Bayard Middle School In Delaware Mistakenly Received Low Rank, Chosen For Reform

Faulty Data Wrongly Placed School Among Worst In State

A Delaware middle school will no longer receive hundreds of thousands in additional funding after it was mistakenly named one of the worst schools in the state.

Bayard Middle School was set to receive $530,000 under the state's Partnership Zones program, which grants schools money in exchange for mandated reform -- including restructuring and staff reassignment. The school found out Monday that those funds won't be coming in after all, because the Delaware Department of Education wrongly placed Bayard among the state's lowest achieving schools by using faulty data, The News Journal reports.

"I apologize to the Bayard community for the confusion this has caused and for the time members already devoted to work on their PZ plan," Delaware Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery told WGMD. "I know this will be a disappointment to some who were excited about the great work they envisioned as part of the Partnership Zone."

The mistake stems from the data-driven analysis that tracks patterns and trends in test scores. The calculation that determined participation in the reform program used scores from 2008, when Bayard was still an elementary school. Since elementary test scores tend to be higher than those of middle and high school exams, the discrepancy in performance was greater, placing Bayard among those who saw the greatest decrease in test scores, The News Journal reports.

Instead, Laurel Middle School will take Bayard's place in the Partnership Zone to receive funding from Delaware's $119 million Race to the Top grant.

Delaware school officials say that no other mistakes were made on calculations of other schools' performance, but the news of the funding and placement retraction comes just as California Gov. Jerry Brown harshly criticized data-based school reform.

While Brown last week rejected a California bill that would have created a system that relied less on standardized tests scores to evaluate students and teachers, he issued a statement contending that the proposal still used data too heavily and was "yet another siren song of school reform."

Data-driven assessments have long been a part of education reform debates ranging from whether test scores should be used at all in teacher and school evaluations to the extent to which they should be considered in those analyses. In August, for example, a county Supreme Court judge limited use of standardized test scores to evaluate New York teachers.

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