I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

What Is the Goal of NJ's New "School Report Cards"?

Let's suppose we got a bunch of educational researchers together with the goal of identifying 30 high-achieving schools in New Jersey. Using a combination of test scores and course selections and GPAs and AP scores and attendance records and all sorts of other metrics, our raters would select this group of 30 "peers," all having demonstrated they are doing very well by various academic measures.

Once they had identified this group of schools, what should the researchers do? Should they gather the teachers and principals together to commend them for their achievements? Maybe give the students in the schools an opportunity to learn from each other in a collaborative setting? Certainly, we'd want to celebrate the achievements of these fine 30 institutions; we'd want to commend them, their students, their teachers, and their administrators for their commitment to excellence. That would be the rational, humane response, wouldn't it?

Which means, of course, it's not the response of the New Jersey Department of Education.

The NJDOE has decided, instead, that the best way to celebrate the high achievement of these 30 schools is to rank them against each other, and designate those in the lower part of the distribution as "lagging." Some schools will be "High Performance"; some will be "Significantly Lagging" - even if they are schools with students achieving at a high level.

Yes, that's right: a high performing school, under the new rules of the NJODE, can now be "Significantly Lagging." Welcome to our brave, new reformy world:
The reports create some seeming contradictions. A high school may hit 100 percent of stated targets — but be placed in the 44th percentile among its peers in area such as "Graduation and Post Secondary."

The idea, according to the state, is to encourage all schools to improve. 
"Every school in New Jersey has some area that needs improvement," the state said in a document prepared to explain the new reports. "The performance reports ... will assist every school in taking the next step for improvement."

Now, the NJDOE thinks this is actually going to help schools. They think what these schools are missing is that extra little kick of competition to make them super-awesome-excellent. Here's the problem:

If "success" is how you do compared to your "peers," someone will always lose. Someone will always be at the bottom - even if they are doing a great job!

By this logic, Scotty Pippin was mediocre because he wasn't Michael Jordan. Buzz Aldrin is lame because he could have been Neil Armstrong. Oh, you got a 2350 on the SAT? You know there are lots of kids who got a 2400, don't you? Slacker...

This report card has many, many other flaws - I, and no doubt others, will get those soon enough. But the biggest mistake in this whole enterprise is the premise that it's based on: that a competition between "peer" schools is instructive. It isn't. It tells us nothing useful; there is nothing meaningful to act upon when a "report card" compares "peers" in this manner.

Why, then, is NJDOE doing this? What's the goal?

More here, you "losers"...


Galton said...

Cerf is planning on using these "peer groupings" as part of the teacher evaluation tool also!
He is extremely thin skinned and has been following the criticism ( discovery) of his mSGP and SGO scheme.

So, if the VAM does not work, and the SGP isn't even designed to work, what is a Good little BROADIE spawn to do?
Wait until you see the stupidity soon to be announced. He is proposing to add the " school peer groupings" into the mSGP attribution!
Wish I could see Bruce Baker or Matt DiCarlo's face when they see this new scam.

is there no shame at all in the NJDOE?

How long can Schullman shill this stuff?

edlharris said...

Do Obama, Christie, Cerf, Rhee, et. al. do the same with their own children?

darciecima said...

Why not have teachers evaluate their students the same way? Instead of individual report cards, students can be ranked against other students in the school with similar abilities/disabilities and whose parents have the same low/high paying jobs.

Johnny's parents can then see that their darling boy may be getting an A-, but other kids in his peer group are getting A+'s, so they better push Johnny harder to raise those scores if he wants to get into a competitive college!

And Marisol's parents can see that while she may be getting a C in her class, the other kids in her "peer group" are getting D's or failing, so looks like Marisol is doing OK after all! No need to worry!

After all, how can kids excel if they don't compete with each other!? That's what this is all about - Cerf and his acolytes think that competition is what promotes growth and change in education, so let's take it down to the level where the change needs to happen; to the students!

What a total crock...

teachersoccupynj said...

Great points about teachers and schools collaborating. If I know that I am ranked by peer group and someone is going to be above me, there is no way I am sharing any of my good ideas. I teach in a poor, urban school so I am used to being knocked down, but I wonder how some of the affluent districts will react to this. Maybe now that this is not just inner-city bashing, we will actually get Christie and Cerf out.