African-American Academy

This article appeared in today's Times about the African-American Academy. The reporter, Emily Heffter, certainly did talk to a lot of people who created the Academy with some interesting quotes. One parent who spoke said:

"As a parent, Linda Kennedy helped establish the school and enrolled her son in 1991 as a first-grader. After two years, she left — "heartbroken" but unwilling to risk her son's education for the vision of an African-American school. The academy seemed doomed by a mediocre teaching corps, tension between two principals sharing a building and lukewarm district support, she said. She enrolled her son in private school.

When the principal asked her to stay, she said, she told him: "This is my child. I can't experiment with him ... I need a school that's going to work now."

She wasn't the only one. She said middle- and upper-class parents "left in droves." "

Despite the years of mediocrity, here's what Carla Santorno says,

"Now, as part of a new commitment to boost low-performing schools in the South End, the district is pledging $462,769 this year — enough for six teachers to the academy, along with a math coach and a reading coach. If the school doesn't show progress over the next few years, the district may close it.

"We are making that change, putting the supports in, holding them accountable, and if that doesn't work, we have to look at other options," said Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno.

"Letting it limp along is a mistake we've made." "

Blandly saying we have to look at other options is an understatement. The District is lining itself up to have something of the same problem down the road with New School if the New School Foundation should choose to end its funding. New School, while on firmer ground than AAA, will have its first 4th grade WASL scores out soon. If the District finds itself with two struggling K-8s just over a mile from each other, they have no one to blame but themselves.

The former AAA principal, Rickie Malone, had this to say,

"Departing principal Malone, 57, has now retired for the second time. She was among a group of African-American educational leaders who first posed the possibility of an academy in the late 1980s. She still has "a mighty hope" for its success, she said. But she's moving out of state to escape the school's politics. She's baffled by the school's marginal academic success.

"It's pitiful," she said of the school's test scores. "I'm the first one to say that. We're not doing what we truly believe we can." "

And the new principal, Christ Carter, had this to say,

"As for Carter, the vision he casts for the academy is remarkably similar to the one the school's founders cast nearly two decades ago: a model of how to teach black students, a haven where students are supported and free to succeed.

"Failure is just not an option," he said, adding: "I don't think it's rocket science to make significant gains." "

Both are worrisome statements because it sounds like one didn't know what to do and the other thinks it's an easy path. Again, all we can do is sit back and see what Ms. Santorno and Dr.Goodloe-Johnson do and how long they will give AAA to right its ship.


Charlie Mas said…
Mel raises an interesting contrast between all of the people who have worked at the school saying that they are baffled by the poor outcomes and all of the people who have recently taken responsibility for it saying that it will be easy to fix.

If it were easy to fix, it would have been fixed by now.

I see another contrast: between the new principal saying that the AAA is going to show everyone else how to educate Black students and the District sending in math and reading coaches to teach the teachers there how to do it.

Here's one more contrast: high scores for 4th graders and low scores for the same class of students when they reach the 7th grade. Either the 4th grade scores are artificially high due to two solid years of intense test prep, or the 5th, 6th, and 7th grade teachers and curricula are dreadful, or the good students leave after the fifth grade, or some combination of all of these.

While the District has abdicated its responsibility to step in and work to improve any underperforming school, they are particularly wary of intervening at the AAA. They fear a political backlash, and rightly so. The District has not demonstrated that they have either the knowledge or the desire to get buy-in - the magic ingredient that would allow them to make changes without backlash. Nothing that either Carla Santorno has said or done nor anything that Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson has said or done leads us to believe that they know how to get buy-in or particularly want it.
Charlie Mas said…
One of the AAA's problems has been inconsistent leadership. The principal job has turned over a few times lately.

Knowing that, why would Rickie Malone take the job when she knew that she would be retiring after two years? If she cared about the school, wouldn't she want it to have more consistent leadership than someone who took the job for just two years?
Michael Rice said…

The AAA feeds Rainier Beach HS. I have to say that on average the students we get from the AAA are significantly below grade level in math. We met with the AAA faculty last week and we are forming a committee on how to align curriculum in all subject areas and how high is different from middle school in general. Too often students are not able to make a smooth transition from middle school to high school and we hope to put in place some strategies to help fix this.
Anonymous said…
I wish the article would have contained more specifics from current teachers and families associated with the school.

It's a shame that there's a school with such a supportive community but is still seemingly ineffective. The high hopes, charged politics, and highfaluting name seem to be protecting and perpetuating a bad situation. Too contentious to fix and too embarassing to let fail. This is one case where NCLB may do some good, by forcing SPS to step in and clean house.
Charlie Mas said…
"Supportive community". Hmmm.

M L King had a "supportive community", or at least a number of people were extremely upset about that school's closure. The supportive community had more people in it than the school. The school didn't need words of support in the broader community, they needed students in the building.

I believe that the AAA also has a supportive community. So why isn't the supportive community at the AAA giving the school the support it needs to be successful - not only financially and academically, but also in enrollment. The only support the school appears to have is political. When SPS starts making decisions based on data and outcomes instead of politics, political support won't be enough to save this school.

So those who count themselves as AAA supporters, your task is clear:

1) RECRUIT. This school has got to get more kids in the building.

2) ADAPT. Learn the reasons that families don't choose the school and repair the perceived flaws.

3) TUTOR. This school has got to raise the academic outcomes for the students - not only to avoid NCLB sanctions, but also to improve recruiting and to demonstrate the effectiveness of the program.

4) FUNDRAISE. The school needs to reduce class sizes or extend the learning day - both of which cost serious money.

If you aren't doing one or more of these things, then how - exactly - are you part of a supportive community? In word only?

In the end, if the program isn't proven effective academically and isn't proven desirable for by the community, then why have it?
Anonymous said…
The AAA story is disheartening. But there's no reason to be concerned about The New School. The test scores to date, for what test scores are worth, are solid. For example: 2nd grade DRA results from Spring '06 have 97% of Second graders at standard, compared to 83% for the district. That includes 94% of kids on free and reduced lunches (vs. 73% district-wide), and 90% of the bilingual students (vs. 60% district-wide). And 97% of black students met the standard, versus 75% for the district. Last year's third grade WASL scores also outperformed the district overall. The forthcoming WASL scores are also expected to show that while the school still has work to, it is serving the diverse community extremely well.
Dan Dempsey said…
The continued neglect of significant relevant data is still troubling.

I thought about applying for an 8th grade math position at AAA.

Consider the following:
It has been clearly shown that exploration and inquiry are disasterous ways to teach math to disadvantaged learners.

Seattle in a most illogical irrational selection just adopted Everyday Math k-5 which will be followed by CMP 6,7,8. These programs have no demonstrated success in closing the ethnic and economic disproportionality Math gap.

A good elementary school math program should lay the ground-work for future success. Look at the drop from grade 3 to grade 6 in ITBS Math scores from 2005. {this is the last year that ITBS was given}.

State wide the drop is 8 percentile pts. (YES-we have a state wide system Math-failure. Dr. Bergeson told the truth on that one.}

For Everyday math adopting districts with more than 1000 total enrollment we find a larger drop.

Specific School District results sorted by by Black & Hispanic enrollment percentages follow:

B&H less than 10% - drop was 10 pts.

B&H between 10% & 20% - drop was 10 pts.

B&H more than 20% - drop was 15.5 percentile points in comparing 3rd grade to 6th grade scores.

Why would anyone spend $2.5 million on such materials?

Project Follow Through is continually ignored by this district. It seems odd that principals and teachers are often the ones thought to be at fault, when supposed instructional leaders continue to make irrational curriculum decisions.

Should the South East inititive succeed in Math it will be because of expensive interventions trumping irrational curriulum selections k-8.

Witness the Math Disaster produced in Denver with these same k-8 materials. Clearly Denver did not spend enough on interventions.

Why not select programs that have a proven track record of success with the target population?
Anonymous said…
"f it were easy to fix, it would have been fixed by now.

or some combination of all of these."

agree with Charlie

My kids who live in Ballard- are entering 4th & 7th grades in Ballard schools.

They attended AAA, three years ago- for one year- one very long year.
Students were not always held to a high standard- not in the classroom and not in the playground.

I realize there are many kids who benefit from a focus such as the intention of AAA.
But there are many kids who benefit from going to school alongside their peers.
Do kids benefit from attending school with kids who have different backgrounds, or do they benefit from attending school with kids who look exactly like them?
The district can't make up its mind.
Dan Dempsey said…
Charlie Mas said...
1) RECRUIT. ..
2) ADAPT. ..
3) TUTOR. ..

I agree with Charlie but these four miss some really critical underlieing problems.

Appropriate instructional materials and practices are required for much improvement to happen within current budget limitations.
As long as SPS continues to keep the head in sand posture in regard to relevant data and think only about what philosophically they would like or love to have happen, we will be stuck with schools where little academic improvement occurs.

On August 30, 2007 the 52 page recommendations for improving the Washington Math standards will be released. In all likelihood these will be largely ignored by Dr. Bergeson and SPS leadership for as most of us have learned in this game, political concerns of the politicians trump the interests of students and families almost every single time.

The board policies in regard to interventions for those failing to acquire necessary skills and the classroom disruption law are just two items that could improve the learning and lives of students but both of these are too politically inconvenient to even mention for those in power.

This is a lot like a poorly written Sci-Fi movie that would never be believed. Unfortunately many students and families are trapped in this tragically flawed real-life screen play, that many both inside SPS and outside SPS still care to ignore.
Anonymous said…
Dan, not necessarily related to this thread, but you mentioned elsewhere that you'd sent an analysis of WASL trends to the local papers but none published it.

Would you mind sharing it? Can you post the analysis on your website and link to it here?

I would be interested to learn more about the trends.

Thank you
Charlie Mas said…
The detailed reports of WASL performance have been released and the report for the AAA is available.

Tables prove difficult to produce on these blog pages, but I'll try to make this legible.

The lines in bold face are those that legitimately met the target - that is, without the margin for error.

Grade .students. %passed . target
. 3 . . 37 . . . 32.4% . . 64.2%
. 4 . . 39 . . . 53.9% . . 64.2%
. 5 . . 30 . . . 50.0% . . 64.2%
. 6 . . 40 . . . 40.0% . . 47.6%
. 7 . . 30 . . . 73.3% . . 47.6%
. 8 . . 34 . . . 41.2% . . 47.6%

Grade .students. %passed . target
. 3 . . 37 . . . 32.4% . . 47.3%
. 4 . . 39 . . . 23.1% . . 47.3%
. 5 . . 30 . . . 33.3% . . 47.3%
. 6 . . 40 . . . 15.0% . . 38.0%
. 7 . . 30 . . . 23.3% . . 38.0%
. 8 . . 34 . . . 14.7% . . 38.0%

So you can see that the school missed and missed quite badly with the upper grades.

I can also tell you this. Last year, there were 44 4th grade students assessed. This year, there were only 30 5th grade students in the school since the start of the year. About one-third of the class left the school between the 2006 WASL and the 2007 WASL.

Last year, there were 48 7th grade students assessed. This year, there were only 34 continuously enrolled 8th grade students. Again, 30%, about a third, of the class left the school during the intervening year.
Charlie Mas said…
Wow! It just keeps getting worse.

On the seventh grade math WASL, none of the AAA students - not one - scored a Level 4 (exceeds standards). 18 of the 34 who took the test, 52.9% of them, scored a Level 1 (well below standard). This does not include two students who did not take the test.

On the seventh grade writing WASL, none of the AAA students - not one - scored a Level 4 (exceeds standards). 11 of the 34 who took the test, 32.4% of them, scored a Level 1 (well below standard). This does not include two students who did not take the test.

21.9% of 7th grade AAA students who took all three tests did not pass any of the WASL tests, not reading, not writing, not math. 37.5% of them passed 1, 34.4% passed two. Only 6.3% of them - that's two students out of the 34 - passed all three tests.

No 6th or 8th grade students got a level 4 score on the math test either. Not one student in the middle school at the AAA got a Level 4 score on the math WASL.

Among 8th grade students at the AAA, 63.2% of them, 24 of the 38 who took the test, got a Level 1 score. In the 6th grade, 65.9% of them, 29 of the 44 who took the test, got a Level 1 score.

In the middle school at the AAA, not only is high achievement totally absent, the typical achievement is abysmal.

Given this kind of achievement, it is no wonder why students are pouring out of the school at such an alarming rate.
Charlie Mas said…
There is no doubt that the AAA is failing miserably with grades 6-8. They aren't doing that great with K-5.

I think the AAA needs to be constricted to a K-5 school so it can focus on doing those years right. Once that is done, it can be moved either to Columbia or, if Lowell is re-purposed, to TT Minor. The New School can take the AAA building and fill it. When that is done, then the District can build a tradtional comprehensive middle school at the SouthShore building.

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