Sunday, February 5, 2017

Chiefs' New Hilarious Practical Joke

I am about 72% certain that this is a practical joke, right down to this stock photo:

"Seriously, dude?"

That photo is on the top of a Chiefs for Change news item for the new Student Growth Simulator. 

A new web-based tool will offer far greater ease and clarity for state and district leaders seeking to set learning goals and measure progress under the sweeping Every Student Succeeds Act.

The Chiefs for Change, you may recall, was part of the Jeb Bush Edu-reform Complex, and was going to be a group of the very reformiest education chiefs in the country, helping to sweep Jeb to power. Things haven't quite worked out (though Chief Hanna Skandera does seem poised to sweep into DC as part of an ed department that doesn't look too much different from the one that President Bush III would have installed), and it turns out that Hot Ed Reformster Celebrities don't have a very long shelf life (how's Chris Barbic doing these days, anyway?) and the whole Chiefs thing has been losing steam, even going so far as to let people into the club who aren't even actual chiefs!

So, anyway-- since the Simulatoir is web-based, I thought I'd see if i could use it-- and it turns out that anyone can. Which is cool, because this thing was developed by Chiefs for Change, researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Education, and Tembo, an education technology firm.

I'll put some screen shots further down the page so you know i'm not making this up, but let me describe how it works. First, you enter the name of your indicator (I went with "BS Test") and your target year. then you tell it what percentage of students fall into which ethnic groups, and how those groups previously scored on your indicator. Then you do the same for subgroups like low-income and ELL students.

Once you have done this, the simulator tells you what your gaps are between the lower scores and teh highest score. So if you plug in a score of 95 for one group, and that's your highest score, and another group gets a score of 75, the Simulator will tell you that there's a difference of 20 between them. Is that amazing or what?!!

Then you can pick two subgroups and enter target scores for them-- and the simulator will tell yo the difference between the current score and the target score! It will also tell you the gap between the two groups now and the gap that will be between them if they hit their targets. But it's not all subtraction-- once it has your total school score, it can take the number you give for, say, low-income students and tell you what the average score for non-low-income students must have been. So, division, too (in case you can't, you know, just read the numbers off your test results printout).

Thank God they brought Johns Hopkins in on this, because otherwise school districts would have been forced to struggle with How To Perform Math.

Then the simulator fills in a bunch of growth targets for the rest of your subgroups, based on, I guess, the assumption that if you want your white students to grow by 15, you must want your Asian students to grow by 11.5, because reasons.

Who the heck is the target for this? School district administrators who can't do basic math? People who like charts and graphs (it has both)?

“Education leaders agree on the vital importance of setting clear goals for student learning, and paying close attention to progress, but tools haven’t kept up with the task,” said Mike Magee, CEO of Chiefs for Change. “Our Chiefs have found that the Student Growth Simulator really helps in the effort to set goals that will improve outcomes and close gaps. We are glad to make it publicly available for the benefit of all education leaders planning for implementation of the new education law.”

Just to be clear-- the "setting goals" part is done arbitrarily by the person filling in the chart for some groups, and then computed based on unstated and unsupported for the rest of the groups. Fill in your numbers, make up some numbers, the simulator performs some subtraction, makes up some other numbers, runs a little division too, and you get a chart that is supposed to-- seriously, I'm stumped. You use this if you are a superintendent serving a school board composed of dopes?

Let me show you some screen shots, just so you don't think I'm making this up:

The highlighted numbers are the ones that the simulator fills in

The simulator provided the Target Results

And now we'll fill in the targets for everyone else

And if you would rather have the information as a charter-- I can't fit the color code in this shot, but you get the idea of how the simulator cleverly figures your gap-reduction goals

Now it's possible that there are layers of deep complexity here that I'm just too dopey to get, but I'm pretty sure that nothing's being done here that couldn't be handled by a couple of seventh graders with a $5.00 calculator and a ruler. If I'm wrong, feel free to enlighten me in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Inflated resume alert:

    Someone named Dave Stewart heads Tembo; his bio on the site says this:

    David founded Tembo – which means elephant in Swahili – in 2010. He formerly led the school accountability portfolio in the New York City Department of Education and served as Vice President of Product Development at Grow Network/McGraw-Hill.

    I never heard of the guy and I can guarantee Stewart never led the Accountability office at DOE. His linked in says this:

    Executive Director, Evaluation and Performance Reporting
    New York City Department of Education
    September 2007 – April 2008 (8 months)

    Director of Analytics
    NYC Department of Education
    April 2009 – February 2010 (11 months)

    The Accountability department at DOE was led by James Leibman between 2006-2009, when he resigned to to keep his position at Columbia Law School. After he left he was succeeded by his Deputy at Accountability, Shael Suransky.

    It appears that before he went to DOE, Stewart worked under David Coleman however, at the Grow Network, between 2005-2007. Coleman made millions by starting a company called the Grow Network for measuring "growth" in student test scores to districts under the pressure of NCLB, and then sold it to McGraw Hill in 2005. He stayed there until 2007, when he left McGraw-Hill and cofounded Student Achievement Partners with Jason Zimba. In 2008 he convinced Bill Gates that the route to improve schools was a common set of standards, and the rest is history.

    It appears Stewart is following in his mentor's tracks and is out to make a bundle as well.