“3” Is Not Enough: School Progress Reports That Delude Students, Parents, Teachers and Principals Are Morally Indefensible.

 The release of this year’s iteration of the School Progress Reports has been greeted with dismay if not outright anger in spite of the flag waving of the administration.
Incredibly 97% of elementary and middle schools received grades of “A” or “B” and 75% of high schools also fell into the “A” and “B” category.
In the recent 100 million dollar plus mayoral campaign the Bloomberg folk bombarded us with self-adulation, how the policies of the Mayor and his Chancellor have improved the schools, based on “data,” as evidenced by School Progress Reports.
As an inveterate note taker I leafed back to the meeting, what was it, four years ago, in an auditorium in Queens when I listened to Jim Leibman describe the Report Cards … after calculating raw scores the Department would allocate grades with the bottom 5% receiving grades of “F” and the next 10% up from the bottom a grade of “D.”
In the just released High School Progress Reports  only one school received an “F,” that’s not one percent, that’s one school!
School Progress Reports are deeply flawed tools. Rather than inform parents and the pubic they delude parents and the public. As Aaron Pallas calls to our attention on the Gotham Schools blog (“Comparing Small Apples to Large Apples“) the tool itself does not pass muster.
… the student progress measures that make up 60% of a school’s overall score were highly unreliable from one year to the next.  As long as these reports are tied to year-to-year changes in state test scores, they’re likely to be fatally flawed.
Shael Polakow-Suransky, the DOE Chief Accountability honcho replies to Pallas, it reads more like a press release than an informed reply.
In fact, the Progress Report is a much better school evaluation and performance management tool than anything we’ve ever had before in New York City and has become a model for other districts nationally and internationally. We’ll continue to work to improve it and look forward to a continued dialogue on the best ways to do that.
Prior to NCLB we used average grade level reading and mathematic scores in elementary and middle schools. We ranked schools within districts, ranked districts and ranked schools across the system. District xx might be near the bottom of the city, a school in District xx might be doing better each year than other schools in the district. It was a useful way of measuring progress. The current progress based raw scores converted into letter grades are giving the false impression that a school may be an “A” or a “B” when it is actually doing poorly.
The NYC School Progress Reports, the NYS ELA and Math Standardized Tests and NAEP describe the same kids in sharply differing ways.
The Department uses “progress,” improvement from year to year as the core indicator, NYS use the NCLB rubric dividing student in grades 3-8 among four levels with Level 3 defined as “proficient.” The State will be including a progress metric, different from the City metric in this year’s tests. NAEP allows us to compare test to test both within geographic areas and among geographic areas.
Let’s take a look at a random school, IS 166K, they received a SPR grade of “B” in 07-08 and 08-09, you might say, not bad for a school in East New York with many students coming from neighborhood projects. However, take a look at the New York State School Report Card for 07-8 (latest one available)
Students at or above Level 3 (proficient):
ELA:       18% in grade 8
Math:      44% in grade 8
Science:  21% in grade 8
Shael, can you honestly laud the NYC Progress Reports with a straight face?
As Diane Ravitch points out mayoral control cities have not shown any discernable advantage over non-mayoral control cities, in fact one can make the argument that progress is greater in non-mayoral control cities, using NAEP scores as the metric.
What is so distressing is that schools across the city are patting themselves on the back, congratulating teachers and parents and children, a decidedly false impression.
According to the Department only 57% of students who receive a 3.0 (proficient) on the 8th grade ELA test graduate high school in four years.
CUNY Community College freshman dropout rates are in the 60-70% range.
Admission to a four year CUNY school requires an advanced diploma, earned by less than 10% of graduates.
Too many times I’ve watched a teacher say, “Johnny that’s good answer, next time give it a little more thought,” when the answer was just plain wrong. I asked the teacher, “Why praise a wrong answer?” and the teacher replies, “I didn’t want to discourage him.”
Praising unsatisfactory work is morally reprehensible.

4 responses to ““3” Is Not Enough: School Progress Reports That Delude Students, Parents, Teachers and Principals Are Morally Indefensible.

  1. Pingback: “3″ Is Not Enough: School Progress Reports That Delude Students … School’s Rate

  2. Right on the money. Lying to parents, kids and the public is a prescription for disaster. Just saying a kid can do the work doesn’t make it so. But where was the UFT to reform mayoral control and during the election?


  3. The school I teach in received 56 points of 100, which is a B, on the SPR. The principal was jumping for joy and wanted the staff to celebrate. Everyone wondered how is it possible that a B can be given based on the those meager points. This is more shameful than the 30 points out of 86 points on the Integrated Algrebra Regents equal to a 65 and students thinking that they know their math, until reality hits them in the face – college!


  4. I think you’ve identified a real issue here, but your critique is wide of the mark. It’s not a pleasant truth to confront, but it’s a fact: a school can be doing a solid (or even a good) job and its students can still be way behind at the end of the year (or in March). Students don’t come to school performing at the same level and they don’t get the same out-of-school supports (whether the basics of food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, or the experiences those of us who grew up middle-class take for granted: books at home, trips to museums, daily interactions with caring and demanding adult family members). Why is this the case? Pervasive social inequality – of which schools are often a part, but not the whole.

    Looking at gains is far more “morally defensible” than just looking at whether students clear a hurdle at the end of the year. But what would be even better would be to confront some of the reasons that students come to school with less — and the reasons that they then get even less at school. This is not making “excuses” — it’s taking our role as educators and as advocates for those most in need genuinely and seriously.


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