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Friday, November 22, 2013

A Quick Look at Our School Performance Reports

The Shanker Blog wrote about our Performance Management Framework.  Here's their post:  

For elementary and middle schools, the DC Performance Management Framework (PMF) is a weighted index composed of: 40 percent absolute performance; 40 percent growth; and 20 percent what they call “leading indicators”. The index scores are then sorted into one of three tiers, with Tier 1 being the highest, and Tier 3 the lowest.

So, these particular ratings weight absolute performance – i.e., how highly students score on tests – a bit less heavily than do most states that have devised their own systems, and they grant slightly more importance to growth and alternative measures. We might therefore expect to find a somewhat weaker relationship between PMF scores and student characteristics such as free/reduced price lunch eligibility (FRL), as these charters are judged less predominantly on the students they serve. Let’s take a quick look.

The most simple descriptive statistic is to simply calculate the average FRL and special education rates of the schools within each tier (again, charters are sorted into Tiers 1-3, with Tier 1 being the highest performing, at least according to this system). These averages are presented in the table below for all 51 elementary/middle charter schools that received a 2012 rating (keep in mind that this is a small group of schools – 51 in total, and that most are concentrated in Tier 2, which means that the averages can be influenced substantially by a small set of schools).

There is no apparent relationship between tier and special education (the rightmost column) – schools in Tier 1 actually have the highest rates.

The FRL averages, in contrast, do exhibit a pattern – schools in the lower tiers have a higher FRL rate, on average, than schools in the higher tiers. The difference is most stark when comparing Tier 1 (66.4 percent) to Tier 2 (77.7 percent). This is to no small extent a result of the measures employed by the system – not only of the proficient/advanced rates, which are heavily associated with characteristics such as FRL, but also the growth measure (median growth percentiles), which usually are modestly correlated with these traits.

Averages, of course, sometimes mask what’s happening underneath, so it might be useful to take a look at the scatterplot of FRL by the actual index scores upon which the tier ratings are based.

You can see a relationship, but it is quite messy. Although virtually all of the schools in Tier 3 (those with index scores below 35 percent) are high poverty, the schools with the four highest index scores have FRL rates over 80 percent, while several schools with rates below 50 percent receive relatively low index scores.***

It is therefore fair to characterize this relationship as discernible (statistically and otherwise) and modest-to-low. It is also noticeably less strong than that in most of the other states I have reviewed.

The reason for this is very simple: The PMFs rely less heavily on absolute performance measures, which are strongly correlated with student characteristics such as FRL. This does not necessarily mean these DC charter ratings are “better” or more fair than their counterparts elsewhere, but it does show how the choice of constituent measures has a predictable and often substantial impact on the association between the results and the students schools serve.

Do you agree?  

Posted by: PCSB at 10:46 a.m.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

In Their Own Words: 2013 Performance Management Framework Results

“We are proud of the strong increases in 10th grade DC-CAS scores (25 point increases in reading and math). We implemented many strategies to achieve this result including reorganizing our daily schedule to allow for double math and English Language Arts blocks for students needing more support. Additionally, our 9th and 10th grade teams strategically invested our students in this progress over the course of the year.  We are proud of the increase in 9th grade on track, which was also supported by the new schedule and our personalized approach to learning. We also celebrate that for the second year in a row 100% of our seniors were accepted to college.”
Belicia Reaves, High School Principal
Capital City PCS 

“We performed best on our growth on DC-CAS Math over time.  We credit our math scores to individualized plans driven by data with student written goals.

Additionally, we had the highest growth of proficient ELL students of anyone in the District. We credit the growth of our ELL students to a rigorous ELL program that includes in class and after school instruction.”
Nazy Burgy, Principal
Center City PCS – Petworth 

“DC Bilingual is thrilled to have achieved Tier 1 status. We see this as a stepping-stone to our ultimate goal of ensuring all students are college ready and have every opportunity to lead in their communities. Our primary achievement can be seen in our student progress scores in reading over time. We have also seen a significant increase in the percent of students achieving advanced proficiency.”
Wanda Perez, Principal
DC Bilingual PCS 

“DC Prep’s Edgewood Middle Campus (EMC) is a Tier I school for the third consecutive year. For the first two years of the PMF (2011 and 2012) EMC also received the highest overall rating across all performance measures of any school in the nation’s capital.
At EMC and across all campuses, DC Prep aims to create self-aware, reflective, and disciplined learners. Character education – both the articulation of the school's values and the day-to-day demonstration of these values – is an essential component of DC Prep’s approach. In addition, the school’s curriculum is based on the Common Core standards and relies both on proven programs and teacher-created materials designed to prepare DC Prep students for college-prep high schools. DC Prep is committed to the success of every child and has put in place an outstanding faculty and designed an academic program to ensure our graduates will be competitive for college-prep high schools. Student data informs instruction and ensures that every child is being taught at the appropriate level. Daily Prep Sessions provide small group, skill-based instruction cementing mastery of grade level standards, and offering enrichment to students performing at accelerated levels.

In its first decade, DC Prep has shown what can be done. Since 2003, our talented teachers and school leaders, culture of high expectations, rigorous academic program, and emphasis on character development have been producing exceptional results for

DC Prep is the highest-performing network of public charter schools in the nation’s capital for the second consecutive year, committed to bridging the educational divide in Washington by increasing the number of students from underserved communities with the academic preparation and personal character to succeed in competitive high schools and colleges.”
Amber Walker, Director of Marketing and Communications
 DC Prep PCS 

"Our students achieved significant growth in Mathematics in SY 2012-13. In 2013, our Median Growth Percentile for Math was 67.5, significantly higher than the DC average and 15.5 percentile higher than we achieved in 2012. Additionally, 21.9% of students scored Advanced in Math, which allowed us to receive 88% of the points possible in that category. We believe this is due to a data-driven culture at Stokes that empowered teachers with the information necessary to differentiate instruction and target the skills that students needed to build most. Also, we are implementing an instructional philosophy that encourages inquiry and builds students’ conceptual understanding of mathematics. 

We also saw significant increases in our score on the Gateway measure, 3rd grade Reading Proficiency levels, which grew from 51.2% Proficient and Advanced in 2012 to 65.2% in 2013. A renewed focus on building reading strategies through balanced literacy in the early elementary grades resulted in a cohort of third graders who were able to analyze and comprehend complex texts.”
Erika Bryant, Executive Director
Elsie Whitlow Stokes Community Freedom PCS 

“We are incredibly excited to once again have our schools rated as Tier 1 schools.”
Susan Schaeffler, CEO

“Paul is most proud of our results in the gateway metric based on our 8th graders' performance on the math sub-test of the DC-CAS.  We are also proud that we garnered all of the attendance points and increased our overall attendance rate, which is a reflection of our scholars' desire to come to school everyday and strive to achieve at high levels.”
Jami Dunham, Chief Executive Officer
Paul PCS 

“We are very proud of the effort of our high school students and teachers and recognize that their hard work, coupled with effective use of data analysis in informing our instructional practice, has been instrumental in advancing our performance this school year.”
Shari Laldee, Development Director
The SEED School 

 “Our school's Median Growth Percentile (MGP) data shows the tremendous impact of the school's academic program. Students at Thurgood Marshall Academy continue to demonstrate growth that far exceeds the city's MGP.”
LaRita Williams, Director of Instruction
Thurgood Marshall Academy 

“Two Rivers is proud to be a Tier 1 school because if its commitment to both cultivating academic excellence and creating a nurturing environment in which students grow into compassionate members of society. We are especially committed to not only teach students disparate skills; rather, we give every student in our diverse community equal opportunity to develop expert thinking and complex communication competencies. Our students do well on tests but we are proud of the fact that we excel in both academic and social measures.”
Maggie Bello, Chief Academic Officer/Elementary School Principal
Two Rivers PCS

 “We are exceptionally proud that our Middle and Upper Schools have both achieved Tier 1 status for a third year in a row and are both Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) “Reward” schools. I am proud that our entire school community’s hard work is also reflected in the graduation rate of our students!”
Martha Cutts, Head of School
Washington Latin PCS

Posted by: PCSB at 3:54 p.m.
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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Mayor Gray and DC Public Charter School Board to Announce 2013 Performance Management Framework (PMF) Results

On Friday, November 8, PCSB will announce the results of it's annual assessment tool.  PCSB uses the Performance Management Framework (PMF) to assess the performance of public charter schools, which educate nearly 37,000, or 44% of public school students. Based on student achievement, student academic improvement, attendance and other factors, schools are designated as Tier 1 (high performing), Tier 2 (mid performing) or Tier 3 (low performing).

We will announce the results on Twitter (@dcpcsb), Facebook (DC Public Charter Board) and on our website. Use hashtag #2013PMF.

Posted by: PCSB at 5:45 p.m.
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Friday, September 20, 2013

Did you know PCSB’s Performance Management Framework Measured Student Attendance?

This month is National Attendance Awareness Month. PCSB takes student attendance in school very seriously. It is one of the metrics we measure in our Performance Management Framework, a tool used to rate schools based on student growth, student performance, attendance, reenrollment rate, and other factors.    

We encourage charter schools to create attendance policies and strategies that keep students in school.  Our evaluation tool, thePerformance Management Framework (PMF), includes “Average Daily Attendance” (ADA) as a metric.  This is a measure of all students present or with an excused absent.   Ten percent of a school’s overall PMF score is based on attendance.

Beginning next year, the Performance Management Framework will measure in-seat attendance instead of Average Daily Attendance.  

What’s the difference?

Average daily attendance counts students who are present, or who have an “excused absence”.

The in-seat attendance rate, on the other hand, only counts students who are in school.  Any absence, whether excused or unexcused, is treated the same.

We are switching to in-seat attendance because our review of the data shows that any kind of absence is correlated with lower academic performance.   Moreover different schools have different standards for what counts as an excused absence.   A school that is strict (perhaps requiring a doctor’s note) will consequently have a lower ADA than a school that is more loose (accepting, perhaps a phone call from a parent.)  With in-seat attendance, you only get credit if the child is at school, learning.

The graph below shows our analysis showing the direct correlation with high in-seat attendance rates and DC CAS proficiency. (Each square represents a campus.)

Charter school attendance is rising.  Overall in-seat attendance rate has increased from 89% in SY2012 to 91% in SY2013. The schools with the highest in-seat attendance rates were Washington Yu Ying PCS, Hope Community PCS- Tolson and Center City PCS- Petworth, all with an in-seat attendance rate of 96%. 

We think the switch from ADA to In-Seat Attendance puts the focus where it should be – whether a child is at school.   We will continue to focus on school attendance given its critical relationship with school performance.

Rashida Kelly is the Equity and Fidelity Manager at PCSB.  

Posted by: Rashida Kennedy at 8:55 a.m.
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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Why We Need to Look at Learning in Preschool Programs

There are a lot of misperceptions flying around about the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board's Early Childhood Performance Management Framework. As a member of the board who supports the framework, I'd like to try to clear up some of those misperceptions and explain why I support the framework.

It's clear to me that a lot of the confusion here stems from a misunderstanding of what charter schools are and of DCPCSB's role as a charter authorizer. Charter schools are independently operated public schools that receive increased autonomy and flexibility in exchange for accountability for the results they produce--this exchange of freedom for accountability is the heart of the charter school bargain. Authorizers, the entities that approve and oversee charter schools, are responsible for making sure that bargain is honored. In the case of DCPCSB, this means we not only carefully evaluate the potential of schools before granting a charter to open, but that after we open, we also continually monitor the extent to which our schools are living up to three primary obligations: 1) Using taxpayer funds appropriately and responsibly, 3) Honoring the "public" part of "public charter school" by maintaining access for all students, preventing discrimination, and following all laws to which they are subject, and 3)Effectively educating students.

Since 2011, DCPCSB has used our Performance Management Framework (PMF) to evaluate how well schools in our portfolio educate their elementary and secondary students. The PMF replaced the individual accountability plans that previously existed for schools, and provides a consistent way for PCSB, parents, and the public to compare performance between schools and make choices. It has been effective in supporting parents to make informed choices and in helping us to improve the overall performance of our portfolio.

This PMF did not apply to all charter schools in D.C., however. Uniquely and, I believe, invaluably, the District of Columbia allows charter schools to serve preschool students and to receive per pupil public funds for these students in the same way they do for elementary and secondary students. As a result, a large number of our charter schools serve preschoolers--including some schools that are exclusively serve early childhood. Charters that serve preschoolers are schools. They receive millions of dollars in public funding every year, and as an authorizer we have the same obligations to oversee the learning results they produce as we do for any other school in our portfolio.

When we launched the PMF in 2011, we did not include an early childhood PMF, because we realized that evaluating the performance of preschools and early elementary programs is a complex undertaking, and we wanted to take time to develop the best approach we could. Over the past nearly three years our staff has worked closely with charters that serve young children, and consulted with outside experts, to develop an early childhood performance management framework that we will use to evaluate the performance of these schools going forward. I'd like to make a few points about this PMF clear:

  1. The early childhood PMF does not require any new tests or testing of preschool or early elementary students: Instead, it is based on assessments that schools were already using to monitor children's progress under their existing accountability plans.
  2. The early childhood PMF does not require pencil and paper tests for young children: All the approved assessments approved for school use in the PMF have been determined to be developmentally appropriate for the age groups for which they may be used. The approved assessments for preschool include authentic assessments, such as Teaching Strategies GOLD, that use teacher observations to track students' development and progress over time.
  3. The early childhood PMF does not establish high-stakes testing for young children. Nothing in the PMF establishes consequences for children based on assessments. The Board recognizes that making high-stakes decisions about children based on assessments is developmentally inappropriate and would not support policies to do so.
  4. The early childhood PMF does not evaluate schools based solely on assessments: The preschool PMF also includes the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), an validated and reliable observation of the quality of adult-child interactions in preschool classrooms, which has been shown to predict children's learning and development in preschool. CLASS accounts for 30% of the PMF scoring for preschool. Attendance, a leading indicator of how well schools are engaging children and families, counts for 10% of the early childhood PMF at all levels, and re-enrollment, a measure of family satisfaction, accounts for 10% of the PMF in kindergarten and elementary.
  5. The early childhood PMF recognizes the critical importance of social-emotional development: PCSB recognizes that social-emotional development is a critical component of children's learning in the early years. That's why the PMF includes an option for preschool programs to include an assessment of children's social-emotional development as 10% of their PMF rating. PCSB made this component optional because we did not want to impose an additional assessment of social-emotional development on schools that were not already using one. Even if schools do not elect this option, however, that does not mean the PMF ignores their effectiveness in supporting students' social-emotional development. The CLASS, required for all charter preschools in the PMF, includes 3 components: instructional support, emotional support, and classroom organization. The emotional support component of CLASS reflects how effectively teachers support students' social-emotional development in preschool, meaning that the quality of adult support for children's social-emotional development counts through CLASS for 10% of a school's PMF rating in preschool.
In terms of social-emotional development, two additional points: I fully agree with parents and educators that it's critically important to ensure that schools are supporting children's social and emotional development. But recent research suggests that the available measures of social-emotional skills and behaviors at school entry are not as strong of predictors of children's later school success as measures of their early math and early literacy skills. Thus, if we want to focus on the measures that are most predictive of children's later school success, we need to look at math and early literacy skills. Moreover, other research on quality in preschool classrooms suggest that most preschool programs do a better job of supporting children's social-emotional development than they do of supporting their cognitive, language/literacy, and math development.

As an early entrant into charter school authorizing, responsible for charters serving more than 40% of D.C. students, DCPCSB often finds itself on the bleeding edge of new challenges facing charter authorizers and the charter school movement. When it comes to authorizing early childhood charter schools, that's definitely the case. I don't think that what we've done is perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I believe that by moving forward with something pretty good now, we can learn from the results and get better over time. It's my sincere hope that state and federal officials will increase spending on preschool in the coming years and that, as they do so, more authorizers will find themselves approving and overseeing preschool charters--and that they'll be able to learn from what we've done, and ultimately help us learn and get better together.

The reality is that, as challenging as it may be, the early childhood field is going to have to move in the direction of increased information about child outcomes. Over the past few weeks, I've been speaking with a number of leading early childhood thinkers from across a wide ideological spectrum and was shocked by the consistency with which I heard this refrain. It's partly a matter of practical politics: If we want public officials to invest more public funds in preschool, we're going to need ways to show them that these funds are working. But it's also a more nuanced issue: If we want to improve quality and outcomes in early childhood education, we need to do a better job of figuring out which early childhood programs are doing the best job of educating kids, so that we can learn from what they're doing. And if we want to experiment with greater flexibility or new approaches, we need a consensus on how to tell if those strategies are working or not. For too long, an excessive paranoia about assessing young children has prevented us from being able to answer basic questions like, "Which Head Start programs are doing the best job of getting kids ready for school?" But in order to move the ball forward for kids, we need to be able to do that--and to do it in smart, nuanced ways that take into account how complex all of this is. This doesn't mean (at all!) NCLB-style accountability for preschools. It does mean being able to be much more transparent about how programs are serving kids--including outcomes.

Sara Mead is a member of the PCSB Board.  She blogs regularly at Sara Mead's Policy Notebook.  

Posted by: PCSB at 1:15 p.m.
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Friday, August 23, 2013

Early Childhood PMF Proposal: There Are No New Tests

I’ve been reading with interest the comment and feedback PCSB has received on the proposed Early Childhood Performance Management Framework (EC PMF). Several themes have emerged in the comments and I wanted to take a moment to explain our role.

As the authorizer for DC’s public charter schools, we perform ongoing oversight over these independent public schools to make sure that they are serving students. Our oversight duty is to ensure that all students have access to high-quality charter school options. 

This of course includes our youngest learners. Data from the Office of the State Superintendent of Education shows that more than half of all 3rd grade students are unable to read and do math at a basic level. If a student falls behind by third grade, its is extremely difficult for them to catch up.

That’s why it’s important for young learners to leave preschool programs and enter kindergarten with a strong foundation for doing well in elementary school and beyond. To do that, there has to be some measure of how our youngest learners are doing in identifying their colors (literacy), counting (math), and managing their own emotions and getting along with others (social-emotional). 

To be clear, the proposed Early Childhood PMF builds off measurements schools already use, which are detailed in a school’s accountability plan. [See a plan.] There are no new tests. I repeat, these measurements are not "standardized test" in the sense of fill in the bubble tests.  We agree that learning should be more than how well a student performs on a test.

We’ve heard from so many of you, and we’re grateful for the comments.  Please continue to weigh in until the public comment period ends on August 28.  The Board is scheduled to vote in September. Irrespective of how the board votes, we’ll continue to modify and improve on our approach to making sure that young learners are best served by high-quality early childhood programs at our public charter schools.

Posted by: Scott Pearson at 10:20 a.m.
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Monday, August 19, 2013

Early Childhood PMF: What's Proposed?

DC Public Charter School Board has used the Performance Management Framework (PMF) since 2011 to measure how well students in grades 3 -12 are being served in charter schools. Parents use the PMF to learn how each charter school performs on the same indicators like graduation rate and others, to help them decide among the 60 charter schools located on more than 100 campuses across the city. Now, PCSB has proposed a common way for parents to learn about how students in the early childhood grades are being served by charter schools. PCSB has worked with charter schools since January 2011 to develop a proposed Early Childhood PMF.  

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Posted by: PCSB at 8 p.m.
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Monday, March 04, 2013

Accountability and DC Charters: Why We Use the PMF

There was a time in DC, not too long ago, when a parent who wanted to compare two charter school programs was out of luck. Sure they could visit the school, talk to the teachers or other parents, or look up test scores on their own. That put the burden solely on busy parents, and perhaps was not the most effective way to measure how charter schools stacked up against each other. It's a demonstration of how the uniqueness of the charter movement can be both a strength and a weakness. 


PCSB, a nationally-recognized high-quality charter authorizer, saw its responsibility in providing parents with a clear measure of school performance.   We developed a tool that would measure how well students were being taught to read and write, how much they grew academically, how often they came to class, at what rate they reenrolled, how many took college entrance exams like the SAT and finally, what percent successfully graduated from high school. These kinds of indicators are central to what parents want to know about a particular charter school.  They don’t replace the soft stuff.  Parents still need to judge whether a school is the right fit for their child.  But they allow parents to rapidly compare dozens of schools across factors which are directly related to the key question on any parent’s mind:— if I send my child here, will he or she be successful?


We called this tool the Performance Management Framework (PMF).  We developed it in close collaboration with the charter schools.  Consequently, it has largely been accepted by our 57 charter schools, and the broader community as a valid means of comparing charter schools to each other. It may not be comfortable to see how your school measures up to peers, but PCSB no longer found it acceptable to say that it was impossible to compare apples to oranges to bananas. They are all fruit.


Mark Lerner of the Examiner suggests that perhaps the PMF has run amok and is need of a moratorium, because it has become, in his words, the single focus of charter school accountability as a sole driver of charter school closures. "A lack of top tier quality seats means we may end up sending the most vulnerable students back to the same schools charters were meant to supplant."


Mark conflates two issues when he makes this suggestion.


The first is to trot out the old, and largely discredited idea, that one should not close a low-performing school because other schools in the neighborhood are no better.  Such an approach is the very definition of setting low expectations. To follow it would condemn our city, and our city's children, to decades more of poor schools and poorly-prepared students.  The waste of human potential implied in Mark’s approach is heartbreaking to contemplate.


The second is to argue, incorrectly, that the PMF has somehow become the sole standard by which closure decisions are made.   The law establishing charter schools in DC is very clear that the standard for closure is whether or not a school has met the very goals it committed to in its own charter.  That has always been our standard for closure.  The PMF is a guide to school quality; it is not an arbiter of school closings.


True – many schools are considering incorporating the PMF as their charter goals.  As described above, the PMF was developed by the DC charter community and incorporates in one simple measure many aspects widely accepted as indicators of school quality.  Adopting the PMF as a school’s charter goals aligns these and makes PCSB’s authorizing function far less intrusive.


Other charter schools that were facing closure committed to ambitious turnaround plans – and the PMF is an objective way of measuring the success of these plans.  But the ultimate legal standard for closure of a charter school is simply whether or not the school did what they said they would do.


There was a lack to top tier quality seats before the PMF was put into place; its use simply highlighted several education inequities.  


But the PMF has done more.  It has given parents a quick guide to school quality – and let them vote with their feet.  And it has provided clarity to school leaders and local boards of trustees  as they focus their resources on school improvement.

Charter school quality has risen every year and remains far higher than the state average.   Higher charter quality, combined with a revived and stronger DCPS, have created a renaissance in public education in our city.  For the first time in 50 years there is sustained growth in public school enrollment.  Parents are choosing quality.  Mr. Lerner should as well.

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