I recently reported that half of all of the students in the entire district failed to meet the 2017 state standards for math.

There are no doubt plenty of readers who saw that figure and assumed that it was diluted due the performance of the schools in Costa Mesa, that is, Costa Mesa’s math scores drove up the district score.

That assumption would be mostly incorrect. Overall, the Newport Beach schools performed better than the Costa Mesa schools, but the Newport scores are nothing to celebrate.

I reviewed math results for the following Newport schools:

CdM High
Newport Harbor
Harbor View
Newport Coast
Newport El
Newport Heights

Then I calculated the number of students in each school who failed to meet the state math standards for 2017, which requires a brief explanation.

The higher-ups in education – those beyond our own district – are masters at sleight of hand. Every few years, they introduce a new testing protocol or new standards, then test kids. This makes it almost impossible to develop a long-term view of the trends in education, i.e., it’s hard to know what is working and what is not when the rules keep changing.

In the case of the “Smarter Balanced” assessments, scores go back only to 2015, so if you wanted to see whether your generation was doing better than your child’s, or your grandchild’s, or your niece or nephew, you can’t.

The other trick is the labeling of the test results. There are four:

Standard Not Met
Standard Nearly Met
Standard Met
Standard Exceeded

For the purposes of my analysis, I stood firm on my contention that there is no such thing as “Standard Nearly Met.” That is simply a way of watering down bad news. “Nearly Met” is like nearly pregnant: There is no such thing. Either the standard was met or it wasn’t. So the figures you will read include “Standard Not Met” and “Standard Nearly Met.”

Besides, it is folly to think that the parents in Newport would look at a category labeled “Standard Nearly Met” and think, “Oh, well, nearly met – that’s good!”

Among these 11 schools the average percentage of students who failed to meet the state standard for math in 2017 is 31%. Yes, according to official state figures based on the criteria explained above, nearly one-third of the students in these 11 Newport Beach schools failed to meet the 2017 state standard for math.

One-third. Let that sink in for a moment.

The winner was Anderson with a low of 15%. But I’ll bet Anderson parents aren’t celebrating.

The highest percentage is at Newport Harbor High, where 62% of the students failed to meet the 2017 math standard.

But for this, the superintendent’s performance was rated “exceptional” and he was given a bonus of $34,450 of your tax dollars.

If you are wondering why I support new faces on the school board, these dismal scores are at or near the top of the list of reasons.

If you live in Newport, it’s not much consolation to know that overall, the scores were better than Costa Mesa’s. It is, as you now know, a crisis.

BTW, at the school closest to Trustee Vicki Snell – at Adams El – 65% of the students failed to meet the 2017 state math standards. There are still parents in the Mesa Verde section of the city where Adams is located who are sending their kids elsewhere because their standards are higher than those of the trustees. I wonder how much the poor performance at Adams is affecting home prices…

“The beatings will continue…”

I recently received word that Snell is at it again and has blocked yet another person from a Facebook post or posts.

And as I recently wrote, Snell believes that there is a “small group” that wants the superintendent fired. That’s how a small mind works: Focus on people and personalities and not on issues and ideas.

It has not occurred to Snell to consider why there is a small group of people who want change, whereas just three years ago, it was only the “lone wolf” Steve Smith. Nor has she has not considered the make-up of this small group. It should matter to her,for example, that most of the people in the group do not have kids attending schools in the district. This is a sea change, but neither Snell nor her colleagues can understand the importance of this because they are too busy circling the wagons around their failed leadership.

There is no defense for these terrible math scores. But in his recent memo to district employees, the superintendent addressed the academic requirements of those Newport-Mesa students who choose to forgo college for a career in new technologies such as “brick laying robots” (yes, that’s what he wrote) or “driverless cars.”

Of these students, he wrote, “Students who choose to go directly into the workforce will need to be able to read and comprehend at a high level. They will need excellent mathematical skills.”

Let’s repeat that, shall we? “They will need excellent mathematical skills.”

Unfortunately, the N-MUSD cannot provide those math skills for 50% of the students at this time. And I have no faith in the superintendent’s leadership that he is able to right the ship. Once again, as he did in November, 2015, the superintendent is exhorting teachers to perform better than they have been. He closes this memo by writing, “So thank you for your amazing dedication to redouble our efforts to ensure that all students who graduate from our district do so with the skills to succeed. We can do it!”

Who is this “we” he mentions? There is no “we,” there are only teachers – smart, dedicated people who work in an environment of fear and retaliation and who are not inspired by this superintendent to work any harder than they are.

This is yet another Hail Mary, similar to the one he lobbed in November, 2015 when he told teachers, “The challenge for our entire district is clearly evident: can we get our third graders to read at a fourth grade level by April?”

In both cases, it’s talk. Words. There is no mention of any additional resources to accomplish these lofty goals, just talk.

This memo reminds me of the words on a T-shirt I saw at the souvenir store just outside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland. The T-shirt reads, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

Steve Smith
Taxpayer, N-MUSD