Thursday, August 21, 2008

Waiting for the apology that will never come

When you make a mistake you should own up to it, right? Apparently the Courier Times doesn’t think so.

In last week’s article bash against Neshaminy, the Courier Times printed incorrect information. Despite being given clarification by school district officials, the newspaper has yet to issue a correction to their misinformation and there are no indications that they will be doing so.

In their article, the Courier Times incorrectly stated that none of Neshaminy grade spans were able to meet every target. The correct information is that Neshaminy grade spans were unable to meet every target in Reading ONLY, which resulted in the District not meeting AYP.

In addition, the article stated that “several Neshaminy schools are either in corrective action or school improvement or received a Warning…” This is a misleading statement as we have only 1 school in Corrective Action, 1 school at School Improvement and the remaining 5 in Warning.

Should Neshaminy residents just let this pass? HELL NO! The Courier’s article has completely undermined our accomplishments this past year. To illustrate the confusion they have caused, here are a few quotes from Courier Times readers in their post-article blogs:
“Great!!! yeah, super to hear that Neshaminy is the "dumb ass" school district.”
“Neshaminy is now at the bottom of the heap of school districts in Bucks County.”
“I am surprised at the low scores that Neshaminy and Pennsbury achieved.”
”LOL Neshaminy - So glad my kids go to Council Rock schools.”

I don’t suppose that the Courier will mention that of the 16 high schools in Bucks County, Neshaminy High School had the second highest increase from 2007 to 2008 with a combined total of 23%? No, of course not. Why bother with relevant data when you can write editorials using meaningless statistics like PSSA proficiency of graduates? Unfortunately for Neshaminy, the Courier wants to hype the issue of poor test scores and teacher contract negotiations, and reporting positive news won't give that issue any heat.

Is anyone else out there as upset as I am???


KClarinet said...

Sure, lots of people are upset. But no one I know has any real idea what to do about it. The School Board and/or the administration would have to find a way to get the Courier to publish a more complete analysis so that taxpayers (at whom the original article and editorial are aimed) can make a more rational judgement about what the results really show. But how do you do that?

I must be living in Jersey said...

This is why they are called the Courier Slimes.

Gabriel said...

Pretty funny Jersey, but let's take the high road here. The Courier did react prematurely to summary data just as Mr. O'Connor said, and now we should give them an opportunity to make it right. It may not fit in with the story they really want to do about test scores and teacher contracts, but I hope they will do the proper thing. But if they don't, let's not stoop down to that level. Let's show them that Neshaminy is smart and classy.

sportsfan said...

What the Courier did was headline a small negative and they did not report the huge positive.
It is so outrageous, I don't know if it is funny or if they have some agenda.
For you sports fans it would be like reading this in the Courier Sports Section.

******** Eagles Lose Again ********

The Philadelphia Eagles lost their 3rd straight game to the point spread Sunday. Again their offense did not produce enough points to cover the spread. An awful performance. No other team in the league has lost 3 games in row to the spread.
The undefeated Eagles will try to get back on track next week as they face the 2nd place Cowboys.
Now if you saw that in the Sports Section would you be angry or just laugh. That's exactly what the Courier did in reporting the PSSA scores.

Jake said...

You're way too nice Gabriel. Did you see this morning's paper? They printed a clarification, but not for Neshaminy. I guess the courier times can admit to mistakes only to those districts they don't have an ax to grind with.

Rebecca said...

Sportsfan makes a great analogy. The Courier has overlooked what's important so they can make a negative headline. I hope it helps you to sell more newspapers at the store because you'll be losing one subscriber next week.

I must be living in Jersey said...

Take the high road? With all due respect Gabriel, I'm pissed off just like William is and I want the courier slimes to know about it. He used a picture of Cartman to make his point, and I'm messing around with their name to make mine.

Levittowner said...

Again, so glad this blog is here-you are always here to inform and clarify.

I was stunned to hear the "quote" from Mr. Kadri in the Times, but now it makes sense in light of your clarification.

Perhaps someone more educated than the Courier Times can write a "guest" opinion that would explain to all of us the convulated scoring of these standardized tests.

Question: would we have been "ok" if we had kept our overall PSSA scores from last testing cycle but experience an increase in scores for sub groups?"

I'm still a bit confused.

Did we focus so much on getting *all* our students to improve that we negelected the subgroup? Another question, are the sub groups (and what subroups exist?) expected to increase at the same rate as the general population?

I think it's great we achieved such a jump in overall scores and its a shame we don't get recogition for that.

To my uninformed brain (please correct me if I'm wrong) it seems like schools are rewarded for having their entire school population achieve the " meet" benchmark instead of having more of a bell shape curve with *some* failing (but being pushed to living up to their real potential-not a test), some excelling (and being pushed to living up to their potential- and not a test ), and many "meeting". (again, being pushed to reaching their full potential not a test)

I have AE kids, so I would hate to think that they will be victims of this on the other end of the spectrum. I want them to be encouraged to excell, not "meet". They don't receive many services either, but seems like no one is looking out for the AE kids. They spend most of their time in classes that leave them unstimulated and unchallenged. I have a very real concern that they will eventually recieve even less service as our district (by necessity of the PSSA) puts all their energy into making sure everyone is at the "meet". No more, no less.

KClarinet said...

To Levittowner, you've asked some very interesting and, I think, on-the-mark questions. Someone from the school district's administration would need to answer some of them, because the whole concept of Adequate Yearly Progress for subgroups is too involved - most teachers (who are trying to deliver the instruction) don't know who all the subgroups are or what their status is. But to answer a couple of your final questions about "bell shape curve" and AE, NCLB is not concerned with students' real potential or with a "normal" distribution (bell-shaped curve) of test scores. It requires that every child (by 2014) be at or above the level identified as "Proficient" on whatever state assessment is used in each state (PSSA in Pennsylvania). Nor does NCLB "reward" districts for anything - it only prescribes "remedies" - punishments - for districts whose students don't meet AYP benchmarks, which are periodically increased toward the eventual 100% goal for all students regardless of any learning difficulties they may have. And, no, there is specifically no "reward" for excelling or exceeding the requirement, and AE students definitely do not benefit from anything in the NCLB law. Howevermuch the school districts may deny it, as the hoops through which they must jump to meet AYP rise higher and higher, services somewhere will need to be jettisoned or reduced to allow more funding, time and attention to be aimed at the weakest students who are not reaching proficiency. The other alternative, which seems to be a taboo subject these days more than ever before, is to raise taxes to meet the additional funding needs. And, yes, AE services, among others, because they contribute nothing to meeting AYP, will be fair game along with social studies, family living, tech ed, art, music and anything else that isn't tested by PSSA.

By the way, since you brought up the notion of the normal curve, it would be interesting to find out (I don't know nor probably do many people outside of the company that publishes PSSA) how the score for "Proficiency" is determined. Most "standardized" tests are "curved" with the average score being adjusted every so often("re-normed"). But Proficiency is not (can't be, if all children are supposed to achieve it) the same as average. It would be really instructive, I think, to know what "Proficient" on PSSA tests really means. But that's a whole other discussion.

march said...

To Levittowner, kclarinet is correct in that NCLB is not concerned with the AE student. They are already performing at or above proficient. It has been shown that since the inception of NCLB less money is being used for the AE student. One cannot blame the school district for putting more effort and money into the students that are not proficient when the scores are plastered in the newspaper and paint the school district in a negative light, as we have just seen.

Until an AE student reaches high school where they are able to take honors courses, they have to suffer through mundane classes. This is public school at this time and the only other alternative is private school.

Gabriel said...

Dear Jersey, I understand you are upset and I am not suggesting you should feel otherwise. I believe that if we heighten the verbal battle with the Courier, it will make it less likely for them to print a clarification. At this point we should be happy if they allow their reporter (our regular reporter) to do a story on our high school score improvement. If they provide us an outlet to report the good news, that may aleviate the damage caused in the first place.

finance-101 said...

To March, I'm not sure private school is better. I had a child that went 8 years to Neshaminy. I decided on private school for high school. The high school we picked was well regarded in Bucks County. Much to my surprise, the 1st half of 9th grade was a review of what my child learned in 8th grade middle school at Neshaminy. Pretty good for a district that "flunked".

Jake said...

To Sportsfan: The "undefeated" Eagles??? That's what I call fantasy football
To Gabriel: Dude your way too nice
To Levittowner/KClarinet: Great questions and answers between you two. It helped me understand NCLB better.
To the Courier Times: I've learned more about NCLB and AYP in this thread than I have from anything you've written in your paper. I don't know what your agenda is but I hope it was worth it to upset an entire community that is really trying to improve. William very poignantly stated that newspapers fail when their articles insult instead of inspire. Please set a good example and learn from your mistakes.
To William: I'm new to this blog and am very pleased with it. Someone told me you do more than any other board member in history to be available to the people. I wish all politicians would follow your example. Thank you very much.

LivininLevittown said...

Why is our cost per student so much more than that other school districts? We are like 4 or 5 thousand more per student. If we are paying so much more we deserve better scores. Not that our scores are bad but they should be threw the roof for what we are paying.

swelle said...

Levittowner - as a parent of a former IEP student in Neshaminy, I can tell you that in past years very little was done to prepare special ed students to be successful. I constantly complained that my child was being pacified rather than challenged. The only surprise to me is that we didn't tank on special education pssa scores sooner. I have heard from other parents that things have gotten better in the past year or two. I'm not sure how much the superintendent has to do with this. Hopefully this will translate into improved scores next year.

Steve said...

To paraphrase; they come to bury Neshaminy, not to praise it.

I must be living in Jersey said...

It's Sunday and still no corrections or apology in the courier slimes. It appears as though honor and integrity is not part of their editorial policy. William - are you or any of the board members going to write something to the paper to set the record straight?

Steve said...

The Courier Times has some explaining to do.
Why are the proficiency rates for 11th grade in 2008 as printed by them solely for11th grade(small box on pg. 8A) less than theproficiency rates printed for 11th grade in the larger box on pg.8 and on pg.9?
The more boxes that you read the higher the proficiency rate gets for the Neshaminy 11th grade .
In my opinion the administration is on the right track.
Raise the general population first and then zero in on the three under achieving areas with concentrated effort.

William O'Connor said...

Good catch, Steve. I hadn't noticed that the Neshaminy numbers on page 8 in last Sunday's paper are about 1/2 a percent lower than the scores on page 9. I'm sure it's an honest mistake but it doesn't do much to elevate my faith in their reporting.

To Jersey: Stay tuned for Tuesday's school board meeting. I'm sure Superintendent Kadri will comment on the scores as reported by the Courier Times. We should know by then if an official response is going to be sent to the editor.

William O'Connor said...

I checked other 11th grade scores and found a number of apparent mistakes. There were errors in the scores for Bensalem, Morrisville and Pennsbury.

I must be living in Jersey said...

Maybe if the reporter and her editor were spending their time on accuracy instead of making a sensational headline, these errors wouldn't have happened. I doubt the Courier Slimes will print a correction on this either. When you've got the journalistic integrity of the National Enquier, little details like accuracy aren't that important.

sportsfan said...


Now you know why us sports fans listen to 610 WIP and read only the Sports Section. The news is slanted and has so much spin. What is more credible, Russ Limbaugh, Hannity, The NY Times, The National Inquirer, Jerry Springer or the Courier Times ? I think the Courier has vaulted into to 1st place with the Neshaminy PSSA test score headline.