Ray Simon Gives False Information on Test Scores
President Bush’s USDOE Appointee Gives False Information About Test Scores
Ray Simon, former Director of the Department of Education and now appointee to the USDOE( as assistant Secretary to Elementary and Secondary Education) gave completely false information about scores at two schools in academic distress in Arkansas to the Joint Education committee on October 12, 2003. There was a rather lengthy discussion of these two schools which have been under the ADE supervisory capacity the last six years as legislators tried to pin Simon down as to what was really happening in these schools. See the entire transcript of the discussion at the end of this e-mail. Also see article entitled Arkansas Appointee Ray Simon for USDOE Bad Choice. http://www.afaar.org/Simon%20Appointment%20Cause%20for%20Concern.htm
In summary Simon in answer to questions concerning Altheimer and Elaine said, “I don’t have it with me, but I can certainly supply you with evidence in both these districts and in others that show our work has made a difference in terms of test scores which is the primary measure by which we see whether the children are learning and we believe we have helped in other areas” He also said in reference to questions about specialists used at Altheimer and Elaine that specialists had been highly successful in every case we have experienced over the last few years. (Elaine and Altheimer are the only schools in which they have been used.)
Below is what really happened at these two schools:
· While the state increased from 31% to 67% on the number of students scoring Proficient on the 4th grade math benchmark exam from 1998 to 2003, Altheimer’s scores decreased from 19% Proficient to 16% Proficient. The ADE intervened at Altheimer in 1997.
· In 2003 at Altheimer on the 6th grade and 8th grade math scores, there were ZERO students who scored Proficient at Altheimer in 8th grade math, and Altheimer had only 3% proficient in 6th Grade Math while the state score was 40% proficient; ADE Website - Report Card)
There are a number of other problems with these schools in academic distress. An article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette by Kimberly Dishongh June 8, 2003, delineated several of them at Altheimer. After ADE has worked with Altheimer for 6 years the following conditions still exist:
· None of the district’s sixth graders tested ins spring 2002 scored at or above Proficient inliteracy and none of the eighth grad students scored profic9ent or above in8th grade math in 2002.
· None of the high school students who took the end-of-course geometry benchmark exam, scored at or above the proficient level either.
· Only about 70% of students graduate, and the average graduation rate in Arkansas is 85%.
· 1000 % of students in Altheimer that went on to college (9 out of 38) had to take remediation courses. The average remediation rate in Arkansas is 54%.
· In 2002 school year students were disciplined for disorderly conduct 1,691 times; for insubordination 147 times, student assault 118 times, were given corporal punishment 258 times, sent to in school suspension659 times, and suspended from school 204 times. One student was expelled for an offense involving a weapon. Another assaulted a staff member.
· One of the monitors hired by ADE wrote that, “we spend l/2 our time enforcing student discipline policies because day to day events are often so out of order that teachers do not teach.” She also wrote that the majority of 7th and8th grade students cannot understand third grade reading passages.
· In March 2003 Thomas was hired as chief academic officer to replace the superintendent. His salary is paid for by the school district plus cost of his daily 120 miles a day commute from North Little Rock. A team of educators, a curriculum and assessment monitor, two academic coaches and Thomas are assigned to the school.
· Staff turnover at the district and state level have been a problem. Two members of the team hired by the state won’t be back next year, bailing out after only one year. One of them, DeJarnette said in her letter of resignation, “It has become apparent to me that neither Dr. Thomas (ADE superintendent) or Dr. Smith is interested in meeting the needs of the teachers and students this school year. I have waited month after month for actions to be taken regarding recommendations I and the coaches have made related to teacher and student needs. [It is reported by an employee that they went without a copier in the building for six months]
· DeJarnette further said that morale was low among teachers and students because of not having basic needs met..low morale, she wrote, “affects teaching and learning on a daily basis.
· Education Department staff did facilities evaluation at the beginning of the summer and determined that, among other problems the elementary school’s cafeteria kitchen needed to be closed because a drainage problem caused sewage to back up onto the floor there. A report about the facilities said cafeteria workers often stood in the sewage while they cooked children’s food.
Is this the kind of leader we need at the USDOE. Simon reiterated in several ways to the committee that they were being successful in this school. Simon flew back to Little Rock for a meeting with educators on December 2, 2003 in which he told them he would be overseeing NCLB when he is confirmed. He told them there were many problems with NCLB they were going to have to work through. This is ironic because his appointment was probably earned because he helped ram through a law at the closing of this last session that is far harsher and more punitive than NCLB, using the excuse that NCLB required most of it. This bill is ACT 1467 and is called the Omnibus bill and is already so controversial that many legislators are working to repeal it. A summary of this law and the full text can be read by going to this link http://www.afaar.org/Leg%202003.%20-%20Act%201467%20
I am sure we will have the same thing happen over and over under NCLB as the government tries to prove that government control is the answer to our problems in education..
· For documentation of the above facts: Test Scores on ADE website http://www.as-is.org/
· For 1997-98 scores, which are not on the web for some reason, call Donna Wolfe at 501-682-4252.
· For power-point presentation call Charity Smith's office at 501- 682-4207 and ask for power-point presentation on benchmark scores to the State Board of Education on Octover 13th. (Ask for it to be mailed because a faxed copy is not readable.)
Transcript of Excerpts from Joint EducationCommittee, October 14, 2003
We have this on video tape
Rep. Ray [Ray Simon], on schools that are in academic distress now, specialists go into the schools, is that correct? . How has that specialist program been working up to this point?
Ray Simon: We believe it has been highly successful. It is certainly a very extensive proposition because we have to hire individuals to go in there and actually work with the staff, but in every case we have experienced over the last few years, we have successfully been able to assist schools by putting specialists in there. [They only had them in these two district, Elaine and Altheimer but it sounds like several here.]
Rep. Are your test scores in these schools, are they reflecting that the assistance from these specialists is paying off?
Ray Simon: Yes, we had a little review yesterday [That was Dr. Charity Smith’s power point presentation he was referring to – see below for that presentation] with the State Board on the history of some of the schools that have been in distress. As a general rule of thumb, it takes about 5 years to really see a difference. You can’t just go in and make changes overnight or see significant differences overnight but over time our schools have not let us down. They have met the challenge, and the students are learning. The real issue is maintaining the improvements once we leave. Sustainability within the district has been the real challenge in a number of cases.
Senator Jeffress: My question is similar to Rep. Cowling’s. I was just wondering if you could tell us how many schools are under academic distress ?
Ray Simon: We just announced yesterday five schools that are in academic distress under the new Omnibus bill Two of those we already had specialists in. Annette, help me. Did we have any in any of the other districts? She answered no. Ray Simon. Just those two then..
Senator Jeffress: How long have they been at Altheimer?
Ray Simon: They have been in various stages of distress for six years. They have been under what used to be called Phase 3, the stage in which the state assumes the most comprehensive role for one year.
Senator Jeffress: You just said it takes you’ll determined about 5 years to start turning a school around [Dr. Charity Smith had also said it takes about five years to start turning a school around in her power point presentation to the State Board] yet under the Omnibus you are going to be able to move in on a school in how long?
Ray Simon: We may move in immediately but we must move in after 2 years.
Senator Jeffress: Even if the school on its own is doing the right thing and it might take 5 years and you’ll are still going to move in in two years.
(Lady legislators said, “good question”)
Ray Simon: Under the Omnibus bill the definition of academic distress is quite a bit more lenient in that the standard is pretty high. You have to have 75% of your kids below basic, not below proficient but below basic. You don’t need to wait too long to go in there and intervene.
Jeffress – Could you get me a copy of the scores on Altheimer and Elaine of the last few years that you have records of?
Ray Simon: Sure will.
Legislator: Could you tell us a little bit about the improvements that have occurred at Althimer and Elaine since your people have been there.
Ray Simon - I can tell you in general.
Legislator. I have heard many anecdotal stories that don’t make the Department look good.
Ray Simon - Well that is like everything else. It depends on who you talk to. We have had our challenges . Some districts will embrace the dept’s presence and work very carefully and closely with us and in other places we have resistance from those in authority who prefer not to see change so sometimes it is a little more difficult to do our job. .
Ray Simon: That having been said, I don’t have it with me, but I can certainly supply you with evidence in both these districts and in others that show our work has made a difference in terms of test scores which is the primary measure by which we see whether the children are learning and we believe we have helped in other areas. We are starting to build capacity for these districts to understand what to do in an instructional way that wasn’t there before.
Legislator. - When you say you will supply test scores, exactly which ones are you referring to?
Ray Simon: We have both norms and our benchmarks given in these districts.
In above answer to legislators’ question Ray Simon made reference to a presentation at the State Board meeting the day before in which a history of the schools in academic distress was given. Following is how this deception in scores was displayed:
Way the Scores Were Deceptively Presented to State Board
On October 13, 2003 Charity Smith, ADE’ Assistant Director of Accountability, gave a glowing, power-point graph presentation to the State Board indicating that the state and all schools in academic distress had made steady and even dramatic improvements. Simon was there at the meeting representing ADE.
On a closer examination of Dr. Smith’s graph presentation on paper, her graphs of scores were extremely deceptive. First, Dr. Smith used 4th grade benchmark scores only on her graphs. That is the grade in which there was great improvement – 12% statewide on the benchmark tests this last year. Altheimer improved, but only 5%. She did not include any of the SAT-9 scores. They do not show increases across the state like the benchmark test does. They have stayed relatively flat during the last few years.
Second, for the state scores and for several of the schools Smith included six years, from 1998 through 2003. However, on the graphs of scores for Altheimer and Elaine which have been under the control of the ADE since 1997 and under their total control this last year, she included only the scores for the last three years. In a quick power point presentation no one would notice this.
In 1998 and in 2000 (two of the years left off Smith’s graphs) Altheimer had 19% scoringProficient in Math compared to 13% Proficientin Math in 2003. While the state increased from 31% to 67% on the number of students scoring Proficient on the 4th grade math benchmark exam from 1998 to 2003, Altheimer’s scores decreased from 19% Proficient to 16% Proficient. The ADE intervened at Altheimer in 1997. No wonder Dr. Smith left these years off her graphs. On the 6th grade math scores, not included on the graphs, there were Zero students who scored Proficient at Altheimer in 8th grade math and only 3% in 6th Grade Math and 3% in Literacy in 2003.
In 1998 (one of the years left off Smith’s graphs) Elaine had 33% of students scoring Proficient or above in 4th grade math compared to 24% proficient in math in 2003. While the state increased from 31% to 67% on the number of students scoring Proficient on the 4th grade math benchmark exam from 1998 to 2003, Elaine’s scores decreased from 33% to 24%. Again, no wonder Dr. Smith left these years off her graphs. Further, in 2002, there were still ZERO students scoring proficient in math in 8th grade at Elaine and 3% scoring Proficient in 6th grade (6th & 8th grades were not included on Smith’s graphs) On the SAT-9 tests 10th graders were scoring at 34% percentile and in 1997 & 32nd percentile in 1996 at Elaine, but there has been a consistent decline to the 23rd percentile in 2003. None of the SAT-9 scores were included on the graphs on the power point presentation.
Both Dr. Charity Smith and ADE Director Ray Simon said it takes about five years to turn these schools around. They have had seven with Altheimer and Elaine. Who is going to hold them accountable for the disaster in these two schools as well as heir deceitfulness in giving false and eceptive reports about their progress?
However, Simon ardently pushed the Omnibus bill that gives schools only two years to turn around before their schools is taken over or consolidation. How long should the ADE be given before they are replaced? And who will take over the school after they have failed.