District Administration Magazine - That's Their Story and They're Sticking To It

When we last left the discussion of District Administration magazine, they had published an article by former Boston schools' superintendent, Tom Payzant, about how urban superintendents are not being given a long enough tenure to see real results.  Professor Payzant used our district as an example and wrote a revisionist history of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's stay here in Seattle.  (And mind you, there are more than a few Board members who agreed that the article was off the mark.  They, too, do not want to see themselves painted as being bullied and weak.) 

Charlie and I (and at least a few other readers) wrote to the editor to complain.  One of our main complaints was that Professor Payzant did not disclose in his article that (1) he knows Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, (2) was brought out to conduct her Board evaluation and (3) that he and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson are both professionally affiliated with the Broad Foundation.  That might have given some readers pause had they known those facts.  The editor, Angela Pascopella, in her e-mails to me seemed to have not known these facts and had suggested they might have some letters to the editor in next month's issue.

Alas, not so.  In fact, in the title story this month, Superintendent Staying Power, she quotes Payzant again (but only the part about how great she did in the job, not the final straw that pushed her out).  Payzant and Pascopella both know the data the Broad Foundation put forth only showed that Seattle moved ahead marginally but just enough to be able to claim it moved faster than other urban districts.  Not much as an accomplishment but hey, when you are trying to make a specious claim, anything will work.  Shame on them for not wanting to get it right. 

This month's article about superintendents' staying power is based on the Council of Great City Schools' annual report on superintendents.   (The CGCS has 65 member districts across the country.)  Interestingly, Seattle didn't participate in it last year (so is not included in the data) despite being a member of the group. 

Their findings include:
  • tenure has gone up 56% from 2.3 years in 1999 to 3.6 in 2010
  • 91% of superintendents in 2010 still have K-12 education backgrounds
  • the percentage of supers who don't have an educational background is greater in cities
  • there are more female superintendents than there have been in the past decade with the largest increase in white women from 0-9% from 1999-2010


dan dempsey said…
Well a least we know most every facet of Education reporting is a Giant Con-Job for most publications.
Charlie Mas said…
I got a snotty email from Tom Payzant and sent him an even snottier one in return.

What a jerk. (Yes, both of us.)
cascade said…
Charlie, please give us the summation of Tom's response. Does he not like YOUR criticism or does he not like criticism of his piece or of Maria Goodloe-Johnson?
cascade said…
"Unfortunately, in some big city school districts, including Miami-Dade, Washington, D.C., and Seattle, superintendents who have created smart reforms with positive results have been “removed too soon,” says Thomas Payzant, professor of practice at Harvard Graduate School of Education and Boston Public Schools former superintendent. For example, he points to Maria Goodloe-Johnson, Seattle’s former superintendent who was pushed out. But under her leadership, Seattle raised student achievement faster than dozens of other big cities nationwide, he says. “After four years of aggressive reforms that included closing underperforming schools and holding staff accountable under a new evaluation system, Goodloe-Johnson faced growing pushback from the teachers’ union, community groups and the board,” he says.

Tom - dude!!!! - look up from your Harvard credentials and get a grip.

Number One: You are no longer an effective leader with the teachers, community and board against you.

Number One Part A: This is true even if the Alliance for Education Really! Really! Really! likes you.

Number Two: You are no longer an effective leader if you have financial mismanagement happening in your organization, hide it from the board and publicly claim that you are too high in the organization to have to pay attention to the issues.

Number TwoPart A: This is true even if the Alliance for Education Really! Really! Really! likes you.
Charlie Mas said…
He orignally wrote that test scores in Seattle had risen, but I showed, using the data straight from the State, that the district's pass rates had not risen.

He sent a rudely written email in which he tried to refute the data by relying instead on the Broad Foundation's manipulation of the data and the Broad Foundation's proprietary ranking algorithm - which he did not claim to understand.

He closed the email by saying that he didn't want a debate and that he would not comment further.

There were a number of people on the route list for the message. I hit reply all and wrote that I was very glad that he was not going to comment further as that way he won't spew any more misinformation.
Basically, Tom Payzant was:

-saying that the community and parents caused MGJ to get fired (based only on the Silas Potter issue)
-that SPS had progressed better than many other urban districts. Which, based on what we know about SPS scores, means that other districts went down as we either slightly rose or stayed the same. Not a big accomplishment AND SPS didn't even make Broad's list of 75 urban districts for their Broad prize.

I did let the dean of the Graduate School of Education at Harvard know about this. I'll be interested to see if she replies. It was just an FYI e-mail so probably not.
Patrick said…
So for the edu-reformers, if the test scores go up it's to the credit of the superintendent, but if they go down it's all those darn teachers' fault?
Charlie Mas said…
Patrick wins the prize!

Since there is absolutely no attribution analysis ever done and none may even be possible, the outcomes can be attributed to anything that the writer wants to name as the cause.

Scores up or down can be attributed to the superintendent, the executive directors of schools, the principals, the teachers, teacher coaches, music, PE, gluten, sunspots, whatever.

I've decided to pick one thing each year and blame everything on that one thing.

In 2009 I blamed everything on global climate change. And I mean everything: Why is the bus late? Why didn't the Mariners win? Why do my feet hurt? Why is there nothing good on TV? All of it was blamed on Global Climate Change.

In 2010 I blamed everything on anti-semitism. Everything.

This year I'm blaming everything on the falling dollar.

Crazy? Of course, but look around. It is much more common that you would imagine. Look at the folks who blame everything on labor unions, or the other political party, or corporate greed, or capitalism, or socialism, or consumerism, or whatever.

Popular posts from this blog

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Public Schools and Their Principals

COVID Issues Heating up for Seattle Public Schools