But sometimes it’s fun to beat a dead horse. So, here goes.
This is long and Charlie Brown grown-up wah-wah-wah-wah, even excerpted, so bear with me. And try to stay awake.
The Superintendent sent this letter to various members of the “Seattle community.”
“In 2008, Seattle Public Schools (SPS) published a conservative data point aimed at determining the percent of students that graduate from SPS ready for a 4-year college. This specific data point is complex and one that districts across the state and the country grapple with as they try to quantify college and career ready. College readiness measures can be defined in multiple ways: the minimum requirements necessary to graduate high school, minimum requirements necessary to apply to a 4-year college, minimum requirements to successfully enroll in a college or university or meeting the necessary requirements to succeed in and graduate from college.
At the time we calculated that 17% of our students graduated from SPS college and career ready, we used a very aggressive standard to determine the percent of SPS students that were college ready based on our understanding of what is needed to be admitted and succeed in college, not simply the minimum requirements to apply.
This specific data point sparked significant public dialogue. In 2009, we chose not to include this statistic in the initial release of the district scorecard because we wanted to review it further; we publicly announced it was under review. In 2010, after additional research and discussion, we revised the statistic on the district scorecard using reduced math and science requirements as well as a reduction in the minimum core GPA from a letter grade of “B” to a “C” that are more in line with the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board (HECB) minimum requirements to apply to college. Further, at the 11/17/2010 board workshop, the district stated that the statistic changed and provided an explanation.
In retrospect, this review should have been accelerated and we should have been more proactive, both internally with staff and externally with key stakeholders, when the original statistic was held back in 2009 and was under further review. In addition, we should have been clearer that this represented a standard more rigorous than the minimum HECB requirements.”
Actually, I can’t go past 4 paragraphs. Just reading it this far has me trying to stab a pen through my hand in order to stay awake.
You wanna to read the whole thing? Good luck. There's just a leeeeetle more bureaucratese to slog through. It’s available here.
Actual Factual Facts!
Factual! SPS did publish a data point in 2008! And it did spark significant public... something. "Dialogue" isn't the right word since that implies that SPS was actively engaging in back and forth with the public. Which, um, SPS is not exactly renowned for.
The Superintendent spent her first year on the job authoring this plan.
At the June 4, 2008 board meeting (tune in at about 1:18:30), when the school board approved the Strategic Plan, Michael DeBell asked about this precise data point. He said that he felt 17% was too low.
The answer he received was that SPS used the Higher Education Coordinating Board's (HECB) definition of minimum college admission standards in order to determine how many SPS graduates met high school credit requirements for 4-year college. HECB's standards had been revised for 2012; the claim was that SPS used HECB's 2012 definition.
Curiously, nowhere during this explanation did the Superintendent pause to note that SPS wasn't actually using the 2012 HECB standards.
Today’s Crappy! Chart! is just a table that walks through the differences between those HECB standards and what the Strategic Plan presented as HECB standards. However, despite the genuine crappiness of the chart, I certify that it meets the minimum Crappy! Chart! requirement standards, as measured by me after a snork of cough syrup or glass of wine, whichever is handiest at the time of standards determination (Ha! That wasn't bad bureaucratese!). SPS added a science course and bumped the GPA up a point. Those two alterations were enough to knock a startling number of kids out of the running (29% of SPS high school graduates, if I recall correctly).
Dudes. Totally gnarly epic fail.
The percent of SPS graduates meeting credit requirements for college was supposedly calculated by HECB standards, but... the district didn't use HECB's standards.
The Superintendent’s letter completely flubs effective minimization of the problem. I’m a little looped on my cocktail of medicine, cough syrup and Tylenol and I still don’t buy what the Superintendent’s selling in her letter. That the letter is in such sleep-inducing bureaucratese doesn't help.
I get that getting busted is no fun at all, and the forced explanations and apologies that go hand-in-hand with getting busted are deeply tiresome to make. Still, when you have to sell that an enormous misrepresentation was actually just a wee "miscommunication," you have got to work the hell out of that explanation.
There was ample time to correct members of the public who were misled by the deeply misleading data and came to the conclusion that by saying "requirements," the authors of the Strategic Plan meant... "requirements."
There were direct questions on the data, and in answering those questions, the Strategic Plan authors represented their 17% figure as conforming to a standard. Which... it didn't.
So why didn't the district calculate the actual percent of SPS graduates meeting credit requirements for college using the 2012 HECB standards (as they said they had)?
There's the conspiracy theory guess: management didn't want to do any work to improve that particular stat and hoped, in 2013, to slide the real number in and then voilà! they'd have met the goal without doing any work. That seems like a bit of a stretch, even to someone as suspicious as me. It looks like there was either intent or incompetence, although a combination is a distinct possibility.
In the absence of an honest explanation from the district, we can only guess.
Truthy SuperAnalysis!™ says: Whether by intent, bumbling incompetence or both, the Strategic Plan authors misrepresented how many SPS graduates were meeting credit requirements for college, misleading the board and public.
And Abelard says:Are you sure you don't have some raisins?