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Posted at 7:58 AM ET, 01/14/2011

DCPS scraps Saturday Scholars

By Bill Turque

A weekend test prep program established by former Chancellor Michelle Rhee to help raise DC CAS scores has been discontinued because of low attendance, budget pressures and "limited effectiveness." A memo to principals Thursday said that Saturday Scholars, offered between January and April for the last three years to help students prepare for the standardized tests, would not return in 2011.

"The decision not to offer this program was made because of historically low attendance, limited effectiveness and ongoing efforts to maximize resources," the memo said, adding that money from the initiative would be redirected into the DCPS after-school program.

Figures on cost or attendance were not available, but in 2008 officials said Saturday Scholars was budgeted at $1.5 million annually for about 7,500 students

Rhee's predecessor, Superintendent Clifford Janey, launched a similar four-week version of the test prep program. But Rhee targeted the new Saturday effort to students whose scores indicated that they might reach proficiency levels with extra attention from teachers. About 5,000 students were invited each year, although officials said the program was open to all in testing grades.

DC CAS scores did trend upward during most of Rhee's three-and-a-half-year tenure. But DCPS spokeswoman Safiya Simmons said in a statement that an analysis found that Saturday Scholars did not greatly impact student achievement.

"The data shows that while the program benefited some of the participants, its impact on achievement in terms of number of students served didn't warrant continued investment. In these financial times it is even more important that we identify and promote the programs that most effectively and successfully improve student achievement."

Saturday Scholars was ripped by some critics as "educational triage," designed for those kids who needed the help least--but who offered the most potential to elevate school test scores.

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By Bill Turque  | January 14, 2011; 7:58 AM ET
Categories:  Michelle Rhee, Test scores  
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Comments

meanwhile, Rhee is leaving the sow to wallow in teh mire...
and voted one of 100 brightest Americans!

Posted by: mloaks | January 14, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Who dreamed up and implemented this program? Obviously those persons have shown themselves to be very ineffective and should be fired.

Posted by: efavorite | January 14, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

One year my eight-year-old son came home with a copy of the standardized test for "homework" so he could prepare for the upcoming exam. That year he scored at the 99th percentile! Now there's an approach that works!

Posted by: Linda/RetiredTeacher | January 14, 2011 1:10 PM | Report abuse

"The data shows that while the program benefited some of the participants, its impact on achievement in terms of number of students served didn't warrant continued investment. In these financial times it is even more important that we identify and promote the programs that most effectively and successfully improve student achievement."

Fiscally speaking, how cost effective is it to have so many instructional superintendents? Up to 13 or 15 now? Think of the academic resources that are not getting to the schools because of the bloat.

Posted by: candycane1 | January 14, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

This article fails to mention that test scores had been trending upward for a decade before Rhee's arrival. This article makes it seem like scores were declining before she came and she turned things around. Far from it.

In addition, we still haven't received and explanation as to why DCCAS scores fell in elementary schools last spring--the first time I can remember that happening. If Rhee was doing so much good, we should have seen those scores sky rocket, not fall.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | January 14, 2011 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Ditto to UrbanDweller on the explanation for the decline in elementary DCCAS scores.
Rhee said it would be done.
You can bet she'll never be asked about that when she's on Hardball, Nightly News, or Colbert Report.

This also begs a question about summer school from last year.
I believe MIss Rhee said she was RIFfing 260+ educators because she wanted to fund summer school.
How did that go last summer?
How many kids attended?
DCPS must have the data, right?

Posted by: edlharris | January 14, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

DCPS students will not make progress towards proficiency until teachers and students are jointly held accountable for learning. Right now students are moved from grade to grade without demonstrating that they have mastered any standards. That is why we have high school students who can't read, write, compute, or think. Let's spend our resources to support those critical cases at the early levels so they grow up to become contributing citizens not a drain on our city.

Posted by: pat1117 | January 15, 2011 7:30 AM | Report abuse

DCPS students will not make progress towards proficiency until teachers and students are jointly held accountable for learning. Right now students are moved from grade to grade without demonstrating that they have mastered any standards. That is why we have high school students who can't read, write, compute, or think. Let's spend our resources to support those critical cases at the early levels so they grow up to become contributing citizens not a drain on our city

Teachers? No, I think the parents are the problem.

Posted by: mark0004 | January 15, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure that the parents are content to know that their children will reside in the land of serfdom of this country's creditor.

They obviously missed:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html

Posted by: Qster | January 15, 2011 9:47 AM | Report abuse

1. And if the rest of the change in policy and practice is for principals to require teachers to carry out
"Saturday Scholar" activities during regular hours, when attendance is mandatory? The late Shaw MS principal Brian Betts was clear and articulate on this in four PBS-recorded interviews in the Learning Matters series: He was pleased that the test questions were the criteria for the curriculum and teaching; and he was Rhee / Henderson's model principal.

2. Notice the claim that the program was effective, just too expensive. Not that any evidence exists that DCPS has engaged in the statistical challenges of estimating effectiveness in the presence of selection, self-selection and attrition.

Posted by: incredulous | January 15, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

So what? There's plenty of Saturday programs for boys who might make the NBA or the NFL someday.

That's what matters to DC parents.

Posted by: corco02az | January 15, 2011 9:03 PM | Report abuse

My question, exactly, edharris! Do you think we will get a straightforward, mathmatically correct and credible assessment of summer school in the budget oversight hearings this spring? Are we, the taxpayers, ever going to get a real accounting of how DCPS is spending our money and how that facilitates learning?

Posted by: 1citizen | January 15, 2011 11:34 PM | Report abuse

I set out to answer efavorite's question, "who dreamed up this program?" A marketing director from Verizon, James V Coleman, is credited with dreaming it up, as part of Ron Paige and George Bush's original (and now discredited) Texas Miracle turnaround.
http://ssptexas.org/bios/coleman.htm

Why is it so expensive? Is it really a nonprofit? The answer on its public website is shifty:
"The Saturday ScholarsTM Program Foundation, Inc. is a 501©3 Publicly Funded Organization
The Saturday Scholars™ Program Foundation, Inc., incorporated in 2001, has been created to facilitate the expansion of the Saturday Scholars™ Program in Texas and nationally to reach as many children as we possibly can."
http://www.ssptexas.org/

So, the public face is a nonprofit foundation formed to promote the expansion
of Saturday Scholars TM, which has no face at all. That's a masterpiece of marketing.

I tried to track it down, and found this midget private company, whose CEO is listed as James J Coleman:

"Saturday Scholars Program is a private company categorized under Unclassified and located in Euless, TX. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of 160,000 and employs a staff of approximately 2."
http://www.manta.com/c/mt9plqy/saturday-scholars-program

I dunno why the "program" so expensive; the "foundation" website says it's staffed by volunteers. Somebody sells the canned curriculum, apparently, but damned if I can figure out who.

Here's the link to the Edweek story blasting it for a cheap trick based on targeted score tweaking:
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/06/17/35jennings.h28.html?tkn=QZXFrbC8%2FrNdHqyuTPgfoL0bz%2BOfzgtSpB1x

Posted by: mport84 | January 16, 2011 11:50 PM | Report abuse

mport84 - thanks for the good intelligence work – and for the insight in the Jennings article that by offering help only to kids on the cusp of proficiency, it is adults who benefit from the rise in proficiency rates. Meanwhile, the lowest performing kids are ignored because their improvement won’t be great enough to bump their school over the proficiency line.

As Jennings says: “Rhee has sold herself as a different type of educational leader—one who stands proudly in the corner of the kids, not the adults. It is hard to square this rhetoric with her own education policies that are designed only to make adults look better.”

That was written in June of 2009. Since then, the elementary scores went down and DCPS has made no attempt that we know of to analyze the causes, suggesting that the administration is only interested in bringing attention to things that make it look good, children be damned. We’ve seen this before, when she lied about the DC-CAS scores at Shaw.* Since then, Rhee left DCPS to start her own nonprofit, “Students first.” A more apt name would be “Me first.”

*
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/class-struggle/2009/10/one_of_the_struggles_most.html
http://learningmatters.tv/blog/on-the-newshour/michelle-rhee-in-dc-episode-10-testing-michelle-rhee/2476/comment-page-1/#comment-322

Posted by: efavorite | January 17, 2011 9:22 AM | Report abuse

The article said that the program was open to all district residents. NOT TRUE. The applications were only given to the students who were at basic and close to proficient.
lol DC students read far below grade level because the system got rid of things like PHONICS. They got rid of phoniCS but then spend thousands of dollars of intervention programs that teaches PHONICS and these programs are only used in certain schools. DC doesn't even use READING textbooks and workbook sets. Teachers have to research stories and materials on their own. Backwards of you ask me.

Posted by: dookie1 | January 18, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

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