School board members want details about student success

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 2:40am

Nashville got good news weeks ago, when state officials announced that Metro schools are in compliance this year with state and federal No Child Left Behind laws.

But Board of Education members want to know now exactly what benchmarks were passed, and what benchmarks were missed. At Tuesday’s school board meeting, board member Mark North asked district administrators for a breakdown of the NCLB data.

“I want to see the numbers,” North said after the meeting. “I want to see what we passed, what we didn’t, how close we are. … We need to keep pushing that improvement.”

School district policy and strategic planning official Kecia Ray told board members Tuesday that the administration still has work to do with the NCLB data. The information must be broken down by subgroup, and administrators can present it to the board in September, Ray said.

The district met NCLB requirements this year through a Safe Harbor appeal. That’s different from meeting NCLB requirements by reaching the regularly required benchmarks for all groups of students. Safe Harbor means that Nashville showed sufficient improvement to reach “Improving” status under NCLB.

NCLB evaluates the district’s ability to meet a total of 74 benchmarks, MNPS officials have said. There’s one benchmark each for graduation and attendance, in addition to 36 benchmarks for high school achievement and 36 benchmarks for achievement in grades kindergarten through eighth.

The high school and K-8 benchmarks measure math and reading achievement for nine subgroups of Metro students. One “subgroup” consists of all the students in the evaluated grade levels. Another subgroup measures economically disadvantaged students, who make up more than 70 percent of the total student body at MNPS. There are subgroups for students with disabilities and students learning English, as well as subgroups for racial and ethnic groups — for example, white, African-American and Hispanic students – represented at MNPS.

Board members heard from Ray Tuesday about the district’s progress in monitoring NCLB results throughout the school year, rather than just getting the results each summer. Board members including North have called for more of a “real-time” look at the data, so changes can be made during each school year.

Ray told board members Tuesday that this year’s round of early indicator data — the first real-time look at possible NCLB results the board has received — were in line with the district’s actual NCLB status. The data used to make the predictions was obtained using systems and procedures recommended last year by the Tennessee Department of Education, and board members credited the state for having helped the district stay more on top of student test data.

“It’s helping to keep us on track,” said board member Steve Glover. “This is a helpful tool to this board. … I realize we’re not the only district using this, but I think it’s great.”

After meeting the most recent round of NCLB requirements, MNPS is currently in “Improving” status under NCLB. In meeting the requirements, the district averted a set of weighty consequences — if MNPS hadn’t passed this year, the DOE would have had the authority to remove individual school board members as well as Director of Schools Jesse Register.