"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Michigan is worse off than us.

I'm doing some research on the funding woes for education. I read an interesting article in the local paper when I visited my family last week. I will share a comparison of a small Michigan district about a tenth our size with Evansville's approach for next year's budget. Stay tuned; these calculations take time.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Incognito for a few days.

I may not have computer access for a few days. If you send me a note or post a comment, I'll be at the mercy of computer updates. Look for another post next week. By then, things should be copacetic. I hope to attend the board meeting, but conflicts may prevent me from going. Stay cool, go to the pool (between the raindrops).

Sunday, June 20, 2010

School Board Committee Meeting Agenda June 28th at 5:30pm

Click on the title to see the agenda for the committee meeting of the whole scheduled for June 28th at 5:30 pm. Note the location is in the new "District Board and Training Center." This is a newly created Board Meeting location, probably for the meetings of the whole which are a tight squeeze in the district office conference room when ex-officio members and other administrators are included. It was Mrs. Feeney's classroom until now and the entrance is just north of the District Office, in the recess leading to the fifth grade hallway.

Topics include the Board Development committee draft of a vision statement, finance and policy. Finance must close the books by June 30, so that will be an instructive part of the meeting. The Board Development Vision Statement process is stalled where it was when I last attended one of the meetings in April. They have prioritized it first on the agenda to complete the process. The plan in April was to come up with a "straw man" vision to run by the administrators, then the staff in a roll out which gradually adds more voices of the community, and presumably more ideas, to insure a vision that is concise and useful.

Some people may find this an exercise in futility. To these people, I must emphasize that it is very difficult to prioritize district needs when the board is struggling with to grasp of the long term vision of the district. Any assistance in prioritizing needs is welcome in this day of shrinking school funding. Without a guiding vision, the squeaky wheel often gets the grease and the prevalent board persona is reactive, not proactive. This is no way to run a business with a 20 million dollar plus budget. A formal vision would enable board members to use it as a litmus test for ideas and projects brought before them for approval. I commend them for continuously refocusing on this topic, despite the roadblocks they have encountered in achieving their goal. I think the time and effort they have expended on this process will benefit them in the long run.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eagle Eye View: ECSD Five Year Proficiency Indices

WARNING: Mind numbingly boring data analysis to follow. Sadly, I find this kind of stuff fascinating and fun to do. I hope you are better informed by the end of the post.

Click on the post to log onto the DPI WINSS system data section if you want to check the reference points here. Type in Evansville to get to our data.

As often occurs when evaluating data sets, one exercise in number crunching leads to another idea on how to better review the data to get a more complete picture of what the data is trying to tell us. As I was delving into Evansville WKCE Achievement data to figure out the details of how TRIS met AYP criteria, I discovered a series of charts that suggested that the reading proficiency for the district as a whole gradually declined over five consecutive years (all students, combined data) from 2005-2006 to 2009-2010. I thought to myself, "maybe this data isn't alarming anybody because they are only going back one year at a time to view changes."

This post will summarize the results of looking at the district as a whole, treating the data to a "safe harbor" calculation from year 1 to year 5 for Reading and Math for three categories of students: all students, students with disabilities and students without disabilities. This information further encouraged the evaluation of each school in all the above categories to best pinpoint where resources need to be placed to most quickly resolve any issues.

Note: All data refer to the increase or decrease in the percentage of non-proficient students, or those scoring either minimum or basic on the WKCE.

District wide evaluation of WKCE % non-proficient from 05-06 to 09-10:

A). Reading:

All students: 11.5% to 15.5%, which amounts to a 34.8% increase in only five years when treated to a safe harbor calculation ((4/11.5)X100). This concerned me so I broke it down by disability subgroup, which gives data both for students with disabilities and students without disabilities.

Students with disability (SWD): 45.8% to 52.9%, or a 15.5% increase in five years when treated with a safe harbor calculation.

Students without disability(Sw/oD): 5.8% to 8.9%, which amounts to a 53.4% increase in the percentage of non-proficient students in the last five years in this subgroup of the district as a whole when a safe harbor calculation is done.

A first glance at the raw data for these three subgroups draws one's attention to the very high percentage of non-proficient students with disabilities in our district. Further scrutiny of the data by safe harbor treatment will reveal that a healthy portion of the increase in non-proficient students comes from the students without disabilities subgroup. Sure, there is an unacceptably high percent of students with disabilities that has non-proficient achievement and this needs to be addressed. But one must remember that this group accounts for only 14-16% of the student population of the grades tested in the last five years. To wit, 50% of 136 kids is the same as 8.8% of 774. It's all very well to theoretically consider these percents and values, and putting the data in a consistent frame of percentage allows us to easily compare annual data where raw numbers would change, but the bottom line is the kids. From 05-06 to 09-10, the number of students with disabilities that was non-proficient in our district increased from 54 to 72, or eighteen more kids over five years. For students without disabilities, the number of non-proficient students increased from 41 kids to 69 kids in the same time frame, an increase of 28 students. Our number of non-proficient readers in both subgroups is increasing at an alarming rate.

Next we'll take a brief look at the district-wide math data which indicates a relatively flat performance over five years. It is good that the math data has not followed the increasing pattern of the reading data, but flat achievement does not bode well for the next few years as the Proficiency Index to achieve AYP increases by 10.5% a year until 2014, when POOF! all children in the USA will be proficient or advanced.

B). Math

All Students: 17.2% to 16.7%, a 2.9% decrease in five years. At least it's going the right direction.

Students with disabilities: 55.1% to 49.3%, a 10.5% decrease in 5 years. YEAH! Way to go!

Students without disabilities: 10.9% to 11.0%, a 0.9% increase in 5 years.

By these data, it is clear that the entirety of the decrease in percentage of non-proficient students in math was due to the students with disabilities, since the students without disability performance was essentially stagnant. A shout out to all those math teachers and hard working kids.

Now let's delve into the data for each school to see if there's somewhere we need to focus that we haven't discovered yet! I'm doing executive summaries here because I'm sick of typing these numbers in. If you want the actual data, please email me.



All students: 36.6% increase in percent of non-proficient students in 5 years.

Students with disabilities (SWD): 54.8% increase.

Students without disabilities(Sw/oD): 18.9% increase.


All Students: 4.5% increase in the percent of non-proficient students in 5 years.

SWD: 5.7% increase.

Sw/oD: 1.5% increase.

JC McKenna


All Students: 4.1% increasein the percent of non-proficient students in 5 years.

SWD: 16% decrease.

Sw/oD: 64.7% increase.


All Students: 23.9% decrease in the percent of non-proficient students in 5 years.

SWD: 18.7% decrease.

Sw/oD: 23.3% decrease.



All Students: 76.5% increase in the percent of non-proficient students in 5 years.
SWD: 28.6% decrease.*

Sw/oD: 207.5% increase.


All Students: 42% increase in the percent of non-proficient students in 5 years.

SWD: 38.1% decrease.*

Sw/oD: 105% increase.

*Five years ago, 100% of the students with disabilities in grade 10 scored non-proficient on the state achievement test for both reading and math. This anomalous baseline gives the incorrect impression that the programs for these students have dramatically improved. One must remember that this accounted for 9 students at the time. A look at the data over time is instructive. In reading, this percentage immediately dropped to 46.9% the following year but has steadily risen to 71.4% this year, or a 52.2% increase in the percentage of non-proficient students in four years, per a safe harbor index. In Math, the percentage of non-proficient SWD dropped to 56.3% the following year. This index has gradually risen to 61.9% this year, or a 9.9% increase in the percentage of non-proficient students in four years using a safe harbor calculation.

Because the high school data is derived from only one grade, this data is subject to the "grade ability fluctuation" which is exaggerated in smaller districts. Teachers will tell you that every class has its own character and personality as well as abilities. So year-to-year changes should be viewed with caution. But when a pattern persists over the course of five years, it's time to do some serious introspection and investigation as to cause. And then fix it! Continuation down this path at the high school will result in a collision course with the increasing Proficiency Indices prescribed in the NCLB act. Mr. Everson has surely taken these data into consideration as he introduces a new class at the high school to address reading strategies. I don't know what is in place for math yet, but the data suggest that needs to be addressed as well.

Math achievement at TRIS indicates they are holding their own, but need vigilance. The reading achievement data indicate that the problems at TRIS had been going on for a long time and last year they simply reached the threshold at which they no longer met AYP. It will take a sustained effort to maintain the improvement they have achieved this year.

JC McKenna again hits it out of the ballpark in math with decreases in non-proficient math achievement across the board. Go Team! They have also begun to turn around the reading achievement for SWD with a double digit decrease in the percent of non-proficient students over five years.

My greatest concern is illustrated by the universal increase in the percentage of non-proficient students without disabilities at all schools on the reading achievement test. I am really fearful that the root cause of this is limited resources and by extension limited funding. Too many teachers are stretched too thin. Could it be that shifting resources to improve the (inexcusably poor) achievement of students with disabilities has left the rest of the kids in limbo to fend for themselves? There are only so many hours in a day. Focusing intensive resources on one aspect of learning will by definition cause a void in others as N (teaching resources) remains constant. It is a mathematical inevitability. Data at JC McKenna seem to validate this assertion. While the reading achievement of SWD at JC McKenna posted a 16% decrease in the percentage of non-proficient students, the achievement of students without disability has worsened. 3.4% of this subgroup was non-proficient in 05-06 and by 09-10 that had increased to 5.6%, a 64.7% increase by safe harbor index.

The district has spent a lot of money and training time for staff to become adept at Differentiated Instruction (DI). The administration spent much energy trying to convince the Board to which I belonged that this instructional model will meet the needs for ALL levels of learners, be they Special Ed., Moderate or Gifted. In theory, that is true. But examples shown to the board during this time frame inevitably involved special ed. I personally spent years trying to get teachers to provide this "differentiated instruction" experience to our GT children. I pounded tables to get our daughters the kind of instruction they deserved and needed. We finally capitulated and shelled out hundreds of dollars for our daughters to receive the kind of programming that challenged them and kept them engaged in the learning process. Funds that were matched by the district in kind FOR EVERY GT kid enrolled from the district in WCATY (out of district accelerated) programs. Exactly what has the administration offered or threatened these teachers with that I didn't? How did they get them to agree to provide DI? This kind of instruction is NOT assembly line ready as so many teachers are used to supplying. It's a much greater challenge and is not the slam-dunk administration will have one believe. I repeatedly asked for data that would corroborate improvements in achievement where the DI had been implemented and was given minimal or "tentative" data. One person from whom Ms. Daane asked for data was affronted that anybody would challenge the model with a request for data. "Nobody asked for data before they used the abysmal training practices for special ed students in the 60s." Oh good grief. If your model is not robust enough to withstand data scrutiny, keep it to yourself.

So that's my bird's eye view. I hope all the remediation works its magic and the district continues to show improved achievement in reading and math. I hope I am wrong that our average students have been left high and dry, but the data seem to indicate that this is the case. I am not encouraged by this birds eye view of our district's past reading and math achievement. Most of all, I cannot say that I am confident for the future ECSD reading and math achievement indices to pass AYP. Unless the good ship Evansville reverses course, our declining achievements will eventually run afoul of the increasing target goals. I will be very happy if achievement results over the next few years make me eat my words.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nancy Hurley is a Great Asset to the School Board!

There was a lot of information shared at the meeting tonight. Many changes are being proposed at the High School, all of which have merit, none of which is without some kind of challenge for implementation. The most immediate proposal is for 2 days per month to become "late start" days for students (9:30a.m.) in order to have professional learning community (PLC) collaboration time for the teachers. This will enable staff to better focus on determining strategies that work and using them consistently across the curriculum. This sounds great and could reap enormous benefits as time goes on. There are baseline measures in place to determine if student achievement is improved per the administration. This is an important piece that many educators neglect in their enthusiasm to implement new ideas. Kudos to the High School to remember this critical piece of the puzzle.

Other ideas included introducing a Senior Project graduation requirement beginning with the class of 2014, a proposed "wall of fame, wall of service," etc. to honor alumni in the armed services and those who have gone on to outstanding achievements in areas such as music, drama and sports. Mr. Keister also updated the board on results of the comprehensive counseling pilot program in 9th and 11th grades. It was warmly received by most parents.

I was right that money was freed up from this year's budget so the district could rescind the lay-off notice and keep a great teacher fully employed in our district.

There was no general turnout of Poms for the approval of Co-curricular Participation policies. I guess we can all read them online by next week to see what changes were made.

Nobody but me seems to object on general principals to the change in the NHS policy. The Bullying Policy proposed changes may need to be tweaked to follow the guiding principals the DPI has yet to publish for a deadline in August. They might just wait until the DPI issues the guidelines before taking it to third reading.

What I was most impressed with during this meeting was Nancy Hurley's insightful questions and poise throughout. She especially had very good questions about the Senior Project regarding equity, consistency, cost to the district, scope and credit that just drove to the heart of the matter. What a wonderful addition to the School Board she is. Thank you for serving, Nancy.

"Regular School Board Meeting" Tonight at 5:30 in the TRIS LMC

I know this isn't the Eagle Eye View post, but I forgot I wanted to post the Board Meeting Agendas on this blog. I'm sort of hopelessly single-minded once I sink my teeth into a project with data. Anyway...

Click on the post for a listing of tonight's agenda. Discussion highlights include a new Senior Project Graduation requirement beginning with the class of 2014 and the Bullying policy (in its second reading). Action Item highlights include approvals of the co-curricular contracts, RESCINDING the Lay-Off Notice (!) and the third (final) reading of several policies including the National Honor Society (change was to increase candidate's GPA from 3.5 to 3.6) and the much debated co-curricular participation, fund raising and student conduct and dress policies brought forward for review after the poms debacle.

Just a few remarks about some of the topics. Bullying Policy: If you have suggestions or ideas for the Bullying Policy and Administration thereof, please come and share!

Co-curricular contracts: The cost of our co-curricular contracts exceeded $140,000 last year. This still flabbergasts me and I don't understand how what used to be a small stipend in the olden days has become a significant budget expense. Those who disagree with me say "BAH-in a budget of 20 million dollars, this is less than one percent. Pittance!" That approach may well have merit, but I will never be able to call $140,000 pittance. This is the equivalent of two entry level teachers including their benefits! Or think of it as numerous computers and software for our kids. Most of these advisors are already teachers in our district so these contract values are simply added into their salary base. Teachers who take on multiple roles get some hefty "stipends" added to their salaries. I'm not completely convinced about the cost/benefit ratio for this out of control aspect of co-curricular offerings, which continues to spiral because everybody is always trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Lay off notice: YEAH!

Co-curricular policies approval: I'll be looking for the "return of the Poms" at the meeting tonight, as they seem to have done every month since January whenever there is any action on the agenda regarding "co-curricular participation." I don't know what the final version of the policy looks like, but I trust it will meet the needs of Poms and Administration alike.

NHS participation Policy: As for the GPA increase for NHS consideration, I am not opposed per se to matching NHS candidacy GPA with our "high honor" GPA cut-off. However, I am opposed to the Administration supporting two very different sets of standards by bringing forth this proposed change. It's completely OK to raise the standards for the kids who work hard, have goals and set their priorities (high honors kids aren't all Einsteins, you know), but for those who have challenges in this area, keep that GPA at an abysmal 1.5. I also find it hard to believe that the administration thinks its OK to have violated their own policy since 2006 (when the policy was last revised) by excluding students with GPAs of 3.5 to 3.5999 from NHS consideration, even after it was brought to their attention. The technically correct response to this conundrum was to grandfather in everyone who wanted to be considered with the 3.5-3.6 GPAs and work on changing the policy so it matches practice. It is not ever acceptable to tell a kid and their parents "Oops, our policy doesn't match our practice. We've never done it this way and too bad for you." If the third reading goes through tonight, this should be Day One of using 3.6 as the standard.

I hope to get to the meeting tonight. I'm jealous that the board meetings are rumored to go much faster now that the committee meetings are "of the whole" board.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Proficiency Index calculations for JC McKenna and EHS

As promised, I ran calculations of the Proficiency Index used to determine AYP compliance for JC McKenna and EHS, both for students with disabilities and students without disabilities. I have to put in a disclaimer on the EHS calculations: there are only 21 students with disabilities in Grade 10 so the government does not consider this subgroup separately in determining EHS AYP compliance. According to the government, there are accountability indices in place for small schools, but they don't really give much more information than that.

JC McKenna flat out wins the Evansville Schools award for achieving AYP without invoking any Confidence Intervals or "safe harbor" requirements whatsoever. There are 53 students with disabilities enrolled and they attained a 78.4% Proficiency in Reading (compare to the target of 74%) and 64.2% Proficiency in Math (compare to the target of 58%). Students without disabilities (305 students) scored 97% and 95.6% respectively in Reading and Math this year. Good show to JC McKenna! Keep up the good work Mr. Flaherty and crew!

EHS students without disabilities achieved Proficiency Indices of 92.6% in Reading (vs. 74%) and 89.2% in Math (vs. 58%). AYP is achieved at EHS. To gauge the progress of EHS students with disabilities, I also calculated the Proficiency Indices for this subgroup. If this data were included for AYP, Evansville would be in trouble with scores of 52.3% in Reading and 42.9% in Math in 2009-2010. In a not too distant future, I envision the district enrollment increasing to the point that these data will be included in our AYP designation. Or there may be changes in the law that hold small schools more accountable to this group of students. So I decided to run a "safe harbor" calculation on this data to see if EHS students with disabilities would qualify under those circumstances. Only the Math achievement qualified with a 22.6% decrease in non-proficient students from a year ago. That was reassuring. The Reading achievement for these students, conversely, showed a 9.8% increase in non-proficient students in one year. One has to keep a perspective that these are pretty small sample sizes, but a district wide trend of gradual increases in non-proficient students seems to be developing in Evansville. I'm sure this data is one reason Mr. Everson asked the Board to fund a Reading Strategies Class beginning next year at EHS. Good proactive approach, Mr. Everson. I'm anxious to see the impact this class has on EHS scores in the next few years.

The bottom line is that TRIS isn't alone in their struggles with AYP in our district. Their Students with Disabilities enrollment meets the minimum to require TRIS to include these data in their AYP reports and the High School grade 10 enrollment is not sufficient in this subgroup to require inclusion in AYP reports. As the targets increase to 100% Proficiency Indices over the next 4 years, more and more subgroups will begin to challenge the system. I predict that the next at-risk group in our district will be the students with economic disadvantage. These scores are typically 10% less than those of our students without economic disadvantage. What we have here is a bad news, good news sort of scenario. We have a gap between the achievement of these two groups, but it is smaller than the statewide gap for two reasons: 1) our disadvantaged kids score better than those in the state as a whole and 2) our non-disadvantaged kids score lower than those in the state as a whole. The trick is to increase both groups at the same time, and my next post will address this issue as well as further delve into the possibility of gradual declines in our achievement data over the last 5 years, as measured by WKCE data. Stay tuned for "Eagle Eye View: ECSD 5 year Achievement Index"

Thursday, June 10, 2010

How did TRIS meet Adequate Yearly Progress?

Explaining the Standards

There are three criteria that must be met to satisfy AYP at both the school and district level to continue to receive Federal Title I funding. The first standard to meet is a Test Participation Rate of 95% or greater for each subgroup for which there is a sufficient number of students (40 or more). The second benchmark is a Graduation Rate of 85% or greater, or a 2% improvement in graduation rate over the previous year if less than 85%. For schools or districts that do not graduate students, an Attendence Rate of 85% or more must be met. The final hurdle in meeting AYP is meeting the ever increasing Math and Reading Proficiency Indices for each school in every subgroup for which there is a sufficient population (40 or more). This is where TRIS "failed to meet AYP" in Reading in the Students with Disabilities subgroup in 2008-2009.

If a school misses AYP two years in a row, they are placed on a School Identified For Improvement (SIFI) list and Title I sanctions will begin. Meeting the failed objective (and I presume maintaining all the rest of the standards) in year 3 places that school on the "Improved" list and only after meeting the failed objective two years in a row does the school meet "satisfactory" AYP. Districts have a little more leeway to be determined as failing to meet AYP. The district must fail to meet the same objective in all schools for which the standards are measured before they fail to meet AYP. In our case, the district would fail to meet AYP only if, just for example, the Students with Economic Disadvantage failed to meet the Reading standard at all three schools (TRIS, JCMcKenna and EHS). It follows that if each school fails a different standard, each schools will fail to meet AYP, but the district remains in compliance. It's kind of a shell game, but the system is designed to distinguish true district wide issues from annual grade fluctuations, especially in smaller districts like Evansville.

Evansville's Data

I have delved further into this year's data and calculated TRIS's Proficiency Index for students with disabilities. Click on the post for a description of the formula used for this calculation on page 4. The Reading result of 54% for this subgroup still does not meet the Reading Target of 74% dictated by the feds. It's better than the 38.7% I originally thought is was prior to giving half-credit for students achieving "basic" this year. However, it is still far below 74% and likely not statistically within the 99% confidence interval, so I had to ask how did TRIS regain AYP for this group of students?

Further scrutiny of the "explanation of AYP" document reveals a "Safe Harbor" clause in AYP designations (pp 4-6) that gives failing schools credit for decreasing the number of non-proficient students. Schools that show a 10% or greater decrease in non-proficient students will achieve AYP. TRIS has achieved a 13.8% decrease in non-proficient students with disabilities for the Reading objective. It's my best guess that this is how TRIS has recovered AYP status.

The 99% Confidence Interval I refer to above is associated with all statistical data. This CI is applied to schools that have relatively small populations of subgroups, but still large enough (>40) to be included in the AYP calculations. It measures whether or not a certain value is statistically distinguishable from the target value. I'm still trying to work with the DPI to understand how they set 99% confidence intervals for these types of data sets. It's possible but improbable that the 54% Proficiency index TRIS earned this year falls in the confidence interval of being statistically the same as 74% for such a small data set. The number of students at TRIS in this subgroup is only 62, just 50% above the cut-off for subgroup size. More on this topic if the DPI gets back to me. They are "reluctant to assign cause" when a school goes off the failure list because they don't want to start a speculation game. Too late for me.

After I did the TRIS calculations, I became curious about the district as a whole. I will post district wide results of these calculations next. Since AYP for a district is assigned through individual school achievements, it's necessary to run each school individually, which will take me a while.

I also ran TRIS's math data. They only met the Math target last year by applying the Confidence Interval. Somewhat alarming is the continuing high percentage (38.7%) of students with disabilities scoring only "Minimum achievement" on the Math test. A "safe harbor" calculation on the math data shows a 26.8% decrease in non-proficient students since last year, meaning significant progress has been made. This is great news. Hopefully, the techniques they used to reduce reduce the numbers of non-proficient students will begin to move even more out of the "minimum" category.

My big concern is for next year when the Reading target moves up to 80.5% and the Math target moves up to 68.5%. My discussions with the DPI indicate that WKCE will not be replaced for at least another three years. MAPS testing, while a useful tool for teachers, is not a sufficient tool for the Federal Government to measure student achievement for the purposes of awarding Title I funds. So whatever replaces WKCE, it won't be the MAPS test as we know it. It also won't save the district before the huge increases in the NCLB targets start to be a serious issue for all students in the district. Our Students with Disabilities subgroup is simply the canary in the coal mine, a harbinger of things to come as targets approach the 100% proficient plus standards. And it won't just be Evansville that feels the pain. There is change coming to the law, according to the DPI. It remains to be seen what changes we will see, but I hope common sense prevails.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Well, no wonder it's so complicated...

Click on the post to link to "explanatory notes" regarding the calculations that determine achievement of AYP. I failed to take into account the students performing at the "basic" level, which get counted as a half. I'm working through the calculations to prove it to myself right now, but historical data from last year is not easily accessible, to see the baseline. In addition, every administrator in Wisconsin seems to be using the system and it keeps locking up or booting me out.

Again, I apologize to the district and my readers for jumping the gun on TRIS's AYP status. It's not simply a measure of the percent of students who meet proficient and advanced, as one would get from a perfunctory reading of the standards. I am relieved that TRIS has met AYP this year. After I do my own calculations, I will know by how much. There's also a category called "Safe Harbor" for districts/schools that have shown improvement but not met standards. It could be we fall into this group, but I won't know until I do the math. Based on how recalcitrant the WINSS system is right now, it could take a while for me to access the raw data. More later.


I must eat my words...

Click on the post to see that TRIS DID meet AYP for 2009-2010. I don't know how the scores meet AYP, but according to the government, they do. I'm guessing that the improvements posted this year, though falling short of the benchmarks, show good faith efforts are being implemented. I apologize for the premature rant. I'll dig into this and post more later.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Elephant in the Room...

Well, I sat through two hours of data review and application in the district, but nobody ever addressed the Elephant in the room. The TRIS achievement data as measured by the feds, which means the WKCE and the WSAS-SwD data. TRIS once again failed to meet AYP in the disabled student sector. I couldn't believe nobody ever asked about it. I am not a board member anymore, so I just listened. Much good has been done. Much remains to be done. These are the comments that preceeded the presentation of data. But really, can you seriously have a data review of our district schools without addressing the fact that TRIS is in deep doo-doo for next year? MAP testing results will not be used as measures for AYP until 2011-2012. Reading standards will increase to 80.5% of students who must achieve proficient and advanced next year, math standards increase to 68.5%. Even if TRIS stands pat and does not decrease achievement as has been happening for about 5 years now, it will be hard pressed to meet the reading goals for AYP next year FOR THE ENTIRE SCHOOL. They are hovering at about 79% this year for the entire school. This will probably meet the standard next year only by the standard error inclusion. But the Students with disabilities and the Economically disadvantaged students are another story altogether. Unfortunately, I had troubles using the DPI website this weekend (apparently all districts are having data reviews this week), so I can only report generalities of what I saw there.

Great strides were made in the achievement of students with disabilities this year, but not enough to bring TRIS into compliance with the standards. TRIS still lags the state averages for this subgroup as well, and a few of the general population reading scores also lag the state for the first time in a long time. For economically disadvantaged students, Evansville students in this subgroup achieve higher that the state average for this subgroup. Unfortunately, they achieve lower than students without economic disadvantage in our district. And the students with no economic disadvantage in our district score lower than the state average score of students with no economic disadvantage. So the good news is that our "gap" is smaller than the state gap. The bad news is that the gap is smaller because while the "at-risk students" scores came up, the remaining scores drifted down. Sort of that compromise I was talking about in the previous post on "leveling the playing field." Instead of bringing the lower scores up to the higher scores, they are meeting in the middle. Gap still narrows, just not exactly in the most ideal manner.

A bonus of looking up this information offers a stark view of the state poverty rates. While Evansville reports about 28% of our student population as economically disadvantaged, the state as a whole shows about 40% of our children in this category. Yikes on both counts.

According to Heidi, there will be a "data retreat" part 2 later on. When I get details, I'll let everybody know.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Data Review scheduled for Monday June 7, 5:30 p.m.

Click on the post to see the agenda for a special school board meeting on Monday June 7 at 5:30 pm in the TRIS LMC. These have been characterized as "data retreats" in the past. There's certainly a lot of data to review at this meeting as well as some damage control to be implemented.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Chasin' scoops School Scoop!

Click on the link to see Chasin's scoop on Wisconsin joining the bandwagon of National Standards. I found this article and other similar ones to be pretty minimalist, so after some lengthy searching, I came up with the following link to help explain what this all means.


In theory, it is an admirable goal for all states to adhere to a National Standard of Education. It means that a fourth grader in Louisiana has the same curriculum goals and expectations as a fourth grader in Wisconsin. The focus on English Language Arts and Mathematics seems to be a start. There is a fundamental understanding that without a firm grasp of the language of instruction, no learning can take place. The higher the class level, the higher expectation for communication skills. For example, Chemistry has a language all its own and if you have trouble communicating (reading, writing and speaking) at an expected tenth grade level, what chance do you have of understanding the special language that is Chemistry? Adopting these "common core standards" nationally would mean that education is the same everywhere in the United States. Whether it will be better remains to be seen.

The problem with "levelling the playing field," as educators are wont to say, is that there are multiple ways to achieve that end. The one they want you to believe they are talking about is where the standards of lower achieving states are brought up to the standards of the higher achieving states. The other more insidious way to level the playing field is to water down the curriculum everywhere so that high achieving states come down to the level of low achieving states. Of course there is usually a compromise struck where the high achieving states come down and the low achieving states come up.

After reading some of the material on the core standards link mentioned above, I don't think the intent is to bamboozle the entire country. Industry needs a well educated work force with certain minimum requirements. Those minimums are a lot higher than they were when I graduated lo those many years ago (stone age, according to my middle schooler). There are standards identified for College readiness and Career readiness that were adopted with input "from over 10,000 stakeholders." By which I presume they mean colleges and potential employers. This is a good start and the process they used seems to have measurable achievements. The tricky part comes with implementation. I hope this initiative results in uplifting our country's education so that all students are exposed to best practices and given the chance to exceed their own expectations. I trust it does not effectively reduce the standards to the lowest common factor.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More on the WKCE, NCLB and TRIS: Can we have a few more acronyms here, please?

I learned that there is some scuttlebutt that the TRIS failure to meet AYP last year was not due to the disabled student grouping. TRIS failure to meet AYP was in the disabled student population data, not the overall school. Please see the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website under data>WINSS. You can look at the entire TRIS school by student group and it's right there in living color (nice bar graphs).

One of the people who challenged this was a teacher who said "disabled students don't even take the WKCE, they take an alternative test." Now, I am going to give this person the benefit of the doubt, because I also labored under the same misconception as this teacher until last fall. This is when I learned that under the NCLB laws, a maximum of 2% of the student population may be administered alternative testing designed for cognitively disabled students during the AYP evaluations. Figuring the population of TRIS as about 500, my calculations indicate that TRIS may administer this alternate test to only 10 students. 62 students are categorized in the disabled population at TRIS last year and this year. This leaves the teachers 52 students to whom they must administer grade level WKCE testing. Some may perform at grade level. But my sources indicate that of those 62 disabled students, 57 of them are in Special Education. Screening for Special Education programming is extensive now, so there is often serious cognitive and emotional disabilities present. Some of these kids are overwhelmed and act out. Others simply check out of the process. For many special education students, it is just another experience that they must endure that confirms in their mind that they have a "problem." It is very sad indeed that these students have to experience this at the hands of our educational system. Administrators and student services leaders don't like to do this to our children, but their hands are tied in the ever more elusive quest for state and federal funding.

I hope that helps explain the process.