Here's a bit of followup to my piece
in the Scene
out today on Metro schools and TCAP scores. We reported that MNPS apparently violated the state's TCAP score embargo last year when it announced test score gains in June 2005, although school officials deny that, claiming that the embargo is "stricter" this year than last (which state officials deny). (Did not.)(Did too.)(Did not.)...
So yesterday, in an effort to either (a) find out what the embargo really means, or (b) persuade the school board and the community that he really is interested in sharing test score results, or (c) perhaps both, MNPS Director Pedro Garcia sent this letter to the Tennessee Department of Education:
July 25, 2006
Dr. Lana Seivers
Tennessee Department of Education
710 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN 37243
Dear Dr. Seivers:
The administrative team of Metro Nashville Public Schools appreciates the tremendous work your department has performed in the last few months with the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program. We are grateful for the dedication and commitment of you and your staff, and for the ongoing efforts to be fair and thorough in providing data to schools districts across the state.
We are eager to share the results of this year's TCAP testing with our community. Parents and principals, along with teachers, administrators, board members and many others in Nashville want to know what progress has been made since last year. We suspect this curiosity and desire to know are not unique to our district, and we will, of course, abide by all State Department of Education embargoes regarding the release of information.
Could you please provide a clarification reflecting what information can be released and when it can be released to whom? I want to make sure we are in compliance with all state rules on this matter, and that we also provide the information here in Nashville as soon as possible.
Thank you for your direction in this matter.
Pedro E. Garcia, Ed. D.
There's a case to be made that the state ought to do this TCAP embargo business differently. Their reasons for forcing districts to hold back on NCLB results are valid - to allow review and appeal before releasing info that has serious consequences for schools and administrators. Entirely reasonable. But it feels like overkill to also put an indefinite hold on any and all preliminary results of a summary nature. Government agencies at every level release preliminary numbers and adjust them later on all kinds of matters; witness,for example, how the federal government routinely handles economic indicators. It might not seem onerous for the community to be asked to wait an extra month or two so that the numbers that come out will be final ones. But here in Nashville this particular summer, the timing genuinely matters because of crucial school board elections.
One more semi-related thing, in the credit-where-credit-is-due department: Although I have been skeptical
about the school board candidacy of Kay Brooks (appointed by Metro Council in May to fill a vacant seat), I do have to say that her blog
is currently a useful addition to the local information universe on MNPS doings. Brooks is posting frequently and thoroughly about developments on matters like the test score flap, sharing with readers her interpretations of what MNPS officials are telling her and of press reports. It's the sort of online communication one wishes more elected officials would try.