In response to the post, Brezina Writes… (Latest School Rankings – Part 4…“, a reader writes:

“Brezina is right, of course. We stood by for years and watched schools increase their scores by moving countless children into special education. Special education didn’t count towards accountability and the schools received more money for them. Where was the downside? The downside of course was that special education children received a sub-standard education for years. Special education enrollment numbers soared to 20% of school population and higher. It took the state and federal governments to end that unethical practice.

However, don’t confuse cohort management with an attempt to get “addition by subtraction”. Cohort management is the true embodiment of leaving no child behind. Before I give an example, we need to understand that minimum numbers needed to make a cohort exit because of statistical reasons. That is, for AYP, a sub-pop has to be at least 50 students in a designated population. Any less than 50 and there are not enough students to statistically make an accountability determination. Don’t worry, because every child counts in at least one measured group, so it’s not like we are leaving anyone out. Now for an example of cohort management.

In a real world unacceptable / failed to meet AYP high school of 2000 students, the class of 2012 entered high school for the first time in 2008. Of all students entering that cohort 43 students were special education. Of course over the years some students were added due to move in, but some moved out also keeping the number relatively the same. Child Find in high school is not unheard of, but it is rare. The point is that in 2008 when the 2012 cohort started high school, there was not a special education sub-population that would count towards AYP for the 10th grade testing. By the time the 2012 cohort reached 10th grade, there were 78 special education students, an AYP sub-pop. What happened?

The high school in question did not look at cohorts, rather it looked at 9th graders, 10th graders, 11th graders, and 12th graders. By the time the 2012 cohort reached 10th grade they were joined by students from the 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and even the 2007 cohorts. These students from the cohorts had been left behind and virtually forgotten due to poor instructional and cohort management decisions. This particular school had credit recovery, but the program had no real focus on keeping students in their cohorts. In addition this particular high school had a traditional structure and focus that did not emphasize student success.

The solution to this problem was simple: use credit recovery to get children into their proper cohorts. The result was that the special education numbers fell from 78 back to about 43. People who do not understand the cohort concept considered this cheating. K-8 understand that children come to you in cohorts and need to leave your campus as a cohort. So, if we shaft kids and keep them behind grade level, that’s ok. But if we try to do something to help return those kids to where they belong, we are cheating?? Please.

You would be shocked at how many accountability problems are caused by not managing cohorts and how many would go away if it was done correctly.”

SC Response
Every secondary administrator should print your post and frame it. Great advice and an excellent explanation.

Just a quick clarification point. As you conclude, a lot of accountability problems could be alleviated by better managing cohorts. And there are a few right ways and hundreds of wrong ways to manage them. The right ways require disciplined thought and purposeful action. The wrong ways require any combination of ignorance, negligence, ambition, fear, and/or game playing. Hence Brezina’s warning / admonishment.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…