Thursday, October 12, 2017

On Eve of DeVos in Washington, She Goes to a Public School in Oregon

Betsey DeVos visits, she normally goes to a charter school or private school or both.  It is rare for her to acknowledge good happenings in public schools so it is a surprise that in her visit yesterday in Oregon, she went to a public school.  (Her office has not announced plans to visit ANY Washington state school.)  From The Oregonian:

The Oregonian/OregonLive recently highlighted McMinnville's ability to achieve what most Oregon school districts have not. McMinnville's success rates with low-income students were roughly 20 percentage points higher than statewide averages.

A visit from the country's top education official put McMinnville's feat on a national stage and created a dilemma for those in the community who wanted to be proud of the honor, but feel DeVos' stance on education to be corrosive to the achievement she'd come to McMinnville to understand.
McMinnville is a district of about 7,000 students.
Nearly 60 percent of McMinnville students are low-income, one-third are Latino and many of those enter school speaking English as a second language.
How good are these results?
Oregon's latest round of standardized test scores came out last week, and results among low-income students were bleak. Only 41 percent ended the year proficient at reading and writing. Just a quarter of them had mastered math.

But among the state's large and mid-sized districts, one managed to shatter that pattern. Low-income students make up more than half the enrollment of McMinnville schools, and those students outperformed state averages for students from all income groups.

McMinnville's success rates with low-income students were roughly 20 percentage points higher than statewide averages and even further above the rates in Portland, Oregon's largest district. Its results for Latino students topped those of all other districts with at least 1,000 Latino test-takers as well.
How McMinnville schools do it is deceptively simple, according to school and district leaders who helped make it happen.
How did they achieve these results? (Bold mine)
First, they comb research to find "high-leverage" techniques that teachers can use to make the biggest difference. Then, Superintendent Maryalice Russell makes sure every principal and central office honcho gets trained to know those techniques in and out.

Those administrators in turn impart the skills to teachers, using plain language and practical illustrations. Finally, teachers use those skills in their classrooms, measure the impact on students and meet regularly in grade-level or subject-matter groups to share their findings. Teachers help each other fine-tune teaching strategies based on those results.
"We're looking at instruction like a diagnostician," says Kourtney Ferrua, principal of Wascher Elementary, one of six in McMinnville. "What strategy fits that particular student, that particular situation? It's really teaching with intention all day, every day."

All McMinnville teachers, from kindergarten through grade 12, are expected to know a dozen or so agreed-upon strategies that research has shown deliver big payoffs for student learning.
  • Give students fast, accurate feedback. 
  • Ask them high-level questions. 
  • Make lessons clear.
  • Create an environment in which students, not the teacher, do most of the talking. 
  • Use data in a continuous feedback loop to tell you what approaches are working for your students.
"We really focus on making sure that every teacher in our district and every staff member all recognize and know what high quality instruction is."
This is a focused vision with supports and follow-thru.  Everyone on this same page (almost literally but with flexibility) based on research and data.  And it appears to have very little to do with adding more technology but the personalization comes from the teachers knowing what each student needs.
Asked to respond to fears that school choice efforts would take dollars away from schools like McMinnville High that are doing well, DeVos said she felt we should "focus less on systems and buildings" and more on "doing what's right for each child.
Her less-than-precise "doing what's right for each child" may have everything to do with systems and buildings that need to be in order for that individual child-centered work to happen.


Anonymous said...

I'm surprised DeVos entered a public school. She must have looked like Walter White, wearing a yellow haz-mat suit and mask to filter the failure wafting about in the air.


Anonymous said...

Did you go tonight? I thought there was a fundraiser to help get MW a ticket. Looking forward to reflections.

Would be interesting to compare and contrast DeVos message of choice and SPS now actively limiting choice more and more.

U Turn