Monday, January 14, 2008

[LCSD] IE Cherrypicks From the Report Card, I Get Annoyed, No One is Surprised

First thing's first: The 2006-2007 Report Card for the LCSD can be found online here.

IE had some comments on it, and they sounded pretty damning, so I wanted to see if I could find the Report Card myself and make an attempt to interpret it.

I hope you'll not find it surprising that I had issues with it. I have issues with everything else, right, so why not this?


IE notes that the LCSD does not meet the federal Adequate Yearly Progress Guidelines:

To quote both the 2006-7007 LHS School Report Card and the district's overall report card, "Federal Adequate Yearly Progress Rating: NOT MET."

This is true.

What's also true is that the AYP guidelines are utter crap - fail one section and no matter what the rest of your district's scores are, you fail the whole thing. In other words, Lebanon could have perfect attendance and perfect grades, but if too many students got in trouble in class, Lebanon would still be considered "failing." It's designed to promote the appearance of failure. Of course, since I am of the opinion that No Child Left Behind (which is where AYP comes from) is intended to hurt public education, not help it, I can't say I am surprised.

Come on - anything passed by the Bush Administration is not going to be genuinely designed to further the public interest. Seriously. Adding dozens of byzantine bureaucratic requirements and not funding them is a brilliant way to f*ck public schools, not a way to improve them. The fact that some of the metrics are useful is great political cover, but does not prevent districts and states from being swamped under a giant unfunded mandate. (To say nothing of the fact that the whole 'penalty' idea pushed under NCLB is stupid.)

Anyway, IE has lots of others things to say. For example:

I've seen the comments about how it's only fair to compare Lebanon's poor results with other districts of similar lower socio-economic status. I find those comments insulting and a cop-out by those who want to justify their belief we have effective administrative leadership in this district.

I'm not going to use such comments to prop up the district's administrative leadership.... but I am going to point out that for a comparison to be statistically valid at all, one has to be comparing like and like. One cannot compare apples and oranges - the results are useless. In this sense, it is necessary to compare Lebanon with districts that have a similar attributes (socioeconomic class, school and district size, etc). Comparing Lebanon to districts with significantly more resources (both in the schools and at home) is an exercise in bringing on a sense of depression and futility (or a great motivating tool, depending).

When resource-poor districts do achieve great things, such as outperforming rich districts, they make movies about it. That should be all the evidence you need for how common it is.

That's not saying that Lebanon shouldn't achieve great things (indeed, to aim for anything less is probably not a good idea) - just that we need to remember that it's an exceptional story for a reason.

Long story short: Dismissing very real resource gaps as a "cop-out" is implying that the people who acknowledge such gaps are aiming for failure.... and that's insulting.

More IE:

Now look at the Financial Data section and the dollars per student spent on: direct classroom expenses (below statewide average), classroom support (below statewide average), building support (below statewide average), central support (above statewide average).

So we are only above or equal to the statewide spending average when it comes to money spent on the district office/administrative support. Where are our priorities?

Implying that the LCSD's priorities are in the wrong place based on this is a tiny bit - and only a tiny bit - disingenuous. Rather, I would ask if the increased central support spending is justifiable when the money is so obviously needed in classrooms.

To answer that question, we would need to know what the district is funding with that money - and if the funded people and programs are effective. The State Report Card does not provide us with that information, and I'm not going to speculate at this point.

The second point to make about these numbers (found on the last page of the report) is that they are statewide averages. Without weighting, median numbers or comparison to districts with the same overall funding levels they are only of limited use anyway. After all, what good does it do us to know that Lebanon is poorer than the state average? I could have told you that without reading the state report card.

What the numbers do suggest(but not prove), of course, is that Lebanon spends more on central support relative to other categories. But we still need to know where that money goes to make any kind of evaluative statement.

I have no brilliant conclusion. You might want to draw your own.


Anonymous said...

Probably lots of central support money goes to lawyers--to protect the DO from (some on) the School Board.....

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