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November 14, 2008
DOE: Teachers and principals to receive $8m+ in bonuses
At the same time as it is trying to trim its budget, the Department of Education today announced that it would distribute more than…
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
Showing some improvement, DOE's HS grades are online now
Two months after the Department of Education released 2007-2008 progress reports for elementary and middle schools, grades for high schools are now available online.
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 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 17, 2008
UFT's budget cut wish-list: entire accountability office (almost)
Somehow this slipped between the cracks: The United Federation of Teachers is signing on to a letter urging the Department of Education to make…
September 26, 2008
Are you proficient on the NYC progress reports?
Teachers College professor Celia Oyler has posted a quiz about the NYC school progress reports, featuring true-and-false, multiple choice, and even essay questions:…
September 22, 2008
Eduwonkette: Progress report grades "dominated by random variation"
Columbia sociologists Jennifer Jennings and Aaron Pallas (also known as Eduwonkette and her sidekick, skoolboy) take a long, hard, statistical look at…
September 18, 2008
Where to look for "good measures for good schools"
In the wake of this week's release of school progress reports, many parents, educators, and policymakers around New York City are asking how to meaningfully assess schools. How much should a parents take a school's grade into account when deciding where to send their children? What does it mean if a school's grade rose dramatically or dropped precipitously from last year to this? Do the progress reports provide a complete picture of the work of a school? In a well-timed coincidence, the National School Board Association's (NSBA) BoardBuzz points us to two additional resources for figuring out how schools are doing.
September 18, 2008
Improvement in progress report grades: real or random?
Last year, the first round of progress reports attracted anger and ridicule. Perhaps because far fewer schools received low grades, the response this year has been more muted, making room for measured, evidence-based discussion of the DOE's methodology in constructing the reports. Over at Eduwonkette, Harvard education professor Daniel Koretz offers a lengthy critique of the progress report methodology. He notes that test scores alone are not a legitimate way to evaluate schools; New York State's tests were not designed to be used in "value-added" analysis like that behind the progress reports; and the progress reports, like all accountability systems, place pressure on school administrators that likely leads to score inflation. In addition, he writes that the DOE's formula does not take into account "interval scaling," or the reality that different amounts of "value" are required to move students from one proficiency level to the next at different points on the proficiency spectrum. (In June, I wrote about how interval scaling might contribute to the finding that No Child Left Behind has helped high-performing students less than their low-performing peers.) But those problems exist in many test-based, value-added accountability systems — Koretz writes that New York's progress report system has its own set of errors. The tremendous variation in schools' grades from last year to this year probably has less to do with school improvement than sampling and measurement error, he writes. Here's an illustration of the effect of error. I first calculated the variation in schools' grades between last year and this year and then graphed it against their enrollments.
September 16, 2008
80 percent of schools land top grades on DOE's progress reports
As early reports suggested they would, Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein announced today that more than half of all elementary and middle schools received higher progress report grades this year than last year, the first that the reports were issued. In all, 79 percent of schools earned As or Bs, more than 20 percentage points higher than last year. (High school reports will come out later this fall, after data about August graduation and Regents performance is taken into account.) "We're just as proud of the F student who became a C student as we are of the A student," Bloomberg said, contrasting the city's accountability system against the state's, which condemns low-performing schools even if they are on the upswing. The DOE's press release is filled with impressive statistics about schools' performance on the reports. The reports released today are meant to highlight student progress, as opposed to raw performance, which the state uses to judge schools. Sixty percent of a school's grade is based on "progress," or how much individual students improved or fell behind in the last year. Schools also get "extra credit" if students with special needs — such as disabilities, English language learner status, or poor performance in the past — do particularly well. Raw student performance does make up 25 percent of a school's grade, and the results of the Learning Environment Surveys that parents and teachers took this spring make up the remaining 15 percent of the score. On each measure, schools are compared both to all city schools and to schools in their "peer group," made up of schools that have similar demographics. Bloomberg said the reports, which are available online, make school performance transparent and help administrators and teachers to focus their attention and resources on the students who need it most. Finally, he said, the reports are the only measure where schools are held accountable for improving student performance — and accountability, he emphasized, breeds success, with schools earning higher marks this year even though progress report grades were issued last November for the first time, just two months before state English tests and four months before state math tests. The DOE's chief accountability officer, Jim Liebman, who spearheaded the progress report initiative, cited a recent paper by Columbia economist Jonah Rockoff that concludes that new accountability systems can produce real effects in a very short time. Administrators at PS 5, the Bedford-Stuyvesant elementary school where the press conference took place, said their progress report grade last year pushed them to help their students more.
September 16, 2008
Progress reports due out today; get ready to read them carefully
In just about an hour, the DOE is holding a press conference at PS 5 in Brooklyn to release the 2007-2008 school progress reports,…
September 12, 2008
At PS 8, families cry foul on year's first progress report grade
With their schools' 2007-2008 progress report grades due out next week, principals are likely to spend their weekend planning either a victory celebration or damage control. PS 8 in Brooklyn Heights At PS 8 in Brooklyn Heights, families are trying to figure out what to think about their school's failing grade, especially because it earned a C last year and accolades this summer from Chancellor Klein, who held a conference at the school to announce that the school would expand to meet community demand, the Times reports today. Since the arrival of the current principal, Seth Phillips, in 2003, families in the zone have increasingly decided to stay put and enroll at PS 8 once their children reach school age. But according to the DOE's progress report formula, upper-grade students' test scores did not improve as much last year as they might have (and did at other schools), even though a majority of them scored at grade level or higher on state math and reading tests. Asked about the chancellor's July comments, DOE spokesman David Cantor told the Times, “Now that he has additional information about the school, his view has changed. The most important things about a school are student progress and performance, and in those areas this school isn’t measuring up.” Cantor also said parents and teachers noted "significant concerns" when responding to last year's Learning Environment Survey — but those concerns aren't apparent in the composite survey results, which put PS 8 in the top half of schools citywide in three of the four main categories and well above average on the fourth, "engagement."
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