Thursday, September 30, 2010

Waiting for Superman: Judge for Yourself

I said it before, go see Waiting for Superman (or conversely, wait until it comes out on DVD). There are other films on education out there but you might want to judge for yourself since this one has received so much hype.

As I said in my review, the film's website says it is an "exhaustive" of public education. Judge for yourself if you walk away understanding the history (total or recent) of public education in this country after you watch this film.

Watch the film carefully and see if you see ONE, just one good to great regular public school shown OR even mentioned. It doesn't happen.

Listen carefully (and don't blink) or you will see the ONE mention that oh, by the way, charters, overall, don't do better than regular public schools. (This is not a reason to not try them but yes, it's a reason to not believe they are the silver bullet that will cure all public education ills.)

As I said in my review, it's interesting to hear Michelle Rhee (Oprah's "warrior woman" who may, in the near future, lose her job because she was not so respectful to the guy who ran and won for mayor of D.C.) talk about slashing central administration while our Superintendent expands ours. Lynne Varner, in her editorial opinion piece on it, talked about "bloated" bureaucracies in public schools but she and the rest of the Times editorial board remain strangely silent over what we have in Seattle Public Schools.

And then we have the furious backpedaling of David Guggenheim (the director) and Geoffrey Canada, the creator of the Harlem Children's Zone in NYC, on Oprah and today on KUOW. They now say, oh, we know there are a lot of good regular public schools. We're not saying either is better. Really? So how come none of them merit a mention in your film? How come there's no mention that regular public schools take ALL comers but not charters who can write their charter to not include services like Special Ed and ELL? How about figuring out the best of what is working in both kinds of schools? Oh.

So see it, judge for yourself. But while this country's public education does need reform, what we need is a balanced look at the MANY things we could and should be doing to support students AND teachers for better outcomes.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree.
There simply is no such thing as a bad teacher. We need more funding.

-Helen Ward

Moose said...

Helen -- are you typing in the sarcasm font?

I am definitely going to see the movie. I haven't yet seen "Race to Nowhere", which I would like to see as well. I wonder Melissa, if "Nowhere" paints the more balanced picture that you seem to want from "Superman"?

seattle citizen said...

Helen, how is this a response to Melissa's points?

What did Melissa write about "teacher quality" or school funding in her comment?

Of course there are some "bad" teachers, just like there are "bad" employees in all sorts of jobs. Doesn't mean we need to tear down (literally and figuratively) public schools to do something about it.

Many, many students get fine educations in public schools and I, for one, will not stand for the radical changes proposed, that will diminish the quality of education for those students merely to respond to some sound bite about "bad teachers"

seattle citizen said...

"eek! There's a bad engineer at Boeing! Restructure the company!"

Moose said...

I am guessing here -- but based on what I heard on KUOW today, I think that Helen is taking a dig at Olga Addae. Whenever the president of the teacher's union (is that her role?) was asked about ineffective teachers, she responded about the lack of state funding.

FightingForKids said...

If you really want us to judge for ourselves, then you wouldn't stress your own negative opinion on certain elements. What you really mean is 'I don't like this movie and if it turns out you do, then something is wrong with you, but go right ahead'

FightingForKids said...

Olga is a joke. If I were a teacher I'd be embarrassed that she was representing me. That interview was a waste of time. She even dragged up the whole busing issue--and it didn't come close to answering the question. Then ahe had nerve to pull the race card at the end. Pitiful.

seattle citizen said...

I've not seen the movie, but read today this review by Rick Ayers that makes a lot of sense, given what I've heard about the movie.

I'm glad that there is a rising tide of critique of the "reform" movement. Some balance, some consideration of the many, many students who have wonderful educations in public schools is needed.

I'll be there at the Seattle premiere tomorrow night.

seattle citizen said...

F4K, attacking Olga Addae will not deflect the legitimate concerns about the film.

Olga "pulled the race card"? Most of the reform movement is predicated on the race card, as it is used to claim that the achievement gap is entirely the fault of those dang unquality teachers. The reform movement basically claims that if the problems of education are the result of "teacher quality," and if a large part of the problems with education effect minority students, then, well, teachers are either a) racist, or b) unknowing and uncaring of cultural ways of learning.

Race is a huge part of the reform argument, and you know it.

FightingForKids said...

SC I was tagging onto Moose's comment.

seattle citizen said...

I understand that, F4K, but I repeat that whatever Olga says or does, doesn't have a whit to do with the film.

What do you think of the film, F4K? Have you seen it? Heard about it? Do you think it fairly represents education in this country?

From what I've heard, it just doesn't. Yes, some students aren't "successful" (tho' we use, increasingly, only standardized tests to measure "success," unfortunately.) Yes, some teachers need to get some assistance, some might need to look for other work.

But, overwhelmingly, public education does an incredibly fine job of educating a wide variety of students in this, the 21st century (compared to, say, 1960, or to some other place in the world where students are either excluded entirely because, well, there are few schools, or the system is so test-heavy that whole countries are moving away from that, striving towards som creativity, ala' the United States...

From all I've heard about this movie, it does NOT realistically portray either the range of public schools, the experiences of a range of students, the range of charter schools, the problems with charters, and, most importantly, it portrays teachers, generally, as some sort of dark force that needs to be eradicated (or freed from those pesky unions)

From all I've heard, it's pure propaganda, which surprises me not a whit: Heck, isn't this "National Week of Conversation About the Problems of Public Education" or something?

Fabricated boogey men, in pursuit of a radical agenda. I'm so glad more reasonable voices are rising up in protest. You can only slime public school teachers for so long before the teachers, and their myraid supporters among parent/guardians and in the community stand up and say, "enough."

owlhouse said...

Moose,
I haven't seen WfS, but it seems to have a very different premise from Race to Nowhere. Race looks at the "pressure" kids are under- in school, sports, arts...It attempts to ask if constant competition is beneficial to development, learning outcomes or the health of our youth. It considers the costs of scheduling children to perform- loss of sleep, depression, lack of down time, increases in cheating, lack of creative outlets...

RtN does not attempt to answer questions re: charter schools or teacher quality. Rather, it suggests that we do a disservice to our students and our education ideals by pushing for perfection in every area of a child's life.

And hey, come see Race to Nowhere for yourself--
Tuesday, Oct 26; 6:30p
@ Nova
tix online-
racetonowhere.com

Melissa Westbrook said...

Helen, I'm sorry but what did I say that would make you think I want bad/poor teachers in our schools? I worked to help get rid of two low-performing teachers (by complaining in person and in writing to the principal). I'm not for low-performing teachers OR the status quo.

I didn't say that someone who sees this film and appreciates/agrees with it is wrong. What I was trying to point out is thing to look for when you watch it. The website advertises it as an "exhaustive" review of public education. I would like others opinions about that.

Eric M said...

"Race to Nowhere" isn't about schools, but about the culture of testing, achievement, and pushing, pushing, pushing our kids to all be way above average.

And of course, the price that exacts from the kids themselves.

Dorothy Neville said...

Guys, Helen Ward (London Solicitor? Excellent negotiator with absolute discretion? Or Jazz singer?) evidently listened to the KUOW with the WFS director and Olga A. Olga (as I heard from a friend who had never heard of Olga before yesterday) sounded like an idiot and it seems that Helen Ward is repeating Olga's sole refrain. So yes, her comment *is* related to the post and movie.

My friend (with young kids in school) was appalled at what the union (in the voice of Olga) had to say. Made the union look really bad.

(Friend is also appalled at the MAP and very interested to hear how the levy is related to expanding MAP for the purposes of measuring teachers.)

Anonymous said...

Olga basically said she wouldn't do anything about the achievement gap, or anything about achievement in general. Not her job. So fine. Get out of the way.

OlgaNot

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

Honest, credible, objective review of WFS by a Rhee supporter

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the late reply

yes my comment was a bit snarky, and a dig at Olga

-Helen

wseadawg said...

WFS in the larger context of the Education Nation push

wseadawg said...

Folks: I'm about talked out on this stuff, which some will cheer, and that's fine. So here's my longest, and I hope, my last big bloated rant on this and similar subjects:

The God's honest truth is that no matter how much we push and pull for what we want, there are no simple answers or magic bullet solutions like "bust the WEA" or Merit Pay/Charters/Value-Added schemes, teacher coaches, etc.

The Edu Reform crowd is on an all out blitz from MSNBC to Oprah and all across the land with guest editorials in every newspaper trying to push their agenda as The Final Solution to the achievement gap, dropping math scores, 25th in the world and dropping rankings, etc., etc. This is happening despite mounting evidence that nothing they are pushing works anywhere near as well as they seem to believe or be convinced, yet forward, in unison, they march.

My personal fight in all this stuff is not to deny any parent what they think is appropriate for their child. Quite the contrary. If you think your kid would be better off at a Charter school or with a teacher who competes for bonus dollars, then fine, I wouldn't want to deny your kid that chance, unless, and except for (and here's the crux of my beefs with SPS), when it has to come at the cost of other programs that already serve kids and families well. Why are we cannibalizing healthy programs at public schools? The better they are, the more people will support and respect them? So again, why?

There seems to be a lot of jealousy and envy amongst many commenters on this blog who feel that they, or their school suffers while others have it easy. Frankly, I think that is a gross oversimplification of the issues and a recipe and mindset for failure, not to mention scapegoating and placing the blame where it doesn't belong.

It is in my best interests as a member of this community to see to it that the struggling kid across town is taken care of and properly educated. If I don't do what I can for that kid, he becomes a bigger problem to deal with, or attempt to avoid, in the future. Not to mention the basic inhumanity and suffering that comes with struggling to live, all we do when we act selfishly and worry about only ourselves is procrastinate, live in denial, and allow small problems to grow into larger, and more expensive ones down the road.

I have been fortunate to have fantastic teachers for my kids thus far in SPS, despite their having to work under immense pressure due to the utter failings of SPS at the JSCEE silo to support them and provide adequate resources.

I'm no fan of Olga, and people can scoff at her complaints of underfunding by the State, but a Superior Court Judge Declared that very finding last year, so let's accept the facts as they are.

As for WFS & RTN, I typed up a big piece earlier, then hit the wrong button and POOF, away it went. So I'm taking that as a sign, and instead of reiterating what I've been saying and predicting for over a year about this oncoming media train pushing the Reform agenda, I suggest folks do their own research on the effectiveness of charters and merit pay, and such. As MGJ would say, "The Research is Clear", but the only thing that's really clear, is that the Research is, in fact, Unclear. (Sorry to sound like Don Rumsfeld there). The best study on Charters (Stanford CREDO study) says only 17% of Charters outperform traditional public schools, and the most recent Vanderbilt U study on Merit Pay said it had no effect on student or teacher performance. Does that mean merit pay or charters are rubbish? No. Does it mean, however, that they are not the solution (as pushed by WFS? Precisely.

Folks, these challenges are complicated and difficult, but nothing will be improved by hasty decision-making and chaos, which is the order of the day of the reform movement. Okay, bastante!

Charlie Mas said...

Actually, I think that anyone who had met and spoken with Ms Addae, or has witnessed her Board testimony, would know that she is not evenly matched with Mr. Guggenheim on a radio talk show. To select her for this role is to put her side of the discussion at an intentional disadvantage.

Moose said...

Well, he dropped off the interview early and she was just as bad after that.

dan dempsey said...

Wseadawg,

Is absolutely correct. A proposed change needs to be analyzed for its effectiveness.

The reform crowd lacks proof of the efficacy of their proposed solutions.

Also if you are one that does not believe all the answers to complex questions are simple ones......

Check out the Core-Knowledge Blog.

Here is one I really like on Testing and Assessment of Common Core Standards.

It contains this:

Why the rush to make new tests?

Isn’t there a great danger—even likelihood—that the tests will define and even impede the curriculum?

This is worse than the cart going before the horse. This is a cart boasting that it will give birth to the horse—a horse with wheels that will follow in the cart’s grooves. O hubristic cart, how many fake horses will you bring forth before you regret your ways?

and also:

A curriculum can be exciting, challenging, and beautiful.
But if the assessments come to us first, they may leave little room for literature courses.

Instead, we may be stuck with generic skills.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Olga didn't come off well but she did get in a good line to him (they both were a bit testy). It was something like:

Guggenheim - blah, blah union, blah, blah teachers

Olga - the teachers ARE the union

Guggenheim - no, there's the union...

Olga - the teachers are the union

He obviously was trying to separate the teachers from their union and she wasn't having it. She is right that the union is nothing without its members but I don't know if teachers want to always be id'ed as union members.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm just saying that if KUOW wanted a bright, articulate, quick-witted advocate for public schools and the teachers' unions, they could have done a whole lot better than Ms Addae.

Of course, I may soon have to eat those words. Tomorrow night I will be offering the counterpoint for Paul T Hill from the Center on Reinventing Public Education at an event in Alki and we will see how I fair.

Just to be clear, my perspective is that Charters are not good or bad, just unnecessary. I don't think that there is anything that Charters can do that public schools can't do. The reason that public schools DON'T do what Charters do is that School Boards and school district administrators don't allow it. They could allow it; they do allow it at alternative schools; they just don't allow it nearly often enough.

The big question is "Why don't they allow it?" I would certainly allow it if I were a school board director. In fact, I think I would insist upon it.

There are some realities that need to be faced.

1) We should not tolerate bad schools - even if there are escapes for some families. In fact, the more escapes for a few families, the worse the remaining schools will be. This is the tragedy of Waiting for Superman - not that a few students didn't get rescued, but that a LOT of students didn't get rescued.

2) Competition doesn't work in the public sector because there is no profit motive. Build a better mouse trap and you just have to take care of more mice.

3) Competition doesn't work in schools because they are not scalable. Everyone can want to go to Garfield but once it is full there's no more room.

4) Competition doesn't work in schools because instead of schools competing for students it quickly becomes students competing for schools (see for reference the Seattle Experience and "Waiting for Superman"). In the movie, Waiting for Superman, the schools aren't competing for students, the students are competing for schools.

So it will NEVER be enough to make a few good schools here and there. The only resolution will be to remake all of public K-12 education. Efforts to create a few good schools in the interim become a distraction and an excuse to defer the real work.

wseadawg said...

MW: Interestingly, there's a video on YouTube where Guggenheim is conducting a Q&A after a showing. Predictably, a parent asks, "what can we do to get rid of the Teachers Unions?" (Desired effect). Guggenheim responds & says, "I belong to a union, but it's a GOOD union," blah, blah, blah. He might as well say, "I'm rich, powerful and privileged, so I'm good, while teachers are poor, struggling and not producing miracles, so they're bad." Like I say, if he wants to make a difference, instead of a buck, why not volunteer to work with those kids he supposedly cares so much about. Phony.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Hey, I give him credit for being honest. He openly admits he drives past 3 public schools to get his children to their private school.

bryant jean said...

Well, these are my thoughts after watching the first Oprah episode last week. I have not seen the movie, and won't until it becomes available through Netflix.

1) On the Oprah show, the basic message was, "let's not just sit here, let's get up and get mad." OK, so we need to fire the bad teachers. Who are they, and how do you determine a bad and good teacher? Does the film address this?

2) Exactly as wseadog said, they were really intent to stand-up to unions, but gave no way to do this. How do you stand-up to them?

I think we all know that a lot of the US education pretty much sucks these days, but I don't need to see a movie that tells me that. I need to see a movie with some REAL solutions. Not just, here's a charter school that is working in a low-income neighborhood. Well, as was shown with the lottery, that super-great charter school only services a VERY small number of students. The other schools around it suck, but hey, look at this shiny jewel!

seattle citizen said...

Yes, scalability of solutions is key. Canada's Harlem Zone (star of movie) has huge$$$ support for wraparound services. Can that be scaled? Not without huge$$$

You write that "I think we all know that a lot of the US education pretty much sucks these days"

I don't know this at all. I think a lot of US education is fantastic. There is even good education happening in "failing schools," and students in those schools learning, but you'd never know it from the rhetoric. Including, and no offence, "US education pretty much sucks these days."

It doesn't.

Maureen said...

(disclaimer--I haven't seen any of the coverage--just read about it online!)

I, like seattle citzen I think , am puzzled with the reverance shown to Geoffrey Canada, are these reform advocates really willing to commit the kind of resources Canada musters for his Children's Zone? If so, that is fantastic! But if they are looking to do it on the cheap--signing over a fraction of what public schools get to for-profit charters and expecting to get Canada's results then they are crazy.

anonymom said...

"So it will NEVER be enough to make a few good schools here and there."

Does the district really "make" good schools? Can they "make" good schools? The district can re-invents schools like they did with Cleveland/STEM, and STEM may become a "good" school, but only because it will serve a different population. "Good" students will come in and "bad" students will be pushed out.

Can the district turn a school like RBHS around while serving the same population? If so, what would it take? What would it look like? Do we have any examples of this happening here in SPS?

Jan said...

anonymom: I think that, with the right combination of parents, administration, time, concept and, in some cases -- maybe luck, good schools can be "created." But it's a tricky chemistry. I was not active in the SSD during Garfield's "slump" (at least I understand there was one) before they put in APP. That was a District imposed solution, and it did NOT work overnight. There were many years when the populations did not mix well (this I heard from many APP students there during those years), and I suspect that neither group was well served (but the neighborhood non-APP kids especially). Eventually, principals, teachers, parents, etc. "worked" the problem (and they are still working it -- it's not "done" yet -- it is just lots better) to try to build it into a single, cohesive entity.
My sense is that something similar may have happened at the beginning with TOPS (though as an alt, they maybe didn't have the same problems "mixing" two disparate groups.) My sense is that something similar has been going on at Sealth -- and that it was helped by placing an IB program there, but most of the work has been done over several years by parents and staff slowly building the reputation and credibility of the Sealth program into one that families support and choose.
Graham Hill Elementary -- added montessori, and had some excellent staff that drew families there. Beacon Hill? My guess looking at it from outside is that it is a blend of great school administration/staff, good family support, and the addition of the language immersion program.

As I look through this -- there are things that the District can do/add/etc. but much of that has to be incremental to what the school staff and parents are willing and eager to get behind.

This, I think, is the true travesty of a SSD central administration that WILL NOT engage with its communities. The ONLY successful schools that I have seen "grown" in my years as a SSD parent have been grown by the parents and school staff -- with the administration either adding/permitting things of value (IB, language immersion, non-standard class times or start times, academies, etc.) OR just getting out of the way and NOT dismantling what the school is trying to accomplish.

To turn around RBHS, I think it would take a period of getting a LOT of input from the community as to what they want, what they would support. Then, they would have to "add" stuff -- what? I am not sure. If I had to guess, maybe a combination of an arts program (drama, dance, visual arts, music) that the community would support, focus on school safety/discipline issues (if the mom posting from last year correctly described the environment), small class sizes with rigor and the ability to accomplish MUCH more than 1 years average progress for some kids, a continuation of great sports. If families there would like it, maybe they should start another IB program there (and a pre-IB program, ramping up in 7th or 8th grade, to get students ready for it by 11th grade). I don't know. I am just guessing. Maybe RBHS families would hate IB and would rather look for a different magnet that gets their pulse up. But the Southeast Initiative was supposed to, I thought, be all about this effort, and somehow, nothing really happened.

anonymom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle citizen said...

Good schools have and can be created within the public school framework. There is (was?) a policy for creation of programs; anybody could create one. IF the board approved it (and they could approve it and provide oversight AND support) then off it goes. Whether it is "good" or not depends on a variety of factors.

It worries me that the district has (until recently) turned its back on alts. I'm concerned that the district is laying the groundwork for charters. As has been discussed here before, it's pretty hard to say, "we need charters!" is there are already proven programs that are working within the existing framework. It appears that the district would like to be a top-down generator of new programs, which could be things such as STEM and the International programs, or it could be invites to outside groups (not organic, parent/guardian/community groups, but edu-management companies and packaged programs)

Lately there seems to be some support for alt schools, and also discussion of "innovation" schools. With the addition of waivers, this could bode well. Perhaps the district is coming around to supporting good programs that work, even if they're not traditional schools.

seattle citizen said...

But to reiterate a point: It does not require new schools to provide good education. This is one of the fallacies of the "reform" movement. They've sold the idea that "schools fail," without acknowledging that even in schools with "problems" (mainly identified these days as "low WASL scores, unfortunately) there are great individual successes in both students and staff. If the district wanted to identify individual struggling students and staff and support them, instead of looking at whole schools as somehow "bad," I think that perspective would go along way to helping. Destroying the bad along with good (or suggesting we need whole new schools because the old ones are "bad") is a gross misrepresentation of schools, students and staff, and ignores the individual problems of both.

StepJ said...

The Tom Tangney review.

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

SC, my question had absolutely nothing to do with charter schools VS public schools, or alts.

Can you give an example of how RBHS (a public school) could be turned around without changing the existing population in the school? Are there any other examples of this being done successfully in SPS? Every school that I think of that has become a good school (STEM, Ingraham, JSIS, Graham Hill, Beacon Hill) has done so by adding attractive programs, which attract new students, not by better serving their existing students.

wseadawg said...

bryant jean: Unions are an important bulwark against state and corporate power. The Berlin Wall would not have fallen were it not for the powerful solidarity movement in Poland. And that's just one example.

Can they be corrupted, abused and wrong from time to time? Sure. What can't? Look at corporations. Should we outlaw and break up all corporations?

Let's be specific and get down to the nitty gritty of exactly what our gripes are with the unions, and give them an opportunity to respond before we talk about burning them down, why don't we?

And let's especially not forget, that all contracts are agreed to and signed by BOTH sides. And while I'm on that point, let's all remember who entered the room in bad faith and plopped the skunk on the table in the middle of the SEA contracts this summer: MGJ herself, with her plagiarized "SERVE" proposal hatched in Denver and largely modeled after Michelle Rhee's contracts in DC.

Whenever we get mad and rail against the unions and teachers, we aren't being fair if we don't rail against principals and administrators who agreed to the same contract, but then start running from it the day after it's signed. Nobody held a gun to their heads.

Maureen said...

anonymom, I think you would agree that the primary indication that RBHS has become sucessful would be that they are full to capacity. That means that some (700?) new students are attracted to the program. There is no way RBHS could be considered successful if it only contains its current population.

That said, it does seem that there should be a way to make it a success without displacing its current students. Personally, I think TAF might have been a solution. Take it down a few levels. What did Van Asselt do? Did they displace their base population ? I don't know.

uxolo said...

Charlie said, "Of course, I may soon have to eat those words. Tomorrow night I will be offering the counterpoint for Paul T Hill from the Center on Reinventing Public Education at an event in Alki and we will see how I fair."

Tell us more about this event.

And please - point out the responsibility of the Colleges of Education - how do they get away with sending professionals out in to the world without proper training?

And mention the choice of textbooks (and tests [MAP]) and the constraints that do not have to exist in Seattle, but do (re:waivers.

peonypower said...

I will go see WFS so I know just what ammunition it gives ed deform. However, if we are really serious about helping students we should take a page from Finland's playbook.

Finland began working on changing their education system 30 years ago. Key pieces to their success are

1) To become a teacher requires 3 years post college. Only 15% make it into the program and the government pays for the degree. Key aspects of teacher training are being part of problem solving groups, research into improving teaching practice, how to teach through inquiry, and how to adjust curriculum to meet the needs of a diverse population.

2) Schools are locally controlled and operated. Teachers and administrators are expected to solve problems themselves and implement solutions to met the needs of the community. Teachers are also given time to work with each other weekly to discuss and solve problems.

3) Teacher professional development is local and directed by what the staff wants and needs

4) There are NO EXTERNAL STANDARDIZED TESTS TO RANK STUDENTS! Feedback is narrative and focused on the student's growth and learning process. At the end of secondary school most students take a matriculation exam, but this exam is not required for entrance into university.

5) Students are self-directed and have great latitude to work on what learning goals they have (and agreed upon with the teacher.) Much of the curriculum is open ended tasks and students work at their own pace.

5) The standards are lean and are used by educators to develop curriculum at the local level. This allows teachers to bring their unique talents and best ideas to the table.

6) Social support and early intervention for all students. Food, health care etc.

The results: 90% of students complete the equivalent of high school and over two thirds go onto post-secondary education. The achievement between groups is tiny in Finland- (about 5% compared to 33% for most of the rest of the world.)

We can create a great education system, and the Finnish system can help us. It will take breaking away from the insanity of testing and focus on relevant and timely feedback rooted in student learning and growth. It will mean better teacher training that focuses on how to truly tailor instruction, and it will mean redesigning schools that are places of learning and exploring not a factory where every child is on the same page on the same day.

peonypower said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
peonypower said...

I will go see WFS so I know just what ammunition it gives ed deform. However, if we are really serious about helping students we should take a page from Finland's playbook.
Key pieces to their success are

1) To become a teacher requires 3 years post college. Only 15% make it into the program and the government pays for the degree. Key aspects of teacher training are being part of problem solving groups, research into improving teaching practice, how to teach through inquiry, and how to adjust curriculum to meet the needs of a diverse population.

2) Schools are locally controlled and operated. Teachers and administrators are expected to solve problems themselves and implement solutions to met the needs of the community. Teachers are given time to work with each other weekly to discuss and solve problems.

3) Teacher professional development is local and directed by what the staff wants and needs

4) There are NO EXTERNAL STANDARDIZED TESTS TO RANK STUDENTS! Feedback is narrative and focused on the student's growth and learning process. At the end of secondary school most students take a matriculation exam, but this exam is not required for entrance into university.

5) Students are self-directed and have great latitude to work on their chosen learning goals. Much of the curriculum involves open ended tasks and students work at their own pace.

5) The standards are lean and are used by educators to develop curriculum at the local level, allowing teachers to bring their unique talents and best ideas to the table.

6) Social support and early intervention for all students. Food, health care etc.

The results: 90% of students complete the equivalent of high school and over two thirds go onto post-secondary education. The achievement between groups is tiny in Finland- (about 5% compared to 33% for most of the rest of the world.)

We can create a great education system, and the Finnish system can help us. It will take breaking away from the insanity of testing and focus on relevant and timely feedback rooted in student learning and growth. It will mean better teacher training that focuses on how to truly tailor instruction, and it will mean redesigning schools that are places of learning and exploring not a factory where every child is on the same page on the same day.

peonypower said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg said...

Good article about this documentary over at Crosscut, "'Superman' paints education picture, but does it have answers?".

An excerpt from their article:

The message from “Superman,” somewhat paraphrased, is to do these things:

* Get a good teacher in every classroom.
* Set and hold high standards (for academic achievement and behavior).
* Lengthen the school day and the school year.
* Relentlessly expect and demand that every student work hard.
* Stick with each student until they’ve mastered the lesson.
* Talk about the goal — college — at every opportunity.

Well, how exactly? And where will the money come from?

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

Yes, Maureen, I definitely agree that a full school CAN be an indicator of a good school. But I think an even bigger indicator of a school being a "good" school is the overall performance of the school, and student body, as a whole.

The district can place a new and attractive program in a building and that program can draw a new type of student, and fill the building. But do the existing students benefit from that program?

For instance in the case of Garfield, Ingraham, and Sealth do the students who are not in the APP or IB programs, benefit from having many AP/IB classes available to them? Do they take those classes? If so, do they do well in those classes? Were/are they prepared to take them? Are they willing and motivated to take them?

Or do Garfield, Ingraham, and Sealth really just house two different schools within their walls - one bad, and one good? If that is the case then a full building would not be an indicator of a "good" school.

And we all know what is happening at STEM. One population is being completely replaced by another. STEM will probably fill within a year or two, and it will be considered a "good" school, but it will have done absolutely nothing for it's existing population.

I'm not at all opposed to putting attractive programs inside of struggling schools, rather, I think it is one of our only options to fill buildings like Cleveland and RBHS. However, I think we should pay careful attention to ensure that any new program benefits the existing students as well as any new cohort that comes in. If the existing students are not gaining any advantages by having the new program in their building, and they are not being served any better by it, then I have a hard time saying that school is a "good" school though it may be a "full" school.

I still find myself wondering, what can the district do, to make RBHS a "good" school for it's existing students, as well as any new cohort that comes into the building??

anonymom said...

And yes Maureen, I agree 100%, that TAF looked like a mighty attractive program for RBHS. Especially since TAF's main objective was to serve neighborhood minority students!

TAF also seemed like a great middle ground between public and charter schools. Allowing innovative ideas and programs like TAF could help us stave off charters. But if we continue to cross our arms and refuse to even consider these types of innovative programs, then the citizens of Seattle may very well welcome in charter schools next time around. Especially with the national publicity and Obama/Duncan push in that direction. Just something to think about.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Or do Garfield, Ingraham, and Sealth really just house two different schools within their walls - one bad, and one good?"

I can't answer whether there are two schools in one for any of these schools. I think that's for the parents and students to say (as the end users).

In terms of relationships, I know for Garfield it had felt this way some years back but I think a lot of that were APP kids who have known each other for years as well as neighborhood kids who moved through the system together. You group with who you know.

But it's a a bit of an overstatement to say one part of a school is good and one part bad. The students who choose regular classes at any of those schools are not getting a "bad" education. It's just probably not as rigorous.

The issue of supports for students who want to take on the challenge of more rigor is a big one. At RHS, parents closely questioned the principal about supports when the AP Human Geography for all sophomores was announced. I'm not sure we ever got a clear answer on how those students got support and how they were doing.

uxolo said...

Not sure if this is off topic, but the New School was funding South Shore for only 10 years. If they opened in 2002, they are coming to the end of the funding cycle. At what point do they decide to commit to the next ten years or the next 20 years? 2011-12 is the tenth year. Are they getting levy funds?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Of course, South Shore gets levy funds. All SPS schools do.

But that is a good question about the 10-year commitment. I'll have to check into that.