Tuesday , 22 August 2017

McKinney ISD Below Standards? Not According to Superintendent

By Stuart J. Pearlman, TSB Staff

Although McKinney ISD has failed to meet federal standards for adequate yearly progress, as recently announced, MISD superintendent Dr. J.D. Kennedy defended his district and its quality of education to Town Square Buzz.

“To me, it doesn’t mean a whole lot,” said Dr. Kennedy, who called the designation “misleading.”

As explained on the Texas Education Agency website, “all public school campuses, school districts, and the state are evaluated for Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Districts, campuses, and the state are required to meet AYP criteria on three measures: Reading/Language Arts, Mathematics, and either Graduation Rate (for high schools and districts) or Attendance Rate (for elementary and middle/junior high schools).

“Under the accountability provisions in the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, if a campus, district, or state that is receiving Title I, Part A funds fails to meet AYP for two consecutive years, that campus, district, or state is subject to certain requirements such as offering supplemental education services, offering school choice, and/or taking corrective actions.”

While Dr. Kennedy considers the information provided by the annual study, in the big picture this data does not seem to faze him.

“Under No Child Left Behind (they) have been ratcheting up the requirements of student scores on standardized tests every year,” he said. “This year the cut point was 87 percent (math) and 83 percent (reading). Next year it will be 93 percent and the year after that it will be 100 percent. So when it is 100 percent it means that every child in the school has met the expectations as far as performance in standardized tests, and that’s not going to happen. It’s ridiculous.”

Dr. Kennedy believes the evaluation can be misleading when measuring a school district with the size and diversity of MISD. 

“What they’re doing is measuring performance of your standardized test with every subgroup (breaking out ethnic and economic status),” he said. “And if you don’t have enough in a subgroup you are not being measured. There are a lot of smaller districts in Texas and across the country that are only measured on their overall score. If you look at our overall score we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Because they do break it down by subgroups you are being judged basically on your weakest area of performance.”

The school district losing federal or state funding based on the AYP is not at issue, according to Dr. Kennedy. He does, however, suggest that if a school is in its second year of not meeting AYP, then you have to allow parents to transfer their children to other schools.

Making Progress

Dr. Kennedy is quick to point out that his goals for the district are to improve over time.

“I am more concerned about if we are making progress from the previous year,” he said. “We set a goal on our measurement of academic progress where we are not only assessing our performance in all the subgroups and in math and reading, but we are also looking at science and social studies.  In those areas, we set a target for two years from now and we already passed that target in one year.  So I feel like we are making progress.”

Dr. Kennedy points to ancillary recognition for MISD schools such as Intel’s School of Distinction recognition. Every year, the technology giant honors U.S. schools that have demonstrated excellence in math and science education. To be considered as an Intel School of Distinction, a school must provide innovative learning environments and programs that meet or exceed national math and science benchmarks.

Only 18 schools have been identified as finalists in the 2012 Intel Schools of Distinction Awards and two of them, Dowell Middle School and Minshew Elementary, are from MISD. Dr. Kennedy uses this as an indicator that the AYP assessment may not be as accurate as it could be.

“These schools (Dowell and Minshew) did not meet AYP and yet they have received that high of an honor.  So, is this really a valid measurement of the success of the school system?” he said.

At the end of the day, Dr. Kennedy believes the AYP standards are not an accurate reflection of MISD performance.

“The unfortunate thing is that the Federal Government is trying to make something simple out of something that is complicated. They are trying to do something with a broad brush judgment of schools and districts that really isn’t a true reflection of success of schools,” he said.

To learn more about the TEA and the AYP go to:
http://www.tea.state.tx.us/ayp/

To learn more about the Intel School of Distinction program go to:
http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/education/competitions/school-of-distinction/winners-and-finalists.html

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