Monthly Archives: September 2011
UPDATE! TC prediction: NJ Editiorial board busy crafting puff piece in complete support of seeking waivers… #netDE
will undoubtedly call the move good for schools and teachers while making no mention of onerous conditions to get the waiver because it is already aligned with Delaware’s “world beating, number one scoring” RTTT plan……
anyone wanna wager on this, I’m giving 10-1 odds and Monday’s edition as the deadline…..
Right on schedule…..
NCLB reprieve is worth celebrating
10:54 PM, Sep. 25, 2011 |
Last week, the Red Clay School Board made its customary rational decision about overcrowding at a few of the district’s elementary schools.
The board shut down the choice option for students from other districts, students of parents who consider those particular schools their child’s best option for a quality education.
These are the kind of tough decisions that will become more and more necessary in the current education reform mind-set around the nation.
And it is a timely issue, considering the high-stakes reform efforts going on here in Delaware.
In fact, Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery ended the same week with President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for the overdue announcement of new flexibility in the No Child Left Behind Act.
Teachers feel pressured to narrow the curriculum and teach to the test, and some states have lowered their standards to avoid penalties under the law, Mr. Obama said.
But his sweeping plan is not without conditions. To pursue their own school improvement agendas, states still have to meet certain federal standards, which won’t include any reprieve from accountability and higher standards.
That makes sense, because flexibility in higher standards remains true to the original NCLB Act that former Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., co-authored.
And by the time he left office in 2010, Mr. Castle had acknowledged the need for some self-correction if the goals of measurable reforms were to be realized.
Indeed, having the breathing room to localize the delivery of education is the best way to bring some immediacy to closing achievement gaps and improving teacher morale.
“This vision for innovative and aggressive reform — backed by stringent accountability — is in line with the work already under way in Delaware,” Lowery said.
Let’s hope so, not only for our students’ sake, but for the sake of districts like Red Clay that have become many parents’ only go-to options for an education that measures up to what their children will face in the coming decade.
Rodel blogs the Partnership Zone, attacks unions and school boards, champions charters and choice as panacea… what else is new?…yawn. #netDE
My Comments in RED.
Our Partnership Zone Schools: Let’s Prove What’s PossibleBy paulh on September 22, 2011 in Delaware Schools, Family & Community Engagement, Race to the Top, Turnaround Schools
Earlier this month, six new Partnership Zone schools were announced. The question is will we at the state and local levels make the tough calls needed to ensure that these schools fundamentally change course? This is our collective opportunity to do something powerful in these communities—to prove that the kids in these neighborhoods can excel. My fear is that we will follow the path of many other states and stay within our comfort zone, working hard, but not fundamentally changing the circumstances that got these schools in this position in the first place. Care to share the circumstances with us and be brutally honest about them?
Around the country, district leaders are concerned about school board and union politics, making them inclined to settle for watered down plans that simply amount to the “kitchen sink” approach. School Board and Union politics lead to watered down plans? Are you just spewing an anti-union meme Mr. Herdman? That seems disingenuous to me…do you have evidence to support this comment that appears on face to be both teacher hating and anti democratically elected school boards? That is, spending millions of public dollars on a lot of new after school and professional development programs that simply don’t change the underlying issues. I fear this could happen in Delaware. You may want to fear the results of the much ballyhooed Vision 2015 that has placed 4, count them 4 schools in the lowest performing schools in DE, also known as the Partnership Zone: Howard High, Glasgow High , Bayard Middle and Dover High…..
School turnaround is not a new problem. States and districts have struggled with low performing schools for decades. And while we don’t know a lot about what works, we do know a bit about what doesn’t, such as states looking at their job as grant compliance. Mr., Herdman, to be fair, there are many onerous rules associated with the money. But when you write a check to a low performing school and then step away, the impact is negligible. While this is changing with the state’s new School Turnaround Unit (is it? Is there proof this is in fact changing?), this was the trend in Delaware, where after doling out millions of dollars in small doses over the last decade, almost none of the dozens of schools designated as low performing became strong performers.
One of the rare exceptions is the Conrad School of Science in Red Clay. By changing its focus and staffing to target students in math and science and developing a clear and concrete plan with leadership and a committed team, Conrad was able to reverse its course, rising approximately 20 percent in proficiency since restructuring, and landing in or near the top ten in proficiency statewide in every grade. Theirs is an example of why it takes more than money alone.
Meanwhile, some would argue whether the new Partnership Zone schools in Delaware are even the right choices (Yes, many would. We agree here wholeheartedly). For example, Marbrook Elementary in the Red Clay district was a Blue Ribbon School in 2009, so people may find it strange that only two years later they’re in trouble. But at this point, I think that while one could argue with the selection process, we should accept that all of these schools have room to improve and move forward. Fair enough.
So what are some of the key ingredients that will give students in these Partnership Zone schools a chance to be successful? I’d argue for a few non-negotiables:
- A clear, community-based plan with concrete measures of success. The good news is that there are dozens of schools within a two hour radius with proven turnaround plans. While the time is tight, I believe our community members should visit these schools so that they can redesign a school that is inspired and fits their needs. The parents, community and business leaders should have a seat at the table (ok, I buy parents and community but why should business leaders have a seat at the table…as parents sure, as taxpayers, sure, to craft the system on the notion that the principles that guide business should guide schools, no way) alongside the teachers and administrators at the design stage, not be brought in once the plan is baked. Can you smell it now?… the plans are half-baked already Mr. Herdman and hardly a meeting is done….
- A leadership team with the resources and autonomy to act on the plan. At the end of the day, this plan will rise or fall based on who is delivering it. Our students don’t have time for more of the counterproductive events that took place in the Christina School District last year. Yes, you were at that meeting weren’t you? Oh, that’s right, you were not. 5 members of the CSD BOE voted to do the plan, for real. LISTEN HERE. That said, and proven, all you have done Mr. Herdman is buy the lies from our Governor. He lied then and continues to lie about ed reform now, and you just give him a pass. 5 elected officials tried to make the plan work and you jump on us. This is why your organizations are failing in ed reform in Delaware. You have turned off your ears and just use your mouth… try the truth about last spring, it is instructive if you have an open mind, sir. Everyone involved should be comfortable and confident about buying into the plan and acting on it, in the interests of our students. We were. We are. Are you?
- Teams from within districts or contracted to them are on the hook to make sure new school leadership teams deliver. Currently, existing districts are not built to manage schools this way, so they don’t have the staff for it. This work is going to be hard so there needs to be staff dedicated to this full-time to make sure that this deep investment pays off for our children. In the state Department of Education’s parlance, this is known as a “lead partner.” This is someone who has the autonomy and the responsibility to get the work done. This could be built into the district or contracted out by way of a charter school or management, but it can’t be left up to a middle manager in the district who is already managing many more things. Ah, the case for more layers and bringing in companies with public dollars to do work that has no proof of efficacy… as put so well at the top of this blog post by you yourself. Is this the real reason you feel you should have a place at the table, Mr. Herdman? To get business opportunities funneled to Innovative Schools, whose board you sit on and which powers this effort to expand charters?....These are legitimate questions that taxpaying school board members are supposed to ask, sir.
The bottom line is that in Delaware, we need to show what is possible. As the plethora of Race to the Top initiatives hit our schools this fall (a year and a half after winning the $$…a bit slow wouldn’t you say?), I’d argue that the one thing out of all of it that the average person will actually pay attention to is whether or not these Partnership Zone schools can actually turn a corner, improving student performance. Yep, that’s why I am calling out the scores at GHS and CHS and the superior/academic watch ratings as a fallacy and a complete setup to next years results. 8 missed cells at GHS ( a PZ school) on participation with scores that beat CHS, and it is the worst ranking with those better scores. Please be on the watch for the GHS miracle….in fact the whole PZ may be “too big to fail” and the State BOE is onto it….check the audio here of the 9/15 meeting
Given the current economic landscape, if we miss this window of opportunity by taking the path of least resistance, we will let our children down in a way that is inexcusable. So as the Red Clay, Christina, and Capital School Districts engage in their discussions over the coming weeks, I hope they do so in a way that’s not based on political feasibility, but rather by asking themselves, “What if my child was in that school? What would I change?” Amen, hope to see you at the meetings, we’ve had two already and you have been nowhere to be seen…..
Call me Paul at 219.308.5338 and I can give you the schedule and location of upcoming meetings.
Posted by Matthew Di Carlo on September 26, 2011
I’ve written so many posts about the misinterpretation of testing data in news stories that I’m starting to annoy myself. For example, I’ve shown that year-to-year changes in testing results might be attributable to the fact that, each year, a different set of students takes the test. I’ve discussed the fact that proficiency rates are not test scores – they only tell you the proportion of students above a given line – and that the rates and actual scores can move in opposite directions (see this simple illustration). And I’ve pleaded with journalists, most of whom I like and respect, to write with care about these issues (and, I should note, many of them do so).
Yet here I am, back on my soapbox again. This time the culprit is the recent release of SAT testing data, generating dozens of error-plagued stories from newspapers and organizations. Like virtually all public testing data, the SAT results are cross-sectional – each year, the test is taken by a different group of students. This means that demographic changes in the sample of test takers influence the results. This problem is even more acute in the case of the SAT, since it is voluntary. Despite the best efforts of the College Board (see their press release), a slew of stories improperly equated the decline in average SAT scores since the previous year with an overall decline in student performance – a confirmation of educational malaise (in fairness, there were many exceptions).
I’ve come to think that there’s a fundamental problem here: When you interpret testing data properly, you don’t have much of a story.
For instance, over the summer, DCPS released its annual testing results, which showed that proficiency rates were basically flat compared with the previous year. Of course, district officials spun the results in a positive light by concentrating on the change in rates for seventh and eighth graders, which increased slightly, as well as on the longer-term trend in rates since 2007 (New York City officials made a similarly narrow, misleading argument about their results). Some mainstream journalists noted that the “scores” were largely flat, while others presented the longer-term trend that the district was pushing. And there was, of course, a blizzard of commentary from all corners about what the results meant for Michelle Rhee, the new DC teacher evaluation system, the city’s cheating scandal and other factors.
Here’s the basic gist of how I would have reported the story:
A slightly larger proportion of DCPS elementary school students scored above the proficiency cutoff this year compared with last year, while the rates for secondary school students declined slightly. The degree to which these changes reflect “real” performance shifts – positive or negative – remains unclear. For one thing, proficiency rates can increase while actual average test scores stay flat or even go down, and vice-versa. DCPS does not release its actual scores, so it’s impossible to tell how the performance of the “typical student” changed between years. In addition, even if there were score increases, they wouldn’t necessarily reflect real improvement, since these data do not account for whether the group of students taking the test this year is significantly different from those taking it last year in terms of key characteristics, such as income or parental involvement. This is especially true in DCPS, where student mobility is unusually high. In short, this year’s test results provide a snapshot of how many students are above different cutoff points, and the percent scoring above the district’s proficiency standards remains quite low. But the results are, at best, inconclusive evidence regarding whether performance of students improved since last year, and they certainly cannot be used to demonstrate the effects of any particular policy or individual.
I think this demonstrates two things. First, I would make a terrible journalist. Second, when you properly interpret most public testing data, you have a story that is unlikely to strike the average reader as interesting. I’m sure a better writer could spice this up (especially in a district that provides scale scores and not just pass rates), but in the end, it’s more of a statement about what we don’t know than what we do.
It’s far more compelling to write definitive stories about how scores “went up” or “went down”; offer various interpretations as to why this might have been the case; speculate on the credit or blame due to the various interested parties; and describe what it means in the context of the scandals and personalities du jour. But it’s just not correct.
Put simply, when it comes to the public discussion of most test results, we have two choices: Boring and accurate or exciting and misinterpreted. I vote for the former.
- Matt Di Carlo
Article link: HERE
Kahneman then asked the most experienced among them how long such work took other curriculum committees. The gentleman pointed out that roughly 40 percent of the committees never finished their work at all.
But what about those that did finish? The gentleman reported that he had never seen a committee finish in less than seven years and never in more than 10.
This was bad news. They might fail to finish a task that they thought would be done in three years. At best, the project might consume eight or nine years. Yet this information didn’t affect those on the team at all. They carried on, assuming that though others might fail or dally, surely they wouldn’t.
As it turned out, their project took eight years to finish. By the time it was done, the Ministry of Education had lost interest, and the curriculum was never used.
In his forthcoming book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” (I’ll write more about it in a couple of weeks), Kahneman calls this the planning fallacy. Most people overrate their own abilities and exaggerate their capacity to shape the future. That’s fine. Optimistic people rise in this world. The problem comes when these optimists don’t look at themselves objectively from the outside.
The planning fallacy is failing to think realistically about where you fit in the distribution of people like you. As Kahneman puts it, “People who have information about an individual case rarely feel the need to know the statistics of the class to which the case belongs.”
Over the past three years, the United States has been committing the planning fallacy on stilts. The world economy has been slammed by a financial crisis. Countries that are afflicted with these crises typically experience several years of high unemployment. They go deep into debt to end the stagnation, but the turnaround takes a while.
This historical pattern has been universally acknowledged and universally ignored. Instead, leaders in both parties have clung to the analogy that the economy is like a sick patient who can be healed by the right treatment.
The Democrats, besotted by the myth that the New Deal ended the Great Depression, have consistently overestimated their ability to turn the economy around. They regard the Greek crackup as a freakish, unlucky break, even though this sort of thing is a typical feature of a financial crisis.
Republicans, who should know better, also have an inflated sense of the power of government. In the presidential debates, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman argue about which one oversaw the most job creation during his term as governor, as if governors have an immediate and definable impact on employers’ hiring decisions.
The reality, of course, is that the economy is not a patient. It is a zillion, zillion interactions. Government is not a doctor. Most of the time, it is a clashing collective enterprise that is occasionally able to produce marginal change, for good and for ill.
Democrats should be learning about the limits of social policy. As in the war on poverty, as in the effort to transform American schools, as in the effort to create prosperity in the developing world, it is really hard to turn around complex systems.
Republicans should be reflecting on the fact that if a Republican president were in office right now, and even if he or she did sensible things, the economy would still be in the dumps. It would be Republicans losing “safe” Congressional seats in special elections.
The key to wisdom in these circumstances is to make the distinction between discrete good and systemic good. When you are in the grip of a big, complex mess, you have the power to do discrete good but probably not systemic good.
When you are the president in a financial crisis, you have the power to pave roads and hire teachers. That will reduce the suffering of real people who would otherwise be jobless. You have the power to streamline regulations and reduce tax burdens. That will induce a bit more hiring and activity. These are real contributions.
But you don’t have the power to transform the whole situation. Your discrete goods might contribute to an overall turnaround, but that turnaround will be beyond your comprehension and control.
Over the past decades, Americans have developed an absurd view of the power of government. Many voters seem to think that government has the power to protect them from the consequences of their sins. Then they get angry and cynical when it turns out that it can’t.
at 4:30 “It’s time to put our teachers BACK on the job” no offense taken Mr. President……
My comments in RED:
……Paul Herdman, president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, a nonprofit involved in education reform, said he hopes the waivers will help Delaware to gain additional flexibility so it can build broader ownership of the reform agenda without taking the pressure off schools to improve. He supports the administration’s push to look at making more improvements to schools other than ones at the very bottom of the test score rankings each year…….
So why does it need to be “broader ownership of the reform agenda” Mr. Herdman? Rodel and Vision 2015 and the Governor have been selling this as extremely broad, statewide, complete and total adoration and support of the reform agenda…is this not true?
…..Delaware’s education reform efforts Friday were presented as a model of the kinds of changes the U.S. Department of Education wants to see in other states. Many of Delaware’s changes were made with help from the state’s $119 million Race to the Top grant. Unlike Race to the Top, the waivers for No Child Left Behind are not part of a competition…..
While not part of a competition, they are inextricably tied to conditions. Essentially the same conditions as SIG on the subject of turnaround with the newly minted, uninspired “Turnaround Principles” and almost all other waived components are tied to the same conditions of RTTT, which has no empirical or research based support. So instead of bribing the states WITH money, that carrot has been switched to escaping punitive labeling and the NOT WITHHOLDING of $$…..and the sad part is that neither the policy makers nor the media are exposing that truth to the real stakeholders: parents, teachers and students. It continues to amaze me that the business community continues to get the quotes and the press on this when their agenda is so saddled with inconsistencies like Vision 2015 and the 4 schools they have walked right into the PZ…..
Different cover, same book, same sad ending.
Step One: Fire the Principal
Question: How many educators does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Answer: I don’t know. Let’s fire the principal.
Nonsensical, of course. But take the same “reasoning,” codify it into School Improvement Grant guidance and the Race to the Top application, then see it mirrored in a House education reform bill, and you begin to appreciate why school leaders across the nation are bristling at a consistent theme of this administration’s school-turnaround agenda—the dismissal of the principal as a first step.
Before I go any further, let me be clear: I applaud the Department of Education’s (ED) commitment to turning around the nation’s lowest-performing schools, a goal that we wholeheartedly endorse. And—let me be very clear—NASSP is not interested in defending substandard principals. We are, after all, about “promoting excellence in middle and high school leadership”; anything less than excellence compromises the whole profession. It might be true that the principal in some of these lowest performing schools is the agent of stagnation that has to go before real progress can commence. Or not. Perhaps the low performance is a function of a superintendent that fails to address low performance or a bloated district bureaucracy that stifles innovation. Perhaps the teachers union wields so much power that it has become impossible to dismiss even the egregiously poor teachers. Perhaps it’s a combination of factors. What’s frustrating is that ED won’t even entertain the question, as each of the four models attests:
- Turnaround—Principal and half of faculty are replaced. New principal gets mega-flexibility.
- Restart—School is closed and reopened as a charter or under new for-profit management.
- Closure—School is closed and students go elsewhere.
- Transformation—Steps are taken to transform the school’s culture, implement a rigorous performance- based evaluation system, students and teachers receive more support, and leadership teams are granted more flexibility. But first, the principal is replaced.
The irony of these models can’t be ignored. In many of these models, the new principal has autonomy and flexibility that the “low-performing” predecessor never experienced. In his comments for Education Week, in fact, the president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools called it a “mistake for a charter organization that’s only done startups to walk into a turnaround situation without having the flexibility and site autonomy that they would have in a startup.” Former Gates Foundation head Tom Vander Ark, commenting in the same article, takes the flexibility issue even further:
Even for really good providers, when they are dropped into circumstances where they don’t have control over who they can hire and how they can spend their money, it’s going to be a limited proposition for them to succeed.
What Vander Ark describes is the situation in which most principals work. But despite the “limited proposition” for success, principals are accountable for success—and, in the eyes of this administration, exclusively accountable. Last month in this space, I uttered a principal’s lament: “Don’t lower expectations for me or my students. Just untie my hands so I can meet them.” To which I now add, “preferably before you give me a pink slip.” Under the four proposed models, this scenario seems increasingly unlikely.
Formal comments by NASSP on these models in the proposed School Improvement Grants guidance were considered but, unfortunately, declined by ED. Even more unfortunate is that these models have found their way into the Race to the Top application and are reflected in a recent education bill (H.R. 4122), proposed by Education Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA). Although these initiatives are targeted to the nation’s lowest- performing schools, it’s also likely that these models will make an appearance in the reauthorization of ESEA (aka NCLB).
Slowing the momentum of this runaway train will require the efforts of every NASSP member. Use the Principal’s Legislative Action Center to reach out to your elected officials (www.nassp.org/ PLAC). If you have a story of innovation that was stifled by district-level bureaucracy, tell it. If there’s a contrast between your school and one where the principal is more autonomous, draw it. Make sure your elected officials hear that dismissing one leader without holding other levels in the school district accountable might create a new problem while failing to even identify the old one. Make sure they understand that principal autonomy and flexibility, as charter schools and for profit providers already know, are essential to the success of a school.
Question: How many educators does it take to screw in a light bulb?
Answer: I don’t know, but at least we’re asking questions. Why isn’t ED?
In a shocking non-development, DE quickly leads the way on caving on high standards. @GovernorMarkell #netDE
Of course, I also hate the standards, it is just simply precious to watch the Markell ED agenda drown in its own self-immolating hypocrisy.
We need high standards! No, wait, we need waivers! Good show Governor Markell: I’ll send a pair of flip flops for the holidays!
Behold the comedy…..
Secretary Lowery Joins Obama, Duncan for NCLB Waiver Announcement
Release Date: Sep 23, 2011 3:15 PM ShareThis
Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Lillian M. Lowery joined President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in Washington, D.C., today as the President announced flexibility from some provisions of the No Child Left Behind act in exchange for aggressive state-led reforms. Lowery welcomed the opportunity to answer their call to apply for a waiver.
“This vision for innovative and aggressive reform — backed by stringent accountability — is in line with the work already underway in Delaware,” Lowery said.
- Delaware already is transitioning to college- and career-ready standards and assessments thanks to last year’s adoption of the national Common Core Standards and implementation of our new computer-adaptive DCAS test as well as the state-funded school-day SAT administration.
- At the urging of educators and parents, Delaware began the transition to a growth model several years ago, which aligns with USED’s call to develop a system that recognizes and rewards schools that are making progress closing achievement gaps.
- Statewide reform efforts, including Delaware’s Partnership Zone, already are focusing extra help and resources to improve student learning in the state’s persistently low-achieving schools.
- Delaware also is on the forefront nationally in connecting student progress over time and multiple measures of professional practice to educator evaluations through the addition of a student growth measure to our DPAS II evaluation system.
“The President’s announcement today will help Delaware realize its vision that every single student in our system will graduate college and career ready, with the freedom to choose his or her life’s course,” Lowery said. “This flexibility frees our educators from unfair and outdated federal sanctions and rewards them for the aggressive reforms they are undertaking on behalf of Delaware’s children.”
The President’s press release with more details on the waiver package is provided below.
Obama Administration Offers Flexibility from No Child Left Behind
Today, the Obama Administration outlined how states can get relief from provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – or No Child Left Behind (NCLB) – in exchange for serious state-led efforts to close achievement gaps, promote rigorous accountability, and ensure that all students are on track to graduate college- and career-ready.
“To help states, districts and schools that are ready to move forward with education reform, our administration will provide flexibility from the law in exchange for a real commitment to undertake change. The purpose is not to give states and districts a reprieve from accountability, but rather to unleash energy to improve our schools at the local level,” President Obama said.
What this means for you:
- For Teachers: A collaborative learning culture where teachers can target instruction towards the needs of students and offer a well-rounded curriculum. Fair and responsible evaluations that are based on multiple measures including peer review, principal observation, and classroom work.
- For Principals: Greater flexibility to tailor solutions to the unique educational challenges of their students and recognition for progress and performance.
- For Parents: Accurate and descriptive information about their children’s progress and honest accountability that recognizes and rewards success – where schools fall short – targeted and focused strategies for the students most at risk.
- For Students: A system that measures student growth and critical thinking to inspire better teaching and greater student engagement across a well-rounded curriculum.
For more information on how this flexibility package may affect you, read our blog post: What NCLB Flexibility Means for You.
Get the Facts:
- Detailed info can be found at ED.gov’s ESEA Flexibility page
On the Blog:
You are subscribed to News from Secretary Duncan and ED from the U.S. Department of Education.