My View: School District Couldn’t Have Intentionally Devised Worse Investigation System

Nancy Peterson speaks against new hire at board meeting on Friday March 21, 2014
Nancy Peterson speaks against new hire at board meeting on Friday March 21, 2014

The good news is that Board President Gina Daleiden has put a review of the district’s complaint procedures, as well as follow up to the board direction to explore alternative conflict resolution mechanisms, on the May agenda.

But it’s hard to imagine a more antiquated system for enacting and reviewing complaints.  There are problems from top to bottom in the process.  This week we finally started getting answers on the complaint and investigation system itself and, unfortunately, none of them are good.

The district needs to understand that they may have come to the right conclusion on every one of the complaints that were filed in the district, but, given the privacy concerns and the opaqueness of the process, the public is going to be skeptical.

We understand that personnel matters and even student complaint processes are hidden behind privacy laws enacted to protect employees and students.  Ironically, it seems at times those processes end up hurting the very people they are supposed to help by keeping matters out of the eyes of the public and making accountability difficult.

So we have identified a number of key problems.

Lack of accountability.  As we have noted before, the school board does not even become aware of a complaint until it reaches the appeal stage.  That means, as Gina Daleiden told us a few months ago, the school board really does not see a majority of complaints.

The decision to investigate a complaint externally comes from the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and/or the Director of Student Services.  The process may get overseen by the Superintendent, but unless the complaint gets appealed, the school board has no say over any of the key components: cost, time, seriousness of the complaint.

Over the four years we received records from the school district, 11 investigations were handled externally out of 70, at a cost of $252,000 and the use of 1148 hours.

Lack of transparency.  If the investigation is going to be conducted outside of the public’s view, there has to be some sort of transparency in the process.  The problem is that there is none.  The closest link to the public is again the school board, and they see the investigation only in the appeal stage.  Moreover, the other safeguard would be for the parties involved to be able to review the full complaint.

However, we know from the Peterson-Crawford case that the Petersons received a letter of summary from Matt Best, the Assistant Superintendent in charge of HR.  We know that Julie Crawford was not even allowed prior to her appeal to see the full report and thus the evidence against her.

Lack of Independence.  If we had an open and transparent process, this next problem would be less.  But given the lack of accountability and transparency, it is difficult to know if there is a problem or not.

One of the key questions that has not really been answered is how the district selects the investigator.  What we have learned is that the district has essentially used two law firms: Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Rudd & Romo (AALRR); and Van Dermyden Allison/Maddux (VM).

What makes it more intriguing is that the School District’s Attorney, Eve Peek Fichtner, has actually been employed by both firms.  Ms. Fichtner was Senior Counsel at AALRR from 2000 until September 2013 when she went to Van Dermyden as a Partner in October 2013.

Coincidence?  The pattern suggests that the district simply used their attorney’s firm to conduct the investigation.

Is that a conflict of interest?  Not necessarily.  But the whole set up suggests perhaps something else going on here.  As we know from the most recent investigation, Eve Fichtner herself was one of three attorneys involved in the report.

We also know from the release by the school district that one of the criteria for launching an external investigation is potential litigation.

The problem, therefore, becomes quite evident.  The district’s chief interest here is in reducing the potential for litigation.  They hire firms associated with an attorney, Eve Fichtner, with whom they contract for the same purpose – reducing the potential for litigation.

That means that anyone hired to investigate is potentially hired not to uncover the truth but to reduce the district’s exposure for litigation.

That calls into question the veracity of a report that, as we know, in most possible ways attempted to split the baby.

Questionable Results.  All of this leads to questionable results.  Our analysis with Leigh Choate illustrates this problem perfectly.  She and her daughter spent an hour of time with investigator Alexander Sperry.

She provided him with a list of witnesses.  He apparently failed to contact any of them.  So half the dispute used one hour.  Yet there are 48 billable hours, a finding that denied her complaint, with no explanation.

Is this any way to do business?  Is it no wonder that this dispute festered as it did until it blew up in the worst way and caused a sitting board member to resign.  The genesis of that community turmoil was in an outdated and antiquated plan.

Code 3.  Gina Daleiden in her dissent made the point, “I do believe that our district’s response to complaints and the way that we handle the procedure and the investigations needs to be in proportion,  I do believe in this instance the district went Code 3 on something that maybe didn’t warrant that.”

“I do not find in reading the investigation that there is a preponderance of evidence to support the findings and the conclusions,” she said.  She added that they “ended up jumping right into the deep end of the pool” and she would have preferred to have seen this resolved “at a much lower level, a whole lot earlier.”

Later, Nancy Peterson would respond, “So President Daleiden, since your biggest issue seems to be why this wasn’t handled before sending a Code-3 in motion, here is my answer: that would have required someone from the district or even DHS to speak to the student and that I can assure you, never happened.”

The interesting thing is that both are right here.  The district lacks an alternative conflict resolution mechanism that can take the immediate complaint from a formal investigative system and turn it into some sort of restorative justice-based conflict resolution.

Imagine if, in 2010, instead of the district launching into a $10,000, 48-hour investigation, they created a structure where Nancy Peterson, Leigh Choate, and Julie Crawford participated in a restorative justice process that highlighted what the points of dispute were, identified the harms done, and empowered the participants to find ways to remedy those harms.

Nothing is 100% percent, but that seems a much more viable and fiscally responsible policy than launching immediately into a Code-3, $10,000 investigation.

We should not have to be using these kinds of resources on a student who was cut from a sports team, but we also should have had that situation resolved much earlier.

Appointment Process.  I would be remiss if I did not point out at least a potential fatal flaw in the appointment process.  There is no doubt that the school board has to be pleased with the large number of highly qualified applicants for the vacancy.  But only one so far has stated they will not run again.

What’s the problem?  The problem is that in November there are two parallel elections.  Unless the Board names BJ Kline and he follows through on his commitment not to seek reelection, then you have two ballot conditions.  First, you have an open seat that will have at least one incumbent not running and possibly all three.  So, potentially three open seats for a four-year term.

In the second ballot condition, you have a two-year seat with an appointed incumbent.

Now, who in their right mind is going to run for a shorter term against an appointed incumbent when there is a fully four-year seat with no incumbents?

Now one of the candidates told the Vanguard they will run for that two-year seat regardless of whether they get the appointment, but the problem still stands that while it appears you leave it for the voters in six months, the incentive structures of the choices constrain competition in the two-year seat.

The school board at least needs to keep that in mind as they make their decision.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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90 Comments

  1. Mr. Toad

    You lay out the argument against appointing someone who will not run in November. It would be better to think of the appointment as a 2 1/2 year appointment to fill out the remainder of Peterson’s term. The election would give it the legitimacy of the voters approval and, I imagine, without a compelling reason to object to the appointment the voters will concur.

    1. David Greenwald

      That scenario only works if someone emerges who can credibly challenge the incumbent who was appointed. I pointed out that problems with Nancy Peterson would not have presented themselves in the first six months.

      1. Mr. Toad

        I think Nancy Peterson’s problems were observable even during her campaign. They say people can evaluate candidates quickly. I know I had my doubts pretty early. Since it will be hard to do any worse than Peterson its safe to guess that whoever is appointed will be an improvement to fill in the remainder of her term. Certainly 2 1/2 years is ample time to decide if someone is worthy of being re-elected. But the problem you lay out, why run for one two year seat when you can run for one of three regular four year seats lays out why this Shermanesque I’ll serve but will not run scenario makes little sense. My guess is the trustees will pick the person they are most comfortable serving with and not the person that is most needed to repair the damage done by the Peterson fiasco. Who knows they could always surprise us all by doing the right thing. Its never too late to start.

          1. Mr. Toad

            There was that puff piece on the Vanguard about what she learned about poor people being a doctors daughter. I even commented at the time that there was a difference between your father being late to dinner and not having dinner.

            I also spoke with her briefly a couple of times, once being introduced by Brett Lee, who has since expressed regret about his previous support and another time at the Farmers Market where she seemed a little to sure of herself. I was put off by her lack of humility. I didn’t vote for her going with Lovenburg and Fernandes in the end.

            If you want a good idea about candidates you can skip most of the campaigns and meet them at the Farmers Market where they all show up in make shift kissing booths. You can go down the line and in a few minutes, by asking open ended questions without giving away what you are looking for in advance, tell the real rodeo champs from the lipstick on a $#@ varieties. You can also meet them in other venues and get mini interviews. Its not hard to meet the candidates in Davis they are all easily available while running. Just don’t tell them what you want to hear before getting them to talk.

            Sometimes if you read up on their bio’s you can start to get a picture. Right now, people are posturing as the anti-Fancynancy, touting their rise to the educated elite as the child of immigrants, the first in their family to go to college or the product of the public education system. They are trying to show that they understand the need to address the achievement gap and they have the ability because they have personal experience knowing what its like to not have the privilege of having elite parents yet succeed against the odds.

            This is all well and good trying to build on the promise of Nancy Peterson yet differentiate themselves through their own more humble life experiences.

            From my perspective these bio’s also reflect whether the candidates possess the skills the community desperately needs in the wake of the Peterson resignation, someone who is both a parent and a teacher because of the rift in the community created by Peterson to exploit one group against another. As someone with experience in both roles personally I think its easier to separate the wheat from the chaff in these sorts of disputes and see what is really going on.

            There are several candidates who fit this description but from my perspective I have to give the edge to Madhavi Sunder, who I am supporting, because of her additional experience with the law. On top of everything else there are now questions about the complaint process, its costs, the role of legal counsel in it and the appeal process. I think being an attorney gives Sunder the insight to answer the questions posed about whether the district is getting milked by its attorneys, whether the district needs better controls in place and greater board oversight or if the current system itself is appropriate. This is a case where you need an attorney to understand better what your legal team is doing.

          2. wdf1

            Mr. T: There was that puff piece on the Vanguard about what she learned about poor people being a doctors daughter. I even commented at the time that there was a difference between your father being late to dinner and not having dinner.

            I thought that perspective in her was a little more genuine. I had seen her work with the Bridge Foundation at Montgomery. And I had seen her take positions on the board consistent with that perspective. I take your point that no one knows poverty as well as living through it, but demonstrating genuine awareness is the next best thing. I didn’t take her to be a person I would naturally socialize with, but I never determined that to be a requirement for my vote.

            Though I know a few of the candidates, I will need more time to decide whom to support.

          3. Mr. Toad

            Perhaps you should go with your gut instincts a little more. If you wouldn’t want to socialize with someone perhaps there is a deeper reason for your skepticism.

        1. shane

          That right, Mr. Toad. Any campaign is no campaign (“I’ll serve but will not run”) without cute lawn signs and full page ads in the Enterprise with family photos and lists of supporters. If those are the kinds of things that help you evaluate and decide quickly, then that works for you. It doesn’t work for me, though. Although I didn’t agree with everything the educators had to say in the last election, the two of them (Granda and Sherman) were intellectually above the crowd, with years of experience and dedication educating students. Give me a little diversity of opinion and disinclination to using a seat on the school board as a launching point for a local political career than a huge campaign war chest any day.

          1. Mr. Toad

            Please see my reply above although I think you can also learn a lot about the candidates from the people you trust who endorse candidates. Sometimes your friends are wrong though. The nature of the electoral process is to be disappointed. Nobody is going to represent your views on every vote.

            Sheila was trying to make this point to me just yesterday at the Farmers Market. Still some votes are harder to swallow than others and even though things are better now that Crawford has been given her coaching job again for the fall and things are starting to heal there is still a great deal of bitterness and mistrust in the community and to this observer there hasn’t been enough introspection or reflective doubt expressed by either the district administration or some of its trustees.

          2. Davis Progressive

            ironically sheila made the point to you while she is running a campaign of second-guessing the current council. did you find that ironic?

  2. Tia Will

    David

    While we are in agreement that there are other and better means of conflict resolution than was used in this case, we also have some points of disagreement.

    1.” The district needs to understand that they may have come to the right conclusion on every one of the complaints that were filed in the district, but given the privacy concerns and the opaqueness of the process, the public is going to be skeptical. ”

    The public being skeptical doesn’t make the public correct in its assessment. So what should the council base its decision making on ? Should they use their greater in depth knowledge of the issues involved and their best judgment , or should they hold their fingers up to see which way the winds of public opinion are blowing in order to appease “the public” ? I would argue that they are elected to do the former.

    2. “The decision investigate a complaint externally comes from the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and/or the Director of Student Services. The process may get overseen by the Superintendent, but unless the complaint gets appealed, the school board has no say over any of the key components: cost, time, seriousness of the complaint.”

    I find it more than a little ironic that at the level of the coaches, independence is exactly what the coaches were arguing for.
    So now the “skeptical public” finds itself in the awkward position of wanting to “second guess” and “micromanage” the decision making of the individuals who are hired for this role, namely the Assistant Superintendent of HR , Director of Student Services, Superintendent and school board members but at the same time want these same individuals to stay out of the “micromanagement” of the coaches ? Hmmmm……

    3. “She provided him with a list of witnesses. He apparently failed to contact any of them. So half the dispute used one hour. Yet there are 48 billable hours, a finding that denied her complaint, and no explanation.
    Is this any way to do business?”

    It would appear that this is Ms. Choate’s version of what occurred. However, she is far from unbiased in this situation. I may have missed it, but do we have any independent corroboration that her account is correct with regard to the investigation and work actually done, or are we just accepting her version ?

    4. “That means that anyone hired to investigate is potentially hired not to uncover the truth but to reduce the district’s exposure for litigation.”

    I fail to see how this would be different with any law firm. Our judicial ( and it would appear to be our quasi –
    judicial systems are based on adversarial roles. This is how our system works. When there is conflict, each side shows up with the biggest “legal guns” that they can afford. I do not like nor support the system vastly favoring a mediation or restorative justice approach. Having said that, this is our current system and I don’t think we need to go looking for nefarious intent when considering whether either side would choose the representation they felt was in their best interest. Let’s look at this from a slightly different perspective. In the case of Ms. Choate, do you suppose that her list of witnesses included folks who saw the issue differently from her ( as would be the case if she were only seeking the truth) or do you suppose that she limited her suggested list of witnesses to those who agreed with her ?

    5. “Now who in their right mind is going to run for a shorter term against an appointed incumbent when there is a fully four year seat with no incumbents?”

    Maybe someone who genuinely feels that they can do a better job than the appointed incumbent, but who themselves is not ready to make a four year commitment ? I do not share your belief ( as stated on a previous thread) that the public discontent with certain actions of the school board equates to the public making a better selection than the school board. Bear in mind that all of the current members as well as Ms. Peterson were selections made by the public through the normal voting process. We got what we voted for in this case, and will again in the future.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      Exactly why a simple Freedom of Information Act needs to be filled out to see where the law firm spent all of their hours.

      Secondly, Mr. Greenberg or another writer could speak with Ms. Choate, see if she’d release some or all of the witness names (Mr. Greenberg could keep them confidential, if requested), and then check with them to corroborate that they were never contacted as part of the investigation.

  3. SODA

    David, Are you advocating for every complaint to come before the Board? Although I am in agreement as to the flawed process and certainly the very flawed implementation of the process in the Crawford/Peterson case, I don’t think the Board should rule on every case, just as I don’t think they should rule on every hire (which I believe has been stated as CA regulation).

    1. David Greenwald

      No. I’m not, I’m advocating that first the district avoid going to external investigations when possible but second have a check and balance system of oversight where the board can review periodically processes.

  4. Themis

    Excellent article David. I do believe you have come up with some good suggestions here.

    1 Both parties involved should be able to review the full complaint.

    2 Conflict resolution should be the first step, most conflicts can be resolved this way.

    3 There should be a written process for every step, so everyone knows what to expect. Including who the investigator is and what their background/conflicts might be.

  5. Robin W.

    Law firms are capable of performing excellent independent investigations (as are other kinds of independent consultants) if that is what they are hired to do in a particular instance. In such a case, they gather evidence, interview witnesses, and do their best to make factual determinations based on what they have uncovered. But to get this result, the law firm must be hired with explicit instructions to do an independent fact-finding. It is virtually impossible for a law firm to do this when it has previously represented the client as an advocate or a legal advisor, and especially if the law firm has an on-going relationship with the client where the law firm’s responsibility is to represent or advise the client. When the School District sends complaints to Eve Fichtner’s law firm, this is not an independent fact-finding investigation. The School Board needs to put a stop to this. Complaints should be send to these particular law firms only when the district needs legal advice on it’s potential exposure and how to reduce that exposure. On the very rare occasions when an independent fact-finding investigation of a complaint is necessary, the district should be using some fact-finder other than these law firms, both to get a genuine independent fact-finding and to save money (it is very expensive to use lawyers for this purpose). The School Board should not be reviewing every complaint sent for outside investigation, but they should be reviewing how their administrators are spending district funds, including whether administrators are over-using outside resources or making unwise choices in which outside resources they are using.

    1. DavisAnon

      “So now the “skeptical public” finds itself in the awkward position of wanting to “second guess” and “micromanage” the decision making of the individuals who are hired for this role, namely the Assistant Superintendent of HR , Director of Student Services, Superintendent and school board members but at the same time want these same individuals to stay out of the “micromanagement” of the coaches ? Hmmmm……”

      That really does make me worry. These are the same people who got us into this mess. Mr. Best and/or Mr. Roberson were supposedly the ones who pulled Coach Crawford’s VSA this time after it had been approved at DHS and started this whole mess over again. I certainly don’t want them in charge of deciding when and how investigations should occur. And according to the Davis Enterprise, Mr. Best now will get a raise (promotion) out of the new admin positions that are being proposed. Why do we need to hire 2 more administrators in order to do the jobs of the superintendents who are already being paid to do them? If they can’t do their jobs, they should either have their salaries cut to pay for the new people or be replaced with someone who can do the job. The more this drags on, the more I’m starting think the problems in DJUSD start at the top with the superintendent and those just under him.

      As an aside, I wonder about the quality of the legal advice DJUSD is getting. Shouldn’t the district’s attorney have pointed out what a horrendously poor process is in place? It is ridiculous to waste all of that money for billable hours that no one seems to be able to explain or justify. While I am not an attorney, I have not been impressed with the legal opinions Ms. Fichtner has given in the Board meetings based on the comments I have seen published. If her own firms do the investigations, not only do they get the financial gain, but it also removes the chance that any investigaton might call her legal advice/skills into question. Maybe it’s time for the district to look into a attorney whose focus will not be on to generate more billable hours and job security for herself and her firms.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        And if someone makes, say, $50 an hour as an employee, but $220 an hour as a lawyer, in what role do you think there is an incentive to do the work?

        A Private Investigator would charge substantially less, and / or having a reciprocal relationship with another school district to give independent analysis would also work.

        Both would cost far less than $250,000. And then an outside law firm could spend 2-3 hours reviewing the findings, much more cost effective.

        1. DavisAnon

          Yes, apparently. The organization chart listed in the Board agenda from the last meeting lists Matt Best as Associate Superintendent whereas he is listed as Assistant Superintendent currently on the DJUSD website.

          With the incredibly poor leadership shown by the administrators, I think this is not the time to hand them more money to waste. I do not understand why Mr. Best and Mr. Bryant should have us pay for new full-time directors under them. If they can’t get their jobs done, why are we paying them so much? And what did Mr. Best do to warrant a promotion? He has risen to the top in our district very quickly with the pay raises to go with it. While he may seem a personable man, his role as the HR person in the volleyball fiasco certainly doesn’t warrant a promotion. I certainly don’t agree with some of our Board members recent actiona, but at least they come cheap!!

          1. TrueBlueDevil

            And Mr. Best has another job. In the “real world”, professionals often work at least an additional 5-10 hours per week, if not more. I wonder how many hours Mr. Best works, and what his pay rate is?

            Secondly, if he got a promotion, was this on a public calendar, was it discussed, and were outside applicants sought? Or is this some kind of payback for being a good soldier, and supporting Mr. Robinson? Or is this simply how things are done in small-town education circles?

          2. TrueBlueDevil

            From Google / LinkedIn:

            “National Faculty – Buck Institute for Education
            Nonprofit; 11-50 employees; Education Management industry
            January 2010 – Present (4 years 4 months)

            “Provide district and site leadership trainings promoting the effective implementation of Project-based Learning.”

          3. wdf1

            D.A.: With the incredibly poor leadership shown by the administrators, I think this is not the time to hand them more money to waste. I do not understand why Mr. Best and Mr. Bryant should have us pay for new full-time directors under them. If they can’t get their jobs done, why are we paying them so much?

            In the budget cuts of the past few years, the district office made cuts in administrators and support staff. I see ways in which the district office does what it can, but seems to respond more slowly than it used to.

      2. Tia Will

        DavisAnon

        “These are the same people who got us into this mess”

        Well, one could take this a step further and say that it was the coaches and assistant coach who “got us in to this mess” by not being able to handle their differences in an adult manner. This led to the initial Choate complaint which likely set the stage for the ongoing “Battle
        Royale”. While I do not apportion responsibility equally to all individual’s, I do think that the problem initiated not at the school board or administrative level at all, but rather with a small group of individual’s involved in volley ball who could not resolve their personal differences in person as should have been done. So since this whole mess started at the coaching, parent level…..why exactly do we believe that this level of participant will do better in the future and therefore should not be “micromanaged” while the administration and school board should be ?

        I write this as someone who has no friends involved in this situation and no current vested interest in high school athletics since the last of my children graduated 3 years ago.

          1. Tia Will

            Mr. Toad

            So do you not feel that there is any possibility that an agreement could have been reached prior to any of this getting to the point of a complaint ?
            If so, what information do you have that this could not have been done before ill feelings were flying about ?

          2. Mr. Toad

            They could have pounded the gavel on Nancy Peterson last summer. Too bad Sheila Allen didn’t do that.

          3. Tia Will

            Certainly, but my question was a reference to what took place prior to Ms. Choate’s complaint. So far, I have seen only her account of what occurred prior to her filing her complaint.

          4. Don Shor

            So far, I have seen only her account of what occurred prior to her filing her complaint.

            And I pretty much guarantee that is all you will ever see.

          5. TrueBlueDevil

            All I know right now is that everything Ms. Choate has posted has seemed reasonable, well thought, and not mean spirited. She even commented that she felt that Nancy Peterson didn’t want to be the coach, she just wanted input or control.

            In contrast, NP has been on the warpath for several years, wrote a tone deaf Op-Ed, gave tone deaf comments which were recorded (including “calm down”), and has apparently continued to post anonymously on The Enterprise’s website – posts that show no self reflection. It seems as if she has taken the original complaints from Ms. Choate, and just regurgitated that complaint towards Coach Crawford.

            Given these facts, I’d guess Ms. Choate tried to resolve the situation with lower level approaches.

          6. DavisAnon

            Yes, Coach Crawford could have left town! But seriously, I don’t think anything short of Crawford agreeing never to get near a volleyball court would have appeased Nancy Peterson. For whatever reason, Nancy had a personal axe to grind that was so important to her that she was willing to lose her Board seat rather than back off and try to reach some agreement.

  6. Robin W.

    It is absurd for the Board to appoint a trustee for six months unless they appoint BJ Kline. Anyone they appoint who is going to run in November will have an unfair advantage, so the Board might as well appoint that person for 2 1/2 years and not require that person to waste enormous amounts of time (which could otherwise be devoted to school board work) campaigning during the first six months of their appointment. Kudos to BJ Kline for volunteering to serve as a trustee for these 6 months without attempting to leverage the appointment into an elected position. Glad to see you back in Davis.

  7. MrsW

    I think “intention” is exactly the right word. The Adminstration has not behaved “intentionally” or adminstrated “intentionally” at any level for years. They have been reactive only–apparently to limit liability and to get people to not yell a them, be those people the Board, parents, or teachers.

    Before Robertson and Best, no one was even trying to drive the bus. Now, they have very gently initiated a Strategic Plan to help guide expectations. It’s a start. It’s not enough. It is a big deal and long overdue.

    1. DavisAnon

      MrsW, as far as I can tell, Roberson and Best are driving the bus straight into the wall at a pretty high rate of speed. I think I prefer the old way if this is the alternative.

      I certainly can’t say that the way they handled volleyball and other district screwups was to limit liability – it rather looks like they’re setting the district up for lawsuits. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I’m worried about the way they’re handling problems.

      Since you raised strategic planning, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken with in the past few weeks complaining about the strategic plan and the district’s new “mission statement”. While I haven’t studied the differences in the statements, I’ll have to go look (does anyone know if they are they both online somewhere??) as I’ve heard several people say they much preferred the old mission statement. It seems like the only ones I’ve talked to who are happy about the strategic plan are those who work for the district and wrote the plan.

      1. wdf1

        D.A.: It seems like the only ones I’ve talked to who are happy about the strategic plan are those who work for the district and wrote the plan.

        Cecilia Escamilla-Greewald, David Greenwald’s wife, served on the strategic planning committee. Maybe you should talk to her. I didn’t serve on any strategic planning committee, but have spoken to several parents who have. My sense from several conversations has been an appreciation for the process, but some uncertainty as to how it will play out.

        There are also a few declared school board candidates who served in strategic planning committees. I’m sure they will be available to chat with you about their experiences. I notice that it has been used as resume material for their candidacy, though.

      2. TrueBlueDevil

        New quote: “a leading center of educational innovation” = gratuitous patting of the back?

        WHERE has DJUSD been acclaimed as a “leading center of innovation”, and why do we need to note it?

        1. wdf1

          TBD: WHERE has DJUSD been acclaimed as a “leading center of innovation”, and why do we need to note it?

          You might be in a complete criticizing disposition of the school district, but some who would support this statement would cite:

          Spanish Immersion
          Montessori
          GATE/AIM
          Da Vinci Charter (grades 7-12)
          Race & Social Justice class at DHS
          strong music program
          transitioning/welcoming programs for 7th graders (sometimes called WEB)
          school climate efforts

          Others would probably add to or modify this list.

          1. TrueBlueDevil

            I will admit that I don’t follow all of the idiosyncrasies of the DJUSD. I think its a solid school district driven by an educated population.

            I’m not sure how the “Spanish Immersion” is any different that was is going on in thousands of schools across California, even though citizens outlawed bi-lingual education. “Montessori” has been around for decades, and I wasn’t aware that it was part of the DJUSD, I thought that was private school. There are thousands of charter schools and music programs.

            It just sounds like innovation is a word that may not fit here.

          2. wdf1

            TBD: I’m not sure how the “Spanish Immersion” is any different that was is going on in thousands of schools across California, even though citizens outlawed bi-lingual education.

            What you’re referring to as “bi-lingual education” was using Spanish language instruction as a default mode for families who speak Spanish at home and may not have much background speaking in English. There is something to be said for being in an English immersion environment if the goal is to have a stronger proficiency in English. Spanish Immersion is more typically designed for English language speakers (parents) who want to develop conversational and fluency ability in Spanish. I think there is a provision that allows for Spanish Immersion if parents sign a waiver to clarify that objective.

            “Montessori” has been around for decades, and I wasn’t aware that it was part of the DJUSD, I thought that was private school.

            DJUSD is one of the few districts that has a Montessori component as part of a public school system.

            There are thousands of charter schools and music programs.

            DJUSD was one of the first to design through Da Vinci (it wasn’t a charter to start with) a “small learning community” with a basis in technology (heavy use of computers) and a project-based learning environment.

            Granted that there are plenty of other music programs around the state, but DJUSD’s has grown to have a fairly evenly strong program across band, choir, and orchestra.

            You may not think much of any of this, but DJUSD is a school district with demanding and active parents seeking education options in a public school setting, and these are some of the ways that the district has responded. Is it ideal? Maybe debatable, but it is one way to do things.

      3. MrsW

        I am hopeful that Roberson and Best are part of the solution and the not the problem and I hope the community gives them a fair chance, or we’re going to have to wait even longer for a better situation. Roberson and Best were physically elsewhere, not at DSHS when VB-gate started. Choate says the issues started in Fall 2010. Roberson was hired into the District office that previous June 2010. Best moved with DaVinci to the VO campus in 2009 and was brought into the District office only this past June 2013. Like the Board, there were several layers between them and the unfolding drama. I have my suspicions about who, which adminstrative layer, woulld have been gate-keeping and squashing information, but I don’t know. I do know that in 2005, this Board inhereted a corrupt administration and has been dealing with that legacy their whole tenure. I note that Natomas, praised somewhere else in this thread, also went through a coruption scandal and was at least staring a bankruptsy during the past 10 years.

        1. DavisAnon

          I, too, had hoped initially that Roberson and Best would be part of the solution, but the longer I watch what them and their handling of things, the more obvious it is that they are absolutely a big part of the problem. You are forgetting that the prior superintendent, Mr. Hammond, successfully dealt with those same corruption issues. In fact, he even managed to close an elementary school (VO) and eventually move DaVinci there without all the rancor, cost and administrative incompetence that is evident every time this administration does anything. Even a simple homework policy becomes a mess when Roberson or his teams speaks. Both Roberson and Best seem like they’re nice and well-meaning people, and I’d be happy to have them as my neighbors, but no longer as superintendents.

          By the way, for the most part, I really don’t think the Board is the problem. Nancy Peterson? Yes, a problem, but she’s now gone. Susan Lovenburg and her apparent need to vote based on “factors” rather than logic? Also a problem, but one we’re stuck with for a few more years. As for the rest of the Board, I don’t always agree with their decisions, but at least they seem to have reasonably good judgement overall. I think the Board’s biggest problem currently is that they are constantly having to cover/clean up the messes caused by poor administrators.

          1. wdf1

            D.A.: In fact, he even managed to close an elementary school (VO) and eventually move DaVinci there without all the rancor, cost and administrative incompetence that is evident every time this administration does anything.

            Regarding the closing of V.O. Elementary, I don’t think that’s how many Davisites remember it at the time.

            You are forgetting that the prior superintendent, Mr. Hammond, successfully dealt with those same corruption issues.

            When you compare Hammond, Roberson, and even David Murphy, you have to evaluate their performance in the context of a school board that likes to get involved and have a say in many policy issues. Some would characterize it as a tendency to micromanage.

            If you watch a number of other school boards function, it looks like they tend to act as rubber stamps for most policies developed by the superintendent and his/her administrative team. I would characterize that as generally different from DJUSD’s school board. In Davis, what goes on in school board meetings is very much the talk of the town for many. In other school districts, you’d be lucky if the time and place of the school board meeting was even announced in the local newspaper.

            Although Hammond had many successes during his short tenure here, I sensed he preferred working in an environment where he didn’t have as much interference from the school board. I saw several instances of frustration in him which he presented reasonably developed policies or plans to the school board, only to have them completely reworked by trustees, and requiring him to invest additional time that he hadn’t counted on. There were instances in which he didn’t adequately take input from the trustees and would get called on it in the next meeting.

            Highly involved parents can be a good thing at times, for instance with school fundraising and school parcel tax elections, but there can be a downside to parent involvement if there aren’t’ some clear boundaries. I think elements of VB-gate reflect that. And in DJUSD there are many anecdotes of parents threatening administrators who aren’t deferential enough.

    1. DavisAnon

      I found them on the DJUSD website. If anyone is interested, here they are. The formats are slightly different so no district goals are listed under the new plan. I certainly can’t say that I see any benefit in having the new statement compared to the old statement. If I had to pick, I prefer the older one.

      OLD: Mission
      The Davis Joint Unified School District, in partnership with parents, will provide an excellent educational program that develops the knowledge, skills, abilities, and values needed for all students to reach their full potential.

      District Goals
      • ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE
      The District will advance an appropriately challenging academic course of study that promotes the highest possible academic achievement for each student.
      • FISCAL SOLVENCY
      The District will carefully manage its revenue, expenditures, and cash reserves and make adjustments to achieve a sustainable balanced budget.
      • STAFF DEVELOPMENT
      The District will provide a comprehensive staff development program for the purpose of continual improvement of staff effectiveness leading to high academic success for all students.
      • EQUITY
      Staff and students will respect and understand the importance of diverse cultures by consciously creating inclusive and equitable learning environments and systems that value and engage all students and their families.
      • TECHNOLOGY
      Technology will be designed to improve student academic achievement and to support the work of the District.
      • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND DISTRICT RESPONSIVENESS
      The District will provide a culture and processes that are open, proactive, equitable and responsive to the contributions and concerns of families and the community.
      • SAFE ENVIRONMENT
      The District will provide a safe and secure environment on every campus where standards for behavior will be clearly defined, communicated, and maintained.
      • FACILITIES
      The District will provide appropriate teaching/learning environments that support student achievement.
      Adopted by the Board of Education June 28, 2012

      NEW : Davis Joint Unified School District Mission Statement
      The mission of Davis Joint Unified School District, a leading center of educational innovation, is to ignite a
      love of learning and equip each student with the knowledge, skills, character, and well-being to thrive and
      contribute to an evolving and increasingly-connected world, through a system characterized by:
      Optimal conditions and environments for all students to learn;
      A team of talented, resourceful, and caring staff;
      Transforming teaching, learning, and operations in our continuing pursuit of excellence;
      Resourceful, transparent, and responsible fiscal planning, and;
      A diverse and inclusive culture.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        Are people just trying to inflate their resumes and experience level? If you don’t EXECUTE, does all this ink matter?

        The DJUSD had their “processes”, the Athletic Director had his “chain of command”, there were “managers” of various pedigrees and titles, and one person jumped over all of that to gum up the works.

        And has there been an identified need proven to support needing the new administrators and costs?

        1. wdf1

          TBD: Are people just trying to inflate their resumes and experience level? If you don’t EXECUTE, does all this ink matter?

          We shall see. Execution is the next step.

  8. DavisAnon

    Especially when all of this didn’t come free. I think we’d have far more bang for the buck if the tens of thousands of dollars spent on this had gone to support the classrooms instead.

    We have apparently just spent tens of thousands of dollars in order for the administration to use as justification to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars more per year on new administrative positions. All this from the team that wasted over $200,000 on volleyball. It’s really depressing, but I guess we only have ourselves to blame if we don’t demand they do otherwise (or demand new leadership). I am very supportive of good public education, but this is quite disheartening.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      I believe that AD Mr. Foster said that this didn’t happen at Natomas. Does DJUSD stand out in the cohort of entitled parents, or is this a function of a suburban school with 2,000 active students? Maybe both.

        1. TrueBlueDevil

          I would not call V-Gate a “functional system”, but I’m pretty sure it is very difficult to deal with a pit bull in a china shop, especially when said pit bull sits on the top board.

          1. Barack Palin

            Whatever happened to IPAD GUY? It seemed once the verdict came down he/she disappeared.

      1. MrsW

        One way to make a government organization “fair” is to let it evolve willy nilly. Then everyone feels equally shafted.

        A modicum of attention to the details of, say, a complaint investigation proceedure, would be a good start to creating a positive place of work and learning. That requires an active and engaged administration. I think its a good sign that this administration is thinking about what their purpose is. The words of the mission statement matter less to me than this this adminstration wrote them down.

        What I’ve been thinking about is the details. I just went through an exchange with a counselor where it took her 30-40 minutes to create a table in Word that I could have created in 5 minutes. It’s my understanding that her work load doubled or something with the budget cuts, but she didn’t learn how to become more efficient, she just became stressed out. The only thing I can do is vote for School Board members. How can a School Board member infuence that?

        1. wdf1

          MrsW: It’s my understanding that her work load doubled or something with the budget cuts, but she didn’t learn how to become more efficient, she just became stressed out. The only thing I can do is vote for School Board members. How can a School Board member infuence that?

          See that a school board candidate understands the concept of professional development and investing in human capital in its employees. This can come about in different ways. Allow employees the time and opportunity to consult and collaborate with each other. Allow for relevant technical training (this might cover for reviewing how to do things with newer versions of Windows software). Allow for incentives for relevant outside education and experiences.

          There are at least a couple of things that work against allowing for professional development of teachers.

          1) budget cuts: Budget cutting often means cutting back available budget for professional development and training. Loading up classes with the maximum possible number of students means that teachers spend more time grading and managing activities than on personal development.

          2) certain kinds of accountability strategies create disincentives: Race to the Top and other contemporary reformist efforts ask that states judge teacher effectiveness based on standardized test scores. It is questionable that standardized test scores measure enough that is worthwhile about grade school education. But the policy tends to focus resources on things that are perceived to directly raise test scores, but at the expense of other activities that might be just as worthwhile. When teachers are judged by test scores relative to those of co-workers as a basis for judging whether to keep someone or fire them, there is less incentive to collaborate and share ideas and experiences. Some of this is documented in the criticisms of “stack ranking employee evaluation“.

          As far as I know, DJUSD doesn’t use student standardized test scores to judge whether to fire teachers or not, but that is the direction that a number of school districts have moved in recent years. But No Child Left Behind does mandate standardized test performance standards as a basis for saying how to run Davis schools. Right now 4-5 schools (Montgomery, Birch Lane, Patwin, North Davis, and Korematsu) are in “program improvement” because standardized test scores in math and English for some students are not high enough. Being in program improvement prescribes a certain set of steps that are required to be followed to bring up student standardized test scores, whether or not those steps make sense. And yet other measures define these schools as “high performing.” Go figure.

          There isn’t much that a school board can do about No Child Left Behind, but an awareness of the issues can help.

          1. TrueBlueDevil

            We measure everything else in our society, so I’m nor sure why we can’t measure our success educating students.

            I’d add that we often leave out the most important factors in a students education: their parents, their culture, and their peer group. If all three of those are pointed in the wrong direction, a teach has a mountain to climb.

          2. wdf1

            We measure everything else in our society, so I’m nor sure why we can’t measure our success educating students.

            Why do you think current standardized tests are sufficient for measuring success in educating students?

          3. TrueBlueDevil

            Why do you think they are insufficient?

            Maybe teachers, and teachers unions, have e vested interest in protecting the 5-15 percent of teachers that don’t cut the mustard.

            Why should it be so incredibly hard to fire a clearly incompetent teacher?

  9. DavisAnon

    Now you raise an excellent point, MrsW!!

    The district should support teachers, counselors, etc. in doing the work they need to do on behalf of our children. The teachers, counselors and kids are the ones suffering from the budget cuts. Since the district now apparently has some money, why aren’t they looking at using it for things like this?

    Technology skills have become increasingly more important for the teachers, but many of them probably had little tech experience or training as they spend their days teaching. I would much rather see DJUSD dollars go toward having some support available for them. What about having someone staff a technology help desk as a part or full position? It would cost much less than 2.6 new FTE in administrators and I could definitely get behind this expense. In fact, didn’t the district hire a full time technology director in the last year or so? Why isn’t he/she taking care of these issues?

  10. Tia Will

    DavisAnon

    “In fact, didn’t the district hire a full time technology director in the last year or so? Why isn’t he/she taking care of these issues?

    I have no knowledge of this topic so this is purely a question. If indeed such a hire was made within the past year, why would you assume that this individual is not “taking care of these issues” ?

    Speaking as a doctor who underwent the conversion from paper charting to a completely integrated electronic charting system during my career, I understand the range and depth of the necessary change. For those who are not electronically / technology sophisticated this is a huge shift in skills sets, all of which must be accomplished while maintaining mastery of one’s own area of expertise. Implementing this change across all of our personnel has taken 15 years, not 15 months to get everyonel up to a full level of proficiency in our very large medical group. During this time, many, many hours ( some paid and some mandated) were taken from patient care and spent learning the system and its many upgrades. We now have incorporated the ongoing changes in the medical documentation system as just another part of the continuing education necessary to do our jobs. But I do not think that the amount of time and money necessary to make this type of transition should be underestimated.

    A new technology director will typically need to assess the current situation, range of trainings needed throughout the district and make a prioritization of those needs, design a program addressing the needs based on this prioritization and then start the implementation using the resources provided. If we have significant numbers of teachers, counsellors and other school personnel who are not technologically sophisticated, this is a much larger than one year project and we need patience over time to see if this individual’s plan will achieve the desired goal of increases in efficiency.

  11. wdf1

    Why do you think they are insufficient?

    Because there are many other very worthwhile components to education that are not measured by these tests, like creativity, critical thinking, character, resilience, motivation, persistence, curiosity, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, honesty, integrity artistry, the ability to identify and respond to social cues, self-esteem, a sense of belonging.

    We don’t test for these things in any standardized way. Why not? Are they not as important?

    I don’t know if these can be tested in a standardized way or not. But it is the negative side of the maxim, “what gets measured gets done.” Those things I list don’t get measured and so get ignored. I come at this as a parent and as someone who could perform well on such tests in my student days. I have much less confidence in standardized testing than I used to. I no longer care what my child gets on the current standardized tests offered in the Davis schools, but I do care very much that he keeps up with his class assignments. I read of a growing movement of parents opting their kids out of standardized tests. I sympathize with that sentiment.

    If you sit on a hiring committee, I think you will likely end up considering qualified candidates based on the criteria I list above rather than based on scores on standardized tests. I submit that the above skills have far more longterm value to an individual.

    Maybe teachers, and teachers unions, have e vested interest in protecting the 5-15 percent of teachers that don’t cut the mustard.

    How do you know that a teacher “doesn’t cut the mustard”?

    As a parent, I don’t think of my children’s teachers in terms of whether they will raise their standardized test scores. Do you? I think in terms of whether my kids would enjoy the teacher, does he/she show energy, enthusiasm, capture interest, challenge my kids. I have a hard time relating those qualities directly to standardized test scores, but I invite your explanation if you have one.

    These are examples of what you get when you use standardized test scores to get rid of teachers who don’t cut the mustard:

    A ‘value-added’ travesty for an award-winning teacher

    Senators Hear Complaints About Common Core

    Evaluating New York Teachers, Perhaps the Numbers Do Lie

    ‘Creative … motivating’ and fired

    In February, 2012, the NY Post triumphantly published the names of the NYC teachers who scored the worst in teacher evaluations, with no context other than to say that they scored terribly.

    But then additional context started to show up:

    The True Story of Pascale Mauclair

    On Saturday, the New York Post published an article with the headline “They’re doing zero, zilch, zippo for students.”[1] It singled out Mauclair by name, claiming that her TDR reports put her “at the bottom of the heap” of New York City public school teachers. The article revealed her annual salary and asserted that “DOE brass were confident she was ranked where she was supposed to be,” although no officials were quoted — this was the Post’s inference, and nothing more.

    On Sunday, the Post published another story, now proclaiming Mauclair to be the “city’s worst teacher.” Next to this description, it printed a photograph of her taken from a yearbook. The Post quoted a single parent to whom it had provided this description as saying that he wanted to have his child removed from her class. Another parent whose child was no longer in the school was quoted saying Mauclair should be fired and her salary given to the school.

    And then there is the true story of Pascale Mauclair and her school.

    By every conceivable measure, Mauclair’s P.S. 11 is an excellent school. It is in strong demand in the community, and as a consequence, is overcrowded, well above 100% capacity. It has an experienced and accomplished staff, with a minimal turnover rate, and a strong educator and leader as its principal. The school has a strong culture of collaboration: staff and administration work together well, with a focus on the education of their students.

    ….
    And in P.S. 11, Pascale Mauclair is known by her colleagues and her supervisors as an excellent teacher. Talk to the respected principal of P.S. 11, Anna Efkarpides, and she is completely unequivocal in her support for Mauclair, whom she sees as a very strong teacher. “I would put my own children in her class,” she says.
    ….
    P.S. 11 is located at the epicenter of a number of different immigrant communities in northern Queens, and over a quarter of its students are English Language Learners. Mauclair is an ESL teacher, and over the last five years she has had small, self-contained classes of recently arrived immigrants who do not speak English. Her students arrive at different times of the school year, depending upon that date of their family’s migration; consequently, it is not unusual for her students to take the 6th grade exams when they have only been in her class for a matter of a few months. Two factors which produce particularly contorted TDR results – teaching the highest academic need students and having a small sample of students that take the standardized state exams – define her teaching situation.

    By your comment, I infer that you would say that these are probably fellow union members protecting their own. Would you stand by that?

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. You can cite cite esoteric or one-off examples, but you’re deflecting the core issue – we know that there are clearly poor teachers which the unions and teachers themselves have made nearly impossible to fire. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that this was called “the dance of the lemons”, where teachers were moved from school to school because the principals knew they were poor at their job, but couldn’t fire them.

      I spent a few years volunteering at a school, and it appeared that about one third of the teachers were very good or excellent, one third were average, and one third were questionable. Why can’t we drill down on that one third to find out who is incompetent?

      I read somewhere that if we fired the bottom five percent of teachers, we could increase our graduation rate by fifty percent!

      “How do you know that a teacher “doesn’t cut the mustard”?”

      Teachers often know who the good teachers are, and who aren’t passing muster. The school I worked at, there were 2 classes at every grade level. Students who came from one teacher’s class were significantly ahead of students from the second class. The “receiving” teacher could list out the numerous, basic items that these children didn’t know (weren’t taught), and it happened year after year. The second “receiving” teacher also corroborated those exact observations. In addition, the kids who came from the same class had less self-control, less self-discipline, and manners.

      You wrote: “Because there are many other very worthwhile components to education that are not measured by these tests…”

      “critical thinking” – this will be measured with math and word problems.

      “character” – a fine component, but Johnny still needs to learn that 2 + 2 = 4

      “resilience, motivation, persistence” – these will be proven by attendance records

      “curiosity, reliability, enthusiasm, empathy, self-awareness, self-discipline, leadership, civic-mindedness, courage, compassion, resourcefulness, sense of beauty, sense of wonder, honesty, integrity artistry, the ability to identify and respond to social cues, self-esteem, a sense of belonging.”

      All nice attributes, but we need children who learn the basics, and can prove that they have learned the basics. And these will reveal themselves when they show up to school, aren’t tardy, don’t get kicked out, don’t hit a teacher, don’t smoke a doobie in class, aren’t surfing Twitter in class, aren’t filming clips pretending to give boys BJs in class, etc.

      “We don’t test for these things in any standardized way. Why not? Are they not as important?”

      Many of these items are also traits that are traditionally taught by parents, families, and houses of worship.

      “what gets measured gets done.” And right now, Japan continues to kick our butts. They also have a longer school day and year.

      “…but I do care very much that he keeps up with his class assignments.” Good point. I agree. I know several young people who can test at the top 10 percent level, but don’t turn in assignments, ditch class, are on “prescribed medicine”, add in marijuana, and have been pampered (“enabled”) by “modern” (non) parents. Troubling.

      “If you sit on a hiring committee, I think you will likely end up considering qualified candidates based on the criteria I list above rather than based on scores on standardized tests. I submit that the above skills have far more longterm value to an individual.”

      I also want to see measurable results.

      1. wdf1

        TBD: If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.

        Kindness? compassion? artistry? creativity?

        I don’t know how to measure those things, but I’d like to think that I could improve in those areas, nevertheless. What say you?

        I read somewhere that if we fired the bottom five percent of teachers, we could increase our graduation rate by fifty percent!

        Given that I have taken the time to cite specific examples of failings of standardized test scores in evaluating test scores, which you cavalierly brush aside as cite as “esoteric one-off examples”, the least you could do is offer a citation to support this claim.

        Teachers often know who the good teachers are, and who aren’t passing muster.

        You don’t make the connection explicitly, but I assume that you would argue that standardized tests will match the conclusions of “teachers knowing whom the good teachers are”?

        I still maintain that standardized tests in math and reading are an extremely limited analysis of everything that goes into making a good teacher.

        Many of these items are also traits that are traditionally taught by parents, families, and houses of worship.

        So these are not values worth exploring and developing in a grade school setting, too?

        “critical thinking” – this will be measured with math and word problems.

        As I read through this description of critical thinking, there is far more to this area than is measured by math and word problems on a standardized test.

        All nice attributes, but we need children who learn the basics, and can prove that they have learned the basics.

        The basics can be evaluated and integrated by teachers in more creative formats than standardized tests. For instance, through project-based learning, through artistic and performance projects, through games and play.

        And right now, Japan continues to kick our butts. They also have a longer school day and year.

        To what end?

        Japan’s Cutthroat School System: A Cautionary Tale for the U.S.; A new book shows how fixating on testing and achievement can backfire.

        Again, in many ways, the Japanese experience seems to echo the dream of education reformers and policy-makers in the United States: strong parental involvement, rigorous testing, discipline, and study in school leading to disciplined workers competing successfully in the global economy. Obviously, every detail isn’t as appealing as every other. The relegation of women to the domestic sphere would not be popular in the U.S., for example. But overall, Japan’s system can be seen as a prototype; the dream we Americans are now striving for.

        The one problem being, as Allison shows, that that dream has already turned to dung. Japan’s bubble economy burst in the ‘90s. Its amazing, decades-long post-war economic boom turned into post-post-war economic stagnation. Precarious Japan chronicles the unraveling of the home/job/school unity on which Japanese capitalism was based. Through a combination of economic contraction and neo-liberal restructuring of the economy, the lifetime salaryman jobs which were to be the reward of success in high school dried up. Today one-third of Japanese workers are irregularly employed, including 70 percent of all female workers and half of all workers between 15 and 24. A full 77 percent of the irregularly employed earn wages less than poverty level, and so are working poor.

        There are a couple possible lessons to take from Japan’s experience. On the one hand, you could perhaps argue that it shows that test-oriented education does not actually promote global competitiveness; that Japan’s focus on testing and rigid connections between school, home and family, stifled creativity and created an insufficiently flexible economy. This is the critique that University of Oregon Professor Yong Zhao makes of our emphasis on testing in the U.S. From his perspective, the goal of global competitiveness is the right goal, but to get there we need education that focuses on creativity and innovation rather than test-taking.

        There’s a line of research and discussion about how the successes of students from many Asian countries in standardized tests don’t seem to yield promised economic and social successes that would be assumed. An Anglo-American colleague of mine has taught at a Japanese for a number of years and has observed that university students can learn the material as taught very well, but very often lack the ability to come up with original or creative perspectives and ideas.

        Yong Zhao, mentioned above, is a professor of education in the U.S. who makes similar observations. One of his major theses is that trying to emulate Japan or Shanghai or South Korea’s successes in standardized testing is a losing proposition. Those countries are trying to figure out how to design their education system more like ours, so that they can be the ones inventing the iPhones, facebooks, and GPS units.

        Here’s an NPR piece about Korean children who come to U.S. schools to get away from the Korean school system.

        Korean Families Chase Their Dreams In The U.S.

        And there’s something else: Many of these goose parents — including Lee — say they’re also here to get away from Korean schools.

        “Although the academics in Korea are more rigorous, there’s no creative mind there,” says Park, translating for Lee. “Everything’s rote memorization, and it’s purely academic — there’s no individual thought in their teaching.”

        There’s a point where working harder may give you decreasing returns. That’s what I think of longer school days and school years.

        I also want to see measurable results.

        There are times when measurable results are worthwhile, and other times when it gets to be ridiculous. In foundational education (grade school), trying to apply measurable results to measure ultimate success becomes akin to trying to quantify human nature. I did not choose my spouse based on quantified measurements; if I had, then I doubt she would still be with me. Going down the measurable results path is very limiting, and that’s what happens to our public education when we get obsessed with standardized test scores.

        Why take music? drama? art? public speaking? or Junior Achievement? or FFA? why join a sports team? or the journalism club? or robotics? when it becomes more important to get those standardized test scores up.

        1. wdf1

          wdf1: Given that I have taken the time to cite specific examples of failings of standardized test scores in evaluating test scores…

          Should read

          failings of standardized test scores in evaluating teachers

          1. wdf1

            I’m not. But I definitely appreciate seeing a well-rounded education that includes art (performing and visual), science, English, math, history, foreign language, athletics, technology, clubs, etc. You never know which skill-, knowledge-, or experience-set will be important in one’s future, nor exactly what kind of role it will play. Often not what you’d expect.

            But I recognize that the arts are very easy to marginalize because it’s harder to quantify results. The current educational focus on standardized tests have eliminated or severely cut back arts programs nationwide, especially in lower-income communities.

  12. TrueBlueDevil

    wdf1, we may just have to agree to disagree. My no. 1 priority is getting gets the bets education, and I don’t see why we should protect 3%, or 5%, or 10% of the teachers who aren’t cutting the mustard. You must think all teachers are infallible. I don’t. And in the grand scope of things, it is the children themselves, their parents, peers and culture that have a huge role which is typically ignored in these debates. Hence the countless success stories of “Tiger Moms” or “Jewish Mothers” who push their kids to excellence despite enormous odds.

    My goals for teachers would not be for them to teach compassion, but to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. Let the uncles, parents, and extended family teach those soft skills.

    My example of numerous teachers spotting poor teachers is spot on. They are independent, and objective. And in this case, the principal also knew what was going on. So if the teachers know, the principal knows, and the test scores come back with poor results, I say where there is smoke, there is fire.

    You wrote: “I still maintain that standardized tests in math and reading are an extremely limited analysis of everything that goes into making a good teacher.”

    If Johnny comes in testing at an 83, and leaves testing at an 88, there won’t be a need for action. But if Sue comes in scoring a 50, and at the end of the year scores a 50, we have a problem.

    Let me guess, you like the idea of Common Core? Another educational experiment foisted upon our children. I’ve seen it up close… less work, way less math work, teachers no longer teach cursive writing … what? But we want to give them more games to play?

    I am not advocating copying Japan, but we can learn from them. Japan has many reason for failing, putting it all on their educational system is silly. They are land locked. Negative population growth, limited resources, land locked. They have almost zero immigration, and some might say they are racist when you peek under the covers, but that is another discussion… but the lack of immigration may have an affect on their lack of creativity, as you say. We do fine teaching kids with stable families in Davis, Carmichael, and Palo Alto. Not so much in urban cities with prolific gangs, drugs, and violence. No surprise there. Can’t blame the teachers for that.

    The youth population there has the same problems as we have with the Obama economy, kids moving home, or not leaving home. big government economics failed again.

    I am sure your spouse does have quantifiable items. An education, an ability to read and write, and do basic math.

    “Why take music? drama? art? public speaking? or Junior Achievement? or FFA? why join a sports team? or the journalism club? or robotics?”

    All these things are great, but also called “electives”… kids need to know the basics first. If they can’t read and write to at least a moderate level, they will have great difficulty in life. I read a stat once that 80 percent of men in jail (yes, men) can’t read.

  13. wdf1

    TBD: we may just have to agree to disagree. My no. 1 priority is getting gets the bets education,

    I think we can agree on your last statement.

    and I don’t see why we should protect 3%, or 5%, or 10% of the teachers who aren’t cutting the mustard. You must think all teachers are infallible.

    I probably look at the problem differently than you. I think you see the situation of education being like a big machine, and problems with the system (machine) as being one of faulty parts. If we just had good, reliable parts (teachers), then everything would work perfectly and we would have the greatest education system on Earth.

    I see teachers as being professionals with their own valuable experience and training, and their own existential agenda. The more we standardize education through No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and standardized testing, the more we take autonomy away from the teachers. I think that tends to lead to professional dissatisfaction, but that narrative is overwhelmed with the narrative that you embrace that it’s all about the evil teachers’ union. I believe most teachers can improve with a better culture of professional development, collaboration, and education.

    My goals for teachers would not be for them to teach compassion, but to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. Let the uncles, parents, and extended family teach those soft skills.

    We have to agree to disagree on this one. Compassion is important to have no matter where you are during your day — home, work, school, church. One way that compassion becomes important in school is in resolving conflicts and dealing with discipline issues. Conflicts and discipline issues aren’t going to disappear in an ideal world. It is part of the journey, and those are teachable moments for compassion, personal responsibility, empathy, character, etc.

    Let me guess, you like the idea of Common Core? Another educational experiment foisted upon our children. I’ve seen it up close… less work, way less math work, teachers no longer teach cursive writing … what? But we want to give them more games to play?

    I am not happy with what I see. My suspicions center around the business-connected lobbying (Pearson, for instance) in favor of Common Core. With Common Core it’s possible for a few businesses to sell the same teaching materials to nearly all states, give the same standardized tests to nearly all the states, do “big data” collection on a scale never before seen, and every step of the educational process monetized. I don’t see that level of standardization as being a good thing in education. NCLB standardized education at the state level, with oversight by the federal government. Common Core is potentially standardizing education across the nation, further de-professionalizing the teaching profession.

    I am not advocating copying Japan, but we can learn from them. Japan has many reason for failing, putting it all on their educational system is silly.

    Likewise, I think it is silly to blame societal failures in the U.S. as heavily as we do on our own public education system. But that is the level of narrative that often takes place. There are great things about the U.S. education system that we fail to recognize. For decades we have been following a narrative that our schools are broken and need reforming. And through all that, the U.S. has been the most productive, innovative economy in the world.

    All these things are great, but also called “electives”… kids need to know the basics first. If they can’t read and write to at least a moderate level, they will have great difficulty in life.

    When you divvy up and prioritize the curriculum in this way, you weaken the effective outcomes. One of my kids thought that math and reading by themselves were pointless and boring subjects in secondary school. The “electives” actually provided more relevance to his life and at times made the math and English subject matter relevant.

    The “elective activities” that I presented teach students how to present themselves in public, how to work with others, how to commit to the reputation of an organization, the development of esthetic sensibilities, take care of their physical and psychological needs, to delay gratification in very tangible ways. I submit that these outcomes are as fundamental as basic reading and math.

    I read a stat once that 80 percent of men in jail (yes, men) can’t read.

    Citation?

  14. South of Davis

    True Blue Devil wrote:

    > I read a stat once that 80 percent of men in jail (yes, men) can’t read.

    Then wdf1 (who could spend the rent of the night reading about the HUGE number of “functionally illiterate” people that are behind bars if he just did a quick Google search) wrote:

    > Citation?

    The link below says:

    “85 percent of all juveniles who come into contact with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate. So are 60 percent of all prison inmates”

    When I was working with some kids that wanted to leave the gang world and get out of bad San Francisco public schools I was blown away at the number of 7th and 8th grade boys (who got Bs and Cs in English on their report cards) could barely read as well as a typical Davis 2nd grade boy.

    http://www.invisiblechildren.org/2010/11/18/75-of-inmates-are-illiterate-19-are-completely-illiterate-ruben-rosario/

    Most of us like teachers and we appreciate what they do, but we need to get rid of bad ones or we are going to have problems when the “High School Graduates” in bad areas are as smart as the “5th grade Graduates” in Davis and other areas with good schools.

    wdf1 says you can’t measure kindness, compassion, artistry, or creativity

    Let’s take a test:

    Who is kinder, Pope Francis or Russian President Putin?

    Who had more compassion Hitler or Mother Theresa?

    Who was a better artist Rembrandt or Piero Manzoni (the guy who took a dump and called it art)?

    Who was more creative CEO Steve Jobs or CEO Ken Lay (who did create a way to hide debt that worked for a while)?

    Maybe wdf1 will respond that there is no way to even begin to answer any of my questions and it will make sense why he thinks we can’t even think of ever rating a teacher (and canning the ones that give 7th graders a B in English that can’t read or write since it is easier than actually teaching them)…

    1. wdf1

      SoD: I invite you to listen to this summary of the work of U of Chicago economist, James Heckman:

      This American Life, Sept. 2012: Back to School

      If you think that standardized test scores are sufficient to measure the quality of education, then passing the GED should be enough to prove that you know what you need to know to complete high school. Yet Heckman’s work documents how GED graduates statistically have much lower success measures in life (marriage/divorce rates, college completion, income levels, etc.) than do traditional high school graduates. The GED is suppose to measure high school equivalency, and yet clearly something is missing that is not measured by the GED. What’s missing is a constellation of non-measured characteristics variably called non-cognitive skills, soft skills, character, or personality.

      Heckman’s work supports a key criticism of the standardized testing mentality for measure educational success, including teacher evaluation and No Child Left Behind.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        I would never make the comparison of standardized high school tests and the GED. It’s comparing apples and oranges. Or, I should say, comparing continuation school to a normal high school. Different worlds. My impressions are that both are watered down (the test and the schools), and used as a temporary holding place until kids go out into the real world. I’ll admit I never attended one, but this is the feedback I have received over the years from individuals who have attended them.

        These academic studies seem to be the same folks who say we can’t grade teachers. So we can’t evaluate teachers or students. Who else should we not evaluate in life?

        There are so many ways to do this. Take algebra. Step 1 is to have the algebra teacher take the advanced algebra test themselves which students should be able to pass at the end of the class. If they can’t pass it with a high score, we have a problem, Houston. The fact is that we have teachers in America that can’t pass a basic test, and then old arguments like test relevance or racism are trotted out to denounce the measuring devices.

  15. wdf1

    So a high percentage of juveniles who are functionally illiterate, but on top of that, who also clearly lack social skills to function effectively in society. But what I’m hearing from TBD is that teachers should only concern themselves with teaching core subjects and not soft skills. But these are youth who are likelier to lack stable family structure and positive social connection to learn those soft skills.

    TBD: My goals for teachers would not be for them to teach compassion, but to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. Let the uncles, parents, and extended family teach those soft skills.

    The only thing that determines whether a school is successful or not in 2014 is what their standardized test scores are in math and English. That’s the problem. These are youth who need a lot more than just being proficient or above in reading and math. They need help in knowing how to work together, compromise, delay gratification, learn how to present themselves in public…

    And this is how SoD wants to reduce teaching “soft skills” to this:

    wdf1 says you can’t measure kindness, compassion, artistry, or creativity

    Let’s take a test:

    Who is kinder, Pope Francis or Russian President Putin?

    Who had more compassion Hitler or Mother Theresa?

    Who was a better artist Rembrandt or Piero Manzoni (the guy who took a dump and called it art)?

    Who was more creative CEO Steve Jobs or CEO Ken Lay (who did create a way to hide debt that worked for a while)?

    Maybe wdf1 will respond that there is no way to even begin to answer any of my questions and it will make sense why he thinks we can’t even think of ever rating a teacher (and canning the ones that give 7th graders a B in English that can’t read or write since it is easier than actually teaching them)…

    I’m sorry to be uncivil, but that is a stupid and meaningless way to teach soft skills. I hope you enjoyed the mockery. I didn’t.

    The reason that there are so many “crappy” teachers in poorer communities is that the system is rigged against them (the teachers). These are communities who need “good gangs”, like school music and sports, and community civic clubs and the like. For the lack of having “good gangs” they make up their own gangs. But according to TBD, music, sports, and clubs are electives and really should be secondary to learning score high on English and math tests. Because after all they will learn those soft skills from their absent family members and maybe their absent churches.

    Here’s one example of how it could work:

    The Whole Gritty City: How Music is Transforming and Saving Lives in New Orleans

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      wdf1 – I’m sorry, kids don’t need “good gangs” – they need parents, specifically fathers in the home.

      My guess is you’ll try to dice this 5 different ways, but it’s a simple facts that in most situations, a two-parent situations is optimal. Parenting a child is tough enough with 2 parents present, trying it with 1 would be very tough.

      You wrote: “But what I’m hearing from TBD is that teachers should only concern themselves with teaching core subjects and not soft skills. …”

      I’m not a clod. Of coarse, where appropriate, teachers should help i,part other skills. But if the choice is between Spanish (or German) and English, English is primary. If the choice is between music and math, math takes priority. If its a choice between dance, ethnic studies, sports, and English composition, English composition gets the node.

      You wrote: “The only thing that determines whether a school is successful or not in 2014 is what their standardized test scores are in math and English.”

      Yes, they are the priority over soft fuzzy non-core items.

      You wrote: “The reason that there are so many “crappy” teachers in poorer communities is that the system is rigged against them (the teachers). These are communities who need “good gangs”, like school music and sports, and community civic clubs and the like. For the lack of having “good gangs” they make up their own gangs. But according to TBD, music, sports, and clubs are electives and really should be secondary to learning score high on English and math tests. Because after all they will learn those soft skills from their absent family members and maybe their absent churches.”

      What? Gangs exist because Fathers are absent, and some go so far as to call some men “sperm donors”. The men skoot off scott free, many don’t pay child support, don’t protect or raise their children, and leave the girlfriend / Mother / fling alone to raise the child. The family has been kicked to the curb as incidental, not a core foundation. Look at Chinese Americans, Jewish Americans, Ethiopian Americans… they raise their children in 2 parent families, focus on education, and they excel.

      Gangs also exist because we have an open border, so we have helped develop a gang culture with Mexico. We had gangs before, but now they have exploded. I read where the number of gangs in Sonoma or Napa, as one example, have gone up 20 fold in roughly 20 years. Nortenos, Sorenos, M13, Bullgods in Fresno, etc.

      Third is the high level of violence in inner city schools, which means that talented teachers run for the suburbs, or gain a few years experience in the poorer areas, and then ultimately move to the burbs when they want to start their own family. Teachers are human, and they don’t like to be attacked, hit, spit upon, beaten, raped, or have their life threatened.

      Fourth, liberal policies have helped to destroy cities like Detroit, it is not that the “system is rigged against them”.

      Fifth, the unions help protect poor teachers with systems like tenure, which make it almost impossible to fire incompetent teachers. They do exist.

      1. wdf1

        TBD: I’m sorry, kids don’t need “good gangs” – they need parents, specifically fathers in the home.

        and then

        What? Gangs exist because Fathers are absent…

        Okay, so we agree gangs exist. You propose no alternative for dealing with them except to cut “elective options” in favor of teaching English and math when budgets get tight, and piss all over the idea of offering constructive social alternatives (what I called “good gangs”) even if family structure is unstable.

        I suggest at-risk neighborhood schools be equipped to offer social services — health clinic, social worker, after school tutoring and programs, adult ed. programs to families of students. A school curriculum as varied as what Bill Gates’ and the Obamas’ kids get in their schools. Smaller class sizes would also be nice. Pre-natal care, pre-school.

        I’m not a clod. Of coarse, where appropriate, teachers should help i,part other skills.

        And many of those social skills are most naturally developed in regular group activities like performing arts, athletics, and school clubs and organizations.

        But if the choice is between Spanish (or German) and English, English is primary. If the choice is between music and math, math takes priority. If its a choice between dance, ethnic studies, sports, and English composition, English composition gets the node.

        That’s like deciding to choose whether you’re going to have vitamin A or vitamin D; vitamin C or vitamin K in your diet; like you’ve got to choose between one or the other. You need *all* of it to function effectively. Most things that get labeled “elective” are likelier to be unmeasurable by standardized tests — music, art, sports, voc-tech, home economics, etc. It confounds efforts to quantify so the choice is to dismiss it. A diverse curriculum is what ultimately provides a competitive advantage to students and becomes especially apparent in lower income neighborhoods.

        Have you raised kids? If so, does all this really comport with your experience in raising them? All they needed was solid standardized test scores in English and math? no sports or arts or scouts or 4H or voc-tech?

        I ask because your responses seem to lack a nuance in approaching human nature that comes from parenting experience over time. I admit I could be wrong in my assumption, but this exchange is reminiscent of conversations I have had with non-parents about education.

        Third is the high level of violence in inner city schools, which means that talented teachers run for the suburbs, or gain a few years experience in the poorer areas, and then ultimately move to the burbs when they want to start their own family. Teachers are human, and they don’t like to be attacked, hit, spit upon, beaten, raped, or have their life threatened.

        That’s why I said that the system is rigged against teachers in poorer neighborhoods. They’re judged on raising standardized test scores when you’re dealing with students lacking functional social skills (some of those “fuzzy non-core” things), often lacking adequate healthcare, eating Twinkies, Cheetos, and Fruit Loops instead of fresh fruits and vegetables.

      2. wdf1

        TBD: Here’s an item from the recent news that describes a status quo position you could defend with some relish, I imagine:

        Elementary school’s annual kindergarten play cancelled in order to get SIX-YEAR-OLDS prepared for college

        There are at least two mistaken assumptions being made.

        First is the assumption that school is mostly about academics and scoring well on the next test. School is also about learning social skills, working with others, and presenting one’s self in public. It is also an ideal benefit if it develops social connections among the families served by the school. A school play is great for all of that.

        Setting aside the assumption that kids are really focused on college at this age, a second erroneous assumption is that colleges will look favorably on students who give up extra-curricular activities in order to bone up on hard core subjects. College admissions officers in competitive admissions environments are looking for more broadly well-rounded students — with music, sports, community service, school service, etc.

  16. South of Davis

    wdf1 wrote:

    > I’m sorry to be uncivil, but that is a stupid and meaningless way to
    > teach soft skills. I hope you enjoyed the mockery. I didn’t.

    Every teacher I have ever met has told me “off the record” that they know who the good and bad teachers are, but until the union admits that it is possible to measure who is a good and bad teacher we are doomed (since the only response it to laugh at anyone who even hits that this would be possible).

    I know teachers in rough/bad/poor/gang areas have a MUCH harder time and just like members of my family that work in heavy construction get paid more for working in a rough/bad/poor/third world country than on a job in the Bay Area I think we need to pay teachers MORE that take on a MUCH harder job.

    Unfortunately just like the union mocks people that says we can measure teacher skill or that some kids are not smart enough for regular classes they also mock people that want any kind of merit or hazard pay.

    Every year we keep getting rid of more things that work and replacing them with things that sound good and the kids in the poor areas are getting screwed by the people that “pretend” to care about them.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      SOD wrote: Every teacher I have ever met has told me “off the record” that they know who the good and bad teachers are, but until the union admits that it is possible to measure who is a good and bad teacher we are doomed (since the only response it to laugh at anyone who even hits that this would be possible).”

      Thank you.

  17. wdf1

    SoD: I know teachers in rough/bad/poor/gang areas have a MUCH harder time and just like members of my family that work in heavy construction get paid more for working in a rough/bad/poor/third world country than on a job in the Bay Area I think we need to pay teachers MORE that take on a MUCH harder job.

    I think we have agreement, here. There’s research to support that. Notice that this is different from hiring Teach for America staff, which is typical these days.

    Talent Transfer Initiative: Attracting and Retaining High-Performing Teachers in Low-Performing Schools

    The more palatable version of the story on Slate.com: What Happens When Great Teachers Get $20,000 to Work in Low-Income Schools?

    and

    Mathematica Study – Value-Added & Teacher Experience

    but note:

    The high value-added teachers who were selected to participate in this study, and transfer into high-needs schools to teach for two years, were disproportionately National Board Certified Teachers and teachers with more years of teaching experience. The finding that these teachers, selected only because they were high value-added teachers was confounded by the very fact that they were compared to “similar” teachers in the high-needs schools, many of whom were not certified as exemplary teachers and many of whom (20%) were new teachers…as in, entirely new to the teaching profession! While the high value-added teachers who choose to teach in higher needs schools for two years (with $20,000 bonuses to boot) were likely wonderful teachers in their own rights, the same study results would have likely been achieved by simply choosing teachers with more than X years of experience or choosing teachers whose supervisors selected them as “the best.” Hence, this study was not about using “value-added” as the arbiter of all that is good and objective in measuring teacher effects, it was about selecting teachers who were distinctly different than the teachers to whom they were compared and attributing the predictable results back to the “value-added” selections that were made.

    Unfortunately just like the union mocks people that says we can measure teacher skill or that some kids are not smart enough for regular classes they also mock people that want any kind of merit or hazard pay.

    I don’t think there’s argument over “hazard pay”. That’s what the study shows can work. The conventional definition of merit pay is that you pay teachers a bonus to those who raise the standardized test scores in English and math the highest. That’s what I take issue with.

    There are 50 states and thousands of school districts. Conventional merit pay has been tried many times in many places, and it hasn’t worked. If you can find where it has, cite your source and we’ll talk about it.

    Every year we keep getting rid of more things that work and replacing them with things that sound good and the kids in the poor areas are getting screwed by the people that “pretend” to care about them.

    I agree with this statement. For example, pretending that the most important thing that at-risk schools need is more instruction in English and math to raise standardized test scores, at the expense of everything else, like arts, sports, voc-tech, community support services. If Sidwell Friends School, where Sasha and Malia Obama attend and where Chelsea Clinton attended, is good enough for the children of Presidents, or Lakeside School, where Bill Gates and his kids attended, then those should serve as a model for the kind of school that every kid in the U.S. What do they have? a rich curriculum, small class sizes, great facilities, no standardized tests. They’re not evaluating their teachers by standardized test scores. But we plebians get that kind of scheme foisted upon us.

    It is fortunate that in Davis we have managed to keep critical components of a rich curriculum. I would want all school districts to have that.

    1. TrueBlueDevil

      You really don’t want us knowing who the poor teachers are, eh? Or do you simply think they are a rare and endangered creature?

      More of the “small class size” ramble… good, if we can afford it. But I’m told that test scores have not gone up much since we reduced class sizes. Back in the 50s, some Catholic schools had over 50 students in a class, and those nuns had NO problem maintaining order!

      1. Tia Will

        “those nuns had NO problem maintaining order!”

        “Those nuns often ruled through a “reign of terror” with shaming, emotional blackmail, and physical punishments as their tools of choice for maintaining order. Would you really advocate going back to the use of those techniques ?

        1. wdf1

          When I attended public school in a different state about 40 years ago, corporal punishment was common and socially acceptable. That is not the case in Davis in 2014, like it or not. Based on how I remember corporal punishment applied at the time, I think that it is an improvement not to rely on it.

          1. TrueBlueDevil

            Long gone are the days of corporal punishment in Catholic schools. It didn’t even exist much if at all in the 70s. Yet the Catholic schools have succeeded in educating students in some of the toughest inner city schools.

            One advantage the Catholic schools have is they don’t try to re-invent the wheel every 3 to 5 years. Many know what works, and they continue to use it. They also don’t have to deal with unions, or a massive overhead. They also realize the value of discipline, consequences, and morals.

            It is interesting how public school advocated want to debate the practices in some Catholic schools from 1950 or 1955. Yes, one older lady told me the nuns used to pull their ear lobes when they got out of hand … oh, the horror!!! … But there weren’t gangs running the school, weapons, sex on the campus, drug dealing, and more. I wonder which is worse?

  18. wdf1

    TBD: You really don’t want us knowing who the poor teachers are, eh? Or do you simply think they are a rare and endangered creature?

    I don’t think student standardized test scores will tell you how good the teachers are.

    Here’s a recent article on the issue: Good teaching, poor test scores: Doubt cast on grading teachers by student performance

    In the first large-scale analysis of new systems that evaluate teachers based partly on student test scores, two researchers found little or no correlation between quality teaching and the appraisals teachers received.

    The study, published Tuesday in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, is the latest in a growing body of research that has cast doubt on whether it is possible for states to use empirical data in identifying good and bad teachers.

    “The concern is that these state tests and these measures of evaluating teachers don’t really seem to be associated with the things we think of as defining good teaching,” said Morgan S. Polikoff, an assistant professor of education at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. He worked on the analysis with Andrew C. Porter, dean and professor of education at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

    It seems that what I cited above aren’t esoteric, one-off examples.

  19. TrueBlueDevil

    I would think there are 5, 6, 7 metrics to measure a teacher by, and if 3 or 4 point in the wrong direction, we’d know that we have a problem.

    1. wdf1

      Standardized test scores are the measure most often used, and most heavily relied on to determine quality education or not. NCLB uses it to determine whether or not a schools is in program improvement or not, and correspondingly, whether teachers and principals should be dismissed. It is the linchpin for accountability in the current “ed reform” movement.

      Perhaps the most damning research regarding standardized testing is James Heckman’s (a U of Chicago economist) research on the GED. The GED supposes that if a student can pass the test, then he/she has the equivalent of a high school education. GED prep classes are a mere fraction of the cost of a full-on high school education. If one wanted to save money on education, simply put 9th and 10th graders in a GED prep class and work them until they pass the test.

      But his research showed very poor results in lifetime success measures (job earnings, marriages, educational attainment) among those who pass the GED. What’s missing are a substantial constellation of non-cognitive skills that a person uses to succeed in life. source

      If a GED is truly insufficient to measure high school equivalency, it doesn’t speak well of other forms of standardized testing to measure educational attainment, including using them as the main basis for determining whether to keep or fire teachers.

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