Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Timberland's New Principal Has Old Baggage

Hello again,

A news story has broke regarding school performance in Missouri.  Yesterday, the St. Louis Post Dispatch posted a story entitled "State releases list of 'lowest achieving' schools in Missouri; 37 of 52 in St. Louis area."  The story has been picked up by the local news agencies, and is making a stir this morning.

The list of underperforming schools, thankfully, does not include schools from the Wentzville School District, but we shouldn't worry... because the Wentzville School board and administration are working diligently to correct that ommision.

You see, the new prinicpal at Timberland High School is the former principal of Berkeley Middle School... which did make the list as one of the worst 5% in the state!

Okay, I know what some of you are thinking... "So what?  He's been principal of Timberland High School for the last year, so it could be that the school has headed downhill since he left."  Au contraire, mon ami!  The data used to report these failing schools was collected last year... the last year of his nine year tenure!

In nine years, Winston Rogers took a failing school and turned it around into.... well... a failing school!  According to the site, a community data collection website, some of the 2007-2008 MAP scores were as follows...

Mathematics - Female Students 8th Grade:
Percentage of students scoring below basic:
Berkeley Middle School: 45%
State average from 1213 schools: 13.6%
Percentage of students scoring proficient or higher: 
Berkeley Middle School: 11.3%
State average from 1213 schools: 44.3%

Mathematics - Male Students 8th Grade:
Percentage of students scoring below basic:
Berkeley Middle School: 67.6%
State average from 1256 schools: 15.7%
Percentage of students scoring proficient or higher: 
Berkeley Middle School: 11.3%
State average from 1256 schools: 45.1%

Science- All Students 7th Grade
Percentage of students nearing proficient:
Berkeley Middle School: 6.2%
State average from 398 schools: 23.6%
Percentage of students scoring proficient:
Berkeley Middle School: 0.6%
State average from 398 schools: 11.6%

So, the obvious question becomes; How did the Wentzville School administration not question this lackluster performance, and pick from many of the other highly-qualified candidates for Timberland's Principal?  I found a bit of insight in this article from the Suburban Journals published last April about incoming Principal Winston Rogers:
A woman who did not identify herself called the Journal on Tuesday to voice concern about Berkeley's academic achievement.

According to state data, 21.1 percent of Berkeley students taking the 2008 MAP test scored proficient in communication arts, compared to 38.1 percent at Timberland. In mathematics, 14 percent scored proficient at Berkeley, compared to 55.2 percent at Timberland.

Susan Hladky, the Wentzville district's human resources assistant superintendent, said the comparison was "apples and oranges." Besides the age difference between middle and high school, there were important demographic differences. Most of Berkeley's students are economically disadvantaged, with 88.6 percent qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches in 2008, according to state data. At Timberland, 13.9 percent qualified for free or reduced-price lunch.

Berkeley's MAP scores have increased 84 percent since 2004. Its attendance rate has increased 3 percent during the same period. Hladky said Berkeley has shown great progress and academic improvement under Rogers' leadership.

"He has demonstrated he has the skills to lead a school to excellence," she said.
Apples and Oranges? Last time I checked, children are still children, and not some philosophical fruit salad!

If Principal Rogers had increased the scores of Berkeley Middle School 84%, that's great! But which scores? How low must they have been to have almost doubled the schools performance, but still qualify as one of the most troubled schools in Missouri? That's like me announcing, "I just increased my net worth by 100%!", but since I only had 50 cents yesterday, that really doesn't add up to much... and neither did this!

Past performance is the best indicator of future potential. Here's what we can look forward to if we allow this first attack against our schools to succeed: - the targeted destruction of the Timberland High School journalism program:
  • Declining MAP scores (due to loss of good teachers)
  • Declining academic achievment (due to loss of interest in our students)
  • Reduced student participation in extra-curriculars (since the kids won't want the hassle)
  • Increased costs to taxpayers and parents (due to interference with already financially strained programs)
  • Reduced school ratings (due to all the factors above)
  • Reduced property values (because prospetive home buyers will go to better districts)
In my line of work, we have experienced what we call "pass the trash", which is when an unqualified employee is "promoted" to another area so they can backfill it with a more qualified person. Berkeley got the better end of this deal!
.....Does anyone know of someone in need of a new Principal?

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