Monday, July 13, 2009

PSSA scores to be released

PSSA scores are to be released at a presentation by the district on July 23.

Ideally, the data would be released prior to the presentation so that those attending would have time to study the information and prepare questions in advance.

Here is a link to a useful article on how to evaluate results of this type of test. For example, city gains/losses should be compared to statewide gains/losses as a clue to whether the test has become easier or more difficult. State results should also be compared to results on national tests such as the Terra Nova and SAT.

While some may disagree with conclusions drawn by the article (for example, that more charter schools are needed), it does seem to provide information that will be very relevant in interpreting the upcoming PSSA results.


Anonymous said...

I'm going to be interested in this information as PPS really pushed schools to raise scores this year. In fact, perhaps they spend an inordinate time teaching to the tests. Will individual schools scores be released? And can you explain why you added the link? It concerns Chicago city schools.

Questioner said...

Last year individual scores were not released until August and at that point didn't seem to get much attention- PSSA's were "old news" at that point.

The reason for including this link is that it explains the kind of analysis that needs to be done to understand whether a gain or loss in state scores really amounts to any real change in terms of achievement.

The conclusion section at the end of the article points out that "remarkable apparent progress in [Chicago's] elementary schools appears to be due mostly to changes in the ISAT [state] tests and testing procedures- rather than real improvement in student learning."

This issue is something for every district to be wary of because, as the article points out, "without accurate facts, the public does not now how agencies of government are performing."

The article's suggestion for an independent auditor, with "total access to any data in possesion of CPS, or any particular school, or any State agency" is also worth considering carefully.

Parent said...

I'd add that if we think of our issues as unique to Pittsburgh, we're missing the big picture.

Both problems with testing (changing tests so that all schools see rising scores, teaching to the test, diescrepancies between rising state test scores and flat nationally given tests, to mention a few) and with the types of ideas and changes we're seeing here (ending comprehensive high schools, the push to get all kids to college even if they're not ready or interested) are happening all across the country.

These ideas are funded by large foundations -not that that has to be bad- and also by companies that want in on public education money like national, often for-profit, charter chains, software companies, hardware companies, testing companies, curriculum companies, etc. -which I do think are bad!

We can't solve our problems in education here without understanding the national forces at work. I'd also argue that overlooking solutions in other cities only makes change here harder than it has to be.

Anonymous said...

parent, I am ambivalent about your comments regarding studying other cities. One must ponder whether the troubles that occur in urban districts are universal, subject to the city they take place in only or are something in between. If I go with the latter, I have to think that studying Chicago or DC only caries so much validity. The trouble with coming up with solutions over in the corporate headquarters and not on street level is that you misidentify problems and provide solutions that simply don't work.
And let's face it....that IS the accurate characterization of the Roosevelt administration.
There is some validity in the Chicago article. A couple of weeks ago, I read the Philly article and thought the same thing. I've read NYC articles here and about the DC superintendent in TIME.
Yes, they all provide interesting thoughts about the state of urban education but when it gets down to it, a Pittsburgher will be the one that solves Pittsburgh's ills. I'm thinking someone in the classroom or recently out of a principalship somewhere.
I can hope.

Parent said...

My impression has been that many people in Pittsburgh, including those who have any interest in the PPS, don't understand that the changes that MR is implementing here are not something *he* made up. His Broad "training" and the types of changes made mostly follow a known agenda. You can watch that agenda playing out in many cities, large and small, all across the country.

The misstating of test scores, the crowing about gains that are the same as those of unaffected districts in the state, the closing of low-performing schools and the constant reshuffling of low performing students...these are here and lots of other places.

I'm not saying we should look elsewhere for solutions, but I also think that feeling that these are issues that are only faced in Pittsburgh is a little, um, short-sighted in terms of the forces lined up behind these kinds of changes.

I'd love nothing better than for PGH to come up with BETTER solutions which are then exported to (and obviously tweaked by) other cities.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading the initial commentaries about scores last year, actually watching the news conference, and then, just as Parent pointed out, when the individual schools came out I had to wonder what I was missing. I am no fan of standardized tests. In truthfulness, data relates a small fraction of information about a school's effectiveness, especially data culled from arbitrary tests like the PSSA's. Yet, Roosevelt succeeded in somehow making people believe that schools showed great gains when really all that happened was elementary schools showed improvement. Most high schools went down, especially in areas like reading.

That said, the last three superintendents have come from national searches. Each has been lauded as great leaders of change and each has done little or nothing. This current leader has done more to make the district corporate than any other and there is some truth that he takes his cues from other cities and their dealings, like Broad.

The earlier point was that there are still good teachers who care about kids in this district who could affect change. This administration does not want to hear them. There are still administrators at buildings throughout this district who know how to turn the tide. Their opinions are not solicited and these people feel the heat. There are still some central administrators who could bring great change but realize they are in positions that do not entail such thinking within this corporate structure.
The point remains, there are many good, caring, knowledgeable people in this district who could work together to move this district. The problem lies at the board level--with non-educators making decisions that are harming the kids.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully those good people waiting in the wings will hang in there until the time is right!