early word

Districts get early look at test scores as state responds to concerns

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

New York State is giving school districts an earlier-than-usual look at student testing data, in an effort to quell criticism that results arrive too late for schools to help students improve.

State education officials said they’re releasing “instructional reports” to districts more than a month earlier than in previous years. It’s the first time that information will be released before statewide test results, which officials said won’t come for at least another two weeks.

It’s unclear what impact the change will have in New York City. The city won’t see the same information as other districts because it uses a different data system. And city schools won’t be able to see the data until the first week of September, a Department of Education spokeswoman said.

The reports provide breakdowns of how each student answered individual questions on this year’s English and math tests. They also indicate which Common Core standard each question is aligned to, which officials said could be used to assess the specific strengths and weaknesses of incoming students.

Being able to see the data is an important tool to plan for the school year, said Beth Pollak, a middle school English teacher at P.S. 126.

“That was literally the first task our principal asked us to do” last year, Pollak said. “Go online and do an analysis of how our students did on the tests.”

The state’s third-through-eighth grade English and math exams are typically administered in April, but it has taken until the end of the summer in past years to release results that teachers and principals say is the most valuable. And school district officials have said they need more time during the summer to use the data when planning professional development, making decisions about curriculum, or revising their budgets.

King said he moved up the release by more than a month to address those concerns.

“We listened, and we acted,” said King. “These reports have been available in prior years, but by releasing the instructional reports early, we’re giving educators more time to use the assessment results in their planning for the next school year.”

The state has already taken a number of steps to alleviate anxieties around New York’s testing policies. Student test scores won’t be used to punish most teachers and principals on their evaluations for the next two years, and students can’t be held back a grade based primarily because they failed the test.

King also touted the state’s plan to release 50 percent of test questions to the public, twice as many as last year. Principals and teachers have criticized the state for a lack of transparency because they have been barred from discussing what was on the test.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.