not gifted and talented

Pearson admits major errors in gifted and talented exam scoring

A major screwup by the testing company Pearson caused some children to be told they did not make the cut for city gifted programs when in fact they scored high enough to be admitted.

It’s a Friday news dump of epic proportions, at least for the thousands of city families that had their children tested for gifted and talented eligibility this year. Previously, the city had said 9,020 students had scored above the 90th percentile on two tests, making them eligible for admission to G&T programs. The real number is higher, Pearson and the Department of Education said.

Pearson, which has had a rocky road in New York in recent years, is sending a letter to parents that contains a lengthy mea culpa.

“Pearson has an established record in this field and we depend on its professionalism and deep capacity to deliver for the public.  But in this case they let our children and families down,” said Chancellor Dennis Walcott in a statement. “I have told the company’s officials in no uncertain terms that I expect this will never happen again.”

We’ll have a more complete story soon, including numbers of how many families are affected, but for now, here’s Pearson’s letter to parents and Walcott’s public statement.

Here’s Pearson’s letter to parents:

And here’s the statement from Walcott:

STATEMENT FROM CHANCELLOR DENNIS WALCOTT ON PEARSON GIFTED AND TALENTED EXAM ERRORS

Pearson, the company that developed our Gifted and Talented exam, has notified the Department of Education that it has discovered errors in the scoring of the most recent G&T exam.

After an exhaustive review of Pearson’s data, it is clear to us that due to the company’s errors, many students who were recently notified that they did not qualify for G&T now qualify for district programs. In addition, many other students who didn’t previously qualify for city wide programs now do.

All students who were previously deemed eligible for the G&T programs will remain eligible.

Two parents initially brought their concerns to our attention. My team immediately asked Pearson to investigate. Throughout this week, Pearson has been working to confirm the existence of errors, identify how many students were affected and rectify those errors.

I am grateful to the two parents and pleased that the DOE team responded promptly to their inquiries.

Doug Kubach, Pearson’s CEO of Assessment and Instruction, has personally apologized to me in our conversations this week, and extends his apologies to our students and their families.

While I appreciate his apology, it is unacceptable that these mistakes occurred in the first place.  Pearson has an established record in this field and we depend on its professionalism and deep capacity to deliver for the public.  But in this case they let our children and families down. I have told the company’s officials in no uncertain terms that I expect this will never happen again.

Mr. Kubach has assured me that the company is undertaking a thorough and comprehensive review of its quality controls.

We have taken several steps here to mitigate the inconvenience to affected students:

·         Over the next 24 hours, we will notify all the affected families of the errors via email and automated calls. They will subsequently receive their updated scores by April 29th.

·         To give families time to reconsider application decisions, the deadline for submitting applications will be extended to May 10th

·         As was reported earlier this week, there were some score reports that were missing from the original file that we received from Pearson. Four hundred students were affected. We have located the tests and have contacted the families that have been affected.   

I want to emphasize that we are working hard to minimize the inconvenience caused by the errors, and are dealing with the company to ensure that this mistake is not repeated in the future.

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.