Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Couple of things

- Good bit of reporting by Rebecca Quigley on the MCG expansion planning, and what's most interesting is that Rep. Ben Harbin, the Augusta-area legislator who changed the budget to divert money from a study on Athens-Clarke County to Augusta-Richmond County regarding an expansion, originally wanted to expand MCG in Savannah. How's that gonna play in your backyard? And what the heck man?

- I'm not really sure what Paul Broun's fine has to do with anything, but it is kinda troublesome that he practiced without a medical license for a year. Of course, his explanation seems logical.

- Flagpole has a nice article on Carl Jordan, and I'm listed as a possible candidate for his seat should he step down in 2008.

- I've had more than one person say 'why are you defending Paul Broun?' Listen, I'll defend anybody from ridiculous charges, and I'll give anybody the credit they deserve when they do good. But I haven't defended Broun's political positions once, and that's what elections are supposed to be about.

- Typically I shy away from what article should be placed where, but I think Bette McNeely has a point here. Clarke Central being ranked in the top three percent of public high schools in the country is a pretty big deal, particularly when you hear all this nonsense of how 'bad' Clarke County schools are.

- Matthew Murphy's letter to the editor suggests that he's never actually read any of Leonard Pitts's other columns. It's also completely misreads the entire commentary, which was that spinning something to avoid taking responsibility is a problem. Pitts was not equating anyone's comments with someone else's, but rather using examples of how those figures attempted to shape the story in a favorable light to themselves.

- Note to Jason Aldean ... just because you release a song called Johnny Cash doesn't mean you can get respect. Hell, if Johnny was still around, he'd beat you down for grossly misusing his name with such a profoundly awful song.


Blogger hillary said...

But, you know, Clarke Central has failed standards repeatedly, no? I'm thinking that contributed to some skepticism about the rankings. I'm not saying I wouldn't send my kids there, but if it's in the top 3 percent of high schools nationally, we are pretty fucked.

8:10 AM  
Blogger Jmac said...

Then again, you have to consider the standards.

NCLB is a mismash that continually moves the goalpost. If you 'fail' one year, then the following year you have to not only reach the previous year's standards, but also the current year's. That doesn't seem terribly feasible to me.

Also, 'failing' came come from something as mundane as a handful of students not making the attendence targets.

8:39 AM  
Blogger hillary said...

Oh, I'm not saying NCLB is fair. You know I think it sucks. I'm just saying that I was a bit doubtful when I saw the original headline.

9:03 AM  
Anonymous james garland said...

The rankings are deceptive (as such rankings usually are). The release from the Clarke County School District reads:

"The rankings are determined by dividing the number of college-level Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests taken at each school by the number of graduating seniors."

Actual results of the tests are not considered, merely the number of tests taken. In other words, a relatively few high achievers are pulling the rest of the student body up by taking a bunch of exams.

The problem with Clarke County schools is not that academically motivated students (with academically motivated parents) are prevented from getting a quality education in them. On the contrary, those students can get an excellent education. But, those students are going to succeed in any school system. The problem is that the other students, who constitute the majority, are getting shortchanged in a big way (and at tremendous expense).

9:26 AM  
Blogger Jmac said...

Here is the link to the article explaining the rationale for using that particular method, and I agree with Newsweek's decision to set up a system that didn't involve testing.

While it is always nice to find something that helps gauge academic performance, testing scores are often misleading (several schools, for instance, boast high GPAs across the board, but have lower testing scores).

Now, if we have removed the actual results from the test from this equation, as you concede James, then how are the high achievers pulling everyone else up? If anything, this reveals exactly what the article was striving for ... that a greater number of students at Clarke Central are exposed to strong academic curriculum than at, say, other schools.

I'll concede that it would be interesting to see something like GPA scores factored into the equation, but you can't say that these students aren't receiving a strong educational experience.

There are issues that need to be addressed within the Clarke County School System, but I dispute this notion that these are 'bad' schools (not saying you're suggesting that James).

9:40 AM  
Anonymous james garland said...

Because the high achievers are the ones taking the exams.

The release from the District mentioned neither the number of exams taken at CCHS nor the number of graduating seniors. It merely noted that:

"Nearly one-third of all Clarke Central graduates in 2006 passed at least one AP exam. . . . Last year, students in the Clarke County School District attempted 534 Advanced Placement exams."

So, at best only about one third of the student body at CCHS (those who passed at least one AP exam plus whatever number of students did not pass), i.e. the high achievers, is contributing to this ranking. Thus, the other (approximately) two thirds of the student body is being pulled up insofar as the ranking is concerned.

I would wager that an even smaller fraction of students is taking a disproportionate number of 534 exams mentioned above.

And again note that the actual results of the exams are immaterial to the ranking, which is only a measure of the number of exams taken relative to the number of graduating seniors.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If 1/3 PASSED an AP exam (presumably a 3 or higher), then some number higher than 1/3 at least took an AP course. If that number looks more like 35-45% of the the population, that's a pretty good number taking AP exams. It's a good statement of how they are doing on the higher achievers.
But this number doesn't say anything good or bad about how Clarke Central does with the mass middle. I take your point, James, that when public schools struggle, it's often with "average" kids who get lost in the middle. I just don't think we can judge Clarke Central's performance for these kids based on the numbers. An average kid can get a good, solid, college-prep education without ever taking an AP course, or a school can inflate it's AP numbers by putting kids in AP courses that are unlikely to do well in them.


10:53 AM  
Anonymous james garland said...

Which is why I stated that the ranking is deceptive. It is not based on what number of CCHS students took an exam (AP or IB), how many students took multiple exams, or how many of those exams actually resulted in passing scores, or what any of this means to the average student.

My point is not the "goodness" or "badness" of Clarke County's public schools, but rather that the ranking, other than as a PR coup for the District, is essentially meaningless.

Having said that, I will admit that having one third of the graduating class pass an AP exam is impressive (on the other hand, that does not count the percentage of students who dropped out prior to graduating, which in Clarke County has historically been in the range of from more than one third to almost one half in any given year - but that is another discussion).

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, James. It sounds like we're saying the same thing about the usefulness of this particular ranking for judging the quality of Clarke Central on the whole. I think I unfairly took your statements to imply a more negative outlook; I apologize.

Your point about the statistics failing to factor in the dropouts is a huge one. Huge.


1:27 PM  
Anonymous james garland said...

I assure you that no offense was taken. And when it comes to local government, either the Unified Government or the Clarke County School District, I have been known to take a negative point of view from time to time. :)

1:46 PM  

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