Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What Works (and What Likely Gets Left Behind)

This Times' article about the efforts of the Renton School District (and one school in particular) to boost their WASL scores may be a foretelling of what is to come for SPS. From the article:

"Just a decade ago, the story at Bryn Mawr was starkly different. When Mather started there in 1998 about a quarter of students read at grade level and performance in other subjects was worse.

Surrounded by a mix of low-rent apartments and tracts of aging homes, Bryn Mawr had a reputation as an unsafe school with unsuccessful students and incompetent teachers.

But an overhaul of the curriculum and focus has helped the school to shake that reputation.

The approach is simple: Ninety minutes of reading a day is mandatory for all students, weekly and quarterly assessments help teachers identify who needs intervention and who needs to be challenged. Four filing cabinets and two computers — one a backup — keep track of individual scores and helps monitor trends in individual classes, grades and schoolwide.

Renton plans to look to Bryn Mawr as a model approach for "data-driven" decision-making within schools, Superintendent Mary Alice Heuschel said."

This sounds like a very intense method and one that is obviously getting results. I note that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has said that she wants this district to be data-driven and accountable.

But 90 minutes a day for reading. I don't know if that is reading across subjects or reading out loud versus silently but for teachers spending 90 minutes a day on reading plus doing weekly assessments just doesn't leave a lot of time for other subjects. It makes you wonder what is being cut back on or eliminated.


Anonymous said...

Nintey minutes a day of reading may not be a bad idea for kids who are in school for five or six hours a day. Reading is a skill that enables learning in other areas, so it seems a wise place to focus. Looking at the profile for this school on the OSPI site, it's rather impressive. Many grades are beating the rest of the district (and the Seattle School District) averages, despite a pretty high free/reduced lunch population.

The data tracking could get scary if not handled very carefully, but the school seems to be reaching kids in a tough environment.

Charlie Mas said...

While it is easy to be distracted by the weekly and quarterly assessments and the data storage and analysis that represents, the real story is this part:

"teachers identify who needs intervention and who needs to be challenged"

And then, I presume, they do it - they give the kids what they need.

Seattle Public Schools has been collecting data. They have all kinds of data. They have even done some rudimentary analysis on it, so they know what students and which schools are struggling.

What Seattle Public Schools hasn't done is take ACTION based on the data. SPS hasn't intervened.

The data is pointless if you won't take action.

Anonymous said...

I noticed several Renton schools also have the 90 minute reading requirement. It's very interesting. Pretty basic. I would be curious to see if these children are missing out on the arts, music, recess, field trips, etc.

We have a new teacher this year. She comes from Rainier View. She seems to offer very basic assignments. For instance spelling homework last night was write each of your spelling words five times. I'm not sure I see the value in this? Do the kids know what the words mean? Do they know how to use them in a sentence, context?
The teacher last year was much more creative. She would ask the kids to write two paragraphs about their field trip and use all of their spelling words in their work. Or she would ask them to write a sentence using each spelling word.

I'm not sure about this write the word 5 times style of teaching. My son doesn't seem to mind, it's a change for him. He also seemed to memorize the spelling of each of the words, and of course, we can work with him at home. Maybe it's just a style that I'm not used to. Maybe the rock bottom basics work??

serendip57 said...

Reading is used in virtually all subjects- to improve this skill will improve performance in other subjects.
Bryn Mawr students are in school 380 minutes a day- subtract 90 of them and you still have almost 5( 4.8) hours to wait in line for hot lunch

As a parent whose child had more field trips and recess time than skills that would help her with academics I say brava for Renton Schools-

Anonymous said...

My first reaction was--but they can read at home!

I guess that is the problem, I guess the kids at this school don't read at home. Most years my kids have been expected to read (or be read to) at least 20 minutes a night for homework--I had to sign off on it. Then they have spent about another twenty minutes in silent reading (or being read to) after lunch.

I like that system for my kids--ninety minutes at school would take the place of social studies or science. But if kids will not read otherwise, they should read at school.

This brings to my mind a question, do classrooms that mix kids whose parents can monitor their education with those that can't work well for either group? (I hope they do.) Do schools do better with homogenous populations? (I hope not.)

Anonymous said...

The real story is that Renton was able to attract Jane Goetz from Seattle Schools and she is doing amazing work as the curriculum director. Seattle is struggling because it does not have a curriculum director right now and so there is no focused vision for instruction going on in schools.

Jane use to work for Seattle, but Seattle decided instruction was no longer important when it fired Jane. What a shame! Some day we will learn from other school districts how to provide professional development to support teachers and support the real leadership in the district. Teachers and coaches miss Jane Goetz. We all wonder who had the bright idea of firing her? Last I heard, 10 people left the department of technology. If everyone leaves Seattle Schools, who is left to run the place? Also, the Director of Security was removed, and many others from other departments of central and principals quit. I think we are losing all the people who really do the work.

Anonymous said...

When I worked as an instructional coach before going back to the classroom, I worked under Jane. She had a very strong academic plan for guiding us to focus on student achievement and professional learning goals for our educators.

We are now entering a second year without her and are still lost with no academic focus or goals. She was pushed out of her job senselessly by Corker and I have agree that the experience was a bad move by the district. How long are we going to let personalities and politics run the district and ignore excellence n academic decisions?

Anonymous said...

M. Corker has her resume in every school district right now. I wonder if she may be the next district administrator that will be asked to leave? At least that seems to be the rumor right now. She does not have academic experience, which is why it seemed odd that she should have had the authority to remove an academic visionary such as Jane Goetz. My colleagues respected and followed Jane so it was an extreme disappointment to have lost her. I concur with the last entry. Why does the district allow politics to have more value than academic leadership. When will Dr. GJ come to our classrooms and ask us about our academic needs and listen to people who really are academically focused?

Anonymous said...

Corker seems to enjoy being the hatchet person.

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that all SPS schools also have a required 90 minutes of reading (including other literacy basics) in elementary grades. It isn't exactly a new idea.

Anonymous said...

Since there seems to be no leadership guiding instructional coaches and teachers in Seattle because some person, (Corker?), removed an important leader (Goetz?) then what can be done and who is working on identifying a new leader to come in? What role does this Corker person have in the district? Who has even heard of who she is?