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Why did Tyler's test scores tank?

One of the more promising stories of the Rhee era was Tyler Elementary in Southeast, where reading and math scores on the DC CAS saw double-digit boosts in 2009 under young first-year principal Terry Dade. A graduate of New Leaders for New Schools, a principal training program favored by Rhee, Dade said in an interview in December that he was determined to keep the momentum going at Tyler, building its reputation as an up and coming school in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

He outlined a series of steps to keep scores rising, including a "boot camp" in which every adult in the building would work with small groups of kids. He engaged an outside firm, the Achievement Network, to administer periodic tests that were supposed to determine more precisely than interim DC BAS assessments where students were weak academically.

"When my students get to the DC-CAS, my goal is for them to say, 'That was easy, Mr. Dade,'" he said.

But Dade was gone before the end of this last school year; he took a job in the Fairfax County school system to be closer to home. And Tyler's test scores cratered. Reading proficiency dropped from 54 percent to 13 percent; math slid from 49 to 19.

Dade did not respond to an e-mail request for comment. Rhee spokeswoman Jennifer Calloway said DCPS didn't know what happened but was trying to find out.

"Now that individual school scores have been finalized, we will provide every school, including Tyler, with data tools to examine their performance on the 2010 DC CAS and inform their instructional focus for the upcoming school year," she said in a statement.

It's not clear what impact, if any, Dade's departure had on the test scores. But Tyler's recent history shows that churning at the top can wreak havoc on scores. Under former principal Michelle Pierre-Farid, the school jumped from 13.5 to 57.5 percent proficient in reading from 2004 to 2007 and more than doubled to 44.3 percent in math. But when Pierre-Farid left for a job with the Friendship charter schools, scores nose-dived in 2007-08. Her successor, Pedro Cartagena, was not retained by Rhee.

Now, with Dade gone, Tyler faces another long climb back.

By Bill Turque  |  August 11, 2010; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  Test scores  
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Overall, CAS scores have gone down. Many fewer schools made AYP, both elementary and secondary, in 2010 than in 2009. Why? Teachers are not respected and are being taught to 'perform' for purposes of a good evaluation on IMPACT. Administrators have one-year contracts and can be fired at any time. The constant churning of administrators and teachers at any particular school doesn't help.

Posted by: M_Muething | August 11, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

I think you have to look at the specifics before concluding anything. How many students were tested?

Did all the teachers who had worked with Dade leave? You would expect ones who had brought in rising scores under his leadership would stick with his strategies even in his absence.

It will be interesting to see what the lower level analysis turns up. It would be too bad if Dade was found to have orchestrated irregular processes that resulted in those high scores.

Posted by: DogNabit | August 11, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

The well-researched fact that consistency and stability make substantial contributions to a school's forward progress is lost or purposefully ignored by this administration.
All administrators and teachers are replaceable and interchangeable parts. Institutional knowledge and commitment for the long run are not valued; in fact these are devalued in the district schools.
The recent release of the number of schools who made Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), with fewer than one-third of the number who made AYP in 2009, should shed light on some of the problems with constant turnover and constant upheaval in building true, sustainable reform.
Note that two principals were fired in recent days; one on July 30, one on August 9, while at the principals; conference.

Posted by: 4thekidsorforthe | August 11, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Go to:, Chart 8. It shows the impact of DC public school students' starting test-score starting point on gain. Not only did students whose scores were in the bottom two deciles -- the bottom 2 x 10 = %20 gain an average of 3/4 standard deviation in test score, those whose scores were at the top lost similar amounts.
Compare these gains and losses in DC to those of every other State from parallel CREDO reports. You will see that they are not only large, but the largest in the nation.
When methods are found to extract louder, louder and then the loudest screams and cheers from a crowd; is it any wonder the "gains' are not sustained, that hoarseness reduces subsequent vocal output to a whisper?

Children are never shorter this year than they were a year ago. When they measure so, you remeasure, and if the result is the same, you know that last year's measurement was not a fluke, but an error of known direction. Growth is irreversible. Shouldn't educational gains also be cumulative and irreversible?

Posted by: incredulous | August 11, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

from M_Muething:

"The constant churning of administrators and teachers at any particular school doesn't help."

Having worked under 8 different principals and a number of directors right over them (private schools & public), I can only confirm the difficulties that the constant "churning" of staff produce, and it's not just a simple matter of test results.

Every time a new administrator comes on board, excellent, mediocre or poor, the staff and consequently the students, have to realign themselves with new policies, expectations, and new practices. While there is often hope with a new beginning, there is often residual depression and bewilderment over the circumstances of the departure of the previous leader. This is particularly true of children, who are sensitive and vulnerable to feeling abandoned. For the staff, it can be pretty wearying to 'pick up the pieces' once again, wondering how long THIS leader will last.

In reference to the article about Terry Dade, who apparently made super-human efforts to get the school on a good track,
it is almost impossible for a leader to keep up what was probably a heart-attack inducing pace.

The picture that comes to mind for continuing success with leadership, is a picture of a ship with a seasoned captain at the helm, one with a steady hand, who has the respect of his crew, can weather rough seas and stay for a fairly long journey before changing ships.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | August 11, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I am not sure why the scores tanked.

Maybe it has to do with the kids feeling tested out- not just with the pressure of DC CAS but BAS tests and the Achievement Networks testing at Tyler. It sounds like way too much testing going on at that school.

I agree with others who posted that the constant turnover in leadership is crippling for schools. Unfortunately, Rhee believes the opposite. Even with teachers she thinks teachers coming in for a couple of years and leaving is acceptable.

I hope all of this makes those die hard supporters of Rhee really start to question her judgment and leadership capability.

Posted by: letsbereal2 | August 11, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Dade was there for 1 1/2 years. The year before there were two principals - the first got run out by active parents because he was horrible. The second principal came out of retirement to stabilize things. I find it hard to credit anybody with the scores of their first year at some place. At least not full accountability because so much of it must depend on their predecessor. Dade left officially in March or April right before tests were administered. The kids didn't suddenly forget how to read and do math and the teachers didn't leave with him (none of them did). These test scores are on his watch. But, now he's gone.

To the person who wonders if Dade had irregular processes that resulted in high scores. I doubt it. Look at the old CAS report cards to track year over year. The gains were credible and not stunning the year he was first a principle. The stunning gains were with the principle whose last year was two years before- Michelle Pierre-Farrad.

If anything - I think how Dade fits into this story is that we shouldn't be making saviors out of any one person or declaring people to have the "magic answers" before they've been around long enough to have a track record. Also - you shouldn't read your own press releases.

Posted by: KH20003 | August 11, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Wonder if the upheaval at Hardy caused by the Chancellor's heavy hand had anything to do with Hardy not making AYP this year? Hardy was one of the most stable schools in the city until the December announcement that the principal was being removed.

A thorough and unbiased study of school leadership stability - administrators and teachers - would be useful and possible insightful in looking a the chancellor's "reform" of DC schools.

Posted by: 4thekidsorforthe | August 11, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Ok so the results were released Friday and still no word from the Chancellor's office about the latest results. Do you think that her office is going to release a statement with their opinion on why many schools didn’t make AYP?

Several parents and I have been talking and many. I mean many are so dishearten with the latest news.

This really doesn't look good.

Posted by: thelildiva4u | August 11, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Could it have been that there was not a Chief Academic Officer in place? Would some just say that it was beginner's luck? Finally, peaks and valleys are expected in all business ventures, therefore the business sense of education is having a lull period.

Posted by: PowerandPride | August 11, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse


The AYP Target increased this year, as it does every two years. That’s why at least SOME of the schools didn’t make AYP this year. I’m writing in CAPS to bring attention to this, in hopes TURQUE will report on it sooner rather than later, thus avoiding an editorial in which chastises people for being confused, explaining that the scores really haven’t dropped (much) at all, which misleads people, because in some cases, the scores really have dropped, irrespective of the changing AYP target.

EXAMPLE ONE, Wilson High:
Wilson’s 2009 AYP reading target was 57.69%. Wilson’s reading scores were (B 57.63, H 69.44, W 94.12). Because Hispanics barely missed the target, Wilson didn’t make AYP in reading last year.

Then in 2010, the reading target increased to 71.79%. Blacks’ scores went down a little to 54.38, Hispanics went down by more to 47.37 and Whites went up a tad to 95.52.

Wilson didn’t do as well percentage-wise as it did in 2009. Also, it not only didn’t make its new 71.79% 2010 AYP target, but it missed its old 2009 target of 57.69%. Wilson is going downhill.

EXAMPLE TWO: Hardy Middle School:
Hardy’s 2009 AYP reading target was 57.69% (just like at Wilson). All ethnic groups had to meet that target for the school to make AYP and all of them did (B 69.55, H 70.49, W 90.63).

In 2010 the reading target increased to 71.79% (again, like Wilson). Whites made it at 97.62, Black barely missed it at 71.52 (with slightly increased scores from ’09) and Hispanics missed it at 64.62.

Hardy still did quite well percentage-wise and would have made AYP under the 2009 standard. Hardy is holding steady.
There are stories like this all through DCPS. We need to know about them before we can accurately determine the real differences between 2009 and 2010.

AYP is certainly an important factor – but it must be taken into account that it is a moving target. Still, it’s the target that Rhee judges herself by and that the school system as a whole is judged by.

Posted by: efavorite | August 11, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

This situation is similar to the Baltimore Orioles winning 8 of 9 under new manager Buck Showalter. When Things are dismal, ANY change will have a short-term positive effect, but repeated changes have the opposite effect,as they soon become the norm and are not conducive to sustanied improvement. The difficulty is in creating a long-term plan for success and sustaining it. The DCPS has no such long term plan, only a series of TFA-style gimmicks to boost short-term test results, while ignoring the benefits of real long-term education.

Posted by: mcstowy | August 11, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

"Could it have been that there was not a Chief Academic Officer in place? Would some just say that it was beginner's luck? Finally, peaks and valleys are expected in all business ventures, therefore the business sense of education is having a lull period."

All this is speculation, of course. Some of it or none of it could be true.

A big problem is Rhee's reform is a determination that something is true (inexperienced teachers! Rock star principals!) and going with it, without any evidence that it will work.

To determine this just a "lull," would be a big mistake, because it suggests that they will go full steam ahead with current reforms without taking a closer look at why they aren't working AS PLANNED.

Most of all, people are getting fired based on the results of the lull,
possibly for no good reason and possibly to the detriment of the schools.

If a lull is declared, let's call a break in the consequences too.

Posted by: efavorite | August 11, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

efavorite - it's not just that Tyler didn't make AYP this year. I know the targets get tougher every year for all schools and some of the "stars" of the system don't make AYP. The scores at Tyler plummeted. 40 points for reading and 30 for math. It makes you wonder if the tabulations were wrong. Some of that may have been due to changes in how the Special Ed students were tested. In reading the number of "disabled" students that were proficient or advanced in reading went from 60.6% to 4.88%. So - lets leave asside those students and look at the ones in the "non-disabled" category - the number that were proficient or above went from 52.73% in 2009 to 18.87% in 2010 for a 33.86% drop. That's still seems like a big drop.

I'm not an expert on these testing scores, so if I'm reading or interpreting the data wrong I'd appreciate it if someone would point it out and explain where the mistake was in calculation or reasoning. I did look at the grade by grade result and it looks like it happened across all grade levels. I've also looked at some calculations another parent did for some other schools and the results at Tyler definitely look like an aberation.

Since DCPS has had the results long enough to do a press release a few weeks back, I would have appreciated something more from the spokesperson than "we're looking into it." I would have thought that process would have already begun. Maybe you would usually look to the principal for that; but since the new principal at Tyler was only hired at the beginning of August it should have started somewhere else.

Posted by: KH20003 | August 11, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Why are there so many dumb kids in DC schools??? There's a joke in there somewhere.

Posted by: TooManyPeople | August 11, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Something doesn't add up. Test scores of the same students should not drop so dramatically.

Posted by: rlj1 | August 11, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

"Something doesn't add up. Test scores of the same students should not drop so dramatically."

Agreed, but when Michelle Rhee goes around the country talking about her dramatic rise in scores, people call it a miracle and think she's the future of school reform. That doesn't add up either, but people were willing to believe it. Here’s some of what she’s said:

“People told me I couldn’t do it because the kids came from poor homes, they didn’t get breakfast, and no one was helping them out,” she recalls. “The reality was that they went from the bottom to the top, and their home environment didn’t change. What changed were the adults in front of them who were teaching. That gave me the conviction that academic outcomes are dependent upon what the adults are doing.”

“I had a life-altering experience through that experience, I came to realize this is all about the teachers, because for those 70 kids nothing changed…

“And so I became obsessed with this idea that if we were really going to change the quality of urban education in this county, it’s going to be about high quality teachers.” 11/13/08 Aspen Institute

At that same Aspen Institute meeting, she professed her belief in NCLB: “No Child Left Behind is one of the most powerful tools we have to drive effective education”

Here’s another gem from that meeting:
“Rhee is also interested in keeping politics out of the classroom at the city council level; she blames political infighting for burnout among urban superintendents: ‘KEEPING POLITICS OUT OF EDUCATION IS THE NUMBER ONE THING WE CAN DO ACROSS THE COUNTRY.’” [Caps added]

Posted by: efavorite | August 11, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

He left because several of his students who were on IEP's had their portfolios rejected by OSSE, and they had to take the DC-CAS. He argued this was unfair, and also tried to get these students non-standard accommodations- like having the reading test read aloud by an adult. OSSE declined, and he left right as the DC-CAS were being administered.

NOBODY LEAVES THEIR JOB IN THE MIDDLE OF A CONTRACT. I have never, ever, ever heard of professionals leaving before the one year contract is up until I came to DCPS. He left because he knew the scores were going to tank.

Take a look at Ludlow-Taylor ES. Fifty percent of the special education students scored ADVANCE in reading?

In most districts and states now, less than 1 percent of the special education population actually qualifies to be on a portfolio. A child has to have SIGNIFICANT needs to be placed on a portfolio. In Massachusetts, it's almost impossible for portfolios to receive an 'advance' score because the standards are SO much higher.

At some point, DC will have to follow suit. Kids with 'learning disabilities' with average IQ's will have to take the CAS. And more and more principals who've bullied teachers and lied to parents will have to deal with falling scores (not that the principal Tyler was like that, but Carolyn Cobbs from LT-ES is notorious for putting a significant amount of students on portfolios)

Posted by: vnm202 | August 11, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

you can do this.
(Even you axolotl and bb crock)
Go to the OSSE NCLB website.
Click year 2010
Click Report REPORT CARD
Click group type DCPS
School Level: ELEMENTARY
School TYLER
Click Get Report button.

Then , with the report, Click here to view the Report Card by Grades

Then go look at the grades,
Compare 2009 Gr3 to 2010 Gr 4
Compare 2009 Gr 4 to 2010 Gr 5

Go back to

and select the year 2009
Then examine 2008 gr 3 to 2009 gr 4 to 2010 Gr5

But NOTICE this:
The Grade 5 Reading results for 2009
25 students
0% Below Basic
8.7% Basic
82.61% Proficient
8.70% Advanced

This guy should have been on the front page of The Post, not Dwon Jordon of Sousa MS.

Check out how those 5th graders did in 2008 as 4th graders:
18 students
17.65% Below Basic
58.82% Basic
11.76% Proficient
11.76% Advanced

Posted by: edlharris | August 11, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Ed, according to the Michelle Rhee doctrine of "Teachers are everything," the kids must have had a crappy teacher in '08 and a highly effective one in '09, and apparently another crappy one in '10.

Why didn't the rock star principal prevent this from happening?

Imagine how confused the children must be.

Posted by: efavorite | August 11, 2010 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Some more conjure on Dade's leaving from those close to the school.

( It reminds me of a principal at my children's school whose used his time there to groom himself for a principalship in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
When I was in school, the elementary principal stayed for about 8~10 years, then at DeMatha, Mr. Moylan was princiapl for 30 or 35 years.

Posted by: edlharris | August 11, 2010 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Two words explain why their test scores sank: MICHELLE RHEE!

Posted by: UrbanDweller | August 12, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Scores do not rise or fall that dramatically in the course of a year or two. It simply doesn't happen. What does happen, however, is cheating. RAMPANT cheating. Adults are alone with those tests for hours, and cheating is easy and predictable given the big bonuses schools earn for big increases. The leadership left, and along with it, probably the ring leader of the cheating.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out, people.

Posted by: alertcitizen1 | August 12, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Bill Turque, why don't you dig a little into Rhee's own backyard, the once venerable OYSTER BILINGUAL and just how WOW the handpicked principal, DPR Chief Aguirre's wife, Monica-Liang Aguirre is fairing. Scores are middle to lower and then lower still, teachers and parents are fleeing in droves, including Rhee herself! Yes, solid sources report Rhee's older daughter is transferring to Deal for 6 and the younger to Lafayette. If ever there should be a school carrying the Rhee flag of successful reform it should have been Oyster. It's ruined now, not to the bring as so many languishing schools across town STILL ARE but hitting all the wrong notes among Latinos, blacks and middle class whites, too.

Posted by: modern1 | August 12, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Enough with all this "rockstar" philosophy that places a program's success squarely on the shoulders of one individual. A good, solid instructional program is institutional. It should be sustainable regardless of who is at the helm.

That Dade skedaddled right before the end of the school year and has refused to offer comment about the "miraculous" test results is very suspect. But, then again, rhee "orchestrated" her own Baltimore miracle (sans documentation), so I guess Dade's actions are par for the course.

Posted by: schooletal | August 12, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to posters here who have gone through the tedium of extracting (selective) appropriate comparison performance levels. And even for pseudo-cohorts. (Pseudo because of selective attrition and replacement.)

Deplorable that if DCPS won't present the computer-assisted comparisons, that WaPo won't furnish Turque the data-base research assistance in doing a comprehensive set of comparisons of the last three years.
Even more interesting would be the comparison of Public Charter Schools: over 50 school administrations, most presumably trying to please their Boards and do right by kids; and having all the success of a bus of gamers gone to Atlantic City -- a net loss and distribution of winners and losers.

Your efforts, efavorite would be more valuable if you'd drop the pseudo precision of two places to the right of the decimal. Reading left to right, those least and absolutely insignificant digits are the LAST ones one reads. They are worthless, the value of 100 students one side of the line or the other. Forget the only, theory-based, stat course you had an unhappy experience with. Imagine a sampling experiment with the observed individual test scores. You'd intuit and then find that a few % points difference is meaningless. You're not catching the Chancellor in a lie or exageration here. Your're trying, we think, to get more solid truth about what the test achievement levels are.


Posted by: incredulous | August 13, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

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