Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Where Seattle Public Schools is Failing

Let me quote extensively to you from the book I'm reading.

The first question every board member should ask him- or herself, and the question that opens up the entire Reform Governance Framework, is, Am I satisfied with incremental improvements in the status quo, or am I profoundly dissatisfied with the status quo and determined to change it as quickly as possible? This is the big question. One answer leads to governance primarily as oversight, the other to governance primarily as leadership for change.

Why would a board member be satisfied with only incremental improvement in the status quo? Is there a district anywhere that has all children performing at grade level, all children peforming at their potential, and no academic achivement gap?

Leadership starts with core beliefs and commitments. Beliefs and commitments go together, for beliefs not tied to commitments are of little value. There is a big difference between "It can be done" and "It will be done".

The book then proposes a set of five core beliefs and commitments:
All Children at Grade Level
Can all children perform at grade level? Indeed, some children by birth or accident have severe learning disabilities and cannot. The U.S. Department of Education accespts only 1% in this category. Even if the number is as high as 5%, the rest - a reasonable definition of all - can.

Of course, not all children can earn a doctorate in physics. Not all can become brain surgeons. Ball all can earn an academic high school diploma. Some will work harder and longer, but the standard is attainable. The experience of many high-performing low-income schools in America and the high performance of some low-income countries support this core belief.

All Children to Potential
All children performing at grade level is not enough. Because human ability varies enormously, because some children learn faster than others, because some children can become physicists and brain surgeons, school boards should commit themselves to the goal of all children reaching their learning potential. A child who can perform well above grade level but is not given the opportunity for advanced learning may not be seriously damaged for life, but he or she is not well served and society is the loser for it.

No Achievement Gap
Urban boards must have a third core belief and commitment: The academic achievement gaps between White and Asian children as compared with African-American and Hispanic children can and will be eliminated. This may seem redundant to those who beliecve that if all children perform to their potential the achievement gap will be eliminated. But it is important to state this core belief and commitment separately.

Effective Schools.
Doubters of these commitments will point out that the school effect is not 100%; families and societies contribute to or impede learning. This is certainly true. The question, however, is whether the school effect is small or large. If what a child learns is determined solely by what happens outside school rather than by what happens in school, then schools are not important and there is little reason to make them better. But if schools can fundamentally affect what children learn and how well and fast they learn it, then school matter and improving them is an imperative.

Effective School Districts
One essential core belief and commitment remains: Urban boards must believe that urban districts can become high-performing organizations. A lot of people don't think they can. Some believe urban districts and the boards that govern them are so hopeless that they should be abolished. Let charter schools and vouchers meet the educational needs of urban children, they say. Indeed many urban districts have been gioverned and managed poorly. And not many come even close to the performance standards of America's best private companies. But notwithstanding the challenges of public-sector management and urban politics, school districts can become high-performing organizations if board members make this a priority.

Boards must accept no excuse for ineffective and inefficient business operations. Finance and accounting, human reource management, purchasing and inventory management, facility maintenance, food serive, transportation, and construction management in school districts are more like than ulike business functions in other organizations. School districts can and should be world class in business operations. A few are approaching this standard in some areas and perform a well as many private-sector companies. Boards must believe that their districts can become high-performing orgainizations, insist that they do, and give their superintendent the power to make it so.


You may be surprised to learn that these extensive quotes come from "What School Boards Can Do - Reform Governance for Urban Schools" by Donald R. McAdams. This is the textbook for the course on Reform Governance that the Broad Foundation offers to School Board directors.

This book calls for strong, demanding boards who hold their superitendents accountable for results. This book is not ready to surrender to Charter Schools at all. And, more than that, this book insists that Boards do what I want to do on the Board and insists that Boards strenuously avoid the style of the current Seattle School Board.

Our Strategic Plan, "Excellence for All", calls for the weak incremental improvement that Mr. McAdams scorns. Excellence for All sets a goal of increasing the number of third graders reading at grade level from 72% in 2006-2007 to 88% by 2013. That is a classic example of incremental increase. The five year goal is to have 80% of 4th graders working at grade level in math. Really? Are we really willing to accept 12% of our third graders below grade level in reading? Which ones? Point them out. Tell me the names of the kids who's lives we don't regard worth supporting. And 20% of the 4th graders are acceptable losses in math? Acceptable to whom? To them? To their families? To our city? To the Board and the superintendent? It is NOT acceptable to me.

Let me tell you folks. You can be suspicious of the Broad Foundation, but don't believe that what Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson is doing in Seattle reflects that institutions ideals. It does not. Don't believe that what the Seattle School Board is doing reflects that institution's ideal because it does not.

I'll tell you something more. There is a discussion of "Managed Instruction" in this book. It is described in familiar terms:

"all children in a district must be taught the same comprehensive and aligned curriculum and all teachers must know how to teach it. Building on content and performance standards, the district constructs a curriculum that covers every subject for every grade in elementary school and every course in middle and high school. The curriculum is coherent, aligned, an detailed down to individual lesson plans, teaching materials, and sample assessments (all of which are available to teachers but not necessarily required).

Professional development is centered on the curriculum and how to teach it, and it is required of all teachers.
"

You will be interested to learn that the author of this book rejects managed instruction. He writes: "Managed instruction does not create incentives for the adults in the system, does not stimulate innovation, does not build stakeholders, and does not create a performance culture. Rather, by challenging teacher autonomy, it provokes resistance. The phrase used by critics of managed instruction is, Teachers are deskilled: They become production workers instead of innovative professionals."

56 comments:

gavroche said...

No I’m not surprised at all Charlie. Nor am I impressed by this verbiage. All the so-called reformers are saying similar, on the surface, unassailable things – eradicate the achievement gap, make all schools strong, etc, etc. Yes, yes, we all want that. But it’s the solutions that are the crux of the matter. And that’s where things get sticky.

Some of us believe that the original idea of free public education for all is worth preserving. And by that we also mean free of political agendas or private, corporate, for-profit influences. And the first way to improve our schools is to FUND OUR SCHOOLS as mandated by the state. But we don’t. And we don’t fund them on the federal level either. We find funds for wars and prisons, but not our schools.

Many of us stakeholders in Seattle’s public schools believe that there are many elements in our system that work just fine and are worth preserving. In fact, why doesn’t the district leave those schools and elements alone and focus on the schools and elements that need attention, and help them? That is not what this superintendent and board have done with their “Capacity Management Plan.” Good schools have been evicted, split, merged, tinkered with. And what’s with the ‘musical principals’ disruptions? And why did the superintendent lay off nearly 200 teachers when we have a 1200 more applications than predicted? And why not keep freshly cooked meals in the school lunchrooms, and even expand them and bring in locally grown organic produce as well? Surely a solid, healthy meal for all kids would be a fundamental and immediate way to help bridge the achievement gap, since hungry kids can’t learn well, and all our kids could do with better nutrition.

Ah but there’s a fiscal crisis, says the District.
And yet, there is money for multiple “Broad Residents” and two Special ed administrators (to fill one position), and whoever else fills the bloated John Stanford Center admin offices.

One could extrapolate from these book excerpts that “incremental” change is bad, therefore we need something fast and extreme. Some kind of shock, perhaps? That arguably could open the door to all kinds of extreme solutions. Naomi Klein’s “shock doctrine” theory comes to mind -- in which the powers that be take advantage of (real or artificially imposed) crisis to achieve their ends. Hurricane Katrina which wiped out New Orleans’ schools for example, allowed charter-proponents to fire all teachers and implement privatized charter schools in that town. This method forces change on a community at a rapid pace in the name of “crisis management.” Checks, balances, oversight and community input are often bypassed by such a rushed schedule. (Sound familiar? Remember the Capacity Management/school closures timeline here in Seattle?)

One could also imagine this argument easily leading to a “solution” of, for example, having mayors take over school boards, appoint school board members and the superintendent – which just happens to be Eli Broad’s preferred set-up. He was extremely annoyed when L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa didn’t follow that plan but instead involved the – gasp – teachers’ unions. (see: http://articles.latimes.com/2006/jul/15/local/me-broad15 )

(continued on next post)

gavroche said...

(continued from previous post)


And if you were to identify the main theme in the below paragraph (emphasis mine), it would be that of running school districts like businesses. That is basically the Broad Foundation’s credo.

“Boards must accept no excuse for ineffective and inefficient business operations Finance and accounting, human resource management, purchasing and inventory management, facility maintenance, food service, transportation, and construction management in school districts are more like than unlike business functionsin other organizations. School districts can and should be world class in business operations. A few are approaching this standard in some areas and perform a well as many private-sector companies. Boards must believe that their districts can become high-performing organizations, insist that they do, and give their superintendent the power to make it so.”

Where are the kids in all this? The messy creativity and nurturing continuity that school communities should provide? And why should the superintendent have so much power? What about parental input?

Anyway, go ahead and read those texts however you want, Charlie. I’m more interested in reading what Scott Oki has to say about education, beginning with this excerpt from his book, Outrageous Learning:

PLANK SEVEN:
STANDARDIZED CURRICULUM…NOT

"Instead of a national curriculum for education, what is really needed is an individual curriculum for every child."
CHARLES HANDY
IRISH AUTHOR AND PHILOSOPHER

When it comes to education, one size does not fit all. Despite our highly-industrialized modern society, there is no way to automate learning. Even today, every child's education should be hand-crafted, with knowledge patiently passed from the teacher to the mind of the student.
We should not forget that the student is the customer. This will likely require a significant on-going investment to revise existing curricula and to create a wide variety of the absolutely best teaching methods for each subject that can serve as the antidote to any symptoms of torpor in the classroom. We should allow
principals and teachers to select the curriculum that best fits the needs of their particular students. We should spend the necessary funds to produce the best algebra course or the best western history course, as needed. These curricula should be both academically rigorous and high on the fun quotient. Most importantly, different curriculum approaches need to recognize that students learn differently; that pace of learning varies from child to child, and; that there is likely not just one way that will work for everyone.
Policymakers should take extreme care when considering whether the use of technology is appropriate for advancing a school's education mission. Today's technology is expensive to acquire, expensive to maintain and expensive to replace because of its rapid obsolescence. However, if a principal and his team decide that the investment in technology is justified, there are some exciting developments to consider.

gavroche said...

(correction from previous post)

One could also imagine this argument easily leading to a “solution” of, for example, having mayors take over school districts, appoint school board members and the superintendent – which just happens to be Eli Broad’s preferred set-up. He was extremely annoyed when L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa didn’t follow that plan but instead involved the – gasp – teachers’ unions when he proposed taking over the L.A. school district.

TechyMom said...

gavroche,
Do you think this statement is incorrect?

"Finance and accounting, human reource management, purchasing and inventory management, facility maintenance, food serive, transportation, and construction management in school districts are more like than ulike business functions in other organizations."

If so, why? What is different about accounting or inventory or facilities management in a public school district than in any other organization of a similar size? I can see that HR in union organizaiton would be different than in one without unions, but the rest... well, I would expect that someone who has done purchasing at a private company would have the experience necessary to do it at a public organization.

Do you think that's not the case? Can you explain why? (I'm not trying to be snarky, it just seems counter-intuitive to me).

Thanks

Sahila said...

I often wonder about that achievement gap thingy....

an achievement gap only exists if you accept the premise that all kids have the same talents, skills, potential, perspective, background factors, responses, styles of learning, growth and development (intellectual, physical, emotional, social etc) curves....

Now, anyone can see that is a totally ridiculous premise - nothing like it exists in real life - because PEOPLE arent WIDGETS being churned out by a factory mould, with all the ingredients and manufacturing processes standardised down to the nth degree, reducing the likelihood of aberrations and anomalies - so there is no such thing as an achievement gap...

Wonder what would happen to the Hispanic-white achievement gap if academics were taught in a manner culturally-appropriate to Latinos and Latinas....

Wonder what would happen to the Black-white achievement gap if academics were taught in a manner culturally-appropriate to African Americans....

Wonder what would happen to the indigenous-white achievement gap if academics were taught in a manner culturally-appropriate to indigenous/native peoples....

Wonder what would happen to the achievement gap if we did what Ott suggested, and formulated an individual education plan for each child...

All of this is perfectly rational, logical and DO-ABLE, but none of it is what Broad and other corporate groups advocate, because they see kids and how we educate them and what we teach them as a business, specifically a manufacturing, process...

Its not about growing and nurturing the next generation of the human race, its about churning out cogs to fit in the machine, and the cheapest, most effective way to do that...

Charlie - I worry that you dont appear to see this... and you with a child at Nova... and you running for a seat on the Board

Sahila said...

And then we have the whole grade level stuff...

I dont care if my son is reading, writing, mathing at grade level or not... grade level - what's that? - an arbitrary line that all kids of a certain age are supposed to be able to cross?

Again - a false premise, based on the illogical assumption that all kids are the same.... same skills, talents, backgrounds, resources, development curves etc... that they'll all achieve the same milestone at the same time, and if they dont there's something radically wrong with them...

I just want to know that my son is growing.... its easy to see if he's standing still in his development, or god forbid, going backwards.... but as long as he's moving forward (and you can see that without standardised tests too), I'm happy... he can take as long as he needs to get to whatever level is his ceiling...

People bitch that highly capable kids need to be given the room to grow at their own speed - two or three years above 'grade level' - but we dont let 'normal' kids grow at their own pace? I think that's irrational and hypocritical double standards...

That's the beauty of vertical curricula, which other countries have adopted.... kids grow, develop, learn at the pace that's appropriate for them...

If there's no growth, then find out why and fix that...

If there is growth, be thankful and happy and let it be...

Stuff this requirement to perform to an externally-imposed standard, that has nothing to do with nurturing to adulthood unique living growing beings...

wseadawg said...

Who is Donald R. McAdams?

Donald R. McAdams is the President of CRSS. From 1990 to 2002, McAdams served as a member of the Houston Independent School District Board of Education, a tenure that included two terms as board president. Among the changes he helped institute in the school district during that time were the implementation of school accountability, district decentralization, the establishment of charter schools, the outsourcing of most HISD business functions to private contractors, more flexible personnel management policies, an academic core curriculum for high school students, a new elementary school reading curriculum, promotion standards, and other improvements in education and management.

In 2002, U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige appointed McAdams to the National Advisory Council on Institutional Quality and Integrity, and in 2003 Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed him to a Select Committee charged with preparing legislative proposals for a new public school finance system for Texas. McAdams has served as a member of the National Commission on Governance, Education Commission of the States, the Educational Leadership Advisory Council of the Wallace-Readers Digest Funds, and as a consultant to the Annenberg Institute for School Reform.

Okay, so yet another proud education "REFORMER" from the Texas Miracle (not) advocating big "Reforms" instead of tweaks. BE BOLD SEATTLE! OUTSOURCE TO PRIVATE, FOR PROFIT CORPORATIONS!

"Leadership starts with core beliefs and commitments. Beliefs and commitments go together, for beliefs not tied to commitments are of little value. There is a big difference between "It can be done" and "It will be done"."

No offense, but anyone who played High School sports has heard this a million times.

I'll go with McAdams on accountability, but much of the rest seems to be filler and retreads of old ideas. IMHO of course.

Sahila said...

And, if you want to know how to implement a structure so that kids can learn at their own pace, here's an idea that totally uses the current physical and organisational format of schools...

(I'd rather suggest something far more radical, but buy-in would be much harder to achieve from the 'mainstream'...)

School is shaped around delivering mixed age subjects (not around classes/grades)...

Kids come into school each day to a home room, which has a mixed age composition (K-5 or K-8, or K-12) - like families and the community... say 30 kids per home room/family grouping... this is community time.... if we were sensible and returned to the small school model, we could have the entire school coming together to build community...

Kids move around the school rooms through a range of core subjects (classes) and electives.... the child's day is individualised around his/her interests... the child dictates whether or not they want to deal with the cores now, or later... as long as they cover them at sometime during the 12-year education experience...

each subject class is completely mixed age, size determined partly by child-adult chemistry and partly be popularity of the subject... teacher-child ratio no more than 1:15... where there are bigger classes, then you have more teachers in the room...

Teachers are trained/hired to teach their specialty subject to all levels K-12... what kind of a teacher is expert in his or her subject matter to only be able to teach parts of a subject to a narrowly defined age/understanding group?

Sahila said...

"Finance and accounting, human reource management, purchasing and inventory management, facility maintenance, food serive, transportation, and construction management in school districts are more like than ulike business functions in other organizations."


Techymom...the problem is, we are not running a business.... we are not here to turn out a profit at the least possible cost...

so how does accounting work when you are talking about the financing of resources needed to enable a child to grow into their full potential (which all of society benefits from?)?

How come some children (autistic children for example), get so much in resources (especially the families who are lucky enough to be able to supplement what's provided by schools) and accommodation and there's no bean counter there saying 'this much and no more"... sure, parents have to push hard, but they have legislation in place to back their demands that their children's needs be met.... we've even had a ruling in the past few weeks that the education system has to reimburse parents where they have to go private to get those needs met...

My point is that there is no bean counter standing there saying 'we will only spend this much to enable an autistic child to reach their potential'... but we do say that about 'normal' children... and we say that about children from disadvantaged backgrounds as well - this much and no more...

My point is that there is no point in running a school district as a business... its like comparing apples and oranges... illogical...

And its limited thinking too, trying to model education management on business practices... its a truism in education that the MORE you spend in 'product development' the greater your return later on, when the 'product' matures and becomes an active member in society... the LESS you spend, the more you lose in unfulfilled potential and the more you lose/more it costs in added 'ambulance at the bottom of the cliff' costs later - jails, health issues, societal and family dysfunction carried into the next generation etc...

Just look at the buildings we expect our kids to learn in - factory dumps most of them - too few windows, built near highways, falling down, the quality of outside spaces dependent on community input ... if you're part of a poor community, your kids are reminded of it everyday by their surroundings...

food - replace on-site catering and fresh, organic fruits and vegetables with delivery of prepared, processed, preservative-filled cardboard junk food, bring back vending machines that fill kids up with carcinogenic sugar substitutes, flavourings and colourings...

The ability to learn (the health of the brain and the capacity to pay attention) is dictated in some part by the quality and quantity of food ingested.... save money by centralising and downgrading the quality of food production and delivery, and you immediately adversely affect education outcomes...

Education is not a business - its a social obligation, social service and social necessity...

We would be serving ourselves best, as a society, if we invested in education at least as well as we do in the military.... and the returns - weighed/measured in positive outcomes - would far outstrip the good the military does in this world... and I speak as a woman who was a military wife for 20 years...

End of rant....

Chris said...

Charlie, I'm all for accountability too, but let's not forget the that the Texas Miracle increased the cheating creativity of those being held accountable. Accountability is meaningless without the prerequisite transparency. I know you understand this, I just want you to think it and preferably say it whenever you hear the a-word.

Chris said...

ps: I think perhaps the business world is used to being able to say accountability without being transparent. Hopefully now that is changing.

Charlie Mas said...

I understand everyone's points here, but let me try to make mine more clearly.

The District has been saying many of the right things, but they have been doing all of the wrong things.

They talk about their beliefs, but they haven't made the commitments.

They talk about accountability, but they won't implement it.

They talk about closing the achievement gap, but they don't have a plan for it or take any steps towards that goal.

My point is that the District isn't taking action that is consistent with their statements. I recognize that and that is my complaint.

My school board campaign and, if elected, my term of office, is devoted to living up to those stated ideals.

The central kitchen is NOT consistent with the idea of having excellent food service. Excellent food service would be appetizing nutritious meals that students choose to eat.

Likewise, there is no reason that Seattle Public Schools cannot operate their facilities maintenance, their human resources functions, their budgeting and finance, and their construction management as well as any other entity, public or private.

Standardized texts and lesson plans are NOT consistent with high quality education.

Real accountability is needed and it is the Board who has to bring it.

It's not about getting more money from the State - although that would help. It's about allocating our money more judiciously. And, as far as that goes, the money from the state or the federal government comes with politics and an agenda. And private money is just as green and spends just as well at public money. I'm not such a snob that I will turn away money that can be used to improve student learning. Of course the District should refuse any funding that requires actions that are inconsistent with the District's mission and guiding principles, but I don't understand complaining about the lack of funding while saying no to money.

It means identifying the students working below grade level - all of them from kindergarten to high school - and getting them the support and acceleration they need to get to grade level. Every one of them. Intervention needs to be early and it needs to be effective.

Seattle Public Schools has not made an effective response to struggling students. The District has responded by deploying coaches and providing additional professional development for the teachers. That's so misguided it boggles my mind. The District doesn't even identify struggling students, they only identify struggling schools.

It is not the schools that are struggling, it is the students. The additional education should not go to the teachers, the additional education should go to the students. Not all of the students, just the ones that are falling behind. And when the system isn't working for a student, stricter implementation of the system is not an intelligent response. Rather, we should consider the application of a different system.

The District is in urgent need of radical reform. The change needs to come in the culture of the District staff and the expectations stuck in people's heads. The culture of internal politics has to go. It needs to be replaced with a culture of rationality in which decisions really are based on data and logic instead of clout.

Another reader said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LA Teacher's Warehouse said...

Charlie,

I agree with most of what you've said in your comment above.

I would add that SPS schools will not help students to improve academically without the initiative of individual teachers and the leadership of capable principals. If the effect of centralizing control in SPS is that individual teachers and principals are discouraged from taking initiative, then the result will be that academic achievement and graduation rates will not improve. In my opinion, two important lessons from the California Dropout studies are (1) the correlation of high academic expectations for everyone and high graduation rates and (2) the need for initiative at the building level that involves all teachers.

adhoc said...

"Wonder what would happen to the Black-white achievement gap if academics were taught in a manner culturally-appropriate to African Americans...."

Sahila, can you give me an idea of what your vision is for academics being taught in a culturally appropriate manner for African-Americans? I hear what you are saying, but am having trouble visualizing how it could be implemented. Would African Americans have to be segregated to gain access to their "culturally appropriate" classroom experience?

We are a bi-racial (black/white) family and I'm not able to think of a way to attain that setting in a meaningful or appropriate way.

I believe the district tried this with the African American Academy, which was an all city draw school that offered a strong African American studies focus and culture. It did not close the achievement gap for the students that attended the Academy, in fact, it was one of the lowest performing schools in the district, and thus widened the achievement gap.

I'm not being argumentative. I am intrigued at the idea of offering culturally appropriate settings, and am curious to learn how you think that it could be achieved, and more specifically, how it would reduce or eliminate the achievement gap?

SpedWatch said...

Shaila, what law are you talking about that SPS provides unlimited services to "autistic students"? The courts have found over and over and over again, that students with disabilities are entitled to "a floor of opportunity" and NO MORE. (Google the Rowley case if you doubt it). Arguably, SPS does NOT even provide that floor in many cases, by its own admission. "A floor of opportunity" is not some sort of especially high bar. So, perhaps you're aware of some new law that none of the rest of us know about. Please share it. The district has a whole cadre of bean counters devoted to nothing but restriction of services to kids with disabilities... contrary to your claim. They will be directed by 3, not 2, directors (we're keeping the old director on... in addition to the 2 new ones). Autism programs (since you decided to complain about those) are a set teaching ratio and format.... that have little to do with the actual needs of individuals assigned to them. Autism programs (like all the others) are strictly limited to the district's standards, despite any needs diffential (a point noted in the audit). The limitation in the programs is clear "cost saving" measure, plain and simple. If students need more, they either get kicked out or relocated (over and over again)... or they do without. These sorts of defined systems, services, and teaching ratio's are similar to the limitations found in every classroom.. and in fact are delineated in the union contracts. So what ARE you complaining about?

If we did pass a law or had a policy that "maximized potential" for ALL students, students with disabilities would likely be the biggest benificiaries. They are the ones whose potential is the most untapped by a culture and standard of low expectations. The broad based "culture of low expections" in SPS, was another finding in the district's own audit. If there were a law or policy maximizing potential, students with disabilities could then claim something more than a "floor of opportunity" and point to that as a matter of equity... and that would be huge.

As to standardization... we NEED some standardization if we want standards and quality. On the one hand we complain about various school performance problems and various achievement gaps. On the other hand, we complain when anybody tries to fix it. My neighbor's kid went to AS1, and spent many days sitting on the floor watching videos, chairs and desks weren't cool evidently. As a result half the kids required disability services. The district is obligated to investigate "teaching strategies" like that for efficacy and shut it down if doesn't work. So what if your only goal is that your kid get larger each year? Schools do not have to have such limited goals, and in fact, we can not afford such limited goals.

wseadawg said...

Chris says a mouthful! Lies, damn lies and statistics are what reformers spout all day long, while coming up with creative ways to cherry pick data so it looks like their plans are working. In truth, very little improvement has been made to date in places like Chicago, New York and D.C., yet the reformers charge forward claiming victory at every opportunity.

I think we'd all do better to specify what we mean by "reform" and "standardization" to put and keep things in context, by the way. How those terms are defined matters a lot.

beansa said...

Wouldn't a problem like the one you described at AS1 above (kids sitting on the floor watching videos to the point of needing disability services), wouldn't that be better addressed at the level of that particular teacher or the principal of that school? Instead of creating scripted lessons for the entire district, or forcing every school to use the same materials, books, etc.?

My daughter goes to AS1 and contrary to your neighbor's experience, she has learned a lot this past year. She started the year significantly behind, and is now caught up. She fell behind while attending a traditional school.

So do we really need district-wide standardization - or do we just need better principal oversight of what teachers are doing? The state standards are already in place, we know the GLEs, we just have to teach them. How they're taught should be up to the teachers to decide.

dj said...

Charlie, I agree with most but not all of what you said. One thing I know I've seen data to suggest is that low expectations affect not just low-performing students, but students who are performing adequately who could be performing much better. I know when I was shopping around for elementary schools for my daughter, I had one principal tell me that my daughter would be "fine" even if her elementary school was lousy because her parents were middle-class and college-educated; she didn't need to get anything out of elementary school.

This raised for me the question, why bother sending your kid to school if the school tells you point blank it has no aspiration to develop your child's potential? As long as she performs at grade level on the WASL, right?

I agree that raising the achievement for low-achievers is important, perhaps the most important goal we should have. But I'd hate to see an "achievement gap" closed by leaving kids who could be excelling just scraping by.

SpedWatch said...

If the only standard is "I'd like to see that my son is moving forward"... Sure, we could certainly accomplish that by watching Scooby Doo and Sponge Bob all day. Those tv programs do actually teach something. The problem is, it's not enough, and it's not efficient. It doesn't meet our standards for education. And no, you can't solve that problem at the level of the teacher or principal. There's no point of leverage there. That's the point of standardized curriculum, testing, and measurement. You could argue over which of those are most beneficial, most demonstrative of progress, and how much deviation should be allowed. But there still has to be evidence of sufficient benefit to warrant public expense.

Sahila said...

I'm out and about right now and dont have time to answer all of the content/questions that are active ... but one thing (sychronistically) I am reading currently is totally relevant...

There's a whole chapter in Freakonomics about the US Department of Education's monumental late 1990s project - the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.

According to Levitt who analysed the data for correlations:
1. The more highly educated the parents, the higher the kid’s standardized test scores.
2. The more wealthy the parents, the highest the kid scores.
3. The child of a woman who was 30 or older when the child was born tends to have higher scores.
4. Children with low birth weight tend to have lower scores.
5. Children score higher if their families speak English at home.
6. An adopted child tends to score lower.
7. PTA parents see their kids score higher.
8. High scoring kids tend to have lots of books at home.
9. An intact family with two parents has no impact on test scores.
10. A stay at home mom from birth to kindergarten has no impact on scores.
11. Attending Head Start has no impact on scores.
12. Frequent museum trips have no impact on scores.
13. Watching lots of television has no impact on scores.
14. Spanking or not spanking has no impact on scores.
15. Reading to a child every day has no impact on scores.

Its fascinating....

Chris said...

Adhoc:
"I believe the district tried this with the African American Academy, which was an all city draw school that offered a strong African American studies focus and culture. It did not close the achievement gap for the students that attended the Academy, in fact, it was one of the lowest performing schools in the district, and thus widened the achievement gap."

I know very little; I agree AAA seemed designed to test cultural relevance idea. Your mistake, a very common one, is looking at WASL scores in a vacuum. One must always, always adjust for demographics. AAA has one of the highest FRL and is way out by itself on % black. I did a quick plot of 07-08 5th grade WASL scores for S, SE, SW elementaries. AAA is above the trendling for reading, below for math. So while you can be unimpressed with the improvement, it's really inaccurate to say it was a huge failure and "widened the achievement gap."

ps: there was a lovely plot sitting around at the last board meeting -trendlines for 5 yrs averages for white, black, FRL populations at lots of schools. Dan was that you?

adhoc said...

Well, yes, Chris, the AAA did serve a high percent of FRL students and one would expect the lower WASL scores that generally (but not always) accompany that demographic. But would one expect the WASL scores to decrease over a 3 year period (2006/07/08)? Because that is exactly what they did in reading and science. Math was the only area tested that increased and it went from an 8% pass rate (yes, I said 8% pass rate) to a whopping 13%.

But even more significant than standardized test scores, is the schools popularity amongst parents. The percent of families that named the AAA as their first choice school decreased significantly over the past 4 years.

2004 - 30 Kindergarten and 6 sixth grade families named AAA as their first choice school.

2005 - 16 K and 9 sixth families chose the school.

2006 - 8 K and 6 sixth grade families chose the school.

2007 - 6 K and 2 sixth grade families chose the school.

So to sum it up in 2007 only 8 families in the entire K-8 AAA chose the school as their first choice. That would be a "huge failure" in my book.

And, BTW there are other schools that have similar demographics that are doing well...check out Maple elementary for instance.

Dora Taylor said...

It's interesting that the point should be brought up about incremental development. I came across this article about the school system in Oakland and how they are taking back their schools after six years of control by the Broad.

http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=9d63e10ab93741e115e9364fecf29b77

Also, before you continue to wax poetic about the Broad philosophy, please read this wonderful response to what Arne Duncan is trying to do, another Broad graduate, written by one of his purported mentors.

Because of its' length, I will post it separately.

Dora Taylor said...

From Herbert Kohl

Dear Arne Duncan,

In a recent interview with NEA Today you said of my book *36 Children,* "I read [it] in high school … [and] … wrote about his book in one of my college essays, and I talked about the tremendous hope that I feel [and] the challenges that teachers in tough communities face. The book had a big impact on me."

When I wrote *36 Children* in 1965 it was commonly believed that African American students, with a few exceptions, simply could not function on a high academic level. The book was motivated by my desire to provide a counter-example, one I had created in my classroom, to this cynical and racist view, and to let the students' creativity and intelligence speak for itself. It was also intended to show how important it was to provide interesting and complex curriculum that integrated the arts and sciences, and utilized the students' own culture and experiences to inspire learning. I discovered then, in my early teaching career, that learning is best driven by ideas, challenges, experiences, and activities that engage students. My experience over the past 45 years has confirmed this.

We have come far from that time in the '60s. Now the mantra is high expectations and high standards. Yet, with all that zeal to produce measurable learning outcomes we have lost sight of the essential motivations to learn that moved my students. Recently I asked a number of elementary school students what they were learning about and the reactions were consistently, "We are learning how to do good on the tests." They did not say they were learning to read.

It is hard for me to understand how educators can claim that they are creating high standards when the substance and content o f learning is reduced to the mechanical task of getting a correct answer on a manufactured test. In the panic over teaching students to perform well on reading tests, educators seem to have lost sight of the fact that reading is a tool, an instrument that is used for pleasure and for the acquisition of knowledge and information about the way the world works. The mastery of complex reading skills develops as students grapple with ideas, learn to understand plot and character, and develop and articulate opinions on literature. They also develop through learning history, science, and technology.

Reading is not a series of isolated skills acquired in a sanitized rote-learning environment utilizing "teacher-proof" materials. It develops through interaction with a knowledgeable, active teacher—through dialogue, and critical analysis. It also develops through imaginative writing and research.

It is no wonder that the struggle to coerce all students into mastering high-stakes testing is hardest at the upper grades. The impoverishment of learning taking place in the early grades naturally leads to boredom and alienation from school-based learning. This disengagement is often stigmatized as "attention deficit disorder." The very capacities that No Child Left Behind is trying to achieve are undermined by the way in which the law is implemented.

Dora Taylor said...

(Open Letter continued)

This impoverishment of learning is reinforced by cutting programs in the arts. The free play of the imagination, which is so crucial for problem-solving and even for entrepreneurship, is discouraged in a basics curriculum lacking in substantial artistic and human content.

Add to this the elimination of physical education in order to clear more time to torture students with mechanical drilling and shallow questioning and it is no wonder that many American students are lethargic when it comes to ideas and actions. I'm sure that NCLB has, in many cases, a direct hand in the development of childhood obesity.

It is possible to maintain high standards for all children, to help students learn how to speak thoughtfully, think through problems, and create imaginative representations of the world as it is and as it could be, without forcing them through a regime of high-stakes testing. Attention has to be paid to the richness of the curriculum itself and time has to be allocated to thoughtful exploration and experimentation. It is easy to ignore content when the sole focus is on test scores.

Your administration has the opportunity, when NCLB comes up for reauthorization, to set the tone, aspirations, and philosophical and moral grounds for reform that develops the intelligence, creativity, and social and personal sensitivity of students. I still hold to the hope you mentioned you took away from *36 Children* but I sometimes despair about how we are wasting the current opportunity to create truly effective schools where students welcome the wonderful learning that we as adults should feel privileged to provide them.

I would welcome any opportunity to discuss these and other educational issues with you.

Sincerely, Herbert Kohl
— Herb Kohl
*Open Letter*
2009-06-16

Dora Taylor said...

One thing that I have noticed is the way that we as citizens don't want to pay for public education and then when students are graduated from high school and even colleges without knowing the basics of English we wring our hands and say that the system is failing.

You could watch the progression, or regression, of that happening in California. Back in the day, the public school system was exceptional. I am aware of this fact because I grew up in that system. Then there was Prop 13 which over time decreased funding to public schools. On top of that, time and time again, the voters of Los Angeles would not vote for bonds to pay for pubic schools.

There has been over time a significant decrease in spending on public schools in California and we now see the consequences of that.

In the state of Washington there has never been enough money to support public schools. I'm still amazed by the fact that there is no income tax here. I don't like taxes taking out of my paycheck either but if it meant better schools and other public services, I wouldn't mind it. I have heard others say that also. The buildings that our children are in the greater part of the school day are unsafe and there is a maintenance backlog of hundreds of millions of dollars for all of our schools except for the newest buildings.

We can have our philosophies and ideals but one of the basic problems is that there is not enough money for teachers, support staff, new books, and safe buildings.

I am not of the belief that if there is a problem that you should just throw money at it. The problem here is that there is no money.

That makes us vulnerable to outside entities such as the Broad coming in to save the day.

All of our schools are not failing, eg: alternative schools and special programs such as APP and SBOC. We could definitely learn from those models particularly because most of those programs are on such tight budgets. But we also need more money in the system and one of the ways I see getting that is through establishing an income tax.

The levy system that we have in place is dependent on the whim of the voters and it's apparent that those levies are not enough to pay for all that is needed now.

The income tax idea is a long term solution. I have learned that if you don't have the money then you just have to put in the time.

It will take more than a philosophy to turn our school system around at this time. Right now we need all hands on deck, parents and concerned community members, providing their time and energy to do what they can, when they can, to support our schools.

Josh Hayes said...

Dora, I see your point -- or, more accurately, points.

Many people hold a fundamental belief that there's a disconnect between taxes and services; they just don't believe, somehow, that they should pay for services. "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree." It's a ridiculously ineffective way to think, but a lot of people do it.

And to be fair, when we look at how SPS allocates funds, there's a certain amount of truth to it: we're paying taxes and they're doing WHAT with them?

FWIW, I agree about the appropriateness of an income tax. The state taxes in WA are absurd, and are guaranteed to provide a wildly fluctuating tax income. But there's no movement to change that in any way except downward (Hi, Tim Eyman! You plonker!).

wseadawg said...

I would add to Dora's comment that lots of conventional High Schools, Middle Schools and elementary schools in SPS are doing extremely well and are far from crisis as well.

Charlie has reiterated how the district talks and talks about helping struggling students, but never does. As Board members hand-wring over the achievement gap, the kids functioning below grade level remain there, or fall further behind. And we close schools like Cooper that were doing a great job with a challenging demographic.

In neighborhoods where home ownership percentages are high and property values are above the median, most public schools are doing fine. In transitional and high-rental percentage neighborhoods, with few exceptions, schools struggle.

Yet the district (and the nation for that matter) blame it all on teachers while holding their hands out for corporate sponsorships for data systems that have extremely tenuous relationships with individual student achievement.

We may or may not need more money. First, I'd like to see the district stop wasting so much on unnecessary staff, huge-irrelevant computer projects, useless curricula that can't be taught without expensive "coaches" (if at all), and huge cost overruns on building projects.

As a parent, I want all the resources my kids teachers need to do their job. As a taxpayer, I feel they'd have alot more, right now, if SPS quit piddling away so much on pet projects like their Amazon.com like "data systems" that "profile" our kids.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

It had occurred to me that the reason the Broad Foundation has deemed us vulnerable is the lack of income tax. The following numbers don't really say anything about that idea, but nonetheless they are interesting. At least WA has an excuse...

Bottom 10 in state expenditure per student (05-06 census, I think):
41 AL
42 WA
43 CA
44 OK
45 FL
46 TN
47 MS
48 ID
49 NV
50 AZ

States with no income tax:
Alaska
Florida
Nevada
South Dakota
Texas
Washington
Wyoming

States with limited income tax:
New Hampshire
Tennessee

dan dempsey said...

wseadawg said:

As a parent, I want all the resources my kids teachers need to do their job. As a taxpayer, I feel they'd have a lot more, right now, if SPS quit piddling away so much on pet projects like their Amazon.com like "data systems" that "profile" our kids.


Amen!!! But do not be narrow, broaden those accusations of piddling away.
In many industries Central over head runs at 2.5% and the smallest companies have slightly larger percentages.

Consider OSPI reported per student expenditures with an eye on central administration expenditure as well as teaching:

STATE school average 2006-2007
Total Expenditures $8692
Central Administration 7%

Building Administration 6%
Teaching 69%

SEATTLE
Total Expenditures $10515
Central Administration 9%

Building Administration 6%
Teaching 66%

OLYMPIA
Total Expenditures $8333
Central Administration 6%

Building Administration 6%
Teaching 71%

NORTH THURSTON
Total Expenditures $8306
Central Administration 7%

Building Administration 6%
Teaching 70%
----------------

We are already captives of vendor-based standards, (WASL costs etc) I trust we will not be far off if we refer to the coming National Common Core Standards as the No Vendor Left Behind Law, for they will be products from the oligarchy not of democratic decision-making. The developers of these standards were not elected and not chosen by elected officials.
-------------------
Whatever happened to the apparently discarded Curriculum Audit, which was very critical of the SPS? Now that the recent annual evaluation found Curriculum and Learning at a very low 2.0, perhaps the $125,000 curriculum audit needs to be revisited.

Sahila said...

Teaching children in a culturally appropriate way...

Dont ask children to sit still at desks in rooms for 40 or 90 or however many minutes... children (and adults) are not designed to sit still in one place and learn by rote...

Children, especially those from many cultures other than WASP, learn by hearing stories, by doing, by inventing, by actively problem solving, by learning by experiencing, by apprenticing to masters of areas of knowledge, by having knowledge passed down in multi-generational communities, by being part of multi-age groups of children with the older ones teaching the younger ones, are used to natural, open environments instead of an enclosed factory-style building...

Show the relevance of what's being taught to the mother-cultures of the children its being taught to... show how it relates, reference it back so that it makes sense in the context of the children's backgrounds...

That means having to give up the idea of the supremacy of western civilisation and scholarship... it means honouring other cultures who acquired equally valuable knowledge in other ways... that means allowing children to keep and celebrate and actively live their differences in all areas of their lives - public (school) and not just private - instead of insisting on assimilation...

I dont see any of that in the public education system....

adhoc said...

New Hampshire, with it's limited income tax has some of the lowest class sizes in the nation. Most of their schools have an average of 10-12 students per class. I guess they have to compete with Exeter......

TechyMom said...

Sahila,
I agree to a certain extent, but I think that you need to balance the need of kids to learn in different ways with the reality that a great many careers require the ability to learn by reading books. Kids need to build the skills required to consume long texts. While I think that 16 year olds should be able to decide on non-academic tracks in school, I do not think that its ok to make that choice for 7 or 8 year olds. Kids need to learn how to learn from text, how to read quickly, how to sit still for long enough to read long texts, how to skim, etc. These are skills that take a long time to master, and must be started early if a student wants to have any chance of getting through, for example, medical or law school. No, not everyone needs to be a brain surgeon or a lawyer, but everyone should have the basic skills that allow them to make the choice. It's the same as the math discussions... Kids who can't do fractions in their heads will struggle with Calculus and fail to become engineers, and kids who can't sit still to read 200 pages in a few hours, and absorb the content, will struggle with most college classes.

Sahila said...

Techymom... Your point of view is valid if you accept the premise that we need more of what we have in this world.... at the risk of vilification, I dont accept that...

I think this world is entirely off track/out of balance and our education system perpetuates that... more of the same in our schools will only help us careen straight into a catastrophic dead-end...

I dont know how anyone can argue anything else when you look at the reality of how life is for the 5.75 billion other souls on the planet who dont enjoy the quality of life most of us here in the west do... when you look at the environment...

and we cant pull the rest of the world up to our level of excess - I read a stat somewhere the other day that we would need the resources of multiple additional earths to do that.... wish I could remember where I read that - I'd include the link...

But that's OK - we lucky few can all fiddle while Rome burns, right?

TechyMom said...

So, let me get this straight...

Teaching children how to learn things by reading books will cause the rest of the world to consume at American levels? I don't buy it, sorry. Text in books is a very effective, low cost, low-tech, sustainable, reusable and proven way of transferring and preserving knowledge. We do our world a disservice by letting the skill of reading follow the skills of growing and preserving your own food into the mists of history. I intend to teach my child both, but it sure would be easier if the schools would help a little more.

hschinske said...

"New Hampshire, with it's limited income tax has some of the lowest class sizes in the nation. Most of their schools have an average of 10-12 students per class. I guess they have to compete with Exeter......"

The actual class sizes aren't anything like that low. http://www.education.com/schoolfinder/us/new-hampshire/ says the student-teacher ratio in NH is 13:1 (that includes tons of staff who aren't classroom teachers). http://www.education.com/schoolfinder/us/washington/ says 18:1.

Exeter's student-teacher ratio is 8:1, by the way.

Helen Schinske

dan dempsey said...

A Plan to Increase Achievement: Explicit Instruction Not National Standards.

If you've been suspicious of "discovery" or "inquiry" learning that can be found throughout our schools, your suspicions are well founded.

Good teachers plan classroom instructional design not just on past experiences but also on relevant data. One of the best places to look for empirical evidence likely to increase achievement is the book "Visible Learning", a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement that collectively looked at 83 million students. It reports the following effect sizes:

Problem based teaching = 0.15
Inquiry based teaching = 0.31
Direct Instruction = 0.59

An effect size of 0.30 or lower is ineffective. Thus discovery teaching is ineffective and direct instruction is far superior. The following should be a non-issue: "Discovery/Inquiry" vs. Example Based "Explicit/Direct Instruction"

Studies, occasionally underwritten by publishers and other special interest vendors, in “the publish or perish” academic world often conflict with one another generating confusion and rendering the phrase “research shows” meaningless. Fortunately, some peer reviewed empirically validated studies show direct instruction can be the source of increased achievement. Kirschner-Sweller-Clark’s (2006) “Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching” is excellent.

A special issue on “Evolution and Education” of the Educational Psychologist journal, October 2008 contained the target article: "An Evolutionarily Informed Education Science" by David C. Geary. It also contained an accompanying piece “Instructional Implications of David C. Geary’s Evolutionary Educational Psychology” by John Sweller. These contain explanations for how constructivist discovery/inquiry learning began and why based on brain architecture it remains an ineffective mode of instruction.

While few classroom teachers of mathematics may reference the above studies, almost all experienced classroom math teachers, interested in increasing the measurable academic achievement of their students, are well aware of the inadequacies of inquiry learning that these studies validate. While some guided discovery activities may be beneficial, unguided discovery fails as an effective instructional mode. Research mathematicians and highly trained knowledgeable scientists use inquiry to make discoveries and expand the knowledge base but students are novices not experts.

(continued)

dan dempsey said...

..... (continued)

Those running our schools operate as an oligarchy and often tend to mandate that teachers do the opposite of what empirical evidence indicates. After a decade of failure in mathematics, many choose to stay the course with costly to implement and maintain “Reform Math” and have no interest in correcting their errors. For them ideology and profits trump evidence. In Washington State, our former Superintendent of Public Instruction produced mathematical chaos throughout the state by pushing her inquiry-based reform math agenda during 12 years in office. Nationally the story has been much the same via National Science Foundation (NSF) grants, which funded the development, promotion, establishment, and use of “Reform Math”. The universities love this money for it increases department budgets and prestige. It should be noted that much of what math teachers and the public have suffered through and been oppressed by came from a few hundred million dollars in NSF funding. It is now time to move from the suspicion that “Reform Math” might not be a good idea to political activism to stop it.

Currently members from a select group of ideologues are involved in directing the development of National Common Core Standards. These unelected developers were not even appointed by elected officials. Most are unqualified or marginally qualified to be involved. Many were the authors of past chaos. Phil Daro immediately comes to mind or anyone from the Charles A. Dana Center. The Dana Center became the hired ($770,000+) agents of our state’s former superintendent and worked to continue the “Reform Math” chaos in our state. NAEP math (the nation’s report card) from 2003 to 2007 reported Achievement Gap changes among the worst in the nation for Washington’s Black students in 4th grade as well as 8th grade and produced the same miserable results for Hispanic students.

To obtain academic improvement, we must improve classroom environments not by administrative fiat but by supporting teachers, parents, and students. We must be developing, improving and maintaining learning communities by assisting teachers to meet the needs of each student and increase student core knowledge.

The acknowledgement that students are individuals having differences in interests, genetic abilities, environmental skills, and intellectual capabilities would be an excellent antidote to the insanity of broad general government mandates about what all students will do.


Since we are already captives of vendor-based standards, I trust we will not be far off if we refer to the Common Core Standards as the No Vendor Left Behind Law. These vendor-friendly standards will be products from the oligarchy not of democratic decision-making. It is time to focus on providing each child with the education they need to lead successful lives and careers. Another artificially raised and expensively monitored bar is not the answer just ask any parent, child or teacher. It is time to end the trend toward centralized dictatorship with a million-mom march in support of democratic reforms for greater local autonomy in the classroom and school.

dan dempsey said...

And how are we to attract anyone into the teaching profession? Let's see....

* low pay
* long hours
* discipline challenges
* and now - no reward for creativity or individualism in any form.

Until robots are available that can fulfill the teaching function, we can look forward to less and less competent people taking these jobs, because they will truly be the jobs of last resort.

dan dempsey said...

In regard to AAA it was said:
"I believe the district tried this with the African American Academy, which was an all city draw school that offered a strong African American studies focus and culture. It did not close the achievement gap for the students that attended the Academy, in fact, it was one of the lowest performing schools in the district, and thus widened the achievement gap."

What the district ignored doing was: using instructional materials and practices known to increase achievement in educationally disadvantaged learners.

What they did do was:
the exact opposite of what empirical studies indicate will produce increased achievement.

Sure enough achievement did not increase ...... is anyone surprised?

Sahila said...

techymom - what I meant to say is that the whole premise of our society is built on irrational assumptions, and assuming that we need to teach our kids to read large tomes of text to make them ready for a successful life is also false...

I didnt say dont teach them to read and that reading is not a very valuable mechanism for knowledge transfer... what I said - or meant to say - is that we teach our children that they have to move into certain occupations that require that ability or their lives will be miserable... and those occupations are contributing to the destruction of the world and any semblance of diversity/humaneness...

how many doctors, engineers, lawyers, accountants, IT specialists does the (western) world need (with the accompanying consumerism), when 95% of the world's population is starving to death, dying from water-borne diseases, doesnt have water, healthcare etc.... or when our own citizens dont have healthcare... and whats the point in the drive towards further technological advances in the west, when those advances dont help the 3rd world?

Our perspective and priorities are totally skewed... and our schools are perpetuating that.... home and school is where our kids learn to buy into this warped view of life and where they fit into it...

dj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dj said...

Whoops, decided I might want to google the actual figures rather than posting based on what I remembered from living there.

New Hampshire has among the highest property taxes in the country -- 5th by property value, 2d by income. So while their income taxes are limited, their property taxes are sky high.

LA Teacher's Warehouse said...

Speaking of the achievement gap, I came across a recent report on how black and white students are performing by state. The report comes from the Institute of Educational Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics. It uses NAEP data.

It shows that in Washington State, the achievement gap grew worse in 2007 in all four categories analyzed: 4th and 8th grade math, and 4th and 8th grade reading. Huh.

How did this happen? In all four categories, scores for white students went up, and scores for black students went down.

You can find the report here. Check out how we did compared to other states.

Hat tip to The Quick and the Ed.

Sahila said...

http://www.solonline.org/FifthDiscipline/introduction/

I cant copy and paste any of the writing from this introduction to Peter Senge's Fifth Discipline, but this thinking is the difference between Broad and the SPS District's meddling in education and the core of what real education is about....

There is such an eloquent and plainly true description of what education is today and how we are raising our children...

Please go and read it....

and then come back and tell me that what's going on in SPS (and the education system generally) is OK....

Sahila said...

And as an antidote to the Ruth Parks book on education and poverty... have a look at the New York Times reports on: How Race is Lived in America; Children of the Shadows; and Class Matters....

Broad and SPS and the education system ignore these factors that contribute so greatly to the mis-education of ALL of our children...

Excellence for All? Not until these basic, root inequities are addressed.... and if society generally is not ready to go there, arent our schools the first/frontline public institutions able to make a difference?

owlhouse said...

"What is our national standard (whatever nation you are in) for getting a child to smile? For getting a child to publicly ask a question? For getting a child to confidently present an idea?..."

Ira David Socol's questions make me wince, as I know that in its data driven quest towards standardization and uniformity, SPS won't, can't answer them. In what other aspect of life do we expect individuals to undergo a 13 year process, and be at the same stage as their age peers all along the way? Socal's article could fit in any of a number of threads but seems especially well suited here, were we're comparing the progressive common sense lingo of "reform" with the reality of policy, action and outcome in our schools.

"There are so many things we hope children get from their education, but when we discuss "data driven decision making," or "accountability," or "standards," or "merit pay" for teachers we become complete reductionists, assessing (very badly) a tiny fragment of all that expected learning - and most often - not even anything which is really important. And in doing this we tell children they are worthless, and we assure that success in school is a matter of socio-economics and playing the "those-in-power" game, and nothing else."

http://education.change.org/blog/view/evaluate_that_-_schools_for_children

dan dempsey said...

...."There are so many things we hope children get from their education, but when we discuss "data driven decision making," or "accountability," or "standards," or "merit pay" for teachers we become complete reductionists,
The sad part is that most of the above seem more like efforts to manipulate the game than efforts to improve learning and the lives of students.

Our hopes are hardly served by the current structure of governance in Seattle.

"Many of us stakeholders in Seattle’s public schools believe that there are many elements in our system that work just fine and are worth preserving. In fact, why doesn’t the district leave those schools and elements alone and focus on the schools and elements that need attention, and help them?"

"All the talk about accountability in public education produces little if any improvement. It is time to end the trend toward centralized authority in education at both the state and national level. Sham accountability must end. No Child Left Behind sanctions were often counterproductive. A school with its own board of trustees and a principal having greater control over both budget and instructional decisions would be a significant improvement. Then the principal as leader could be easily supported and held responsible by both the trustees and school community. This structure would greatly reduce central administration inefficiency as well as fad- and vendor-based decisions. Such schools are necessary if we are to make the substantial improvements needed in public education. Learning improvement occurs locally. Believing otherwise is folly."

dan dempsey said...

Our k-12 education system with Federal and State Education Bureaucracy included is an astonishingly expensive and equally astonishingly ineffective system. It serves children and families poorly and centralized bureaucrats well, while the Public Taxpayer foots the bill. This system does not serve student interests nearly as well as it serves particular adult’s interests.

If Seattle Central Admin ran at 3% then
$10,515 x .03 = $316
Saving $968 - $316 =$652 per student
45,000 x $652 = $29.3 million less spending annually for central admin than under the current system.

Of course this restructured system would not require a $264,000 plus benefits and percs superintendent. For the real decisions that increase student learning will be made at the school level, where the principal will have much greater control and responsibility over budget and instructional materials than currently.

Accountability will be greatly improved as school trustees support their principal but also require accountability.

dan dempsey said...

In many industries (Construction for example) Central overhead runs at 2.5% and the smallest companies have slightly larger percentages. Consider OSPI reported per student expenditures with an eye on central administration expenditure as well as teaching:

STATE school average 2006-2007 per student
Total Expenditures $8692
Central Administration 7% = $599
Building Administration 6% = $520
Teaching 69% = $6008

SEATTLE
Total Expenditures $10515
Central Administration 9% = $968
Building Administration 6% = $656
Teaching 66% = $6916

OLYMPIA
Total Expenditures $8333
Central Administration 6% = $483 (half of Seattle by dollar amount)
Building Administration 6% = $519
Teaching 71% = $5876

dan dempsey said...

No Achievement Gap
Urban boards must have a third core belief and commitment: The academic achievement gaps between White and Asian children as compared with African-American and Hispanic children can and will be eliminated.


This assumes that every family has the same resources and motivation to follow the dominant ideas of the dominant group.

Do these folks also plan for elimination of the math gap between US students and high scoring children in Singapore?

There are differences between
#1 ... hoping
#2 ... planning
#3 ... executing

Where do core belief and commitment fit with the above?

It seems that we are big on reports from commissions on the achievement gaps but clueless on:
#2 ... planning
#3 ... executing

Sahila said...

I am working a lot with the ideas of Peter Senge and others, including Brian Swinne, Rupert Sheldrake and Robert Fritz.

And a lot of my thinking about consciousness and learning has been informed by my understanding and use of INTUITION married with LOGIC... by ideas about the collective unconscious and the morphogenetic field, about cellular memory and the knowledge-carrying/transmission ability of DNA - which is where my thinking about education in culturally-appropriate ways comes from, by my experiences on my shamanic journey - about being in a certain state where KNOWLEDGE and UNDERSTANDING just presents itself effortlessly and is simultaneously KNOWN/UNDERSTOOD and FELT, which is about creating a space where things vibrate at the same frequency. If you can alter the frequency at which your brain waves cycle, you can 'pick up/receive' information from other things vibrating at that frequency - just like a radio transceiver. Which is what shamans and mediums and clairvoyants and 'shapeshifters' do, which is what the Russians and Americans have been experimenting with for a long time in the field of 'remote viewing'. Its a state children often access - indeed exist in almost full-time - effortlessly. This is not all whacko stuff - I have a Finnish acquaintance - mathematician Matti Pitkanen - Topological Geometrodynamics - working on an equation for consciousness...

Connor (coming up for 6 on 30th July), yesterday, piped up from his carseat .... "Mum, 2 times 3 plus 1 equals 7, doesnt it?"

We have not done any multiplication games... we have done addition and begun subtraction and play 'what if' all the time, and he's realised in the simple scenarios we play that the outcome doesnt change if all we're doing is changing the order of the elements...

I know for a fact that he hasnt been exposed to multiplication in his kindergarten class - in fact, formal instruction in anything even vaguely 'academic' has been pointedly missing - which has been a source of concern for many parents at AS#1 (I am ambivalent on this issue)...

So, where did this leap in knowing come from? He's a very smart being... I think he made the leap based partly on the games we have been playing and applying the logic in those games and partly by using intuition/functioning at the same level of frequency as the state where that knowledge exists.

And if he can do that, cant all kids, given the appropriate encouragement and resources?

I don't discount the material/ideas Geary and others are working with - I'm just saying there is more to it than that, which is what Senge and others are saying... which is what many people cant or dont want to recognise because some of it is not able to be verified empirically ...which is what real education will be about once we get out of the old paradigm...

Namaste
Sahila

hschinske said...

"I think he made the leap based partly on the games we have been playing and applying the logic in those games and partly by using intuition/functioning at the same level of frequency as the state where that knowledge exists."

If you have the first (the ability to apply logic), why would you need the second? Especially when it comes to math? Seems to me Occam's Razor (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor) applies here.

Helen Schinske

Sahila said...

In my experience Helen, the two go together... or at least, life is vastly richer if you allow the two to go together... and the depth of understanding is greater... a mix of inductive and reductive/deductive reasoning... in shamanic terms, allowing both the masculine and feminine 'wisdoms' to work together in unity... and all people have both the masculine and feminine wisdoms, regardless of your actual gender...