Sunday, May 13, 2012

Reno grad-rate jump too good to be true?

During Heath Morrison's short tenure with the Washoe County School District, the graduation rate jumped from 56 percent in 2009 to 70 percent last year.  It's perhaps his signature accomplishment there, one that helped him win national acclaim and get the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools job.

It has also raised questions, because it relies on data that his staff recalculated and because it rose so fast. Newspaper columnist and labor activist Andrew Barbano dubbed it "The Mythological Morrison Miracle," and the local NAACP branch is reviewing the data,  with the branch president saying he suspects the jump is too big to represent reality.

By any national measure, the four-year tracking rate that Morrison introduced is more reliable than the old Nevada method (read details of both rates and see the Washoe County numbers here, starting on page 50). It's the one North Carolina and many other states use.

Morrison also introduced a door-to-door campaign to locate the hundreds of students a year who were listed as "vanished,"  along with those who had officially dropped out,  and get them into school. If dropouts who are 18 or older enroll in the Washoe Adult High School, they are switched into the "transfer out" category, which means they're removed from the calculation entirely, counting neither as graduates or dropouts.

Morrison says it's better to have those young adults working on their education than sitting at home,  but he acknowledges it's too early to say whether they'll be successful.

In April, the Reno Gazette-Journal did an extensive "fact checker" analysis of the grad-rate jump. Reporter Mark Robison found that some of the improvement comes from better tracking of students, and he quoted a statistical expert as saying that makes year-to-year comparisons questionable.  However,  he also found experts agreeing that both data-tracking and graduation rates are improving in Reno,  even if one can argue over the amount.

"What rises above in this discussion is the fact that the district is using the same standard measurement in 2011 as it did in 2009. And no one is questioning the accuracy of the numbers," he wrote. "In fact, there is agreement that improving the accuracy of the dropout rate is praiseworthy. Should the increase come with an asterisk? Perhaps. But the numbers are the numbers, and therefore it's fair for the district to report a 14 percentage-point jump in its graduation rate."

Unfortunately, the Gazette-Journal doesn't offer a free link to this article; if you want to pay for an archived copy, go here.

42 comments:

Truth Seeker said...

The real question is whether or not students really qualify for graduation or just being promoted out? Rumbling from cms staff on pressures to promote here.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the CMS block party Monday night will help them find students who dropped off the CMS radar.

Anonymous said...

More smoke and mirrors to come even as Muri was shown the door.

GREAT! Follow the Money

Anonymous said...

Yes, in fact Reno's grad rate is too good to be true. Charlotte will soon follow because they are using the following methods:
1. Principals are telling teachers to pass student's who have plainly failed.
2. Principals are putting students through APEX classes by the dozens "a computer program where students sit, answer questions and then are given full course credit."
3. The district is allowing students to make up work in the 4th quarter from the 1st quarter then changing grades.
4. The district is telling teachers to give grades of 50 percent for work not turned it.
5. Students who have missed 20 - 40 days of school are still being passed.
6. Teachers are being callled in to account for students who are failing who have clearly failed to understand class materials.

With these tactics being used the Graduation rate of CMS will soon join that of Reno's.

Anonymous said...

Your examples sound like a direct application of the corporate model of boondoggle the numbers. Education does not fit the corporate business model. The Broad implants and others are steering CMS in the wrong direction. Just watch CMS party Monday night the first night of end of grade exams. Explain why it is OK for CMS to party during exams but it is not OK for this year's graduates to party at college during exams. CMS will be lucky if it rains so the teachers can stay home and be mentally prepared without fear of reprisal. CMS leadership seems to try to make themselves model Hippocrates.

Wiley Coyote said...

Ann,

As you have noted, the state will be recalculating the way it reports data from various tests, which means trying to compare what results were, to what they will be after recalculation, will be suspect.

I also sent you information a few months back about the Boston Project, a very similar program to Project LIFT, where dropout rates declined and end of grade tests rose dramatically.

A report in September outlined early signs of progress. Students passing Massachusetts' version of end-of-grade tests rose from 66 percent in 2008-2009 to nearly 77 percent in 2010-2011, surpassing the group's goal of 75 percent. The dropout rate declined to 5.7 percent from 7.3 percent during the same period.

Here's the problem with that data, which seems similar to what happened in Washoe County:

There is only one year of data from the Boston Project, where $27 million dollars was donated to the schools. The report was released in September 2011. The announcement these philanthropists were donating $27 million didn't even happen until June of 2010. So all data surrounding this project is from last year, 2010/2011.

Yet when you look at the reporting, they quote such great increases in test scores, going from 66% pass rate to 77% over two years, which is correct BUT, the problem is they skipped a year. The story compares 2008/2009 to 2010/2011. They failed to mention 2009/2010.

Here's why that is significant. Year ending 2009/2010 saw the test scores go from 66% to 76%. The difference between 2009/2010 and the one year of the project ending 2010/2011 was 0.92%, less than 1%!

It seems to me Boston should be looking at why there was such a HUGE increase one year PRIOR to the $27 million dollar influx.

Also, the dropout rate was in 2009/2010 as well so the project had nothing to do with the decline.

One simply cannot trust any data coming from public school systems, yet they continue to drain us of tax dollars because they never have enough money.

It's a self-fulfilling system that never ends.

Anonymous said...

Wiley's illustration is the perfect example of intentional misleading of the community on topics of educational importance.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 3:55...

I stop within a fly's hair of saying they intentionally mislead people.

Call it, "massaging the data" or information. It happens everyday in many venues.

It's incumbent upon people outside of CMS to call them on it or at least point out other factors that may not be reported.

I think Ann does a good job of it, as do others here, but it seems to be getting worse instead of better.

For once, I'd love for someone in public education to acknowledge a program they've implemented failed miserably.

At least they could start building some credibility.

No one dares touch Bright Beginnings and the same will happen to LIFT.

Anonymous said...

CMS had a program called the High School Challenge a few years back. Threw extra staff into Garringer, West Charlotte and West Meck. 10 million dollars I think extra from the county. Fell flat on it's face. Nothing changed. No one talks about it. ADH you should have some information on that.

Anonymous said...

Wiley, is the leading of people to believe one thing with data when you know another to be true an acceptable public leadership practice. Managing data is different than presenting data in a fashion to mislead. The community should not need people with insights such as yourself and Ann to "call" CMS out on fudged data. CMS should be as straight forward with the data as possible. Having to double check what was left out each time they present data to me suggests there is little room for trust for CMS as fiduciary.

Anonymous said...

7:59,
CMS also doesn't talk about the purge of assistant principals at West Meck over the last three years and will never ever respond to the mass exodus of many of the "old school" talent this year. Doesn't take much to leave when the principal doesn't even know your name..........., much less care.

Anonymous said...

"the purge of assistant principals...the mass exodus of many of the "old school" talent this year. Doesn't take much to leave when the principal doesn't even know your name..........., much less care."

Add to that Action plans for teachers and APs alike that make no sense at all.

If you are an AP who might want to help teachers or students, are more competent or more respected than the principal, or one who refuses to terrorize teachers, then you are out.

If you are a teacher who won't curtsy when the principal enters the room and hang on their every word as if it is golden gilded utterance of the Education Goddess, then you are out.

We have lost far too much experience and knowledge along with far too many true educators in the last 4 years. All due to the hubris of incompetent administration at all levels.

Anonymous said...

All of your comments, my fellow bloggers, are valid; but let's try to follow our fearless leader, Ann, and be objective. Let's give the new Dr. a blank slate. Let's not hang all our baggage from our previous failed relationship around his neck. He says, "Hello it's nice to meet you," and it seems like the majority of us are saying, "And just what do you mean by that?" We need to say we're glad you are here. We need your help.

Anonymous said...

We welcome huge grade improvements and the possibilities that Heath brings. How can it be worse than the last Broadie Gorman? Our grades continue to fall with poor if any direction from downtwon CMS staff. A change is a good thing it cannot get worse.

Anonymous said...

9:09 PM and 6:29 AM - West Meck has been a haven for toxic, disgruntled employees for too long. A clean sweep is in order.

Wiley Coyote said...

Anon 8:38....

Try going back say, 40 years.

Morrison will be no different than prior educrats who have been at the head of the system.

The superintendent doesn't run the system. The system runs the educrat.

Unless Morrison is going to completely gut the system, eliminate "diversity" as the driving force that dictates everything and educate all kids fairly, then nothing will change.

We have a 40 year track record of the same insanity...

Anonymous said...

Piedmont IB, Jay M. Robinson headed for Science Olympiad nationals

These are the schools and students we should be heaping more and more money on. Reward merit. Quit punishing these that have real potential.

Anonymous said...

Wiley, this is 8:38 back at you. I confess that I retired here less than 10 years ago, but many of my new friends here are retired or current educators so I have heard the horror stories first hand.

The big "D" diversity is no friend of mine. My family has been its victim several times out West because it began as a nationwide thing. In the 80s I was a single working mother, working at the poverty level, caring for 2 aging grandparents and trying to help my child get through college. There were neither hand outs or hand ups for us because we were not diverse. My child was both white and male so nada. It was difficult to see the children of people I knew, people who had 6 figure incomes, get full rides at state universities because the parents were first generation citizens of 2 different countries. My son persevered and earned a BA and a MA on his own. The next time the Big "D" reared its ugly head was during his first job that was part time with no benefits. There were 6 capable and qualified people when one of the only full time with benefits jobs opened up. Since all 6 were nondiverse, they sent 2,000 miles away for someone who was diverse enough but in no way as capable.
And later after he moved to NC, earned another MA in another field guess who didn't get the jobs offered. Yup, the white guys at the top of the academic list. They had to relocate to get work in the field. So I see no end to that problem. perhaps if Dr M can solve some of the other stuff it will be time to work on the "D" everywhere. School is supposed to teach us how to function in the real world. So it is best our kids learn that life is not fair or level as a grown up either.

In the meantime the new guy can use all the positive thoughts and help we can give. It's about the kids and the future, not the past.

Anonymous said...

Heath should "sweep" West Charlotte and Harding bringing in new teachers and leaders. One of St. Peter Gormans biggest mistake was to change Harding to a full open school from a IB school and not change the principal. The lady can lead a IB school , but not a full on gang school Gorman should have planned better. Thats a complete forward thought so no that never happened thus the problems today. Our current BOE chair Mrs. Ericka Diversity was too afraid to send her won kid to that school this year.

Anonymous said...

Erika did not win her son. And, again, if your child was smart enough (probably not) to get into NCSSM, then you'd also send them there, no questions asked.

Teachers can stay at Harding, but the admin staff must no longer be employed in CMS. Same as Vance, get rid of 'em!!

Anonymous said...

Typical people from Charlotte who speak of fairness and will do anything to avoid it like the plague. Parents speak of wanting better teachers but eagerly seek the dismissal of those teachers that force standards upon their own kids. Wreckless behavior of principals and upper level staff who are NOT HELD ACCOUNTABLE IN ANY WAY. Living in Charlotte is tough because people are willing to talk but not show up at school board meetings and fight!

Susan said...

Of course Morrison cooked the numbers in order to raise his own national profile. That's what it is all about with him.

Get a load of this from the Sparks Tribune. I wish Barbano would elaborate:

Monitor CharlotteObserver.com this weekend. Dr. Morrison will.

He ruled the Washoe education apparatus with an iron fist and reacted with unreasoned anger against those who dared communicate with elected board members. His underlings warned offenders never to repeat their transgression if they ever wanted anything from the school district again. With elected officials kept in the dark like mushrooms, it’s been easy for Morrison to originate or change policies without board approval.

No school trustee has responded to this now six-part Barbwire series, although one ostrich asked to be deleted from all further communications. Staff has not responded to innocuous information requests.

http://dailysparkstribune.com/view/full_story/18575809/article-All-that%E2%80%99s-missing-is-an-enemies-list?instance=secondary_story_left_column

There is more in the article about the proposed closing of libraries that also are at school campuses.

Mark Robison RGJ said...

People can read the Reno Gazette-Journal story here: http://on.rgj.com/J5jNYH

Anonymous said...

CMS throws 10's of millions of dollars around to these westside schools like it was handing out pencils and notebooks. The bottom line however is there are NO MEASUREABLE RESULTS.

Anonymous said...

8:13 You are delusional...and how did Ericka screw up BOEING? not her fault the 787 is behind schedule...

Anonymous said...

9:55- And you probably like project LIFT or DUMP as its called now. Possibly even further you were in one of Ms. Ericka's drop out prevention bogus programs? Good for you and your GED.

Anonymous said...

Broad Foundation not bad 4 white kids out of 28 scholarships. Can you make a LIFT donation? If Peter says so?

Anonymous said...

7:59 you pretty much proved you don't understand the academic requirements at NCSSM. Better to not say anything and just have us think you are stupid...

Anonymous said...

3:55 Your probably correct when some one calls a cheat out then say they dont understand something. Again did this work in your drop out prevention program? Is it a study paper for Project Minority?

Anonymous said...

Great party LaTarza? Did anyone count the attendance. What a great idea for a party on a Monday during testing. All this time and effort for that. Boy, you really do need help in that PR department.

Anonymous said...

Shut down that PR machine and you have $500,000 for teacher raises. Its not all you need , BUT its a start. Ann Helms is your PR machine for free you just have to do something good for her to write the positive article. Focus on that and you wont need a PR engine.

Ann Doss Helms said...

On high school challenge, yes, I've written about that several times. There were some gains at those schools but nothing like what was envisioned/promised when it launched. That segued into the Achievement Zone, then the Title 1 zones. Ann Clark says LIFT builds on what was learned from all those experiences.

Ann Doss Helms said...

On the Broad party: I'm getting back from a few days out of town and catching up on all the comments about how bad it is for teachers to be "partying" on a testing night. What am I missing? First of all, it's hard to imagine there was an open bar at a CMS event, so I don't think this was likely to have been anything all that decadent. Second, the teachers aren't taking the test. How is going out the night before going to hinder them from administering a standardized exam? I've proctored those exams, and the teacher pretty much reads from an instruction sheet and keeps time.

Anonymous said...

The open bar was at the multi-course administration dinner a few weeks back.

Anonymous said...

As mentioned above, when the principals and executive CMS staff had their Broad party, alcohol was served. Some pigs are more equal than others!

Anonymous said...

Murri and the other took the booze to Atlanta. Billy Anderson and Meck Ed had to go to Chamber to get more alcohol to pull this one off. Heck he is selling tickets for his next event over at the Mint. Alcohol is served at that one.

Wiley Coyote said...

....and the leader of the BOE has the audacity to slap the taxpayers of Mecklenburg County in the face saying $9.1 million isn't good enough.

I tell you what Ms. Stewart, try having to cut $50 to $100 MILLION FROM the budget as Gorman faced the past two years.

You officially passed the CMS hasn't-and-never-will-get-it- status quo-test.

Pathetic.

You want a vote?

Here's mine: A big, fat NO! to one more penny.

Anonymous said...

You know what? Due to middle school EOG's and high school AP exams, I spent 4.5 hours with one high school class of students today as a substitute teacher. The school I spent the day at needs significant renovations both inside and outside of the building making it fairly unpleasant to work at for little pay. I will not substitute unless I have the ability to actually teach but today was the exception. Neither of my children attend this school. The class I expected absolutely nothing from took it upon themselves to teach each other and work on a final exam project for about 4 of the 4.5 hours we were sequestered in a room together. This particular specialty area class did not include the school's most advanced students. It was a Level 1 class. I was blown away. The amount of effort these kids put into doing something productive when they easily could have done nothing was beyond impressive. The quality of work they did and knowledge they possessed was also impressive. This isn't to say the whole student body is like this. Some kids shouldn't be granted the privilege of attending this school - period. Those who do, deserve better from CMS Central. This school is a perfect example of CMS's potential of going from "Good to Great".

Alicia Durand
Alumni, Educational Center for the Arts. New Haven, CT
B.A, M.A., Dance (Five College Dance Dept., Amherst, MA. George Washington Univ.)
Substitute teacher. NWSA, Beatties Ford Road

Anonymous said...

Ann

You have a good start. High school challenge, Achievement Zone, Title 1 and now Project Lift. How much has been spent over and over on these "special" projects that do not benefit the entire CMS pupil community? What are the measureable results? Results that are not manipulated stats and misinformation that constantly flow out of CMS. Taxpayers never get the opportunity to see the true amount of dollars spent versus achievment gap reduction and graduation rate increases.

Anonymous said...

More principals leaving. CMS advertising to fill seven vacancies now.

Anonymous said...

Ann, please please please check on the data at the end of the year for experienced teachers leaving Meck. Co. It has grown from a trickle to a torrent lately. This ystem treats its experienced teachers so bad, no wonder their leaving.

Anonymous said...

Wiley, I agree with your last statement 100%. Ericka remeber is a drop out prevention non profit historian. Jobs she has held in the past real world she was fired from. Evidently math is not a strong point. Her as was for $27mm she received $9.1 and saved $16mm for a total of $25.1mm. She has the money in front of her for the 3% raise , but Kojo says its not good enough. CMS had $16mm left from the grap of 2011 in a bag in the back room as Sheila Shirley. Slash the PR jobs and you have $25.5mm. Ericka is what was wanted by the minority voters the least they could do was give her a $20 calculator?