WakeEd

The WakeEd blog is devoted to discussing and answering questions about the major issues facing the Wake County school system. How will the new student assignment plan balance diversity, stability, proximity and stability? How will Jim Merrill replace Tony Tata as the new superintendent of the state's largest district? How will voters react to a $810 million school construction bond referendum on Oct. 8 ballot? How will this fall's school board elections impact the future of the district?

WakeEd is maintained by The News & Observer's Wake schools reporter, T. Keung Hui. While Keung posts information and analysis on the issues, keep us posted on your suggestions, questions, tips and what you're doing to cope with the changes in Wake's schools.

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Striving for 100 percent Algebra I placement

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The message coming from Thursday's Wake County school board economically disadvantaged student performance task force meeting is to accept nothing less than 100 percent placement of qualified middle school students in Algebra I.

As noted in today's article, staff said that 85.2 percent of eighth graders projected by EVAAS to be ready to take Algebra I have already been placed for the 2011-12 school year, up from 61.1 percent last year.

Central Office will work with the middle schools to get that placement rate as close as they can to 100 percent before traditional-calendar schools start next week.

“We’ve got to turn this ship on a dime because students need to be in the right math classes this year," said Marvin Connelly, assistant superintendent for student support services.

Click here for the math handouts from the task force meeting. You'll see that there is school-by-school placement data, which school board vice chairman John Tedesco told task force members will allow Wake to single out which schools are doing well and which ones they have to "get into gear."

Tedesco also explained they need a board policy on middle school math placement because there's been "too much flexibility" at the individual school level.

During the presentation, it was pointed out how the percentage of students projected by EVAAS to be ready to take pre-algebra in seventh grade and Algebra I in eighth grade had shot up overall and among different subgroups.

For instance, the percentage of academically ready low-income students who've been placed for 2011-12 in Algebra or pre-algebra is now at 80 percent, up from 57 percent the prior year. It's also above 80 percent for black and Hispanic students.

Far more middle school students are taking Algebra I and pre-algebra than two years ago.

During a Q&A, task force member Marvin Pittman asked what support was being given to students who've been placed. Connelly replied they had repurposed additional funding to schools to provide support to students.

Connelly also brought up how what happened with students who were identified as being ready for Algebra I but weren't placed because they hadn't taken pre-algebra. After taking pre-algebra, he said those students were given the opportunity to go to summer school to take Algebra I.

Connelly said all 80 students in the first group passed Algebra I while 77 of 78 students passed in the second group. It reinforced a point that Tedesco made throughout the meeting that the students identified by EVAAS are capable of doing the work and just need to be given a chance.

Task force member Jason Langberg asked if there's in something being done to see why EVAAS identified students aren't being placed. Staff said a comprehensive audit of all the middle schools is underway.

Tedesco pointed back to the report on eight schools which showed that teacher judgment was the top reason why students weren't placed. He said that's why the new board policy will only allow professional judgment to be used to place up a student and not down.

Langberg agreed that "it was great progress."

Pittman and fellow task force member Janet Johnson both raised the concern about middle schools moving Algebra from being the gatekeeper grade in eighth grade to seventh grade to get around the new policy.

One of the task force members said they need to communicate that the new students taking Algebra I are qualified and capable so as to avoid a run of students trying to take the course in seventh grade.

Jennifer Mansfield, a task force member and school board candidate, said some schools are already changing the gateway to take Algebra I in seventh grade. She cited Ligon Middle School, where she said students were contacted with the offer to take Algebra I in seventh grade based on their test scores.

Mansfield said she's concerned that the magnet schools will be pushing hard to get students to take Algebra I in seventh grade, putting students in non-magnet schools at a disadvantage.

"Some schools are making their own rules," Mansfield said. "I’m not saying some of those kids don’t deserved to be moved up. But we need to look it up.”

Tedesco agreed they need to monitor any efforts to change the gateway grade.

Tedesco proceeded to lay out the game plan of what he expects to see happen next.

First, he said schools will work to get more kids placed before the first day of class. Then he said he expects to get a report on the 20th day of classes showing how many students have been placed at each school.

Tedesco said they'll also empower parents with information on why proper math placement is important,

Additionally, Tedesco said he expects staff to ensure that all guidance counselors have access to EVAAS accounts and that counselors, principals and teachers are supported with the professional development they need on the issue.

Pittman said it would also help if the district communicated to parents that the placement efforts won't hurt other students or lower standards. Tedesco agreed.

"The standards aren’t being lowered," Tedesco said. "These kids are capable. They’re being given an opportunity now.”

Janet Howard, a community member, said it would help if Wake communicated to parents that the mistake was made by the district not to have placed these students. Tedesco agreed that would be a good idea too.

The task force then went over the draft policy. Among the suggested revisions were spelling out who can make a recommendation for a lower placement and including language about supporting students.

After the meeting, Tedesco said he wold look at modifying the wording to say that only a parent could make a recommendation for a lower placement. This would close up the possibility that teachers could make them.

Tedesco said the policy will be presented to the full board in September. He pledged to the task force he'd do whatever it would take to get it passed.

Also after the meeting, Tedesco explained to task force members that the EVAAS prediction that a student has at least a 70 percent probability of success means more than what it sounds. He said these students in reality have been shown to have a 94.2 percent success rate on the state exam.

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Wake Page

Someone sent me mail from the Wake Page list serve. This is a list serve for the parents of gifted children in WCPSS. 

This parent of a gifted child is describing how her daughter did not take 8th grade algebra in NY. They just moved here and she is starting 9th grade at Broughton. She took advanced middle school courses that WCPSS does not have and opted to wait until 9th grade for algebra due to course load.  Now, they will not let her into the quality math track, and will not let her take Honors Biology. Algebra is not needed for Biology. It is just that advanced math and science courses are reserved for students who took 8th grade algebra and only them.

I wonder why she doesn't enroll in that 9th grade algebra class that is rigorous and will lead to advanced STEM courses that Marvin Connelly and Ruth S. said exists now. (Do you suppose it isn't true? Could they have made that up?)  Sorry. I don't where my sarcasm comes from.

Here is from her post:

"Now she is enrolled in: Civics and Economics, Bio, Algebra 1 and 9th grade Honors English. I wanted her to be in Honors Bio but was told she could not because she had not completed Algebra. I'm no whiz at STEM, but that did not make sense to me!

First Day in Algebra she felt she had already covered the material, including plotting graphs using a graphing calculator. She was also somewhat alarmed that many of her Bio classmates did not know what photosynthesis is. I emailed the algebra teacher who says there will be a pre test in algebra on Monday and he would look at her records, and the science teacher who did not yet respond.



According to the school course guides, students can take one semester of Algebra followed by one semester of Geometry, but when I called and asked about that, I was told that was for students who did not do well in Algebra last year. I can see how it might have evolved into that, but that doesn't help a kid like E. From what I've been reading, there were MANY kids in Wake who did not take Algebra in 8th who should have."

Different problem

This girl's problem is different.  Schools in other states structure their math sequencing different and it makes it hard for them to fit in correctly with the sequencing in NC.  NY undoubtedly has more of an integrated math approach.  That will probably fit better next year when WPCSS adopts the Common Core for math. 

According to  the pioneer

According to  the pioneer institute org paper on common core standards, there are many shortcomings to the common core curriculum recommendations (see page 6 of the paper) especially being 1 to 2 years behind in math and leaving large content gaps.  It is an interesting report and worth your review.

Sad

I think it's sad that people move here, believe that our school system is great, and then find out too late about the rigid tracking on the basis of 8th grade Algebra.  And the tracking is so senseless.  My  grade school had 8th grade Algebra as an experimental program.  But you didn't have to take it to get into the higher level math or science classes.  I had geometry my freshman year and there were many excellent students who were sophomores enrolled in my class.  The only advantage of early placement under the experiment was that it made it possible to take Calculus II in high school. 

Yes. And this woman's story

Yes. And this woman's story illustrates that the problem is not kids don't want to take these classes, and their parents don't care to advocate for them. This woman may get this done because she has got Wake Page folks advising her on how to get your kid into the top classes. Her kid is gifted usually means she is from a class with some social power. And look at her struggle to get her daughter into the decent courses. 

I do not understand why kids are kept out of these courses.

COME HOME KEUNG - Narrative on new NPR story

Come on home from vacation, Keung!  We need you to start new threads

We need a thread on the current national NPR story on Wake County and Walnut Creek School.  Maybe we can start without you.

npr.org/2011/08/25/139952859/new-school-opens-in-embroiled-n-c-district?#commentBlock

Here's my satirical narrative on how this NPR story SHOULD have been covered:

Everyone agrees that high concentrations of poverty are bad for education, but the story in Wake County NC is so complex, and the distribution of good guys and bad guys is so much more complicated than a national media outlet like us - dedicated to sound bite moral dramas - can do justice to, that we'll just describe the real story. It goes like this.

A large so-called "progressive" school district mismanages and lies about implementation/adherence to a bright shining diversity policy of "no more than 40%" free and reduced lunch population in any one school,

instead engaging in rapidly shuffling children (part of whom are systemically defined as undesirable and largely unteachable) around to avoid federal sanctions against any one school,

meanwhile quietly letting the much vaunted 40% figure slide much of the distance towards racial and economic segregation with no public admission that the policy is no longer being followed,

meanwhile placing thousands of Title 1 students with fine academic records into remediation - apparently to get federal dollars,

then covering its outrageously poor record at placing poor/minority students into all the better academic opportunities by attacking all messengers, then implementing procedeures it makes no attempt to follow,

then ignoring its damaging legacy - for example, the production of extreme numbers of drop outs or the failure to teach half of the poor kids bussed all over hockeysticks to EVEN LEARN TO READ by 5th grade,

meanwhile encouraging classist "poverty training" to explain why its OK not to extend opportunity or expectations to the poor (its been recently denied but its still going on all over the district),

and then deploying shallow one-sided, institutionalized-left-leaning feel-good propaganda in local, regional, and national media holding up the opposition as conspiratorial local "segregationists" bent on"destruction" of said bright shining lie of a 40% threshold and the blended "healthy schools" data showing high achievement (data specifically designed to hide academic genocide of low income students),

and meanwhile denying nearly all access in local media to moderate voices telling them their version of this is not an important enough story,

and meanwhile engaging in viscious strictly partisan personal attacks aimed at individuals trying to fix this mess improbably characterizing them as "resegregation" and school privatization enthusiasts, intrusive mega-corporate interests, or otherwise self-interested,

and finally never once admitting that the large so-called "progressive" district did any or all of the above,

and then coming under a new administration who is slowly able to peel back the lies and obstructions,

then having the backers and enablers of the earlier administration losing yet another round of school board elections because most of the county simply does not buy this resegregation narrative any more. 

Silence.

And then, confused and irritated at the unresponsiveness of the public for such a clear call to arms to defend the underclass client population (specifically maintained for mobilization as such by all the above policies and strategies) the said district, its local left-leaning supporters, and those parts of the national press of the same unconscious social genocidal mindset are now settling back to watch with bated breath.  What are they watching?

[I didn't have to change this part of the story.] They want to watch closely to see if poor kids can really actually learn when they are taught with good teachers and adequate resources.  This is a big drama.  They think it might prove something.  Education specialists across the United States are watching Walnut Creek Elementary School in Wake County NC to see what happens when retrograde segregationists tear down an award winning school district that was laced with dreamland qualities of diversity and instead attempt to teach poor children with adequate resources and good teachers.  What an experiment! And what will we learn?  We will learn the same thing we always knew.  A school can teach ANYONE just fine when they have resources and high quality teachers and administration. It especially helps to have a community forcing accountabilty on the school district. 

So, once we learn this, we'll agree the problem was how those children were previously treated at the end of the bus ride.  We have to ask - were they treated equitably?  In Wake County, during the "progressive" era, the answer to that question will have to be acknowldged to have been "no."

NPR listeners are encouraged to consider several points.  Are we really caught between the mythical "never-happened" educational glory of the past six years - one that we can never return to - and an equally mythical resegregational future - one which we could never achieve even if ANYONE wanted to?  Is there any possibilty this confusing partisan narrative can change? 

We here at NPR would like to think so, but first we have to advise that the institutionalized left will have to stop cannibalizing their ideological affines among the center and right (when it comes to civil rights issues, anyway), and the institutionalized right will have to realize that (once they get done running the left through a remedial course on the difference between protecting basic civil rights as opposed to imposing an idealization of something that "looks like equity") that we are still going to have to do something to address extreme cases of racial and economic isolation.  It wasn't OK in the 1950s and its still not ok.

The same reasons and the same logic about marginalization, adequate resources, individual civil rights, and accountability still hold true as they did with Brown v. the Board. We urge Wake County to get over this drama and start working together toward real solutions to the very real problems they face.

That's my idea of a compromise narrative that should be enough to sorely irritate nearly everyone. Unfortunately its longer than the NPR story.  Details are hell, eh?

 

And we also need a new thread on the Indy article on school vouchers.  Its pretty important and needs debated  -  indyweek.com/indyweek/when-school-vouchers-attack/Content?oid=2640597

Otherwise we just have to sit here and watch the hurricane.

Reply to SDR from below - Not either/or rather it is

Somehow this posted in the wrong location.

Not either/or rather it is both.

 I thought you were thinking EI specifically. The documented variables used in EI were “special program status” (FRL, LEP, SWD, AG) and poverty level of school (AG increased the prediction; the other factors decreased the prediction). There either wasn’t a variable for race or it was not disclosed. However, you have to keep in mind that in WCPSS, the percentages of students receiving FRL within each race varies (about 10% of White and Asian, 50% of Black, and 70% of Hispanic students). Therefore, discrimination based on FRL status disproportionately impacts the Black and Hispanic student groups. I’m certainly not trying to imply that there isn’t racial bias – there is – but race isn’t a documented part of the EI formula as far as I know, just like it wasn’t a documented part of the former assignment policy. So, the legal eagles would need to chime in, but I think you’d have to show that FRL was actually intended to represent race for a legal case.

 When you are talking about other areas such as subjective recommendations for programs or class placements (math tracking for example) then it could be racial-based, class-based or both. I posted it somewhere else, but if you look at the placement data for the students who weren’t placed yet as of the last EDSPTF, it included a chart that broke it out by ED/NED within each race. From that, one can see that there are both disparities based on race - white students within each socioeconomic group (ED and NED) were placed at higher rate than their black counterparts in the same socioeconomic group for example – and based on class with the NED students within each racial group placed at a higher rate than the ED students in the same racial group. Using actual percentages overall 17% of Black students hadn’t been placed consisting of 22% ED and 12% NED; for White overall was 8% consisting of 18% ED and 7% NED. You can see the impact of variance in FRL within each race, by noting how the overall% for the race compares with the ED/NED breakdown% within the race. This phenomenon is consistent with achievement gap data – there are both racial and socioeconomic gaps.

 That is why we can’t just look at one angle.

thanks but no thanks

your post:

yadda yadda yadda

"not trying to imply that there isn’t racial bias – there is"

yadda yadda yadda

thank you. 

No disrespect intended. I sincerely appreciate that there are folks following this who are very very involved in the specific data, and I understand that is important. On the other hand, I've been involved in enough of these kinds of situations to know that sometimes those with just the right information - I have been following this topic closely for two years -  and a 'gut feeling' can make a huge impact. 

This whole thing just stinks. 

Truly, totally and unquestionably. 

Gutterball SDR, roll

Gutterball SDR, roll again.  Its all about the data.  The rest of us are just loose cannon commentators (and again, no disprespect intended because, of course, I include myself in that descriptor). I think nmoskal is spot on and has provided a beautiful overview of the specifics here.

Rolling again for $50 LL

Fair enough LL. As I said, no disrespect. I don't pretend to be a data specialist.

I'll try rolling again, LL for $50.

Let me explain my post a bit. When we first learned about this issue and the SAS report I was so incensed that I got up in front of the media, the Raleigh mayor, many local political leaders and took the risk of making a fool of myself and waved that report around while others huddled on the sidelines shivering in each others arms (you know who you are). Some would have recommended that I should wait for someone more accurately, politely academic. Then how long would we have waited?

Worse yet, those who organized the Friends of Diversity media event, who pretend to be leaders in protecting the affected children were too worried about their own egos and politics to hear the actual storyline. They would rather have shot the messenger than hear the message.

I recognize that I was a latecomer to the party. There were others there long before the SAS paper who saw what was happening and have spent YEARS dedicated to correcting this scandal. However, I'm not a total sideliner either. I participated in foundational meetings to help get this administration's formal focus on the Algebra 1 issue, until for family reasons no longer could. I may not always be eloquent but I 'get it' on this topic to a level beyond those who love - beyond anything else - to sit and take pot shots.

For two years (and still ticking) it has been a constant frustration that the data picture has been illustrated again and again and again, and yet somehow the 'gut' story has not translated out to the general public. The media has not been interested in this misjustice. 

My point, crudely made, is that imho this story needs to have the data-speak synthesized and published in a way that the average person doesn't just hear "data data data data" - (is that better than yadda?). The academics and dedication to the data have been critical, CRUCIAL to this whole topic. And those who have soldiered on are brave and heroic. But, unless it is brought to light to the public, in a way that can be easily understood, how can we be sure it won't happen again?

We need both passion and academics. I'm glad to say that I know that the most dedicated core of people who have been following this (likely you included. we've probably met in person, but I don't know you by your blog name) have both the passion and the academics. I have been blessed with a good education, but I don't count myself as an academic and sometimes my moral outrage overtakes me; but it isn't from craven, self centered political impulses. 

I think we've been too polite and patient on this topic, frankly. 

I'm not Alex Trebek, but

I'm not Alex Trebek, but I think that one stayed in the mixed-metaphoric lane.  I think you sense I'm not against you and you must know that my own sharp tongue has in part been driven by some of the same  frustrations.  I wasn't joking about me sometimes being a loose cannon too.  Its taken years to become patient and settle for small gains.  And I agree that there has been a shortage of proper and effective display of the "goods" behind the case.  But there are reasons for that. Its a complex case, and its had to be made without any help from the media, especially the liberal media outlets that tend to cover this kind of injustice everywhere else but Wake County.

I do know you were out there taking on dragons headfirst, back when they were still bullet proof.  I went to the Friends of Diversity event and watched the cheerleader approach effortlessly carry the day there.  No amount of clear speech of any format was going to have any effect in that quarter in that time.  It was already political and there was too much foundation needing to be set in place.  I asked one of the outside-the-area speakers afterwards if they were aware that there were WCPSS schools that had X% minority students or Y% F&R students - figures far far in excess of what anyone was admitting to on that day.  I was stared at like I was a saboteur who had snuck in the back door.  It felt like they were going to call a policeman and report that I had said (albeit it truthfully) that Wake County already had a number of schools that were already effectively segregated.  You still can't hear that message - not at NPR or the Huffington Post, the Indy, or a hundred other outlets describing what "Republicans did to this district."  Its forbidden still outside this blog.  If that small effort to try to get agreement on a single indisputable data point had no effect at all, then no amount of passion OR data was going to move the needle at that time.  And from even before the last school board election somehow equity in opportunity was tied to politics and the resistence to same was carried out under political fire.

I think part of the "less than effective passionate display" has been because, in spite of how "righteous" the cause has seemed to be, some of us learned very early on that a peculiar cultural blindness insulated clearly very good people.  Almost every one I know who has worked on this topic went through this erosion of their insulating perspective.  I know I did.  The message was subtle and it bounced off me until I saw it from enough angles and got enough proof that there is something operating here that needs fixed and can be fixed.  The problem was so natural and so extensive to nearly all of us that it couldn't be easily described.  When its fixed then that will become natural and taken for granted.

The other aspect was that there was also very pointed opposition by a small handful of key people who apparently did understand what was being said and THEY were having nothing to do with passionate debate.  And they knew how to fight this every step of the way.  That part has been like trench warfare.  Only data, clear, crisp, perfectly stated, was going to sideline those opponents, and then only slowly.  A few of them resist yet.  It does nothing to gainsay your efforts SDR, to point out that both data and a LOT of passionate explanation and discussion have carried the day and now there are significant numbers of people able to speak convincingly to this.  I hear and see them everywhere I go, in and out of the schools.  And finally its becoming not a political issue now - that's a good measure of success.  Good people need to be convinced well.  We did and they are, and the proof is this article and the nearness of a board policy being implemented.  Maybe there was another way but I'm not sure.  As for your last point, and speaking only for myself, not many who read this blog would probably say I was always patient or polite about my issues. 

Anyway, we're there (although, as you and others have said, we got there in spite of an essentially conspiratorial silence from the media).  These days the Superintendant of WCPSS stands up and says these things about Algebra and EVAAS and placement bias and fixing the whole mess - he says it right out loud for everyone to hear.  And even though the media isn't covering him either, he says we are going to fix it.  I believe him.

Thanks Alex ;)

Thanks LL. I'm still not sure who the heck you are but it doesn't matter. Your words are very hopeful about the topic being discussed openly and with intent to further correct this nightmare.

I still say shame on you N&O for not stepping up to bat simply because the suffering of these children was not convenient for your the case of your political vendetta. It should have been front page news.

...

Much more than a gutterball. Complete belittlement of nmoskal's dedication to and personal perspective of this issue, if you ask me.

This change is because of 'loose cannon commentators' like you, nmoskal, snordone, bwalters, klanders, etc. -- not anyone's 'gut feeling'.

Nice try

But happily nmoskal, who knows me better on this topic, understood where I was coming from.

...

Uh, you better check. That's not what she told me.

I hope you at least apologized to her for your yadas.

yenta

Thank you for your kind 'concern' sideburns. To paraphrase nmoskal "oh, for pete's sake". We are both so grateful that you have checked our relationship yourself. Call nmoskal yourself - again today please. Maybe twice. Check please and let me know if indeed all is well. As of a few hours ago, all was well. But until you confirm it I won't really be sure. And the rest of the blog is so grateful that you have highlighted this particular critical, urgent aspect of this thread. It does so much to help the children who are the subject, afterall. The magnanimity in your motivations is clear. You can sleep well tonight knowing that, again, you have done your community a great service. 

...

Just keepin' it real. :) 

GENERAL TATA: Send the EVAAS Score Reports Home NOW!

Longtime Lurker.  You are the biggest EVAAS fan on this blog.  We disagree on whether people like John Tedesco understand it.  Some people who do understand it think it is bunk.  But we can all agree that PARENTS should get to judge for themselves.  General Tata has pledged transparency.  There will be no more secret reports hidden from the public! 

Join PARENTS in demanding that they get their child's EVAAS score report.  We are demanding that Superintendent Tata mail the EVAAS score reports from last spring home to parents IMMEDIATELY.  Parents got their EOG reports THREE MONTHS AGO.  Where are the EVAAS reports?

Some people will say that a mailing a single sheet of paper for each child is too expensive.  But the schools want to use this report to make the most important decisions about our children.  Can't we afford 50 cents per child to see the report?  If the stamp costs too much, just send the envelope home with the child.  That will only cost 10 cents per child.  Send home a report for every child that has any EVAAS score for anything.

Can't you agree that PARENTS deserve the right to see their own CHILD's score?

What say you, Longtime Luker?

John Tedesco understands

John Tedesco understands that students have been kept out of advanced courses because the data showing they are qualified was not available. He has been thick skinned enough to stand up to stonewalling in WCPSS E&R, and keep asking for the data. David Holdzkom kept this data from being used for math placement. 

What do I say?

What do I say?  I spent a lot of time thinking about this tonight.  I say I have a pointed moral dilemma here.

This post, plus your other one identifying me as someone else, present me with a pretty clear image of a mentally distressed individual, obviously manic, possibly delusional (assigning odd meanings to times I post and turns of phrases I use), and possibly even  dangerous to others.  I can’t tell what your thoughts or actions might be.

You are clearly very focused on me.  If you were correct in your assessment of my identity I could decide whether I wanted to continue debating you, taunting you, tugging at your mask, etc.  I don't think I would continue anyway.  It would be poor form after seeing this.  But I don’t think I have the luxury to decide.

My specific problem is that you think you have a target for your mania and anger.  Anything I do is going to be assigned to that target.   I told you that this discourse style reminds me of someone, and I know several people who have expressed fears of what that person might do when enflamed.  Since I had occasion to observe these episodes several years ago, I have to lend credence to their fears.  Hopefully that isn't who you are and my fears are baseless.

But I say nonetheless that I have a moral dilemma that forces me not to engage or inflame you any further.

I hope the people around you are safe and that you will be willing to seek help if you begin to agree that there is something to my observations here.  This is not normal behavior and I hope you find a way to disengage from it.

I APOLOGIZE

I apologize.  I do not know who you are.  All is know is you write like you have the inside scoop on the school district. 

I don't think you know me.  But, I regret to say that your description of my behavior is a very accurate description of me on this blog.  You are right.  I am  ashamed of myself.

One week ago, I signed up for this blog because John Tedesco had said something that proved he doesn't understand EVAAS.  I was going to call myself Wake Concerned Parent and Teacher.  I shortened it to WAKECPT because I did not want to have to type that whole name every time I signed in.  I did not know the computer would continue to recognize me every time I log on.  That is convenient, but spooky.

You were right that I am new to the web.  I still cannot remember that you need to press REPLY to reply to just that comment.  If you just type a comment in the box at the bottom, your post goes at the very top.  I apologize for that.  I know that looks foolish.

You are also right that I am ANGRY at you.  I don't know who you are, but when you said, "Maybe you will soon have a room full of terrorized students to distract you from all this," I was mad as a hornet.  I do not let little jabs and pokes get to me, but being insulted on the internet made me very angry for some reason.  Like that hornet, I was going to sting you! 

I starting reading every old post you wrote.  You seem to write only about EVAAS, so I clicked on the little EVAAS link at the top and could see all of your EVAAS posts.  I read posts you wrote from almost a year ago.  I clicked on your name and saw how long you have been posting.  I was eager to find anything I could to make you look stupid.  I thought of 100 mean things I could say about you.  I was actually going to count the number of times you said or implied a teacher was racist.  That would have taken a week.  Instead, I gathered all of the posts you wrote to me and put them in one post to make you look stupid.  I think this blog makes people CRAZY.

Middle school is full of Mean Girls.  Have you seen that movie?  Despite our anti-bullying policy, the Mean Girls still play their games.  Instead of passing notes with nasty words, they send text messages.  They post things on Facebook.  I called you a Mean Girl.

When I read your post here, I realized that in just one week I had become a Mean Girl on the internet.  I would not want any of my students to behave the way I have here.  I feel so awful about this whole experience that I am nauseous just writing this.  This has been a horrible experience.  I just wanted to speak my mind.  I feel like I have wasted a week of my life.

You said you were going to leave me alone and I could have let it end there.  Instead, I had to say ONE MORE MEAN THING to you.  I apologize for picking another fight with you.  But I wanted YOU to read what I wrote.

In one of your posts, you mentioned FERPA.  Every teacher gets training in FERPA.  Parents can google it to read the law.  The law says that parents have the right to see their own child's school records, but teachers have to keep that information private.  Then I realized that parents get a printed report for every test their child ever takes, but not EVAAS.  Now the most important decisions are being made with EVAAS, but parents do not get to see the scores.  Wouldn't all of the questions about whether children were appropriately assigned be answered if parents just had their child's EVAAS report?

I apologize for my inappropriate behavior here.  But I am going to e-mail Superintendent Tata and tell him to send the EVAAS score reports to parents.  If anyone else agrees with me, you can post the request at the wcpss.net/ask/ website.  You need to add the www dot at the beginning of that.  For the subject, I am putting EVAAS STUDENT REPORTS.  You can do like I am doing and ask him when parents will get the reports parents should already have.  If enough parents ask him, maybe parents will get to see what they have a LEGAL RIGHT to know. 

The students return to middle school tomorrow.  I am going back to the job I love and I am going to do my best to educate the students I am assigned, no matter what their sex or race or income.  That is my real identity.  WAKECPT is not me.  She is a MEAN GIRL ON THE INTERNET and there are already too many of those out here.

ok. Thank you for this post.

(post/pre script - added later - For the record, I have posted on quite a few things beyond EVAAS.  The common thread I have repeatedly posted on is equity and equal treatment.  Long before we had ever heard of EVAAS there was exclusionary bias in Algebra placement shown by looking at standardized test scores.  Over and over individual and anecdotal experiences have shown me that this statistical expression of bias is backed up by real world attitudes.  Long before we ever heard of EVAAS, over and over we saw administrators, teachers, counselors, etc. admit that they will not place those children regardless of their performance or standardized scores because they believe they will fail later even if they pass now.  I know its very hard to imagine how common this has been at every level of the district.  One highly acclaimed principal openly admitted in a meeting that she would not let any black student in the upper track Algebra in her school no matter what those children's performance because they are at risk of failure. One of the main E&R statisticians made a common practice of saying black males should not be place regardless of their performance - she interrupted a black PHD math educator during his presentation and publicly chastized him for saying black males should be allowed into 8th grade Algebra on on equal footing when they performed equally.  Educated people with control over kids' lives said and did these things. This has been real and has had to be rooted out. But I've also posted on the routing of thousands of students with high and very high standardized test scores into remediation based on no more than their lunch status - routing that not coincidently nets the school district a LOT of federal money.  This is still happening!  I've posted on the biased certification of giftedness.  I've posted on the skewed procedures and reporting of the disciplinary process, especially this last year just before Supt Tata came on, when pressure on Donna Hargens resulted in magical  reporting that made all the suspensions disappear from the books.  How did that happen when there was still plenty of suspensions?  This is about civil rights.  Several of these topics have become (or are becoming) major scandals - important parts of this award winning district were rotten on the inside.  The resistence of the district on all these topics has been uniform, massive, and vindictive up until John Tedesco started creating transparency.  The battle isn't EVAAS, that's just a tool.  The battle is equity.  Its always equity. Yes, I've been angry too.  I've been furious at what I have seen, what has been fiercely protected by constant counter-attack, and what is unwittingly continuing to be protected by good people who think they are caught up in something that is merely a partisan political battle and by good people who have not yet seen the elephant.)

 

ok. Thank you for this post. We'll leave it there. You can sign out so the computer does not recognize you any more up at the top by Keung's picture.

They did this all wrong

Most school systems that have had good success at this lofty goal started with changing placements for 5th and 6th graders and not 8th grade students, at the last minute, with individual schools having to come up with solutions to handle how to deal with students lacking pre-requisite skills. 

Since they've had this

Since they've had this criteria for five or six years, it would have been a good idea for staff to start placing kids back then so they would be prepared. But they never did. Every year they kept saying it was too hard to place students based on academic data. They were never going to do it until forced. I think they've knowingly cheated about 5 or 6 years of qualified 8th graders out of the top track math because it was too hard for them to start placing kids in the pre-requisites in the prior years. They said this every year. And they are still saying they do not have to place kids who meet the EVAAS prediction who they were able to keep out of the pre-requisite classes.

Who makes recommendations?

Fair enough, but school administrators have only recently been given access to EVAAS, and teachers don't have access--they have to use the principal's account.  The county, wrong or right, has really only been using EVAAS for two years--starting summer 2010.  I don't know what would have been appropriate for last year's 8th graders, but by just telling administrators to put the kids with a certain predicted score into Algebra I in the middle of last summer, there was no time for Central Office to come up witn an effective plan. 

It's not the school board, central office, or administrators that make these decisions.  It's teachers.  So if you don't give teachers the data and tools to do their jobs effectively, then who is to blame?

Middle of the summer

The revised math criteria using the EVAAS scores were presented at a Board committee meeting in March 2010.  The Board members were told that the new criteria would be used during the upcoming year for placement.  So I don't know why they would have delayed using the criteria until the summer.  They were clearly in place well before placement decisions were made that spring.

Nothing was done or was

Nothing was done or was going to be done until Marvin Pittman had Donna Hargens come to church. He presented the placement criteria then asked her if it were being followed. She said something about how anyone not following it was going to answer to her. Then she contacted the principals and told them about the criteria. This is why at the last ED Task Force meeting when East Garner presented the principal said they got the word weeks after school started that they had this criteria...

There was no intention of following this at all until Marvin Pittman and his church called them on the carpet.

Interesting

That's interesting.  Marvin Pittman has been a strong voice at the ED Task Force meetings and from what I have seen really cares about the students, especially those in his church's neighborhood.  But, of course, this action helped qualified students throughout the county.  So Mr. Pittman and his church deserve our appreciation.

Still, I find it disturbing that this action had to be taken in order to ensure that a placement procedure, presented by the staff as already in place in March 2010, was actually being followed.  The Board and the public have to rely on the accuracy of information given by the staff about how things are being done on a day-to-day basis.  If that information is not correct, it seems to me that some major changes need to be made.  This also puts some of the changes already made into context. 

Lack of communication?

Spring placements are made in February at most schools.  Registration starts usually in early March.  The board members may have been told this, but I guarantee nothing was really done until summer.

I believe David Holdzkom was

I believe David Holdzkom was responsible for creating accounts. People could have had accounts years before they got them. He did not even tell staff about EVAAS, then when they discovered it in ad hoc ways, and asked for accounts, he resisted giving them.

The math criteria has been in existance for years. Two years ago EVAAS scores were added to the criteria and the math C&I dept team presented at one of the BOE task force meetings and explained how EVAAS would be used for placement now. But then they didn't make sure the right people had accounts. They probably couldn't stand up to DH to get them. They didn't do any planning. They didn't even look to see how many books they needed to buy. They made no effort to actually DO this. They just reported that they were now doing this.

The teachers are not to blame. The teachers and school counselors need EVAAS accounts. They can create accounts where access is limited only to the students they need to see. E&R has controlled these accounts and have resisted giving out accounts. Maybe that will change now.

Not sure about blame

The N&O said that he supposedly withheld the SAS EVAAS Algebra I data from 2009, and since som many have either resigned or retired, it is hard to tell who the real bad central office guy was (I am sure there are plenty of options).  Quite frankly, I don't understand why C&I and E&R are two different departments either.  That's sort of like how the NC DPI has a curriculum department and a testing department, neither of which get along, so frequently, the tests are not aligned with the curriculum.

No. It was David Holdzkom.

No. It was David Holdzkom. There are no other options. He was in charge of EVAAS. Unless you mean Burns, who let Holdzkom run the district.

PARENTS' RIGHTS

If the school board really cares about parents' rights, why don't PARENTS get a copy of their child's EVAAS score?  For every other test, PARENTS get a printed copy of that report in a sealed envelope.

Wake County uses the CogAt to assign children into gifted classes.  Parents get a printed report that tells them their child's scores.  The report says what is on the test and what the score means.  The parent gets a printed report telling them about the decision to assign the child.

Every EOG test has a printed report sent to the parents.  Parents can see whether the child passed and the score.  Parents get to see how many questions their child missed on all the different parts.

Every report card is printed and sent to the PARENT.  The report card explains what each of the grades means.  There is a comment section from the teacher.

But parents do not get EVAAS scores.  That would solve a lot of problems.  If parents of fifth graders got a printed EVAAS report that said your child will be in trouble in 2 years there would be time to act.  White and black parents would not have to wonder if their child was correctly assigned.  They would see the EVAAS score and know why.  Every parent of a brilliant black student would know if they were being cheated.  White parents with brilliant children who don't make the cut will have to swallow their pride.  Once the district decides to use EVAAS, no teacher will override the test.  Any teacher who  gives a waiver to a white student with a 69 will have to give a waiver to every student with a 69 or risk being called a racist.  EVAAS will become more important than the SAT.

If this is the most important decision the school will ever make about the child, why don't PARENTS get a printed report each year?

Why can't the school district print a copy of the report used for this year and send a copy to every parent?  If you believe that EVAAS should be used, right now, thousands of children who should be signed up for Algebra 1 are not.  Many children assigned to Algebra 1 should not be.  Why not tell their PARENTS the truth?  All you need is one sheet of paper and one envelope for every student.

All of the people who post here about fighting for the rights of children should demand every PARENT gets an EVAAS report.

SPAN

I am wondering how easy this would be to incorporate into SPAN?  Probably not very, but a set of EVAAS predictor scores would be a good thing for parents to see.

Logical

That sounds reasonable, doesn't it? But  the E&R system under Holdzkum suppressed even the knowledge that EVAAS existed and what it meant for individual children. When some 'radical' parents requested the data on their children - the principals themselves were unaware that they had access and how to get it. It was the parents' right to know. The parents had to be knowledgable, though, and instruct the principals how to get it. Hopefully the raising of awareness is changing the access to the data, as you suggest. 

Its taken 2 years for the light to shine under that rock. Maybe in another 2 years we'll see EVAAS scores being shared openly with parents and objective data being used to get a real baseline of how WCPSS kids are learning - not just hype. This was the whole idea behind a 'data driven' system instead of one that labeled kids according to F&R and race. 

I find it amazing that it's

I find it amazing that it's taken 2 years from when that report came out for real action to take hold.  I'll take forward progress over no progress, though.  The cat is out of the bag and I think it means no going back ...  some folks are slow to get the message.

Why don't parents get EVAAS data?

I assumed that was something everyone received, and since my kids are both young, I didn't expect to have seen it yet. I agree, parents should be given this info.

When?

The EDSATF has discussed the MS math placement, EVAAS, and Algebra 1 for over a year.   At this point, Superintendent Tata and Mr. Tedesco both have a clear idea of what the public and they expect from WCPSS staff.   In addition, they have monitoring efforts in place.     At what point is the EDSATF going to move on from this one focus and put the same type of effort into other changes to improve student achievement?     And no, that does not mean examining Algebra 1 placement in 7th grade.     Can anyone who has attended the EDSATF meetings highlight the age, grade, and subject where the biggest achievement gap exists?   Is there any focus being put on this?   Are there other measures beyond EVAAS or is EVAAS is being generalized to better predict performance in other subjects?   Other grade levels?    Other courses beyond Algebra 1?

When? Now, I think.

Certainly you are correct.  Algebra is not the end all - it was just a glass ceiling that had to be removed.  And we learned a lot in the process.  You are right on target.  There are many many other areas that deserve this level of attention and it sounds to me like they are already entering the lineup to be closely examined and attacked.

Your question is extremely pertinent.  Where are the biggest achievement gaps?  How do they form and what can we do to make things work correctly?  I don't know the details but I've heard the rumblings.  No one is sitting on laurels.  I think the answers are coming very soon - my impression is that these guys really want to know these things - they don't see them as intractable and I'm not seeing evidence this is political posturing with one issue as cover.

I think Supt Tata has already said that one upcoming major focus is going to be on the gap that rapidly appears between children measured as on an equal footing at about 3rd grade as they move on into middle school.  A huge gap develops there.  We seem to be seeing emergence of a firm mind set that this can be fixed by aligning opportunities and services using individual student data (rather than carelessly tossing remediation at demographic piles of students who can be seen upon subsequenbt analysis as having all different capabilities and achievment levels). 

As soon as we get a data gathering department up and running that has the will and the means to tear into this and many other achievment issues we can hope to see data-driven diagnoses and then concerted action.  In the mean time there are dedicated people pitching in.  This is by no means a one-issue bulldozer, although I agree that it has felt like it for awhile.

In strong alignment with the issue Supt Tata idendified, Marvin Pittman is pushing critical literacy issues to the front.  He rightly points to the number of 10 year old children entering school at Walnut Creek who have been educated all over the district, yet cannot even read.  People will assign this to different causes but everyone has to agree that it is an emergency we need to turn major efforts towards.  When?  Now.  It has to be now.  Opportunity for basic literacy always has to be served.  Again, what we've learned about using individual student metrics will make this work far better than identifying kids for services by demographics.  It should be a no brainer, but its been a hard fight.

Across the nation there are huge pushes going on to get more kids into STEM subjects.  The algebra initiative showed us that a lot of problems can be fixed by paying close attention to opportunity and access. Hopefully the austerity we have to face now will challenge us to find efficient ways to reach these goals.  And, of course, the school board elections are relevant in this prognosis, but unless we descend into partisan bickering again, I think we will see continuing progress on these issues you see as priorities no matter what now.  I sure hope so.  And I'm very hopeful.  There is a lot we can all agree on.

LONGTIME LURKER'S SECRET IDENTITY

I know your real identity.  Sometimes you play dumb and sometimes you act like you know everything. You will say anything to manipulate the people around you.  You have "heard rumblings" of what the district will do next.  You know all the secrets.  But I know who you are.  I can tell by what you said to me.

8/20 19:58 You insulted me.  You said I have a "Loud but flawed understanding."

8/21 11:37 You replied to your own post with an apology saying you were too harsh.  You want to be friends.

8/21 18:21 You cited the case of one black student to prove whole Wake County schools are racist, so I am wrong.

8/22 00:07 in the morning!  You accused me of being friends with someone everyone in the school hates.  He is so evil you can only use his initials.

8/22 00:18 in the morning!  You pretended like you are new to working with data.  You pretended to be nice again.  You said you understand that I am "new to this tangled web stuff," too.  You want to be my friend again.

8/22 00:26 You accused me of being on a power trip in the classroom.  You wrote snarky things about me on the internet in the middle of the night so it would be up all day for everyone else to see before I saw it.

8/22 12:38 You replied to your own post from 00:07 saying that maybe we have a lot in common.  You want to be friends again.

I know who you are.  You are the Queen of the Mean Girls Club!

If our education policies are being driven by bullies and people who don't understand a percent passing score, Wake County is in danger!

PS.  Don't bother replying.  In 7 minutes I am going to reply to my own post apologizing and saying that I hope we can still be friends.

You got me

You got me - got me rolling on the floor laughing here.  I've clearly caught your ire.  That's a first though.  I have a sharp tongue but I've never been called a mean girl, much less a queen (and never has anyone ever accused me of being good at working with data). 

Have you re-read all the stuff you wrote here?  Its got an over-the-edge feel.  I'm worried that it may actually be wrong to tease you.

A question for someone who knows the answer [Re: Algebra +]

My daughter just told me three of her friends that took Algebra in 8th grade (Wakefield MS) were told by their councilor to take Algebra + in 9th grade despite them having an A average. Why would that occur? It sounds like a waste of resources to me and unfair to the children. It seems to be a widespread problem based on my anecdotal evidence.

Algebra 1+

The other factor is how well the student did on the EOC.

Beyond that is the comment that it seems to be widespread.  If you read the 2007 curriculum audit - the audit pointed out the lack of instruction standards, measurements, and accountability. To much was left to the individual schools and staff.  This is why there is the inconsistency there is today. If you want consistency and standardization across the district, then a strong central office is needed as well as strong leadership from the board to set the curriculum (it is their responsibility).  Montgomery county has some 50 analysts in E&R to monitor results and enforce the policies.  Is this district ready for this level of oversight and cost ?  If not, then the Central office is nothing more than a holding company and don't expect consistency.

I found it amusing that JT was calling for a policy on Algebra I placement using EVASS, I guess he didn't realize it was the board's job to do exactly that.

Speaking of Montgomery

Speaking of Montgomery County, one of the best systems in the nation...They had some of the largest numbers of students taking algebra 1 as any district nationally.  They, however, have decided to dial back as they realized (probably with help from those E&R analysts) that even though most of the students seemed to do okay in Algebra 1, when they reached the more advanced classes in high school they were not prepared.  They believe that going slower and in more depth is better for many students.   See this discussion re: their changes in Algebra 1 placement:

http://nasspblogs.org/principaldifference/2010/11/8th_grade_algebra_back_to_the.html 

EVAAS is just a computer program, and we aren't even allowed to know all of their algorithms and how they determine who they deem ready because it is considered proprietary information.  The judgement of teaching professionals is also vitally needed in addition to EVAAS, which, in reality, is only a tool.  It is a tool which has been politicized by those so- called "reformers" who continue to blame and demonize teachers, such as JT.  It is also being pushed by those who stand to gain financially. 

The lower track doesn't go

The lower track doesn't go slower and more in depth. It goes slower and less deep. Rarely do students move up to the top track ever. A huge percentage of low track students who took Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II, and one more class have to take College Algebra when they get to college because they didn't learn much of anything in these "standard" classes. Then they don't major in any STEM fields because they barely have any foundation for doing so. These students who are moved up to the top track are the ones who stand to gain financially because whether or not you take 8th grade algebra is the greatest predictor of your salary later in life. It is already paid for by the General Assembly, so SAS gets the money regardless of whether WCPSS uses it. Training and support is free and provided on a regular basis. The only people with financial gain from this are these kids.

conspiracy theories

EVAAS "is also being pushed by those who stand to gain financially"

Yes, that is the rumor that is going around in emails suggesting that a $200 political donation by one employee well down in some non-educational department is "Pay to Play" and can get SAS a multi-million dollar education data contract with Wake County somewhere down the road. That is what your "pay to play" email suggests is afoot here.

If you only knew how uninterested SAS is in all this. Look at it this way.  This is one of the most powerful companies in the world and it is run by people with REAL financial power.  If they were interest in puppet mastering in the local school district to pick up a lousy couple million dollars don't you think they would aim a little higher or put a little more effort into it? And exactly where is their profit?

The real crime is the way these poison pen conspiracy emails have aimed public sentiments against dedicated and good individuals who have done nothing more than give time and expertise to improving their local school district.  Are we safe in our homes, Virginia?  Is someone that you excite with this nonsense going to burn a cross on my lawn?

And yes, Virginia, simpleminded conspiracy theories like this are almost certainly going to win this election and turn that clock back to the way things were.  A restoration to the Wake County crown is right around the corner.

"My" email?  I've never

"My" email?  I've never received or heard of any such email.  And I wasn't referring to SAS.

EOC

At least two did very well on the EOC. Couldn't get info on the other. As far as the board goes you may be right. It is obvious the old board cared less about this issue.  As far as 50 E&R people, that is excessive IMHO. Given that most of the number crunching can be done with computers, I highly doubt so many people are needed. You would be amazed what a couple of smart people can accomplish with data queries. I do agree that setting standards should be a big function of the central office, and they should hold principals accountable to execute them. BTW- JT is only one member of the board, he needs to advocate his position to the rest.

JT is only one member

Since you have already written off the Dems - what is the excuse for the other 4 GOP ? He has to advocate his position to them ?

Regarding the 50 analysts - you underestimate the effort.  150,000 students across  x # of classes. Done properly it takes a bit of effort and that is assuming that data is collected in a way to do queries. 

You make an assumption

I guess I have written off the Dems, just like you have written off the Repubs. They seem to entrenched for a fight right up to the next election.

As far as understanding the effort, I am fully aware of what a smaller group of good analysts with good software and data can do. The real difference is the leadership from above guiding them. Computers are very powerful these days.

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About the blogger

T. Keung Hui covers Wake schools.
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