Who’s accountable?

accountability2This morning I read this story online. (http://www.ewa.org/blog-educated-reporter/tennessees-haslam-aims-mantle-education-governor) It’s all about Governor Haslam wanting to be the “Education Governor”. Then I read this interview with his “change agent” Kevin Huffman.(http://nashvillepublicradio.org/blog/2014/05/19/ed-talk-kevin-huffman-says-adults-means-teachers-work-harder/) In this interview he makes a strong case for “a system that evaluates performance” . Then I read this article (http://tnedreport.com/?p=818) Apparently the Tennessee Department of Education is unable to provide TCAP “quick scores” in a timely manner, yet state law requires that TCAP scores be factored in to final grades. Sounds like some performance needs evaluating.

My mornings was not done yet though. I turn on my TV and I see this, http://www.wsmv.com/story/25582241/drexel-teacher-talks-about-financial-issues-at-troubled-charter-school . Apparently the MNPS school board turned down this Charters application four times before the state board interceded and awarded them a charter. Now 200 students and several faculty members are looking for a new home. Again, seems like a little performance evaluation is in order here.

I’ll admit I’m not 100% clear what the issue with the quick scores is, so I pick up the phone to call  the Tennessee Department of Education to get some clear facts. I don’t want to be spreading half truths after all and I am a citizen of Tennessee. They should be happy to talk with me. They might be if I could reach any one. I started with Data  Commisioner Erin O’Hara and got her voice mail. Tried Communications and left a message on Kelli Gauthiers voice mail. Then I went to general information where I talked to a very nice operator who transferred me to testing.

At testing I was met with a demand to know “who I was”? I gave my name and that wasn’t enough. I shared that I was a resident of Davidson County and asked “shouldn’t that suffice?”. Apparently that was the trigger to get me transferred to the Deputy Commissioner’s answering machine where once again… I left a message. Apparently we are just going to have to depend on my supposition since my quest for the truth was unsuccessful..

I do figure though I owe it to Mr Huffman’s minions to actually print out the official statement. So I went off to the web site. Hmmmm…it should be here somewhere. Ah, newsroom seems like a logical choice. Nope, all that’s here is articles on students honoring teachers, Haslam tapping Mike Krause, and Haslam signing “Tennessee Promise” into law. There is not a single mention of delay in quick scores and what it means to parents. In fact, after perusing the whole site I found nothing.

Next stop MNPS’s web site. Nothing here either. Guess my next stop is the TEA page. There I find their response to the issue but not the original TNDE statement.  This is turning out to be a lot of work and perhaps that needs to be evaluated as well. Luckily I was able to secure the statement through Twitter. http://gallery.mailchimp.com/1e0c464fe9590a0fbf1227edf/images/808bef22-b2f9-44cc-80e8-aee5d8c775ce.jpg

Based on my reading the delay is due to “post equating”. Per the release, “Post-equating allows the department, our psychometric staff, and our TAC, to review the data more thoroughly before finalizing the quick scores and given the number of changes made this year, we want to do this before releasing scores.” Well that raises a couple questions. Were we not aware of these changes prior to the tests being given? Why was the process not amended to take this into account? Are teachers utilizing the psychometric staff before returning grades on tests they are individually giving? Shouldn’t every district have a psychometric staff? If not, why are teachers allowed to simply hand out test grades  wily nily without post-equating. This seems a terrible disservice to our students.

I mean it would be extremely helpful if teachers could hand out a test. Students take the test. After grading the teachers could check with the psychometric staff to insure that enough students got answers right to align with data, aka passed, and if not adjust the  test. I think everybody would be very appreciative of this service. Now it would make it harder to hold those darn teachers accountable but hey if its good for the goose….cartoon

The other issue here is that I don’t practice close reading. I take this statement and apply it to other readings I’ve done and come to a conclusion. It’s generally known that cut scores are an arbitrary number based on the political story you want to tell. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/04/29/the-scary-way-common-core-test-cut-scores-are-selected/)Therefore based on past readings,  “Post-equating” to me sounds like further manipulation of the data. Problem is, when nobody holds you accountable, you get sloppy. As TEA points out in their response statement, there has long been a lack of credibility associated with test results. Lack of accountability leads to manipulation that becomes apparent.

A delay of this magnitude will have some serious consequences. At the very least there will be a delay in report cards or accurate report cards. Kids that need accurate grades to participate in extracurricular activities will just have to wait. The biggest thing though is the credibility of the tests. As parents we are told ad nauseam how important these test are. It is constantly driven home that these test are essential to holding people accountable. That without accountability there is no growth. You know, you can’t lose weight without a scale. So the question is who is going to hold Mr Huffman and the Tennessee Department of Education accountable? Who is going to put Mr Huffman on the scale?

This past legislative session saw a rejection of every piece of legislation that had his name attached to it. These weren’t far left pieces of legislation either. Many contained free market ingredients that a republican majority could embrace. Yet that wasn’t the story. The only thing that passed was the state charter authorizer and now evidence is mounting that that the department of education isn’t qualified for that job either.

Drexel Prep’s closing is the second charter to close in Nashville this year. These were charters that the MNPS school board had strong misgivings about but were strong armed into approving by the state. When a school closes, it causes a tremendous upheaval in real peoples lives, not to mention the lost years of instruction. This is why the local school board puts such stringent requirements on schools they approve. Their track record speaks for itself. The State’s not so much.

Despite all this evidence of mismanagement these “change agents” just continue on slapping each other on the back and offering unsubstantiated praise to each other. They are not elected officials and apparently have no fear of them. That’s got to stop. Their blatant disregard of democratic institutions needs to stop. They may not be elected officials, but elected officials need to hold them accountable or Tennessee voters will. It’s way past time. If you have a desire to be known a the “education Governor” and “accountability” is a big part of education, then its time to practice some.dilbert_vendor_mgmt

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