October 9, 2012

Attendance ‘scrubbing’ update — Columbus test scores take a dive

Filed under: Education,Ohio Politics,Scams,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:50 pm

Columbus schools fall from undeserved grace.

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Note: This post went up at Watchdog.org earlier this evening.

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Fueling the concerns of those who believe that Ohio‘s schools may have been seriously overstating their academic results for at least several years, the Columbus Dispatch reported Sept. 27 that test scores for the 2011-2012 academic year at Columbus City Schools catastrophically declined:

The Columbus schools that deleted the most student attendance records last year posted dramatic academic declines after the practice was halted this year, according to test-passing rates that the state released yesterday on school report cards.

At East High School, which deleted more absences than any other Columbus school during the 2010-11 school year, passing rates on the reading section of the Ohio Graduation Testplunged by 23.5 percentage points; only 50.5 percent of students passed the exam in March. In fact, passing rates in all subjects took a dive at East.

… Of the five other high schools with the greatest number of record changes in 2010-11, all saw significant drops in passing rates, most of them in double digits.

The plunge in reported results occurred because, unlike in past years, CCS apparently submitted “clean” data to the Ohio Department of Education, free of the ”attendance scrubbing” alterations I began following (herehere, and here) in late July.

As of the end of that month, we knew, thanks largely to work by Dispatch reporters, that CCS officials had erased 2.8 million student absences from its computers in the past 5 1/2 years, enabling it, after the scrubbing, to brag about having a 94.2 percent attendance rate and report inflated average standardized test scores to ODE.

We also knew that an undetermined number of other large and small school districts statewide have engaged in the practice. But we do know, thanks to the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Edith Starzyk in 2008, that the practice has been going on for many years.

Finally, we knew that Ohio Auditor Dave Yost had begun a statewide investigation of attendance scrubbing after concluding, based on reports from two other districts, that “attendance report rigging is not a localized problem with … (CCS), but that it may be more systemic.” Yost also expressed concern about “what role ODE played during the time that false reports were made by multiple schools,” leading to “the question of at least a lack of oversight.”

Since then, there have been a number of developments.

In late August, the school board at Lockland, a small suburban district north of Cincinnatifired its superintendent and her son for their alleged involvement in pervasive attendance scrubbing. Specifically, the pair was accused of “improperly listing 37 Lockland students as withdrawn from the district in 2010-11,” all of whom had “failed all or parts of the state achievement or graduation tests.” The fired superintendent’s lawyer has claimed that the pair was “correcting” the data, and is suing the district on her behalf.

In mid-August, Yost, in an email sent to all superintendents, urged districts “to voluntarily disclose whether they’re falsifying their student-attendance data.” His expressed belief that “some folks out there that have been taking improper action in good faith” seemed too forgiving in the circumstances.

On Sept. 20, CCS Superintendent Gene Harris, who nine months earlier had said she had no plans to leave, announced her retirement from her $192,000-per-year position, effective June 2013. The Dispatch described her move a “surprise.”

On Sept. 23, the Dispatch’s Jennifer Smith Richards and Bill Bush told the story of how CCS implemented its attendance scrubbing:

(The district’s data center director) would hand principals a roster of student names and tell them to highlight the ones who had at least five consecutive absences, principals say. Some years, he’d take the roster back to a … (data center) employee who would “break the enrollment” of those students.

Last year, he handed the sheet back to principals, telling them it was their job to withdraw, then re-enroll, the highlighted students, principals say. And then he sent the principals into a room with several computers, leaving them to a task that state officials say is against the rules: You can’t arbitrarily withdraw students who haven’t left school just because they were absent more than you’d like.

How many serious year-to-year declines we’ll see at other school districts remains to be seen. My gut tells me it will be quite a few. If so, what an unforgivable disgrace.

AP HQ’s Dismissive Treatment Causes Its Recipient, Complaining About Childish Publication of Romney Photo, to Unload

APupsideDown1012There is (and should be) a great deal of outrage over the picture the children of adult age at the Associated Press used in its coverage of Mitt Romney’s decision not to appear on a children’s TV program hosted by the insufferably liberal Linda Ellerbee.

Evan Vucci, the AP photographer, surely take dozens if not hundreds of pictures every day, yet apparently he and/or those he reports to chose to use this one (HT Tim Graham at NewsBusters):

APromneyAndGirlRear1012

What a bunch of immature jerks — and that also goes for AP’s headquarters. An emailer whose identity I have verified but who would prefer to remain anonymous (I’ll call him “Tom from Naperville”) complained about his treatment there when he attempted to complain. From his description, he has every right to be steamed:

I contacted AP (212-621-1500) regarding their absurd “making news” photo of the young girl looking at Romney’s butt photo. I was handed off eventually to their media relations department going through 4 people and EVERY one of them just laughed.

I told them I had reached my breaking point of of their incompetence and inability in reporting words and photos. I also reminded them of why 2/3 of America no longer trusts them. The last woman was VERY irritated then and sighed like a child then exhaled repeatedly. I told them I didn’t care about Romney or obama…this was beyond tasteless plus it was purely to trash a man, nothing more.

Of course they told me the “innocent” reason of the photo but I told them this was garbage and NOT acceptable and they needed to issue an apology to the public. How about to this little girl?! Do you think her parents are happy with this? NO.

The snotty b*tch at AP kept saying “your comment is duly noted” and I demanded to know what that means. What action were they going to take. Silence. She was speechless.

We just finished with a man going to prison over kid molestation and these AP pukes do this?!

Tom further elaborated in his response to my follow-up (bolds are mine):

All over the TV is this bastard going to prison for fondling boys yet the AP thought it was fine to show a girl oogling a man’s butt. What the hell?! I was just SO mad the INCREDIBLE way these people were laughing at me on the phone! I started out calm but then became FURIOUS! They didn’t give a damn. I asked if they laughed at everyone that called to complain but no response. The more they laughed the more they exposed themselves. My God I was furious.

… I just want to get info out to people to start calling out AP and other news outlets when they do this crap. Melt their phones. They will get tired of this. I have listened to Sean Hannity blah-blahing about how the media died in 2008 but I was STUNNED how these people at AP treated me. Not only was Hannity right it is now clear they are hell bent to destroy Romney.

They’re hell-bent to destroy anyone who doesn’t agree withBarack Obama’s creeping, accelerating statism.

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UPDATE, Oct. 11: AP has weakly “apologized,” not for running the picture, but for its caption. Horse manure.

Where Is Maureen Dowd’s ‘Absolute Moral Authority’ Column For Karen Vaughn?

Joel Gehrke at the Washington Examiner (HT Meredith Jessup at the Blaze) reports that Karen Vaughn, mother of Aaron Vaughn, a member of Navy SEAL Team 6 and one of 30 American servicemen, including 21 other SEAL Team 6 members, killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan three months after the May 1, 2011 execution of Osama bin Laden, says in a video released yesterday by Veterans for a Strong America that the Obama administration “put a target on my son’s back and even on my back” by revealing the SEAL Team unit’s identity after the Bin Laden raid.

Actually, as seen here in a September 10 Fox News story, Mrs. Vaughn has been saying this for almost a month, which makes me wonder where Maureen Dowd at the New York Times has been. But first, the specifics from the Vaughns (bolds are mine throughout this post):

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NY Times Editor’s ‘We Were Fooled By People Who Made Up Their Names’ Note Fails to Cite Observed Underage Drinking Incidents

Filed under: Education,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 10:18 am

In her September 26 report in the paper’s Fashion & Style section (“Last Call for College Bars”; Sept. 27 print edition), Courtney Rubin at the New York Times devoted over 1,600 words to a portrayal, primarily in Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell University, of the declining college bar scene.

Rubin described the travails of, among others, Michelle Guida, Vanessa Gilen, Tracy O’Hara, and John Montana. A photo which originally accompanied the article said it pictured David Lieberman and Ben Johnson. There’s only one teeny tiny problem, one which might lead one to question the degree to which Rubin’s underlying work is fictional (i.e., containing fictional stories relayed by those interviewed, not items made up by Ms. Rubin). It’s explained in an “Editor’s Note” dated September 28 at the end of the online version Rubin’s report (a graphic of the Note as it appeared in the print edition is here; bolds are mine throughout this post):

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Tuesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (100912)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 7:45 am

Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow later. Other topics are also fair game.

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Positivity: Army wife’s shock as she is reunited with her husband on stage at Toby Keith concert… after country star had just sung American Soldier

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 7:40 am

From the UK Daily Mail, regarding a heartwarming gesture in Houston, Texas (HT Daryn Kagan; the referenced concert was on September 8):

This heart-warming video captures the moment country singer Toby Keith surprised the wife of a soldier fighting in Afghanistan by bringing them both on stage at his concert for a tear-jerking reunion.

The singer paused during his September 8 show in Houston, Texas, to ask the audience if there was anyone in the crowd with a loved one currently on operational tour.

The spotlight fell on the woman as her friends cheered and waved excitedly, pointing at her and shepherding her toward the stage.

‘Come on sis,’ Keith encouraged her as she looked up, startled, and saw herself on the big screen behind the singer.

With the help of those in the front row and crew members, she was hoisted onto the platform, a camera tracking her and blasting her image on the screen.

‘How about we do a little tribute to your husband out in Afghanistan?’ Keith asked as she beamed, taking deep breaths so as to remain controlled.

She proudly told Keith her husband’s name, rank and that he was at that moment out in Afghanistan.
Little did she know what Keith had in store as she joined him in a rendition of his song American Soldier, dedicated to Major Pete Cruise.

Struggling to flight back tears, the woman raised her hand to her temple, giving a shaky salute as Keith asked the crowd to join him in thanking all the men and women out fighting for their country.

The song ended and one of Keith’s support guitarists began to play the Star Spangled Banner.

Confused, the woman looked around, not knowing what was going on, as a man walked onto the stage from behind to hand Keith his guitar.

Her face lit up and she gasped, covering her mouth with her hands, as she recognised the man in his green camouflage combat uniform.

It was her husband, unexpectedly back from the desert. …

Go here for the rest of the story.