Monday, May 14, 2012

An SAT meeting with results that matter

Dr. Jerry Weast likely learned a very important lesson in 2003.   Messaging is important.    By 2009 the message was far more refined, but the results would be no less contrived.  Every high school in Montgomery County would be invited to attend "Leadership Training" on the SAT, ACT, and Accuplacer tests- the three college placement exams.   What would go on at this meeting?  It would  certainly not be a repeat of 2003.

SAT ACT Accuplacer Confirmation

However, the results would be instantaneous, and just in time for Jerry Weast's retirement.   The year after the "Leadership Training" in 2009, 483 fewer students in Montgomery County Public Schools would take the SAT.  Of those 483 students, a disproportionate number would be minority students.   Hispanic participation would drop by 18% in 2010, African American participation would drop by 12%, while white participation would drop by a relatively modest 4%.

 The MCPS Office of Shared Accountability described the decline in this way:

For the MCPS class of 2010, slight declines in SAT participation were balanced by record increases in the number of students who took the ACT in lieu of the SAT.
This was the full extent of the MCPS analysis.    There would be no discussion of the who, why, or how.  There would be no detailed analysis of the massive drop in participation.  The analysis simply claimed that the 483 student decline in SAT participation was balanced by a 267 student increase in those students who only took the ACT.    An odd balancing act to say the least.

But what remained were legitimate questions.   Were the record SAT scores in 2010 worthy of celebration?  Was it a sign that all that had been done in Montgomery County Public Schools over the tenure of Jerry Weast had finally paid dividends?  Or was it as current Board of Education member and then principal, Michael Durso, explained in 2003, a way to make it on 60 Minutes.   Sometimes, the simple answer is the more likely one.

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