Declining Scores Dominate School Board Discussion

At Monday night’s Clarke County School Board meeting School Board member Robina Bouffault (White Post) continued to press the school division’s top managers for answers to plunging SAT and SOL scores at Clarke County High School as well as declines in seven of eleven grading categories at Johnson Williams Middle School.

“For FY11, of the eleven [CCHS Standards of Learning] subjects, eight are in decline and three have improved. There is only one score above 90%, whereas in FY10, there were six scores above 90%,” Bouffault said in an email distributed to all School Board members prior to last night’s session. “The FY11 detailed SOL results have now been published by the VDOE on their website. I have done a three-year comparison, with the information taken from the VDOE Report Card.”

Bouffault has publicly and privately expressed dissatisfaction with the division’s overall SAT and SOL test performance results and has said that even though all of the test scores still remain above the “pass” criteria, she is troubled about a trend toward declining performance.

CCHS VDOE Report Card - Source Robina Bouffault (Click to enlarge)

“It is the downwards trend that matters,” Bouffault said. “Also, it is the fact that the VDOE ‘pass’ criteria itself that has dropped from 70% down to, in some instances, as low as 50% that is relevant. With lower pass requirements, scores should be up, not down.”

Bouffault has been persistent in her attempts to find answers to the declining school scores. At her insistence, school administrators convened a summit meeting with School Board members earlier this month in order to focus on concerns about student performance in the International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement and Bridge programs. A similar upcoming School Board summit will look at issues with vocational and technical training.

School officials have argued that at least part of the reason that scores have fallen is due to a long term decline in funding from the Clarke County Board of Supervisors. Superintendent Murphy has stated Clarke County is 119th out of 132 Virginia school districts in terms of funding and is currently $1,800 less per student than the state average. Although some County officials have privately objected to Murphy’s statement, no one has attempted to publicaly refute those assertions.

Higher teacher salaries in neighboring counties have also been cited as a factor in drawing away experienced Clarke County teachers. Bouffault said that she agrees that Clarke County’s ongoing challenges in the area of teacher retention, as well as teacher training, do play some role in declining scores, but says that she still refuses to shift the responsibility for poor classroom performance away from school administrators.

“Yes, it can,” Bouffault said when asked whether a correlation may exist between declines in specific subject area performance where experienced teachers have been retained or lost. “There are some subjects where there is only one teacher, or perhaps two.” While Bouffault acknowledged that teacher training can play a role in poor classroom achievement she believes that instructors, especially those with advanced degrees, come equipped with an adequate level of professional learning to be effective.

“Theoretically, with some 50% of high school teachers with Masters’ Degrees, they should be fully trained in most requirements,” Bouffault said.

“I refuse to believe that it’s the students’ fault. Lately, there has been a higher teacher turn-over, from both resignations and retirements, and teacher training continues to be seriously inadequate. Ultimately, it is always the teachers in the classroom that make the difference. Both the School Board and the school administration need to do everything possible to ensure that our teachers are of the highest caliber, and are given the tools they need to succeed,” said Bouffault.

During Monday night’s meeting, which often became a question and answer period between School Board members, administrators and the division’s four principals, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Lisa Floyd said that the school division’s purchase of staff training software tools, including a video library training product, will make a significant difference in future teacher performance.

“In the past, the goal was to send teachers away to training courses and they were expected to come back and train others in what they learned,” Floyd said. “That expectation was hard to implement and hard to monitor.”

Floyd said that the new video library will provide an on-demand division-wide training platform that individual schools can tailor to their specific staff needs. The product will also provide school administrators with a method to monitor which staff members have taken which courses.

“We hope that it’s going to be very, very helpful,” Floyd said. “Targeted professional development is what we are looking for.”

JWMS VDOE Report Card - Source Robina Bouffault (Click to enlarge)

Floyd also pointed to an interactive software program that the division is using to help improve writing skills.

Clarke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy said that the teacher development training library was just one of the tools that his team is relying on to turn-around declining student performance.

“Ms. Welliver mentioned number crunching earlier,” Murphy said. “I think that it’s really important to recognize the fact that in the last fifteen months, but especially just in the last couple months, we now have the tools – thanks to the Board and the Board’s willingness to move us into Interactive Achievement – we have the tools and we have the personnel to begin finally to disaggregate data like we’ve never done before. We’re disaggregating data school-by-school and grade-by-grade. We’re using that information to inform teachers about what students are missing in the curriculum or perhaps what we’re missing division wide in the curriculum. So we’re actually beginning the process of taking apart lots and lots of data and using it for probably its best purpose and that’s to inform instruction.”

Murphy continued, “With the data we can identify what are we doing instructionally right, what are we doing instructionally not-so-good and we’re sharing that information with teachers on an individual basis – and sometimes even on an individual student basis – to try and inform the instructional process so kids not only meet the benchmarks, but so that they can learn and achieve those goals that the state of Virginia has set before us.”

Although Murphy and Floyd believe that increased data review will lead to better future student performance Bouffault wants to see more immediate performance improvements.

“If individual teachers have consistently shown poor results, at least lately, there have been ‘plans of assistance’ or ‘plans of improvement’  apparently put in place, however the School Board has not been made aware of the details of these plans,” Bouffault said in an email message. “No teachers have had their contracts un-renewed as a consequence of any such plan. The School Board retreat will hopefully address this matter, along with a number of others.”

School Board member Jennifer Welliver (Berryville) said that she believes that part of the problem, at least with low math scores, is due the former school administration’s policy decision to implement “accelerated” math classes beginning with fifth graders. Although the current School Board eliminated the math acceleration approach three years ago, Welliver pointed out that those same students who participated in the accelerated instruction are now entering eighth grade.

Welliver also pointed to budget cuts that have eliminated division support for SAT preparation courses that can be very beneficial in boosting test scores.

JWMS Math Score Comparison - Source Robina Bouffault (Click to enlarge)

“SAT-prep classes are one of these things that have been cut from the budget that are very helpful,” Welliver said.

But despite the reasons for the low scores Bouffault came to last night’s meeting looking for answers to what she sees as unacceptable school division performance.

“As you can see, the math scores have plummeted, while happily, reading and writing remain above 90%,” Bouffault said of Johnson Williams Middle School test scores. “With 8th  graders doing so poorly in math last year, this year’s high school freshman class will have some serious Math challenges to overcome.”

“As you can see, JWMS is the lowest performing of the comparison. Hopefully our staff can come up with some good solutions to reverse this course,” Bouffault said.


CDN Editor: An earlier version of this story failed to attribute the included graphs to School Board member Robina Bouffault.


  1. Maybe CC can adopt the new Frederick County standards and let the kids turn assignments in whenever they please and take tests multiple times. That should help (Sarcasm off)

  2. I moved to Berryville from Frederick County halfway through my 8th grade year. I went from JWMS to J-WMS (which I found extremely amusing). At James Wood Middle, I was one of about 13 kids in my grade that took Algebra I in 7th grade, as opposed to Pre-Alegbra or “Math 7,” and after some kids dropped it, there were 10 of us. It was challenging, as was Geometry once I moved into 8th grade.
    I was surprised when I moved to Berryville and began attending Johnson-Williams that there were so many kids in 8th grade taking Geometry. I took that as I sign that maybe the kids were more advanced and I was looking forward to having more peers in my math level. I was really upset to find that this wasn’t the case and that, instead of being selected to move forward quicker through math, the kids were almost being forced to be accelerated at a rate they couldn’t handle at the same time as the curriculum being slowed down to accommodate them and prevent others from excelling as much as they could have.
    I’m not insulting the intelligence of these children, I just know math doesn’t come easily to many people and it’s not a subject that you can throw someone into and expect them to catch on quickly. Just my two cents.

    • There are many job opportunities for students who study accounting, engineering, math or science. Not every student has aptitude or patience for abstract., difficult higher math. All high school graduates need financial literacy and math skill. I know a famous millionaire commedy actor who struggled with 9th grade Algebra 1. Lucky for him, he was not forced to take excessive difficult math classes to earn his high school diploma and college degree from Emerson College in Boston. Advanced math is boring torture for some kids.

  3. my feeling is it is sorta like a pond that is overpopulates with fish, they just don’t grow..

    And the cheapskates that will not pay a teacher enough to stay.. my wife would take a 20,000 dollar pay cut to teach in Clarke…
    Lastly Ms. Bouffault is just trying to stir up enough dissatisfaction to not renew Dr Murphys contract.. I personally am surprised he has put up with her @#$% this long

    • Roscoe Evans says:

      You tossed 3 strikes, hoopsfam.

      Dr. Murphy has proved himself to be a lot tougher than this School Board expected. He seems intent on doing right by his students, their teachers and their parents, while the Board seems to feel its constituency is the same as the BOS’s: the county’s cheapskates.

      This man has made the struggle for public school education in Clarke more compelling and interesting, for sure.

  4. Having had children in this school system I have seen the huge change in teaching. I realize that the SOLs are a requirement of the state, but have others noticed the fast pace at which the children are taught? Especially in math, there are no reviews or re-teaching if the student does not grasp the concept. I have witnessed so many cram sessions, but very little teaching. It’s sad that with the resources that are available, our children are not receiving the education they should. Instead of worrying about the number of our kids moving on to college, let’s concentrate on making sure they can ALL read, write and do arithmetic. For those ready to learn more advanced, that’s great. For those that are not able to perform well in the advanced classes, teach them what they are capable of learning. Those are the kids we’re losing. Let’s quit worrying about the numbers and worry about the kids. Realistically not all children are college material. That’s ok. Let’s make sure we can offer them the vocational and/or technical training they need to ensure their success as well.

    • I agree, Tip. Math teachers are required to blow through section after section of complicated material in order to stay on schedule with the course outline. Math is a complex system of tools and concepts, yet it is taught like memorizing dates in American History or French vocabulary. Hats off to the math teachers for what they have to deal with.

  5. footballfan says:

    I had an 8th grader last year and just checked their score sheet, and since they were in Alg 1 they did not take the 8th grade math SOL. I think the low scores are due the kids in advanced math not taking that SOL. I know 5 years ago, advanced math kids double dipped and took both. Since basically teachers have to teach to the test, math isn’t fun anymore. There is no time for extras or creativity.

    • Why weren’t Alg 1 pass rates included in the reports? The VDOE website has Alg 1 at JWMS at 98 pass and others at 100.

  6. Tammy Lanham says:

    Before anyone panics over “plunging” scores in Clarke County, please take the time to do your own research. Our State of Virginia did not “make” AYP, wealthier counties than Clarke did not “make” AYP in all areas, our Nation cannot pay for the state mandated tests that schools are forced to push, the tests are taken by students from every walk of life and honestly, scores are driven down by non-english speaking students, special ed. students and students that may have just had a bad testing day. I’m tired of the conflict, especially since I know for a fact CHILDREN ARE LEARNING AT HIGH LEVELS IN CLARKE COUNTY and elsewhere. I don’t care what the test results are, as long as our teachers and administrators are meeting each child at his or her level and teaching them math, social sciences, reading, science and lifeskills (including classes in health, technology, arts, physical fitness, and how to get along with others) they are doing their jobs and THEN some!

    For those of you who have the inclination, check out a few websites: (Compare for yourself how each school and “subgroup” is doing) (JWMS went up a rank since last year- easy to see)

    Despite high SOL scores, LCPS not making “Adequate Yearly ……/despite_high_sol_scores_lcps_not_making…. ( oh dear, Loudoun too?)
    “According to the Virginia Department of Education and reported in the Virginia Statehouse News, only 38 percent of Virginia’s public schools achieved AYP, but at least 84 percent of Virginia’s students passed their SOL tests”.

    Search ResultsNew tests blamed for poor SOL scores – Local News |…/new_tests_blamed_for_poor_sol_scores-print (no way, Winchester too??) (in case you need to see how Virginia compares… all those tests and every state seems to have hit a plateau…)

    It’s just a numbers game, and I would hope people would just get back to basics! Students who do their homework, are supported at home and have good teachers will improve. Students with special needs or challenges also do well and improve with qualified teachers who care, but not all learning can be measured by a standardized test. Every child is different, each person in this world has strengths and weaknesses and different learning styles and capabilities. Education is not about scores, it is about the teaching and learning process and it is time we trust the educational professionals that work with our kids every day. If you really want to see actual learning going on go visit a school! Or volunteer in a classroom! Or ask a student what he or she learned in school this week! Standardized test scores are NOT a good indicator of any school system’s success.

  7. 1) Never believe any graphs, charts, or diagrams produced by Bouffault-EVER!
    2) Never expect things to improve while cutting funding-SPEND LESS AND IMPROVE PERFORMANCE IS INSANE!
    3) The school board, in Bouffault’s tenure, has done almost nothing to lobby the BOS for adequate funding. They have merely chosen what to cut with what pennies the BOS allows them to have.

    If the school board does not spend more effort galvanizing the community to insist that our dismal per pupil spending (#119 out of 132 districts) be increased by the BOS, we can simply expect the inevitable decline.

    If we don’t invest in our children, we will lose all that we hold dear-land included.

  8. I’m going to have to “piggy back” off of Pro-Ed, to expect children at any grade level to excel with less is ridiculous, its sad that personal vendettas toward the super is effecting the education given to our youth.

    • Well, it’s hard to argue the money problem. It’s a shame. But to think the current or future BOS is going to allocate more money is pure fantasy. Clarke County will continue to elect a Republican BOS who believe in no new taxes or tax restructure, no growth ( tax base), and will continue to spend what money there is on conservation easements as opposed to the children. Used school busses and glued together Algebra books it is!

      Now, Robina’s charts are merely an extrapolation of what any citizen can find on the VDOE website. Nothing more. It is what it is. No one is making up numbers, and three lines of comparison on an Excel spreadsheet is the very same ting you get from VDOE. Sorry if you don’t want to see it, but it’s there.

      Although money is an issue, it is not the sole issue here. Somehow our elementary schools have managed to improve with less.

      I think the school board HAS done enough squaking about the money. It just falls on deaf ears.

      A mindset of ” inevitable decline” doesn’t serve anyone-teachers, students or parents. Sticking one’s head in the sand does not either. Our test scores and our funding is a problem that needs to be fixed.

      I am curious about the plunging SAT scores-some more informationplease CDN?

      • @Prokids,

        From my comments below. I hope this helps.:

        1. 50% more students from the bottom 3/5 of the class (in Clarke) are taking the SAT than they did 4 years ago. That is significant and definitely will effect the school average. Personally, I would RATHER have a slightly lower average with a drastically higher participation among those who wouldn’t have bothered in the past. I think that says we are better off as a system and a society.

        2. A 15+/- point decrease in an SAT score can equate to as little as 2 additional wrong answers. A carefully made graph can make this look huge. The fact is these numbers go up and down from one year to the next. What would be troublesome is if the trend continued without any significant change in the test taking population.

        • Thanks Jennifer…a few more questions:

          “1. 50% more students from the bottom 3/5 of the class (in Clarke) are taking the SAT than they did 4 years ago. ”

          Why the comparison from 2006, why not a comparison from earlier years or year over year?

          How many of these kids took the ACT as well gambling on a better of the two scores?

          “2. A 15+/- point decrease in an SAT score CAN equate to as little as 2 additional wrong answers.”

          What is your source of this information? I’d love to read about that.

          • The SAT results go back for the last four years and this Board has been in place for that amount of time so I showed it over that period. 2011 was 30%, 2010 was 24%, 2009 was 18, and 2008 was 20%. This came from the College Board.

            The point number 2 came from a sat prep website, I googled it. It was the best I could find. I simply wanted to know the truth about what those numbers reflect.


          • CollegeKnowledge says:


            I have been trying to understand your comment about “A 15+/- point decrease in an SAT score can equate to as little as 2 additional wrong answers”, and to understand why you did not go to the CollegeBoard’s website for accurate information. The SAT scoring information is published by the CollegeBoard, and it states that no points are subtracted for incorrect answers to the mathematics questions requiring student-produced responses, and, no points are subtracted for omitted questions. Here is the full information from the CollegeBoard:

            “How is the SAT scored?

            Scoring is a two-step process:

            1. A raw score is calculated.
            • One point is added for each multiple-choice question answered correctly.
            • For multiple-choice questions answered incorrectly, 1/4 point is subtracted:
            o No points are subtracted for incorrect answers to the mathematics questions requiring student-produced responses.
            o No points are subtracted for omitted questions.
            • Then, the total points answered wrong are subtracted from the number answered correctly. If the resulting score is a fraction, it is rounded to the nearest whole number—1/2 or more is rounded up; less than 1/2 is rounded down.
            • Questions in the SAT equating section do not count toward the score.

            2. The raw score is converted to the College Board 200- to 800-point scaled score by a statistical process called equating.
            • Equating adjusts for slight differences in difficulty between test editions, and ensures that a student’s score of, say, 450 on one edition of a test reflects the same ability as a score of 450 on another edition of the test.
            • Equating also ensures that a student’s score does not depend on how well others did on the same edition of the test.”

            Much more information explaining the SAT can be found on the CollegeBoard’s website:


        • Also Concerned says:


          You said “A 15+/- point decrease in an SAT score can equate to as little as 2 additional wrong answers. “

          But CollegeKnowledge quotes the College Board as saying “The SAT scoring information is published by the CollegeBoard, and it states that no points are subtracted for incorrect answers to the mathematics questions requiring student-produced responses, and, no points are subtracted for omitted questions.”

          Which is answer is correct? Can you clear this up for us?

          • Whatever it is that College Board means by that statement, it is still possible that both may be true. I don’t know that I have ever heard of a test that “subtracts no points for incorrect answers” (imagine if we did that) and other than the student, who would produce the responses? Talk about unclear jargon. I do know that you lose more points for attempting an answer and getting it wrong than if you just leave it blank, which doesn’t make sense to me either.

            Look, I have children that have been/are in the Clarke County schools. I want the best for my children and yours too. That is why I am here. It certainly is not for the glory, appreciation, or money. I would also say the same thing for our teachers. No one is here to fail the students.

            Personally, my son, who graduated in June and is now in a top notch engineering school did not get the best from science and math. I believe this is in large part because he was “accelerated”. He was in the first class in 8th grade to have biology and still had 8th grade science at the same time. In 5th grade, they tried to skip 5th grade math for him and then realized half way through that they shouldn’t have and moved him back. He got ahead in science than math and that, of course does not work. Now he is having to take some preliminary math and science classes to make up for that.

            Now, I have a child in middle school. I am very interested in middle school instruction. I judge what she learns by more than the sol though. For instance, she was pass/proficient in algebra on the sol, but her interim and quiz scores in class were up and down. Based on the SOL, she was set to go to geometry this year. Her father and I decided to put her back into algebra on the premise that if her class grade and quizzes were indications that she did not have a strong enough grasp to move on.

            As a parent and as a school board member, I believe without a doubt that there is a lot of work to be done. I also believe we have made great strides. If we could all work together to accomplish the improvements we need, openly, honestly, and with respect, we could accomplish great things together.


      • Unkind commments about Robina are simply unfair. She believes in getting the most value for each education dollar spent. She cares and she is smart. We should appreciate her public service. [redacted]

        • Pioneer, I think you may have had a little too much wine tonight. Robina has been a complete embarrassment to the County of Clarke. She reminds me of Sarah Palin actually, all she is worried about is getting her name in the paper, whether it be good or bad……White Post continues to crush this county with its Republican voters…………

          • Tony Parrott says:

            Please don’t insult Sara Palin that way.

            I agree with mostly everything you guys are saying. 90% of you realize this is more about personal vendettas than education. Where I draw the line is “Republican” voters of the county comments. I am now in the White Post district but I used to be in Millwood. That is where John Staelin resides; one time Democrat now Independent. I can honestly say I had never met a Democrat that cared less about public education than John.
            My point is this; Clarke politics are local politics. They have nothing to do with R-D or I.

            As for the Pioneer, Robina does care about every dollar spent and I would never question her intelligence. I also do appreciate her public service when it comes to the new high school being built. She deserves a lot of credit! Personally I think she is under the gun from some of her constituents. I don’t believe she was ever voted in to build a school; but she did. Now it is time to put the focus and resources back on the school districts primary objective; education. For that we will no longer need her service.

    • While the system may have less money than it has had in the past, the same is true for every endeavor across the economy, so welcome to the new normal. That being said opining for the days when money will fall from the sky does not deal with the present and the present has some disturbing trends, both in funding and results. Deal with the areas that can have an impact that are productive and cost effective. If the kids need SAT Prep, give us a number to put it back in and I’m sure an existing organization could fund it or a new one would emerge to help with something so simple and basic.

      And to those who wish to deflect the issue of declining scores by questioning the validity of testing, nice try. Testing is never perfect but without a metric to gauge performance the results are very predictable…failure.

      • No one is questioning the validity of /testing/ “James” , what we are saying is that there is more to the data than raw numbers. Raw data that stands alone does not give valid answers.

        For example, some things from the meeting that did not, for whatever reason, make it into the article, are:

        1. 50% more students from the bottom 3/5 of the class (in Clarke) are taking the SAT than they did 4 years ago. That is significant and definitely will effect the school average. Personally, I would RATHER have a slightly lower average with a drastically higher participation among those who wouldn’t have bothered in the past. I think that says we are better off as a system and a society.

        2. A 15+/- point decrease in an SAT score can equate to as little as 2 additional wrong answers. A carefully made graph can make this look huge. The fact is these numbers go up and down from one year to the next. What would be troublesome is if the trend continued without any significant change in the test taking population.

        OF COURSE we have to be able to measure our success and failure by some standard, I would say that we should pick ONE. If that is the SOL than so be it, but as Conner (our student SB member) pointed out, the SOL and the SAT are very different, and of course making AYP gets less likely each year. The more our teachers and administrators (and SB) are going to be chasing and trying to explain numbers on all kinds of Federal, State, and independent measurement systems, the less time they are going to focusing on kids.

        The only way we are going to make the “data” work for us in improving student learning (as opposed to simply student test performance – the two are not necessarily synonymous) is to look at all aspects of the data and the factors behind it.

        For the first time ever, Clarke is in a position to analyze our data to truly understand where our weaknesses are and how to improve student learning as a result. Now, if we can just let them do their job.


        • Those are very nice talking points you have there….and you continue to use them to explain why the results are less than serious.

          It would seem this is the underlying reason that this entire conversation was precipitated by Board Member Boufault. By attempting to paint it as an aberration due to demographics or because of the volatility of wrong answers is just an attempt to make the decline more palatable as it goes down.

          And so it goes.

          Had this data not been shoe-horned into the agenda, these numbers would never have even seen the light of day.

          • Whatever you say “James”. You are wrong, but you are obviously not interested in understanding the truth.

          • OK, James. Why don’t you just come out and say whatever it is you want to say? Clearly, you have some beef you want to air, so air it. Don’t be coy, or smug.

        • To jennifer — i am stunned to the core of my intellect that you have written, “Raw data that stands alone does not give valid answers.” In fact, I am speechless. Well almost. By definition, ‘raw data’ is THE VALID AND ONLY VALID answer. One can graph, manipulate and statistically analyze data until one sees the message one wants. It is this interpretation that should be questioned and validated. NOT the raw information.

          • Are you saying you don’t think it matters if last year 24 of those taking the SAT were in the lower 2/5 of their class, and this year 30 were, that should have no valid effect on the average?

            It used to be that just the top 10 or 20 percent of the class took the test because those were the only ones who aspired to go to college. It seems to me that that would affect the overall average, but as I said, that is still progress in my mind.

            Indeed, on can easily obfuscate raw data with a pretty graph with varied spacing techniques.



          • says:

            Jennifer makes a good point that less percentage of the student body took the SAT in the past.. I like Barbara Lee’s idea of wanting more partnership or collaboration with Lod Fairfax Community College. It’s great that more students are enrolling in the Bridge program. Global studies, AP courses and IB should be challenging. Bridge program courses and AP courses must be taught at college level and it should be the responsibility of the student to keep up and not for the teacher to slow down.

      • James, your comment, “While the system may have less money than it has had in the past, the same is true for every endeavor across the economy …”

        That may be a true statement, however 118 ourt of 132 VA school districts have more $ per student to use wisely that Clarke does. We are in the top 20 in ability to pay and the bottom 14 in what we actually contribute! That’s the rub.

        • I’m willing to concede that our fiscal standing is pitiful, but as I said, to expect it to change anytime in the foreseeable future is unrealistic.

          The county values its easements much more than its residents. The county’s little museum, “Our Land is Our Legacy.” Not in my book it’s not. Our children are our legacy but I guess that is the crux of the problem here.

          Regardless, that is the way it is. So to try to fall back and blame the woes on money may be accurate in the rear view mirror, the path ahead will clearly have no additional funds.

          The administration needs to plan and act accordingly.

  9. Robots anyone? Data can be an excellent tool to use in an equation, but you have to include other factors to find an useful answer for this dilemma. These numbers we are talking about are living breathing children raised mostly by loving nuturing parents who want the best for their children; and taught by a group of people who have made educating our children their mission. While I believe tge data is an important factor, if it was all we want to use to base our children’s education on; we might as well let the federal government run our school system. One of the main purposes of having a county governed school system is so that people familiar with the whole picture can work together to individualize a curriculum best suited to our community. There are times business decisions based on data should be made. However, decisions such as this should be made with parents’, teachers’, students’ and other community members’ input. The work sessions planned are an excellent idea and hopefully many of the people represented here will attend. We can not educate well rounded, well adjusted adults based on data only!

  10. Tammy Lanham says:

    GOOD NEWS: Clarke County (and other local districts) will finally have the “flexibility to develop locally-tailored solutions to their educational challenges”………….. I for one believe that Clarke’s forward motion will indeed “improve our schools at the local level” as we meet individual childrens’ needs instead of focusing on NCLB mandates

    Office of the Press Secretary EMBARGOED UNTIL 6:00 AM SEPTEMBER 23, 2011


    WASHINGTON – In an effort to support local and state education reform across America, the White House today outlined how states can get relief from provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – or No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – in exchange for serious state-led efforts to close achievement gaps, promote rigorous accountability, and ensure that all students are on track to graduate college- and career-ready.

    States can request flexibility from specific NCLB mandates that are stifling reform, but only if they are transitioning students, teachers, and schools to a system aligned with college- and career-ready standards for all students, developing differentiated accountability systems, and undertaking reforms to support effective classroom instruction and school leadership.

    “To help states, districts and schools that are ready to move forward with education reform, our administration will provide flexibility from the law in exchange for a real commitment to undertake change. The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level,” President Obama said.

    Release of this package comes nearly a decade after NCLB became law, and four years after it was due to be rewritten by Congress. NCLB shined light on achievement gaps and increased accountability for high-need students, but it also encouraged states to lower standards and narrow curriculum, focused on absolute test scores instead of student growth and gains, and created one-size-fits-all federal mandates.

    Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, “We want to get out of the way and give states and districts flexibility to develop locally-tailored solutions to their educational challenges while protecting children and holding schools accountable for better preparing young people for college and careers.”

    In recent months, states have led a “quiet revolution” to move beyond NCLB’s vision. States have taken the lead in pursuing reform and innovations, including widespread adoption of college- and career-ready standards, development of new assessments, and other reforms in areas including teacher and principal evaluation and support, and turning around low-performing schools.

    The ESEA flexibility package announced today, developed with input from chief state school officers from 45 states, will spur momentum across America to implement a new educational system aligned to college- and career- readiness, even as the more comprehensive reforms outlined in the President’s Blueprint for Reform await Congressional reauthorization of the ESEA.

    This flexibility package was developed under the waiver authority explicitly granted to the U.S. Department of Education under the ESEA, and has been exercised under the previous Administration. The flexibility will begin to have an impact during the 2011-2012 school year and will have increasing impact in subsequent years.

    For a fact sheet on the details of the flexibility announcement click HERE

  11. Reality Check says:

    I would like to comment on the Social Studies results specifically. I believe that the drop in scores was due to the state changing the standards and the style of the test questions. This past year, in many cases they added more standards to curricula that is already overwhelmed. Pair this with the increasing pass rates and what results can be expected.

    Additionally, they changed the test structure to include higher level questions, but provided no teachers or school districts with training or information on how to adjust current methods to these new question formats. Obviously higher level thinking (analysis, synthesis, evaluation) is best demonstrated by writing samples, not multiple choice questions. This is especially important considering the tests of past years contained knowledge and comprehension based questions using the multiple choice format.

    This past year, with the new tests, there were a lot of discussions about districts with semester schedules seeing 20% drop rates on their Social Studies scores when the first round of students took them in January. Comparatively, there was no guidance from the state on what to do and how to adjust for these projections for the rest of the districts. There were also no sample questions provided by the state for this new format, (and keep in mind, where math and science have multiple previous tests released to help teachers prepare students, Social Studies has had only one year of tests released, meaning one released test per Social Studies subject). Therefore, teachers had to do the best they could to prepare for a new style of tests that they had limited information on. Given the conditions surrounding this, the students did better than many thought.

    You may ask then why didn’t the administration do more? Why were teachers not preparing students adequately? The bottom line is that the state is the cause of this issue. Of course there are a range of arguments that can be made about standardized tests and curricula, but the point is that the state needs to be clear in its expectations and not continually make Social Studies teachers second guess how and what the students will be tested on. Personally, I think the whole testing structure in Social Studies needs to be revamped where free-response topics on Social Studies themes demonstrates higher learning, and students can choose which questions to respond to in order to demonstrate mastery within topic areas of the content. Again, there is a lot going on with the Social Studies data, and I think we need to hold the state accountable for changes that were made without supporting teacher instruction in the process. To make my point, here is the superintendent’s memo from the state regarding these changes, notice it was sent July 29th, 2011, after the tests were given:

    Additionally, here is what the state provided in order to help teachers prepare for these new types of questions (7 samples total….)

    • Tammy Lanham says:

      I completely agree. There is definitely a disconnect… And it’s so sad that so much effort has gone into how to teach to the test instead of how to teach “to” the students. Teacher training used to include ways to reach the learner (matching various learning styles…through creative means, hands-on activities and integrated curriculum methods). Now the focus is subject and test based (not teaching and student based.)

      It frustrates me (as a teacher and also as a parent) that once that SOL test window has passed that’s it for the year! Incredible how the entire culture of schools have had to focus on a few days of straight testing (really hard for elementary kids – worse than high school exams actually since they have to be quiet and take test after test for several full school days!) and then after SOLs it’s “free” time, with very little instruction going on. Wouldn’t it be great to manage classroom time more wisely- assess children throughout the entire year and make sure they are making progress at their own individual levels (while nurturing, challenging and motivating them to do their best in ALL they do!) and then teach through to the last days of school? Standardized curriculum and testing is important, but mandated test-taking should not be the primary focus of our educational system.