Monday, July 24, 2006

Where are the scores?

The City Paper picks up on the frustration the community is experiencing regarding the announcement of MNPS scores. The NashvillePTOTalk list has had some interesting back and forth about the status of the scores and the politics that may behind their release. The allegations are that the scores are bad or flat and because we've got a fairly hot school board race that could radically change the board make up and a director that is on his last contract year bad news is being quashed as long as possible.

Much of the City Paper article rehashes MNPS's press release which I posted to the NashvillePTOTalk list last week and I've posted below.

What I didn't know, and what as a BOE member caught my attention was this:

"MNPS is consistently among the last, if not the last, to submit writing and achievement test information to the state. As such, it is one of the last districts in the state to get results back."
I'd like to know what that paragraph is based on. I'd like to know why we're last. I'm sure that part of that comes from testing so late and the size of our district. However, those are not excuses enough.

I called Rachel Woods spokesperson for the Tn DOE this morning. She tells me that last year MNPS made a special request for an electronic copy of the information and the DOE was told that it was necessary for planning purposes. And then MNPS 'broke the embargo' and issued press releases touting the improvements. MNPS has not made that same special request this year and frankly I wouldn't blame the state if they declined the request based on last year's actions. Ms. Woods did say that she didn't know of any penalty in the TCA for breaking that embargo and conveyed that it would be better to wait and ensure the information is fully vetted (my words not hers). It will be the 2nd week in August before we have the AYP information and November before the full report is done.

I've also asked the BOE administrative assistant to get me a copy of the information for the schools in my district based on Ms. Wood's assuring me that BOE members are permitted this information for planning purposes and that does not constitute breaking the embargo.

Again from the City Paper article:
Changas said the school system has looked at trying to distribute test results over the summer. However, that would involve hiring temporary staff, which could cost the system between $40,000-$50,000.
I dare say that a $40K out of a half a billion dollar budget may be a good investment so we know where we are before the new school year begins, before BOE elections and in plenty of time to evaluate the director. Let's not be penny wise and pound foolish. It won't cost 40K to create .pdfs of this information and post them to the website where individuals and community groups could obtain them and begin their own efforts at crunching these numbers.

It is insane to go through this dance every year. This must improve. We're accountable to the community for the educational welfare of these children. We cannot drag our feet on this. This is the sort of nonsense that creates distrust in the community and makes them all the more reluctant to support us with their tax dollars.

Here's the original press release from MNPS:

-----Original Message-----
From: McMillin, Woody W (MNPS) []
Thursday, July 20, 2006 1:15 PM
To:;;;;; kay brooks;;; Mebinin Awipi;
Cc: Bryant, Melissa (MNPS); Waters, Julie W (MNPS); Garcia, Pedro E (MNPS)
Subject: test data

We have had several inquiries from the media concerning the impending release of 2005-06 test scores. Because the answers are complex, we have been responding in writing to help them get the facts straight. The explanation may also be helpful to all of you because various media may be calling you for quotes.

* * * * * *

As the backdrop for the information below, MNPS did not get any individual student or school/system-level reports by the June dates targeted by the state. That said, here’s the status of the individual student data.

The district received the student data somewhat later than the target date of June 15, as paper copies only, in a number of boxes that arrived over several days. Those copies were picked up by our principals July 19 as part of their first day back to work for the new school year. Although a date has not been set for distribution of this data to students and their families, our goal is to do this as quickly as possible (we were very close to our Aug. 25 target date last year).

The principals also received some school-level summary data concerning the TCAP achievement tests and the writing tests. This data came to the district the first week in July, again in paper format only. This information is under embargo by the state – and we’ve not been informed of the eventual release date – but even if it weren’t, it’s not sufficient for the principals to ascertain if their schools have met their NCLB targets.

A note about the embargo: The embargo time between the release of the data to the districts and the formal release to the public is built in to allow the district to check the data and make any appeals based on district information that doesn’t correspond to the state’s results. Again, the state has not informed us as to when the embargo will be lifted.

Concerning system data:

Last year, we were able to release some preliminary scores because we received the data electronically from the state in June and because the state’s embargo was not as strict. This year, neither circumstance applies. The state has been emphatic about the embargo and until just a couple days ago, we had received only paper copies, which are insufficient for compilation of preliminary data.

In addition, the state’s target date for embargoed release of NCLB data was July 7, but that information has still not been released to the districts. That distinction is important, because the NCLB calculations reflect such factors as students who are continuously enrolled in a school or who take alternative or out-of-level tests in the special education program.

We can only release data of any variety when the state lifts its embargo, which usually coincides with the state’s first announcement of test score results. That release came very near Aug. 1 last year, the earliest ever in my memory, but the state has not informed us of this year’s expected release date.

We understand the public’s eagerness to get the scores. We share that anticipation because the data is important to our planning process for the coming school year and because it is an important aspect of accountability to our community.

Woody W. McMillin
Director - Public Information & Community Relations
Metro Nashville Public Schools
2601 Bransford Avenue
, TN 37204

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