Monday, October 21, 2013

A Bit of a CFHS Whitewash from The Ed. Alliance and Annenberg Institute

There are some major issues with the Third Year Transformation Report on Central Falls High School from The Education Alliance and the Annenberg Institute for School Reform, both well respected institutions based at Brown.

First, the report generally uses data for the 2010-2011 as the baseline, that is, the first year of the transformation, not the year preceding it. Considering how this process was undertaken by Deborah Gist and RIDE, that's pretty much like evaluating the success of a kitchen renovation by comparing the end result to the demolition phase. Of course, climate, test scores, etc. have improved since the year the school was turned into a national pariah. What is lacking is a comparison to the baseline prior to the intervention.

In particular, the school's decline in reading and writing scores is whitewashed, despite the fact that the second of three strategic goals at the heart of the report states "Improve student proficiency in mathematics and maintain improvement in English language arts (ELA) proficiency." Indeed, the report repeatedly restates goal #2 omitting the reference to ELA. There is a single 10 line paragraph and a table on NECAP Reading achievement, bearing the heading "Broadening the Focus on Teaching and Learning." Pre-transformation reading (and writing) scores are omitted, so the reader has no indication that in October 2009, 56% of CFHS students were proficient in reading, up 23 points since 2007, and still six points above the 2012 rate. Writing remains 13 points under the 2009 peak proficiency rate (35% vs. 22%).

It is kind of ridiculous that we've been living in a world where three pieces of data loom above all others: state reading and math test scores and graduation rate, but that's the world we're living in, so for a summative report like this to elide all discussion of one of those three components causes the reader to wonder if he or she is reading a scholarly report or a public relations document, especially when everyone in the room knows graduation rate is most susceptible to manipulation, and when one is at a loss to try to parse the significance of an increase in math proficiency from 7% to 14%.

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