Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Don't miss how unusual this is: state speaks up on North High

I tweeted this out over the holiday, but I thought it should have a more permanent residence: don't miss what's happening in this article from the 25th on North High. It is very, very unusual for the state to speak up, outside the release of new results, about a specific school. For DESE to break its silence, something's up.
And of course, Russell Johnston chooses his words with care (like anyone from the state who knows he's going to be quoted). So look at what he says:
the department’s interest this year in seeing improvements at North High School was not an abrupt decision, but rather based on relatively long-standing concerns about the school’s under-performance.
We don't, in other words, have a new emergency; we have the ongoing concern the state has had for years. That Johnston would feel the need to clarify that is very telling.
And about Superintendent Binienda's remarks that the school was in danger of being Level 4 next spring?
(Johnston) dispelled the notion that North High is in imminent danger of being downgraded by the state, however, saying it’s “not automatic” the state would take action even if the school continues to struggle.
So, no, the "fear the state" line isn't accurate. And note, in part, why:
Complicating the matter is that the state is still revising accountability standards for schools.
You, of course, already knew that because you read the updates from the Board of Ed: the state's reasons for declaring underperformance are shifting and growing more broad:
The new underperforming designation is most likely what North High could fall into in subsequent years if it continues to lag, Mr. Johnston said, although he added such a downgrade would be made “at the discretion of the (state’s education) commissioner,” and not triggered by low test scores. The new accountability system is supposed to take into account more than just how students perform on the MCAS.
That "supposed to" is probably a little weak; we're already tied to that due to the state's federal ESSA plan, which has already been accepted.
Which makes the superintendent's closing remark:
“The big thing is really getting those scores up,” she said.
...all the more head-scratching.
I also want to flag this Q&A in Worcester Magazine from a few weeks back, because there is a LOT going on there. 

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