In Their Own Words: Susan Lovenburg

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Susan Lovenburg listens to public comment on Thursday.
Susan Lovenburg listens to public comment on Thursday.

The Vanguard will be publishing the comments of each of the five school board members on the AIM program. We begin with the comments of Susan Lovenburg. Below is a video clip from her comments.

Susan Lovenburg:

I have received many thoughtful emails on this topic, as my colleagues have. I have had many deep and rich conversations with parents, teachers and with our administration throughout this process. What I have heard over and over again, what parents want for their students is to be safe and fully engaged in the school environment and to be challenged to achieve their full potential.

Those goals are reflected in the mission of the Davis Joint Unified District. It as a mission that was created together in a community process where we came together with teachers, parents, community members, administrators, school board members to really define who we are and what we want to achieve for our kids.

That mission statements says: “The mission of Davis Joint Unified School District, (is to be) a leading center of educational innovation, (which ignites) 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.”

We have shared aspirations for our children. But really people, we are not there yet. Davis Joint Unified School District is an excellent school district, but we’re not perfect. We haven’t achieved everything that we can and need to achieve for each of our students.

In fact, we have a long way to go. Our peer districts by many measures do better than the Davis Joint Unified School District. I remind people who ask us several times tonight to look at the data, that the UC Davis study looked at the impact of our program on our students, and could not identify a benefit to those students above the program that’s being offered in our neighborhood schools. That’s a data point that we need to keep in mind as we’re thinking about how we serve students.

Most concerningly we have a persistent and stubborn achievement gap which lingers despite the resources, time, and attention we have spent trying to close it. I’m in my eighth year on the school board, this has been a focus of our work for eight years. And I have to tell you, I don’t see us having made nearly as much progress as I would like to see us make. I’d like to say we may have made some small progress, but it’s been small.

I believe it’s fundamentally time to re-think how we serve all students. Differentiated instruction as much as we have talked about it tonight is really just a form of education speak – really it’s – somebody said this and I wish I could remember exactly who it was – but they were very eloquent on the issue – because what I think of it as is meeting every child where they are and providing them an academically rigorous program with high expectations and support for them to proceed.

Differentiation doesn’t take place just in a classroom – it takes place across classrooms and in a grade level, between grade levels in a school, and sometimes even between schools and between institutions such as those cases where our students in the Davis Joint Unified School District are accessing advanced classes at community colleges or UC Davis.

There is no reason in the world to limit our thinking to the size of a classroom. Let’s – I hate this phrase – let’s think out of the box.

Salman Khan of the Khan academy – everybody had their quote tonight, I’ve got mine – in his book, The One World Schoolhouse, is very compelling on the need for education to evolve. “At a time when unprecedented change demands unprecedented flexibility, conventional education continues to be brittle. As our increasingly interconnected world cries out for more minds, more innovators, more of a spirit of inclusion, conventional education continues to discourage and exclude.”

“Whether the process is called tracking or whether it’s known by some kinder, gentler and less honest name, the upshot is the same. It’s a process exclusion, which is exactly the opposite of what our schools should be trying to accomplish. To be successful in a competitive and interconnected world, we need every mind we have; to solve our common problems regarding relations among people and the health of our plannet, we need all the talent and imagination we can find.”

“The current system is rife with inefficiencies and inequalities, with tragic mismatches between how students are taught and what they need to know. And the situation grows more urgent every day that the educational status quo survives while the world is changing all around it. This is not an abstract conversation; it’s about the futures of real kids, families, communities, and nations.”

“The cost of inaction is unconscionably high, and it is counted out not in dollars or euroes or rupees but in human destinies.”

Just to put a point on that, that is Salman Khan. I wish I was that articulate, but that was the quote from Salman Khan’s book.

This is me. I believe it’s time to stand and face this challenge. In Davis we have all of the resources we need at hand. We have students ready to learn. We have high quality teachers, we have dedicated administrators, we have supportive parents, all of you here and all of them who are not in this boardroom tonight and a community that has stepped up for education, time and time again.

More importantly this is a moment of opportunity that won’t come again. We’re implementing the common core which provides deeper, richer, more relevant instruction for children and embeds differentiated instruction into its pedagogy. We are in a period of unprecedented resources to invest in professional growth and technology to assist instruction. We have learned what works and what doesn’t work from the first generation of student testing and accountability. We’re poised on a threshold this is an opportunity we need to seize.

I will never fault a parent for demanding the best for their child – I only ask that as a community, that we go further. I ask that we demand and provide the best for every child.

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About The Author

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

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13 thoughts on “In Their Own Words: Susan Lovenburg”

  1. SODA

    When I watched this on Thursday night I was surprised that she read from prepared comments and thought Ms Lovenburg was not thinking that the district presentation and public comment would influence her at all? Reminded me of certain board members (believe she and Sheila Allen were the ones) who also read fromprepared comments after the contentious board assessment public comment session about the volleyball coach.

    I see the value of gathering one’s thoughts beforehand and reflecting, but to read the prepared statement and that is all strikes me as discounting public input. Am certainly ready to be challenged on this.

    1. Davis Progressive

      she did say at the onset that she had updated her comments – but there certainly no evidence of that in her speech.  she also took a 30000 foot view rather than attempting to address the specifics of the proposal.

  2. zaqzaq

    Susan never mentions the AIM program by name.  I would like to know who requested, selected the researchers and paid for the UC Davis report.  I do not recall seeing that in articles before or may have missed it.

    1. ryankelly

      I believe it was Madhavi Sunder who requested it, saying that she wanted to base any decisions on real research.  The UCD researchers stepped forward and volunteered to address it and did it at no cost to the District.  When Sunder questioned their motives for doing this at the meeting where they presented their findings, the lead researcher stated that they did this as part of their job as a UCD researcher and thought the topic would result in a published paper.

      1. DavisAnon

        Maybe I’m  misunderstanding what you’re saying here, but that  research was initiated close to two years before Sunder was on the board,  so how could she have been the one requesting it ?

      2. VoiceOfReasonInDavis

        Someone mentioned that the researchers wrote a letter to the newspaper endorsing Adams and Archer. Sunder is a UCD prof – and I believe there were other UCD profs who were also running. Here is the letter: http://www.davisenterprise.com/forum/letters/two-are-especially-qualified/

  3. Tia Will

    To be successful in a competitive and interconnected world, we need every mind we have; to solve our common problems regarding relations among people and the health of our planet, we need all the talent and imagination we can find.”

    This I think is a key component of education that we systematically ignore. We choose to honor some skill sets and attributes more highly than others, while refusing to acknowledge that there are some tasks that have to be done by someone ( however menial or lowly we may define them to be) and that there are some individuals who might be perfectly happy fulfilling those roles if our society did not denigrate these necessary functions.

    We basically have two choices ( deliberately dichotomization on my part). We can define all societal tasks as necessary, and compensate adequately ( a decent living standard for full time work) for performing those tasks. Or we can define some roles as menial and degrade those who perform them, both financially and socially. Since we have chosen the second route throughout our adult society, is it really so surprising that we see the seeds of this differentiation occurring at the grade school level ?

     

     

     

     

    1. Davis Progressive

      my problem with susan’s “speech” is that we are not at the conceptual level here.  we are dealing with the specifics of a specific policy by the superintendent and she really had nothing to say about any of that.

      1. Anon

        I totally agree – the topic of conversation was supposed to be the AIM program.  Should AIM be changed in any way, and exactly how.  I would argue the only thing really “wrong” with AIM was determination of eligibility.  Suddenly it has morphed into a discussion about “differentiation” and how to do what is best for all children, which appears to me to be an attempt to distract from the real issue – which has become a hot potato.

  4. Anon

    In all the flowery words Ms. Lovenburg strings together, there was no mention of AIM or how she intends it should be handled.  It is as if she is intentionally dodging the question, or, are we are supposed to assume the AIM program in her eyes should be eliminated in favor of differentiation?

    Differentiation doesn’t take place just in a classroom – it takes place across classrooms and in a grade level, between grade levels in a school, and sometimes even between schools and between institutions such as those cases where our students in the Davis Joint Unified School District are accessing advanced classes at community colleges or UC Davis…

    I will never fault a parent for demanding the best for their child – I only ask that as a community, that we go further. I ask that we demand and provide the best for every child.

    Differentiation and AIM are not necessarily mutually exclusive concepts.  Why not continue AIM as is, since it seems to be a successful program, while adding differentiation to all classes to try to address the achievement gap?  I don’t see any particular connection between the AIM program and the achievement gap, unless DJUSD is expending an inordinate amount of resources on the AIM program at the expense of students struggling in school.

    I would ask Ms. Lovenburg, is it best for every child to downsize the AIM program?  Please explain…

  5. Don Shor

    Summary:
    Kids in GATE don’t benefit from it.
    Differentiation is the answer. But differentiation is not a program.
    And, like Barbara Archer, she chose to mention the achievement gap, so apparently she feels there is some connection to this issue.

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