A hardly ‘persistently lowest list’Analysis: Most schools aren't among worst
Most of the 96 schools that the state has designated among the 5 percent “persistently lowest performing” shouldn’t be on the list. Yet they could qualify for the $69 million that the Department of Education has allotted California for schools to turn themselves around.
That’s the conclusion of Doug McRae, a retired test publisher, occasional TOP-Ed contributor and regular attendee of State School Board meetings. He and others urged the State Board to revise the list of schools, but the Board, feeling pressed by a federal deadline, approved it last month. Now, McRae has run the data.
Assuming they’ll apply for the money, the schools will be eligible for School Improvement Grants if they agree to one of four turnaround strategies dictated by the feds. There will likely be enough money for about 30 schools to get as much as $2 million each next year.
The 96 are the schools not funded last year from the 188 schools on the persistently lowest performing list. The original methodology for choosing schools had serious flaws, which the Ed Department hasn’t corrected.
McRae updated the list to include this year’s standardized API scores. He found that 42 of the 96 aren’t in Decile 1, the lowest performing 10 percent of schools (about 1,000 in the state). Thirty are Decile 2, eight are Decile 3, three are Decile 4, and one, a high school in Hacienda La Puente Unified in Southern California with an API score of nearly 700, is a Decile 5 school. As McRae noted it’s hard to take seriously a list of the lowest 5 percent of schools with 40 percent of them in Deciles 2 to 5.
On top of that, a bunch of schools made significant gains in their API scores last year to meet the state’s target for a five-year improvement. “The bottom line is that 60 to 70 percent of the schools on the 2010 SIG eligibility list should not be on a credible PLAS (Persistently Lowest Achieving Schools) list if we use the most recent current status and recent progress information,” McRae wrote. As a result, many of these schools could end up getting money they don’t deserve.
Those Decile 1 schools not on the list include the poster child of troubled schools in Los Angeles Unified: Fremont High. (It was exempted because its API rose 50 points in 5 years – something even barely breathing schools can do when their score is so low to start with.)
Last year, the State Board allotted $415 million in three-year grants of up to $6 million each to 92 schools. Districts don’t have to apply for the money, and many may not this year, because so far Congress has appropriated money for one year. Districts may not want to commit to wrenching changes without more money guaranteed.
The Department of Education has said schools would compete for the money, though it hasn’t disclosed the selection criteria. If enough deserving schools don’t apply, other schools will suck up the money.
Here’s another wrinkle: If Congress does come up with funds for future years, the state will feel obligated to continue funding this year’s winners. So it probably won’t get around to revising the list for two more years.
Approving the SIG list that it inherited was the first item facing a State Board with seven new members last month. Deb Sigman, the state deputy superintendent in charge of curriculum, learning, and accountability, told the board that the state faced a Jan. 31 deadline to submit the list or risk losing the money. She also said the Department was obligated to accept criteria for the list that the Legislature set into law.
McRae argues that the law was clearly worded to allow the State Board and Superintendent of Public Instruction to amend the list and that the Department could have updated the list within a week, then easily negotiated a deadline extension with the feds. My sense is he’s probably right.
I passed on McRae’s analysis to the Department two days ago for comment. I haven’t heard back.
Go here for McRae’s spreadsheet with the eligible schools. Go down to the bottom of the list for a description of each column.
- Tweets that mention State’s hardly ‘persistently lowest list’ | Thoughts on Public Education -- Topsy.com
- k12reboot » Does CA Know Where Its Lowest-Performing Schools Are?
- Seeking Something Better Than the Trigger « InterACT
- SIGnificant improvementS | Thoughts on Public Education