by Thom W. Gray, Parent
In the June 23 meeting of the Cobb County School Board, traditional calendar crusaders Kathleen Angelucci (Post 4) and Scott Sweeney (Post 6) gave two very different but equally revealing commentaries leading up to the defeat of the modified calendar proposal.
Of the two, Angelucci spoke first. “As the facts are concerned,” she said, “they have been reported erroneously through means that did not come from the district. They came from personal perspective on this.”
Since she claims that there are erroneous reports, she must have compared them to the correct ones. Like the answer key to a test, you have to know the right answer before marking one wrong. Ms. Angelucci, the community is ready to see the answer key. We’d like a copy of the same official, correct data that you’ve used to grade these reports. You can share it with us today. Right?
She continued, already well on her way to finishing her one minute of input on the calendar issue. “As far as my stance on the traditional calendar or balanced calendar, I have not changed my position. I will remain steadfast in my commitment to my position and it will not change.”
Kathleen Angelucci remains steadfast in her commitment to her position. Unfortunately, Cobb County Schools needs Board of Education members that are steadfast in their commitment to the educational welfare of our children.
In contrast, Sweeney spoke nearly ten times as long on a variety of subjects. Chief among those was academic performance in 2010, the year of the balanced calendar.
“A lot of people are actually talking about the improvement that we’ve seen in scores,” he said, starting a slide show that would “peel away the skin of the onion” on reports that didn’t delve any deeper than district-level results.
The presentation compared some 2009 and 2010 Cobb scores. [One] example was 3rd grade ITBS (Iowa Test of Basic Skills) scores. Sweeney claimed that 29 of 68 schools, or 43 percent, had no improvement or a decline on the ITBS.
Remember Ms. Angelucci’s comment about data that isn’t from the district? On the Cobb Schools’ website is the CCSD Office of Accountability page. From there you can download the ITBS scores for 2009 and 2010 yourself. In each year, scores for only 67 elementary schools are reported. So where did the scores for 68 elementary schools come from? Personal perspective, perhaps.
Keep the example in mind. Third grade test scores. 29 of 68 (or 67) schools. 43 percent showing no improvement or a decline. You could say that almost half didn’t improve. Ouch! Bad balanced calendar.
But fact-check the claim with those scores from the district’s website. Of those 67 schools, 44 had improved scores, 14 had unchanged scores, and 9 had lower scores.
This is getting to be a lot of numbers, I know. Hang in there.
Think of a scale. The kind with two dishes, one on each side.
Call one side Better. Put 44 schools in it. Call the opposite side Worse, and put 9 schools there. The other 14 are out on the table somewhere. Call them Neither.
Sweeney took Neither and put them in with Worse. Together they became Not Improved. Let’s forgive the error in arithmetic, as 14 Neither plus 9 Worse is not 29; it’s 23. Correct that and you could still say that almost a third didn’t improve. Ouch, still, but not as much.
But why put Neither in with Worse? Is someone trying to make Worse look, well, worse? If not, put Neither in with Better instead. Then it’d be 58 of 67 schools that saw no decline or an increase. That’s roughly 87 percent. You could say that nearly 90 percent didn’t decline. Excellent! Good balanced calendar.
See how this works? Report on just one side of the scale, inflate it with the middle, and you get one picture. Use the exact same data, but report on the opposite side with the middle there instead. You get a completely different picture.
Why not just say Better was this, Worse was that, and Neither was the other, and leave it at that?
Perhaps because there was a need to spin Cobb’s academic data. Maybe the onion skin of improving test scores had to be peeled away because it was making it tough for certain board members to stay committed to their positions. Play games with the data until it starts serving a purpose.
Or just say that the improvements have been reported erroneously and be done. It’s simpler, far less time-consuming, and there’s not all those pesky numbers to deal with. Either way, it’s both clear and disheartening to know that little has changed with the board. Commitments to personal crusades still seem to be trumping representation and leadership.