Data casts NHS in false lightNorthwestern High School was ranked the top school in the nation for expulsions during the 2009-10 school year in an Education Week story published Thursday. The chart with the article indicates that 96.2 percent of the students without disabilities — 380 of 395 — were expelled.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Northwestern High School was ranked the top school in the nation for expulsions during the 2009-10 school year in an Education Week story published Thursday. The chart with the article indicates that 96.2 percent of the students without disabilities — 380 of 395 — were expelled.
“That doesn’t even make sense,” said Gregg Lundberg, School District of Maple administrator. There wasn’t a single expulsion that year, according to both Lundberg and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website. State DPI data indicates there have been only 17 expulsions from Northwestern High School since the 1998-99 school year.
“We haven’t had 380 expulsions since the beginning of the district in 1948,” Lundberg said.
So how did they snag the No. 1 spot in the nation? It was the first year the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights collected such data electronically, Lundberg said, and the district’s student management software didn’t mesh with the survey.
“There was a glitch in the templates,” said Greg Blair, administrator of curriculum and instruction for the district.
Northwestern isn’t alone. According to the Education Week article, written by Nirvi Shah and Michele McNeil and published in the Quality Counts 2013 special edition, some results indicated either extremely high rates of discipline or inaccuracies in the data.
According to Jim Bradshaw, U.S. Department of Education spokesman, all the data for the survey was self-reported by individual school districts. Although the data collection itself isn't new, many new data sets were included in the 2009-10 reporting, according to Bradshaw. In notes posted on the data website, the office of civil rights indicate users should carefully consider when analyzing the new CRDC data items.
A number of footnotes at the bottom of the Education Week chart indicate two districts expressed questions about the validity of the data and the Maple School District was in the process of correcting its data.
According to McNeil, the authors attempted to contact Northwestern High School’s principal by phone and email prior to publishing the piece.
“We called each principal on the list at least twice,” she said. That was news to Lundberg.
“They did not call me,” he said. “They did not validate this data with me or my office.”
He said the district first learned of the upcoming article Jan. 4 through a call from Wisconsin DPI. Since then, administrators have been working with the education department to correct those numbers. But it will take two to three weeks for the Office of Civil Rights to certify them.
“We didn’t expel 380 kids,” Lundberg said. “It’s kind of a joke. But it’s in print.”
With any mass data entry there are going to be some glitches, according to Wisconsin DPI spokesman John Johnson.
“I suggest not even looking at the first year of data collected,” he said. Johnson said he was surprised the reporters did not fact-check with state public instruction offices or websites to verify the survey’s numbers.
The Office of Civil Rights survey covered 72,000 schools nationwide, McNeil said. In addition, the numbers had been certified as accurate and had been publicly available for months through the education department’s website, ocrdata.ed.gov.
This is the first time data has been collected that crosses so many areas of schooling, from teacher salary and the number of students taking calculus to disciplinary actions, McNeil said. She said she hoped the story prompts members of the public to look up the Office of Civil Rights data collection website to seek problems, ask questions and launch investigations.
Education Week is a weekly newspaper based in the Washington D.C. area. It has a circulation of about 50,000 nationwide and an online readership that rises with special editions like Thursday’s, McNeil said. The article and charts can be found on the newspaper’s website, www.edweek.org. Click on the Quality Counts 2013 line just below the heading bar. Then click on the Suspension, Expulsion Data Cast Harsh Light on Some Schools link.
One good thing about the article, Lundberg said, was that the district found there was a problem — in data entry, not number of expulsions. Administrators will now be able to correct data sent to the Department of Education for other school years and send accurate data in the future.