The release of the school accountability ratings last week drove the Parents' Campaign's Nancy Loome into a frenzy last week as she sent out several blast emails blasting everything. Ms. Loome is the Executive Director and lobbyist for the non-profit organization funded by Jim Barksdale and Dick Molpus. She blasted the Mississippi Department of Education. She blasted legislators. She blasted her fellow lobbyists. She blasted standardized tests. It is not known yet if she blasted herself. She sent out the first email early last week:
School district ratings for 2015 are coming later this week. And it just got a whole lot harder to make a good grade.
This is the first set of grades for schools under the new accountability model, with very different expectations, and the first using an online test (2015 PARCC). Both are likely to drive down district grades.
Fewer than one percent of districts are expected to make the "A" cut; fewer than 10 percent a "B."
And to say that PARCC online testing didn't go smoothly, well... among the thousands of problems reported, some of the most frequent were:
Tests "freezing" and repeatedly shutting down midstream, requiring students to restart many times
Online calculators not working and graphs missing from math questions
Unresponsive items and insufficient bandwidth
...you get the (very ugly) picture.
All the tech-snafus on this timed test left many questioning the validity of the assessment scores - and the resulting state ratings. Mississippi students are outpacing the rest of the nation in improvement on national tests. We know student achievement is improving. These ratings are not likely to reflect that.
The good news is that districts will be held harmless for the 2015 grades. But not for 2016 ratings, which are based on another new assessment and will be out in a few short months - with policy changes that punish below-B districts already on the books.
High expectations will yield better achievement for Mississippi students, and that is a very good thing. Unless the real agenda is to drive down ratings in order to justify privatizing public schools. The rhetoric and actions of the powers that be will be telling.
Watch for an email on Thursday to see your district's 2015 rating. I'll keep you posted.
"Outpacing the rest of the nation"? That indeed took place on the NAEP tests last year and that was because of the implementation of the third grade reading gate. Funny how she left that little tidbit of info out of her screed. What is interesting is how Ms. Loome misused confidential information. The media gets a copy of the school ratings a few days before they are released to the public. However, MDE requires reporters and other parties to sign non-disclosure agreements that are valid until the start of the Board of Education meeting when MDE releases the results to the public. Such agreements and concerns for privacy did not stop Ms. Loome from using that information in her fear-mongering, did it? However, she sent another missive out to her groupies the next day just to make sure they got the point:
School ratings for 2015 are out. See district ratings here and school ratings here.
"Yep, just what we thought." That's the likely response to today's ratings from Mississippi parents and educators who feel their public schools have been set up to fail by a hostile legislature. While our national test scores are steadily rising, ratings governed by state officials are going the other direction.
Grades are based on a new curriculum, new test, and a new accountability model that changes the rules - a lot. Districts are "held harmless" for one year, so those with lower grades under the new model kept the higher prior-year grade as their official rating. That's almost everyone. (KF: No, Nancy, grades were only raised for 78 districts due to waivers. There are 146 school district. "Almost everyone" apparently means barely half. Welcome to Nancy Loome Math. Its a derivation of Million Man Math and doesn't require one to actually know how to count. Do you think things just don't seem right?...)
The 2015 "official" ratings include:
19 A districts
43 B districts
54 C districts
30 D districts
No F districts
Without the waiver, the count would be:
3 A districts
12 B districts
68 C districts
62 D districts
1 F district
A privatizer's dream.
Let's refocus. What's important is our students' success, and that is at an all-time high. We have a lot to celebrate! Which is hard to do when state leaders seem determined to define our schools as failures. And sell them out to profiteers.
The Good news...
Mississippians want public schools to thrive. Legislators say they do, but most vote like they don't. Let's give them a chance to prove where they really stand.
Keep embracing higher expectations for our children and schools (teachers, keep on keepin' on)
Provide the strongest-ever support for our public schools (parents, ramp up the positive feedback)
Hold legislators to equally high expectations:
talk to legislators about how their votes hurt public school children
ask that they get input from public school educators and parents before voting on ed bills
support legislators who support strong public schools
find candidates for 2019 to replace those who don't
Spread the word (there's power in numbers)
Voucher lobbyists may have lots of money, but there are way more of us than there are of them. (KF note: A high-paid lobbyist complaining about lobbyists?)
Our teachers and kids are doing great work. They deserve a system that rewards great work. Let's make it happen.
Together, we've got this. Are you in?
Notice there is one concept that never appears in her emails or shrieks: Holding schools accountable. That is probably what she calls defining "our schools as failures." Funny how she never mentions JPS or shows up at any of the school board meetings. Meanwhile, Representative/Don Jay Hughes (D-Oxford, U.K.) exploded in the comments section on the Clarion-Ledger's online story about the ratings:
The sad reality is that under the new, $122 Million late, questionable and unsicentific test results, only three districts actually made A's. THREE. Period. Only nine made Bs. NINE. Period. That means 130 districts fell to C, D or F ratings. So, next year, when the waivers no longer exist, the charter school bill passed by the supermajority will make 134 school districts lose students and tax dollars to charter schools, with absolutley no ability of the local school district to object or have any input. So much for wanting local control or improving public schools.Hmm.... did Mr. Hughes complain when MDE weakened the ratings formula a few years ago and more A's were awarded as a result of the change?