Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Is this Subtle?

In her letter to the community regarding the appointment of Marni Campbell to the position of Executive Director of Schools in the northwest region, Dr. Enfield wrote:
We know quality teaching is the number-one factor for student success.
This statement is totally false. We actually know that the number-one factor for student success is the active involvement in the student's education by an adult in the child's home. It has been demonstrated time and time again that home influences utterly swamp school-based influences on student achievement.

Dr. Enfield knows this statement to be false, yet she wrote it. What does that mean?

A) She was trying to misinform and deceive the public.

B) She is misinformed herself.

C) She is a sloppy writer who neglected to add the word "school-based" between "number-one" and "factor".

I don't know. I can't make conjecture about it. I do know that I called district communications and asked them and this is what they said:

"Dr. Enfield asked me to convey that she appreciates you (sic) sharing this subtle, but important, addition to the language. We will not issue another letter at this point, but we will be sure to keep this mind in future communications."

I don't think this is a subtle difference at all. I think it is a big deal. People should know that THEY, and not the school, have the biggest impact on their child's academic success.

And they will not amend the letter as it appears on the District web site. A task that would take all of four mouse-clicks and five seconds of typing. It's not worth it to them to be honest and true.

Good to know.

I will be sure to keep this in mind in future communications.


Anonymous said...

Isn't it obvious by now Charlie? It's the "I'm on board with the ed reformers" code.

Half of them probably don't believe a word of it. But their careers might just depend on them talking the talk during this Ed Reform/Privatization craze.

I would take almost anything they say with a grain of salt these days, and just keep documenting the broken promises, bad ideas, and failures as they pile up.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Time will tell, Charlie, but I lay odds she'll say it again.

It's a talking point for ed reform and so is in the playback for ed reformers.

Anonymous said...

Look. How many times can you continue to whine about the claim "Teachers are the Number 1 Influence on Students"? Of course what is meant is "Teachers are the number 1 influence on students THAT SCHOOLS CAN HAVE" is implied. Why keep whining about that? Everybody gets the implications, and it is completely true.

Similarly, the number 1 influence on health is "clean water". We don't cry about health care claims when that obvious fact is left out.

Move on. You're beginning to sound like Dan Dempsey.


suep. said...

Sorry, reader, but even most of the ed reformers have modified that line to add "in the classroom" or "in school," acknowledging that what goes on in a child's life outside of school and at home is an undeniably huge factor in a child's academic success.

So Enfield needs to update her talking points on that one.

And yes, she will likely toe the ed reform line of the powers that be in this town because she probably wants to cross off "interim" from her title, and she likely has been made to understand that Gates, LEV, the Alliance et al will try to determine her future in that regard.

(But, then again, they weren't able to save Goodloe-Johnson, were they.)

Imagine if Enfield were to be her own person, think for herself, and cast a critical eye on the ed reform agenda -- back away from TFA, cancel MAP, return autonomy to principals.

Maybe then she'd win support from the community too (or instead).

Anonymous said...

suep.: your reply again demonstrates that facts have a curious way of getting at the truth.

I would add that Susan Enfield IS
thinking for herself and her actions and words have demonstrated from the beginning (when her first public meeting involved the Alliance) what she has chosen: whatever it takes for her to get ahead is the road more taken.

--Ethics matter

Charlie Mas said...

reader, here's the thing:

If families are reminded, again and again, that the primary determinant of their child's academic success is in their hands, then they will learn that THEY have the power to make a difference.

If families are told, again and again, that the primary determinant of their child's academic success is a teacher assignment, then they will not recognize the power in their own hands, they will become more passive, and they will join the army of teacher-blamers.

It's like the end of The Wizard of Oz when Glinda tells Dorothy that she always had the power to go home herself. If I'm Dorothy, I'm thinking "You Bitch! Why didn't you tell me that back in Munchkinville before I had to go through all this life-threatening trouble?"

someone said...

I don't know - maybe it is obvious that she means "in the classroom" to be implied in that statement. Yes, most of the people who read this blog will understand that and that @ethics matter is right - she's already chosen a path, and this is one more verbal "indictor species"

BUT and it's a big but - there are plenty of parents who's language skills aren't as nuanced as the readers here - who might take that statement at face value and not realize how much they can change their child's success WITHOUT the teacher or the classroom.

It's not that far from Mr. Gates and his "it's not the poverty stupid" thought process. Yeah, it often is, and Yeah, parents have the power to make change.

Dr. Enfield knows exactly what she's doing in these situations, and exactly what she's really saying. She's a sharp cookie looking to be appointed. Just means those who care about the district have to be sharper ;o)

Anonymous said...


Watch this segment by Lawrence O'Donnell on The Last Word from last evening. This might explain why many of us see this mantra's wider societal implications beyond the classroom.

Many Ed Reform supporters do not realize who and what they are supporting while sincerely trying to help kids. This puts it in context quite well. WSEADAWG

Anonymous said...

Just like I believe that extremism is sometimes necessary in the defense of liberty, I believe that gadflies are necessary in the defense of accuracy.

Although sit-ins are not my style, being a gadfly about accuracy in evidence is, so I'll take this as a reminder to join this cause: to correct everyone who says "teacher quality is the most important . . ." without the proper qualifiers.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that was me, zb.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see Charlie. So families need to be TOLD by the district that they matter to their kids. Who knew they were such idiots? Should they also be TOLD to drink only clean water or brush their teeth? Should that be in all comments from the district too? How stupid do you really think people are? They don't really get it. Every year, different teachers. Some for only an hour. Then finally, no teacher. Only the family remains as the constant. And you think families don't notice that? And, somehow you think families need some sort of lecture from the district on their importance? Well, if that district "education to families" were going to work, then the schools would indeed be powerful enough to overcome every other influence. If parents need to be told that they matter the most to understand it, then we really do need a highly centralized, top down management. They must be really stupid. That is your implication.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm not sure Charlie meant families need to be told. But the greater public, hearing this drumbeat of "bad teachers", may believe that a good teacher, overall, the most important thing.

I've always said that families are the third-rail of education that we don't talk about and yet it's a major issue.(And to a larger scale, how we as a country and society, view education and its importance in the lives our children.)

ArchStanton said...

Some parent/families probably do need to be told that they are important to their child's education. Some people/cultures leave the business of education to the teachers and schools - which may be fine in some circumstances. Some parents don't come from families that valued or reinforced education when they were children - even if they understand the value, they may not know how to pass on those values and set those examples for their own kids. Not everyone shares the relatively privileged upbringing that the readers of this blog possess.

You might think that people don't need to be told not to use gas or wood burning grills to cook and heat inside their homes when their power is out, but you'd be wrong.

Anonymous said...

Reader: the trees are blinding you from the forest.

Maybe parents don't need to be told they matter, but they also don't need to be told, repeatedly, by powerful people citing so called "research" that teachers are the single most important factor in a child's learning, under the guise of accountability. The best teacher can't teach an unmotivated kid with a chip on his or her shoulder. Yet plenty of lazy parents expect the teacher to be a psychologist, foster parent, tutor, sponsor and nutritionist, in addition to teaching their child how to read and write. It doesn't help that problem to put everything on the backs of teachers and imply they aren't doing their jobs, when plenty of parents chronically fail at theirs.

Anonymous said...


Charlie Mas said...

reader, I'm glad that you don't need to be told this. Now can you please tell Dr. Enfield? Because apparently she needs to be told this.

There are, as WSDWG noted, a lot of families which do need to be told this. They certainly don't need to be told something else. If they know they have the power maybe they will be more thoughtful about how they use it.

Your original premise is that Dr. Enfield doesn't need to speak precisely because everyone already knows what she means. If everyone already knows what she means then she doesn't need to speak at all.

The fact is that Dr. Enfield does need to speak precisely because what she says matters. If what she said didn't matter then she shouldn't bother to speak at all.

Hey, if Dr. Enfield said that the sun rose in the south, would you ignore it because everyone knows it rises in the east? And if she continued to say that it rose in the south would you continue to ignore it and think it silly for people to want her to correct her statement? Maybe. Maybe that's how you roll.

This is how I roll. I expect people in authority to tell the truth and not to make misstatements - innocently or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, Dr. Ensfeild in charge of schools. Everyone knows she is in charge of schools. When she is talking about her job, the implication is always "in schools". She doesn't need to add that excess baggage in her language. Excess linguistic baggage (like IN SCHOOL) doesn't provide precision.

Yes. Good teachers motivate and engage students (unlike anonymous' supposition). Yes. We want those. We all know when a teacher is motivating, it makes a tremendous difference. There's plenty of blame to go around. We don't need people blaming parents. The fact that there are some kids with "bad" parents is part of the job. And yes, she will need good teachers to teach those students and others. Yes, providing that good teacher is the best thing Enfeild, herself, can do. There are many other things that others can do. It isn't her job to enumerate them. That is the truth. And she has said it.

And even if you don't agree with the supposition that "Good teachers are the most important factor...", and even if you think a caveat needs to be added for some sort of lecture purpose, you've made the point ad naseum.


Anonymous said...

Yes, reader, and you've made your point, too.


Jan said...

Well, ad nauseum be damned. Here, reader, is why I think Dr. E's misstatements matter.

There is a widespread feeling that schools are not doing a good job, kids are not learning enough, etc. Much money is being spent to try to "fix" the problem. In order to apply the money efficiently, you have to identify the problem correctly.
Let's assume, for a moment, that 70 percent of the "problem between a kid earning a "D" is home environment -- poverty, cultural biases against education, lack of good role models, Engligh not spoken at home -- whatever. And let's assume that 20 percent is what the child brings (resourcefulness, laziness, fatalism, contempt for education, resilience, curiosity (or lack thereof). Let us assume that of the last 10%, 7 percent is teacher quality and 3 percent is curriculum.
The premise seems to be -- schools don't have nearly enough money to tackle the 70% issue, or the 20% issues. All they can do is control what goes on in schools. So, we are spending millions and millions tackling something that, at best, is maybe only 7% of the problem. If these numbers were correct, even if Ed Reform was doing everything RIGHT in terms of improving teacher quality, it is not going to move the dial. It just won't! But since we are being dishonest (or at best, inaccurate) about what it might REALLY take to change outcomes, the money is mostly just wasted. AND if, as I think is happening, they are not only going after the wrong thing (teacher quality) but are doing it in a way that destroys much of the current value of education -- you get millions of dollars spent and a ruined system.

If I go to a hospital with cancer and a bad hip -- and the cancer will kill me, while the bad hip means I can no longer play tennis unless I get a joint replacement, it is a waste of money (and fatal to me, the patient) to be told -- well, all we do is orthopedics here, so we'll fix the hip, and ignore the cancer, because that is not what we treat here. (And it is even worse if they then screw up the hip replacement and I end up with a worse hip than I had going in -- now, I have cancer AND a destroyed hip.

That is where we are. We are NOT addressing the biggest problems. We are focusing on one which, regardless of what we do, will not fix the system -- and in doing so, we are ignoring all the things we COULD be fixing (targeted intervention, better curricula, more freedom for teachers to tailor classes to improve results). And then, to top it all off, the "teacher improvement" fixes we are adopting are making teaching worse -- not better.

We need a superintendent who will speak the truth so that we can start putting money on interventions that DO work. If, while we do that, we want to come up with a better teacher evaluation/retention system, that's ok. But right now, that is ALL we are doing -- and the cancer rages on! Exceot by blind luck, ALL decisions made on faulty premises are likely to lead to weak or bad results.

Anonymous said...


Now I'm really intrigued. It's quite obvious you're not ready to "move on..." I hope you keep responding to all the posts that address you're series of comments. Why, because it will tell us more of what you're about...which is a mystery to me as much as the mystery around what Susan Enfield really meant to say and her office claiming they don't need to clarify what she meant to say.

ken berry
SpEd IA Van Asselt Elem

Anonymous said...

OK, sped_IA! I'll respond, though I was quite willing to stop with point made, so others will excuse the excess. The statement: "Great teachers are the most important thing blah, blah, blah" is not much of a statement. It's like saying nothing. It is simply something that is true in the confines of the school system. And it usually is simply an addendum to somebody's promotion (Marni Campbell's in this case). Big deal. They have to say something. Alternatively, they could have said something about all the great things Marni did for special ed. Oh yeah. There wasn't anything. She was promoted for no reason at all! Or maybe even because she was bad a her current, soon-to-be previous job. She has left special ed students worse off than she found them. So, they've got to whip out a platitude instead. It isn't even worth a comment or response. Much better to comment on why all the musical chairs with endless promotions for no reason. Or ask, Why did Ms. Campbell get promoted? This time or last. Yet, we hear people getting all riled up over the platitude. Reading all sorts of things into it... over and over again.

I disagree strongly with the fatalism that is: teacher can't do anything about the unmotivated, bad attituded student, junk-food eating students etc. If so, why not just hire TFA.. or the cheapest thing around? Why not just use online classes? Teachers do need to reach a broad range, and some of them don't or don't try. Furthmore Jan, if you were dying of cancer, you might still want your hip fixed to get in your last rounds of tennis. Quality of life. You don't seem to have a good grasp over what the biggest problems actually are. The things you listed are pretty low on my totem pole.

That said, the district does mislead all the time. And I do resent it. The things that I find irksome are statements around accomplishments that aren't true, or plans that are so obviously not thought out at all, or statements around savings that have never happened, or statements around services that aren't really being delivered. Those are worth exposing. Stuff like that.


Anonymous said...


"The Devil is in the details..."

Isn't all the great crime/detective stories real and imagined about putting all the minor, seemingly innocuous actions together to create a picture of the perpetrator?

BTW, I'm curious why you address me in an anonymous way, "Sped IA." I've always added my name at the end of my comments and I've recently added the tag of where I work so people have a clearer picture in mind of where I'm coming from. I wonder...Why do you keep yourself in the shadows as "reader"?

ken berry
SpEd IA Van Asselt Elem

mirmac1 said...

Hi reader, I know you and know that you have a sharp brain and big heart. Yeah, Marni Campbell's promotion is a joke - a result of being the boss's friend.

Some of us quibble with that simple statement because if you go to ANY ed reform website, there it is. Just the other day I visited a new site and lo and behold I see:

"The single biggest influence on student achievement is the quality of the teacher." U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

This mantra, along with "close the achievement gap" are the buzzwords used by those who are right now profiting off of the push to close public schools and open charters. Some of us are sick of the manipulation, and are angry to see this interim superintendent trying to pull again and again.