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

Monday, September 27, 2010

Critiquing the Annual Meeting Materials.

Click on the post to see a summary of information being presented to the public at the annual meeting tonight. I know it's early to start the criticizing process, but this is an issue that I have had with the administration of our district before I ran for the school board. Selected use of data to paint the situation in whatever light the administration wants to portray for their own agenda is really annoying. I prefer the unspun data to arrive at my own conclusions.

As an example, look at page 14, which summarizes district income and property value data as well as student achievement data. I am disappointed that the most recent data are not used here. I don't know the exact information for the income and property values for this year, but the finance section projects a 2% decrease in value, not the 3% I used to extrapolate our cost per thousand on our school tax bill next year. So at least that value could have been used for the finance section. I know for a fact that 09-10 ACT data are available because I posted about it in August. We are no longer 2nd out of 10 "conference or local" schools, as is suggested in the data packet, as we were in 2007. We placed 3rd out of 6 schools in our conference in 09-10 ACT composite scores. Since I don't know what other 4 schools were included in the 10 used here, I cannot comment further. This is the kind of "spin doctoring" that annoys the daylights out of me from our school district. Yes, we were 2nd out of 10 conference and local schools 2 years ago, were being the operative word here.

Similarly, we could have had the most recent report regarding the WKCE data, but they chose to use 08-09 data. The three data points they chose to report out of dozens they could discuss didn't change a whole lot. But I'll bet a dollar the placements did. There are WKCE downward trends that are concerning, just like there are ACT composite data downward trends that should prompt some curriculum evaluation. Showing a single point in time is of no use whatsoever. Spinning it to make the district seem better off than they are is disingenious. And once again, the ACT state data are being touted as "third highest in the nation." This is simply untrue. Wisconsin's ACT composite results are tied for 17th with Nebraska nationwide. The "third highest" value comes when you restrict your data base to "states in which over 50% of the students take the exam." Which lops off the 14 highest scoring states, Massachusettes being one of them. Massachusettes is the gold standard in US education and we don't even compare ourselves to them because the local schools in Massachusettes prefer SAT data for college entrance exams. Please! This is simply a ploy to make Wisconsin seem better than it is. While the Wisconsin state composite ACT score has fluctuated by about one percent in the last 5 years (gone up then back down), the Evansville score has steadily decreased by 3.5% in the same time period. The state has increased the percent of students taking the test by 4.4% while ECSD has increased by 5.9% the ACT participants in the same time period, so that statistic is relatively stable. I would prefer to see the unvarnished truth revealed by raw data or an unbiased number cruncher. This is the only way to take the bull by the horns and make progress. I will continue to be a critical observer of this aspect of our school district until they present data without an agenda. Most people are intelligent enough to arrive at their own conclusions without being manipulated by spin doctors.

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