KTM User Pages
11 Nov 2006 - 18:38
This explains a lot:
Most local school leaders believe public schools are doing a good job in the most important areas, with half of superintendents saying schools in their district are "excellent." Despite forceful calls from business leaders and policymakers to upgrade math and science education, most superintendents (59 percent) and principals (66 percent) say this is not a serious problem in their local schools. Superintendents are fairly confident about the level of student learning in local schools, more so than teachers. They are less likely than teachers to believe that kids can slip through local schools without learning - only 27 percent of superintendents say this is a problem locally compared to 62 percent of teachers. Superintendents are also more confident that local middle school students are ready for high school (76 percent versus 54 percent) and that a local high school diploma means a student has mastered basics (78 percent versus 63 percent).
That's my district! The administration & Board of Ed are indifferent to "forceful calls to upgrade." At the Board meeting where our 8th graders' precipitous decline in scores was explained away, the Board president congratulated the superintendent and the assistant superintendent on their good work and wrapped up the discussion by saying, "This just goes to show that in Irvington everyone is above average." They think things are great! It's just the teachers who think none of our kids belongs in 8th grade Earth Sciences or Honors courses in high school.
-- CatherineJohnson - 11 Nov 2006 Back to main page.
KtmGuest (password: guest) when prompted.
Please consider registering as a regular user.
Look here for syntax help.
My district is like that too. I find that several teachers are aware of the flaws in the math program ... especially the special ed. teachers. When I recently complained to a couple of teachers that the EM spiral is inappropriate for slow learners, they said they already knew that. The further up you go in the bureacracy, the more smug and self-satisfied school officials become. Our principal is okay, but the central administration is just oblivious. They just tune out parent complaints. They don't want to hear it. Sometimes they just ignore you, and don't even bother responding to your concerns. They sit in their offices, and don't see what's going on. All they see are state standardized tests. In our district, we have an achievement gap between the "economically disadvantaged" and the "non-economically disadvantaged." Nobody seems terribly interested in finding out how much tutoring is going on, and whether that might be the cause of the gap. I don't think they really want to know. -- RobynW - 12 Nov 2006
I think this is the case in many, if not most, businesses as well. The farther a person gets from the grass roots level of what is happening, the less they seem to understand what is really going on. I think Seth Godin's latest book ("Small is the New Big") addresses how businesses need to think small (i.e., grass roots level). The difference (and I realize, of course, that I'm preaching to the choir) is that in a free-market system, there is the very real possibility that the company/business will suffer economically as a result, or perhaps even go out of business. This is SteveH?'s point--because there is no real, effective school choice, there are no external market pressures. Well, there are those occasional, meddlesome parents who keep insisting that they ought to have some say in the education of their kids. . . -- KarenA - 12 Nov 2006
I agree with most of this, but in a district that does have a fair amount of school choice, I find two things: 1) there is a lot of "sloshing" for lack of a better term. I mean that there is always one hot school in favor, often for reasons that aren't really related to performance (say, a new principal who promises better performance, but has yet to really show that) or because white parents really like it and see that their kids aren't 50% or less of the population (it's nearly impossible to get white parents here to keep their kids in a school below that ratio, regardless of the programs offered or the scores achieved by similar kids). 2) parents seem to prefer to just keep moving kids around rather than addressing issues. I know kids who have attended 3+ schools before 5th grade. As horrible as it is pushing against the system, it's more effective than having concerned parents just evaporate. I don't really know what the answer is. I think I'm in favor of lots of choice but some sort of required buy-in time. But, then again, if I chose a school and ended up hating it, I'd hate some sort of mandatory 2 or however many year buy-in to be just one more thing to hate and I'm sure it wouldn't push more toward getting positive changes made. Hmm. -- JenL - 13 Nov 2006
As long as schools can't prove that their ideas of education are anything but opinion, there is no other option than school choice. As for "sloshing", that's really the choice of the parents, and their risk. It doesn't matter what the reasons are. I see this in the private school world, even for parents who send their kids back to public school. No parent that I have talked to takes this switch lightly. -- SteveH - 13 Nov 2006
Someone I know who is a member of a school board attempted to explain to me the difference between the "Superintendent", the "Administration" and "School Boards". The person states that the sup't is the only person who belongs to both administration and school board. The sup't is top dog in the administration and the only non-voting member of the school board. The administration is a tight-knit group that generally doesn't like the board much and certainly doesn't view the board as a partner in decisions involving curriculum. School boards are frequently the last obstacle (i.e, formality) in embarking on the course the Administration has chosen. Their top dog has a seat at the School Board table and "carries the weight of a large gorilla." The board will almost always do what the sup't wants except possibly on financial decisions like school construction. The sup't is the only person the school board hires directly; all the rest of the Administration are picked by the sup't or "his/her designee." The school board "rubber-stamps ... oops, I mean votes" on the other personnel hiring. School Boards when they do try to keep bad things from happening with curriculum, are often informed by the Administration that they are micromanaging and that they need to respect the difference between board responsibilities and administrative duties. And that they are the experts and the School Board is not. In theory and in law, the school board has almost unlimited veto power. The Board is required to vote on all manner of stuff which almost always amounts to a "rubber stamp." If a school board wants to flex its muscles, it can stop almost anything the Administration wants to do, but the reality is extremely complicated. My contact states that when this person's Board tried to kill a proposal to adopt a bad "social studies" program for elementary school, the teachers and administrators ended up hating the Board. -- BarryGarelick - 13 Nov 2006
"My contact states that when this person's Board tried to kill a proposal to adopt a bad "social studies" program for elementary school, the teachers and administrators ended up hating the Board." In our town, the sup't is hired by the school committee. At the time of hiring, the board (in effect) endorses (selects) the philosophy/agenda of the new sup't. After hiring, the sup't is given great deference. If the people in town wanted a fundamental change, they would have to get rid of the sup't (and many teachers). When my son was in first grade, the sup't said that I could be part of a Citizen's Curriculum Committee they were reforming. The committee was never formed and they proceeded to continue to do what they wanted to do. It all has to do with fundamental beliefs of education. Those who want direct instruction, higher year-to-year expectations, and an emphasis on content knowledge and mastery of skills lost the battle long ago. Parents leave for other schools and wash their hands of the problems. I suppose these parents could fight the battle via the elected school committee, but that would get quite ugly. Those who have made critical comments via letters to our small town paper have been trashed. It's all VERY personal. -- SteveH - 13 Nov 2006
The further up you go in the bureacracy, the more smug and self-satisfied school officials become. Our principal is okay, but the central administration is just oblivious. They just tune out parent complaints. Barry - I'm going to read closely later on - thanks so much for posting. Our board clearly feels that having anything to do with curriculum whatsoever would be micromanaging. Last year when Ed sent an email complaining that our Strategic Plan (clearly in the Board's purview) was "technocratic" and asking that we focus on teaching content instead, the Board president told him to address all complaints to the A.D. in charge of curriculum in the future. -- CatherineJohnson - 13 Nov 2006
Somehow parents have to let school board members know that curriculum is key and that listening to parents' concerns about it is not micro-managing. -- BarryGarelick - 13 Nov 2006
Barry that is so apropos! I accidentally came across one of the old school board reports concerning the adoption of TRAILBLAZERS. It's amazing. First off, there were 300 parents present at the meeting to present a signed petition against the adoption of TRAILBLAZERS. And second, one of the board members tells everyone that the reason they're blowing off the parents is that the teachers and administrators are PROFESSIONALS.
Math Curriculum Update: Dr. Jennifer Dolan-WaldmanI'd love to know why Vin Beni told everyone that kids never move out of their tracks. Was the point to say tracks are bad because no one ever gets back out of them? -- CatherineJohnson - 18 Nov 2006
Mr. M [board] added that it is great to see a group of parents at the meeting for discussion of this issue. This may be my favorite line. We hear this all the time. Mr. M. is now Board President, and he is continually "welcoming" our "input." I think it's safe to say that the Board is damned sick of our input. -- CatherineJohnson - 18 Nov 2006
Of course, the 300 parents included math professionals - people with advanced degrees working in math-related fields. There were no math professionals on the curriculum committee. Now that we have the Forum, I will be pointing this out. -- CatherineJohnson - 18 Nov 2006
Many people we know here in Irvington no longer with to have input. We wish to have a vote. Also a veto. When you're bringing in a brand-new experimental curriculum that's been banned in California & publicly rejected by 200 mathematicians & physicists, you better be giving parents a veto. -- CatherineJohnson - 18 Nov 2006
Just ask the school board if the teachers and administrators are professionals, then what are mathematicians who opposed the program? Chopped liver? Close with "It's great to see the school board at the meeting for discussion of this issue." -- BarryGarelick - 19 Nov 2006
"It's great to see the school board at the meeting for discussion of this issue." I'm writing that down. -- CatherineJohnson - 19 Nov 2006
Just ask the school board if the teachers and administrators are professionals, then what are mathematicians who opposed the program? I think Ed and I and our Merry Band will be able to take this one off the table. A lot of the problem is that your basic human being simply has not spent the past 18 months of his life pouring over education policy, math ed, & cog sci. Most parents are where I was two years ago.....they know that "listen to the teachers, because the teachers are professionals" sounds wrong in some way, but they don't instantly know what that is.... We'll start insisting that content specialists be included in all curriculum decisions. And we'll point out that the group of 300 parents included content specialists. A lot of the problem here (and everywhere) is that the district frames the discussion. Now that we've opened up our own frame shop, they're going to have to make concessions or spend huge amounts of social capital they don't have to carry on imposing bad curricula by fiat. -- CatherineJohnson - 19 Nov 2006
The school board has already moved on the issue of parent-experts, although they haven't moved far enough. One of the issues Ed and I have been pushing, which others have picked up on, is that the district does not seek advice from the we have living in the community. When we build a school, we don't talk to the Ground Zero architect living here. When we hire a contractor, we don't talk to the major, big-time contractors living here (there are at least two; plus there are other smaller contractors). When we choose a history book, we don't talk to the historians living here. (Until Dan Smail was recruited by Harvard (!) we had two.) When we choose a K-12 writing program, we don't talk to the numerous writers we have living here. When we set up a wellness committee we don't talk to the zillions of physicians we have living here. When we choose a "character education" program we don't talk to the five gazillion child psychologists, child psychiatrists, and the one child psychoanalyst we have living here. It goes on and on. The Board has now said they're interested in expert opinion from members of the community, but they need to take the next step of proactively seeking it out. I think it's possible they'll do that. I'm sure the Board, like everyone else, hadn't really thought critically about the question of whether teachers are professionals - and, if they are, what exactly their profession is. Teachers probably aren't at the "professional" stage yet (writers aren't, either; I'm not saying anything about teachers I wouldn't say about myself). But if you do consider teaching a full-fledged profession, then that is the profession. Their profession is teaching. Their profession isn't mathematics or history or writing, etc. When we choose curricula we need a partnership amongst teachers, content specialists, and parents. -- CatherineJohnson - 19 Nov 2006