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An all-out celebration of AYP results

By Ron Whitehorne on Aug 21, 2010 05:39 PM

Superlatives were flying at Lincoln High School Friday as the School District celebrated dramatic gains in the number of schools making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the defining benchmark under the federal No Child Left Behind law.  

According to Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, “158 schools or 59 percent made the target, 39 more than last year and including 10 who never made it before.”  

An exuberant Ackerman added, “We’re on our way… we made history today. “ Her comments to the gathering were followed by a parade of SRC commissioners, the mayor, and the governor.
The emotional high point of the event was the recognition of schools that made AYP or alternative performance standards. Principals, many joined by members of their leadership teams, whooped, jigged, and threw their fists in the air as they marched on the auditorium stage.
Mayor Nutter, speaking to the gathering from his City Hall office, citing improved test scores, graduation rates, and the AYP numbers, said the city’s school have reached “a critical tipping point.”
Governor Ed Rendell, there in person, called the results “awesome” and “mind-boggling”, and took a piece of the credit for the introduction of full-day kindergarten when he was mayor and for high funding levels as governor.   
According to the governor, “no big-city district” has done better than Philadelphia.  
Ackerman echoed this theme. “To all the naysayers who say an urban school system can’t be successful: Watch Philadelphia!”
In a somewhat ironic note, Rendell cited data from the federal NAEP test as evidence of the state’s progress. Philadelphia’s results on NAEP indicate fewer than one out of five 4th and 8th graders are proficient in reading and math and that the city tracks below the average for urban school systems.
The celebration also included Powerpoint presentations by principals at three schools that made major gains – McClure, a K-4 vanguard schoolsin the city’s Hunting Park section, Roosevelt Middle School in Germantown, and Mastbaum, a vocational high school in Kensington.   Principals at these schools all cited the importance of supports introduced by Ackerman (lower class size, more support staff, planning time) as well as a range of best practices they had implemented over time.  
Ackerman and others all acknowledged much work remains. But the message, in Ackerman’s words, was, “We can do this year after year…. Those who say it’s a fluke, we will prove them wrong."

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Comments (24)

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 21, 2010 6:43 pm

Is this what Duncan envisions as a "Race to the Top" rally... Yes, it nice for schools that made AYP but the "top of the heap" is not made for everyone - especially neighborhood high schools. (Mastbaum is a vocational school which means it is part of a site selection process and can dismiss students. It also is not responsible for any students in a catchment even if they don't attend the school.)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 21, 2010 10:21 pm

I don't want to take away from your point at all because I think you have an excellent point here, however, I wanted to just make one small linguistic correction. The term "site selection" refers to the way a school administration selects teachers, not students. I believe that the phrase you mean to be using here is "special selection." "Special selection" refers to a school that, among other things, admits students based on certain kinds of criteria.

So, there are plenty of neighborhood (or "comprehensive") high schools that "site select" their teachers, meaning the teachers actually interview rather than going through the District's seniority process. However, by definition, comprehensive high schools do not have criteria for which they admit students.

Your point still holds, I just wanted you to be able to use the correct terminology!

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 21, 2010 11:51 pm

Point taken - it is "special selection" of students.

But, this year, some neighborhood schools did not even have the benefit of "site selection" of teachers. Because there were teachers from "Promise Academies" which had to be placed and there was a freeze on hiring (except for Teach for America and Teaching Fellows), many schools could not "site select" teacher. We could not hire student teachers and had to take teachers from Promise Academies. The only schools which apparently had more choice were magnet schools.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 21, 2010 6:48 pm

Do you know if Roosevelt and McClure are/were "empowerment" schools? If not, there is no correlation between Corrective Reading/Math for 3 - 8 and the scripted programs. Mastbaum was (is) an "empowerment school" but 9th graders using Corrective Reading/Math had nothing to do with 11th grade scores. Just curious since "Ackerman was thanked for supports. The supports sited in the article - planning time, more support staff, and lower classes have long been supports requested by school based staff.

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on August 21, 2010 8:26 pm

McClure is a vanguard school.  The other two are Empowerment schools.  No claims were made for Corrective Reading and Math with the exception of the Roosevelt principal who did briefly cite them but only in a very general way.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 21, 2010 6:20 pm

It's all about the leadership at these schools. The administrators are on top of instruction, effectively utilize the social supports provided and follow through on discipline. Well run schools with effective instructional leaders have the power to make a difference on test scores.

Submitted by Meg (not verified) on August 21, 2010 8:39 pm

Yes - the leadership counts at the school sites, but not just the leadership. It is a total team effort in every site that is showing growth.
Now- the fun question? How many of those leaders are no longer in those positions? How many have retired, resigned or been forced out? There are a lot of newbies starting this fall. Take deep breaths, folks and get ready to dig in again.

Submitted by Teacher (K.R. Luebbert) (not verified) on August 22, 2010 12:50 am

I have long believed that there should be a special category of PSSA results (not counting for AYP) for students who have been out of the school for most of the year. If a student is in a discipline school and being taught there, why should his/her scores count for his/her neighborhood school?? After all, the magnet school kids do not count for their neighborhood schools. If a school isn't seeing a kid every day how is it fair for them to be penalized or rewarded for his/her score? Perhaps the Pennsylvania Dept. of Ed. could answer that.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2010 8:42 am

Great analogy. This is an "elephant in the room" which no one at 440 seems to challenge. If neighborhood schools were "not responsible" for anyone in an "alternative school" in their catchment, that would be a fairer way to evaluate what is happening in the school. Wouldn't the magnet schools love "losing" their students' scores (graduation rate) to a neighborhood school :)

Also, what happens to a student who moves out of state? Is s/he counted against their neighborhood school for graduation rate? Once again, a magnet school is not penalized but a neighborhood school suffers with a "non-AYP" label. It would be interesting for the Notebook to look at test scores in neighborhood schools for students who actually went to the school versus "attributed" students from "alternative schools" who have a legal address in the neighborhood school's catchment.

Submitted by Teacher (K.R. Luebbert) (not verified) on August 22, 2010 10:20 am

It would be great to evaluate the scores of students actually in the school vs. students not there. It would also be great to know a student's attendance rate--if you are absent 60-70 days a year (as many students are) you are missing quite a bit of instruction--no matter how gifted and dedicated your teachers are. I think that should be another category of student, also--chronically truant/absent kids should NOT count for AYP. All these issues need to be examined by 440 and the PDE before this process can be considered remotely fair (my school made AYP, but we have suffered under these unjust rules in the past).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2010 3:30 pm

What a great point! If the kids that don't go to a neighborhood school count, then they should all count for that school! I wonder why this isn't the case? I mean, why just the kids that are traditionally low performing or not taking the PSSA at all?

I wonder how the numbers would shift if magnet kids were counted with neighborhood school sats. I mean, there are lots of kids who go to PennAlexander who are in West Philly HS's catchment who never end up at West because they attend magnet schools. Unless of course, they get kicked out and sent to us! I am sure this is true of many other neighborhood schools as well.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2010 4:43 pm

I also think there should be a special category for students with multiple overlapping subgroups. For example if they fit into 3 different subgroups (special ed., esol, poverty) they should not counted in the total for any one subgroup.

Submitted by Teacher (K.R. Luebbert) (not verified) on August 22, 2010 7:43 pm

Very good point!

Submitted by Betsy Wice (not verified) on August 22, 2010 9:07 am

If not outright fraud, the latest PSSA test scores are, at best, very weak science. We should pay attention to the mismatch cited in Ron Whitehorne's report as an irony: How could the same Philadelphia school district that does so miserably on the National Assessment of Educational Progress be celebrating so exuberantly? Even right-wing think tanks are starting to question the helpfulness of these measures of effective teaching. See the Wall Street Journal post

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2010 10:27 am

Why are they celebrating? Because this was ALL choreographed as a big dance show. What a coincidence Arnn Duncan called during the "celebration." Everything that was said by the Principals (Roosevelt) was scripted accolades for Ackerman. "She is a visionary." WHAT?!?! Rendell has sold his soul and is waiting for an Obama administration cabinet appointment. Why else did Eddie get a facelift and lose 100 pounds? Surely not for his health...

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2010 10:37 am

I agree there are too many "coincidences." Ackerman apparently is similar to Carl Greene - they love to celebrate themselves.

That said, I assume most principals and 400 appointees are afraid of Ackerman. There was in interview on Radio Times with the principals of Bodine and SLA. The principal of Bodine was much more subdued; the principal of SLA gloated over Ackerman. Of course, the SLA principal is in a very cushy school so I assume he won't volunteer to take over a "Promise Academy."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 22, 2010 11:45 pm

"Spinning" the results may look impressive, but discipline issues and subgroup overlaps skew local neighborhood scores. Some things are certain for the schools not making AYP--the bells and whistles of "Corrective" Reading and Math, and school-based "contests" and incentives for students aren't enough. Many of the students have issues far deeper than a lack of academic motivation, instruction, or ability. Until these are effectively addressed and dealt with, schools will continue to miss the ever-changing standards for AYP.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2010 8:00 am

Was there any congratulations to all of the teachers that made this successful???? Just asking because Ackerman NEVER mentions praise for what teachers do, only Principals, administrators, etc.

Those that made AYP----will they be taken off of the Renaissance School list????
They should!!! We will see what happens next. She is definitely pro herself and the SRC.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 23, 2010 11:06 am

In the newspaper she gave credit to the kids only. God forbid she should ever thank teachers.

Submitted by Erika Owens (not verified) on August 24, 2010 4:43 pm

We're working on gathering posts from our bloggers regarding this AYP news. Anyone want to submit a guest blog about a particular issue surrounding AYP and testing? Feel free to email me with any thoughts or a possible post.

Submitted by enraged staffer (not verified) on August 24, 2010 7:48 pm

Do you think that the higher test scores were in any way connected to the fact that kids were given several days to complete a section and found the answers to problems and went basck and changed answers the next day?
It seems obvious that there was rampant cheating going on here.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 24, 2010 10:06 pm

Teacher were to monitor so that did not happen. I don't think most kids gave a damn about the test. Why would kids suddenly decided to do that this year? That could have happen every year we've had the test.

Submitted by enraged staffer (not verified) on August 25, 2010 7:39 am

Alot easier to cheat this year because of the amount of time given. And tell me- how do you monitor a room full of kids to make sure they are on a certain page, because they start up where they left off. There is no incentive to catch cheaters, there is only an incentive to get higher scores.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on August 25, 2010 1:20 pm

No, each day they start on the same page of a new section. It's not a case of being on a certain page, but a case of NOT being on a page in a previous section. I hold little stock in the results of the test as it does not indicate where the kids truly are in their education. Only a politician would be dumb enough to believe that. It's more of a case of detering cheaters than catching them. Let the chips fall where they may, Ackerman and her pals are going to do what they want despite any data to the contrary. Unless the public gets angry enough to demand that she be fired.

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