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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

New State Action on Failing Schools

According to this AP story in yesterday's Seattle Times, the State of Washington will require Districts to take some sort of action to intervene with "failing" schools.

The State will apply a formula to calculate the "accountability index" at all schools. Those schools scoring in the bottom 5% will be subjected to a state performance audit and be required to implement an improvement plan. If the District wants federal money to support the improvement plan, they must choose one of four plans.

I have written before, and I continue to contend, that there is a difference between struggling schools and schools with a large number of struggling students. Education bureaucrats can't seem to tell that difference and have a habit of sending the help to the school rather than sending the help to the students.

I also wonder how much discrepency there will be between the State's accountability index and the District's school scorecard.

13 comments:

uxolo said...

AYP definition of stages

"If a school fails to meet AYP for two consecutive years, the school is deemed in need of improvement -- Year 1 and must offer public school choice. If a school fails to meet AYP for three consecutive years, the school is labeled in need of improvement -- Year 2 and must offer public school choice and supplemental services, including tutoring."

greatschools.org/definitions/wa/nclb.html

dan dempsey said...

Take This Paradigm and Shove It

By Barbara Oakley, Ph.D., P.E.

Each year, I get invited to Washington DC to serve as a pimp. A scientific pimp. I’m expected to join a small legion of volunteers to beg my senators and representatives to spend tax money on a program called the Math and Science Partnerships. This program is supposed to help improve how math and science is taught in this country. What could be wrong with that?

Climategate gives us a whole new way of understanding what’s wrong with that.

The breathtaking dishonesty and incompetence of climatology’s intellectual leadership clearly reveals that a discipline can become dominated by a small group of ideologically-motivated intellectual gatekeepers.[1] So much so that these gatekeepers can cut off the ability of dissenters to publish in a peer-reviewed journal. Publication in a peer-reviewed journal, of course, is the sine qua non of grants, which in turn leads to careers in academia.[2] No publications­ no career.

Narrow intellectual gatekeeping is omnipresent in academia. Want to know why the government wastes hundreds of millions of dollars on math and science programs that never seem to improve the test scores of American students?[3] Part of the reason for this is that today’s K-12 educators ­unlike educators in other high-scoring countries of the world­ refuse to acknowledge evidence that memorization plays an important role in mastering mathematics. Any proposed program that supports memorization is deemed to be against “creativity” by today’s intellectual gatekeepers in K-12 education, including those behind the Math and Science Partnerships. As one NSF program director told me: “We hear about success stories with practice and repetition-based programs like Kumon Mathematics. But I’ll be frank with you­ you’ll never get anything like that funded. We don’t believe in it.” Instead the intellectual leadership in education encourages enormously expensive pimping programs that put America even further behind the international learning curve....

dan dempsey said...

Hearing Impending in High School Math Text Adoption Appeal.

Seattle, Washington – January 5, 2010 –
A hearing is set for Monday, Jan. 11, at 8:30 AM, in the King County Superior Courtroom of Judge Julie Spector, on the appeal of a Seattle School Board vote last May to adopt the Discovering Mathematics high school textbook series. The appellants contend that the school district acted arbitrarily and capriciously by voting 4 to 3 to adopt a type of textbook associated with a widening achievement gap between minority students and white students, and between low-income students and other students.

The three plaintiffs – the mother of an African American 9th grader, a former math teacher who is grandmother of a 5th grader, and a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, filed the appeal based on their claim that, well before the May 6th vote, there was an ample accumulation of evidence that the “reform” math curricula favored by the district had helped to drive down WASL achievement scores, especially for English language learners and other minorities.

Martha McLaren, grandmother of a 5th grade student, declared, “Few people understand what a catastrophe is unfolding in our schools due to this misguided approach to teaching mathematics. It's tragic for individual students who grow up believing they are incompetent, and it's ultimately an immeasurable blow to society.

"I can't afford the tutoring that wealthier parents can afford in order for their children to learn the math skills they don't learn in Seattle Public Schools," stated Ms. DaZanne Porter, mother of a Rainier Beach High School Freshman.
Further describing the situation which has evoked a rising protest to Seattle Schools' math curriculum, UW atmospheric sciences professor and co-plaintiff Cliff Mass describes giving a simple basic math skills exam to his first year AS 101 students in the fall. They scored a class average of 58%. In the January 2 Cliff Mass Weather Blog, he wrote, “If many of our state's best students are mathematically illiterate, as shown by this exam, can you imagine what is happening to the others--those going to community college or no college at all? ... Quite simply, we are failing our children and crippling their ability to participate in an increasingly mathematical world.

Attorney Keith Scully, of Gendler and Mann, LLP, is representing the plaintiffs. He estimates the hearing will last about one hour, and expects a decision from Judge Spector by the end of the month.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I found a couple of interesting things in this article.

One is this:

"She said some districts have chosen not to make changes, so the state board is acting on behalf of the children in those schools.

There also would be consequences for not embracing reform, ranging from mediation or binding arbitration to a redirection of federal dollars away from a school."

The state will step in to act on behalf of children in poorly performing schools when their own districts won't? Boy, I'd like to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.

Also, the article says that before a district can choose which of the 4 plans it choose, it must have public hearings that include parents and teachers. Good to know.

LG said...

Charlie Mas said

"... there is a difference between struggling schools and schools with a large number of struggling students."

You said it perfectly. My brother used to work in an ESL-only elementary school in New Haven. As soon as students were up to grade level, they were transferred. By definition, all the students were "struggling". But the school keeps getting in all sorts of "no child left behind" trouble because the students didn't meet standards!

seattle citizen said...

Charlie has repeated this often:
"... there is a difference between struggling schools and schools with a large number of struggling students."

and it is the crux of the disconnect between these reform efforts and the real issues some students face.

Address student needs, not schools.

rugles said...

Perhaps examples of struggling schools and examples of (presumably) non struggling schools with a large number of struggling students would be helpful.

dan dempsey said...

Tonight the board will approve $320,000 for supplemental services to students needing this supplemental help at 13 schools.... because the law says they must. If a student is at one of the 80+ other schools ... tough luck.

spedvocate said...

Tough luck for those other schools? Let's do a little every-day math $320,000/ 13schools = $22,615... or less than a half of a teacher with bennies. Is that really enough to even comment about?

wseadawg said...

Yet another group of politicos drinking the Kool-Aid and facilitating the takeover of public education by private corporations.

It's happening everywhere people, and Obama supports it as much as GW Bush did. NCLB's advocates know what Charlie knows; they just don't care.

Ralph Nader was right: "The only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is how fast their knees hit the floor when they genuflect for their corporate paymasters." Sorry if I'm off topic.

seattle citizen said...

rugles,
There really are no "struggling schools."

There are students who struggle.
There are educators who struggle.
There are admins who struggle....

An example of a struggling student would be one who can't read at level, or one who struggles to overcome outside disruptions.
An example of a struggling teacher might be one who is ill-prepared, one who is lazy, or one who faces daunting challenges in the classroom.

An example of a struggling admin would be one who has no time to visit teachers. Or one who is under immense pressure from above (and now state and feds) to "do something." Or one who just can't manage.

Charlie Mas said...

rugles wrote:
"Perhaps examples of struggling schools and examples of (presumably) non struggling schools with a large number of struggling students would be helpful."

Certainly!

First, let's look at a school with a lot of struggling students, Denny Middle School. If you judge schools by their WASL pass rates, you might think that there is trouble at Denny. Across all three grades, across all subjects, Denny has either the lowest or the second-lowest pass rates of any continuing comprehensive middle school (I'm not counting Meany). That's awful. You can check it out on page 11 of the District Summary Report. That report also shows that Denny has higher than average discipline rates. These statistics might lead someone to the conclusion that Denny isn't doing a very good job of educating students and is a school in trouble.

But before you leap to that conclusion, consider the students who come to Denny. 62% of Denny students are eligible for free or reduced price lunches. Over half of them are not living with both parents. 17.3% have limited English proficiency. 19.5% have IEPs. In addition, Denny had a total of 144 transfers in and out. Denny is also first or second in these counts among continuing comprehensive middle schools.

Now, I'm not saying that disadvantaged students can't achieve academically. I don't believe that. In fact, I believe that disadvantaged students can achieve academically just as well as any other students and in the same numbers as any other students. However, it takes a special effort (and resources) for that to happen. Some types of efforts and resources have proven effective, others have not.

I'm saying that what happens at Denny is only one factor in the academic outcomes for Denny students. Denny, as a school, doesn't have much influence. The individual teachers at Denny have only a bit more. What happened for them at elementary school looms larger and what happens for them at home looms larger still.

Of course, the people at Denny are still responsible for what happens at Denny. So, what happens for these students at Denny? From the sixth grade to the eighth grade, for the Denny class of 2009, WASL pass rates held steady in Math (34.3% in the 6th grade and 34.8% in the 8th grade) and improved greatly in reading (52.6% in the 6th grade and 62.2% in the 8th grade). For the class of 2008 there was slight improvement in math pass rates (34.5% to 37.6%) and strong improvement in the reading pass rates (54.2% to 60.3%).

It appears that Denny is doing pretty well with these students. They may not be doing great, but they are making progress; the school certainly isn't failing.

If the District - or the state for that matter - wants to send help to Denny, they should send the help to the students, not the school. They should send additional teachers to lower class sizes. They should send money for enrichment activities like field trips. They should pay for an extended day. They should pay for whatever support has been demonstrated to be effective bringing students up to grade level. They should not be sending in teacher coaches. It's not the teachers who need training.

wseadawg said...

Right you are Charlie. But if they give the schools what they really need, they won't fail to make AYP, and won't be takeover targets for corporate profiteers.

The fix is in. Scapegoat teachers to weaken the union, make them look worse by sending in useless "coaches," and after wasting all that money and time proclaim, "nothing else has worked; time to let the business crowd run things." Its all been done and is being done. NCLB and standardization has absolutely nothing to do with improving public schools. Just the opposite. Its about privatization and weakening the the societal bonds of the common folks.

Like Denny, Cooper was also doing great, but they blew it apart anyways.