To:  The Buffalo Superintendent of Schools and The Buffalo Board of Education

From:  Carl P. Paladino

Re: Dysfunction

The following is the first of a series of papers outlining to the Superintendent and the BOE that its administration of the school district is lacking even in the simplest of responsibilities.

The district has a serious attendance and truancy problem.

The first step is usually to acknowledge to the community that the problem exists and has existed for a long time and other attempts by the administration to rectify the problem, if any, have failed.

You don’t like doing that because you think it makes you look incompetent. You are ashamed to admit that you don’t know how to resolve the problem and problems of this nature have historically been handled simply by looking the other way until critics stop concerning themselves with the issues.

The analyses of Mike Madigan, submitted below, clearly defines your problem in dealing with school district challenges.  You decided to simply alter statistics to reflect that the problem no longer exists.  You changed the protocol for collecting the information to a presumption that the student is present unless the teacher specifically marks the student absent.

This is like setting up the standardized English and math tests to default so that each student scores 100% unless otherwise indicated by the teachers.

You actually held a ceremony at a televised BOE meeting to hand out awards and trophies to principals of schools that have, on paper, shown improvement regardless of being based on faulty counts.  Was that to boost the morale of the principals or to show that joining in a lie makes everyone involved feel good?

You glossed over a major problem that attacks the heart of the district failure, wrapped it up nicely with a bow, and put it up on the shelf with all the other bothersome challenges your incompetent BOE does not want to face.

Just more examples of BOE brilliance and genius. You just can’t make this stuff up.

 

Critical Questions Raised Regarding BPS Attendance Data Accuracy

By: Mike Madigan

Elliott Report link: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/accountability/de/documents/BuffaloDE-1stQtrlyActionStatusReport.pdf

In September a new attendance tracking system was put in place as part of the “Infinite Campus” program in the Buffalo Public Schools (BPS). The Distinguished Educator Report released 15-March-2013 on page 6 suggests a possible critical defect may exist with BPS’s usage of this program. As per Elliott, this program was created to report that all students are in attendance as a default value prior to attendance being taken. It would be expected that a null value of “attendance not taken” would be reported if a teacher failed to report rather than reporting that a class has 100% in attendance. If the system accepts this default data as valid the data could be erroneous and shouldn’t be used for performance reports or decision making.

If the system Elliott criticized is, in fact, utilized, the potential impact is the following:

 

  • 100% attendance being reported for that class for that day even though historical data suggests most classes have absences daily resulting in the reports being corrupted.
  • For the teacher who did not comply with reporting requirements the consequence would be improved attendance based on faulty counts. The teacher’s class attendance record could result in improved attendance evaluation ratings and bad behavior positively incentivized.
  • By the Principles and Administrators failing to take valid attendance, teachers would ‘improve’ attendance for that school and for the district (A positive incentive to not audit and to permit non-compliance).
  • For the Superintendent in charge of the district attendance results will be reported falsely high. Potential and inaccurate claims of improvement may be made.

Answers to the following questions would help determine if the Elliott observation invalidates  BPS attendance reporting:

  • Does the system accept default 100% attendance values as reportable data? Why would data generated from such a system be deemed valid, integral and worthy of reporting?
  • Is there a system Administrator at each school that verifies all teachers have reported attendance? What action is taken to ensure 100% compliance with reporting requirements?
  • Is there electronic signature with time and date stamps that documents if attendance is taken?
  • Is there an audit trail with date time stamp and electronic signature documenting/retaining all prior edited versions to prevent retroactive revisions/data adjustments?
  • Is there a requirement to justify retroactive changes and is electronic signature required to approve and ensure edits are done beyond a certain time range?
  • Are there classroom spot checks and verification of accuracy?
  • Why would this system be set to 100% attendance rather than a null value that would notify the teacher and Principles of failures to report?
  • Is there a policy in place regarding compliance with daily attendance reporting requirements?
  • What are consequences for failure to report accurate attendance?