Friday, September 25, 2009

Stability is not enough (Jefferson County)

Superintendent Sheldon Berman defended new test scores released Wednesday for Jefferson County Public Schools, describing the results as “relatively stable” and saying it will take time for several new initiatives to help raise achievement.
That's from the Courier-Journal's Thursday coverage (here). Here are the details for the No Child Left Behind subjects:
  • In reading at all levels, the percent of Jefferson County students at or above proficiency has gone down since 2007, even though those results are up statewide.
  • In high school mathematics, Jefferson County proficiency also declined from 2007 while statewide results improved.
  • In elementary and middle school math, Jefferson results are up, but the growth is roughly one-third the statewide average improvement.
Here are the numbers themselves, shown with red marking declines and green marking improvements:

Superintendent Berman is critical of the NCLB goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014, quoted by the C-J as saying “It’s an unreasonable goal to reach, and every year it gets harder.”

If we accept for the moment Dr. Berman's view that NCLB asks the impossible, I think the right question is: what level of performance is possible? 90 percent proficient by 2014? 85 percent? 80 percent?

Our statewide future will be shaped by the 100,000 students enrolled in Jefferson County. Will it be as weak as the 2009 numbers, or can we expect something better- even one or two points better a year--in 2010 and 2011?

Below, I've done the comparison of the other tested subjects. In high school writing, Jefferson County students improved more rapidly than their peers statewide.

1 comment:

  1. Changing the way JCPS does business is a big task. We need authentic parent and community involvement specifically to improve student achievement. We need advocacy for every student in the district just like Atkinson Elem and a few others schools in the state are doing. It may not be every childs' parent or teacher but every child needs a willing and capable adult that can be their education advocate and help them navigate the education system.

    Why are we encouraged by this "relatively stable" performance of JCPS students? What does that mean? When football or basketball coaches produce "relatively stable" low-scoring performances over time, they usually place second and then get fired. We dont put up with it in sports. Why should we put up with it in math, reading or science?

    We know what works! When kids are loved, supported and educated they are succesful. The excuses that I have heard lately are sad. The new students, "traditionally underperforming populations", special ed or any other identified group cannot be blamed. How can we all praise each other for having a 4 year goal to get every child at grade level in reading? There is something fundamentally wrong with this concept. In most cases if a child can't read then we should stop everything and have professionals teach them to read.

    Kids don't have 27 years to wait while we adults sit around debating theory and blaming the students or parents for poor performance. We dont need to shuffle them all over the county to hide the problems. Just give them all a good education where they live and stop blaming them for adult issues.

    Another excuse that is commonly used is that "the union" prevents this or that. How are some schools doing it? If staff is not performing then they need to be helped or they need to find a new line of work. Please dont blame "the union" for poor performance. Most teachers want to do a good job. It is the law that someone evaluates all staff on a regular basis. Start using that as a tool for teacher quality and improvement. It works!

    Why are we satisfied to have some schools that out perform others by 50 points? In sports they would call that unsportsmanlike behavior and would be encouraged to put in the second string. Well folks, we dont have a second string. We only have one chance to give our kids the education they deserve.


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