Monday, September 18, 2017


Last night around 10pm, I saw the following article post from the Boston Globe: "Two dozen Boston risk being declared underperforming." It opens as follows:
More than two dozen schools in Boston with low standardized test scores are at risk of being declared “underperforming” by the state, an action that can lead to the removal of principals and teachers, according to a School Department analysis.
The 26 schools are spread across nearly every neighborhood, from East Boston to West Roxbury. Officials are expected to learn the fate of each school when the state releases the latest round of MCAS data at the end of October.
It also says:
The analysis flagged 11 schools for being at the greatest risk of being declared underperforming because their MCAS scores rank very low in comparison to other schools statewide.
Now, if you pay close attention to what's been posted on here, you, too, are shaking your head at this article. The simple fact of the matter is the Board of Education voted that all schools taking the new MCAS would be held harmless with regard to test scores this year. This is a reset year; most schools simply are not going to get a new accountability level, because this is the first year of scores from the new MCAS. The only exceptions are schools that have low participation (by whole population or subgroup) which will go to Level 3 plus schools that already are Level 4 or 5.

Secondary schools, remember, still have the 10th graders taking the old version of the MCAS for now, so they could have changes made, but that is the minority of schools here mentioned.

Puzzled, I sent out some tweets:
(there's a thread there if you follow the link)
I also added this commentary:
I tagged in the Boston Superintendent Tommy Chang, and that elicited this response:
In piecing it together, it appears that this originated with the Boston School Committee receiving a report on their Level 3 schools at last week's meeting. You can find the presentation they saw here. Rather than an article which focused on what was and was not working at those schools--which is kind of supposed to be the entire point of this whole discussion--we instead saw an alarmist vision of state takeovers for something like a fifth of Boston Schools.

As a side note: at some point we should talk about the state's capacity at this point. I've mentioned this in passing before, but DESE is down lots of staff, particularly since Race to the Top ended. Level 4 and 5 schools take lots of staff hours to coordinate with districts. Also, Level 4 schools come with School Turnaround Grants, which now have to come out of Title I funds (there isn't a separate line for them). I'm not going to say DESE can't or won't declare more schools, but we shouldn't discount what it takes on the other end for them to do so. 

I sent out a recap this morning, since that was competing with the Emmys:
You'll need to follow the thread there.
Later this morning, DESE sent out the following:

Thus as best as I can tell, what we have is a fairly straightforward School Committee report that turned into clickbait.

The problem, of course, is that this feeds into a whole bunch of other issues: there is MASSIVE parental mistrust of the planning of the Boston Public Schools, and every move is seen as leading to school closures or takovers. The state's having taken over three districts and a number of schools is seen as threatening by anyone with any school that isn't consistently Level 1. Lots of people find the accountability leveling confusing, and the past few years of switching tests and systems has only made that worse. And we don't have nearly enough press paying consistent attention to these sorts of issues, such that we can get clear, consistent reporting to people who care about these issues but don't do it full time.

Honestly, we deserve much better than this. There are lots of little pieces of blame to go around here, but I'm laying as much as I know at the Globe's door. The crux of what they printed today was untrue, alarmist, and actively harmful.

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