February 14, 2019
Yesterday, February 13th, we received word from the New York State Office of Accountability that we would be labeled a TSI – Targeted School of Intervention for our Students with Disabilities (SWD). This designation is based on the testing results of our special education students from the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school year. It is a major hypocrisy as our school is labeled in good standing in one sense, while our school, through our district, is labeled with this designation. Our school is our district (the students are the same), so this does not make any sense at all. I have vigorously appealed this designation from the state over the past two weeks to no avail.
A major reason why we were designated on this list is that the state now counts opted-out students as a “0.” Students who opted out in years’ past were simply not counted at all. We had approximately half of our special education students opt-out which essentially meant that the highest our school could score in that category (SWD) was 50%.
We were also informed that we could potentially be put on future lists for different categories of students if we continue to have high opt-out rates. I do not consider this new rule from New York State to be fair. However, we are bound to the new rules of the game.
The Board of Education, administration, staff, and I have and will continue to have discussions about how we handle this as a district. We also plan to have forums to inform parents of the new rules and, of course, to listen to parents concerns about the new scoring system. The state has long talked about punishing our schools, students, and families who opt-out and that time is here.
Please see some of the reasons I appealed their ruling:
- The same data that designates us as a Target District also identifies us as a school in Good Standing. Our district and school are the same - the same data is being used to designate both. How can one designate we are good while the other designates target?
- Our sample size is so small, that is almost inconceivable that they view this as statistically significant. This designation was based on the student test results of 8 students over 2 years. This data is then compared with testing result data from other schools and districts for 1 year. How is that statistically significant?
- They are claiming a sample size of 48. This is achieved by taking the 8 students, multiplying it by 2 years, and then multiplying it by 3 tests. This methodology of sample size was admittedly not even considered statistically significant under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). NCLB needed 30 different students, not the 8 they are using for our scores.
- On the spreadsheet designating us as a Target District, the Office of Accountability left 20 columns blank. When I asked about these, they reported that it was because they could not generate a score because there were too few students to determine Math and ELA progress. How can they make such a designation based on the results of 8 students if they cannot even measure the progress with statistical significance?
- The Office of Accountability uses 2 years of our data for Shelter Island versus other districts’ 1 year. Besides the faulty statistical practice, the Office cannot even provide us with this data.
Our special education program here at Shelter Island is very strong. One of the strongest measures of a special education department is the amount of students who are able to progress back to general education. Last year, we had 4 students achieve this which is a tremendous gain that any school and district would be proud of. We also have many internal benchmarks which show great gain among our special education students.
While I think this ruling is unfair, meaningless, and statistically invalid, New York State Education Department does not care. They received billions of dollars from the federal government and are now stuck implementing this ineffective system.
With all of that said, although this is definitely a parental decision, I think we have to have a discussion as a school community that in order to stay off of these lists, students should possibly be encouraged by parents to take the tests with a no-pressure approach until these unfair rules change. Do the best they can, move on, and do not stress about it at all. The additional participation rate would almost definitely remove us from the current designation and also stop us from being on any future designations. I would love to hear your thoughts when we have the forum sometime in March.
Thank you, as always, for your time and support. I hope you and your family have a great February break.
Brian Doelger, Ed.D.