Saturday, December 08, 2012

Rest in Peace, Maria

No one should die of lung cancer. The news of Maria Goodloe-Johnson's death at 55 must have shocked everyone except a few family and friends. An eight-year-old child is motherless, making her early death even more distressful.

However, while there is no need to speak ill of the dead, let us not sanitize the past as the P&C is wont to do. Remember, that was Winston's job in the dystopian novel 1984. We should always try to remember the past accurately to learn from it.

William Faulkner once wrote words to this effect: the past is not over; it is not even past.

Monday, December 03, 2012

CCSD: Smoke, Mirrors, and Spin

Lexiles are good enough to show whether students' reading skills are improving. The Charleston County School District wants to obfuscate the problems by using percentiles that only the cognoscenti can translate.

That is the heart of the argument between Jon Butzon of the Charleston Education Network (CEN) and CCSD's "director of assessment and evaluation."

Jon, you know that the director must justify her six-figure salary!

In 2010 after a series of exposes in the P&C (imagine that!) the School Board voted to make literacy a priority in the district. Maybe it had assumed literacy  already was a priority?

Since then, CCSD has attempted several approaches to the problem, each inching towards success, each unwilling to take the Draconian measures needed for success, namely separating illiterate students from their peers. Moves at the sixth-grade level have been the least effective (see previous statement for effective Draconian meaure).

Now the improved statistics reported by the district do not match those provided by the new (watered-down) PASS, which shows a higher percentage below grade level at every grade. Mmm.

Butzon is quoted as saying that he doesn't "know if they were intentionally deceitful or incompetent, but . . .the data they reported to the board is bad and useless.”  The answer to his question is "yes."
How about reporting how many students improved to reading on grade level and the cost per student. That'll be the day.

“I can’t make any sense of this,” Butzon said. “I can’t argue that progress is being made, but we just don’t know how much. This is smoke and mirrors and spinmanship. I have no idea whether we’re getting what we’re supposed to get out of it.”

Donnelly said the report is a reflection of the way in which [unspecified ] educators asked that students’ progress be reported. The report has three tiers, or ranges of students scoring in certain areas, and that’s used in educators’ decisions on who is served by the literacy academies. Students in different percentile ranges receive different help.

Why the resistance to reporting what even non-educators can understand?

What we all can understand is that students reading below grade level at the end of the third grade are virtually guaranteed to become dropouts if they make it to high school.