The Massachusetts Department of Education is using a flawed performance accountability formula that falsely places healthy schools into underperforming turnaround status, costing millions of taxpayer dollars and cruelly disrupting the lives of students, families, and school staff.
The formula uses Student Growth Percentile (SGP) figures that cheat the most vulnerable students out of credit for improving their academic skills. In fact, the accountability formula gives zero SGP to many high-risk students: students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and the homeless, even the ones who score Advanced on the MCAS tests!
The accountability formula is the state’s method for measuring school performance. It includes categories like the Composite Performance Index (CPI), Student Growth Percentile (SGP), Attendance Rate, and Graduation Rate. This formula often misleads observers about the high levels of progress that are being made in many schools. Their progress does not count in the following ways:
1. The Composite Performance Index (CPI) awards points to schools based on student performance on the MCAS. This category shortchanges ELL students because…
A. students in ESL 1 and ESL 2 must take the test even though the MCAS is far above the performance standards for their language acquisition levels. The MCAS is an ESL 5 test. We are expecting students whose performance standards dictate simple sentences with simple words and concrete ideas to pass a test with Shakespeare and Spencer, containing college vocabulary and complex abstract thinking.
2. The Student Growth Percentile (SGP) – a mysterious and elusive category said to compare students’ current performance to past performance. It is supposed to be based on prior test scores. However in the case of high risk students who frequently move or students who have just entered the country, there is no SGP to compare. In those cases, students have been awarded zero SGP, even when their scores are high. A low SGP can send a school into turnaround status.
3. Attendance Rate – a category that shortchanges schools with high levels of…
A. homeless students who may be temporarily housed 20 or 30 miles away. They may have trouble reaching school because of unreliable transportation.
B. Low-poverty-level students, who may have to miss school to work or take care of younger siblings.
4. Graduation Rate – a category that penalizes…
A. schools with many English Language Learner students who have interrupted educations (SIFE & HILT) in their previous homes;
B. schools with high homeless populations who can miss weeks and months of school moving around.
C. schools with high levels of students with disabilities (SWD), such as autistic students and mentally retarded students who are given until they are age 22 to graduate from high school. They are considered to have “failed to graduate on time” if they stay in school past the age of 18.
Hard-won progress with the most state’s most vulnerable students is ignored and discouraged by the state and the districts under this formula. Schools are labeled underperforming and turned over to private corporations who profit from the inaccurate formula. Have we not just seen that Massachusetts Curriculum Associates is giving away $50 million to The Boston Foundation, a proponent of privatizing education through charter schools? Much of that money comes from endangered public schools spending taxpayer dollars to use technology in the struggle to meet the requirements of performance standards that are a stacked deck against them. Private robo-teaching companies have so much money they can give it to foundations that basically lobby for educational privatization on their behalf.