“Value Added Assessment” Madison School Board’s Performance & Achievement Committee Looks at “A Model to Measure Student Performance”

Video / 20MB Mp3 Audio

Superintendent Art Rainwater gave a presentation on “Value Added Assessment” to the Madison School Board’s Performance & Achievement committee Monday evening. Art described VAA “as a method to track student growth longitudinally over time and to utilize that data to look at how successful we are at all levels of our organization”. MMSD CIO Kurt Kiefer, Ernie Morgan, Mike Christian and Rob Meyer, a senior scientist at WCER presented this information to the committee (there were two others whose names I could not decipher from the audio).

Related Links:

The fact that the School Board is actually discussing this topic is a positive change from the recent past. One paradox of this initiative is that while the MMSD is apparently collecting more student performance data, some parents (there are some teachers who provide full report cards) are actually receiving less via the report card reduction activities (more here and here). Perhaps the school district’s new parent portal will provide more up to date student data.
A few interesting quotes from the discussion:

45 minutes: Kurt has built a very rich student database over the years (goes back to 1990).
46 Superintendent Art Rainwater: We used to always have the opinion here that if we didn’t invent it, it couldn’t possibly be any good because we’re so smart that we’ve have thought of it before anybody else if it was any good. Hopefully, we’ve begun to understand that there are 15,000 school districts in America and that all of them are doing some things that we can learn from.
47 Art, continued: It’s a shame Ruth (Robarts) isn’t sitting here because a lot of things that Ruth used to ask us to do that we said we just don’t have the tools to do that with I think, over time, this will give us the tools that we need. More from Ruth here and here.
55 Arlene Silveira asked about staff reaction in Milwaukee and Chicago to this type of analysis.
69 Maya asked about how the School Board will use this to determine if this program or that program is working. Maya also asked earlier about the data source for this analysis, whether it is WKCE or NAEP. Kurt responded that they would use WKCE (which, unfortunately seems to change every few years).
71 Lawrie Kobza: This has been one of the most interesting discussions I’ve been at since I’ve been on the school board.

Lawrie, Arlene and Maya look like they will be rather active over the next 8 months.

A Teacher Grows Disillusioned After a ‘Fail’ Becomes a ‘Pass’

Samuel G. Freedman:

Several weeks into his first year of teaching math at the High School of Arts and Technology in Manhattan, Austin Lampros received a copy of the school’s grading policy. He took particular note of the stipulation that a student who attended class even once during a semester, who did absolutely nothing else, was to be given 45 points on the 100-point scale, just 20 short of a passing mark.
Mr. Lampros’s introduction to the high school’s academic standards proved a fitting preamble to a disastrous year. It reached its low point in late June, when Arts and Technology’s principal, Anne Geiger, overruled Mr. Lampros and passed a senior whom he had failed in a required math course.
That student, Indira Fernandez, had missed dozens of class sessions and failed to turn in numerous homework assignments, according to Mr. Lampros’s meticulous records, which he provided to The New York Times. She had not even shown up to take the final exam. She did, however, attend the senior prom.
Through the intercession of Ms. Geiger, Miss Fernandez was permitted to retake the final after receiving two days of personal tutoring from another math teacher. Even though her score of 66 still left her with a failing grade for the course as a whole by Mr. Lampros’s calculations, Ms. Geiger gave the student a passing mark, which allowed her to graduate.

No Standards Left Behind

Neal McCluskey:

NCLB’s biggest problem is that it’s designed to help Washington politicians appear all things to all people. To look tough on bad schools, it requires states to establish standards and tests in reading, math and science, and it requires all schools to make annual progress toward 100% reading and math proficiency by 2014. To preserve local control, however, it allows states to set their own standards, “adequate yearly progress” goals, and definitions of proficiency. As a result, states have set low standards, enabling politicians to declare victory amid rising test scores without taking any truly substantive action.
NCLB’s perverse effects are illustrated by Michigan, which dropped its relatively demanding standards when it had over 1,500 schools on NCLB’s first “needs improvement” list. The July 2002 transformation of then-state superintendent Tom Watkins captures NCLB’s power. Early that month, when discussing the effects of state budget cuts on Michigan schools, Mr. Watkins declared that cuts or no cuts, “We don’t lower standards in this state!” A few weeks later, thanks to NCLB, Michigan cut drastically the percentage of students who needed to hit proficiency on state tests for a school to make adequate yearly progress. “Michigan stretches to do what’s right with our children,” Mr. Watkins said, “but we’re not going to shoot ourselves in the foot.”
Today, evasion syndrome is epidemic. According to a report last month from the Institute of Education Sciences, a research branch of the U.S. Department of Education, while states are declaring success on their tests, almost none have standards even close to those of the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress — the so-called “Nation’s Report Card.” Almost all states have set their standards below NAEP’s “proficiency” level.