Yesterday's Seattle Times Truth Needle had an interesting story about how the Seattle school district has been using incorrect data since 2008 to show the number of high school graduates who were meeting 4-year college requirements.
The district reported that number to be 17 percent, and changed it to 46 percent when it released its district scorecard Nov. 9. That low number was one of the statistics used by district leaders to "justify the district's five-year plan that included a new system of assigning students to schools, more testing for students, and new teacher and principal evaluations."
Former Seattle PTSA Council President Ramona Hattendorf said that the change in the statistic was the first thing that caught her eye in the Nov. 9 report, according to the Times.
Brad Bernatek, the district's director of research, assessment and evaluation, who arrived at the 17 percent number in 2008, told the Times that "it was supposed to be a measure of how many high-school graduates were prepared to succeed in four-year colleges, not just get admitted."
Although the district eventually stopped using the number in some of its own reports, it never acknowledged the fact publicly.
Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson says that was a mistake.
"We should have changed the public conversation," Goodloe-Johnson said Friday.
While staff understood what the number was supposed to be, she said, she acknowledges the district didn't make its meaning clear to the public, especially after it decided to quit using it.
"We should have come forward sooner," she said.
School Board President Michael DeBell said 17 percent always seemed too low to him. He raised questions about the number from the beginning, was told that staff would look into it, but said he never received a satisfactory answer.
"Every time I heard it, I cringed," he said. "I knew it was way too low. We were doing much better than that. I couldn't understand why we were putting that kind of data out."
Once again, this makes me wonder about the state of our school district. If folks were skeptical about the data, why didn't they keep questioning it until they received an answer? Why couldn't the superintendent have used a minute from her state of the district address to acknowledge that the district had screwed up? Surely, that's not asking for too much?