Monday, September 24, 2012

The 3rd or 4th rule of ®eform

It goes without saying that the first rule of ®eform is “Don’t talk about poverty.” 
The second rule of ®eform is “Don’t talk about poverty”.  Either number 3 or 4 is “Don’t talk about population changes.”   I don’t mean the fact that students change from year to year.  I mean changes in who is tested because of s district level policy change, same kids, same teachers, new policy.

I could be referring to LAUSD’s increased use of the CMA for students with special needs instead of the actual CST, and how this policy change is accounting for a good chunk of LAUSD’s “growth” over the past few years.  But I’m not, because LAUSD doesn’t talk about changing the population that takes the CST.

I am talking about a recent set of post from LAUSD’s  LA School Report that actually talks about LAUSD changing who is getting tested and its negative impact on percentages, not the benefit of the policy to students.  The first post Why HS Math Scores Are Low(er),” gave 3 generic reasons for a perceived drop in HS Algebra scores.  The second post must have been a rookie mistake for Hillel Aaron.  The second post “More on Math Scores makes the case that LAUSD has been doing a good job placing students into the correct math class so there are fewer competent students repeating a class. 

If you’re confused at this point, I’m not criticizing LAUSD for putting students in the correct class. 

LAUSD is openly talking about the role of a specific policy change that is affecting percentages used for evaluation.  Algebra passing rates are on of the percentages used when LAUSD labels a school “failing” and bullies it with PSC.  Policies about who takes what class have very real consequences on the statistics LAUSD is measuring itself on.  District policy that changes who takes what test affect percentages. 

LAUSD and ®eformers do not like to talk about year over year changes in what type of students are taking a test.  For market based solutions to work, you need to compare apples to apples.  Even value added measurements can only tolerate a finite amount of change in the year over year testing samples before the results become meaningless.  LAUSD routinely makes large scale changes to how it tests, yet remains oblivious to the affect on evaluation of schools.  There is a good reason rule 3 or 4 from the ed-®eform playbook is “Don’t talk about population changes,” even moderate population changes undermine “market place solutions.”

Bonus Point 1:  What does changing the population mean in the current climate.
As LAUSD moves toward the idea of small learning communities and “Expanded School Based Management” you might think that the school’s results are all its own.  You might think student outcomes are tightly aligned to just the teacher or school.  Most ®eforms require you to focus on just the teacher or just the school leader.  When LAUSD is making policies that will change who is assessed, how does the district and school claim credit/ blame for the outcomes of the school. 

Bonus Point 2: LA School Report is LAUSD's propaganda blog – they really did just run a “get to know you” piece for a someone aligned to Deasy who might be running for a Board seat but hasn’t yet declared.

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