Superintendents to Parents: Who Are You Going to Believe, Me or Your Lying Data?
At this week’s state board meeting achievement committee meeting in Ohio, we were treated to a rare appearance of the state superintendent. He shared how important the gifted value-added output has been and how so much “pro-active engagement” was now taking place to improve services for gifted students because of just this one little measure. His effusive praise was to support the gutting of all inputs in the Ohio gifted operating standards. As for those districts who are skirting the law or who are trying to game the system, well, that’s a concern that ODE will have to address. Of course, when that would be addressed is anyone’s guess. I assume it will be after all the quality gifted input standards are removed and gifted services are more illusory than real.
I am truly glad that there are positive discussions taking place in some districts, but there are some ugly discussions taking place as well. Here are a few examples:
- In Westlake, which received a “D” in value-added for the gifted sub-group, not only has there been no pro-active engagement, there has been an active campaign to persuade the public that the value-added measure is flawed. A flier promoting the Westlake levy says this about the value-added grade for gifted, “While Westlake earned an overall grade of A for the improvement, the ratings for the sub-groups for Gifted, Students with Disabilities, and the lowest 20% scoring students were D’s. Considering our high achievement level (ex. Top 2% for Gifted) we believe that these ratings on the new Ohio legislative report card are not the most accurate way to inform of performance and we are not alone in this belief. There is considerably less room for improvement for high performing students.” In other words, the low-level OAAs are a good enough measure for our gifted kids, and parents should not worry that their gifted kids aren’t growing. Not exactly the productive conversation I envisioned after hearing the state superintendent’s comments
- In Dayton, where last year, one GIS was in place for a district with almost 14,000 students, the district superintendent responded in s similar manner with regard to the “D” grade on the gifted value-added subgroup. “I think everybody was kind of looking at gifted and scratching their heads. If you’re going to report on achievement of a group, and the law says you identify only, literally, then we’ve got to step back. We have economically disadvantaged students, we have special needs students, we have gifted students. How do you establish your resources to meet the needs of those very different groups. If you ask the majority of our parents, they’re going to say all of our children are gifted.” Even though the state has provided a record amount of gifted resources to Dayton in this biennial budget, the superintendent has decided that the GIS will now be the gifted coordinator, and all services will now be in the regular classroom (i.e. non-existent). In other words, the pro-active engagement was to eliminate all gifted services.
- In a district that shall remain anonymous, the superintendent under fire for the “F” value-added growth measure asked his coordinator if perhaps fewer children could be identified by increasing the criteria so that the district’s ranking could improve. That would be illegal. But once the gifted coordinator is replaced by the janitor, which would be allowed under the draft gifted operating standards, I’m sure “fixing” the identification at this district will be no problem.
- Another anonymous district decided that the way to deal with the low gifted value-added subgroup wasn’t to do a deep dive into the data to see how to improve services. No, their response was to tell all of their gifted staff that they were going to be RIFed at the end of the year. Pro-active engagement, not so much.
While I welcome the development of higher-quality outputs, I know that there are always going to be superintendents who rather than do the right thing, are going to try to either explain the data away to the public or manipulate the way the district looks by suppressing identification or manipulating service statistics based on a service model that is basically no service at all. Outputs alone are insufficient accountability measures for any student population. For the gifted subgroup, they are particularly inappropriate as output measures are usually inadequate for this population.