Is the Great Falls Public School District on the right path or the wrong path?
E-City Beat’s dialogue, and yes criticism, about the way the Great Falls Public School District operates has brought out two distinct camps of thought; one that has serious doubts about the managerial skills exhibited by the district’s administration, and the other being the ardent supporters of the district’s actions. Who is right, and who is wrong, and can we measure the successes, or failures when it comes to our children’s education?
According to a recent U.S. News and World Report article, “Best High Schools Ranking”, 2018, Montana High Schools, Great Falls High School and CMR High School didn’t make the top twelve and both were unranked.
Here is the criteria used by U.S. News and World Report to rank high schools in Montana, and all states:
“* STEP 1 | Students exceeded expectations in their states.
We looked at whether each school’s relative performance in its state reading and mathematics assessments exceeded expectations, factoring in the proportion of its student body that is economically disadvantaged and projected to score lower.
* STEP 2 | Underserved students performed better than the state average.
Next, we compared each school’s reading and mathematics assessment scores among only their historically underserved students – black, Hispanic and low-income – with the average statewide results for these subgroups. We selected schools that outperformed their state averages.
* STEP 3 | Student graduation rates met a threshold.
We excluded schools from consideration if their graduation rates were lower than 80 percent.
* STEP 4 | Students were prepared for college-level coursework.
For schools passing the first three steps, we calculated a College Readiness Index based on the percentages of each school’s students who took and passed AP and IB exams. Tiebreakers determined the ranks of schools achieving the same CRI.”
The number one ranked high school in Montana is Gardiner High School which has a graduation rate of 86 percent and a college readiness of 52.5. In comparison, Great Falls High School has a graduation rate of 82 percent and a college readiness score of 13.3. CMR High School has a graduation rate of 85 percent and a college readiness score of 13.6.
The number two ranked high school in Montana is Bozeman High School with a college readiness score of 47.2. Number three is Sentinel High School with a 91 percent graduation rate and a college readiness score of 47.7. These are followed by Helena High School, Whitefish High School, Baker High School, and so on.
The number 11th ranked high school in Montana is Polson High School with a graduation rate of 87 percent and a college readiness score of 16.3.
The dismal truth behind the Great Falls graduation rate is that 18% of GFHS and 15% of CMR students don’t graduate from high school. And that doesn’t count the students who have been transferred to the Paris Gibson alternative school, as I explain below.
Enough said about high school rankings, let’s take a closer look at graduation rates. A 2015 article in nprED addresses some of the issues surrounding graduation rates.
Graduation rates are a hot button for taxpayers who are paying the freight for our public schools and school districts are well aware of that fact. The article explores how some school districts are cooking the books when it come to graduation rates.
“Some are mislabeling students or finding ways of moving them off the books. In Chicago, reports Becky Vevea of WBEZ, ‘the district is misclassifying hundreds of students who enroll in its alternative schools.’
That designation means that when a Chicago student leaves a traditional high school for an alternative school, the district doesn’t have to count that student as a dropout. But if the student manages to earn a diploma, the district still gets credit.”
Believe it or not, this is the practice of Great Falls Public Schools. So we have to ask whether the District is cooking the books to make the numbers look better than they actually are?
And then there is “Credit Recovery” as a means to improve graduation rates. Again, more from the nprED article:
“Credit recovery is as old as extra credit and summer school. It used to be granted mostly at teachers’ and schools’ discretion. But in recent years, with great pressure to improve graduation rates, it went big. For-profit companies like K12, National High School and The Keystone School began offering mostly online courses for high school credit.
‘Some of these credit-recovery programs frankly aren’t terribly rigorous and aren’t preparing students well for what’s next,’ says Daria Hall, director of K-12 policy development at The Education Trust, a nonprofit education research group.”
Where do these school district questionable policies originate? They are the brain children of school district administrations and they are condoned by school boards that are asleep at the switch.
As one doctorate-holding concerned community member said during a discussion of a potential school bond levy, “The district needs to show honest quantifiable positive results before you ask the community for more money”. Makes sense to me.
Next, E-City Beat will present what we think are the real qualifications for a new superintendent.