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November 13, 2008
Accountability costs are either $100m or $300m, report says
By the end of this school year, the Department of Education will have spent more than $300 million on its accountability initiative, according to a report released today by the city's Independent Budget Office. The DOE disputes the IBO's figure, saying the report includes more initiatives than are actually part of the accountability project. It says the true figure is more like $100 million. The city's public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, commissioned the report, which is bound to intensify debate about whether accountability measures should be cut during the coming budget crunch.
November 12, 2008
Attendance only peripheral to DOE accountability initiatives
Inspired by a recent report that many elementary school students missed more than a month of school last year, the general welfare and education committees of the City Council just concluded a hearing about absenteeism in the city's schools. One question that surely came up is how the Department of Education holds schools and students accountable for attendance. The answer: not as much as it could. In the centerpiece of the DOE's accountability system, the school progress reports, a school's average attendance accounts for 5 percent of its grade, the same proportion as teacher and parent surveys. The DOE chooses to base 85 percent of schools' progress report grades on test scores because attendance on its own simply doesn't ensure success, officials say. "Most students do attend school regularly, but many of them do not get the outcomes we believe they should be getting," DOE spokeswoman Maibe Gonzalez-Fuentes recently told me. And what about accountability for individual students? Teachers can assign students failing grades for assignments they miss during an unauthorized absence. But DOE regulations don't require students to attend school a certain amount of the time to be promoted.
November 11, 2008
For most students, no benefit to a school's F grade, study finds
A study examining whether getting poor grades on city progress reports prompted schools to improve their students' test scores found little evidence of such a boost. The study, released today by the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, asked the question by comparing schools with progress report raw scores that were roughly the same, but just different enough to get different letter grades. In fact the two groups showed about the same amount of progress — except in fifth-grade math, where students in failing schools made "significant and substantial improvement" compared to their peers in schools that had been assigned a grade of D, according to the study. The progress reports assign letter grades to schools based primarily on improvements in students' test scores. Since the first reports were released a year ago, the program has been the subject of sustained criticism: Parents and teachers have complained about unfair stigmatization of good schools, and statisticians have charged that the reports are driven as much by error as by actual school improvement. The study's architect, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Marcus Winters, called his findings "mixed-positive" in favor of the progress reports. Those findings were the subject this morning of a panel discussion sponsored by the Manhattan Institute featuring Winters, Columbia University economist Jonah Rockoff, and two officials from the Department of Education's accountability office, including its CEO, James Liebman.
November 6, 2008
Bonuses to high-performing schools a budget casualty
The Department of Education would abandon a program it launched last year to reward schools that earned A's on their progress reports, under the budget cut proposal Mayor Bloomberg released yesterday. The program was supposed to give $30 per student to schools that earned both an A grade on the progress report and a "well-developed" score on their Quality Review. That money, which entered the school's general budget, was separate from awards given to principals and teachers in high-performing schools. But now, as part of a $180 million reduction in DOE spending ordered by the mayor, the $3.4 million earmarked to pay schools this year for their 2007-2008 performance is slated to be slashed from the department's budget. When bonuses were awarded for the first time, last January, 134 schools qualified. The number skyrocketed in the reports' second year, to more than 380 elementary and middle schools. The higher grades followed a wave of higher test scores across New York State. Even more schools could have been awarded bonuses: High school progress reports haven't yet been released. As far as I can tell, progress report bonuses are the only element of Chancellor Joel Klein's accountability initiatives that are already slated for elimination. I've posted the mayor's complete list of proposed budget reductions for the DOE below the jump. Do you see others?
October 31, 2008
New York ahead of the curve on new NCLB graduation rules
Satellite Academy graduate (via flickr) New federal regulations are going to force many states to change the way they report high school graduation rates.
October 29, 2008
Klein defends courier fees, says transporting tests is important
A bike courier (via Flickr) Chancellor Joel Klein is defending the estimated $5 million that the Department of Education will spend this year on couriers who hand-deliver documents between school locations. Juan Gonzalez at the Daily News reported on the expenses this morning. A large portion of the expenses, $2 million, are being incurred by the Office of Accountability, which uses couriers to deliver a new set of tests to a computer center in Queens, so that they can be processed, Gonzalez reported. The interim assessments are given out in English and math and are meant to give teachers an idea of which skills and information their students are absorbing and which they aren't before the annual standardized test. Speaking to reporters covering the launch of the new Research Alliance for the city schools this morning, Chancellor Joel Klein defended the accountability office's use of couriers. He said teachers deserve up-to-the-minute information on how their students are doing. Klein added that ARIS, the new data warehouse that will be re-launched next month, could ease the expenses of transporting paper score reports. Some schools already use online tests, which have a faster turnaround time for scoring and require no courier expense.
October 28, 2008
Coming soon: NAEP results on state and city report cards
States and school districts will have to revise their accountability reports to include scores on a national test known as the nation’s report card, the…
October 24, 2008
High hopes for new ARIS data warehouse after stumbles
Elissa Gootman's story in the Times today on the non-functionality of the $80 million ARIS data warehouse system is important because it lays bare what teachers have known for months: ARIS was supposed to give parents and teachers radically more access to student achievement data, but in practice it suffered from frequent malfunctions and currently is providing zero information. I've been talking to people familiar with the new version of ARIS, slated to be released in November. They tell me this new software is a huge improvement over the ARIS released last year. Even with new software about two weeks away from debut, there remain two major unanswered questions about the Department of Education's effort to build a massive data warehouse. The first question is whether the contractor, IBM, made mistakes that could have been avoided — and whether some portion of the taxpayer dollars slated to go to IBM, which total $80 million, should be paid back. The second question is whether a program like ARIS is necessary at all.
October 20, 2008
DOE's progress reports attract 9 of 12 biggest school districts
School districts all over the country have reached out to the city’s Department of Education to learn more about its school progress…
October 1, 2008
Many open questions in state's "Growth for All" accountability plan
Not only is New York State proposing a "proficiency plus" accountability model that will take both absolute proficiency and student growth towards proficiency on state reading and math tests into consideration, it is also looking at creating a "growth for all" system to reward schools who move already proficient students to even higher levels of proficiency, and, perhaps, penalize schools where proficient students do not make additional gains. This part of the accountability system would not require federal approval, presenters stressed at last week's public forum on the model. According to the presentation by Ira Schwartz of the state education department, many ideas are still on the table for where to set the bar for growth, how to compare students and schools, and what positive or negative incentives schools could expect under the new system. First, the state must determine what schools should strive for in educating students who already test proficient. Is it enough that students continue to test above the proficiency cutoff, or must they show one year's growth or more when scale scores are compared? The question echoes this summer's debate over whether to emphasize the "proficiency gap" or the "achievement gap" in looking at student performance. Asked whether some parents and educators might choose to improve the teaching of non-tested subjects such as art, music, and physical education rather than devoting more resources to helping proficient students score even higher, Schwartz responded that the Regents had specifically asked for a way to hold schools accountable for the growth of all students. Next, the state must decide how to compare schools. New York City's Progress Reports got a nod for their peer group comparison,
September 29, 2008
State's accountability proposal projects growth towards proficiency
In October, New York State is submitting a growth model proposal to the U.S. Department of Education, I learned at last week's public forum on the proposal. What would school and district accountability look like under the new model? For grades 3-8, schools would earn points towards meeting Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) for each student scoring proficient or above (a level 3 or 4 on state tests), but would also earn full points for level 1 and 2 students whose growth indicates that they are on track to become proficient within a four-year period. A simplified example of how the growth model would determine whether a student is on-track to proficiency. The graph above provides an oversimplified example. The blue line represents the cutoff score for proficiency at each grade level. Bill and Ted each start out 100 points below proficient. In 4th grade, Bill has gained enough that he is now only 70 points below proficient. As you can see by the red line, if he continued to grow at this rate, he would reach proficiency easily by 7th grade. Therefore, Bill is deemed to be on-track to proficiency, and his school would get full credit towards Annual Yearly Progress for him. Ted, on the other hand, is still 95 points below proficient in 4th grade. He made more than a year's growth, but if he continues to grow at this rate, he will not reach proficiency by 7th grade. Ted's school would not get full-credit towards AYP for him. Of course, in real life, students don't grow at exactly the same rate every year.
September 26, 2008
State proposes "proficiency plus" accountability model
Dozens of educators, policymakers, and advocates gathered at United Federation of Teachers headquarters this morning for the first in a series of public forums…
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