A news report from the Chicago News Cooperative announced that “researchers for the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research found that most publicly available data measuring the success of public schools in Chicago did not provide an accurate picture of progress.”
This column has repeatedly asserted that publicly available data, especially performance data on NCLB mandated state tests are not useful measures of educational progress. That has not stymied the education establishment from making claims of having closed the achievement gap between the haves and the have-nots.
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr has gone a step further and, apparently, asserted to the county Board of Education that his predecessor, Dr. Jerry D. Weast, took the school system “to the Moon,” and he, Dr. Starr, intends to take the system “to Mars.” No mention is made of the fact that claims of the “Moon landing” were based on publicly available data, the Maryland State Assessments, which MCPS claims “have proven to be pretty unreliable measures.”
In an opinion piece appearing in the Washington Post, Superintendent Starr seems to be undermining the very data which his predecessor used to make claims of reducing the achievement gap.
Dr. Starr, writes “NCLB also forced educators to use data —but it was the wrong data. Using a standardized test as the only indicator of success is short-sighted, and continuing to build flawed policies around the overuse of a test score will simply lead to more failure.” That hasn’t precluded MCPS from releasing reports, with data based on tests developed by the school system, that claim “In 2011, the percentage of kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 2 students who met or exceeded reading benchmarks on the Montgomery County Public Schools’ (MCPS) Assessment Program in Primary Reading (AP-PR) continued to increase. Especially noteworthy were the gains realized by kindergarten students of all racial/ethnic groups in achieving proficiency at Text Level 6, which corresponds with Key 1 of the Seven Keys to College Readiness.” This column has pointed out that the validity of these claims must be subject to confirmation via independent data. For example, MCPS administers the NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) Map-R (Measures of Academic Progress-Reading), which is “a computerized adaptive assessment program that provides teachers, students, and parents with an accurate assessment of students’ progress in mastering basic reading skills.” However, the school system has not shown an appetite to confirm the progress shown on tests it developed by analyzing the independent Map-R data.
Dr. Starr also writes that “History has proven that, without meaningful oversight, states and local districts will not always do what is necessary to ensure that all children have access to a high-quality education.” Yes, it is time to learn from the past, and implement meaningful oversight and transparency. Perhaps, this should be the heart of the transition effort by the new superintendent.