West HS English 10: More from Pam Nash

As many of you know, I have been in touch with the District and West HS administration — as well as with our BOE — with a request for “before-and-after” data on the English elective choices of West’s juniors and seniors. The reason for my request is that one of the primary reasons why English 10 was implemented was the concern that some groups of West students were not choosing to take challenging electives in their upper class years. Here are links to my earlier posts:
On August 29, I received the following email from Pam Nash:
Our Research and Evaluation staff reported today that the district does not keep course requests and course assignments beyond one year. Therefore, we cannot retrieve information that shows, historically, what English courses were chosen by whom over time.
We will be able to give you this year’s information by the end of next week.

That same day, I wrote to Pam:
Are you saying you do not know what this year’s seniors took last year, as
juniors? Or is their data still available (along with this year’s juniors)?

Pam wrote back:
R&E says that they do not save an archive base of course requests. They do still have the Spring 2007 requests.

To which I replied today:
Hi, Pam. Thanks for the update on the data situation. It’s somewhat good news. I think. Assuming that I understand what you’re saying.
I think you’re saying that we still have the senior English elective choices made by the current senior class, the last class to not have English 10, the last class to take English electives as sophomores.
I assume it also means that we still have the junior English elective choices made by the current 11th grade class.
By all means, don’t let anyone destroy that data! It may be the only thing we have for a “before and after” comparison.
Or is it? My son pointed out to me that surely West must have complete transcripts for all current seniors. Right? (Maybe even the complete transcripts for several recently graduated classes, it occurs to me.) Doesn’t that mean we have a listing of any and all courses that the current seniors have taken while at West? If so, that must mean we still have information about which junior year English electives the current seniors took. And that would obviously be the better comparison to the choices of the current junior class.
Something I really don’t understand, Pam, is that if there was such concern about the English electives being taken by different groups of West students, where are the data that justify that concern?
I also do not understand why — if English 10 was instituted largely to rectify that specific problem — no effort was made to collect, save, organize and analyze the data that would tell us if the new core curriculum is having the desired effect?
In any event, I look forward to receiving any and all relevant data. At the very least, I hope there is a way to retrieve the current seniors’ junior year elective choices, so that a comparison can be made with this year’s juniors’ elective choices.

It would be nice if one of our school board members would request these data analyses.

8 thoughts on “West HS English 10: More from Pam Nash”

  1. I admire your tenacity, Laurie. They’re not used to being held to account like this and will stall, dissemble and/or dump/hide data.
    Shame on the BOE for not caring about this, if only for the procedural kabuki this has been.
    One would hope that a granting authority would care…

  2. Thanks as well, Laurie. It will be interesting to see what the results tell us. One would think the grantors would be interested, but then again….

  3. Let me see if I understand what Pam is saying, Laurie. She indicates they have no way of looking at English courses taken by students prior to last year and the current choices this year. I have to agree with your son on this one. They certainly do keep transcripts of every student and can take the information from those transcripts and determine who chose which courses over LOTS of years. It’s probably a tedious process, that has to be done be looking at actual transcripts of each student and tallying the choices, but I can’t imagine that it “can’t” be done!

  4. Teachers and administrators have access to current student transcripts through Infinite Campus. Former student records are kept in guidance offices.

  5. This is so unbelievable. Or it would be, if it were not MMSD. They claim to be making all these changes because they are seeing patterns they don’t like, and then they tell us they don’t see any patterns, because they don’t keep track of them?! Even the worst political machines keep better records than this! In this age of technology, there is no excuse at all for having to go through individual records and make tallies by hand for something like this. They have admitted officially in this case that they have no idea what they are doing and why they are making changes, because they don’t have any relevant data to be basing their decisions on. Unreal.

  6. The recently submitted SLC grant has as one of its goals that “The expected outcome is an increase in the number of students, especially from
    historically underachieving subgroups, who actively engage in the rigorous course sequence.”(p. 13) What data are they planning on examining if “the district does not keep course requests and course assignments beyond one year.”? I incorrectly assumed that the MMSD Data Warehouse, that, “…rich and frequently-updated electronic database maintained by the district’s Research & Evaluation Department” (p. 23, 2003 West SLC grant) had “…all the data elements required….” for evaluating student outcomes. Maybe I’m mistaken in what constitutes a useful “data element,” but how are they going to improve student outcomes if they don’t evaluate their data?

  7. Is it possible that Laurie’s request was too specific? Maybe asking “who” allowed the district to respond as if you wanted specific student names. I suggest you ask for the data that will be used to evaluate each of the specific SLC grant goals and see what you get. Good Luck with this.

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