Update On Colorado District That Gates Praised in 2013

In October of 2012, Bill and Melinda Gates visited a school in the Eagle County, Colorado, school district called Eagle Valley High School.  This school implemented many Gates funded experiments, including merit pay, and Gates praised the school in his 2013 annual letter.   I analyzed their test scores a few years ago and wrote about them.

Colorado is a state that rates schools based on ‘growth’ measures.  These are the metrics that supposedly enable us to compare schools where students have different proficiency rates by focusing instead (as Al Franken famously grilled DeVos about) on ‘growth.’  And while I agree that a school that is getting actual growth in student learning is a good thing, I don’t think that the measures right now, whether they are for teachers or for schools, are very accurate.  Still, since that never stops reformers like Bill Gates from arguing that schools or teachers that don’t perform well on these measures need to be closed or fired, I do like to point out when some of the schools they praise do poorly on these metrics.

I checked the most recent ‘growth’ numbers from Colorado.  A ‘growth’ score of 50% means that a school is getting average ‘growth’ compared to the other schools in Colorado.  Something in the 40s is not so good while something in the 30s is really bad.  So it is ironic that the school that Gates visited and wrote about, Eagle Valley High School has the lowest ‘growth’ score in their district with a 36.5% in ELA and a 34% in Math.  The whole district has below average ‘growth’ with the exception of the middle schools which have average ‘growth.’

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I know that Gates hasn’t addressed education in his most recent annual letter.  Reformers love to tout their invented metrics when they support the policies they just know must work, but I would really love to see, one day, a reformer look at numbers like we see here in Eagle County and say either that the district is underperforming or that the metrics are flawed.

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7 Responses to Update On Colorado District That Gates Praised in 2013

  1. Stephen B Ronan says:

    “I would really love to see, one day, a reformer look at numbers like we see here in Eagle County and say either that the district is underperforming or that the metrics are flawed.”

    I suspect that most reformers would prefer to see more data rather than jump to a hasty conclusion… They might take into consideration that the high school’s reported graduation rates between 2012 and 2014 varied between 91.4 and 96.2 while the statewide range was from 75.4 to 77.3, while the percentage of students considered proficient or advanced ran about 6 to 10% points higher than the statewide average although, according to Gates, “the district has among the highest rates of English language learners in Colorado”. They might wonder whether a school that successfully retains many of its most struggling students and where performance is still relatively high may tend to, relatedly, demonstrate lessened growth scores… They tend to be a curious bunch, these reformers, dissatisfied with any single metric, eager for a more comprehensive view.
    Without accepting it out of hand, they might note that Colorado does calculate a cumulative score: Below 34 % = turnaround, 34% to 41.9% = Priority Improvement, 42% to 52.9% = Improvement, 53% or more = Performance
    And on that scale the school was at 62.5%.
    And then a decent number of them might also seek info about the music and arts, theater and athletic programs. And, one might hope, chess.

  2. mjpledger says:

    It took Microsoft 15 years to drop it’s stack ranking system for employees even though it was demonstrably unfair … and that was after Gates had left. So, yea, it looks like Bill has a love of simple statistics, no matter how wrong they obviously are.

  3. Pingback: Gary Rubinstein: The Oops Factor at Bill Gates’ Favorite School in Colorado | Diane Ravitch's blog

  4. annabrining says:

    The “deformers” don’t understand that PROCESS is key! There is NO MAGIC bullet or model! Schools are living breathing organizations. A professional educaor / teacher- can do the exact same lesson with two different classes and have DIFFERENT results. WHY? People are human and NO two folks are the same! DUH!!

  5. “This school implemented many Gates-funded experiments, including merit pay”

    I think the results are valid proof that Gates-funded experiments including merit pay are all failures that Gates will, like the Malignant Narcissist in the White House, never admit. Imagine a know-it-all billionaire oligarch like the self-anointed “I’m wonderful and always right” Gates admitting he’s wrong.

  6. “I don’t think that the measures right now, whether they are for teachers or for schools, are very accurate.”

    Those “measures”by definition can never be accurate. Why? Because there is no “measurement” being done so that it is logically impossible to sort and separate accurately leaving any rankings completely invalid.

    To measure something there has to be an agreed upon standard unit of measurement with precise definition such as may be found for measuring time (standard unit of time, i.e., second), weight (standard unit of weight, i.e., lbs or kilogram) etc. . . . Without the standard unit, without an exemplar of that unit against which one can devise and calibrate a device there can be no true “measuring”.

    And there isn’t any agreed upon standard unit of measure in the teaching and learning process, never has been and never will be. This is why can’t we “measure student achievement” as is proposed by all the testing organizations and most educators. Another factor is the nature of what is supposedly being measured in the standardized testing process.

    Richard Phelps, a staunch standardized test proponent (he has written at least two books defending the standardized testing malpractices) in the introduction to “Correcting Fallacies About Educational and Psychological Testing” unwittingly lets the cat out of the bag with this statement:

    “Physical tests, such as those conducted by engineers, can be standardized, of course [why of course of course], but in this volume , we focus on the measurement of latent (i.e., nonobservable) mental, and not physical, traits.” [my addition]

    Notice how he is trying to assert by proximity that educational standardized testing and the testing done by engineers are basically the same, in other words a “truly scientific endeavor”. The same by proximity is not a good rhetorical/debating technique.

    THE TESTS MEASURE NOTHING, i.e., latent non-observable mental traits, for how is it possible to “measure” the nonobservable with a non-existing measuring device that is not calibrated against a non-existing standard unit of learning?????


    The basic fallacy of this is the confusing and conflating metrological (metrology is the scientific study of measurement) measuring and measuring that connotes assessing, evaluating and judging. The two meanings are not the same and confusing and conflating them is a very easy way to make it appear that standards and standardized testing are “scientific endeavors”-objective and not subjective like assessing, evaluating and judging.

  7. Pingback: Ed News, Friday, April 21, 2017 Edition | tigersteach

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