by Gary Rubenstein, originally posted on September 11, 2014 at Gary Rubenstein's blog
As reformers are all about accountability and data, the ASD, of course, issues yearly reports about the progress that it is making toward the goal of moving the schools in the bottom 5% to the top 25% in five years. This year Tennessee has been very slow in releasing their state test scores. In early July they first released data for the State. On these, the average scores in the state were not very good. On average, as I wrote about here, 3-8 math scores went up by a percent while 3-8 reading scores went down by a percent. At the end of July they released the data for the individual districts. In that release, we learned that the ASD scores increased more than the state averages. I wrote here, about how that really wasn’t saying very much, particularly since the 4% the ASD reading scores had gone up by still meant that the 2013-2014 reading scores were lower than the 2011-2012 ASD reading scores. Then, in August, they finally released the final part of their data, the ‘growth’ scores of the districts and the test scores and growth scores for the individual schools.
A year ago the ASD, despite the fact that their reading scores dropped by almost 5%, somehow scored the highest possible score, a 5 out of 5 on the Tennessee ‘growth’ metric. This was, they said, a sign that things were moving in the right direction. This year, however, despite the fact that at the end of July we learned that the ASD ‘grew’ better than the state did in general, the final report in mid-August revealed that the ASD didn’t get another 5 in ‘growth.’ For the 2013-2014 school year, they got the lowest possible growth score, a 1.
They even produced this nifty scatter plot showing how some of the schools are well on their way to cracking the top 25%.
So I did what no Tennessee education reporters have the ingenuity to do, I did some research and analysis. The first thing I noticed was the fine print at the bottom of the scatter plot showing the movement of some of the schools.
Notes: 1-yr success rates; 2014 percentile calculations based on 2013 data; Carver and Frayser HS used for historical data for GRAD and F9GA, respectively.
Hmmmmm. What does that mean? So I investigated further. What I learned is that Frayser 9GA isn’t, technically, a school for which it is possible to calculate the growth between 2013 and 2014. Also, it is debatable, if it can be counted as a school at all. Here’s why:
Westside Achievement Middle school, the one that had the dropping scores in the bar graphs above, serves students in grades 6-8. They were one of the original 6 ASD schools in 2012-2013. Rather than send their eighth graders to Frayser High School in 2013-2014, they decided to expand Westside Achievement Middle school to have a 9th grade in their building. They enrolled 99 students and called the ‘school’ Frayser 9GA for ‘9th Grade Academy.’ 2013-2014 was the first year that this school existed, which is why comparing their scores for their 99 9th graders to the scores of already existing Frayser high school is not a fair comparison. This article from the local Memphis newspaper explains that 85% of the 8th grade class at Westside Achievement Achievement Middle School wanted to continue at that school for the new 9th grade program.
Now in the 2013-2014 school year, Westside Achievement Middle School dropped from a 5 on their ‘growth’ to the lowest possible 1.
Be sure to click HERE to see an enlightening video of how the ASD recruited teachers at Bardog Tavern in Memphis. Yes, at a bar with free alcohol, appetizers, and a photobooth. And now Chris Barbic is throwing those same young teachers he recruited under the bus by saying that the problem with the ASD is the teachers (that HE hired).
Guaranteed student success: Return the ASD schools to the districts and communities they were stolen from. Give those students real, experienced, honest-to-God teachers with much smaller teacher:student ratios. Put support staff in their schools including counselors and classes for music, art, and sports. Yes, it will cost more, but this ASD system is clearly not working. Give students what they need to suceed, not what lobbyists and out-of-touch politicians think they should have.