“The good news for the Washington Federals is they do not have a quarterback controversy. The bad news is they do not have a quarterback.”
On Friday, after I first flipped through the recently released CREDO study focusing on learning loss, I fully intended to spend the weekend reading through it and painstakingly taking notes. After all, this is the study that Tennessee’s Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn had cited as a basis for her dire warnings about a pending crash in proficiency scores.
Luckily, I read teacher Peter Greene’s piece first. Greene reminded me of why the CREDO study is…he says baloney…I say, bullshit. I consider it such because it’s rooted in a made-up measurement that attempts to standardized something that can not be standardized. Per Greene,
Second, you know that this “report” is baloney because it leans on that great imaginary measure, the “days of learning.” Students during the pandemic will “lose” X number of days of learning. “Days of learning” is actually a measure that CREDO made up themselves, based on some “research” in a 2012 paper by Erik Hanushek, Paul Peterson, and Ludger Woessmann. And if “days of learning” seems like a bizarro world way to measure of education (Which days? Days in September? Days in March? Tuesdays? Instructional days, or testing days, or that day we spent the afternoon in a boring assembly? And how does one measure the amount of learning in a day, anyway?)– well, here’s the technical explanation from that paper
To create this benchmark, CREDO adopted the assumption put forth by Hanushek, Peterson, and Woessman (2012) that “[o]n most measures of student performance, student growth is typically about 1 full standard deviation on standardized tests between 4th and 8th grade, or about 25 percent of a standard deviation from one grade to the next.” Therefore, assuming an average school year includes 180 days of schooling, each day of schooling represents approximately 0.0013 standard deviations of student growth.
As Greene points out, more eloquently than I ever could, they took some made-up data applied some complicated math, that few of us would understand, and than came up with some numbers that supported their assumptions, which in case you forgot are expressed in the “study’s” introduction.
At the same time, there is no dispute that the amount and quality of learning that has occurred since school buildings were closed has been deeply inferior. The only open question has been: how bad is it?
A proper scientific study would have begun its approach with a question, instead of an assumption. But CREDO has never been one to miss an opportunity to push an agenda under the guise of research. Whether it’s Charter Schools, TFA, or how bad public schools are, they’ve got a study ready to back the agenda. Part of that agenda is keeping the testing industry fully employed. In a paper that supposedly indicates that one school in Tennessee is losing 2-3 years of learning, their number 3 takeaway is that suspending testing makes predicting tough,
Knowing that the best performing simulations required multiple years of data to estimate the missing achievement values for Spring 2020, there is a clear hazard to education agencies if more than a year of assessments is deferred. This has immediate and urgent implications for state education leaders.
Whoa…better not cancel though tests because not only will we not “know where kids are”, but it’ll be tough to predict their futures. CREDO reiterates their point in their final takeaways,
Third, the need for rigorous student-level learning assessments has never been higher. In particular, this crisis needs strong diagnostic assessments and frequent progress checks, both of which must align with historical assessment trends to plot a recovery course. The losses presented here implicitly endorse a return to student achievement testing with the same assessment tools for the foreseeable future. At the same time, preserving and expanding the existing series is the only way to reliably track how well states and districts are moving their schools through recovery and into the future.
Here is my favorite part though. In an email, to superintendents, Friday announcing the results being released Commissioner Schwinn nonchalantly mentions the supposed learning losses in Tennessee,
The CREDO study indicates that across all schools in Tennessee, the estimated average learning loss from is approximately 88 days (49% of a school year) for reading and 158 days (88% of a school year) for math.
While the largest losses statewide are in math, Tennessee’s greatest discrepancies and variation between schools are in reading. Between Tennessee’s highest and lowest estimated learning losses for reading, the estimated difference is three years. In math, the greatest discrepancy is about two years.
She seems to accept these pronouncements as fact, despite her recently detailing to legislators the plethora of efforts her department had delivered to districts in order to prevent devastating learning loss. Maybe it’s just me, but if I was working my ass off and a study came out saying that the students were going to be 2 years behind despite my efforts, I’d be up in arms. Not our Commissioner, though she does toss a few bones,
Since the start of this school year, I have seen our teachers and school leaders work tirelessly to adapt to this new reality and start the year strong, and I deeply believe that unlike any time before, we must come together as a state to support our educators as we work to support our students.
The bold highlighting is hers, I guess that supposed to indicate a deeper appreciation. Here’s the irony, the CREDO study, questions the very strategy employed by Commissioner Schwinn and her department,
Fourth, the measures of average loss and the range around it immediately call into question the existing practice of letting communities plot their own path forward. The communities whose schools have the largest estimated loss of learning are far less likely to have the means and capacity to create and implement recovery plans on their own. Insistence on local autonomy in this case will not yield equitable responses.
In other words, it’s not just schools that are at fault. But, the strategy employed by your Department of Education also sucks. At least that’s one conclusion by the CREDO study we can agree on.
You can heed the CREDO study if you choose. Me, I’m not paying much heed to any study that prescribes more testing and less local control as a remedy top hypothetical learning loss.
I NEED A PART_TIME JOB LIKE THIS ONE
This week we got a little more clarity on our Commissioner’s previous part-time employment. You’ll remember that earlier this year I wrote about her receiving a salary from her California Charter School while being employed in both Delaware and Texas. On Friday through an open records request to Capitol Collegiate Academy, I received what passes for a contract between the school and Ms. Schwinn.
In June of 2014 Penny and her family moved to the fine state of Delaware. She was to serve as the state’s Chief Accountability/Performamnce Officer. You’ll love the irony here. Just two weeks before she started in Delaware, she signed a contract with CCA agreeing to become an employee and receive a compensation rate of $125K annually starting July 1. The contract included medical benefits. Just in case Maryland wasn’t offering them. I wonder if she signed the contract on her husband’s back or if the movers had left her a table on which to sign.
Right now you might be thinking, “Ok, she signed the contract with CCA not knowing she was going to get the job with Maryland. Once she got the job with Maryland, the CCA contract just wasn’t executed.”
That’s fair enough. I might buy that. Except for the fact that come 2015, after being employed with Maryland for nearly a year, she signed another contract with CCA. One that took her out of the “Founder” role and declared her as “Ececitive Director”. The new contract was for $140k a year and went into effect on July 1, 2015. It also included a clause that stated the contract would roll over every year until one party or the other terminated it.
Now perhaps the contract was terminated, though I doubt it because from January – May of 2016, Ms. Schwinn was unemployed, and that $140k would have come in handy. Furthermore, in response to my open records request, CCA supplied me with the termination letter from 2013, but there were no other termination letters supplied.
That 2013 letter contains its own little mystery. It’s the first I’ve heard that the job at SCUSD being a temporary position. According to a NewsReveiw article, “Penny Schwinn resigned her elected post on the Sacramento County Board of Education last month in order to take a high-paying job in the bureaucracy of the Sacramento City Unified School District.” Who goes through a contentuous election that you barely win only to resign 9 months later for a temporary position that only pays 8K more than your self-professed “favorite job” in the world, supervising a school with less than 100 kids?
It certainly raised NewsReveiw writer Cosmo Garvin’s eyebrows, who noted at the time,
Perhaps as an added perk, the district is appointing Schwinn to Capitol Collegiate’s governing board. According to district policy, Schwinn will be the district’s “eyes and ears” and help provide oversight of the school she founded.
Who better to be the public’s watchdog over a charter school than the person who started that charter school, hired its staff and created its culture? Surely, if there were anything wrong over at Capitol Collegiate, Schwinn will let us know, pronto. Right?
Meanwhile, CCA’s 990’s for 2015 show Capital Collegiate Academy paid Schwinn $93K in compensation. I’ve no idea about why there is a discrepancy, but I’m sure there is a logical explanation.
Now some of you may be looking at the “Founder” title and making the reasonable assumption that Schwinn served as a fundraiser for the school and that role serves as justification for the high compensation. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Like most California charter schools, CCA is dependently almost solely on taxpayer dollars for it’s funding. Per their 990, in 2015 only $2132 came from sources other than government funding. So in other words, Schwinn was getting paid by California taxpayers while serving Delaware taxpayers and getting paid by Delaware taxpayers.
Don’t forget, 7 months later she got her hand slapped because husband Paul had apparently gone to work for an agency that received funding from Delaware’s Department of Education.
It’s also worth noting that CCA works with a predominately high needs student body. I find it hard to accept that 6% of the school’s revenue couldn’t have been better applied.
Schwinn has repeatedly reasured legislators that she has not taken a cent from CCA while employed by the state of Tennessee and that this year she has spent less than 7 hours working on the schools needs. And maybe that is true.
But per usual, with Ms. Schwinn, the more information supplied, the more questions raised. We’ll keep digging, maybe eventually a clear picture will emerge. Though I would argue, it is already starting too.
FORGIVENESS INSTEAD OF PERMISSION
As a by-product of Metropolitan Nashville Public School’s leadership putting the brunt of pandemic planning in the hands of principals, some have in turn taken a position of asking forgiveness instead of permission. Teacher’s don’t like TEAMs, go ahead and use ZOOM. Don’t like Florida Virtual School? Use whatever you like. These are just a couple of examples.
Across the district, every school is employing a different strategy and as a result, the student experience is different. From the scheduling of classes to grading policy, variances are happening in various degrees. The latest is where teachers will teach virtually from once live instruction is resumed. It’s been the general assumption that those teachers who will be teaching in-person will return to schools as designated, while virtual teachers carry on as they have been. Not so fast.
I’ve received several reports of principals attempting to force virtual teachers to return to school with everyone else and conduct lesson from an empty classroom. That is not sitting well with a lot of teachers.
In trying to get clarification, I have yet to see an official district policy produced. When I attempted to nail it down, nobody could give me a definitive answer.
It would be my suggestion that this issue be addressed sooner rather than later.
Equally important would be getting an accurate count on available substitute teachers. I doubt they have been sitting around sans income waiting for live class to resume and provide an opportunity to earn income. They are going to be an integral part of any successful return to school action. They need to be treated as such.
A recent tweet by Brad Johnson needs to be put on a t-shirt and sent to every school board member and executive team member in every school district. This not a situation born out of the pandemic, but rather one that has existed for all to long. Recently I heard of another quote that goes hand in hand with this one, “Y’all think you know what transpires in schools, but you have no idea. What you think takes 10 minutes, takes 2 hours.” That can go on the flip side of the shirt.
Meghan Mangrum has a good article in today’s Tennessean outlining the potential cost of students leaving MNPS. She does a fine job of pointing out that not all of the attrition can be pinned to the pandemic.
Many of you have sent me pictures of MNPS school board member Fran Bush at the beach with her family while the rest of the board attended a retreat on Friday. All I can say is, are you surprised? It’s no secret Bush is at odds with her fellow board members. As someone who has attended some of those retreats, they are excrutiating at the best of times, let alone when the room is filled with contention. Bush was elected to serve constituents in a manner aceptable to both them and her. In two years they’ll have the opportunity to voice if she’s met that bar or not. Till then, I suspect Fran Bush will keep right on being Fran Bush. I kinda admire that in a sea of constant virtue signaling.
As promised, here is a look at the weekend poll questions.
The first question asked for your opinion on whether the closing of the ASD should be pushed back two years. 50% of you answered that the time for closing was now, with an additional 22% indicating that it should have been closed years ago. Only 1 person indicated that pushing it back would be appropriate. I’d like to thank Representaive Mark White for participating in this week’s poll. No write-in answers for this one.
Question 2 asked, how much stock are you putting in first quarter grades? It was a dead heat at 31% of the vote on whether you were completely dismissing them or just looking for progress. 13% indicated they were regarding them with the same level of fidelity as in the past. Same number responded that they were using them as roadmarks. A few write-in answerson this one.
- Grades are shockingly bad district-wide. Will parents/kids get serious??
- What a joke!
- I never ever put stick in grades
The last question asked who you saw as the first quarter MVP. Apparently this was an easy choice for y’all. 68% of you designated teachers for the honor, while 12% said jack Daniels and Tito. Here’s a look at the write-in votes for this one,
- Lee/Schwinn (lol)
- Don’t even mention the school board. What a joke!
- School counselors
- Principals & Teachers
That’s it for today.
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