At a school board meeting Thursday, 21 speakers defended APS against suspicions raised by the CRCT investigation that grew out of a state audit of unusual erasures on 2009 answer sheets. The CRCT is a high-stakes state test that determines whether schools meet benchmarks, staff get bonuses and, in some cases, principals keep jobs.
APS takes the test very seriously, too seriously according to teachers who complain that they have to drop everything and double up on test prep when practice exams show students aren’t doing well.
I would like to believe that there was some unique trait that led to two-thirds of Atlanta elementary and middle schools being tagged by the state for erasures that exceeded the state average. But is that plausible?
Are Atlanta students that different than students in Gwinnett where there wasn’t a single school on the severe list? Are they that different than thousands of others in the state whose school systems have no flagged schools?
To me, that is the most serious evidence against the system, that their schools and students are out of sync with the behaviors of their peers around the state. APS principals contend that they teach test taking techniques that encourage large numbers of erasures . Nor are they troubled that their APS students made so many more erasures from wrong to right, defying the odds that kids will sometimes change right answers to wrong ones.
I continue to ask this question: Do these children in flagged schools exceeding on the CRCT continue to do so the following years? At this point, at least 20 posters have commented that they are teachers who have had children come to them with great CRCT scores yet unable to perform even basic grade-level work.
In the far-reaching investigation approved Thursday by the APS school board, I hope there is some effort to reconcile scores and student performance over time. I can tell you this: In my stint teaching college here, I had students who could not write a sentence tell me that they were A students in high school. After a while, I saw a pattern of which high schools gave reliable grades and which gave mercy ones. I don’t think it served the students well to send them off with confidence in skills they did not have. Because someone at some point had to break the news to them that their skills were low and that they needed remediation. It is not an easy conversation to have with a 20-year-old.
According to the AJC story on the APS board meeting:
“We have nothing to hide,” West Manor Elementary School Principal Cheryl Twyman said during an at-times emotional board meeting, where principal after principal, as well as parents and community members — 21 speakers in all — defended the system’s teachers and students against suspicions raised by state officials last week.
The state’s report identified 191 schools statewide as needing scrutiny, including West Manor and 57 other Atlanta elementary and middle schools. Atlanta had more schools flagged than any other system. It also had the worst suspected offenders. In one school, almost 90 percent of classrooms came under scrutiny.
John Wesley Dobbs Elementary Principal Dana Evans said teachers often exhort children that they can do anything. But students at many of the flagged schools are black and come from disadvantaged backgrounds. She also welcomed the scrutiny, but worried children would walk away thinking, “You can do anything unless you’re poor, unless you’re black, unless you erase too much” on a test.
Other principals talked about the work their staffs already do with outside agencies to review their work and progress. Those agencies include the state education department, which, one principal said, offered test-taking strategies. One strategy included crossing out answers students know to be wrong, so that they don’t consider them in their final answer, then erasing those marks before handing in the test.
Updated Friday at 3: The APS communications director sent me this e-mail that I want to share here. It speaks a bit to the status of the 58 schools on the state’s severe and moderate list
Since the issue of APS Targets and AYP has come up in your articles, we wanted you to have the following information that may provide clarity for your readers.
· Five of 58 schools were in Needs Improvement status
· Of those 5, two closed: Williams and Carson
· Of the 3 remaining only one made AYP.
· Only 13 of the 58 schools made targets in 2009
· One closed: Blalock Elementary
The remaining 45 schools on the severe and moderate state list did not make 2009 targets
NAEP: NAEP is independently administered and monitored by Westat, a federal contractor.
· The district has shown consistent growth in all areas tested since 2002