Wednesday, August 10, 2011

PSSA info sort of released

From the Tribune:


Questioner said...

Sounds like PPS did not make AYP so far but may be trying to work with data to persuade the state.

Questioner said...

And PA's state tests are "not considered very rigorous":

Anonymous said...

We have always known that the PSSA is a minimum standard assessment, YET, the great majority of PPS schools do NOT come close to meeting that standard.

And making AYP is moving a few points. A few of our newer schools with entrance requirements achieve at significantly higher percentage points thus, raising our standing as a District. The great majority of our school fall significantly below the state's minimum standard.

Consider also that the lowest achieving PPS schools have changed names and focus thereby giving them a new start. It will take three years before they are accountable for results and at that time they start the AYP process all over "brand new" wiping away the previous abysmal results that put them in Corrective Action II 3rd year or worse (and it took 7-8 years to get that low.)

This happened at U-Prep over the last three years and STILL were not able to make AYP last year. I wonder where they are this year?

Anonymous said...

The article comparing state tests to the NAEP wasn't very clear.

A state could have a good test, that is, one which tests the skills and concepts for that grade well BUT accept a cut score that renders the test basic.

Or in other words, if getting 40% correct on a test equals "proficient" in that state, that could well be a "basic level" or below on the NAEP.

We'd need to know not just the content, but the ways the states score them.

Anonymous said...

I had to go into the bathroom and wretch when I read through the powerpoint that was prepared for this non-event. I mean, crediting modest gains at best to "rigorous new curriculum" that came into being in 2006 (?) made me nauseous.

Is there any teacher here who believes such utter nonsense?

"Rigorous curriculum"???

Let me just say this for the record--again: curriculum designed for PSP and mainstream students is an absolute joke, a ridiculous hoax perpetrated on you, dear taxpayer. This "curriculum", that comes via the oversight of Pitt's IFL is a nice mixture of ivory tower thinking, mixed with an agenda with a goodly dosage of political correctness thrown in.
It does nothing to meet the needs of students as they go through high school and hopefully into college.

It is a true train wreck that has been allowed to go on for far too many years.

This "event" today provided nothing in the way of meaningful info. Attaining AYP? More insanity.
Individual school info is out there, of course, it just has to be filtered and spun for general consumption. I am also sure that the cheating that went on in Atlanta has provided great pause in just how advisable spinning is to begin with.

This is a train going off of the tracks, folks. Pity that PPS central administration would rather stick with its ideology and protect their own jobs than remember it's supposed to be all about the students.

Anonymous said...

Reviewing page 11 on the PPS Power Point indicates that PPS did NOT make AYP. If you average the grade level scores (where given) on Reading and Math PSSA, you will see that the average gain for the District is LESS than 3 points this. ( PA requires, roughly 9 points for AYP.) The District average in both Reading and Math could be even less than 3 points, since, as you can see, the chart does not include the minus points at the grade levels where there was no improvement at all. (There was no improvement in Reading at Grades 6 and 11. There was no improvement in Math at Grades 3 and 6.)

Notice that PPS 6th graders overall made NO GAINS in Reading or Math.

Anonymous said...

Will people question the big jump at Arsenal??

Anonymous said...

WOW! And this is the BEST CASE SCENARIO for the DISTRICT????

When a District deliberately excludes the numbers that show a decline in achievement it is not being honest and is not facing reality. PPS has to face it before it can change it. Clearly, the progress over the past five years in minimal where there is any progress.

Our children can do better!

Anonymous said...

Dr.Lane, isn't it clear to you yet?
Save this district money, and save face at the same time. Fire all department heads and their assistants. Get rid of the current curriculum. Get rid of Pitt's IFL.
Allow classroom teachers to write curriculum and use some of the millions you save in getting solid teachers who know the territory to write curriculum.
Do it yesterday.

Disgusted Taxpayer said...

It will be interesting to compare the district's growth to the State as a whole.

Let's not forget for a second that in the list published in the Pittsburgh Business Times that last year we dropped from an abysmal 471 to an even worse 476 overall.

Just about every district in the commonwealth showed gains in the span between 2007 and 2010 (last data available to compare).

What should cause us concern is that for all of the reform efforts, all of the branding, all of the communications, all of the investment in managed curriculum, the endless reorganizations of central office, the intensive partnership with Broad and Gates - frankly there is nothing special about Pittsburgh's gains, nothing at all.

Questioner said...

Updated Tribune link "PPS tests below standards"

Old Teacher said...

"Lane also said 11th grade continues to be a trouble spot. About 44 percent of juniors scored at or above grade level in math, and 56 percent did so in reading. That's about a 5 percentage point increase over last year in both subjects, but not good enough, she said.

"This has been our toughest nut to crack," said Lane, who was deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction from 2007-10. "A lot of our empowering effective teachers work (funded by a $40 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) is centered at the high schools because of the struggles we've had with the 11th grade."

This quote appears in the Trib from Linda Lane and is reflective of her contradictions meant to deflect criticism.

Here, she points the finger directly at teachers. Thanks for making it clear, Dr.Lane. You are no friend of teachers. In her small minded view, PSSA gains are tied directly to teachers. But wait...we read in the press releases coming from PPS that it all comes down to "rigorous curriculum", "RISE" and other initiatives.

So what is it, Dr.Lane? The rigorous curriculum speaks well to the small gains, but the fact that gains aren't bigger is because of your teachers?

Isn't your curriculum designed to eradicate teacher input, as it is scripted???

Thanks. Good to know that you are just another politician.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but find the presentation a bit misleading.

Page 10 of the district's PDF file makes clear that the district has simply removed the results of the PSSA-M from all years.

But if I read the footnotes correctly, the students who in prior years would have taken the PSSA and are no longer taking it have been excluded. That might be ok, but it is not an unreasonable assumption that in prior years those kids may have really struggled to be proficient or advanced.

In other words, the better comparison would be to exclude from prior years those groups of kids who this year took a different test. Simply by not having them in the 2011 cohort but showing them in prior groups may have the effect of artifically inflating this year's results.

This theory will flush itself out as soon as we see some aggregate state data or even district level data from other urban/urban-like districts in PA.

PPS staff had to know this - that's why you see the breaks in the lines and the footnote disclosure.

Questioner said...

Our tax money at work to hire people to devise these techniques.

Anonymous said...

What a difference in style: the Allentown School District, which at this point has close to 20,000 kids, and their Superintendent released the 2011 PSSA results on July 1, 2011.

Let me repeat that: July 1, 2011.

Yes they were preliminary but so is what Dr. Lane announced yesterday.

And it was not a great story for Allentown either, but the superintendent didn't waste 1.5 months of time creating a series of graphs and charts you can't compare to the state or your neighboring districts: he just stood up and released the numbers. Period.

Questioner said...

That is the legacy of Mark Roosevelt.

Anonymous said...

REMINDER for all:

The MINIMUM PA target for READING for the past three years has been 63%. Next year it moves up to 72%.

The MINIMUM PA for MATH for the past three years has been 54%. Next year it moves up to 63%.

Please compare PPS Student, School and District scores against the MINIMUM targets set by the State.

Anonymous said...

The difference, to be taken into consideration, between Pittsburgh and Allentown is that Allentown put the scores out there and then took the next month and a half to strategize solutions for improvement. Pittsburgh on the other hand used the month and a half to "spin" it so it doesn't look so bad.

Comparatively speaking, it is the PR 'solution' in Pittsburgh versus the "Strategies for Improvement" solution in Allentown! And so it goes, business as usual in Pittsburgh.

Questioner said...

And the PG plays right along, parroting the PPS line that there was improvement in 11 of 14 tests. It even echoes Dr. Lane's suggestion that there may have been declines in 6th grade scores statewide, without mentioning the possibility that there may have been gains in 11 of 14 areas statewide- which could then lead to an examination of whether there are real improvements statewide, whether Pittsburgh's improvements are any better than average improvements, and whether the test has become easier.

Many people will read the headline ("More Pittsburgh students fare better on state tests") and conclude that everything is fine.

Rigby Reardon said...

Agreed, Questioner, over the course of Roosevelt's tenure and now Lane's, the PG fails to ask questions. Extremely disappointing that the editorial staff would rather rubber stamp everything that comes from Bellefield Avenue--from the acceptance of Gates money, to substandard teacher contracts, to the glossing over of problems--to act as a PR outlet.
The PG is part of the problem.

One note: unless I am mistaken, the PSSA standards already were at 72 for this year in reading and jump slightly next year. Not sure about math, but I believe the figures quoted are a year off and that we are already in difficult waters.

Anonymous said...

My apologies to 8:38 and all! You are absolutely correct!
We have already had three years to reach the PA Reading target at 63% and Math at 54%. The current minimum targets for students, schools and districts follow:

It is NOW (2011): READING MINIMUM target is 72% for "Proficiency"; and the MATH MINIMUM is 67% for "Proficiency."

2011 READING is 72% and 2011 MATH is 67%.

We will no longer will have 3 years to meet the minimum targets. Each year until 2014 the minimum moves up.

In 2012: Reading will be 81% and Math 78%.

Anonymous said...

So sorry for error on PA PSSA Performance Targets. Here is info from PDE on PERFORMANCE TARGETS;

2002-2004 __45%
2005-2007 __54%
2008-2010 __63%
2011 - 72%
2012 - 81%
2013 - 91%
2014 - 100%

2002-2004 __ 35%
2005-2007 __ 45%
2008-2010 __ 56%
2011 - 67%
2012 - 78%
2013 - 89%
2014 -100%

Rigby Reardon said...

Arne Duncan has been all over recently, saying that NCLB requirements are likely to be "relaxed" as many districts across the country are in fact making gains and should not be demonized under a numerical system.
That said, I cannot imagine PPS -ever- making AYP from this point forward.
It's time to stop making judgments about student achievement which are based solely on test scores.
It's time to stop making judgments about teacher effectiveness based on those scores, as well.
PPS has far too many "administrators" who do nothing more than look at numbers and research. At the same time, writing standardized tests has become a cottage industry, raking in millions.
Education is more than that.

Randall Taylor said...

It is astounding that the District continues to get away with these late releases. Mark Roosevelt at one point was releasing PSSA data AFTER his yearly evaluation!

It is in the District's interest to release late. They spend this time spinning and begging Harrisburg for breaks. It certainly is not in the interest of parents who may look at their child's school and want to make a change. It is not fair to parents who still have no idea, a few weeks before the opening of school, how their child's school performed last year.

Anonymous said...

Agreed! But WHY are PPS students so deficient in what should be minimal "thinking skills" which are what is assessed on the PSSA?

Do you not agree that students should be able to distinguish fact from opinion, use context clues to understand text, be able to identify a main idea and supporting details, make inferences, summarize, see cause and effect, etc____ in texts or situations? There are more "thinking skills" but these are the ones most missed by our students on the PSSA.

Do you not think that these should be part of a child's education?

And what about Math? Do children not need to perform basic math functions?

The only reason the state tests these is because the rest of the world wonders why our students can't perform a even basic level. So tests are required to ensure that school teach the skills. Why do you object? It is why we have schools, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

R.R. certainly "Education is more than that." However, PPS isn't even educating to minimal standards. In order to be able to understand ANYTHING or learn anything you have to be able to discern, to analyze, to comprehend, to "THINK," It seems that the majority of PPS students have not been prepared or successful in meeting these minimal educational objectives.

Questioner said...

Re: 2:52, of course students should for example be able to draw inferences but not all inferences are equal. Every student can draw some inferences, and every student is likely to be stumped by an inference at some level of difficulty. The question is, where to set the bar and how to allocate time and effort between inference drawing and other areas such as communication skills, life skills, being able to work with others, reliability, etc.

Anonymous said...

Who would argue with you, Questioner, certainly not here.

HOWEVER, why would any of these skills be mutually exclusive, as you seem to infer?

Of course, the other skills you mention are 'givens'! But, it doesn't seem that these skill or the arts, or foreign languages, or many, many other critical skills are being taught and learned by our students in PPS schools.

To FOCUS on Reading and Math is absolutely COUNTERPRODUCTIVE and that is what is happening in PPS.

P.S. Your reference to "inference" seems also to imply that students are tested beyond there level. Why do you suggest this in your response?

Questioner said...

The fact that state tests vary so greatly in their level of difficulty indicates that there is not a consensus on what the expected level of, say, a 4th grader should be. Even greater variation exists when tests used by other countries are considered. The expected level of an 8th grade student in most Asian countries is very different from the expected level of a student of the same age in the US. And while we want students to excel in all areas there are only so many hours available, extended days and years notwithstanding.

Anonymous said...

The previous references made were regarding the PSSA as opposed to other states or other countries.

The quality, the validity, the reliability of the PSSA and the progression at each grade level has been evaluated and reported, nationally, to be among the better State assessments.

The point made earlier was that "skills" required for the PSSA assessment, can be widely distributed in all classrooms across all content areas, texts, the arts, foreign language, etc. and even taught most effectively, in situations, within classroom and outside of classroom.

No extra or extended time (hours or years), no "remediation", no tutoring, etc. would be needed, ever, if the skills were taught as "life skills" or as "education" on a day-to-day, minute-by-minute basis in schools and out of schools!

Questioner said...

The point was that there does not seem to be an accepted level that a student should be at to be considered proficient on a test such as the PSSA ; states disagree among themselves and the most widely used benchmark national test does not match up with PSSA expectations. The type of extensive drilling likely to lead to, say, a better math score, is different from the type of activity aimed at other skills not tested by the PSSA.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to say, "drilling" will never lead to better scores. Hopefully, educators understand this even if 'others' do not.

Questioner said...

The word "drilling" may have negative connotations- let's just say practice. There is truth in the old saying that practice makes perfect (or at least closer to perfect)- as many of us have experienced in our own lives when learning or teaching others.

Rigby Reardon said...

There's nothing wrong with practicing for the test. There's nothing wrong with having a preparatory class that runs like something as an elective before the test. We pummel our kids with so many different tests these days that making the requirements and strategies for the test clear actually should be a priority.
More than anything else, convincing kids about the implications of the test is important, too, especially at the junior level.
Convincing kids that they *can* achieve and do well on the test, that it is written with an expectation and/or bias that urban kids can't do well, that it is written by *suits* and not teachers, and that there truly are strategies that can lead to success actually should be a priority.
Convincing and reminding juniors that they must pass the test should also be a continually revisited idea. All of the above thoughts--that deal more with the student's self-confidence and approach to taking it--must be addressed.

Anonymous said...

"HOWEVER, why would any of these skills be mutually exclusive, as you seem to infer?

Of course, the other skills you mention are 'givens'! But, it doesn't seem that these skill or the arts, or foreign languages, or many, many other critical skills are being taught and learned by our students in PPS schools."

How many 11th graders from PPS know what infer means?

Anonymous said...

"Pittsburgh Public Schools stood by its preliminary report that an unusual result at Sterrett Classical Academy stemmed from a large change in the number of economically disadvantaged students."

Read more:

Does this mean that this school cannot educate/teach "economically disadvantaged students" OR that "economically disadvantaged students" cannot learn?


Anonymous said...

Well, 1:55, all PPS 11th graders SHOULD know what the word INFER means, since it has been on the list of Pa Department of Education required skills that should be taught from Grades 3 thru 11 since (at least) 2002!

If they do not know what INFER means by 11th grade, (after more than seven years of PSSA skills assessed) then it is NO MYSTERY why PPS students are largely NOT PROFICIENT!

There is much more to be said here, but what is the point?!!!???

Anonymous said...

As has been stated here many times in the past, Sterrett's feeder pattern changed that year. Why take a potshot at a school that for years HAS made AYP and that has continued to do so even after many of the Squirrel Hill families have opted for Minadeo???
What can you be thinking?

Rigby Reardon said...

Anon at 9:07, envision a student sitting at a desk with a PSSA exam in front of him and going "eenie, meanie, miney, moe" to determine his choice of answers. Imagine a student putting her hand over her eyes and determining the answer that way.
Imagine a student leaving two-thirds of his answer sheet blank.
Knowing what "infer" means is irrelevant. Getting students to care is much more to the root of the problem, which goes hand in hand with my previous note.
Teachers who have success with PSSA's in grade 11 are first and foremost motivators. Unless you are at CAPA or at Obama, you need to be someone who inspires kids to knock out the test. You have to make it personal.
And now with the PSSA proficiency number going up to 82 next year, teachers at those schools better know how to motivate, too.
These standardized tests prove absolutely NOTHING and Diane Ravitch has it right. But in an era that connects student achievement to test scores, teachers need to be a combination of Bill Cowher and Vince Lombardi in the classroom, and still teach the strategies needed for success.

Anonymous said...

Schools have to be good for all students not just Squirrel Hill students. If they are not then they are not better than schools in areas where students are less advantaged.

We need schools that create good students, not schools where the students have to come already "good."

It is the job of schools to educate, not communities or parents!

Anonymous said...

Good educators do inspire and motivate any and all kids. Students of good educators would never have students who put their hands over their eyes or do any "eenie, meenie, miney, moe" to select answers.

If students were graduating with the skills necessary to be successful we wouldn't need any standardized tests!

deegazette said...

Rigby, your describing the "eenie meenie" and hand over the eyes methods of test taking leads me to guess that you have met my son. Yep, getting kids to buy-in to the importance of the test is critical and almost impossible.

My kids have always done their best in classes where they like the teacher. They usually like the teacher because he/she really knows the subject. The teacher can convince the kid that the subject is of great importance to the entire human race. I mean really, is there anything more wonderful than Physics? Perhaps the Human Capital Managers should hear that as a suggestion?

Anonymous said...

Glad my child wasn't in a PPS where students did "eenie, meanie, miney, moe" etc.!

The students there didn't have problems, since they understood what was being assessed and were confident they could do well.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there is a reading comprehension problem on this site, as well. The point about Sterrett was and is that the school has annually made AYP and for the last couple of years has done so even though Squirrel Hill families really don't send their kids there anymore. What's your problem with that?
I'm sure the board is somewhat disappointed in Sterrett's success, to be honest. They'd love to close what amounts to a true middle school and re-open it as one of the insane K-8 or 6-12 schools.

Anonymous said...

Are you saying there were no Squirrel Hill kids at Sterrett???? Hmmmm???

A related perspective here might help enhance related “comprehension”:
In 2010, there was an achievement GAP of 25 percentage points in Reading between Black and White students at Sterrett; and certainly that is BETTER than the GAP of 41 percentage points at Colfax.

It is very clear that Sterrett does a substantially better job with African American students than Colfax and yet, let’s look at what’s happened or happening regarding the principals (that are/were responsible). Hmmmmm????

Questioner said...

Re: 2:11 "It is the job of schools to educate, not communities or parents!"

Many parents and communties see it as their job to help educate their children. Even in the very best of schools with the very best of teachers there can be gaps in the way a particular child responds to a particular program. And even if every child in the country has an identical excellent teacher, those children who also have the help of their parents and communities will have an edge.

Anonymous said...

Minadeo has gone downhill at a very rapid rate. Not just test scores. The RISE or PELA (insert an anagram, I lose track) principal has not enforced rules and it is pretty chaotic now.

I hope Sterrett continues to do well, however with sub par forced curriculum I am afraid it may not.

Anonymous said...

Questioner: 2:11 does not disagree with the point that you make about involved parents giving their child an "edge." YES, that is absolutely TRUE.

HOWEVER, when, repeatedly, 'schools' excuse themselves from the responsibility of educating certain children, from certain parents or certain communities or from poverty, in general, they negate the reason for the schools' existence. Schools should be the great equalizers, the place where ALL children get EQUITY, EXCELLENCE, and EDUCATION that is not available to them elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

How delightfully funny is it that two schools which annually achieve AYP--Obama and Sterrett---are led by principals who are NOT PELA's. (I will not include CAPA in this discussion. While they have a micromanaging PELA in charge who drinks the kool aid, let's be honest...a college kid could lead the school through PSSA's)

Anonymous said...

Kids are doing the "eenie meanie" method because they have come to believe that they go to school 178days a year to prepare for the 4 or so days the PSSA is given. Changing the name from PSSA to something else might help, get a little jazzy or something.

Anonymous said...

"back in the day" students BEGGED to have standardized tests included in grades- why? because teacher-made tests, curriculum, etc. was totally comprehensive- and HARD- standardized tests were a sampling,and didnt take into account strong writing skills, class debate etc. So the standardized tests would have brought up our grades- so of course, good teachers saide no- you will be graded on your total performance. Students knew so much more than the test- and this showed as they went on to higher education.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why people can't get it... Why do I have to put on a circus act to motivate children to learn... Then be accountable for the unwilling child who does not care or feel like learning!!! I'm sick of this idea that these school that do well because of "so called population" start to slide when the school is infiltrated with students that have families that do not support the importance of education!!!

Could the parents b the problem???
Mmmm maybe if we start fining the parents for their child not meeting pssa we would see an increase in desire to learn! U can't force people to take education serious when we hand everything to them for free!

Let's take the entitlement away and make students earn something because they desire and want to better themselves!

Anonymous said...

Re: Anonymous 7:30- the closest I have seen a PPS come to excusing itself from educating certain children is when schools feeling pressure decide to focus on children near the proficent/not proficient line. PPS sure seems to be trying like the dickens, this program, that program, one consultant or another, incentives like paying students to come to class or summer school. Almost all principals and teachers seem to be trying really hard too. Some of them are burning out.

Rigby Reardon said...

I'm not sure why you have to put on a "circus act", either. Is that what I am talking about? Part of teaching must be to inspire and to motivate. That I would do it with kids who have little motivation to get out of bed doesn't mean that I am a ringmaster or sideshow huckster. The kids would see right through that.
Many years ago, I realized that I simply don't have the types of kids that might go to a Lebo or Hampton. They're not self motivated and have little impetus to excel. They get little in the way of encouragement from home.
So what am I to do?
While I agree with most of the things you have written, the reality is that the way things currently are dictates the way I have to teach. I might not think much of standardized tests but the problem is that the state does, the district does and my principal does, whether he or she is a PELA or not. Since this has been the state of affairs in urban education for decades, I have to think that the cavalry isn't coming over the hill to change things anytime soon.
Parents just don't care.
Many of the kids are apathetic.
This is the real playing field.

Anonymous said...

Are there any educators out there who know how to teach kids on this "playing field"? If so, please speak up! It is time for some voices of wisdom here!

Rigby Reardon said...

I thought I just did (speak up). Why is comprehension such a problem here?

Anonymous said...

Yes there are still great teachers who can teach and do daily on this field. But think of the field with no penalties (consequences) for not being part of the game. For whatever reason, and some are very serious and tragic, there are kids doing bizzarre behaviors in classrooms-ask your kids what they've seen! And sadly, the kids who suffer are the most disadvantaged. The "good kids" (the teacher-pleaser types) survive and curl up in their work when strange acts happen. I wasnt that kid! Some kids are easily distracted, especially if the "acting-out" kid is their race or gender. You cant put them out-- so leveling that field becomes a whole different game-- and teaching isnt the main goal.

Anonymous said...

It is becoming clearer why PPS isn't working; there are few, if any, who think they can make it work.

Those who don't believe they can do it or that it cannot be done, are correct. They live what they believe, most people do.

We need more in PPS who think they can teach, and, therefore do teach, successfully.

Until we find enough of these right people PPS will continue to decline. Sad.

Questioner said...

Probably no one goes into teaching thinking they won't be successful. Actual experience however may yield mixed results, despite teachers best efforts. Certainly there have been plenty of examples at schools such as HCZ where teachers were as optimistic as could be but still encountered difficulties.

Questioner said...

The Roosevelt administration set up a screening system to ensure teaching candidates have a certain set of attitudes and beliefs.

Rigby Reardon said...

"It is becoming clearer why PPS isn't working; there are few, if any, who think they can make it work."

Utter baloney. You must work in administration.

What's clear is that PPS is a failure thanks to central administrators who think they can auto pilot classroom instruction and never leave the ivory tower.
Teachers aren't the problem. Interference from know-nothings on Bellefield Avenue IS the problem.

Any good teacher knows that you build bridges with your kids, regardless of their background or learning styles. Unfortunately, this district doesn't want that rapport. They want nameless, faceless, bland instruction.

This district's leadership is a complete joke.