Thursday, September 07, 2017

High School Administrators Incented to VA-Style Fraud

In 2001, the U.S. Congress passed the “No Child Left Behind” Act, which promised to improve the academic performance of the nation’s K-12 schools in part by holding elementary and secondary school administrators to a higher level of accountability while also pouring up to $23 billion of federal spending annually into poorly performing local school districts. In 2015, the U.S. Congress updated that earlier law by passing the “Every Student Succeeds” Act, which purportedly raised the bar on academic rigor for elementary and secondary schools while providing administrators with more flexibility and rewards for achieving higher academic performance and increasing federal spending on local school districts up to $25-$26 billion per year.

Writing in Education Week, former New York City public schools teacher, principal and superintendent Bernard Gassaway describes how the combination of federal academic performance requirements and money are incentivizing local school administrators to adopt fraudulent practices that are inflating their school’s graduation rates while also falsely appearing to meet higher academic standards.

In the age of accountability ushered in by the No Child Left Behind law in 2002 and continued under 2015’s Every Student Succeeds Act, many school officials are using fraudulent methods to inflate graduation rates.

As a direct result of a public thirst for schools to show progress, boards of education pressure superintendents, superintendents squeeze principals, principals ride teachers, and teachers stress students. The ultimate measure of progress for schools nationwide is high school graduation rates.

Public school officials use a variety of schemes to give the appearance of progress.

Gassaway goes on to describe several different schemes that local school administrators have used to juice their graduation rates. For example, one of these schemes involves a policy called credit recovery, where students can make up the failing grades they received during regular classes by completing handout assignments for extra credit, but without ever receiving any additional instruction or taking any additional tests to demonstrate that they have genuinely improved their understanding of the subject they failed.

Another dishonest practice involves falsely reclassifying students as having a disability, where the students are then allowed to receive additional time and assistance in completing assignments and exams. These same students may also have their overall graduation requirements relaxed, where they are allowed to get a high school diploma despite completing far fewer assessments of their academic performance than their general education peers.

Gassaway describes a third outrageous practice that involves getting failing students off the administrators’ books.

Lastly, when education officials cannot use any of the aforementioned tactics to get struggling students through high school, they transfer or push out students who are off-track for graduation—dropping the dead weight that is dragging down graduation statistics. Pushing students out is the most efficient way to increase a school’s graduation rate. Principals transfer overage and undercredited students to alternative schools.

That, too, is an abusive practice I’ve observed firsthand. Here’s how it works: Principals and guidance counselors tell students they must leave the school if they want to graduate. Students are persuaded to transfer to alternative schools under the guise that it is easier for them to earn credits and graduate. In some cases, those same school personnel even inform students that they are not allowed to return, thus rendering these schools no longer accountable for the students’ performance indicators.

In too many ways, the fraudulent practices that Gassaway describes on the part of local school district administrators directly mirror practices that were adopted by administrators at all levels of the Department of Veterans Affairs in the phony wait-list health care rationing scandal that cost hundreds of lives. And in far too many ways, for the exact same reason: the need to hit a goal established by the federal government to collect performance bonuses.

Except here, instead of hundreds and hundreds of lives lost through delayed and denied medical care, we have thousands and thousands of lives wasted with deficient public school educations.


School district apologizes after teacher bans 'Make America Great Again' shirts

A Georgia school district superintendent has apologized to students who were told by their high school math teacher they couldn't wear their "Make America Great Again" shirts in her classroom.

"Her actions were wrong, as the ‘Make America Great Again' shirts worn by the students are not a violation of our School District dress code," Cherokee County Schools spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an emailed statement.

The River Ridge High School math teacher was captured on video Thursday telling two students their President Trump apparel was not acceptable clothing because the campaign slogan has been linked to neo-Nazis in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Georgia state lawmakers like Rep. Earl Ehrhart told the AJC the incident was "shocking," while Rep. John Carson said the teacher's behavior was despicable. Rep. Mandi Ballinger added that she was glad the students' right to free speech had been upheld with the school's response to the situation.

The students will not face disciplinary action but the district would not comment on whether the teacher would be reprimanded, Jacoby continued.

"Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower is deeply sorry that this incident happened in one of our schools," Jacoby said. "It does not reflect his expectation that all students be treated equally and respectfully by our employees."


UK: Leading grammar school 'unlawfully' excludes pupils for failing to get top grades

A group of sixth form pupils have hired lawyers to take on one of the country’s leading grammar schools for throwing them out when they failed to achieve top grades.

Around 16 pupils who have just completed Year 12 have been told that their places for their final A-level year at St Olave’s Grammar School in Orpington, Kent, have been withdrawn after they failed to get the required three Bs.

Others were told they could remain at the school on a discretionary basis but were asked to sign a contract warning that if they did not get a minimum B grade in their mocks they may not be entered for their A-level exams and would have to take them privately, according to reports.

Lawyers acting for two of the families have lodged an application for permission to apply for a judicial review against the school’s governing body, naming Bromley, the local authority, as an interested party. A High Court hearing has been scheduled for September 20.

The boys in question, who both started at the school in Year 7, were told on July 17, just days before the summer holiday, that their places at the school had been withdrawn.

They are said to be devastated and are struggling to find schools that offer the same examining board.

“It’s like putting your old garbage out, one father told the Guardian. “He doesn’t know what to do. We are in limbo. School starts soon and we don’t even know where he’s going.”

After the boys’ solicitor contacted the school, the head teacher is said to have written to the two families stating that they were not permanently excluded but could return in September to study for a BTEC in health and social care, a subject in which neither pupil has expressed any interest or that the school is believed to teach.

When the claimants’ solicitor raised questions about the ”wholly unsuitable” proposal, the head responded with an email allegedly stating that such “ongoing attempts to bully the school were distasteful and inappropriate”.

Dan Rosenberg, a partner at Simpson Millar, who is representing the families, said: “The school is operating an unlawful policy.

“Proceedings have now been issued. As well as assisting our clients, these proceedings will hopefully assist others who may be affected now and /or in the future by the school’s policies and practices. 

“We hope the governing body will now reconsider the policy and its application, and further that the children affected can return to their A level studies at the start of term with their peers.”

He will argue that St Olave’s is failing in its duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and that its policy of excluding pupils unlikely to get the highest grades is “irrational”.

His skeleton argument also states that the school does not have the power to exclude sixth form pupils due to a perceived lack of academic progression.

St Olave’s is one of the highest achieving schools in the country. On its website it boasts that this year’s A-level students achieved 96 per cent A*/B grades;,75per cent of all grades were at A*/A, three percentage points up on last year, and 32 students gained straight A* grades in at least 3 subjects.

In 2016, the school was ranked sixth in the country in the Telegraph’s league table for state school A-level results

St Olave's did not respond to a request for comment.


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