Saturday, October 12, 2013

And now it begins!

I have always tried to make this blog about issues that are affecting public schools and not about the professional and personal attacks these issues continue to make.  It is becoming harder and harder to do this and yesterday's Daily Oklahoman opinion regarding A-F grades might have just been the breaking point.  For those who haven't read the article or would just like a refresher, you can read it here.   The title of the opinion piece is called "Pending A-F grades will reflect more accuracy in our assessments".  This type of journalism just makes my blood boil.  It is disingenuous at best and downright journalistic malpractice at worst. Do I need to mention the fact the A-F grades have yet to be released! How does the DOK opinion staff know what the grades will be and what the grades say about schools?  Is the DOK opinion staff privileged enough to get a sneak peek of the grades? No! But once again they write a politically motivated opinion trying to discredit any legitimate questions regarding this controversial reform.  They do not know what the grades are, they just want to blindly believe the load of horse manure that is being shoveled out by people who want YOU to believe these grades are accurate and valid.  Let me tell you that A-F grades are neither accurate or valid.  And instead of asking you to blindly accept my version of the truth as better than their fantasy version of the problem, I'll back up my statements with facts and not accusations.

Before I point out all the idiocy in the DOK's opinion piece, let me provide some facts about the impending A-F grades.  First and foremost, the results given to schools are littered with scoring errors due to the testing company, McGraw Hill's, ineptitude (I will not even talk about how inefficient and incompetent this company is and how corrupt their systems are, not to mention the fact they were given the bid to conduct testing for next year).  At my school, we received notice that 12 of our writing tests will have to be re-scored due to internal rater reliability error.  (It is nearly Fall Break and we have been in school for an entire 9 weeks and we still do not have all of our testing results. WHAT?!)  It has also been reported by our principals and counselors that nearly 30 students have been identified by the testing company as having different scores on different reports; some students received a "Did Not Attempt" when in fact they have been given a performance report from the testing company.  How are these students being recorded for accountability? No one has been able to give us the answer to this question! Will our school be accountable for the Did Not Attempt the testing company is reporting to the SDE or the score being reported to the student? We also have had several students who do not even attend our school show up on our reports for demographic and test corrections.  Some of our students who took modified or portfolios are listed as making an unsatisfactory score on a test they did not take.  Don't get me wrong, I am not saying this process should always be mistake free, but when mistakes seem to be the norm and not the exception, how much credibility will the end result accountability grade have?  To overstate my point about test reporting credibility, I refer to you to the now infamous "testing trailer" pictures.

I swear to you these are actual pictures of our testing materials being delivered or picked up.  These are the same tests we have to inventory, store under lock and key, have test security measures out the wazoo, and face potential teacher certificate issues if they are lost, photocopied, or in this case fall through the gaping holes in the delivery man's trailer!

So to recap why A-F grades are an inaccurate and invalid measure of a school, let's look at some facts. First, the law was changed to ensure schools received a lower grade. Second, the criteria to receive a passing score on some tests changed after the tests were scored to guarantee a minimum of 50% of the students failed. Thirdly, test type and structure was changed without enough notification to change instruction (it is like playing basketball all year long and then when you get to the playoffs they raise the goal from 10 feet to 15 feet without

telling you). And finally, no one can say with any certainty the test data is accurate in the first place - remember the test malfunctions? (Any student who tested on a day in which the online test failed due to CTB's server issues and scored unsatisfactory on the test, their score has been thrown out and it doesn't count toward a school's accountability.) These are enough reasons to raise concerns about the credibility of A-F grades.

Now to the DOK's insanely stupid opinion piece.  There are two logical reasons as to why the DOK would come out with this opinion piece:  to discredit any school arguments about A-F grades and cast blame as to why grades decreased.  Both reasons seem to have a political agenda behind them.  For those who already think public schools are failing, then using the illustrious NAEP (by the way, Oklahoma standards and therefore curriculum and instruction are not aligned to the NAEP; and is the reason why Oklahoma 4th graders do not score well) reiterates their notion that schools are failing and something needed to be done. One the other hand, for those who haven't already sold out to the notion their public school is failing, this piece is quick to point out school grades are decreasing because of changes to the law through legislative efforts.  All this is designed to strengthen the position of the reformers and to weaken the arguments by educators against these reform movements! I've said this many, many times - public schools are not failing!  My school is not a failing school!  Students in my school have the opportunity to get a superior education. We do not need school choice, the political purpose of A-F grades.  If you want to come to my school, move here or walk into our office and fill out the paperwork.  And finally, not everything good that takes place in a school can be measured on a test. As soon as parents and community members get tired of their school being attacked, the DOK will stop printing stupid opinion pieces like this.