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From The Desk Of Theopalis K. Gregory, Sr., Esq.

August 31, 2011 I write to comment on The News Journal Article on Saturday, August 27th, Section B Testing: Schools Success Difficult to Gauge. It highlights the States convoluted positioning for an artificial success strategy. With that I note the articles following particulars: 1. State increased its accountability tests rigor, 2. Lowered the standards needed to meet federal guidelines for minimum proficiency in math and reading by some 25% in each subject because it started using a new accountability test this year (DCAS vs. DSTP) that was harder for students to pass, and 3. Reduced the number of performance categories from superior, commendable, academic review, academic programs, academic watch, and under improvement, to just three (3) categories consisting of superior, commendable and academic watch. With this slight of hand it is easy to see that going forth the State has increased Schools chances of more favorable labels premised on scores alone being indicators for current success and future success. I do recognize that there are federal mandates that must be satisfied. Notably, when DCAS was presented there was absolutely no comment that it was a harder test. It was not marketed as a harder test. It was marketed as a better assessment tool, and would be given more frequently, so that academic progress could be tracked, and addressed with academic supports and strategies during a given school year. There was nothing about rigor. I

surmise that in a year or two the bar will remain lowered by 25%, or so. With this, the test results will be applied in the context of the three new labels, and the State will brag and boast about the so-called success of Race To The Top as well as the genius of D.O.E. This must be scrutinized and there must be accountability. This is particularly true when millions are being spent, and results are expected. I continue with my position that the success of all schools cannot be based on a one size fits all assessment. The State appears to recognize this with these artificial changes. They should be applauded. However, theres an unfortunate twist to the States success schemes. While the labels will change, schools, particularly too many inner city schools, as well as inner city students in majority schools, will fall short of their true ability and dream for success and achievement. Their continued failure will be hidden in the new labels. Some leadership must rise to the occasion and study the States efforts. Ultimately this cannot be a volunteer nor can it be under the States direction and management. It must be independent. Leadership must determine the impact of this new education accountability scheme on those that have traditionally suffered in public education, that is, persons of color, Hispanics, the learning disabled and the poor. We must look to other objective and subjective success indicators. Perhaps a diverse team can visit schools for several days with questions and surveys for a cross section of the schools participants, e.g. students, parents, administrators, faculty, support staff, and the surrounding community. That team would also look at behavior, attendance and graduation statistics, if applicable, as well as a myriad of relevant test scores. Team evaluations are evaluative tools employed by many professionals. They must assess how the school has fared in the growth and development of the institution, as well as the institutions future prospects for growth and development.

Finally, the State has apparently changed how it views a school that has a measurable difference in the number of students in the school from year to year. Such schools will be viewed as new schools and will not be rated. The article mentions Moyer as falling under the new school category. Under this exception the new Moyer may get a bye for 3 to 4 years, based on their targeted growth set forth in the charter and anticipated or projected change in yearly student population. What does measurable differences mean? With the initial Moyer, its transition of students during its first three (3) years was deemed a negative. Moyer explained that this transitioning is indicative of inner city charters as well as the fact that grades were added and the targeted enrollment numbers increased. Also, this excessive transitioning represents the school shopping culture that now exists due to choice, charter, vo-tech, routine feeder pattern altering, and moving among school districts. This can be both good and bad. However, often times parents transition given the slightest adversity or disagreement, particularly in new ventures, because they know they can do so. In closing, I note the following. Many inner city charters are rightfully marketed and presented as successful based on the number of their students that attend college, or some post secondary training, and graduate. This is the primary success indicator, with standardize tests being a distant secondary indicator. These schools are development and learning incubators for success. If we are to have schools that grow and develop inner city youth, then urban leadership must play a meaningful role in this process. Theopalis K. Gregory, Sr.