On Brexit & Our National Unity

“Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and shew the whole world, that a Freeman contending for Liberty on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.”
― George Washington

It is amazing watching the aftermath of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. One thing which has struck me is the surprise on some people’s parts as to a group of people wanting to be distinct, independent, and separate from the larger group. This just seems a little ironic when you look back on all of human history with this same scenario occurring over and over again. Whether its the Roman, Greek, Babylonian, Austro-Hungarian, or any of the other countless empires that have attempted bring together people into one group, there has always been a tendency of groups to want to remain distinct. The same can be seen in modern countries such as Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan, or Iraq which were not formed directly through conquest. For a nation to remain unified, it must share some sort of uniting cultural commonality.

The cultural glue may be ideals, language, values, or religion held in common, but there must be something which holds people together or the groups within the larger group who do share some of these things will begin to come together and eventually desire to self-direct their own future. Personally, I think this tendency of people will occur in spite of all of the positive economic or standard of living benefits of remaining in their current unified state. In the case of the United States, in my opinion, it was always a belief in freedom of the individual, agreement on the fundamental principles of our democratic republic as outlined in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and agreement on the need for all of us to respect the rule of law governing disagreements we might have with one another. I would argue that this has always allowed us to overcome the tendency to want to break apart and divide on the basis of our differing cultural and religious beliefs. We all shared the common idea that freedom of the individual is of the utmost importance and our form of democratic limited government protected that freedom from others, both within and without, imposing their will upon us as individuals.

The big question, I suppose, for our future is whether we will keep these common beliefs which bind our country together as a unit. If we do not agree upon such overriding ideals which can hold us together, the various differences which have always been present in our country will inevitably weaken us to some degree or another. Our country has always been unique and strong because of our ability to take various peoples from various differing backgrounds and come together because of our love for the beliefs that make the United States a united country based not upon common ethnicity or race, but upon common ideals. I sincerely hope we all do our best to make sure this is always the case for ourselves and future generations by recommitting to these ideals and emphasizing them to our young people as being the glue which has been able to hold us together thus far.

-Clint Stroupe

Fall 2015-Spring 2016 Mississippi Kindergarten Readiness Growth Rankings by School

With the recent release of the 2015-2016 Mississippi Kindergarten Readiness Assessment results, I thought some might be interested in examining the statewide growth rankings by individual school for last year’s assessments to measure Kindergarten readiness given at the beginning and the end of the Kindergarten year.  The data is still very fresh, so please do let me know if you spot anything that does not look right.  This information can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

2015-2016 Rankings by Growth MS Kindergarten Readiness Assessment by School

This information is nice in that it gives us “growth” information to attempt to see what degree of learning might have occurred over the school year.  This is in contrast to the far less desirable end-of-course or end-of-year scores which give us no indicator of what level of achievement the students were at when they actually began the course.

However, there are several problems with attempting to draw too many conclusions from these rankings or the amount of growth used to determine these rankings.  The 2015-2016 Mississippi Kindergarten Readiness Assessment had several characteristics which absolutely need to be considered when looking at this growth and drawing any conclusions from it:

  • This assessment is in every way I can examine the STAR Early Literacy assessment produced by Renaissance Learning which has the contract to produce this test for Mississippi.  Therefore, the test is not designed to assess students who are already quite literate by the end of the year.  Yet, in many of our schools a small number of Kindergarten students are often moved up from STAR Early Literacy to the more advanced STAR Reading assessment to determine growth because of their high Early Literacy scores.  This is important to note because high-performing students might literally “top out” on this readiness assessment and not show significant growth by the end of the year as they hit the “ceiling” of this assessment’s design.  Several students hitting such a ceiling would adversely affect “growth” since little or none could be detected in these students who have exceeded the design of the assessment.  This is important to remember, especially in schools that show higher levels of average beginning and ending scores.  This can be somewhat illustrated by the graph below:GraphThe graph shows a comparison of the average beginning 2015 Fall score for each school (x-axis) compared to the average gains in scale score after the 2016 Spring assessment (y-axis).  The correlation is not very strong overall, but you can visibly see the negative trend that with higher average beginning Fall scale scores the likelihood of being in the top rankings of growth after the ending Spring assessment goes trends downward.  As stated this negative correlation is not very strong overall, but it is a correlation.  More importantly, notice those schools on the upper end (545 and above average Fall score), none of those schools managed to go above 215 points of average growth (scale score gains).  I am not a statistician, so this is far from scientific.  However, I think it points to the strong possibility of the “ceiling” effect to which I am referring and should be kept in mind when examining growth at the individual schools and districts.
  • Along similar lines, the information presented here is for raw scale score growth.  It does not tell us how close the students were on average to hitting the appropriate growth “target” based upon their individual beginning score.  This is important because students (on average) achieve very different magnitudes of scale score growth depending upon their beginning score.  The same assessments given over multiple years and/or the same assessments given to large numbers of students across the country can allow such “growth targets” to be determined giving students and teachers an average amount of growth which would be statistically “typical” for the student to achieve.  In fact, I would assume this data should be available given the STAR Early Literacy assessment is given all over the nation.  For example, hypothetically students beginning the year with a score of 500 might “on average” grow to a score of 674 by the end of the year (174 point growth in raw score).  Alternatively, a student beginning the year at a 674 might “on average” grow to a score of only 710 (36 point growth in raw score).  In this hypothetical situation, a classroom of students who all began the year with a 674 and ended the year with a 725 (49 points of raw score growth) would have “done better” than a classroom of students who all began the year with a 500 and ended the year all scoring a 600 (100 points of raw score growth).  Those in the class beginning at 674 scored far more growth than what would be typical for their peers compared to those in the class beginning with a 500 whose growth was not as high as their peers, even though in terms of pure score growth (such as the data contained in this ranking) the 674 class did not have as much pure score growth!  Instead of magnitude of score growth, this comparison to an average “growth target,” based upon the beginning of year score would be a much better indicator of learning progress.  Such analysis and comparison to what is typical is important to factor into account before drawing too many conclusions about one school outperforming another in terms of growth, especially if those schools had very different average Fall (beginning of year) scores.

All of these factors should certainly be considered for the 2015-2016 growth results.  If the assessment results are truly going to be used to compare schools and districts head to head in regards to “growth” then hopefully the “top end ceiling” issue of this Star Early Literacy assessment will be addressed.  That and/or an analysis giving typical growth for students with the same beginning score and a formula to weigh the growth “percentage” achieved based on these beginning scores is the only way this head to head comparison of growth is in any way accurate.

Thanks,

Clint Stroupe

*The scatter plot graphic shown above can be downloaded for a better view by clicking the link below.  Please feel free to critique my rudimentary knowledge of correlations and the like.  Hopefully, I did not butcher it too badly.

Fall Scores vs Growth Scatter Plot

Mob Mentality

Excellent thoughts on the Biblical front by Adam Miller!

PDPreacher's Place

May 6 – Mark 10-16

In our study today, we see two events that see completely contradictory. In Mark 11, we see Jesus entering Jerusalem from the east, riding on a donkey’s foal. He is welcomed by a crowd who are cutting down branches to lay in the road, and crying out “Hosanna! ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!” This statement was a clear indicator that in Jesus, the mass of people gathered in Jerusalem for the feast of unleavened bread (Passover) saw a Savior, the Messiah Himself. The second event occurs in chapter 15, in the Praetorium, as Jesus stands before the governor Pilate. As Pilate offers to release Jesus without penalty, the priests stir up the crowd, and they begin to plead with Pilate to execute Jesus. Those haunting words ring out in unison: “Crucify Him!! Crucify Him!!” Where were the cries of…

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The Need for Stable, Growth-Based Accountability

“Privileged groups work for greater power consolidation through favoritism.”
― Bryant McGill, Voice of Reason

School accountability models that have unreachable goals and are not growth based have one purpose, to confuse the public and the schools themselves. They yield negative results for schools that are not truly reflective of student learning nor giving meaningful information to anyone. Such models serve no purpose other than a political one to make school systems appear to under perform to achieve political goals, regardless of what is truly occurring in a school.

Likewise, when states change their models every year as well as the assessments used in these models, the effort is a meaningless waste of time and funds, lacking any meaningful results. A state would be better off without an accountability system rather than one which is constantly changing as both scenarios produce no accurate data to be used in meaningful ways. At least the absence of any accountability system whatsoever does not waste tax dollars on tests given without a real purpose and instructional time wasted on such testing.

Growth-based, objective assessments of student performance, achievable accountability models that incorporate such growth, and systems of accountability which are stable over multiple years are the only meaningful types of statewide accountability. A state cannot afford not to have such a quality system in place that is the same for both public and charter schools. Yet, no system at all would be preferable to one which lacks these essential elements.

When accountability models have no meaning due to their lack or consistency or achievability, we return to a time period where the public is largely ignorant of which schools are actually producing growth in students. We also return to a time that a few school systems were incredibly lucky enough to have honorable and intelligent administrators and teachers willing to face up to political pressure make decisions based upon optimal learning of students. However, for the many school systems, no accountability, to one degree or another, returns to the days where the school’s main goal was not to attract any attention, to keep the “right” parents in the community happy, to keep property taxes low regardless of need, and to make sure it provided jobs and promotions for the well-connected of the community instead of those who produced the most gains for the student.

Some educators would like to go back to the “good old days” prior to any testing or accountability. Yet those old days were a world where the best schools, the best teachers, and the best administrators were largely decided upon for subjective reasons such as their likability to those above them and the perception of those around them regardless of facts. Even with evaluations based upon observation every educator knows another teacher or is a teacher themselves who is able to “put on the dog and pony show” for an administrator’s view often at the drop of a hat. Many say they detest politics and popularity contests in our schools today, but without objective accountability measures for many in our school systems such subjectivity will be the only means of criteria left for making decisions. I am for accountability models and their assessments as necessities, but only for those designed to actually work. Without it there is absolutely no pressure on anyone to put people into positions based on their ability to produce as opposed to simply the whim of those making such decisions and the influence of others upon them.

-Clint Stroupe

Criminal Charges for Medical Professionals Openly Supporting Pro-Life Candidates?

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

-Sir John Dalberg-Acton (April 1887)




Has anyone seen the new law being proposed trying to silence medical and healthcare workers from having their voices heard politically?

The law up for consideration says registered nurses who choose to speak out against Obamacare or talk about any type of political activity whatsoever, including legislation having to do with abortion, euthanasia, or Medicare/Medicaid, funding for hospitals, or funding for research during the time of their shifts or in any way whatsoever on hospital property (even in the break room during lunch or on a bulletin board in the lounge) will be fined $10,000 for the first offense and charged with a misdemeanor!

If after the first CRIMINAL conviction, they still have not learned their lesson about keeping their mouths shut (even during breaks), the repeat offending nurse will be fined $10,000, have another misdemeanor criminal conviction, and permanently have his or her license to practice nursing revoked by the government! That’s right a pro-life discussion at the break table, a word to a coworker about how they do not agree with some new medical legislation, or any sort of political expression of thought, even during breaks using the nurse’s own phone, would result in criminal charges!

Unfortunately, you haven’t even heard the most extreme part yet! Under the new law doctors, hospital administrators, and those serving on the board of any medical facility will not even be able to speak out about any political issues mentioned above or any other political issues whatsoever that disagree with the government in any way! That’s right NOTHING political in any way that goes against whatever the government is proposing or wanting to do. Even at home, at church, or sitting around the table at a local restaurant, talking about political issues or taking a stand about what they believe is right politically would all be in violation! It does not matter whether it remotely has to do with healthcare or not. The law says that they will also be charged with a crime, fined, and lose their jobs and license to work in health care just as the professional nurses listed above if they AT ANY TIME WHATSOEVER publicly support or oppose ANY political party, let anyone openly know of their beliefs and stance on a philosophy or issue in an election, engage in ANY TYPE OF POLITICAL ACTIVITY to affect the outcome of any government activity, campaign on behalf of a specific candidate or issue, or attempt to lobby the the government for any type of policy changes!!!

Yes, that is right these citizens of the United States who will know more about what is actually occurring in our hospitals than anyone else will be charged criminally, lose their jobs, and on the second offense their license to ever get another job in the medical field again should they attempt to let us know their beliefs, thoughts, or feelings in relation to what the government might be doing for or against the health and welfare of its citizens!

Am I wrong, or is this an assault on the freedom of speech and seemingly an attempt by the government to silence its citizens and potentially keep the rest of us ignorant of anything our government might try to impose upon our healthcare system no matter how extreme??? Folks, if we let this happen to those providing our healthcare who will be next? Is the Constitution something these law makers are ready to literally rip to shreds? Who would have thought in our lifetime any elected official in the USA would have the nerve and lack of shame to openly write up such a law which goes against the very fabric and foundation of our democracy?

…..Okay, the situation outlined above is true with one exception; it has nothing to do with hospitals or health care. It is real and it’s a law that has been proposed this session by some in our state legislature. Just insert schools and any school property wherever hospitals are mentioned. Insert teachers or anyone else working for schools in place of the nurses mentioned. Then replace doctors, hospital administrators, and board members with school superintendents and school board members. Make those changes to refer to our education system instead of our healthcare system and you have the bill being proposed to be adopted as law in Mississippi. Yes, it is real. No, the description above about what will be a criminal offense and the penalties for such an offense is not being exaggerated to prove a point.

Simply click the link below to read the bill for yourself:

http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/documents/2016/html/HB/0001-0099/HB0049IN.htm

-Clint Stroupe

It’s A Wonderful Life, School Choice, & Sticking Together

It's a Wonderful Life

 

GEORGE:    Now, just remember that this thing isn’t as black as it appears.

As George speaks, sirens are heard passing in the street below.  The crowd turn to the windows, then back to George.

GEORGE:    I have some news for you, folks. I’ve just talked to old man Potter, and he’s guaranteed cash payments at the bank. The bank’s going to reopen next week.

ED:    But, George, I got my money here.

CHARLIE:    Did he guarantee this place?

GEORGE:    Well, no, Charlie. I didn’t even ask him.  We don’t need Potter over here.

Mary and Ernie have come into the room during this scene.

Mary stands watching silently. 

CHARLIE:    I’ll take mine now.

GEORGE:    No, but you… you… you’re thinking of this place all wrong.  

As if I had the money back in a safe. The money’s not here

Your money’s in Joe’s house…

(to one of the men)

…right next to yours. And in the Kennedy house, and Mrs. Macklin’s house, and a hundred others. Why, you’re lending them the money to build, and then, they’re going to pay it back to you as best they can.

Now what are you going to do? Foreclose on them?

TOM:    I got two hundred and forty-two dollars in here, and two hundred and forty-two dollars isn’t going to break anybody.

GEORGE:    (handing him a slip) Okay, Tom. All right. Here you are. You sign this. You’ll get your money in sixty days.

TOM:    Sixty days?

GEORGE:    Well, now that’s what you agreed to when you bought your shares.

There is a commotion at the outer doors.

A man (Randall)comes in and makes his way up to Tom.

RANDALL:    Tom… Tom, did you get your money?

TOM:    No.

RANDALL:    Well, I did. Old man Potter’ll pay fifty cents on the dollar for every share you got.

(shows bills)

CROWD:    Fifty cents on the dollar!

RANDALL:    Yes, cash!

TOM:    (to George) Well, what do you say?

GEORGE:    Now, Tom, you have to stick to your original agreement. Now give us sixty days on this.

TOM:    (turning to Randall) Okay, Randall.

Tom starts out…

A few other people start for the door. George vaults over the counter quickly, speaking to the people.

GEORGE:    Tom! Tom! Randall! Now wait… now listen… now listen to me.

I beg of you not to do this thing. If Potter gets hold of this Building and Loan there’ll never be another decent house built in this town. He’s already got charge of the bank.  He’s got the bus line. He’s got the department. And now he’s after us.  Why? Well, it’s very simple. Because we’re cutting in on his business, that’s why.  And because he wants to keep you living in his slums and paying the kind of rent he decides.

 The people are still trying to get out, but some of them have stood still, listening to him. George has begun to make an impression on them.

GEORGE:    Joe, you lived in one of his houses, didn’t you? Well, have you forgotten?  Have you forgotten what he charged you for that broken-down shack?

(to Ed)

Here, Ed. You know, you remember last year when things weren’t going so well, and you couldn’t make your payments. You didn’t lose your house, did you? Do you think Potter would have let you keep it?

(turns to address the room again)

Can’t you understand what’s happening? Don’t you see what’s happening? Potter isn’t selling. Potter’s buying! And why? Because we’re panicky and he’s not.  That’s why. He’s picking up some bargains.  Now, we can get this thing all right. We’ve got to stick together, though. We’ve got to have faith in each other.

– It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

          

 

The scene outlined above is one of my favorites from one of my favorite Christmas films, It’s a Wonderful Life.  George is, of course, making the case why the individual member of the community who is being served by the local building and loan must not decide to pull their funds out at once or else the whole institution will collapse.  George is having a hard time convincing the individuals to think larger than themselves and to consider the institution and what it provides to the community.  I found myself mentally coming back to this particular scene as I thought about the recent efforts to push so-called “school choice” in Mississippi.  I believe this particular scene in the movie provides us with great insight into our present situation in Mississippi public education by illustrating the main elements of the “school choice” movement in regards to motivation, action, and consequences.

In the film, there is a “run” on the building and loan by many of the customers with deposit accounts (checking and savings).  The “building and loan” which Bailey managed was basically a small community bank which shareholders throughout the community owned.  The customers in the building and loan were the actual shareholders as all had a stake in it.  This is in contrast to the larger bank in town which was run mainly by Mr. Potter.  The “building and loan” in the film was designed to serve the community by reinvesting funds back into the community.  While in the film, the bank’s primary function was to maximize profits. At the moment of the “run” on the building and loan, many of the customers with deposit accounts had no loans from the building and loan.  But, when they needed its lending services in the past, it was the only option which could meet their lending needs by providing loans for quality homes at fair and reasonable interest rates.  In effect, the building and loan was a sort of social insurance to the whole community when and if they had a need for it.  Yet this insurance could only exist by all members of the group sticking together and staying in the “pool” of customers, some borrowing money and many more depositing money which the building and loan used to make the loans.  With the recent push by lobbying groups and politicians to increase “school choice” by enabling per student tax dollars to follow the student and flow into alternative charter or private schools, it seems especially important to remind taxpayers of how their local, public school provides a form of educational insurance to meet the sometimes extreme needs of students much like Bailey’s Building and Loan met its community’s financial needs.

At this point, I believe we all know how the “school choice” system (or scheme) works.  Schools are funded by the state based upon each student who attends.  The state has a certain amount it gives to the public school district per individual child enrolled to educate students in the district.  “School choice” seeks to allow that money to be used to fund tuition at a non-public school by giving the child a voucher or tax credit to spend based upon this money.  the charter or private school then receives this per student funding. If the amount of state reimbursement is $3,500/year and one student left to attend a non-public school, that $3,500/year money would flow to the non-public school which the child chose to attend.  These funds would thus be diverted from the public school in that community and would essentially be cut from its budget or the shared budget of all public schools from state funding.  This sounds perfectly reasonable on the surface.  I mean, if the state gives $3,500/year to educate a child, then what does it matter if the money and that child leave the public school?  The school where the child enrolls gets the money and one might think this will simply reimburse the charter/private school for the cost of his or her education.  However, there is only one problem with that logic, and this problem rests in one simple word, “average.”

Funding amounts per student are based upon averages, not real dollar amounts required to educate a particular child.  This key difference can be illustrated by using a business analogy.  Imagine you work for a company as a full-time (40+ hours per week) employee.  However, this company has only ten full-time employees, counting you, with many more being part-time (less than 20 hours per week).  In fact, the company works a total of twenty-five part-time employees in comparison to the ten full-time.  At the end of the week it is pay day and the company has a meeting when it is time to give out the checks.  The boss tells all employees there has been a slight change in the way everyone will be paid this week.  Instead of different check amounts, all employees will now make the exact same for their week of work.  Both, full-time and part-time regardless of experience or any other factor will make the exact same.  This is, of course, perfectly fair from the bosses perspective because the exact same amount is being paid out by management this week as the week before.  The only difference is that now everyone will make the “average” rate of pay calculated per employee.  Naturally, you and the other nine full-time employees would be very supportive of this change, correct?  No, both common sense and fairness require the pay to not be based upon an “average.”  As you can see, in the real world of dollars and cents, the average is good for very little other than having a mathematical conversation.

Likewise, the school district is reimbursed on this same average amount to pay for the expenses to provide a free and appropriate education for each child.  However, the cost of such an education can vary a great deal from this average.  The child who has autism and requires intensive therapies by specialized staff during the day requires much more to educate than this average.  The child from a poor family who has moved eight times during the last year and who stays for hours by herself every evening as her parents go to their second job will probably require greater help to stay caught up in reading than a child without these disadvantages.  This help will require more money for the interventionists and tutors who work with her in a small group while the other students are all working in the regular classroom.  There are countless other examples of students who require more resources to educate during the day than other students.  Students without these special situations, who are able to keep up in the regular classroom without extra help, require much less funding to receive a quality education than these others.  However, the average sees all of these children the same in regards to the cost of their education.

To return to the movie analogy, if you are fortunate enough to have a child who requires no additional help to keep up and receive a quality education, you are much like the large group of deposit account holders at the building and loan.  The average amount of dollars which follow your child more than cover the cost of your child’s education.  What happens to these excess funds that exceed the cost of your child’s education?  The excess amount funds the needs of the other students within the school district who have educational needs which require more money than their average amount is able to afford.  Those students with these extra needs are like those who borrow money from the Bailey Building and Loan to obtain decent housing or to cover expenses.  Just as George told those depositors in the film, your money is not in a safe the back of the building, “your money is in Joe’s house.”  The building and loan was a cooperative organization with all of its members depending on the one another to provide enough funding for the common benefit and to provide a sort of insurance against the risk of needing a loan in the future at reasonable terms and being unable to get it.  Just like you as the parent of the child who is educated without the extra services with their expenses, your child is in effect paying for the education of the other children since his or her educational services cost less.  However, the exchange is that when you have your next child and that child is born with Down Syndrome, that child will now receive the same “insurance coverage” from the excess funds provided by their counterparts in the school district who do not require their full “average” funding to meet their needs.  The funding following your child is not in the back room or the school bank account; the funding following your child is literally in the child across the room or down the hall.

If you are with me thus far, you can see how the public schools function as the same type of cooperative providing needed services and risk protection for all children in the state just as the building and loan provided for the needs and protection from risk for the members of the community of Bedford Falls.  However, there is another institution which we have a need to recognize in this analogy.  That is Potter’s bank.  Potter’s bank in the story is an institution driven by profits primarily for Mr. Potter and whatever other few shareholders the bank possesses.  This is the situation with many of the “charter schools” which operate for a profit in states where “school choice” is being implemented.  Many of these companies are for-profit businesses which seek to educate children for less than the money reimbursed by the state and keep the remainder as profit.  How do they do this?  Are they really that much more efficient than the public schools?  While there is no doubt there are examples of waste out of the thousands and thousands of public schools in our country, efficiency is not behind the potential profits of the charter/private school receiving average student reimbursement from the state in a “school choice” scenario.  No, the secret formula of their profits lies again in one word, “average.”  The students who attend the charter or private school are not the students who require the greatest needs and with those needs the greater expenses.  While there are many reasons and ways that these schools only end up enrolling these students with less expensive needs, they are too lengthy to go into here.  However, in short, charter and private schools traditionally market themselves to parents based upon greater and more rigorous academics in preparation for college. However, as you might imagine, for many parents of students with special needs children is not their chief concern.  These parents of special needs children are much more likely to be more concerned with life skills and the abilities which allow independent living. There are also financial aspects which allow children with less financially stable home situations who are more likely to be behind their peers due to stress and less time available for their parents to be provide academic help at home to be filtered out of the charter school enrollees. Many, if not most, charter or private schools do not provide free transportation and transporting a student to and from school by car requires greater expenses on the part of parents and the time off work to provide this transportation. Through these and many other “filters” charter or private schools end up with a pool of students who are generally more affluent, more involved with their student’s education, or a combination of both of these traits.  Thus, charter schools are like Potter’s bank, they desire to have the cash depositors (students who can be educated with less expense) to bring their money (the average state reimbursement which follows the student) from the building and loan (the public school) and put in into Potter’s bank (the charter or private school).

If the “run” on the bank happens, the deposit account holders will go to Potter’s bank taking their funds leaving only those with loans at the Bailey Building and Loan.  I think we all know what happens to the Bailey Building and Loan in this scenario, it collapses unable to provide the loan services it needs to those customers without the capital funds of the depositors.  The only way the Bailey Building and Loan would not collapse in this scenario would be to have a sudden infusion of funds allowing it to still provide loans.  Essentially, someone like the government would have to bail out the building and loan to keep it from closing altogether.  I think we all have enough common sense to know who foots the bill when the government has to bail someone out, you the taxpayer.  Unless you are willing to allow the building and loan to collapse, much more money will be spent propping it up financially while still sending the average funding to the charter/private school to make its profits than ever was required before the charter siphoned off the children whose education is less expensive to provide.  This is the reason “school choice” with tax money following the student into the accounts of the charter/private school, if allowed to continue unhindered will inevitably result in public school districts either closing their doors or requiring huge infusions of taxpayer cash to cover the actual education expenses of the students who are left (the students with the greatest needs).  Yes, money is made in “school choice” schemes, but the money is made on the back of the taxpayer and goes into the pocket of the company operating the charter/private school.

The crisis scene of It’s a Wonderful Life ends on a happy note as most of the community members with money in the building and loan realize the sense in what George is telling them.  They see that they are investors and partners in a cooperative partnership with the other community members providing resources and opportunities when and if they need the services of the institution.  This type of partnership cannot be accomplished without everyone paying into the pool, both those who need the greater services and those who do not.  My friends, we are all taxpayers, we have no choice in the matter and our state constitution mandates that all children will receive a free education.  Therefore, we cannot opt out of paying for this education for each and every child.  The only question is whether we want to invest these tax funds into the students who need the services and into our community members, or whether we will give the investment to Mr. Potter and his handful of shareholders and abandon the cooperative we have together.  Make no mistake, the end result in years to come can only be the ending of education for every child or even more money required to fund the education of children needing higher than average expenses while at the same time maintaining the profit margin of the charter/private school shareholders.

-Clint Stroupe

The Process vs The Results: The Chief Philosophical Divide in Modern Education

“It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.”

~Deng Xiaoping

 

Thanks to the magic of a DVR, I am postponing the beginning of the Division I National Championship football game for a few minutes in order to bypass some of the commercials.  As I sit here waiting and thinking about the upcoming game, I have to consider who I will cheer for in the game.  For me, some of this determination has to do with which of the two coaches I find myself agreeing with, liking, and sympathizing with more than the other.  In regards to these coaches, Saban and Swinney, who do you believe is the better coach?  I mean if you had to simply decide who does the best job coaching a team, which one has the edge in your mind?  I think most of us, if we are honest, would find ourselves gravitating toward one or the other who in our own view epitomizes more of the characteristics we believe are essential in a truly great coach.  Now ask yourself another question, did you find yourself only discussing the results of the coaches’ professional practice (such as wins/losses, national championships, number of players getting drafted, league championships, etc.) or did you find yourself also discussing characteristics of the coaches’ professional process (such as demeanor, practice methods, discipline, etc.)  I would be willing to bet for most of us to varying degrees the “process” elements creep into our analysis of how “good” these men are at coaching in spite of the quantitative results their methods yielded.

You have Dabo Swinney, head coach of Clemson, a man who literally wears his heart on his sleeve.  Swinney is the classic underdog in many ways.  He took the reins of Clemson quite few years ago as a midseason interim coach who no one really believed had what it took to be the head of that program.  But, winning a rivalry game against South Carolina and becoming bowl eligible, made this man, who seemed totally unashamed to show his emotions through his heartfelt speeches and postgame comments, somehow the head of a major program.  However, it seemed one of those situations where no one believed he would really make it into a long term success.  Instead, giving him the job just seemed like an obligation on the part of the Clemson higher ups for winning games that he was not supposed to win and seemingly capturing the heart of his players in the process.  Swinney is the type of coach who you can picture literally hugging his players with tears in his eyes either overcome with joy and/or grief.

Then you have Nick Saban, the high profile, hard nose, process oriented coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide.  Saban is known for his tough manner.  Whereas, Swinney predominantly displays “positive” emotions publicly, Saban’s emotional outbursts are generally toward the other end of the spectrum.  Hardly ever cracking a smile when involved with “the process” of his football coaching, Saban has won multiple national championships at two different schools.  Saban is stoic in his actions for the most part, except when chastising those around him.  He is methodical and tough, the two qualities which conventional wisdom traditionally has said that successful coaches should possess.

Yes, the contrast between these two coaches is stark.  Some will side with Swinney as the preferred coach as the positive follower of Jon Gordon who they see as a positive, inspirational leader.  Others will side with Saban as the disciplined, coach and leader who, at least publicly, seems to intimidate those around him into giving their best performances.  However, there can only be one winner of the national championship.  So the question will be at the end of the game, which will matter more as far as judging the coach, the one whose process we most agree with or the one who produces the end result of a championship trophy over his head?

While I will ultimately have to root for Alabama as an SEC school, it is not without reservation as my heart tells me to root for Clemson and their coach because of their heart and seemingly their lack of respect by everyone around them.  These differences and my personal feelings aside, I feel that Saban and Swinney illustrate one of the fundamental questions about how we choose to evaluate the job leaders and professionals do in their fields, the question of which is more important “the process” or “the results.”  Especially for those in education today, one of the fundamental questions is whether we will choose to emphasize the results or whether we will emphasize the steps taken to yield results as being the most important.  In my personal view, this “process versus results” choice is the most important question we are wrestling with today in education.

Education has traditionally been dominated by a “process” oriented approach.  Whether you believe in a top-down leadership model (which still has a stranglehold on public education in many areas of the country) or a more diffuse form of collegial leadership (which is advocated more today), both approaches emphasize “the process.”  Leaders or peers pop in to “evaluate” other teachers based upon the process they observe.  These evaluations factor heavily, if not exclusively in some cases, on the judgment of whether a teacher is doing his or her job in the classroom.  How do we judge professional learning community (PLC) development and usage in the school?  Is it not via observation?  Almost every measure that professors in college teacher education programs, education authors, and speakers advocate as a means of evaluation is ultimately “process” oriented.  Clearly, the insiders of public education have traditionally and still do emphasize “the process” even though the characteristics of this process may have changed in their criteria over the years.

On the other hand are those who choose to emphasize “the results.”  Much like the pragmatic view attributed to Deng Xiaoping of China, they do not care what color the cat may be, as long as it catches mice.  The desire by many, often outside of professional education circles, to move away from “process” oriented means of evaluation of teaching effectiveness and towards a “results” oriented means of evaluation is the basis of many of our so-called “accountability models” and the formalized “high stakes” testing we have seen implemented over the years.  To the “results” oriented person the methodology one uses does not matter (as long as it is ethical and legal), it is just the final learning outcome measured in the student which matters.  Underpinning the “results” oriented mindset, is the assumption that no one is able to fully judge what process may work for one particular administrator/teacher for one particular group of students at one particular time as being the best simply by measuring how it meets certain “process” criteria.  Instead, totally different approaches could be used depending upon the individual circumstance and both could be judged as being equal, as long as both produced the desired result in measurable increases of learning in students.

In the near future, I hope to explore this issue in greater depth.  However, I thought the contrast tonight between these two coaches’ approach made for a nice introduction to this topic.  As you watch the game tonight and find yourself evaluating these two coaches, ask yourself which is ultimately the most important criteria in your judgment:  the process of coaching you most agree with or the results they produce regardless of steps taken to get there?  Which side you find the most important may actually tell something about how you view teaching effectiveness as well.  But, do not forget both of these men have made it to the pinnacle of their sport this season and yet both have done so employing very different philosophies and methodologies.  Do you think it would be best to evaluate them based upon results or based upon the characteristics we have predetermined in our mind which “should” yield the desired results?

More to come on this “process oriented” versus “results oriented” approach in public education in the near future…

-Clint Stroupe

2014-2015 Mississippi English II PARCC Assessment Results Ranked by School

In the same vein as the other assessment results, the following are the PARCC English II assessment results from the 2014-2015 school year ranked by individual school.  Unlike the Algebra I test results, English II results are straight-forward in they only apply to one school since the course and the end-of-course assessment are only taken on the high school level in contrast to Algebra I which can be taken at the middle school level.

The results ranked by school can be accessed by clicking on the following link:

2014-2015 Rankings by MS School – PARCC Eng II Assessment

As with all PARCC assessments given for the first (and only) time in the 2014-2015 school year, there is no way to determine growth.  Therefore, we know nothing about the level of achievement students started the course exhibiting and only know where they ended.  Since such growth data is unavailable, the only data we have are the final end-of-course scores.  The data is purely for informational purposes, and I hope those interested find it useful.  As always, please let me know if you spot any issues.

Thanks,

Clint Stroupe

2014-2015 MS Algebra I PARCC Assessment Results Ranked by School

Judging from the interest in the other assessments, I thought perhaps someone might also like to look at the secondary level PARCC end-of-course assessment results for Algebra I. They can be accessed by clicking the following link:

2014-2015 Rankings by MS School – PARCC Alg I Assessment

However, more caution should be used in examining these Algebra I PARCC results than with any others listed.  There are several extremely important differences in how the Algebra I assessment is given and reported that make it quite unique.

Caveats of the 2014-2015 PARCC Algebra I results:

Algebra I is unique in that students may take it during the middle school years (typically the 8th grade).  These middle school students who took Algebra I in 2014-2015, all took the end-of-course PARCC Algebra I assessment just as their high school counterparts did.  In many school districts across the state, the decision is made to allow students who have demonstrated advanced achievement in 7th grade mathematics to take Algebra I in the 8th grade in order to “get a jump” on the accumulation of high school credits.  This “jump” might pay off by freeing up the student to take more advanced electives, dual-credit/enrollment, or AP courses later in high school.  Why is this important when analyzing results reported by school?

  1. In a situation where a district has a separate elementary, junior high, or middle school which includes an 7th or 8th grade and has Algebra I testers, those results will show up under the elem/jr. high/middle school where they took it.  This has a two-fold effect.  First, the school with the junior high test takers will typically have extremely high test scores as the more advanced students are typically enrolled in the course (with some exceptional cases at schools where the total opposite might be taking place for strategic reasons with polar opposite results).  Second, the school where those students typically move on to the 9th grade (the “high school”) will typically now have extremely lower Algebra I scores on average due to the fact that the upper achieving students have already taken the course in the 8th grade at the elem/jr. high/middle school where they were the year before.  Thus, middle schools will typically have extremely higher scores in comparison to all other school types.
  2. In some school districts these extremes do not take place at all and results are not skewed due to the “split” between taking Algebra I in the middle school grades.  This occurs for three typical reasons.  First, some districts have a blanket policy that no student, regardless of achievement, will be able to take Algebra I before 9th grade.  Thus, in those schools all students’ scores will fall under the high school in which they enter the 9th grade.  The only exception to this is a few schools across the state that include the 9th grade in their middle school or have a middle school made only of 9th graders.  This 9th grade middle school scenario is extremely rare in Mississippi, but it does exist causing further skewing of results when attempting to compare schools head to head.  Second, there are a fair number of high schools which include 7th – 12th grades.  In these combined 7th – 12th high schools, no skewing takes place as all Algebra I test takers are reported under the one school name regardless of the grade they take the course.  Third, there are a minority of K-12 schools still left across the state.  These schools have the same situation as the 7th – 12th grade high schools listed previously, in that they will not have skewing of results as takes place in the “caveat #1” schools listed above.
  3. In an ideal situation, one might compare three categories of schools’ Algebra I results.  The first category being elem/jr. high/middle schools with students taking Algebra I in the 7th/8th grade.  The second category being high schools which receive students from those type of elem/jr. high/middle schools which allow Algebra I to be taken.  The third category being made up of K-12 attendance centers and 7th – 12th high schools whose scores reflect all of their Algebra I students regardless of grade level.
  4. In the real world, these categories must be taken into consideration when comparing schools (district comparisons are not affected because all students regardless of grade level taking Algebra I end up under the umbrella of the particular district’s results).  However, attempting to show these distinctions when examining statewide results is impossible without the state supplying information about each schools grade levels (and perhaps even their philosophy or rules regarding students taking Algebra I).  Since my ranking rely on publicly available data, I have to use my own judgement as to what category a school might fall under.

Due to these very important caveats, I have made my best attempt to show this distinction of results by making two categories for ranking schools.  The first category includes K-12 attendance centers and all high schools that have a 9th grade (including both 7th-12th & 9th-12th high schools).  The second category includes elementary, junior high, and high schools which do not have a 9th grade.  These categories are not perfect as some schools (such as those very rare 9th grade only schools) have to be lumped into one category or the other even though they are unique situations.  Also, some schools names may not reflect their actual grade levels (such as Nowhereville High School which despite its name is actually a K-12 attendance center) resulting in me accidentally placing them in an inappropriate category.  However, I feel the attempt must be made to show at least these two category distinctions or else the results would make little sense (with middle schools virtually dominating the top half of the rankings for the reasons listed above).

Despite the long-winded dissertation, I hope these results provide information which you find beneficial.

Thanks,

Clint Stroupe