How Many Students at Douglas County High School Are Excelling Academically?

To promote academic excellence in our high schools, we created the Excellence Index (EI): a simple way of rating schools academically by focusing exclusively on high achievement. The EI quantifies the percentage of students scoring at the highest levels on an array of exams. Scores are referenced to state and global norms, which are set to a EI score of 75 (representing a typical level of high achievement). To get a 75 score based on 2017 test score data a school would have:

 – 13% score a 5 on AP exams
– 10% score in the 90 percentile or higher on the SAT
– 9% score Distinguished Learner (Level 4) on EOCs (average of all 8 subjects)

– 29% score 6 or 7 on IB exams (if applicable)

These are each weighted equally in the index.

Douglas County High School’s 2018 Excellence Index score is a 52.  This means that Douglas County students are score at the highest levels on exams at a rate that is about 33% less than their peers statewide or nationally. The underlying data is in the graph below.

This data shows that rate at which Douglas County students score in the 90 percentile on the SAT is about 30% less than the national rate; the rate at which IB students scored a 6 or 7 on IB exams was about 40% less than the global rate; and that AP exams were more than 4 times less likely to get a score of a 5 than nationally.  For EOCs, the rate of students scoring at the Distinguished Learner level on the EOC was about 22% higher than the statewide rate.
chart (9)
The index score increased from 40 in 2017 to 51 as a result of:
1. A higher percentage of students scoring 6s or 7s on the IB exam (11% to 17%)
2. A higher percentage scoring a 5 on AP exams (2 to 3%)

3. A higher percentage scoring Level 4 on EOCs (10.4 to 11.1) coupled with a slight decrease in the state reference point. Deserving special attention is Economics with over 20% scoring a Level 4, and US History with over 16%. The Algebra rate was double the state!

However, in Physical Science, the only exam IB students do NOT take, only 0.8% scored a Level 4 (compared with 4% statewide).  It is thus likely that across all subjects, very few non-IB students are scoring at the top levels.

If you are a stakeholder at Douglas County High School (e.g. parent, grandparent, homeowner in the district, future parent), please help us advocate for excellence by contacting Principal Andre Weaver to express concern over low achievement in SAT and AP exams, and ask exactly what is being done to raise more students to these levels of achievement:

andre.weaver@douglas.k12.ga.us

 You might also include his immediate supervisor, Cathy Swanger: cathy.swanger@douglas.k12.ga.us

 

How Many Students at Chapel Hill Are Excelling Academically?

To promote academic excellence in our high schools, we created the Excellence Index (EI): a simple way of rating schools academically by focusing exclusively on high achievement. The EI quantifies the percentage of students scoring at the highest levels on an array of exams. Scores are referenced to state and global norms, which are set to a EI score of 75 (representing a typical level of high achievement). To get a 75 score based on 2017 test score data a school would have:

 – 13% score a 5 on AP exams
– 10% score in the 90 percentile or higher on the SAT
– 9% score Distinguished Learner (Level 4) on EOCs (average of all 8 subjects)

– 29% score 6 or 7 on IB exams (if applicable)

These are each weighted equally in the index.
Chapel High School’s 2018 Excellence Index score is a 31.  This means that Chapel Hill students are about 2.5 times LESS likely (31:75) to score at the highest levels on exams than their peers statewide or nationally. The underlying data is in the graph below.

This data shows that Chapel Hill students were about 10 times less likely to score in the 90% on the SAT; about 6 times less likely to score a 5 on any AP exam, and were about equally likely to score Distinguished Learner on the EOC.
chart (8)

Of note is the fact that in spite of having an AP magnet program, very few students are scoring at the highest level on AP exams. We believe this is largely as result of recruiting academically unqualified/unprepared students into AP courses, which allows them to offer more courses, which they market to attract students to their magnet program.

Positively, the percentage of students scoring on the EOC increased from 6.3 to 8.7. More students scored at the top level than the Georgia norm in Economics, US History, 9th Grade Lit, and American Lit. As a result of these gains, the EI score increased from 19 the previous year to 31.

If you are a stakeholder at Chapel High School (e.g. parent, grandparent, homeowner in the district, future parent), please help us advocate for excellence by contacting Principal Sean Kelly to express concern over low achievement in SAT and AP exams, and ask exactly what is being done to raise more students to these levels of achievement:

sean.kelly@douglas.k12.ga.us

 You might also include his immediate supervisor, Cathy Swanger: cathy.swanger@douglas.k12.ga.us

 

How Many Students at Lithia Springs Are Excelling Academically?

To promote academic excellence in our high schools, we created the Excellence Index (EI): a simple way of rating schools academically by focusing exclusively on high achievement. The EI quantifies the percentage of students scoring at the highest levels on an array of exams. Scores are referenced to state and global norms, which are set to a EI score of 75 (representing a typical level of high achievement). To get a 75 score based on 2017 test score data a school would have:

 – 13% score a 5 on AP exams
– 10% score in the 90 percentile or higher on the SAT
– 9% score Distinguished Learner (Level 4) on EOCs (average of all 8 subjects)

– 29% score 6 or 7 on IB exams (if applicable)

These are each weighted equally in the index.

Lithia Springs High School’s 2018 Excellence Index score is a 12.  This means that Lithia Springs students are about six times LESS likely (12:75) to score at the highest levels on exams than their peers statewide or nationally. The underlying data is in the graph below:

chart (7)

This data shows that Lithia Springs students were over 6 times less likely to score in the 90% on the SAT; about 13 times less likely to score a 5 on any AP exam, and were about four times LESS likely to score Distinguished Learner on the EOC.

Of note is the fact that in spite of having an accredited STEM program, very few students are scoring at the highest level in science and math. For state EOCs,  it was 2.8% in Algebra, 0.3% in Geometry, 5.0% in Biology, and 0.6% in Physical Science.  No one made the top score on an AP science or math exam.

LSHS’s previous EI score was a 9. The modest increase of 3 points is due to:

1. The fact that no one scored in the 90 percentile in 2016. Two students did so in 2017.

2. The decline in the state Distinguished Learner rate on EOCs (used as a reference point) from 9.6 to 9, increased its EI points in the EOC category.

If you are a stakeholder at Lithia Springs High School (e.g. parent, grandparent, homeowner in the district, future parent), please help us advocate for excellence by contacting Principal Garrett Askew to express concern over low achievement in SAT and AP exams, and ask exactly what is being done to raise more students to these levels of achievement:

garrick.askew@douglas.k12.ga.us

You might also include his immediate supervisor, Kwame Carr: kwame.carr@douglas.k12.ga.us

How Many Students at Alexander High School Are Excelling Academically?

To promote academic excellence in our high schools, we created the Excellence Index (EI): a simple way of rating schools academically by focusing exclusively on high achievement. The EI quantifies the percentage of students scoring at the highest levels on an array of exams. Scores are referenced to state and global norms, which are set to a EI score of 75 (representing a typical level of high achievement). To get a 75 score based on 2017 test score data a school would have:
– 13% score a 5 on AP exams
– 10% score in the 90 percentile or higher on the SAT
– 9% score Distinguished Learner (Level 4) on EOCs (average of all 8 subjects)
– 29% score 6 or 7 on IB exams (if applicable)
These are each weighted equally in the index.
Alexander High School’s 2018 Excellence Index score is a 40.  This means that Alexander students are about 53% less likely to score at the highest levels on exams than their peers statewide or nationally. The underlying data is in the graph below:
chart (6)
This data shows that Alexander students were over 2 times less likely to score in the 90% on the SAT; over 6 times less likely to score a 5 on any AP exam, and were just as likely to score Distinguished Learner on the EOC. Of note is the fact that in two subjects – 9th Grade Literature and US history – AHS had about 30% MORE students scoring at this level than the state of GA.
AHS’s previous EI score was a 25. The remarkable increase of 15 points is due to:
1. An increase from 1.5% to 4.5%  scoring in the 90 percentile on the SAT.
2. The decline in the state Distinguished Learner rate on EOCs (used as a reference point) from 9.6 to 9, increased its EI points in the EOC category.
3. An increase in Distinguished Learner rate from 6.7 to 8.8.
If you are a stakeholder at Alexander High School (e.g. parent, grandparent, homeowner in the district, future parent), please help us advocate for excellence by contacting Principal Nathan Hand to express concern over low achievement in SAT and AP exams, and ask exactly what is being done to raise more students to these levels of achievement:
nathan.hand@douglas.k12.ga.us
You might also include his immediate supervisor, Cathy Swanger: cathy.swanger@douglas.k12.ga.us

How Many Students at New Manchester High School Are Excelling Academically?

To promote academic excellence in our high schools, we created the Excellence Index (EI): a simple way of rating schools academically by focusing exclusively on high achievement. The EI quantifies the percentage of students scoring at the highest levels on an array of exams. Scores are referenced to state and global norms, which are set to a EI score of 75 (representing a typical level of high achievement). To get a 75 score based on last school year’s test score data a school would have:
– 13% score a 5 on AP exams
– 10% score in the 90 percentile or higher on the SAT
– 9% score Distinguished Learner (Level 4) on EOCs (average of all 8 subjects)
– 29% score 6 or 7 on IB exams (if applicable)
These are each weighted equally in the index.
New Manchester High School’s Excellence Index score for 2018 is 14.  This means that New Manchester students were about 5 times less likely to score at the highest levels on exams than their peers statewide or nationally. The underlying data is in the graph below:
chart (5)
This data shows that New Manchester students were 10 times less likely to score in the 90% on the SAT; 13 times less likely to score a 5 on any AP exam, and 3 times less likely to score Distinguished Learner on the EOC.
NMHS’s previous EI score was a 10. The increase of 4 points is due to:
1. An increase from 0% to 1% (representing 2 students) scoring in the 90 percentile on the SAT.
2. The decline in the state Distinguished Learner rate on EOCs (used as a reference point) from 9.6 to 9, increased its EI points in the EOC category.
If you are a stakeholder at New Manchester High School (e.g. parent, grandparent, homeowner in the district, future parent), please help us advocate for excellence by contacting Principal Marco Holland to express concern over these results and ask exactly what is being done to raise more students to these levels of achievement:
marco.holland@douglas.k12.ga.us
You might also include his immediate supervisor, Kwame Carr: kwame.carr@douglas.k12.ga.us

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.