Monday, April 30, 2012

A few facts to go with the MCPS spin

The MCPS Press Release on Highland Elementary School today says:
"However, Mr. Judd [the AJC reporter] was told numerous times that the drop [in test scores at Highland] was related to budget reductions that resulted in the loss of staff that helped with focused reading instruction and interventions for students that were struggling."
So let's Fact Check that statement from MCPS by looking at the data on Highland Elementary for the years in question.  

The peak in the Highland Elementary test scores as shown on the AJC article chart was 2009.  Then the scores began to fall again.  

Click on image for full screen view to show all columns.
*  Spending per pupil as to School Personnel Cost. (source MCPS Schools at a Glance) 

** The local school budget information in these years gave more details than after 2008.  So the budget numbers for years with **  will be higher as they include all of the funding for the local school.  After 2008, MCPS limited the budget data that was released for each local school. 

*** This was the year that MCPS withheld local school budget information from the public so the budget for this local school for that year is not available.


  1. Nevertheless, there still were no actual facts or allegations of cheating in the AJC article. No parents, students or staff have come forward with ANY allegations of cheating. That should count for something

    1. In MCPS? No, that doesn't count for anything. What reporter would ever report on any such allegations?

      The question is, why did the Highland scores go up and then immediately drop?
      And, should the Dept of Education be awarding permanent awards to schools that show these major jumps for just a year or two? If the "success" can't be sustained, what good does it do other schools?
      What is the lesson from Highland? Why can't even Highland stay Highland?

  2. Where is the proof of cheating, aside from the statistics that "suggest" an unnatural jump in scores. Doesn't it concern you that NOT ONE parent, staffer or student from Highland has suggested cheating went on. Are that many people in on the scam? Show me one single person who was present at the time of the testing who alleges that cheating occurred.

    1. No, this is MCPS. People speaking up is not tolerated. So that means nothing.

      No one said this was "cheating." Why are you obsessed with that explanation when there are many other reasons why these scores could have jumped?

      The issue is the reward of a Blue Ribbon for a very short term gain. The writing of a Harvard Case Study by the same person that wrote a glowing book about Superintendent Jerry Weast, the same year the Blue Ribbon was awarded and the Highland Elementary test scores peaked.

      The writer of the book and the case study was also a Board member of Wireless Generation. The company that Superintendent Jerry Weast gave $500,000 in tax payer funds as "investment" funding without Board of Education approval.

      Lots of people in on this?

      You bet.

    2. You clearly are a very negative person. Where are the congratulations for Highland Elementary and its incredible achievement? To listen to you, everyone in the entire education system, from Jerry Weast all the way up to the Department of Education has a vested interest in Highland Elementary getting a Blue Ribbon award. This seems quite unlikely to me. If this was the case, why did Weast not do this before in his long tenure as superintendent. There are many schools in MCPS that have demographics similar to Highland, why did Weast not get them Blue Ribbon awards.

    3. Where have you been Ben? Jerry Weast was all about awards. Lots of awards. It's how he spent his time. He even hired a guy to do nothing but work full-time on getting 1 award for MCPS. Weast was all about "branding" the school system so that the "brand" could be sold.
      And sell it he did. See the Pearson -MCPS curriculum deal in 2010 as one example.

      As for the MSAs, you might want to see what the rest of the country is saying right now about these types of tests and what they do to children. There's even a major petition right now to end these tests. Lots of parents across the country don't want their kids being subjected to these types of testing games.

  3. This probably wasn't cheating. It was more likely a combination of factors... replacing struggling teachers with better teachers (documented in the Harvard study), more class time focused only on reading and math (Harvard Study), the recentering of the 5th grade test the year scores peaked at Highland (conjecture based on statewide test results for that year), and making sure any possible student who could qualify for extended time and a dictionary got that accommodation (my personal inference based on the ESL data). There was also likely a singular focus- moving MSA scores and moving MSA scores only. All the other "turnaround" explanation is likely fluff that had limited or no impact on student achievement.

  4. Thats a fair assessment Mike. I agree that "teaching to the test" had to have gone on, perhaps even at the expense of other learning. The "turnaround" explanation is still somewhat valid, as one of the teachers there did recently receive the teacher of the year award and Ray Myrtle is a very accomplished principal.

    1. If your definition of "turnaround" applies only to adults, then yes. But the whole point of the AJC investigation is that the CHILDREN are being cheated. Just as Mike McCabe said "limited or no impact on student achievement." If you want to call it a "turnaround" when the students don't benefit, then there you go. Even Jerry Weast said that MSAs were a weak test of student achievement. If a MSA score, and a MSA score alone, are reason for a party then jump for joy.

      Also, see the blog post linking to the AJC editorial.

    2. It's hard to tell if a turnaround occurred or not based on one type of data. Below is how I feel about targeting data rather than underlying conditions. In a nut shell, it's what I believe is wrong with our system. But yes- the MSA data is potentially a sign that points to a turnaround.


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