within their program of study
10 – Percent of graduates completing a CTAE pathway and earning a national industry recognized credential (passing an end of pathway assessment)
11 – Percent of graduates entering TCSG/USG not requiring remediation or learning support courses; or scoring at least 22 out of 36 on the composite ACT;
or scoring at least 480 out of 800 on Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and 530 out of 800 on Math on SAT; or scoring 3 or higher on two or more AP exams; or scoring 4 or higher on two or more IB exams
12 – Percent of graduates earning high school credit(s) for accelerated enrollment via Move on When Ready, Advanced Placement courses, or International Baccalaureate courses
13 – Percent of graduates completing a career-related Work-Based Learning Program or career-related Capstone Project (Includes IB projects)
14 – Percent of students achieving a Lexile measure greater than or equal to 1275 on the Georgia Milestones American Literature EOC
15 – Percent of students’ assessments scoring at Proficient or Distinguished Learner on Georgia Milestones EOCs
16 – Percent of students missing fewer than 6 days of school
17 – 2017 4-Year Cohort Graduation Rate (%)
18 – 2016 5-Year Extended Cohort Graduation Rate (%)

 

 

 

 

Explaining CCRPI Results – Middle School

middle

Douglas County’s Middle School CCRPI dropped by 3.6 points (a 5% decrease) from 2016 to 2017, and is now below the state average (68.4 compared to 73) for the first time in a few years. Why did it decline, and why was it three points below the state for 2017?

The first table in the spreadsheet below compares the major CCRPI components from 2016 and 2017. Achievement (a composite measure of success from a single year) remained essentially the same; Progress (basically the change in test scores from the previous year relative to groups of similar students across the state) declined by 3.2 points; Achievement Gap (the success or progress of the lowest 25% of students relative to state norms) declined by 1.7 points; and the Challenge points (up to 10 extra bonus points earned through a variety of means) dropped from 0.5 to zero.

Since the biggest drop was in Progress points, let look more closely at this component first.

The Progress points are based on the percentage of students who experience “typical or high growth” from the previous year of Milestones exams. It is referenced to a 75% benchmark, which means a school gets all 40 points if 75% of its students meet this criteria. In 2016, 64.8% of Douglas County students met the criteria; in 2017, this declined modestly to 62.5%

Note, though, that “typical or high growth” is defined relative to other students throughout the state. This number then does not mean necessarily that 62.5% of students saw an increase in test scores! If the typical student’s test scores were flat statewide, then students who show no improvement will earn a school progress points.

This decline in “growth” numbers was likely concentrated among the lowest 25% of students because the Achievement Gap also declined.

Even though the drop in Challenge Points is small, it is worth looking at closely. In 2016, the district earned its 0.5 challenge points because its disadvantaged populations/sub-groups (Economically Disadvantaged, English Language Learners, and Students with Disabilities) met their test score targets in 1 (of 12) areas : Language Arts for Economically Disadvantaged.  In 2017, none met their test score targets!

Note that these targets are set relative to the sub-group, so they are already significantly lower than state test score norms as a whole.

That accounts for the decline. Compared to the state in 2017 only, we see that Achievement, Progress and Achievement Gap were lower. Since we have already discussed the latter two, let’s scrutinize the Achievement component.

The second table breaks down the Achievement points. The biggest gulfs here with the state are test scores: we have more students failing tests, except for Language Arts (indicators 2 through 4) and fewer students are scoring at the top two levels of exams (indicator 10; which means fewer finish the year at grade level!).

It should concern us all deeply that only 38% of our Middle School students are on grade level in any given subject. By 8th grade, schools can predict with high reliability whether their students are on a pathway for being prepared for college upon graduation based on test scores. Scoring “Proficient” or higher indicates that a child is on that trajectory.

This number does not tell us how many students scored Proficient on ALL 4 subject areas. If it is 38%, that would mean that every child who scored Proficient on at least one exam, also scored Proficient on the other 3, and that the other 62% scored Proficient on none.  It is likely, then, that much LESS THAN 38% are on a college ready path in ALL subjects.

The power to improve our schools lies  in the local community. We have to hold school leaders accountable, while also recognizing that educating children is the work of the whole community. It will take a collective efforts by parents, grandparents, business leaders, in concert with the school system to bring about major improvements.

 

 

Explaining CCRPI Results – Elementary School

kids

Douglas County’s Elementary Schools’ CCRPI dropped by a stunning 8.4 points from 2016 to 2017, and is now below the state average (69.9 compared to 72.9) for the first time in a few years. Why did it drop so precipitously and why is it three points below the state?

The first table in the spreadsheet below compares the major CCRPI components from 2016 and 2017. Achievement (a composite measure of success from a single year) remained essentially the same; Progress (basically the change in test scores from the previous year relative to groups of similar students across the state) declined by 2.7 points; Achievement Gap (the success or progress of the lowest 25% of students relative to state norms) declined by 1.7 points; and the Challenge points (up to 10 extra bonus points earned through a variety of means) dropped from 4.1 to zero.

Since the Challenge points fell the most, let’s look more closely at what that means.

In 2016, the district earned its 4.1 challenge points because its disadvantaged populations (Economically Disadvantaged, English Language Learners, and Students with Disabilities) met their test score targets in 7 of 12 possible areas (this ratio is multiplied by the proportion of the total population classified in one of these categories). But in 2017, no test score targets were met by these groups! Specifically, the declines were in Math, Science, and Social Studies. Since these groups of students tend to dominate the lowest 25% of all students, this is also why the Achievement Gap fell.

That accounts for most of the decline. Compared to the state in 2017, we see that Achievement, Achievement Gap, and Challenge Points were lower. The second table breaks down the Achievement points. The biggest gulfs here with the state are test scores: we have more students failing tests, except for Science (indicators 1, 2, and 4) and fewer students are scoring at the top two levels (indicator 12; which means fewer finish the year at grade level!).

It should concern us all deeply that only 38% of our Elementary students are on grade level in any given subject. The numbers are alarming also for the state as a whole. This does not bode well for the future.

The power to change this lies in the local community. We have to hold school leaders accountable, while also recognizing that educating children is the work of the whole community. It will take a collective efforts by parents, grandparents, business leaders, in concert with the school system to bring about major improvements.

 

 

Commentary on the Vulgar Rap Video at DCHS

tyga

The aim of this post is to give a fair-minded critique of the school administration’s role in this rap video controversy at Douglas County High School, and to try to articulate some of the deeper reasons for the community’s outrage.

In their defense, Principal Weaver saw a good opportunity to raise money for the school by allowing MTV to use the facilities. Good principals want to do more to improve their school for their students and teachers to than what normal funding sources typically permit, and so they stay on the look out for opportunities to raise additional funds. Once the contract was signed and filming began, the administrators did not have control over how the MTV staff conducted themselves, especially when they were not filming for the show. I am sure Mr. Weaver and his staff were just as mortified as the rest of us, probably more so, and they moved quickly to rectify the situation, launching a massive communications effort to apologize to parents.

At the same time, questions should be raised about the judgments that were made to do business with MTV in the first place – a TV station infamous for its debased, undignified, mindless content exemplified in such shows as Jersey Shore and Teen Mom – especially in support of its show Scream. Common Sense Media, a website that aims to help parents and other adults help children make good choices about their use of digital media, gave Scream 2 of 5 stars for its overall quality. Its parent guide describes the show as, “Extreme graphic violence includes very gory deaths: stabbings, a throat slashing, and a decapitation. Often, the targets of this violence are young, attractive women in revealing costumes; menace is amped up with music and camera angles.” Why would the school system support and implicitly endorse this kind of entertainment?

To atone for the sins of their stars Tyga and KeKe Palmer, MTV offered DCHS yearbook students access to Tyga in a classroom interview. The school system accepted this olive branch and promoted the event to assuage concerned parents, saying that the students received career advice and that it was a positive experience for all. At first, I thought that it was good that they at least tried to turn a negative situation into a good one, but then I read a litany of concerns about the wisdom of this move. Why is the school system now holding up the offender – who also by the way is notorious for dating 16 year old Kylie Jenner when he was in his mid-20s – as a role model for students to emulate? Does that not do further moral damage by normalizing and legitimizing the immoral behavior celebrated in the video and embodied in his personal life?

MTV will be back on campus next week filming more. The olive branch worked. If the filming of this video on school grounds was a violation of the contract, the appropriate decision would be to not allow MTV back on campus to continue shooting. They deserve the repercussions of lost time and money (since this would likely mean they would need to start over at a new location).

A number of people have criticized the moral concerns of parents and others arguing that teenage children are already exposed to this kind of graphic content. This argument is flawed for many reasons. Besides the fact that there are at least some children who are not thus exposed, the issue is less about exposure and more about the effects on children’s attitudes towards such behavior. Children become more aware of evil in the world as they grow older, but whether they become agents of evil themselves depends on the attitudes they develop to these things: do they learn to revile immoral, wicked actions, or do they accept it as normal, attractive, legitimate, and desirable? That has everything to do with how they are educated. That is why children encountering such things in an educational environment, by people held up as role models by their school leaders, provokes righteous indignation.

CEPS is concerned not only about academic excellence, but also moral excellence among school staff. Moral excellence entails having wisdom to make good moral judgments, discerning the fine lines between right and wrong. What we see in this situation is a failure of judgment: both in the decision to affiliate with MTV and in the decision to hold forth decadent celebrities like “Tyga” as role models. to students.

We Need More Honesty from our School System about Student Achievement

This letter to the Editor was published in the Douglas County Sentinel on Sunday, Sept. 17th.

Dear Editor,
DCSS has a bad habit of issuing misleading reports to the public on student achievement. The reports are misleading mainly due to what they conceal. High graduation rates were announced without telling us test scores were lower than the state across the board and that dubious online courses were used to drive up rates; CCRPI increases that same year were touted without disclosing that the ‘increases’ were only due to major changes in the formula; district gains in SAT scores in 2016 were celebrated without revealing that they had declined in 3 of 5 high schools, and that, according to data we obtained through open records request, less than 3% of all graduates who took the SAT scored in the top 10 percentile (19 from DCHS; 2 from AHS; 1 from CHHS; and none at the others).
Recently, in the Sentinel, we learned of ACT score increases. It’s fine to report those, of course, but it must be put in proper perspective.  Conspicuously missing from the report was the fact that our 19.8 average is significantly below the 21.4 state average, and well below the minimum score of 26 students need to qualify for a full HOPE scholarship. By only reporting the increase and leaving out this context, DCSS conveys a positive impression to the public that is false. Likewise, the system conveyed in writing that DCSS ‘outperformed’ most districts in the metro area, when orally, in person, they merely claimed that more of our schools performed better than was expected of them. Most nearby district’s test scores are far better!
The school system needs to examine the intent and effect of such pronouncements. Who really benefits from the creation of such misperceptions? Surely not our children! A recent study by the parent group Learning Heroes found that nationally while only 1 of 3 8th graders are proficient in math and reading, 9 of 10 parents of 8th graders believe their kids are proficient.  If we are misled into thinking that our children are doing well academically, how can we hold the schools accountable? And how can we make sure our kids get the changes and support they need to get the kind of education that actually prepares them well for the future?
Jeremy Noonan
Douglasville

 

Tax Increases for Schools: The Cost of Excellence?

school tax 2

Because property values are rising, school taxes will increase unless the BoE rolls back the millage rate. They are not planning on doing so. Public hearings are required prior to any tax increases. This is what I plan to say:

There are some citizens who would oppose any tax increase. To those citizens, I would say that excellence is costly. A truly excellent school system will cost more. If you want a top notch school system, you have to be willing to pay for it. 

Others, like myself may be open to tax increases, if they had confidence that it would indeed raise substantially the quality of our schools, that is if it were stewarded well in service of the public good. I exhort you to do the hard work of building that confidence. 

For there are reasons not to trust that additional taxes will be stewarded well: 

  1. The majority of our graduates are not prepared to succeed in a 4-year college. 
  2. Our high school students are under-performing their peers across nearly all academic exams. 
  3. Our Gifted students bring in millions more in QBE earnings than what is spent on their education. 
  4. Class sizes in high schools are larger than they should be. 
  5. You’ve spent money on programs like online credit recovery that have no real educational value added, beyond enriching private companies and inflating graduation rates. 
  6. You spent $860K more than was necessary on artificial turf fields to choose a vendor favored for whatever reason by district employees. 

It feels like the tax increases are a forgone conclusion, and that these hearings are merely perfunctory public gestures, held out of legal necessity. If you go ahead with these increases by not rolling back the millage rate, I urge you not to presume upon the good will of the public, upon those who would gladly pay more in taxes if it truly helped improve the quality of education for our children. Rather, do the hard work of showing the public that our money is being well spent. 

And finally a word to the district employees. The cost of excellence is much more than financial. These problems won’t be solved simply with more money. Truly holding student to high standards and empowering them to reach these goals is much more costly in terms of time, sweat, and tears than giving credits when students haven’t learned, than giving As when students are not even proficient in the curriculum, than enabling students to progress through the system simply by making it easier to do so. When you demand more of students, they demand more of you. If we are going to give you more money, we need to know that you are willing to pay these other costs of excellence as well. 

Are our Disadvantaged Students Really Learning? – an Analysis of the 2017 US News High School Rankings

download

The latest US News & World Report High School Rankings (2017) indicate that disadvantaged populations of students are underperforming in Douglas County, and that high graduation rates have been achieved in large part by expedient means of moving such students through the system. This post will explain briefly the ranking’s methodology and then analyze some of the data to support this conclusion.

Only 1 of 5 high schools – Douglas County High – qualified for a ranking. To qualify for the lowest ranking – “Bronze” – schools must meet two criteria. First, their students as a whole must perform better on reading and math exams, administered by the state, than what is statistically expected based on the school’s poverty level (typically measured by the % of the student body on free and reduced lunch).  Second, the “disadvantaged” student groups (includes African-American, Hispanic, and poor students) must perform better than the state average for those populations.

To qualify for “Silver” or “Gold” ratings, there is an additional criteria: schools must exceed the median College Readiness Index (CRI). The CRI is comprised of both AP participation (how many students take an AP exam) and AP performance (how many students pass an AP exam). AP exams are used since these are college level exams through which students can earn college credit by passing.

To understand why 4 of 5 high schools did not qualify for a ranking, let’s look at Alexander High School as a case study (AHS consistently has the top CCRPI score in the district). In reading and math, Alexander students underperformed statistical expectations, having a gap score of negative 18 (a negative score means the actual performance was lower than expectations). Also, its disadvantaged populations scored 8.9 percentage points below the averages for disadvantage students throughout the state (only 12.7% of disadvantaged students were proficient in reading and math).

To understand why Douglas County High School earned a Bronze but not a Silver or Gold, let’s look at its statistics. Its gap score was positive 6.8, and its disadvantaged populations scored 6.5 percentage points above the state average. Thus, the first two criteria were met. Given the fact that its students with disabilities reading and math scores were on par or worse than the district as a whole, it is reasonable to assume that these test scores were boosted by the school’s population of International Baccalaureate students (at least 25% of test takers), which sees significant participation from African-American students.

DCHS did not qualify for Silver, though, because of low performance on AP exams. Even though the participation rate was fairly high (39%), the passing rate on all exams was only 17%, with 28% of seniors passing at least one exam (this is higher than 17% because it only requires one passed exam and excludes multiple failed exams). It is worth noting that in years past, DCHS ranked higher (recall the top 10% ranking?) because the rankings used IB exams instead of AP.

How does this relate to the high graduation rate spike in 2015? These latest rankings use 2015 academic data.  The fact that disadvantaged students are performing less than their peers while graduating at higher rates indicates clearly that the standards for graduation were lower. The high participation of disadvantaged students in the county’s suspect online credit recovery program, e2020, further supports this conclusion.

Revised Education Advocacy Goals

classroom

CEPS has revised its education advocacy goals, making them more concrete and organizing them according to moral ideals that citizens should expect from their public school system (transparency, honesty, equity and opportunity, and fiduciary responsibility).  These are written in the form of things we would like the school system to do or things we would like to see happen in the system. We hope you will recognize the value of these to our community’s children and join us in advocating for them.

Transparency

  • All academic achievement data for high schools/magnets, especially AP and IB exams, posted on the Internet, including comparison with State and/or National or Global figures.
  • Communication with all middle school parents and current magnet school parents about where to find such data.
  • Keep and report data on post-graduation success over 5-year periods for each graduating class. .
  • Report to public test scores for online credit recovery students and students with disabilities. Show the achievement gains that are resulting in more of these students graduating.

Honesty

  • School administrators held accountable for bridging “honesty gaps” at the schools (honesty gaps are disparities between course grades and more objective indicators of student achievement like test scores)
  • Teachers reprimanded for grade inflating practices whereby course grades are increased without any connection to real gains in achievement.

 

Equity and Opportunity

  • Placement of only academically qualified students (i.e. demonstrated readiness for college level coursework) in AP and IB classes. A 1 and 10 chance of getting college credit from AP courses is NOT opportunity. Misplacing students academically is inequitable.
  • Assignment of certified teachers to oversee any credit recovery courses, online or otherwise. This doesn’t mean certified PE teachers! It means teachers that certified in the subject areas of the courses they are supervising.
  • Compliance with all other NCAA requirements for non-traditional courses in online credit recovery programs.

     

Fiduciary Responsibility

  • Transparency on the use of all funds received for Gifted students and students with disabilities to ensure that they are benefiting them directly.

     

Stopping for the School Bus: A Cautionary Tale

passing a school bus

In February, a member of the Douglas County Board of Education received a ticket for illegally passing a school bus, which was stopped, lights flashing, to either drop off or pick up children (Douglas County Sentinel, March 19th 2017). The BoE member, through his lawyer, expressed regret, saying that the misdemeanor crime was committed “inadvertently.” Given that the road on which this happened has four lanes with a turn lane, I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt; I can see this happening to the best of us. But this incident is pregnant with deeper meaning. I hope our school system’s leaders will recognize the symbolic significance of this event and learn from it.

Why is passing a stopped school bus not only illegal but wrong? Negligent drivers risk the well-being of students coming off a bus in their haste to reach a particular destination. We recognize instinctively that the few seconds that the driver saves on his commute time are not even comparable to the risk of putting children’s safety in danger. When a driver does this, we are rightly aghast that he would judge this risk to be worth a few seconds of his time. The crime is especially galling when committed by someone whose public duty is to ensure that our children’s well-being is the top priority of the school system.

Knowing why this behavior is wrong allows us to see in it a poignant analogy for other wrongs in the school system.  On its way to reach such worthy destinations as high graduation rates and increased participation in AP courses, the school system has risked the well-being of our children by pursuing them in a hasty, careless manner. Serious long-term risks to our children’s futures have been taken for the sake of short-term benefits to the adult drivers.

These goals have been achieved by expedient methods such as as cheating in online credit recovery courses and aggressively recruiting students who are not yet proficient in high school level work into what are supposed to be college-level courses (AP). The result of this careless haste is to weaken the integrity and thus value of a high school diploma, and to impede achievement in AP courses by lowering academic standards to accommodate unprepared students. Consequently, many graduates are ill-prepared to succeed in college or lack the job skills needed for a productive career.

I don’t believe that the BoE member in this case consciously thought, “I don’t care about these children; I just want to get to where I am going as fast as possible.” This wasn’t an act of malice; it was an act of neglect. Similarly, our school system’s leaders are not callous towards children’s well-being, but there has been negligence in considering carefully the long-term consequences of their means and methods. The ends of high graduation rates and high participation on AP courses do not justify the means of attaining them.

Our school system needs to slow down and pay more attention to how the shortcuts they have taken to reach these goals are putting our children’s futures at risk.