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I know I've mentioned before that Irvington has a Scarsdale complex. What Scarsdale does, we do. Thus: if Scarsdale selects and implements Math TRAILBLAZERS, we select and implement Math TRAILBLAZERS. [ed.: that's a joke] I can't for the life of me think why this would be, unless it has something to do with the fact that Scarsdale's SAT scores are a teensy bit higher than ours:
So today I learn that Scarsdale's Superintendent, one Mike McGill, has been named Superintendent of the Year. Mike is a passionate guy, "a 1960s person ... pre-disposed to a kind of professive [sic] social vision," who is, of late, discovering the virtues of local control and the "danger in moving to big government." The danger in moving to big government being, one gathers, way too much accountability. Mike's not down with that:
If you listen to people like Richard Elmore, whoís a teacher at Harvard, he says the very top top American kids are scoring about the 75th percentile on international studies. So we know our top performing kids are doing very well.
I have now read this passage at least 10 times....and I'm still asking myself whether I can possibly be reading correctly. Did the superintendent of Scarsdale's public schools just tell us that the top-top American kids are scoring at the 75th percentile in international studies? Did he then tell us that when the top, say, 5 percent of our kids score at the 75th percentile internationally this is correctly viewed as an indication that they are doing "very well?" It appears so:
...the very top top American kids are scoring about the 75th percentile on international studies. So we know our top performing kids are doing very well. What what are the challenges posed by those kinds of data? [ed.: you mean, aside from the challenge of our top kids scoring twenty-five points below the top kids in Europe and Asia?] Whatís interesting to me about places like Scarsdale is that because high-performing school districts arenít having to deal with some of the very gritty kinds of reality that some of our urban schools must deal with, weíre in a position to explore alternative ways of doing things and ask questions that go to the heart of what truly strong public institutions do and and to the heart of how they can function most effectively. Itís a real privilege but itís also a responsibility. [ed.: and the good part is ZERO ACCOUNTABILITY! slide and glide! Nobody's checking to see if any truly strong public institutions actually result from my spending a lot of time thinking about how truly strong public institutions can function most effectively!] Particularly today when so much of the impetus for educational change has shifted from localities to the federal or state government. I think itís very easy to lose sight of the fact that historically one of the tremendous strengths of the American public school system has been the initiative and the individuality of local school districts.
When you cut through the blah-blah, Mike's point seems to be that what really interests him is "the important civic and ethical issues we face as human beings." Drawing upon my top-knotch inferencing and restating skills, I would say that Mike's message is:
Hey. This is Scarsdale; I don't have to think about scores.
There is a huge amount of tutoring in Scarsdale, fyi. You want to see tutoring up the wazoo, go to Scarsdale. Also parent unrest. There is parent unrest in Scarsdale. Possibly because they have to hire so many damn tutors. In fact, if I had to bet, I'd bet Scarsdale will be the next town to have a listserv.
spot the TRAILBLAZERS difference So here's an interesting factoid known only to me, Ed, my next-door neighbor, and our erstwhile Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum. (I know he knows because I gave him the data, walked him through it, and stood there while he read and reacted.) You'll notice that Scarsdale is way out in front of Irvington on Verbal scores, but not on Math. We're close to even on Math. Why would that be? I don't know, but I suspect Math TRAILBLAZERS has something to do with it. Scarsdale has had TRAILBLAZERS for quite awhile longer than we've had it. They show a much more dramatic 8th grade slump in math scores than Irvington. If you compare Irvington (pdf file) to Scarsdale (pdf file) in school year 2003-2004, here's what you see:
Irvington 4th grade 8th grade
In school year 2003-2004, Math TRAILBLAZERS had been used in Scarsdale long enough for the 8th graders to have used TRAILBLAZERS in elementary school. No children in Irvington had used TRAILBLAZERS at that point. I assume that one reason our curriculum committee thought TRAILBLAZERS was a great idea was the fact that Scarsdale 4th graders were so far ahead of Irvington kids on the state tests. 71% of Scarsdale kids were scoring a 4, compared to just 53% of our kids. That's a big gap. (I assume.) But did they look at the scores for 8th grade? I don't know.
I've just checked last year's math scores for Irvington and Scarsdale. The Scarsdale 8th graders, I believe, have been using Math TRAILBLAZERS for their entire school career. The Irvington 8th graders left K-5 before Math TRAILBLAZERS was adopted. 28.4% of Scarsdale 8th graders last year, 2005-2006, scored a 4 on the state test. 38.9% of Irvington 8th graders last year, 2005-2006, scored a 4 on the state test — and these are kids, remember, who have been through Irvington's Death March to Algebra Phase 4 extravaganza. The Irvington Middle School math curriculum is a mess no matter who's teaching the thing. And still, we have 38.9% of our kids scoring a 4 compared to just 28% of Scarsdale's TRAILBLAZERS kids. I'm going to call upon my Bayesian priors to say there's a reason for that.
(Photo for Robyn)
-- CatherineJohnson - 04 Dec 2006 Back to: Main Page.