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Posted at 6:41 PM ET, 02/16/2011

District says data report card not as bad as it looks

By Bill Turque

"Data-driven decisionmaking" was a mantra of the Fenty-Rhee school reform effort. But D.C. received a dismal report card Wednesday from a national organization that grades states on their capacity to collect and use high-quality information for school improvement. The Data Quality Campaign said that the District has in place only six of the ten basic elements necessary to do a decent job. That makes it dead last, behind the fifty states, most of which are missing only one or two requirements. Maryland, by contrast, has joined 23 other states nailing all ten.

The missing pieces include the ability to assign a unique teacher ID to match with students, and auditing capacity to verify the accuracy of information about student achievement and teacher performance.

"There's a long way to go in D.C.," said Aimee Guidera, executive director of DQC, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other big edu-philanthropists. As a condition of receiving Obama stimulus money last year, the District had to agree to reach a perfect ten by this coming September.

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) said the assessment, which is based on self-reporting by the states, is not as poor is it appears. Officials said that since completing the DQC survey in October, it has added two new elements: the ability to match P-12 and higher education data, and information on students who have not taken annual standardized tests.

OSSE has struggled for the last several years to organize all of its student and teacher data. It is suing Williams, Adley & Co., the original contractor for Statewide Longitudinal Education Data Warehouse System (SLED), which it fired in 2009. There is still no new contractor in place, but SLED director Gretchen Duffy said the agency hopes to have one soon.

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By Bill Turque  | February 16, 2011; 6:41 PM ET
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Why is it DCPS is very quick to blame teachers for everything and hold us accountable for everything beyond our control but when they are criticized they always have some excuse as to why it isn't as bad as it's been reported or they downplay it somehow? Seems the ones shirking accountability and responsibility are the very ones trying to hold everyone else accountable and responsible but themselves.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | February 16, 2011 10:07 PM | Report abuse

"The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) said the assessment, which is based on self-reporting by the states, is not as poor is it appears"

Yeah, that sounds like what "ineffective teachers" said about their IMPACT ratings.

Fat lot of good it did them.

Posted by: efavorite | February 16, 2011 10:49 PM | Report abuse

" big edu-philanthropists. "

Trademark that term Bill.

Until I read the first paragraph, I thought I was going to read that the decline in elementary DC-CAS from last year's administration wasn't that bad.

Whatever happened to that report?
Did it go the way of the Capital Gains report?
or the red-flagged test erasure discrepancies?

Posted by: edlharris | February 16, 2011 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Well, OSSE got out in front of this with a disclaimer. "It isn't quite so true that we can't be audit, that we can't say much, and when we do, there isn't much data we can offer up to let you dispute our evaluation on the facts."

But, where was the reporting on the abolition of positions at OSSE that were data-systems and analysis related? Commenters have sometimes reported chaos at OSSE, coincident with the replacement of the first State Superintendent, Deborah Gist, over two years ago. It is said that most professional positions there are limited term appointments, hardly opportunities for impartial professional careers. But, there has been no investigative reporting on this. Are we all to wait for the (underfunded) National Academy report on the Mayoral takeover?

Posted by: incredulous | February 17, 2011 8:44 AM | Report abuse

As the hub for this effort, OSSE once again proves its uselessness.

I love how the anti-changers continue to criticize and resist any effort to "instrument" our administrative data and info so that it is useful for management and analysis. Their game continues to be no or primitive tools so that everyone, from teacher to Mayor and parents, lacks the benefit of efficiency, effective management, and insight into what education, if any, is taking place.

Finally, we see the hoary hands of those rich benefactors. The City gains from almost every idea and dollar such benefactors try to inject. But since we know it all here in our four quadrants--and the results of that are most obvious in our schools--we just love staring a gift horse in the mouth. And then beating him.

Well done, forces for statis or roll-back and resistance to change. You are penalizing The Children most of all.

Posted by: axolotl | February 17, 2011 9:06 AM | Report abuse

According to the DQC website, in 2005 DCPS only met one of the ten elements.

Posted by: gardyloo | February 17, 2011 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of data: Might we have the pleasure, just two months before the Spring tests which announce the rapid closing of school year, of learning how many students are enrolled in the public schools, traditional and charter? These annual enrollment audits are beginning to resemble doping investigations in some sports, so long does they take, presumably so DCPS gets every chance to protest that it hasn't shrunk, again.

Couldn't we have estimates from a representative sample, subject to revision on complete count?

Posted by: incredulous | February 21, 2011 12:29 AM | Report abuse

What is "high-quality information?" And who are Bill and Melinda Gates to define that and try to make DC look bad because it doesn't measure up to their definition?
And why do you help them out Mr. Turque by assuming that whatever they do is to be accepted without question as truly supportive of education when it amounts to nothing more than bribery to get the changes THEY want, not the ones that a particular school district may need?
"Dead last" you say as though it has been pronounced from the All-Knowing Gods of Education that DCPS is....just done! DONE! I tell you! and this PROVES it! They have failed this obscure, heretofore unknown definition made up by people with nothing better to do and that proves all the bad things everyone believes, many of which so many "journalist" who are loath to spend a minute trying to determine between what is of real significance and meaning to education and what is personally interesting to them or supports their world view are ready, willing and able to put before the public eye.
Have you thought about getting a refresher course in critical thinking skills? Maybe the Gates' would pay for it.

Posted by: 1citizen | February 22, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

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