Thursday, April 19, 2007

Valuable education

The folks at the Education Consumers Clearinghouse have provided a valuable tool to Tennesseans. They've done yeoman's work at compiling and formatting information that will give us a much better idea of how our schools are faring by creating their own set of School Performance Charts.

The Education Consumers Foundation has converted Tennessee's TVAAS data into interactive School Performance charts - one for middle schools and one for elementary schools. Students attending the high performing schools are getting the most out of their educational opportunities. Students attending the low performing schools are not. For talented and advantaged students, attending a low performing school can lead to difficulties in entering and completing college. For disadvantaged students, it can lead to dropping out.
So you choose either middle or elementary schools, pick the schools you want to compare (from anywhere in the state or just the neighborhood) and their place on the scale appears.

Dr. John Stone and his associates have been empowering parents of public schools students for as long as I've known of them--12 years or so. If you're not familiar with them you really should visit their site and avail yourself of the abundance that is there.
Education Consumers Associations (ECAs) are local or state level citizen groups that are dedicated to empowering parents, school board members, employers, and others who have a consumer's stake in public schooling. Just as teacher organizations and other educator groups represent their unique perspectives, ECAs represent the consumer's perspective. They are grassroot consumer unions for public school customers. (From their About page.)

Go check out this tool and you're likely to be surprised at some point. Perception is not always reality.

In the chart here you'll find from left to right in the

Yellow a "C" (meets standards) Dalewood & Bailey Middle Schools
Lime Green a "B" (exceeds standards) East Literature Magnet Middle
Green "A" (exceptional) Litton & Jere Baxter Middle


Nashteach said...

Interesting. And yes, the middle schools were about like I expected but the elementary schools were not- some schools in more affluent parts of town received lower scores and some in less aflluent areas were ranked higher. But of course the chart is based on gains in scores, not raw scores, or the percentage of students passing minimal skills tests, which is what we're seeing when the NCLB status of schools is posted in the paper.

So, this of course doesn't mean that the students at a school given a grade of C are not mastering the same skills of a school that gets an A. Some of these schools have indeed gotten their students to master the skills on the state minimal skills test; they, unfortunately, haven't raised the bar enough beyond minimal skills. And of course making gains beyond that is more difficult, as the standards become more demanding. But NCLB doesn't reward for that, as TVAAS does. All NCLB really cares about is the percentage of students passing a very watered down test. TVAAS should be the standard because it allows schools to set goals for their students.

Unfortunately, TVAAS scores are not the focus of the schools- the state test scores (and the NCLB ramifications) themselves are. As a teacher, I don't believe I have ever received my TVAAS scores less than a year after the testing has taken place, And even then because I go ask for them. But the student scores (raw, not gains) arrive at the school in weeks.

Nashteach said...

Actually, I should add that the focus of many high school scholars programs are not the state tests at all but the more rigorous, and truly quality tests made by the College Board...SAT and AP. (And yes, at my high school, if they take the AP course, they must take the test.)

Kay Brooks said...

I agree. TVAAS should be what we focus on. Is a child getting a year's worth of education each and every year? Is a teacher effectively imparting a year's worth of education to their students?

I understand that being in the yellow is fine and shouldn't be considered a negative. I like seeing schools that have had trouble in that green area--they're catching up and that's great.

But no school should fall in that red area.

You're also right about real value of the College Board tests vs our homegrown (and very accommodating) TCAP and end of course tests. It's a disservice (perhaps even an abuse of these students) to lull them into thinking they're doing well.