An Innovative Approach to Closing the Achievement Gap

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achievement-gapA month or so ago, the Vanguard suggested that the school district look into bold and innovative ways to move forward as it embarks on a strategic plan.  The question, of course, is what that bold and innovative path might look like.

From the publication California Economic Summit comes an account of how one community, Sonoma, is working to close their achievement gap.

The story begins in 2007 when a group of regional leaders in Sonoma gathered to develop a ten-year economic strategy for the county.  There they found what is described as “an unlikely obstacle standing in the way of the region’s economic growth. Nearly one in two Latino students in the county – one of the fastest-growing segments of Sonoma’s population and the foundation of the region’s future workforce – don’t graduate from high school.”

Indeed, just like Davis, there is perhaps a resistance to thinking about the problem in those terms.  However, as Oscar Chavez, the executive director of an organization called Community Action Partnership, “a nonprofit devoted to helping low-income families overcome poverty, health problems, and the many other issues that so often result from dropping out of school,” points out, the issue is crucial.

He is quoted in the publication stating, “We don’t always like to acknowledge this in Sonoma, this beautiful place where people come to play and go on vacation…  But to solve this problem, we really needed to peel back the veneer and say, ‘We’re great, but we have to do better for the people of our county.’ “

And while Davis has a smaller population of Hispanics, it is a growing population and the achievement gap in Davis schools remains larger than most.  Still, perhaps with far larger Latino populations in other parts of the county, it makes sense to work on this issue at the county level and not simply at the DJUSD school district level.

What Sonoma County did was make “closing the achievement gap a top regional priority in its 2009 Strategic Economic Plan. It also made the economic case quite clearly, showing closing the achievement gap would result in nearly $800 million of increased economic output in the next ten years, thousands of jobs, and $53 million in new revenue.”

“The fact is, people here have bought into the idea that the most significant thing we can do to improve our workforce and attract more businesses is to close this gap,” said Mr. Chavez.

One of the first steps was a new initiative in which a partnership came together “to take on the task of aligning all segments of the county’s educational continuum – from early childhood programs to college-preparation and workforce training – in an effort to improve outcomes for Sonoma County youth.”

The Sonoma County approach is one of collaboration and leadership provided by the county government, which serves as the backbone of an initiative that brings together a variety of stakeholders, from school officials and nonprofits to industry and health advocates.

While the county manages the effort, the program is premised on the idea “that complex social issues can’t be solved only by one organization or one sector.”

As laid out in the article here are some of the key approaches and implementation steps.

Every child enters kindergarten ready to succeed – Cradle to Career aims to connect young children with health services and provide caregivers with the support they need to create positive learning environments for their children, particularly in low-income communities.

Every child succeeds academically– By supporting more relevant and engaging learning opportunities, giving students additional support during key transitions, and developing a mechanism to collect and share common data to help at-risk students, the Cradle to Career Initiative is helping all Sonoma Youth succeed academically.

Every child is supported in and out of school– By aligning and integrating support services with schools, students can access programs that help prepare them for successful transitions to adulthood, while families can also access the resources and support services they need.

Every young adult is prepared to achieve life and career goals – Cradle to Career aims to connect employers with school systems to better align curriculum with real-world opportunities.

Every young adult thrives and becomes a contributing member of the community – Creating pathways for young people to get involved with civic life and to develop leadership skills helps to ensure that young adults are contributing, civically-engaged members of the community.

“The county department heads have been really visionary about how to address problems,” Mr. Chavez told the California Economic Summit.

They note, “The health department has its own goal of trying to make Sonoma the healthiest county in California by 2020 – a task county leaders realized could only be accomplished by dramatically improving the region’s educational outcomes and income levels, the two key determinants of health and well-being.”

“Economic policy is health policy and education policy is economic policy – they’re all interrelated,” says Mr. Chavez. “The interplay of those problems is what we need to be focused on, and we’ve all bought into this notion that if we really want to get serious about education in our community, we have to disrupt these systems that are no longer working for young people.”

The article notes, “Cradle to Career is now rolling out a series of ‘launch actions’ in different parts of the Sonoma region, with Chavez’s group focusing on the part of the county with the greatest educational disparities – Southwest Santa Rosa. With the support of the County Office of Education, Community Action Partnership is partnering with the Santa Rosa School District to take the first step toward making Cradle to Career a reality by transforming a low-performing middle school into a full-service community school.”

“We’ve set out to really illustrate the whole Cradle to Career movement in one segment of our community,” Mr. Chavez is quoted saying. The report notes, “On one school campus, his group plans to build preschool facilities for more than 200 children, a large family resources center for students and their parents, and a career and technical education programs for those seeking work. The group announced in March that it has received its first $1.4 million grant.”

“We’re aiming to realize the whole continuum,” Mr. Chavez said. “Cradle to Career may be a recent phenomenon, but what’s exciting is how fast it’s been embraced by our community and how fast we’ve been able to bring people together.”

Perhaps Davis Joint Unified needs to reexamine how we address our own achievement gap, in light of apparently successful programs of this sort, and perhaps the effort needs to be addressed on the county level.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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77 thoughts on “An Innovative Approach to Closing the Achievement Gap”

  1. B. Nice

    This article, and Sonoma Counties efforts, reminded me of the official objectives of the National PTA which I stumbled upon once. I was surprised how far reaching into the communities these goals went. I think most PTA’s have either lost sight of it’s bigger purpose or never really understood it. Refocusing these groups to meet their original goals would be a step in the right direction when attempting to close the education gap.

    The Objects of the National PTA:

    To promote the welfare of the children and youth in home, school, community, and place of worship
    To raise the standards of home life
    To secure adequate laws for the care and protection of children and youth
    To bring into closer relation the home and the school, that parents and teachers may cooperate intelligently in the education of children and youth
    To develop between educators and the general public such united efforts as will secure for all children and youth the highest advantages in physical, mental, social, and spiritual education.

  2. wdf1

    David, what you describe here is actually very close to the strategies of the Davis Bridge Foundation. There are staff and infrastructure within DJUSD that subscribe to this, but because the lower SES/ELL population is smaller and less prominent in Davis than other surrounding places, they operate more under the radar.

  3. Frankly

    We need the David Bridge Foundation because the education system is crappy. Fix the education system.

    Good article David. I support and agree with the key approaches and implementation steps. What I disagree with is our failure to accept a vision for the education system actually doing all of this. It does NOT take a village if the education system is retooled to a school-of-one approach giving every child what he or she needs to have the best chance of success.

    The average black or Hispanic student has needs different than the average academically gifted white female – the model Davis student that the local Davis schools gravitate towards beginning in junior high. The average male student has needs that differ from the average female student.

    But our education system is stuck on the stupid left-leaning ideological malady of “fairness”. Afraid some “stupider” male student with more testosterone and risk-taking will launch to a life of prosperity exceeding that of the brainy risk-averse, our teachers – 80% who are female and liberal – put their thumb down on them. They tell their parents to go see the doctor for a ADD diagnosis and some Ritalin prescription. The cut arts and industrial arts and retain “Diversity” and “Sensitivity” classes. They follow Title-IX requirements and cut options for male students to participate in sports so that we achieve this vision of gender “fairness”.

    I am barking up a tree that is already growing and blossoming. The recent announcement that the principle of Da Vinci is leaving to work for an organization working on education reform is evidence of this. Education – both K-12 and higher learning – is the new bubble. It is going to pop. It is already popping. There is a groundswell of private industry activity well underway to extract much of education control from greedy fingers of the education authorities and unions protecting their self-interests. Change is inevitable. Those that resist will become chumps that wish they had not. The most successful will be those that more quickly adopt a vision of complete reform and improvement – accepting a profound new vision of what education should be and can be. That vision should be based on a simple mission statement that the education is focused on doing everything it can to ensure EVERY student has the best possible opportunity to launch to a life of economic self-sufficiency.

  4. David M. Greenwald

    “We need the David Bridge Foundation because the education system is crappy. Fix the education system.”

    I see this as part of fixing the educational system – and in part – acknowledging that the problems of the educational system extend beyond the system and therefore any solution must also extend beyond it.

  5. Frankly

    But here is the thing David. The education system is the convenient and practical service-delivery solution. Kids spend most of their non-sleeping time in school. If you are going to push more of the responsibility to organizations outside of the education system as we know it, then the education system as we know it becomes less useful and less necessary.

    Frankly, there is a lot of idiocy in this approach from those that think they are protecting teachers. What a failure to embrace reforms will do is to inspire more investment in alternative that will begin to erode the public-sector student population. As these success stories of alternatives build, more parents will start demanding vouchers. They will win in elections. The public school system will become every crappier.

    If I was CEO of the public education system I would have my management team in crisis mode for putting together a new vision and plan for reform, and working like crazy to implement that plan. The impetus for this is the clear understanding that we are heading for decline because of competition for new education models being developed and implemented across the country. I would clearly see that we are making the classic Harvard B-School case study mistake of a bureaucratic-hold onto the past while the future storm of change is brewing to destroy us.

  6. David M. Greenwald

    That’s true, but while kids spend a lot of non-sleeping time in school – there things that impact performance home life, ability of parents to assist with work, supplemental learning, learning environment, nutrition, health care, etc. I don’t believe you can fix the educational system without addressing these issues involving the family and neighborhoods.

  7. Don Shor

    [quote]We need the David Bridge Foundation because the education system is crappy.[/quote]

    Davis schools are not crappy.
    As we’ve demonstrated many, many times before to Frankly, reform and innovation is occurring in our schools, and particularly right here in DJUSD.
    Some day maybe he’ll investigate how things are really done here instead of just reposting rightwing boilerplate.

  8. wdf1

    Davis Bridge is in the best spirit of the democracy and local initiative that originally brought public schools to Davis. A bunch of local residents wanted to see local schools respond to local interests instead of travel elsewhere for education, so they incorporated locally and local residents approved the taxes to pay for it.

    By the way, Davis Bridge Foundation will be disbanding ([url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/davis-bridge-enters-new-phase-as-founder-moves-on/[/url]), and the after school program will be taken over by the district.

  9. Don Shor

    [url]http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-widest-achievement-gap[/url]

    “A growing body of evidence points to the effectiveness of approaches that incorporate [b]intense individual attention for students, support for parents,[/b] and a continuum of [b]age-appropriate strategies[/b] to improve reading and math skills.”

    “Though the most promising educational approaches differ in many respects, they share one key element: They emphasize a continuous supply of individual attention, regardless of whether the child in question is an infant, toddler, or teenager.”

    “…well-designed [b]parenting programs [/b]have been shown to have a meaningful impact. Evidence-based home-visiting programs, like the Nurse-Family Partnership (which relies on trained nurses to support parents from pregnancy through the first two years of a baby’s life) — as well as center-based programs that also include home visits, like Early Head Start — have been shown to enhance parents’ sensitivity to their infants’ and toddlers’ cues, lessen reliance on spanking, and increase the number of age-appropriate learning materials around the house (as well as the amount of time spent reading to kids).”

    Bottom line:
    Smaller class sizes
    Individual attention at all grade levels for student who need it
    Early childhood education

  10. wdf1

    Don Shor: [i]Bottom line:
    Smaller class sizes
    Individual attention at all grade levels for student who need it
    Early childhood education[/i]

    Add to that language services to families most in need of it. It wasn’t until Davis Bridge came around that the district was forced to confront the fact that they did not have staff liaisons who could speak fluent Spanish to the parents. Instead the choices that Spanish speaking families had was to struggle through the language barrier and miss information, have their kids translate, or shop around for schools that happened to have staff who were fluent Spanish speakers (but often it wasn’t part of their jobs to be available to translate). It’s still not perfect. There are some schools that don’t have readily available staff to interact with Spanish speaking families. If you can’t have easy communication with the parents, then it’s hard or impossible to move forward with the rest of the program.

  11. Frankly

    [i] there things that impact performance home life, ability of parents to assist with work, supplemental learning, learning environment, nutrition, health care, etc. I don’t believe you can fix the educational system without addressing these issues involving the family and neighborhoods. [/i]

    The education system can take the lead on providing, facilitating and advocating these things. Today they are just given as excuses for crappy school performance. If I run a business that serves customers from different races and different socio-economic classes, if I do not tailor my services and products for their specific needs – and instead complain that many of them do not rise up to meet my version of a model customer – they will stop doing business with me and I will fail.

    [I]”Smaller class sizes
    Individual attention at all grade levels for student who need it
    Early childhood education”[/I]

    I don’t know what the last one entails, but I generally agree with the first one for the K-7 grades and the second one for all grades and also higher learning.

    So, how are we going to make this happen?

    How are we going to pay for it.

    Can we be done with the theoretical debate since there seems to be much we can agree with to work on, and start talking about practical implementation? I think you and wdf1 are part of that group that just wants to hold on until we overturn prop-13 and/or continue to raise taxes to through more money at the system… most that will go into the union member’s and union leaders pockets, and ensure Democrats will continue to dominate state politics. Your problem is that other models of higher quality and greater affordability are quickly developing. So, you need to get off the theoretical-stalling-for-more-money horse, and jump on the one that leads to practicality and implementation.

    The bottom line is that our current education system has grown to be far too costly for the service it provides. If we are going to spend any more, then there needs to be a reform plan with goal commitments from the system. If they fail to meet those goals, then we get to replace them.

    Hanging in status quo land and blaming social issues and poor parenting while also making the excuse that a system that costs 3-times what it cost per student 50 years ago cannot do as good a job without blowing it to 4 or 5-times the historical cost is a non starter. It will not happen.

  12. David M. Greenwald

    “The education system can take the lead on providing, facilitating and advocating these things.”

    The idea of the county taking the lead actually makes a lot of sense to me given the other areas of involvement

    “Today they are just given as excuses for crappy school performance.”

    You see excuses, I see explanations. I think you are asking too much of a very underfunded system.

  13. wdf1

    Frankly: [i]Can we be done with the theoretical debate since there seems to be much we can agree with to work on, and start talking about practical implementation?[/i]

    Okay, assume that abolishing the teachers union is a side show in this discussion, and putting a CEO in charge it all as if it’s just a private business model with a profit motive is a non-starter for me. Take those two things off the table, and we can probably have more practical discussions about implementation.

  14. Ryan Kelly

    School districts are moving to ban suspension for “willful defiance,” which is a catch-all for anything and everything, such as not doing homework to failing to turn off a cell phone. The rate of suspensions is something that needs to be closely monitored. Students at risk, students of color, are suspended at greater rates than the rest of the school population. And we wonder why they end up behind or dropping out. Davis schools should adopt a similar ban and force teachers and administrators to come up with another way to keep kids in the classroom and engaged.

  15. Don Shor

    [quote]Can we be done with the theoretical debate since there seems to be much we can agree with to work on, and start talking about practical implementation? [/quote]
    Sure. Expand Head Start (federal dollars). Implement universal preschool (state dollars). Provide more specialized instruction for remedial learners (redirection of former RDA funds). Provide state funding to local school districts to re-implement smaller class sizes.

    [quote] I think you and wdf1 are part of that group that just wants to hold on until we overturn prop-13 and/or continue to raise taxes to through more money at the system… most that will go into the union member’s and union leaders pockets, and ensure Democrats will continue to dominate state politics.[/quote]
    I have never advocated overturning Prop 13.
    I don’t think we necessarily need to raise taxes, probably just redirect some current revenues.
    Some of what I would like to see would require more money from the federal Department of Education. Most conservatives want to abolish that; I would expand it.
    Since most teachers are union members, it is true that any more money that goes to any teacher is going to a union member. You care obsessively about that; I don’t.
    I don’t have to do a single thing to “ensure Democrats will continue to dominate state politics.” Republicans in California ensure that.

  16. JustSaying

    Well, I’m ready to do away with Prop 13. I was surprised that it wasn’t overturned in the courts years ago. It’s screwed up financing of our most important government services and projects–nothing messed up more than funding our educational system, however.

    Why my geezer neighbors (a retired UCD couple, now home alone) pay a tiny percentage of the property taxes we do for a like property (because we had a job transfer and bought again when we returned a few years later) is unfair and unnecessary.

    Not that I’m taking it personal; it’s just nonsensical in theory and destructive in practice.

  17. SouthofDavis

    Don wrote:

    > Davis schools are not crappy.
    > As we’ve demonstrated many, many
    > times before to Frankly, reform
    > and innovation is occurring in our
    > schools, and particularly right
    > here in DJUSD.

    I’m going to agree with Don that the Davis schools are not “crappy” but it is important to note that in a school district full of super achieving parents (a while back at kids birthday party I was the only parent that did not have an advanced degree or attend a “top 50” US college) can hide a lot of problems when parents pick up the slack.

    I recently heard that many of the problems Marguerite Montgomery are related to the influx of kids who live in the migrant camp outside town. I’m pretty sure that none of the farmworkers in the migrant camp have advanced degrees from Harvard, Stanford or MIT and most of their kids did not learn letters, numbers and basic math and reading in pre-school (or spend over an hour a day with their parents going over school work).

  18. SouthofDavis

    Ryan wrote:

    > School districts are moving to ban suspension
    > for “willful defiance,”…

    I know there are a lot of suspensions in Oakland and South Sacramento, but does Davis even have very many (does Davis release the number)?

  19. Mark West

    A local administrator and faculty at one of our Elementary schools collaborated to design and implement an innovative approach to English language learning, that in part selected and incorporated the specific language skills of individual teachers to provide native language assistance in more than twenty languages to both students and their parents. The project was a great success with documented, significant improvements in English reading scores across the board.

    Did we reward the staff with increased compensation? No, that would have violated the union contract.

    Did we attempt to replicate the model across our other schools? No, that would have violated the independence of the site administrators (plus require someone in the District Administration or School Board to be paying attention).

    So how did the great City of Davis respond to the success of this innovative approach? Much the same way we respond to many new ideas that challenge the status quo…we closed the school.

    Solving the shortcomings of our public education system is a difficult and complex issue. It will require collaboration among all of the stakeholders, and a willingness to accept potentially dramatic change. This is not a problem that can be blamed solely on the Union, nor for that matter on the administrators, politicians or the public. It is all of our fault, and the only way we will begin to address the issues in any meaningful way is if we stop pointing fingers at each other, stop condemning each other’s motives, and agree to give up the defensive, backward mindset that one approach or another is a ‘[b]non-starter[/b].’

    Everything has to be on the table, and everyone has to be willing to listen, or nothing will be accomplished. Simple to say, much more difficult to do.

  20. Frankly

    [i]Okay, assume that abolishing the teachers union is a side show in this discussion, and putting a CEO in charge it all as if it’s just a private business model with a profit motive is a non-starter for me. Take those two things off the table, and we can probably have more practical discussions about implementation[/i]

    wdf1, I really do not care if we have unions or no unions. I only care about service and performance and the cost to deliver it. You trust that we can improve education value enough to meet our needs with unions in the picture, I do not.

    Here is the glaring evidence to support my position: there is not a single improvement goal commitment that has been delivered by the unionized education establishment. What they say… you give us more and we will do more. That is it. That is the extent of their commitment.

    So, how would you respond if say a contractor doing work on your house tells you to pay him more so he can do more… without making any specific performance commitments? You would not. It is an asinine thing that I am Frankly a bit mystified how you and other very smart people are continually duped into this mindset that teachers unions are good for us and worthy of support. The only things they benefit are the union bosses pockets and the union members pockets.

    If and when the unions start having performance skin in the game for significant education improvement, I will support them. Right now they are just a pile of excuses and take the tactic to starve service to frighten the tired and working public into emptying more of their wallets just to save the status quo.

  21. Frankly

    Thank you Mark West for that example. Certainly there is bureaucracy in any organization public or private. Your example is more the rule than the exception in our public education system. There is no urgency, and no incentives, to make these types of changes that benefit the students. It is a broken system in terms of incentives and disincentives. This tendency to push rules and historical practice over innovation that delivers higher service quality aggravates more that it would for any other type of service maybe other than healthcare, because these kids only get one-crack at education. They are expected to be the best they can be, while the system demanding it seems bent on being the worst it can get away with.

  22. Mr.Toad

    Under the Governors proposal for the education budget Davis won’t get back to 2007-2008 levels until 2017. Close the local achievement gap under these conditions forgetaboutit.

  23. wdf1

    Frankly: [i]I really do not care if we have unions or no unions.[/i]

    That’s a change. Earlier you insisted on abolishing them.

    [i]Here is the glaring evidence to support my position: there is not a single improvement goal commitment that has been delivered by the unionized education establishment.[/i]

    [quote]The charter school idea in the United States was originated by Ray Budde,[9] a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and embraced by Albert Shanker, President of the American Federation of Teachers, in 1988 when he called for the reform of the public schools by establishing “charter schools” or “schools of choice”. source ([url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_schools#History[/url])[/quote]

  24. Frankly

    [i]Frankly: I really do not care if we have unions or no unions.

    That’s a change. Earlier you insisted on abolishing them.[/i]

    Because they are impediments to change and improvement. If they stopped being impediments and started being champions of change that included specific and valuable performance commitments, I would stop insisting that they be abolished. I don’t have any personal axe to grind against unions, it is all just a point of HOW we would implement reforms that would provide the most value to the kids. If there is something in the way, I want it gone. If unions were there as strong advocates for finding ways to do more with less, I would be 100% on their side.

  25. wdf1

    Mark West: [i]So how did the great City of Davis respond to the success of this innovative approach? Much the same way we respond to many new ideas that challenge the status quo…we closed the school.[/i]

    But thank God they didn’t fire the staff, most of whom moved to Korematsu, so that they can share their ideas with others.

    [i]Did we attempt to replicate the model across our other schools? No,[/i]

    Why do you think it hasn’t been examined or replicated?

  26. Frankly

    Wdf1: are you really ready to go on record that the teachers unions support charter schools? Really?

    [quote]”Public charter schools now serve 2.3 million children nationwide and enjoy growing bipartisan support. But they are still loathed by teachers unions and traditional public-school officials more interested in protecting their piece of the school-funding pie than in providing students trapped in failing schools with a chance at a decent education.

    Those familiar with the controversy over charters have probably heard of the 2009 study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes. The Credo study, routinely cited by groups opposed to school choice, analyzed charter schools in 16 states and found that, on average, only 17% were outperforming conventional public schools while 37% were doing worse.

    However, Credo noted that the study’s results “vary strongly by state and are shown to be influenced in significant ways by several characteristics of state charter school policies.” These include laws determining how many charters can operate in a state, who can authorize them, and the level of autonomy these schools will have from certain state regulations.

    Although largely ignored, this finding is especially relevant in light of a more recent Credo study focusing solely on the performance of Michigan’s charter schools. The findings, released in January, portray Michigan’s charter schools as a clear-cut success story and provide lessons for other states.

    Enlarge Image
    image
    CloseimageAssociated Press

    Detroit Midtown Academy teacher Rochell Dunson works with students in 2008.
    Credo found that 42% of Michigan’s charter schools are outperforming conventional public schools in math and 35% of charters are outperforming in reading. Only 6% of charters are underperforming in math and only 2% in reading. Further, 82% of charters produced growth in average reading test scores and 72% did so in math.

    Of the 56 outcomes for different subgroups of students and schools the study dissected, 52 showed charter-school students outperforming their peers in conventional public schools.

    Perhaps the most notable finding was that from 2007-11 the typical Michigan charter-school student made annual academic gains in both reading and math equivalent to about two additional months of learning, compared with his or her peers in conventional public schools. The longer a student stayed in a charter school the greater the annual gains. After five years the average charter-school student made cumulative learning gains equivalent to an entire additional year of schooling.[/quote]

  27. wdf1

    Frankly: [i] are you really ready to go on record that the teachers unions support charter schools? Really?[/i]

    The quote speaks for itself. Teachers unions are not a monolith of philosophy or political views — there are two major teachers unions, NEA & AFT, who don’t always agree. You wanted an example of teachers union establishment supporting an improvement goal. There you go. Historically you cannot find a more embedded teachers union establishment figure than Albert Shanker.

  28. Frankly

    wdf1: you find a needle in a haystack and then claim the haystack is made of needles. Not your finest hour in our debate in support of unions.

    [url]http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123985052084823887.html[/url]

    [quote]On education policy, appeasement is about as ineffective as it is in foreign affairs. Many proponents of school choice, especially Democrats, have tried to appease teachers unions by limiting their support to charter schools while opposing private school vouchers. They hope that by sacrificing vouchers, the unions will spare charter schools from political destruction.

    But these reformers are starting to learn that appeasement on vouchers only whets unions appetites for eliminating all meaningful types of choice. With voucher programs facing termination in Washington, D.C., and heavy regulation in Milwaukee, the teachers unions have now set their sights on charter schools. Despite their proclamations about supporting charters, the actions of unions and their allies in state and national politics belie their rhetoric.

    In New York, for example, the unions have backed a new budget that effectively cuts $51.5 million from charter-school funding, even as district-school spending can continue to increase thanks to local taxes and stimulus money that the charters lack. New York charters already receive less money per pupil than their district school counterparts; now they will receive even less.

    Unions are also seeking to strangle charter schools with red tape. New York already has the “card check” unionization procedure for teachers that replaces secret ballots with public arm-twisting. And the teachers unions appear to have collected enough cards to unionize the teachers at two highly successful charter schools in New York City. If unions force charters to enter into collective bargaining, one can only imagine how those schools will be able to maintain the flexible work rules that allow them to succeed.

    Matt Ladner, a researcher at Arizona’s Goldwater Institute, envisioned what charters burdened with a lengthy union contract might look like on my blog: “Need to change a light bulb in your classroom? Page 844, paragraph five clearly states that you must call a union electrician. You kids sit quietly with your heads down in the dark until he arrives. It will be any day now.”

    Eva Moskowitz, former chair of the New York City Council education committee and now a charter school operator, has characterized this new push against charters as a “backlash” led by “a union-political-educational complex that is trying to halt progress and put the interests of adults above the interests of children.” She is right. If the union-political-education complex succeeds in depriving charter schools of funding and burdening them with regulations, children really will be harmed.[/quote]

  29. wdf1

    Frankly: [i]you find a needle in a haystack and then claim the haystack is made of needles. Not your finest hour in our debate in support of unions.[/i]

    Nor, Frankly, is it your finest hour.

    You asked for an example, and this is actually a pretty well-known example, if you do a lot of reading on the history of public education in the U.S., which I don’t think you do.

    And once again, you assume I’m a big union supporter. Just as you assume, blanket fashion, that all unions and union activists are the same. Shall I return the favor and just assume that you buy the whole platform of the Republican Party, along with fundamentalist evangelism?

    On this, I think you and I are done for now.

  30. wdf1

    DMG: [i]I know the teachers union here supported Valley Oak, did they also support Da Vinci?[/i]

    I’m aware that Da Vinci teachers are members of DTA. Beyond that, I don’t know. Not all charter schools are unionized.

  31. Frankly

    I’m just saying wdf1 that is very, very clear that teachers unions, in general, are not a fan of charter schools. If they do support them it is only in the case they have won forcing the same public school level of bureaucratic control on them… ostensive ensuring the charter school will be as crappy as their union-member-producing public school. For you to take one quote from one union official to make a point that I am wrong in my assertion that unions don’t support reforms other than us giving them more money… well it just isn’t up to the standards I have grown to appreciate from you.

  32. Don Shor

    [quote]Can we be done with the theoretical debate since there seems to be much we can agree with to work on, and start talking about practical implementation? [/quote]
    Evidently not. But let’s try. So tell us, Frankly: how would you go about closing the achievement gap?

  33. B. Nice

    Here are some synonyms for “crappy” in case anyone wants to diversify their choice of adjectives when making blanket statements regarding our public school system: junky, shoddy, worthless, lousy.

    None of which are accurate or productive to use when describing an entire school district, where given, some crappy, junky, shoddy, worthless and lousy things are happening. But there are also some marvelous, splendid, prodigies, and awesome things happening as well.

    My children love going to school everyday. They both have wonderful teachers that have helped instill in them a joy of learning. There is a fantastic councilor at their school who has taught them productive and useful problem solving skills. Their school librarian is constantly coming up with inventive ways to encourage kids to read. These are just some of the hard working dedicated people serving our students who don’t deserve to referred to as “crappy”.

  34. Frankly

    B. Nice – In Davis “crappy” starts when your kids hit junior high, and it is more likely that it will be the case if your kids are boys that are not academically gifted, but may be gifted in other areas. Davis does have a strong music program, so you might get lucky there. Unfortunately, that does not count much on college applications if his GPA and SAT scores are not strong.

    My kids loved their elementary school experience. Even though they had several crappy teachers, they thrived and got great grades. That hit a wall when they went to Emerson and the crappy experience continued through High School.

    I talk to a lot of parents and ex-students in this town that tell me that my experience is/was there experience.

    However, I agree that the schools do some things bad and some things good. They need to do ALL things good. No excuses. Our kids should not to be subject to any bad teaching. There should be zero tolerance for anything but consistent excellence.

  35. Don Shor

    [quote]In Davis “crappy” starts when your kids hit junior high, and it is more likely that it will be the case if your kids are boys that are not academically gifted, but may be gifted in other areas.[/quote]
    Junior high can be a challenging transition for many kids. It’s important for parents to be aware when grades are slipping and student morale is declining. That’s why they have parent-teacher conferences, mid-quarter progress reports, report cards, and all the other documentation that shows you whether your kid’s placement is appropriate. If it isn’t, there are other choices within the district that may be more suitable.

  36. B. Nice

    [quote] In Davis “crappy” starts when your kids hit junior high, and it is more likely that it will be the case if your kids are boys that are not academically gifted, but may be gifted in other areas[/quote]

    What make the junior high/high school so bad. Are you talking about just the teachers, or other aspects of the schools.

    I do agree with you that are kids should not be subjected to bad teaching, and I have seen examples of it, and it does frustrate me that not more is done to either remove these teachers from the classroom or help them become better at their jobs. But there are wonderful dedicated teachers and administrators at every school in our district, who should not be thrown in the same “crappy’ category as the bad ones.

  37. jimt

    Engaging in a bit of nostalgia, I’m in my 50s and went to school K-12 in a small town (Everett) near Seattle. I don’t recall a single teacher that I thought of as lousy or crappy (though at the time I thought many of them weird; in more or less interesting ways); and I learned something from all of them. Looking back; there were a large proportion of wonderfully creative teachers; back in the time when teachers had the freedom to teach in their own style, and emphasize those aspects of the subject material that they most liked to teach (while making sure a minimum of generally essential core material got taught). What a contrast to today’s regimented system; where teachers and students are continuously measured and monitored, and teachers are to some extent forced to teach to the test. What kind of teachers do you suppose this is going to attract into the teaching profession? Remember, the USA system back then somehow brought forth the most talented and creative scientists, engineers, and physicians in the world; in contrast to the European (and Japanese) first-world systems that at that time also had a more regimented cirriculum and teaching style.

    Maybe I’m just reminiscing the good ole days (I am glad I grew up then; and not nowadays); but it seems to me that despite all its imperfections; giving individual teachers more freedom to teach in their style and the freedom to choose what to emphasize in their teaching (after a minimum core of reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic) has a better chance of engaging the passion of teachers, which is then transmitted to the students; and I think this is where real learning occurs (plus both teachers and students are happier and having a better time). I don’t think a systematized ‘one-size-fits-all’ type of educational system is as effective. Sure the ‘quality control’ may not be as good with creative freedom (thinking of students as widgets to to shaped into efficient cogs in our technocratric workforce); and there may be some dud teachers or teaching approaches; but I think the overall effectiveness is comparable or better; and importantly makes for a happier more creative life for teachers and students!

  38. Hmmmm...

    [quote]Junior high can be a challenging transition for many kids. It’s important for parents to be aware when grades are slipping and student morale is declining. That’s why they have parent-teacher conferences, mid-quarter progress reports, report cards, and all the other documentation that shows you whether your kid’s placement is appropriate. If it isn’t, there are other choices within the district that may be more suitable. [/quote]

    This comment shows that you didn’t have this experience. Observations of failures is not really helpful. They are required by law and the timing of the observations are not in time to help a child. The options in the district are very limited and have practical considerations, like working parents cannot supervise a DSIS student.

    DJUSD’s test scores and college entrance numbers “say” that DJUSD is succeeding academically with the majority of students. What parents have been trying to say on this blog and others is that there is a large number of students maybe 15%-20% that DJUSD ignores. In numbers, that’s HUNDREDS of people. These students are squandered potential and their existance and numbers meets the “dark underbelly of Davis” definition. If anyone tracked, we would know if they were GATE identified, too.

  39. Don Shor

    [quote]This comment shows that you didn’t have this experience.[/quote]

    You are wrong about that.

    [quote] Observations of failures is not really helpful. They are required by law and the timing of the observations are not in time to help a child.[/quote]

    Only if you aren’t paying attention.

    [quote]The options in the district are very limited and have practical considerations, like working parents cannot supervise a DSIS student. [/quote]

    I can personally assure that is not true. I was a working parent, and I did supervise a DSIS student.

  40. Mr.Toad

    “What parents have been trying to say on this blog and others is that there is a large number of students maybe 15%-20% that DJUSD ignores.”

    Finally someone is saying something worth addressing. The question is how do you deal with these people that are not having their needs met?

  41. Frankly

    [i]Finally someone is saying something worth addressing.[/i]

    Apparently Mr. Toad you have a listening problem. Or, we need to slow down our conversation and be very clear so you understand.

    This same exact point has been made over and over and over again.

    So has the answer to your question “how do you deal with these people (kids) not having their (education) needs met?”

    Talking to a wall it is breathtaking when the wall actually gives some indication that it is listening.

  42. wdf1

    Don Shor: [i]One program that is addressing the issue. [url]http://www.djusd.net/news/dhsavid[/url]
    I think there’s something called Transition Academy that helps entering high school students who are struggling.[/i]

    Also Davis Bridge runs a homework club at Harper, just as they do at Montgomery. It would be operating at additional campuses if there were money available and probably a critical mass of students.

    Frankly: [i]Talking to a wall it is breathtaking when the wall actually gives some indication that it is listening.[/i]

    That’s often how I feel in communicating with you.

    Frankly: [i] That hit a wall when they went to Emerson and the crappy experience continued through High School.

    I talk to a lot of parents and ex-students in this town that tell me that my experience is/was there experience.[/i]

    Which makes me wonder, then, why you think it’s exclusively the schools’ fault? Adolescence is a significant period of transition. Transition isn’t necessarily a tea party. To me it’s akin to blaming the ob/gyn because childbirth involves labor pain for the mother.

    Why should I not criticize you for desiring a “liberal” entitlement of having a government subsidized educational experience free from all struggle and adverse challenge?

    We, too, had similar challenges in JH and HS with our kids, but we always had options to try something different, if it seemed time.

  43. Frankly

    [i]Which makes me wonder, then, why you think it’s exclusively the schools’ fault?[/i]

    Come on wdf1… over 1/3 of our state budget goes to education. Our property taxes go to education. We have supplemental property taxes going to education. A big chunk of our federal budget is spent on education.

    It is the schools fault for not spending all that money wisely to deliver consistent excellence. You defend this highly flawed system with all the gusto of a fellow unable to escape nostalgia even as it is clear that the system has significantly declined in delivering education value even at much greater cost.

    Your failure and Don’s failure is to understand and/or accept the lost opportunity costs resulting from defending education from significant reform to start taking care of students in much the way that affluent, well-educated, hyper-involved parents have had to… largely to make up for educations growing shortcomings.

    Education is the correct public service to take on this necessary challenge. If it is unwilling and incapable, then it must be replaced with another model that will take up the challenge.

    You can lament poor parental involvement until your faces turns blue, and pat yourselves on the back for having the resources and education to supplement and direct your kids’ education to a more successful conclusion. The simple fact is that you have unwittingly caused greater damage to those kids lacking similar parental resources by setting an expectation in the education system that you are the correct model that everyone else should copy. Don, would the education system have recommended Da Vinci and placed your kid in it without your involvement? Or, if you had not been so involved might your kid have floundered and lost interest in school?

    The education system is lazy. It does not want to change. It does not want to take on additional responsibility. It does not want to care for students and see them as customers. It does not respond with the level of urgency that it should. It does not show that it cares enough about each and every student. The education system is full of excuses for why it cannot do more. In fact, it actually strives to do less.

    The most telling bit of evidence that the mindset of education is screwed up is that explanation that the reason Johnny did not learn is that Johnny did not do the work. Here is the thing teachers… you work for Johnny. He does not work for you.

  44. David M. Greenwald

    “”over 1/3 of our state budget goes to education. Our property taxes go to education. We have supplemental property taxes going to education. A big chunk of our federal budget is spent on education.”

    maybe the problem isn’t the money going to the schools but the lack of money going to other things of necessity.

  45. Don Shor

    [quote]The simple fact is that you have unwittingly caused greater damage to those kids lacking similar parental resources by setting an expectation in the education system that you are the correct model that everyone else should copy. Don, would the education system have recommended Da Vinci and placed your kid in it without your involvement? Or, if you had not been so involved might your kid have floundered and lost interest in school? [/quote]
    Yes, that is why I got involved. Because the kid was floundering. The progress reports and report cards and parent-teacher conferences told me so, as did my conversations with my kid(s). We discussed how things were going, discussed why grades were declining, reviewed options with the school district. We made sure they were doing well.
    My kid wasn’t in DaVinci.
    Hey, Frankly, you are responsible for your kid’s crappy school experiences. Yes, you personally. Because you didn’t make sure they did well. That’s your job as a parent. That’s your part of the bargain. And now you blame everyone but yourself. You failed your kids, not the Davis schools. “The education system is lazy”? What about the parents who don’t make sure their kids are performing up to their abilities? What about the parents who don’t work with the school district to find the best placement for a kid who is struggling? [i]Who [/i]exactly is lazy here?
    Exactly what “resources” do you think I brought to bear? I’m not rich. I have a BS in Plant Science. I’m pretty sure you have more resources than I do in all of those things. The resources that I gave were my time and my interest, and my persistence.
    Schools are a partnership of students, parents, teachers, and administrators. What kind of partner were you?

  46. Frankly

    Don, your resources are a significant education and academic gifts, and a lot of time on your hands as made apparent by how often you can blog.

    At the time my kids were in grade school, I was working 10 hour days, weekends and traveling quite a lot.

    It is bullshit that we have got to this place that a parent has to MANAGE the fucking education experience of his kids because the damn school is unable, unwilling, incapable of doing it. You can accept it. I will not.

    Sorry about the mistake about Da Vinci. Maybe that was wdf1.

  47. Don Shor

    A lot of time on my hands. You were working ten hour days, weekends, traveling a lot. Cry me a river.
    1. I run a business. I work six days a week, and have done so for 32 years.
    2. You choose your job. You chose not to be there when your kids were in school. You chose to travel a lot. You and your co-parent chose the way you managed your children.

    You were a lousy partner in the education of your children. The schools can only do so much when parents don’t participate. That has always been true. They provided and suggested ample resources for special ed issues, and steered us toward GATE, and worked with us on placement. Sometimes we had to push a little. But at every level, a concerned parent got the help he needed. I have nothing but praise for the administrators, teachers, special ed counselors, and others who helped us succeed. And I mean US: my kids, the parents, and the school.
    You failed, yet you blame everyone else.
    DSIS was the option we used, not DaVinci. That’s probably what you were thinking of.

  48. Frankly

    [i]maybe the problem isn’t the money going to the schools but the lack of money going to other things of necessity.[/i]

    This is where I go with this comment.

    The “money” you are talking about of course is government spending. That money comes from two sources: taxation of private earnings and wealth creation, and debt.

    On debt. Just friggin’ stop.

    On increased taxation… that causes a contraction of opportunity for people to create earnings and wealth. The very things that contribute to tax revenue. The Laffer Curve is real. It is the reason why we have had this jobless recovery… companies are not starting and expanding and a strong enough rate because the returns on investment for that approach have dropped due to tax rate increases. Instead they are propping up the equity markets and bond markets seeking returns. Increase capital gains, and they will likely just start moving more money overseas, buy gold or keep it in their mattresses.

    We need a new education system and a new economic policy that are both joined at the hip. Business and education also need to be joined at the hip. The mission of education needs to change so that it is primarily focused on launching people to economic self-sufficiency. We simply can no longer afford to focus on just creating good citizens as a goal. All these bullshit classes like Race and Social Justice are wasting valuable education resources.

    There is a lot of stuff we can stop teaching because of the just-in-time information availability on our smart phone. I can go to Wikipedia and instantly education myself on almost any topic. So, let’s stop with all the waste of time having some boring teacher lecture on all this stuff, and use the resources available to get kids launched into careers that help the them and help the nation produce.

  49. David M. Greenwald

    “This is where I go with this comment.”

    I think you went the wrong direction in going to a dissertation on taxation and government rather than a dissertation on investment into the future. Your expectation is that the schools can independently produce educational outcomes despite the fact that numerous ex-curricular factors enter into the equation. Your own life, that Don is espousing on is a good example.

  50. Frankly

    That’s right Don. I was working in Sacramento and the Bay Area and living in Davis. I chose those things thinking that Davis schools were superior. I was wrong. They sucked from 7th grade on.

    Knowing then what I know now I would have moved out of Davis and enrolled them in private school.

    But we did spend a lot on tutors and trying to intervene. But it was too late by that time because they both HATED school after having loved it in elementary school.

    But again, you are failing to accept the big picture. You can be happy with a crappy education that you happened to manage and supplement to great conclusion. How many people have your resources? How many families are reliant on the school system to manage their kid’s education experience. A lot. And they are all screwed.

    But you are successful and that is all that matters, right?

  51. wdf1

    Frankly: [i]At the time my kids were in grade school, I was working 10 hour days, weekends and traveling quite a lot.[/i]

    So the government should subsidize your choice?

    At one point I had the option for a job with long hours, lots of travel and high pay, but I chose not to because I wanted more time and to be closer to home while raising kids.

    [i]It is bulls**t that we have got to this place that a parent has to MANAGE the f**king education experience of his kids because the damn school is unable, unwilling, incapable of doing it. You can accept it. I will not.[/i]

    So you want the government to play a larger role in raising kids so that the parents don’t have to? There are always choices that families are expected to make about education. You want the tax-funded system to make those choices for you?

    I find your line of reasoning interesting, because it appears to be at odds with what you claim your politics to be.

  52. Frankly

    [i]I find your line of reasoning interesting, because it appears to be at odds with what you claim your politics to be[/i]

    Explain that.

    I have always advocated we support children and seniors and others unable to care for themselves. I am fine spending more money for commensurate returns. There is no evidence of this with the current education system as designed.

    I want this mega-expensive education monopoly to provide full-service education. When a kid comes in the door, the questions that need to be answered first are “what does the child need to provide the best opportunity for excellent outcomes?” Then the system needs to start delivering on meeting those needs. The system also needs to assess aptitude and interest and move the child along on an individual education path that exploits these things. Again, the goal needs to be to eventually launch the child to economic self-sufficiency. The system needs to reach out and involve parents (not wait around for attention from parents until taking action). The system needs to take ownership of the management of the students’ individual education. A failed student is a failure of the education system… it should rarely happen.

    If we are going to push more and more of this responsibility onto parents (and I bristle at the academic elites in this town that continue to demand that we all do what they do.), then give me a damn voucher so I can do it the way that works for me. Don’t lock me into a economic captivity for a system that does not work for me and does not work for my children and claim I am at fault for not making it work.

    And Don and David, you should thank more of the people working 10 hour days and weekends since they are the ones paying the taxes to fund your preferred social welfare state. It would be wonderful if we could all quit our stressful and demanding jobs or find situations that offered us greater time flexibility so we could help the crappy schools and crappy teachers do a better job educating our children… but then who would provide all that tax revenue?

  53. wdf1

    Frankly: [i]All these bulls**t classes like Race and Social Justice are wasting valuable education resources.[/i]

    And if that’s the course offering that turns a kid on and gives meaning to his life? Because I have seen that response in high school students to taking that class. I’m surprised that you react this way, Frankly, after going on and on about how the education system didn’t give any relevance or meaning to students.

    And I have met people who say similar things about high school band classes, that they are “bullshit classes that waste valuable education resource.”

    Do you know what happens when we get a committee of twenty people in a room with that kind of attitude to decide what kind of education system our state and nation should fund?

  54. Frankly

    Race and Social Justice is just a conduit for liberal worldview brainwashing. It does not lead to anything useful in terms of moving toward economic self-sufficiency. Music is a profession to pursue.

    You can pick up your iPhone and read up on all the current thinking on race and social justice. You can blog and join social networking sites on it to get other’s opinions and feedback. To date, you cannot login to your iPhone to play an instrument in a band.

  55. wdf1

    Frankly: [i]…give me a damn voucher so I can do it the way that works for me.[/i]

    And have to research all your choices? I thought you didn’t have time for that when you had choices available in the public schools.

    One thing that is clear to me is that the Davis schools could do a better job of communicating educational options. There are a lot of parents who assume schools now are a lot like they were when they were growing up, and that’s not the case. I think that’s probably what happened with you.

    This also ties in to the earlier comment I made about language services for ELL families. These include parents who may not be able to read the English language handouts and brochures, who can’t read the Enterprise, who can’t read the Davis Vanguard and follow this discussion, and who can’t overhear discussions about school in the supermarket.

  56. K.Smith

    “There is a lot of stuff we can stop teaching because of the just-in-time information availability on our smart phone. I can go to Wikipedia and instantly education myself on almost any topic.”

    True: info is available online, but you do realize wikipedia is not authoritative and should not be used as an educational cornerstone, since any Joe or Jane Blow can write entries?

  57. wdf1

    Frankly: [i]Race and Social Justice is just a conduit for liberal worldview brainwashing. It does not lead to anything useful in terms of moving toward economic self-sufficiency. Music is a profession to pursue.[/i]

    And music is a profession that leads to economic self-sufficiency?

    At least one alum of the Race and Social Justice class is pursuing a law degree, inspired by that course. I don’t know what she will do with it, but lawyers have been known to be economically self-sufficient.

  58. Frankly

    [i]And have to research all your choices? [/i]

    Here is the deal wdf1. My wife worked part time and handled the kids. That is how we set up our life. I was the bread winner, and she was the primary home and kid care provider. She did a fantastic job. She has an AA degree. She does not come from any academic-gifted background. I have two great kids. We did research our choice and selected Davis. I was working in Sacramento and Bay Area and we stayed in Davis for the schools. K-6th grade my kids were near straight A students. They had some difficulty in higher math in 7th grade. We hired tutors and they got Bs. It was at this time that I started paying more attention to the state of Davis schools. For example, when talking to parents about the math teacher my son had, they said “oh, he is a terrible teacher… few kids do well in his class.”. Then it expanded from there. I got to learn that there were MANY crappy teachers… including the earlier grades… which also explained some of why my kids struggled in math and a few other subjects they were not prepared well enough for.

    We talked to our kids. We talked to their teachers. We hired tutors.

    My wife was too nice. I was brainwashed into thinking that Davis schools were great and things would improve.

    If I had a clue that the system had changed to expect so much parental involvement, I would have been in there wringing the necks of all the crappy teachers and administrators. I would have demanded that my kids be taken out of the crappy teachers classes and put in the good teacher’s classes. I would have attended the classes with my kids to evaluate them. I would have been the school’s worst nightmare. I would have sued them if I expected even the slightest bit of retribution against my kids. Or I might have figure out that I needed to put them in private schools. Da Vinci was young and it was not clear that either of my kids were a good fit for it. Again, my wife is much too nice to have been able to take this on. I was too busy.

    Now I am angry. I am angry that I was lied to about Davis schools. I am angry that we allow so many crappy teachers to keep teaching. I am angry that my tax money is locked up and I was an economic captive in the public schools. I am angry that kids half as intelligent and half as gifted as my kids got into choice colleges because their academic parents helped prop up their GPA. I am angry that there are many people like me, and many kids like my kids being failed by the Davis public schools and all California schools. I am angry that we are paying 3-times what we paid per student than when I attended, and the quality and choice has dropped significantly. I am angry that folks like you continue to defend and support the schools and the education system in general while so many kids are damaged by the experience, and we have no plan or expectation for significant reform.

    What is the plan wdf1? Are you really happy with the state of education in this city and this state? You defend it admirably, but from my perspective, you are defending a sinking ship.

  59. Mr.Toad

    “It is bulls**t that we have got to this place that a parent has to MANAGE the f**king education experience of his kids because the damn school is unable, unwilling, incapable of doing it. You can accept it. I will not.”

    Well, who is ultimately responsible for your children?

  60. Frankly

    [i]Well, who is ultimately responsible for your children?[/i]

    Me and my wife.

    Who is responsible for my children’s education?

    Shouldn’t that be the institution that gets the money to provide education? I don’t get a voucher. I don’t have a choice. I am a captive customer, and now you conveniently tell me it is my responsibility to educate my kids. I think you are a teacher or ex-teacher toad. How convenient for you.

  61. wdf1

    Frankly: [i]What is the plan wdf1? Are you really happy with the state of education in this city and this state?[/i]

    I’m not for a “tear the whole thing down and start over approach” that you have. I think that strategy comes out of anger on your part and not rational thinking.

    Local involvement and initiative will get you better results than will waiting for state or federal policy to get it right, plus it will likelier be a product that you’ll appreciate because you had some involvement and say in it. Local involvement is what brought us Spanish Immersion, Montessori, kept the Ag program going at the high school, got Da Vinci to its current state, kept the music program going when it would have been easy to cut, brought the Davis Bridge program, and initiated the “Race and Social Justice” class at the high school, among other things.

  62. Frankly

    [i]True: info is available online, but you do realize wikipedia is not authoritative and should not be used as an educational cornerstone, since any Joe or Jane Blow can write entries?[/i]

    And Joe or Jane Blow teacher can spin any bias into the head of their students.

    Authoritative sources? Where are any authoritative sources that are pure and fact based? We need to teach critical thinking skills and what better way than to release kids to dig for themselves and debate among themselves.

    Frankly, I have received a significant education participating on this blog. Learning from other posters, and having to dig myself to develop my own positions. This is a new phenomenon that the education system is way to slow to adopt and exploit. Information is available when needed. It is at our finger-tips. Someone asks me a question about a arcane topic and I can say “just a minute, let me check my phone.” We don’t need to spend so much time trying to stuff it into kids heads. Just teach them how to use the tools, and how to find what they need. They spend more time teaching them practical application of subjects so they can launch into the working world. let them build things and fix things and create things. Let them learn how to produce things and provide useful services.

    Education needs to change for two reasons. One – it is doing a crappy job just from a historical perspective. Two – the world has changed and the old model is ineffective and detrimental to us meeting our future needs as a country and economy.

  63. Mr.Toad

    Who is responsible for my children’s education?

    Your children are responsible for their own education. Then the parents. Then the taxpayers, schools, teachers, community, school boards and administrators to name a few.

    Yeah teachers have a roll but when many are being successful its hard to blame the teachers. I always liked to pull up the progress reports to see if my grade for a student was substantially different or was it like that given by other teachers. I almost never saw a poor mark from me as an outlier so its hard to blame the teachers when they all have a common experience dealing with a particular student. Now a student who is struggling across the board is often being failed on many levels but usually not by the teachers alone.

  64. Frankly

    [i]I think that strategy comes out of anger on your part and not rational thinking.[/i]

    Actually, I am way past any anger impacting my rational thinking. My anger now is reserved for those protecting the status quo. I have done plenty of homework on this topic. I have no doubt that my two sons will be successful in life. They have had to do it mostly by themselves. They didn’t get propped up by their parents to win the grades game. But they were provided the consistent love of a mother and father and developed high emotional maturity and self-confidence. This is something many kids don’t get. And when that is added to the crappy education experience, they get left behind.

    I am 100% confident that you are largely wrong and I am largely right.

    I see it very clearly. You don’t have a plan that helps solve the problem for so many otherwise brilliant kids being failed. High dropout rates and high outcome disparities will continue with your desires.

  65. Frankly

    Toad, thank you for confirming much of what this debate is about. You, as a teacher, do not see yourself as having direct responsibility for the education outcomes of your students.

    Children are NOT responsible for their own education. Their friggin’ frontal lobes do not completely develop until they are 40 years old.

    My tax money pays you to educate my children. YOU are responsible for their education. You are responsible for assessing them, coaching them, guiding them, directing them, encouraging them, motivating them. You need to call in reinforcements as needed. Whether these be technical tools, counselors, nurses, parents, principles, security guards, other children… you name it. Whatever it takes. YOU ARE THE PROJECT MANAGER. Nobody else is in a position to do it. Parents don’t attend class. They don’t get to see what is going on every day. They can only react. And many don’t have the training or resources (including time) to be effective at managing the project. And I ask, what the hell do we need teachers for if they will not take responsibility to manage the project to education Johnny the best he can be educated?

    Teaching is a profession. It is an action word. Your explanation is a passive thing. I think this is the problem… there is a passive mindset that has developed in the profession of teaching. It is one where the teacher can shrug responsibility for outcomes… blame funding, blame parents, blame…??? It is not just enough that you work hard as a teacher. We all work hard. But if I fail to satisfy my customers, I get fired or my company fails. If a teacher fails to teach Johnny, what happens? Johnny just becomes a statistic and the teacher keeps plugging away toward retirement. That is not good enough. That is crappy.

  66. Mr.Toad

    ” I am angry that kids half as intelligent and half as gifted as my kids got into choice colleges because their academic parents helped prop up their GPA.”

    How do you know this?

  67. Mr.Toad

    ” YOU are responsible for their education. You are responsible for assessing them, coaching them, guiding them, directing them, encouraging them, motivating them. You need to call in reinforcements as needed. Whether these be technical tools, counselors, nurses, parents, principles, security guards, other children… you name it. Whatever it takes. YOU ARE THE PROJECT MANAGER.”

    I agree we are on the front line we are in the trench. I didn’t say we had no responsibility but the kid and the parents have responsibility too. You seem to think you just drop them at the door and we do the rest. Isn’t personal responsibility a conservative tenant?

  68. Frankly

    [i]Isn’t personal responsibility a conservative tenant?[/i]

    When my youngish mother got diagnosed with grade-4 gliobalstoma, it began a two-year education in healthcare advocacy. It took all of my family of strong, educated, management types and all our multiple connections to extract the level of quality care that we demanded she get and felt that everyone should get. It was a crappy experience for me. There needed to be more educated patient advocates. My heart still breaks thinking of all the families lacking our resources trying to maneuver through the mess that is healthcare for complicated terminal illness. Hospice was the only piece that delivered service excellence.

    So, I get the parental advocacy thing as it relates to our kid’s education. But this is quite a bit different. The kids are in the care of the education system for over 50% of their awake time from the age of 5 to 18. Unlike healthcare where we can attend all the doctor’s appointments with the exception of OR procedure, as parents we are completely disadvantaged as proactive advocates for our kids education. And as complicated as healthcare might be, there a multitude of education topics that many parents do not have a command of. They cannot manage a project they don’t have domain expertise in. They can react, but like healthcare, reaction will often be after the fact… after the problems have already happened.

    My kids are both very smart (both had SAT scores in the 1800s and my oldest son scored 99 on his Army ASVAB test). But their wiring and inclination is more on the creative left-brain stuff. They are both smarter than me. They are sharper and faster than me. They are curious. They both read. My oldest would blow through books at a clip of about 2-3 per week. His room was filled full of them because he loved them and expected to read most of them again. My youngest is musically and athletically oriented and gifted, but with some health issues and size issues that prevented him from sports participation (although he is a better golfer than me). He played sax in jazz band, and taught himself guitar and piano (I got him started on guitar and after 6 months his skills exceeded mine).

    But both of my kids absolutely learned to hate their Davis school experience from Emerson on. They had few teachers they liked. Few that inspired them. They felt forgotten. The felt like they did not fit in. They felt like they were not part of the smart kid group, but also did not associate with those lacking motivation to learn.

    The problem as I assessed it was that they actually were overlooked. The teachers were frankly spoiled by the higher population of academically-gifted students and those having gifted and resourceful parents that would continually prop them up (e.g., how many kid’s projects do you think are done 100% by the kids and not their parents?). The teachers spent their time and effort on the top and bottom, and forgot the middle… dismissing those kids as “just not willing to do the work.” That is the Davis education malady as I see it.

    wdf1 and I completely agree on the need to inject more creativity into the schools. Where we differ is how we fund it and make it happen (the implementation). We cannot spend any more on education. We need to figure out how to do more with less. There are ways, but those ways are blocked. They will happen anyway, but more slowly than I would prefer because they are blocked.

  69. wdf1

    Frankly: [i]Children are NOT responsible for their own education.[/i]

    I agree. Otherwise, they just might grow up and vote differently from you, especially after taking a “Race and Social Justice” class.

    Frankly: [i]I am 100% confident that you are largely wrong and I am largely right.[/i]

    This after saying recently that you think we mostly agree on everything? Just differing on how to implement it?

    [i]My anger now is reserved for those protecting the status quo.[/i]

    and

    [i]I am angry that folks like you continue to defend and support the schools and the education system in general while so many kids are damaged by the experience, and we have no plan or expectation for significant reform.[/i]

    Sounds like chest thumping to me.

    I don’t think you know what the status quo is, but whatever it is, you’ve stated that you’re going to be against it.

    I defend what I see working in the schools. I see Da Vinci, DSIS, ROP, elementary choice programs, excellent neighborhood school programs, a strong and growing performing arts program, Davis Bridge, you know, all the stuff you used to say you support. I have spoken with parents who have had good experience with AVID, though our kids never participated. If all that is status quo for you, then that is unfortunate, but you’ve made your position very clear.

    I support a diverse and challenging curriculum, standards that include non-cognitive skills, and a diversity of delivery methods (including technology). I support abolishing the current standardized testing scheme as an absolute measure of whether a school or program is failing or not. Don mentioned some reform strategies that I can support — more accessible pre-school, smaller class sizes, individual student services for those who need it. I think communication from the district can still be better. I support a connection to family services for those who need it. If you think I am largely wrong, then you probably have very little good conceptual real estate left to work with.

    But go ahead, present your diametrically opposed vision.

    [i]I see it very clearly.[/i]

    Courtesy of numerous corrections, clarifications, and criticisms from yours truly and Don Shor. I have the feeling more will come. You’re welcome.

    [i]High dropout rates and high outcome disparities will continue with your desires.[/i]

    I like the direction we’re going ([url]http://www.davisenterprise.com/local-news/new-school-data-show-progress-but-achievement-gap-lingers/[/url]). Yes, I think we can do better.

  70. Don Shor

    [quote]But both of my kids absolutely learned to hate their Davis school experience from Emerson on. They had few teachers they liked. Few that inspired them. They felt forgotten. The felt like they did not fit in. They felt like they were not part of the smart kid group, but also did not associate with those lacking motivation to learn.

    The problem as I assessed it was that they actually were overlooked.[/quote]

    Just curious as to how you think the teachers and the school system are supposed to figure this out.

  71. Hmmmm...

    [quote]YOU ARE THE PROJECT MANAGER.[/quote]

    I think this says it. By junior high, DJUSD wants the student to be the project manager, but there are a large number of students who, for a variety of reasons, do not take the responsiblity. These are harder kids to raise and it surprises me when their parents are treated with anything but compassion.

    For DSHS reform, I would like to see 1) an on-campus project manager along the lines of home room and study hall, who is also talking and teaching character, knows the student’s name and cares if s/he succeeds; and 2) teacher and adminstrator practices that support parents as project managers for their teenage children.

    I think the school community would be better for everyone if these reforms were implemented.

  72. wdf1

    Frankly: [i]wdf1 and I completely agree on the need to inject more creativity into the schools. Where we differ is how we fund it and make it happen (the implementation). We cannot spend any more on education. We need to figure out how to do more with less. There are ways, but those ways are blocked. They will happen anyway, but more slowly than I would prefer because they are blocked.[/i]

    Did not see this before my last comment. My thoughts on this.

    Right now our education policies are very much driven in a top down fashion from state and federal mandates and these policies move in a one-size-fits-all fashion. Frankly, both explicitly and implicitly, labels Davis schools as “crappy”. That is clearly not true. It serves a healthy majority of students well. There are some students who could be better-served. Perhaps Frankly engages in hyperbole to provoke attention and response.

    Frankly attributes all the successes of the schools to good genetics and selfish investment of resources by parents of successful students. While one can identify specific examples that would demonstrate this, I don’t find that explanation satisfying from 10+ years of continuous involvement in the schools. I can point to too many examples of successful students from apparently modest resources and genetics to buy Frankly’s explanation (and personally, I think genetics is a little over-rated as a deciding factor). What has helped Davis schools be as successful as they have are a very involved community, and better stability of resources.

    The one good thing that I will acknowledge about No Child Left Behind is that it has forced schools to focus more on students who aren’t succeeding, even though it frames the issue incorrectly. In Davis there is also a sizable community who care passionately about education working for all. By having more stability of resources, we also have a more breathing room to try things out rather than succumb to decisions and dictates of players outside of Davis.

    Ground level implementation all happens locally, not by the state or federal government. We can borrow relevant ideas that appear work locally in other districts, and we can also develop our own ideas to try out. Success will not come overnight, obviously, but will occur incrementally over the years until suddenly one realizes how much things have changed. And by then the framework will change to accommodate new perspectives and frameworks of the time. But a significant amount of pushback to implementing local policy comes from state and federal mandates.

    I have spent several years reading up on the history of education in America and in Davis and chatting with residents and teachers locally. At no time in Davis or the U.S. has the education system been considered completely satisfactory and perfect. Newspapers of every decade include stories about failures and anxieties of the current generation to adequately raise and educate its youth. Appropriately we should worry, but it doesn’t mean that the sky is falling, in the way that Frankly posits.

    The change that Frankly advocates — “leveraging technologies”, education and program options and choices, individualized educational program designs, project-based learning — started in Davis long ago, and his comments over the years have revealed that at the time he was largely unaware of these programs and strategies in the district. These programs have started out small and have gradually grown over the years.

    Frankly: [i]I am 100% confident that you are largely wrong and I am largely right.[/i]

    I doubt it, but go for it. I look forward to your response.

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