Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Betty Sternberg Gets an "F"

Your scribe has been down to the Board of Ed, and has picked up a copy of the Harris survey that was carried out in May and June of this year. As you may recall, dear reader, the survey was machine-readable, having been filled out with #2 lead pencils just as we all used to do with the SATs. Theoretically, the raw results should have been available within 24 hours. But that's not the way these surveys work.

Clearly the public cannot be trusted with the raw data. It has to be massaged and obfuscated first. If certain results are not as wished, a portion of the surveys can simply be declared unusable. If a certain issue - e.g., the level of dissatisfaction with the superintendant - is too one-sided, the "impact index" must be applied to mitigate this fact. Other factors used to massage the data are called the "incidence rate" and the "penalty", which must be multiplied together to provide the numerator of the "impact score", and so on and so forth. Finally, if a certain segment of the population survey (in this case, community leaders and RTM members) is wildly anti-Betty, you can just decide not to report most of their results at all.

The survey was filled out by four general categories of "stakeholders" (shades of Wall Street!): students, teachers, parents, and community leaders. The students, being clearly not yet fully educated by definition, were not allowed to register an opinion of Betty. But the other three categories were, and in each of these groups Betty came in dead last in the "satisfaction" sweepstakes.

The scale used by Harris is the usual 1 to 10. As we all recall from our own schooldays, a grade of 60% was a low pass - a "D". 70% was a "C"; 80% was a "B"; and 90% or better was an "A". Anything below 60% was an automatic "F".

The teachers and staff gave the school system an overall satisfaction rating of 66% - a D+, let us say. The highest satisfaction for them was with the school atmosphere, parental support, the local principal, their own careers, and the students. These grades averaged out to just under 80% - call it a B-.

But Betty? She got the lowest rating of all at 50%, closely followed by the School Board at 52% and the central administration at the Havemeyer Building at 54%. Oops. Looks like they all got an F.

Betty did better with the parents, oddly enough. The parents' overall satisfaction rating was 76% - a C+. But Betty again got the lowest rating from them, at 57%. Oops. Another F.

The community leaders had an overall satisfaction rate of 70%, down from 83% just two years ago. That's a solid C, folks. Not a great grade for the Town of Greenwich school system. And who, of course, got the lowest rating in the survey? Why, Betty, of course - 54%. Oops again. Yet another F.

The only group allowed to rate their unhappiness with the School Board were the community leaders. Only two years ago, the level of community dissatisfaction with the Board (why does Harris suddenly reverse the reporting methodology like this?!) was 17%. Now it has soared to 39%. Harris deems this to be a "Negative" trend. No sh*t, Sherlock. For this they get the big bucks?

So there you have it, dear reader: Betty gets a resounding "F" from teachers, parents, and the community. But she continues to draw her obscene salary and benefits package of well over a quarter of a million dollars. Is there something wrong with this picture? Are we living in Greenwich or Wonderland? Or is there any difference between them?


Blogger Leigh Russell said...

obfuscated is a great word. A useful approach to hide behind. Infuriating to be on the receiving end of it.

October 03, 2008 8:53 AM  
Blogger Bill Clark said...

Hi, Leigh! Obfuscating is a very popular technique here in Greenwich. Always has been, always will be!

October 03, 2008 10:55 AM  

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