The Cranky Taxpayer
Pass on PASS
As discussed elsewhere, the Governor's Partnership for Achieving Successful Schools ("PASS") formerly provided "interventions" that looked a lot like the remedies that soon will be required under NCLB. Unfortunately, the available data suggest that the PASS interventions were about as poorly managed as the sorry Richmond schools themselves.
As to the nterventions that were in place in thirteen Richmond schools, the PASS website (link now broken) said that the Model II schools used "nine-week assessment developed by the Virginia Department of Education."
So, of course, I asked the Education Department for the test data. Their response will do nothing to relieve your qualms about the state of our civilization.
The Blind Leading the Blind
The first thing they told me was that the schools in question designed their own tests for 2002-03.
Remember, these are schools that are accredited with warning (i.e., are flunking the SOLs) for math or English and have failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress under NCLB for up to four years running (the four Richmond schools on the Year 3 list are flunking as badly as it is possible to flunk under NCLB). The Governor had sent in teams to "ensure that curriculum is aligned with the Standards of Learning." (link now broken).
These Richmond schools have persistently failed to align their curricula with the SOLs. Yet the state told these same schools to design tests to measure progress toward passing the SOLs.
The results were guaranteed to be meaningless in two respects:
Note added on March 26, 2004:
End of note.
Now the Inept are Leading the Incompetent
This year, as they tell me, "the Department of Education facilitated the development of an SOL aligned nine-weeks test for use . . . for all PASS schools through a consortium led by Hampton City Schools that included 15 school divisions." So, at least they have a uniform set of tests.
Unfortunately, as the Education Department further reports:
That is, the data are useless. The state cannot manage the PASS program, again, because they have no way, again, to measure what is happening.
As a waste of taxpayer money, this is even more outrageous than the awful Richmond schools: The State, at least, is capable of doing better.
All that is enough to make one wonder if the PASS program really is a tool to help the schools or merely a sham to make it look like the state is doing something. On that subject, I asked the Education Department for all of its documents evaluating the PASS program. I tried to be thorough.
They gave me the first- and second-quarter numbers, with a disclaimer on each page of the second-quarter data:
Perhaps more to the point,
Apparently, they just collect the unreliable scoring data in a computer. Based on their response, they have no way to measure whether the program is working or to manage the program.
There is a word for government programs that expend our tax money without any benefit to the taxpayers. The word is "boondoggle."
Yet the [former] Governor claimed that PASS "helps boost SOL Achievements for Majority of Schools."
It would be interesting to know how, in the absence of any data whatever, he came to that conclusion. It would be more interesting to know why the state is not managing this program that has the Governor's name attached to it.
Note added on 3/26/04:
Note added on 4/8/04:
End of Notes.
The Numbers are Terrible
It is just as well that we can't believe this year's numbers. Some of them are unbelievable.
Here, for instance, are the pass rates for 8th grade math for the first 9-weeks test:
If there had been any doubt on the question, the report of the Council of the Great City Schools made it clear that the Richmond schools are utterly broken. The PASS intervention and the federal NCLB requirements looked like the last chances for the kids whom the Richmond system is damaging. This recent demonstration of ineptitude by the State takes away one of those chances.
That leaves the NCLB, which will not require housecleaning at the inadequate schools for another two years. Moreover, the Act does not have a mechanism for replacing our hopelessly inept School Board.
It would be nice if the state could get its act together.