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September 17, 2009
DPS sees slight progress in report cards
Denver Public Schools on Thursday released its second annual school report cards, highlighting success stories that could mean thousands of dollars more for teachers and…
September 9, 2009
Work begins on the new CSAPs
Colorado students will have to face CSAP tests for two more years, but work already has started on replacing the familiar and much-debated testing system.
August 20, 2009
More Cesar Chavez test questions in ’09
The number of students at a high-performing charter school who received extra time on state reading and math tests continued to exceed statewide student averages…
July 23, 2009
Thompson says he's inclined to end "foolish" progress reports
Comptroller William Thompson called the letter grades given to city schools "arbitrary" and said he would probably eliminate them if he is elected mayor. Thompson made the remarks in an exclusive interview with GothamSchools today. The controversial reports assign each school a letter grade using a complicated formula that takes into account student test scores and responses to surveys. Critics of the reports have said that they are not statistically reliable and unfairly stigmatize good schools. Today, Thompson called the reports "foolish." "Information about schools is important," Thompson told me. "I think that we've seen how arbitrary these letter grades are and I probably would not keep letter grades."
July 21, 2009
Numbers show teacher evaluation system broken
Download pdf version of this story * Nearly 100 percent of teachers in Colorado’s largest school districts received…
July 8, 2009
New accountability chief says he'll carry on Liebman's legacy
Shael Polakow-Suransky, the city's new accountability chief. Accountability czar James Liebman is officially leaving the Department of Education, but he isn't going far. From his office at Columbia University, he will help the city win federal stimulus money to boost the very programs he pioneered during his three-year tenure. In an interview today, Liebman said he'll go back to teaching criminal law this fall. But he'll also help the department put together "the most powerful proposal" for federal innovation funds, he said. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said that New York City's accountability and teacher pay initiatives are top candidates for a $650 million grant program meant to spur innovation. Liebman is leaving behind an accountability system that has divided educators and parents. "I think [he] has forever changed the way this public school system thinks about accountability and the way public school systems around the country will think bout accountability in the future," said Eric Nadelstern, the department's chief schools officer. But some principals reacting to the news of Liebman's departure this afternoon showed relief. One laughed joyfully when she saw the city's press release at an event today. Another jokingly wrote to a fellow principal, 'No more progress reports?' Shael Polakow-Suransky, the former principal who is replacing Liebman, said the basic tools created by the accountability office would not change.
June 24, 2009
City to roll out a new "parent-friendly" school progress report
After years of criticism that its school report cards are too difficult for most parents to understand, the city is redesigning the report cards that give each school a letter grade. Starting this fall, the Department of Education will produce one-page progress reports that contain only the most important pieces of performance data about each school. The new reports are meant to deliver complicated accountability information "in a more parent-friendly way," according to Phil Vaccaro, a representative of the department's accountability office. Vaccaro presented a draft of the new report to the city school board yesterday. The "progress report family summary" has the same content but a different design from the data-packed two-pager currently produced for each school. For example, instead of having eight different numbers to describe student progress, there is just one, the proportion of students who made a year's progress in a single year. A member of the school board, Dmytro Fedkowskyj, worked with the department to develop the new reports. "We need to present them in ways parents can understand," he said, adding that parents who misunderstood the reports could make misinformed school choices. Critics of the progress reports said the family summary might actually be too simple.
May 1, 2009
Accountability bill heads to governor
“It’s kind of gone through quietly, but in the education world it’s making a big noise” was how Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, described Senate Bill 09-163 after the Senate accepted House amendments and just before it was repassed 28-5. The bill, known as the Education Accountability Act of 2009, makes substantial changes in the ways that student, school and district performance are measured and reported, in how underperforming schools are improved and will expand what information is available about school performance.
April 30, 2009
Saying discharges are up, report demands grad rate audit
Six years after Schools Chancellor Joel Klein vowed to crack down on a bureaucratic loophole that allowed principals to hide students' failure to graduate high school, a new report (PDF) suggests that the loophole remains open and may be growing wider. The report calls for closer study of the students classified as "discharges" — departures from the system, but not dropouts — through steps including a state audit. The report says that 21 percent of students who entered high school in 2003 both never graduated and were never counted as dropouts, instead falling into a category known as "discharges." The percentage was up from 17.5 percent among the Class of 2000. The rate is especially high among special education students, and includes a remarkable jump in 2005, when the special education discharge rate shot up to 36 percent from 23 percent in a single year. Students classified as discharges can include those who left the school system for legitimate reasons, such as moving to another state, deciding to enroll in an outside G.E.D. program, or death. But some advocates have argued that principals can also misuse the discharge code, entering students who simply dropped out in order to inflate their graduation rate artificially. A recent audit of 12 high schools in New York State by the state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, found that high schools classified students as G.E.D. discharges who did not actually enroll in a G.E.D. program. "As a result," DiNapoli's audit concluded, "the report cards understated the number and percentage of dropouts and overstated the percentage of graduates for some of the schools we reviewed." The audit did not probe any New York City high schools. Two persistent critics of the Bloomberg administration compiled the report: the executive director of Class Size Matters, Leonie Haimson, and a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University, Jennifer Jennings. Jennings was the author of the now-defunct Eduwonkette blog, whose analysis of New York City education data became (as I reported) a thorn in the Bloomberg administration's side. The report is being released at a press conference this morning held by a third critic, the city's public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum. City school officials were already disputing the report's claims yesterday, before it had been released.
April 20, 2009
NYU is building an accountability system to measure its teachers
Robert Tobias The former testing czar at the old Board of Education, Robert Tobias, sometimes offers criticism of the accountability programs being produced these days at Tweed Courthouse. He's also been hatching an accountability system of his own — this one to study the effectiveness of teachers produced by New York University's school of education, where he now works. Preliminary results suggest that teachers trained at NYU are getting above-average results in English, but they give students no extra boost on math tests, Tobias said last week at the educational research conference Philissa and I attended in San Diego. He also found that NYU-trained elementary-school teachers produced significantly greater results for students than middle-school teachers, and that the teachers get better as they become more experienced. The effect tapers off at between five and nine years into the job, he said. Tobias's results could provide one clue about what's being found in an ongoing research project about teacher training programs in New York City. So far, that project has found that different programs produced different student results but has not named the programs that had the largest effects. The results could also be important as alternative teacher training programs like Teach For America increasingly bring into question the need for traditional programs based entirely at universities. "As a dean I want to say I want to steal these three and have them do it at my school," said Rick Ginsberg, who runs the education school at the University of Kansas, referring to the professors working with Tobias. “We’re fighting this battle all the time.”
March 26, 2009
Public advocate hopeful takes aim at DOE's spending on testing
A figure from Bill De Blasio's report showing how many teachers' salaries could be supported by each assessment expenditure. The Department of Education could foot the salaries of more than a thousand teachers with the money it spends measuring and promoting student performance, according to a report released today by City Council member Bill De Blasio. By reducing spending on developing, administering, and grading tests, and by cutting the department's media relations office, the DOE could save more than $57 million a year, De Blasio's office found. That would be enough to support the salaries of 1,038 teachers who earn an average of $50,000 a year. At today's City Council hearing about the DOE's budget, De Blasio, who is running for public advocate, told Schools Chancellor Joel Klein that he is "perplexed by the notion that assessment is somehow more valuable than front-line" school staff. The department's preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes potential teacher layoffs, but it does not call for substantial cuts to the DOE's accountability office. Klein defended spending on assessment even when budgets are tight, saying that teachers cannot do their jobs without good student performance data.
March 17, 2009
Number of city schools failing to meet NCLB standards drops
The number of city schools failing to meet guidelines laid out in the No Child Left Behind law dropped this year to 401 from 432 last year, buoyed by improvements at 58 schools that came off the last. Another 10 schools that had been failing were shut down, while 37 saw their test scores, graduation rates, and other factors that go into the NCLB calculations decline and were added onto the list. The pattern of improvement matched trends statewide, where the number of failing schools dropped to 665 from 719. The changes follow test scores last year that shot up at a rate so dramatic some researchers challenged their validity. To get off the NCLB failing list, a school must meet performance benchmarks — a combination of test scores, attendance rates, and graduation rates — for at least two years in a row. Mayor Bloomberg greeted the news as evidence that his efforts to improve the public school system are working. "This is yet another sign that our school reforms are producing real results for New York City students," he said in a statement. "In a year when many districts across the country saw increases in the number of schools needing improvement under NCLB, the number in New York City fell significantly."
March 2, 2009
Shuttered schools, high scores mean state failing list shrinks
The number of schools considered to be failing state standards dropped to an all-time low this year, both among city schools and schools across New York state, according to a new list released by the state education department today. The state has been using student test scores to make the list of schools placed "under registration review" since 1989. Every year, the state makes avoiding the list slightly harder, by raising the bar for how many students need to pass exams. Schools placed on the list risk being shut down; of the more than 300 schools placed on the list since 1989, 228 have been removed. Today's list, which includes 43 schools statewide, takes into account test scores from last school year, which skyrocketed across the state in reading and math for students between grades 3 and 8. Thirteen New York City schools improved their test scores enough to climb off the list of schools categorized as being "under registration review," while four city schools joined the list. Another three city schools would have joined the list, but are being shut down by the city. As Elissa Gootman reports at CityRoom, the Times metro blog, two of the four city schools joining the list — West Bronx Academy and New Explorers High School — are among the recent new small schools created by Mayor Bloomberg as part of his effort to improve the school system. The other schools are Boys and Girls High School and PS 230 in the Bronx. Three schools, Samuel Tilden High School, a large high school in Brooklyn, Business School For Entrepreneurial Studies in the Bronx, and South Shore High School in Brooklyn, would have been put on the state failing list but are being shut down by the city.
March 2, 2009
Paterson not convinced on assessing teachers via student tests
Governor David Paterson. (Via ##http://flickr.com/photos/doublespeakshow/2801607982/##Flickr Creative Commons##) An important story slipped by our watch late last week: Governor Paterson waded into the debate on how…
February 19, 2009
Getting an F or a D led schools to assign fewer essays, projects
When the Bloomberg administration announced it would assign every public school a letter grade, based largely on test scores, critics worried the grades would lead to a "drill and kill" approach to teaching. Forced to raise test scores, they said, schools might avoid teaching creativity and problem-solving in favor of focusing on basic skills. New research suggests that the critics worries may have come true — but the researchers don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. Jonah Rockoff, a professor at Columbia business school who has been studying the Bloomberg administration's accountability system, presented the finding today at a lunch at New York University. It's part of a paper whose central conclusion — that grading schools with D's and F's led schools to improve their test scores — was publicized last year. But the paper has many other interesting aspects, and Rockoff's research is continuing. Today, I'll stick to the "back to the basics" idea; future posts will tackle other areas of interest. Rockoff's paper draws three conclusions about schools tacked with D's and F's that lead to the "back to the basics" conclusion. In the months after getting the failing grades, these schools 1) spent less time on work that involved essays and projects; 2) saw an increase in emphasis on using test score data to make decisions about curriculum; and 3) were less likely to have teachers report that their administrators' focused on teaching quality.
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