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.