Intentionally Misleading, or Poor Choice of Words?

My children have been reading The Giver this summer, and the focus on precision of language got me thinking this morning.  So often, it seems these days, we read or learn about programs or products whose reality differs greatly from what was described.  It’s the supplements that claim to help you control your appetite, that in reality do absolutely nothing.  

The College Board is the entity that governs Advanced Placement, or AP, courses.  It articulates the standards those courses must meet, provides or endorses training to certify teachers for AP courses, and administers and grades the AP exams.  Students who take a certain number of exams and achieve scores of a certain level are eligible for awards from the College Board.  These awards are called AP Scholar Awards, and they are an internationally recognized award of achievement that students can attain.    

What does this have to do with precision of language, or lack thereof?  

It’s because of the AP Scholars program that PWCS offers.  

The AP Scholars program is available to PWCS High School students taking at least 2 Pre-AP or AP courses in the current school year who plan to complete at least 6 AP courses before graduation.  Students participating in the program must maintain a C average in all classes, must complete community service hours each year, and must complete a research paper.    In exchange for doing all of that, students participating in the program are supposed to receive peer tutoring, instructional support from the school counseling department, free on-line SAT prep and practice AP exams, and special recognition at graduation.  

The AP Scholars program, offered by PWCS, is in no way, shape, or form affiliated with or endorsed by the College Board, the organization that administers the AP exams and awards the AP Scholar awards.  Students who complete the AP Scholars program in a PWCS school aren’t AP Scholars unless they take the required number of courses and achieve the scores required for an AP Scholar award.  In fact, students who don’t participate in the AP Scholars program can achieve the AP Scholar distinction, if they take enough AP classes and achieve the necessary scores to receive the award.  

See how that might be confusing?

This shouldn’t be construed as criticism of the AP Scholars program, as it sounds like an interesting program,  though some parents have indicated to me that the promised benefits of additional instructional support and peer tutoring have not been delivered.  My criticism isn’t with the AP Scholars program, but rather with the name.

No Colleges and Universities are aware of the AP Scholars program that PWCS offers, but they are aware of the AP Scholar distinctions the College Board awards.  Students who complete the AP Scholars program in a PWCS high school aren’t AP Scholars; they are only AP Scholars if they earn that distinction and are awarded it by the College Board.    

I’m quite certain PWCS officials were ware of the AP Scholar awards when they designed the AP Scholars program here, so why they would have chosen to give the program the same name as the award, is beyond me.  It’s confusing, implies that some level of support or endorsement has been received from the College Board, and ought to be changed.  

Back to School 2014 – 2015 School Year!

Welcome back for the 2014 – 2015 school year!  I hope everyone had a fun and relaxing summer.  

The Va Dept of Ed released SOL and end of year exam scores yesterday, August 28, 2014.  That is one of the latest release dates I recall.  

History has taught me that the greatest indicator of student academic success is their parent’s financial stability.  For more decades than I care to count, it had been observed that students from economically disadvantaged families tend to underperform relative to their peers from financially stable families.  Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent, the “achievement gap” has remained steadfast and consistent for as long as test score data has been complied.  

PWCS has one of the highest percentages of economically disadvantaged students in northern Virginia.  I believe only Arlington, Alexandria, Manassas, and Masassas Park have a greater percentage.  I mention that because in years past PWCS has cited demographics as the reason our student test scores lag those achieved in neighboring counties.  PWCS does have a point, our school division’s demographic balance does affect our overall scores, however, demographics aren’t the only reason. 

For the last couple of years I’ve been compiling test score reports for economically disadvantaged and not economically disadvantaged students, and comparing those scores.  PWCS student scores are consistently in the bottom 1/3 of northern Virginia counties in every subject tested at the high school level, except Reading and US & Virginia History.  This is for both economically disadvantaged and not economically disadvantaged students, so, while the demographic balance of our students does account for SOME of the deficit, it doesn’t account for all of it.  

Below is a link to the report on high school scores (High School SOLs – 2010 to 2014).  I’ll be cobbling together test score reports as I find time and posting them on the Test Scores Page.  Until then, enjoy, and welcome back to school!

PWCS, You’re Welcome

As a member of the Gainesville / Brentsville district budget advisory committee, I, and my fellow committee members, spent an inordinate amount of time over the past 2 years examining PWCS’ budget. Our analysis showed that there were significant savings that could be found in the PWCS budget.  We even took the time to document those savings and shared them here and with anyone who cared to listen.

This year Gil Trenum and Alyson Satterwhite, with the support of Lisa Bell, proposed several adjustments to the PWCS budget that would have provided for additional reductions in class sizes.  Their suggestions fell flat.  The adjustments proposed were characterized as draconian and concern was expressed that they could undermine the school division’s financial stability.  We budget committee members were just too naive and ill informed to understand the complexity involved in the PWCS budget.

I fully expect to receive a Thank you Note from PWCS in the next few days.

Those of you who watched the last school board meeting of the year last night (June 18) noticed that the school division was able to adjust the 2014 – 2015 budget to absorb $6.9 million less than expected from the state and county, combined, without making any cuts.  The adjustments they made, increasing Other Revenues, reducing the planned fluff in teacher salaries, and reducing budgeted utility costs to better reflect actuals, were all changes the budget advisory committee had recommended.  You know, the adjustments that were characterized as draconian and potentially undermining to the school division’s financial stability.  You know, the ones were simpletons were too ill informed to understand.

You’re welcome, PWCS.  I like chocolate covered strawberries and sunflowers, in case you were wondering.


Summer Holiday

As I have in the past, I will be taking time off from blogging during the summer, which starts tomorrow!!!!!  There is a school board meeting tonight and I may talk about that as the budget adjustments will be proposed.  I may also post if something pops up and I’m aware of it.  Otherwise, I will be on vacation.  My plans are to climb Bull Run Mountain, tube on the Shenandoah River, hike to a waterfall on Skyline drive, climb Little Round Top, ride a roller coaster, ride a horse (that isn’t attached to a Merry-g0-round), swim in a lake, swim in the ocean, swim in the Chesapeake Bay, bake a cake from scratch, sleep in a tent, dig for dinosaur bones at Westmoreland State Park, look at the moon and starts through a telescope, go ice skating, and sleep in.  Between bug bites, poison ivy, sunburn, motion sickness, and making sure 911 is on speed dial for when I get lost, there won’t be time to blog.

Have a great summer!

By School Graduation Rates

As requested, listed below are the graduation rates for each high school in PWCS. They are listed overall and for economically disadvantaged (ED) and not economically disadvantaged (not ED) students.  They are also listed for Males and Females, as that was a shocker yesterday.  If the numbers are too small for you to read, like they are for me, here’s a pdf of the same file with larger print ===> By school grad rates – 2013.

They’ve also been uploaded to the Test Scores page, which has lots of data for you to look at if you ever get bored and want to look at numbers.

Note:  Report is updated below the chart to clarify what these %’s mean.

By School Rates - 2013


The numbers presented in the chart above are the percentage of that population of students that graduated with a particular type of diploma. For instance, 100% of the ED students at Brentsville who graduated, achieved a Standard diploma. That doesn’t mean 100% of Brentsville’s ED students graduated.

The chart below is the on-time graduation rate and drop out rate for each school in the county.

Carrying on the Brentsville example, in the class of 2013, 83% of Brentsville’s ED students graduated on-time, with 100% of them achieving a standard diploma, 14% dropped out, and the rest either earned a GED or are still enrolled.

This chart will probably be the more controversial of the two, because of the dropout rates at some schools.  The numbers on the chart are percentages.  The numbers for All and ED students came directly from the state report linked as the source.  The numbers for not ED students are not provided by the state and were calculated from the All and Not ED numbers.  The chart is here is in pdf and on the Test Scores page ===>On-time and drop out rates – by school – 2013


On time and dropout rates by School - 2013

What Are We Doing to Our Boys?

For many years now the education establishment has been focused on improving the performance of girls in school.  We have initiatives to increase the number of girls going to college, to increase female involvement in STEM courses, even programs for girls to be more physically active.  These programs don’t exist for boys.

Lately statisticians have begun to ring a warning bell.  They note that these programs that confer preferential treatment to girls appear to be doing so at the expense of boys.  Many feminists scoff at that as they consider it boys, or men, finally getting what they deserve.

Because I’ve been running reports I ran one comparing the on-time graduation rates for girls to the on-time rates for boys (see boys versus girls – grad rates).  I didn’t expect to see a significant difference.  I was wrong.

About 48% of the class of 2013 was girls.  About 52% was boys.

About 93% of girls graduated on-time.  About 89% of boys did.

About 63% of girls earned an advanced diploma.  About 53% of boys did.

About 4% of girls dropped out of school.  About 6% of boys did.

Remember, there were more boys than girls in the class of 2013, so you’d expect that there would be more boys than girls graduating on-time and achieving an advanced diploma, but there weren’t.  Instead, girls outnumbered boys in every category, except dropouts.

What are we doing to our boys?

Victims of Our Demographics?

Followers of the school division and this blog will recall that PWCS representatives frequently cite our demographics as justification for lower SOL pass rates, SAT / ACT scores, and graduation rates than other jurisdictions in our area.  That assertion is rarely challenged. Read the rest of this entry »


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