Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Okemos scores second lowest rating on state's new scale

In mid-August the state rolled out a new color-coded rating system for public schools and charters.  Under the new system, public schools will be held accountable for student performance in cyber school taught subjects while the public schools have no oversight capability. 

Under the new model, every school receives a color on a scale of green, lime-green, yellow, orange, or red - in descending order:
A school earns a color based on the number of points it amasses — two points for each goal met, , one point for each goal met by demonstrating improvement, and zero points if the goal isn’t met at all. Schools that earn 85% or more of the points possible are assigned a green color. To get lime green, they have to earn 70% to 84% of their points; yellow, 60% to 69%; orange, 50% to 59%; and red, below 50%. Michigan to debut color-coded system for measuring school performance, Detroit Free Press, Aug. 19, 2013.
You can see how Okemos scored on the state's Accountability scorecard. As a district, Okemos scored "Orange," the second to lowest rating.  However, every building scored "Yellow," one step higher.  Yet, in every category, every building scored "Green."  How can that be?

We think education blogger Martha Toth has it right.  She says "The short answer is that the system is rigged to produce failure. And that is exactly what it did."  Report Cards that Offer Zero Useful Information, Education Matters, Sept. 3, 2013.

Ms. Toth has an extremely detailed breakdown of the system.  She explains it tracks performance in categories such as test participation rate, attendance rate, graduation rate, and compliance with school improvement, educator effectiveness, among groups such as students with disabilities, English Language–learners, economically disadvantaged students, the bottom 30% and ethnic groups. The article is worth the read, but here are some highlights:
  • 97 percent of Michigan districts/schools received "Yellow" or lower, or a "failing" score.
  • Of the 135 schools with "Green" ratings, 41 received "zero out of zero" points because they are so small as to escape being scored.
  • "Other “green” schools with very low point totals got them for such factors as student attendance. You will note that student attendance, test participation rates, school improvement planning and teacher evaluation reporting are ALL FACTORS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT"
  • The system requires demonstration of yearly progress, when students are only tested only three years.  "Students who were not proficient in science in fifth grade will be unable to show improvement until the eighth grade test. For three years they WILL fail to achieve the required incremental progress."
Importantly, Ms. Toth points out:
Another wrinkle — or perhaps “monkey wrench” is more evocative here — in the system is that cyber schools can now provide one-third or more of educational classes for grades five through 12, but the home school district will be held accountable for student achievement results. Let me repeat: traditional school districts will be punished for the failures of on-line schools over which they have zero control.  Id.
You might recall that public schools will now be forced to pay for cyber school classes for students with public money, and be forced to accept whatever grade the cyber school gives.  We wrote about this here, here, and here.  Under this new color coded scheme, even if a student takes every math class in grades 5-12 from a cyber school, the student's public school will be held accountable for their performance.


  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Brett. I did deliberately over-simplify, though. It would have taken several paragraphs to explain the "safe harbor" provisions, even if I could truly understand them. This system was (admittedly, carefully) designed by statisticians — but it is both incomprehensible to the public and prizes precise detail over the Big Picture. It is symptomatic of what you get when you put technocrats in charge of the most human of endeavors. I figured their over-simplification justified my own.

  2. This was really helpful today as I put in a blog post about the proposed "replacement" A-F system for the ridiculous color coding system. I put in a link to this post, but more importantly, to the Legislative Action Alerts from Michigan Parents for Schools--a most valuable resource: http://a2schoolsmuse.blogspot.com/2013/12/today-at-michigan-capitol-will-two.html#.Up8P4GRDukY