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Disputing the disagreements in the SAS report

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Is it just a "technical disagreement" how Wake and SAS assess the performance of low-income students?

As noted in today's article, the SAS report is adding fuel to the school board races. One thing that has drawn a lot of attention is SAS questioning the way Wake normalizes the performance of low-income students when assessing school performance.

Asst. Supt. David Holdzkom said Wake isn't alone in making adjustments for low-income students. He called it a "technical disagreement" between Wake and SAS, which doesn't make that adjustment.

Williams Sanders, a co-author of the SAS report, was livid about it being considered just a "technical disagreement." He argued that the federal government has rejected using those kinds of adjustments in Wake's Effectiveness Index while signing off on the SAS EVAAS approach.

"Our method has been reviewed extensively and their method has been rejected by the Education Department," Sanders said.

Sanders said if it was just a "technical disagreement," he wouldn't have taken the time to respond to Wake's earlier assessment of EVAAS. He said it was during the compilation of the report that they discovered issues such as how the greater than expected academic drop off at higher poverty schools and the 8th-grade Algebra I gap.

"We didn't set out to to bash the Wake County school system," Sanders said. "We set out to correct the inaccuracies in their report."

Sanders said the fact that Wake is having a harder time than the rest of the state in improving academic progress as the poverty level increases at a school indicates there could be a problem with how the curriculum is being taught at individual schools.

Holdzkom said a possible reason for the achievement gap could be the large number of high-performing students in the district. Sanders disagreed with that reason.

Holdzkom said that a school district committee has already been looking at how to increase the number of minority students taking math courses. But he said that you also don't want to rush students into taking Algebra I who are not prepared.

Sanders said they considered the issue of Algebra I readiness by only looking at the students who appeared to be statistically ready to take the course. He said those students were far less likely to take Algebra I in 8th-grade than in some other districts they reviewed.

"Kids in certain demographic groups are getting a seat [in Algebra I] less frequently than they should be," Sanders said.

Holdzkom said that he didn't feel there was a need to draft a response to the SAS report.

Sanders said he was "shocked" at how little use EVAAS gets in Wake, the state's largest district, compared to the other 114 school districts. He said Wake had only agreed on Thursday to continue using EVAAS for classroom level analysis, much later than other school districts.

One of the issues that has emerged is why school board members didn't receive the report until Friday, three months after it was given by SAS. (Holdzkom says SAS hand-delivered the report to Supt. Del Burns on June 30.)

Sanders repeatedly stressed that it was not the intention at SAS for the report to become a campaign issue.

Holdzkom said the SAS report was treated just the same way as any other technical report would be handled. He said they don't routinely give technical reports to board members unless asked.

"We generate a lot of reports and requests for information," Holdzkom said. "We don't give them all to the board."

Holdzkom denied any attempt to "bury the report." He said there was no reason to do so, pointing to how the report does say Wake is doing well overall compared to other districts.

"I don't know why we would bury a report that would show we're doing better than the rest of the state," Holdzkom said.


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Listening to Lori Millberg on WPTF

When asked about the SAS report, Lori Millberg said that what has been said in the SAS report has been largely misunderstood or misinterpreted. Wake County has developed their own model to take the success of 'schools' into consideration. SAS does not take into account how many kids are low income. Wake County makes allowances for low income kids. When asked directly if she thought it was inaccurate, she said no. Huh?


I just got an e-mail from WCPSS with the following headline:

"Wake County Public School System students take part in 2009 Walk to School Day
October 6, 2009 - Students from schools across Wake County will take part in the national Walk To School celebration on Wednesday, October 7."

Do they expect the kids who live 18 miles from their school to be able to participate?

I Saw That Too!

If you look at the list of schools there are only 13 schools listed to participate!  It's probably because the other 130+ schools don't have kids in their neightborhood!  Sarcasm off!



I think they are referring

I think they are referring to the other 90% of the students.

What's the stat? 90% live

What's the stat? 90% live within a 10 mile radius?  My kids are part of that 90% but neither one could walk to their base school. 

Janis--I've got a friend

Janis--I've got a friend whose kid is in a magnet and who defends the diversity policy like she wrote the dang thing herself. Whenever the reassignment plan comes out she doesn't bother to look because "we were smart enough to go the magnet route so we can't get reassigned". Same thing--the policy is fantastic as long as she's not affected.

supportwcpss--I've never bashed SAS and don't recall anybody here doing so. I'm not a big fan of the Goodnights and their "vote for the bond and then we'll work on MYR" con job but I've never said anything about SAS.

RevHiD--WSCA members may not

RevHiD--WSCA members may not know how to deal with the complex underlying reasons, but you wouldn't even know about important issues like this if it weren't for WSCA members pushing for them to be out in the open. It sounds like you may have some insight, so become part of the solution! The diversity/segregation argument is merely a distraction from the real issues of this campaign. Doesn't it bother you that none of the status-quo candidates are talking about these issues?

I hear them say "yes, there are some things that could be better", but we can't let the diversity policy be destroyed or else we'll have segregation. I hear them use fear tactics instead of addressing the real problems in this system. Its just like the empty promises from Friends of Wake County--"yes, we know that MYR is a problem, but just vote for the bond and then we'll work on MYR." They got their bond passed and have neither said nor done ANYTHING about MYR. That is what will happen with the status quo candidates as well. Nothing will change.

The current diversity policy isn't about making sure minority or low income kids get an equal opportunity. its about keeping central Raleigh schools looking good so business leaders can keep the money rolling in. They do not care about those students.

SETDA Offers Technology Resource Guide for Title I

The four guiding principles for distributing the funds, says the document, are to "spend funds quickly to save and create jobs; improve student achievement through school improvement and reform; ensure transparency, reporting, and accountability; and invest one-time funds from the economic-stimulus program thoughtfully to minimize the 'funding cliff.' "

The Engineer...

in me CRINGES over this whole debacle.

First of all, HOW can MATH be "culturally biased"? Does 1+1=2 in white homes and 3 in black homes? Man, and they call the WSCA people racist?!?

Secondly, as someone (not a product of WCPSS) who went from 7th grade math, SKIPPED pre-algebra and was sent to Algebra 1 (then called "Sequential One" in NY State) on the recommendation of my 7th grade math teacher (THANK YOU Mr. Podesta!), it's a whole bunch of BULL $H!T for Userblahblahblah or anyone else to assert that children MUST be held back. Yes, that first week I had no clue how to "graph the equation", but with the dedication of Mr Marino (God, I loved my math teachers!) I caught up in a few weeks.

Apparently, MY teachers/school believed it worthwhile to give me a few weeks of extra help so I could EXCEL in academics rather than hold me back and force me to be bored for a year in pre-algebra in order to satisfy their narcissistic need to believe that certain people are simply incapable of learning "unless they deem it so"

Good heavens!

A huge amount of evidence

A huge amount of evidence shows that in spite of improvements, testing is still culturally biased. WCPSS like many educators, adjusts because of this problem. If I gave a test with street language to a Harvard PhD, they'd probably fail. When kids spend most of their time with an electronic babysitter because their parents can't afford quality preschool or child care, they come to kindergarten thinking a duck says "Afflac!" The same test is not an equal measure for all!

In spite of saying this, I do agree that there are problems. Anybody who says I don't care doesn't know me at all. I think the WSCA will not address the actual complex root causes, and quite probably make them worse.

The minority kids score just

The minority kids score just fine. But even with fine scores they get tracked low.

You would rather?

You would rather have a system that hides critical information, uses children as pawns and allows its administrators - not elected officials - to use their own personal value judgements and ideals (admitted by Chuck Dulaney) to decide the direction of education?

Wow. The only reason we know anything about the solid parameters of failure this school system has not wanted us to know - especially with regard to how economically disadvantaged children are NOT being served academics - is because of WSCA data researchers over the course of several months.  

Do you like someone to just sing you a happy song, or do you want to know the truth? Personally, even if the truth is painful I'd rather know the truth. WCPSS has a $5M budget to sing those happy tunes though.  

I think you have that backwards

You're asserting, approximately, that the tests score ED students lower than non-ED students.  

The report, however, says that if you have an ED student and a non-ED student who SCORE THE SAME, then the non-ED student has a better chance of being tracked into advanced math than the ED student.




Oh, how bussing does

Oh, how bussing does address complex root causes.

I say, stop bussing so we can focus on and attempt to solve these complex issues.  Honestly, you should be embarrassed for continuing to support bussing.  Is that the best you can do?  It has failed everyone. 

"Oh, how bussing does

"Oh, how bussing does address complex root causes" 

How does lunch selection address this issue?  It doesn’t … not all the world’s ills are associate with a bus … the reason poor minority kids don’t get into the advanced classes is probably subtle and unconscious discrimination by the teachers …. They don’t think the kids can do the work … they manipulate the recommendation from day one to favor White and Asian kids who they assume can handle the work … minority / poor kids have the deck stacked against them from the day they step in the school …. In addition, it does not matter if they are in their neighborhood school or some other school … I am guessing why they may do better in schools where they are a minority is the stigma is not present and kids are assumed to all be above average …. Come on … you know the process … you wear a suit to a store and they bypass the minorities to come help you first…

Institutionalized discrimination

Fine, if you want to believe that all human collections have some level of bias, then fine. I won't argue with you either way. 

HOWEVER - when it is discovered that a system which educates our children calculates and institutionalizes discrimination there is NO WAY that should be brushed under the rug, minimized, rationalized, or ignored. Otherwise, where is the line?

All that false talk about suburban parents not wanting poor kids in their kids' schools, and now the same folks are EXCUSING blatant racism by their golden system? That's rich. There's a log in your eye, user. 

Maybe this is partly why the Supreme Court decided that child assignment should not be made based upon race. I think we just discovered some of the risks when that happens, eh? 

I honestly don't think I've

I honestly don't think I've ever worn a suit to a store. Sorry.  Don't get it.

What about a dress and

What about a dress and makeup ... you do get out of the "neighborhood"?


That may be the case.  But, then why would Wake teachers subtely and unconsciously discriminate more than teachers elsewhere in the state?  That is, after all, what the SAS report found.


it is not so subtle. They

it is not so subtle. They are given Effectiveness Index residuals to use that give "targets" for students that are lower for ED students.

Algebra 1

Kids in certain demographic groups are getting a seat [in Algebra I] less frequently than they should be," Sanders said.

I am cracking up at this!!

My son is in 9th grade and we are not a minority ,he is still NOT in Agebra 1.He received a 1 on his EOG in 8th grade and has to take Foundations of Algebra and Indroductory to Math before he is able to take Algebra 1.Nobody who got a 1 on their 8th grade math EOG is allowed to take Algebra 1 no matter what their skin color is or even how much their parents make.

Did anyone ask others why their children are not in Algebra 1 or they did just assume it was a minority thing.By the way the class has 30 students and 28 are boys.Does it mean they are discriminating the boys.Sorry I don't believe it.

I guess Sanders should have

I guess Sanders should have said, "Kids in certain demographic groups who have demonstrated ability and are succeeding the same or better than the students who do get seats...."

Scoring a 1

My kids are not this age yet, so its not clear to me if a 1 is a good grade or a bad grade. Could you clarify? I can't determine if your child got a good grade and is still not in Algebra I  or if they got a bad grade and are not in Algebra I.

"How are the tests

"How are the tests scored?

All of these tests, except the computer skills test and the North
Carolina Competency Test, are scored based on four levels of
achievement, with level 1 being the lowest and level 4 the highest.
Students scoring at or above level 3 are considered to be proficient.
The goal is for all students to score at or above the proficient level
on the tests. The North Carolina Test of Computer Skills and the North
Carolina Competency Tests are scored on a pass-fail basis. The state's
goal is for all students to pass the tests."

Oh, ok.

So its the same as any other public school score. I wasn't sure, because if her child scores a 1 then they need to be in pre-algebra. What the SAS study reveals is that children who are scoring 4s are NOT passed on to Algebra I BECAUSE they are low-income and/or minority. How someone would want to find excuses for that simply for a political game is beyond me. Regardless of which solution you think should be pursued, or which candidate you back, this is something we should all care DEEPLY about! Children are being thrown in the waste bin. This is an outrage!

"How someone would want to

"How someone would want to find excuses for that simply for a political game is beyond me. "

Suggest looking at staffing ... minority school has a few students ready for Algebra ... wealthy school has a lot of kids ... maybe the sad thinking is that staffing an Algebra teacher at the wealthy school will take care of the most students and staffing an Algebra teacher at a minority school is a waste of money since there may not be enough students to fill a class ... just econmomics ...

I think if parents knew

I think if parents knew Algebra I was the gate to college they would pay more attention ... minority and poor kids who don't expect to get to go to college probably don't pay attention ... other parent are probably too busy and defer to the school system ... also, if you attend a school with many F&Rs there is no “critical mass” of students who take Algebra like there is at a golden ,low F&R school so the Algebra teacher is not hired …


Are you suggesting that some WCPSS middle schools don't have Algebra I?  Which schools?  If so, is that really a district you want to support?



That would be interesting

That would be interesting data ... compare race make up of the MS Algebra class vs. student body ... I think you will find Whites and Asian make up a disproportional population of the Algebra class ...  I think you will find the root cause is subtle discrimination in teacher recommendation guiding minority students to less challenging classes …

So the teachers in Guilford

So the teachers in Guilford and CMS are better at avoiding this subtle discrimination, why exactly?

because of the effectiveness

because of the effectiveness index

You're Making Things Up

...the SAS report does not make any comparisons to either Charlotte or Guilford.  Neither word appears anywhere in the report. 

Thanks to the others who

Thanks to the others who answered this nonsense for me...I was in a meeting.

chaboard, have someone introduce you to the Search/Find function on your computer.

Yeah, My Apologies

....I was using Mac search key combos in the window where I had Windows running virtually. 

 Not a good idea.


Carry on.


The report is based on

The report is based on analyses of several NC Counties.


Figure 1.  EVAAS math school value-added estimates plotted against schools’ self-reported percentages of free/reduced meal eligibility

Note:  In the graphs above, the red dots represent Wake County Schools and the black dots represent other schools in the state  

"Notice that although WCPSS enrolls about half of the students academically prepared for Algebra I in middle school, Chapel Hill/Carrboro, Charlotte Mecklenberg, Guilford County and Durham County are enrolling greater percentages of Algebra I ready students in middle "

So, you're right. Its not just Guilford that we're behind. 

However, WSCA data analysts, looking at the graphs, had this to say and it was included on a coversheet - with the WSCA logo to separate it from the rest of the packet - to the report handed out at the event yesterday:

"Of the school districts analyzed in the SAS report, Guilford County does the best job at placing sufficiently proficient students in the advanced 8th grade Algebra math course.  Could this be why Guilford County's graduation rate is so much better across student subgroups relative to Wake County and 20 percentage points higher among low income students?"


So Guilford enrolls more

So Guilford enrolls more kids into Algebra early ... at least they should try to teach them something instead of simply filling the classroom.. it is not always about quantity  ... quality needs needs to be considered ...

 EOCs - Guilford well below State ....


Algebra I Algebra II % better than GF
Wake 79% 77% 122% 131%
State 69% 67% 106% 114%
Guilford 65% 59%

Perhaps Guilford would do

Perhaps Guilford would do better if they would just decide who was going to pass before they even entered the classroom (like WCPSS).  Who cares if some of those kids actually could make it (even though they were poor and black) but never got the chance.   You cannot see the forest for the trees! 

Than you would be moaning

Than you would be moaning about the low pass rate for these kids .... you won't be happy whatever happens ....

So forget the computer

So forget the computer program and the bias teacher recommendation and stuff everyone in Algebra and let the material sort the kids out .... be like Guilford's ... lots of kids and lowest EOC % passing for Algebra .... if Guilford is this slack on Algebra it might also explain their high graduation rate  ... lower the bar ....

Check again...

Quote from the report:

Algebra- ready students who are enrolling in middle
grades as opposed to the Algebra ready students who are not enrolling.  Students were determined to be Algebra ready
in 8th grade if they tested in 7th grade math in 2007,
tested in some subject in 2008 and had a probability of testing at proficient
of 70% or better.  Notice that although
WCPSS enrolls about half of the students academically prepared for Algebra I in
middle school, Chapel Hill/Carrboro, Charlotte Mecklenberg, Guilford County and
Durham County are enrolling greater percentages of Algebra I ready students in
middle school.

We are talking about

We are talking about students that have proven they are proficient in math by scoring a high enough level III or IV score on the 7th grade math EOG to warrant placement in 8th grade Algebra I.  Fewer minority students that have proven they are capable of placement in 8th grade Algebra I are actually being placed in this critical advanced math class.


Thereby limiting the whole path of their academic career. Cut off. Amputated. In the 7th grade someone's value judgement determines that this child or that child can or cannot be an engineer, a scientist, a computer programmer. This is worse than being in the 1960s. This is like the 1920's! Or, really, like the Dark Ages where if your father was a surf you would be a surf as well.  Its like a horrible child-sorting factory which takes a look at a kid to decide if they are defective - in spite of showing that they can do the work. 


serf, sweetie

That is "serf" not surf, and its not worse than the 60s because I am a female and I was allowed to study math. In the 60s neither low income, minority, or females could study math. So, this is bad but not worse than the 60s.

 It is a horrible child sorting factory. You are right on that.

I don't know why you thought it was better at some time prior to this. Did you have a lot of Blacks and low income kids in your high school AP Calculus class? 

N&O only acts when blood is in the water

Yes, it is nice that the N&O finally reported on this. But they generally will only go after their friends (Black, Morgan, Ballance, Easley, Edwards, etc.) when they taste blood in the water, i.e. there are mountains of irrefutable facts against them. That's all that has happened here. Mr. Hui did not stumble across the report in his own investigative reporting without some external help, but he has done a good job of pressuring WCPSS to make statements and for this I give him a B+. There is enough corruption in NC politics to keep a hundred reporters busy for their entire careers in our state.

Snooze ....

"Holdzkom said that a school district committee has already been looking at how to increase the number of minority students taking math courses. But he said that you also don't want to rush students into taking Algebra I who are not prepared."


Just stick all the kids in Algebra I and be done with it if that will make the anti-Diversity group happy ... some kids fail out ... so what, they can take it again and get the second time ...


"Holdzkom said the SAS report was treated just the same way as any other technical report would be handled. He said they don't routinely give technical reports to board members unless asked."


So, ask Ron how many technical reports he has be given. If this is the only technical report he did not receive this year ... than there is your smoking gun ...


"What is also alarming to me is the lack of interest by our news media (except in this blog) in this bombshell report. "


Watching two statistian duke it out on these matters is only a “bombshell” at some technical conference …I am sure this is the hot topic over lunch at SAS .... Unless it involves sex the general public won’t care …

this isn't two statisticians

this isn't two statisticians duking it out. This is back of the bus stuff.


You've set up a few strawmen there.

(1)  Nobody's talking about sticking all rising 8th graders into Algebra.  But, according to the report, Wake basically says "I see that you're ready for Algebra in 8th grade.  Oh, but you're black, so we'll stick you in pre-algebra instead."  

(2)  Your second point assumes that this was merely a "technical report."  I suggest that assumption is invalid. 

(3)  Part of the press' job is to analyze information and explain why things are important.   Unfortunately, I suspect that the report was too dense for most of the TV reporters to understand.  

 Personally, I'm more inclined to believe the SAS side that the WCPSS side here:  Given the results and the proximity of the election, WCPSS has a huge incentive to discredit or minimize SAS's approach, but SAS has no similar incentive to discredit WCPSS' approach.



SAS, which has been bashed over and over again on this blog, is suddenly geniouses who should be trusted.

It's all about your side.


When have I ever "bashed" SAS? 

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.