Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Stomach Churning Letter

My wife thought it was of little consequence.  

However, as I read congratulatory emails sent out to staff and watched videos celebrating Montgomery County Public Schools' record high SAT scores, my stomach churned.   "What do you expect them to do?" my wife chimed.  I suppose I took it personally.  Yes, the mean SAT in MCPS had risen to its highest level ever- but the conclusions circulated by MCPS were nothing short of complete misrepresentations.    I couldn't help but feel insulted as I read the email from Superintendent Weast to the staff:
The College Board released SAT scores for the Class of 2010 this morning and MCPS students set an all-time record. Our 2010 graduates scored an average of 1653, which is our district’s highest score since the “new SAT” was implemented in 2006 and represents a one-year increase of 38 points. MCPS graduates outscored their Maryland peers by 151 points and the nation’s 2010 graduates by 144 points. Students in all racial subgroups improved over last year, but African American and Hispanic students made the biggest gains, further narrowing the achievement gap. The best news of all is that 51% of our students scored a 1,650 or higher, meeting the 7th Key to College Readiness—again, an all-time record.

Of course, these results did not happen in one year, or even in four years. The students whose achievements are described in this report were second graders when we began working together in 1999 and made a firm commitment that we would give all students access to an outstanding education. From elementary school, through the middle grades, and into high school, you provided our students with the opportunities and support they needed to be successful. The SAT results released today are the culmination of all the work done by you and your colleagues since these students entered MCPS.
Yes, insulted.   MCPS had long told me about the importance of data.  It had long emphasized how to use that data to guide my instruction.   Yet now I was being told that the most recent "record" SAT scores were evidence of MCPS's unparalleled success.

I finally replied to my wife, "I expect them to be reflective practioners.  I expect them to have an honest dialogue about the progress of MCPS."     

I showed my wife the data that initiallly raised an eyebrow.

Math and Verbal combined SAT scores for MCPS (writing excluded)
My wife was unconvinced.

I would need to spend more time proving my point.   The achievement gap hadn't closed.  The mean SAT was no more a record than had I served as Superintendent and asked only the top 1% of students to take the SAT.   Yet Weast would tell Bethesda Magazine that this data point was one of his top ten accomplishments as Superintendent of MCPS.

It couldn't be.  It wasn't even an accomplishment.

I dangerously decided to see if I could make my wife see it my way.

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