Narrow Search

  • Show Only

  • Category

  • Narrow by Date

    • All
    • Today
    • Last 7 Days
    • Last 30 Days
    • Select a Date Range

Comment Archives: stories: News & Opinion: The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch

Re: “Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.


Your analysis is just tapping the surface of the complexity of published test scores and the deeper reality of our public education system. Keep digging. Back in 1993, I set off on a journey to discover the best school in Arizona. I started by looking at the school with the highest published test scores only to realize that those test scores were lower than their scores from the previous year.

As I examined this phenomena on an excel spread sheet, I came to realize that it was theoretically possible for the best school in Arizona, meaning the school that has the highest academic gains, could have the lowest test scores in the state and that the worst school could have the highest scores in the state. The correlation between test scores and academic gains is very low, not zero, but very low.

In other words, like you are saying, the correlation between test scores and school quality is low.

Then, in 1995, I discovered a research article by Bill Sanders describing a value added system in which last years test scores, for each student, are subtracted from this years to give a "value added" measure of a schools performance.

With strict adherence to the value added system, Tennessee went downhill in the ensuing decades. Why? Likely, because we only have value added measures for 4th through 8th grade, yet the academic gains are highest in k through 3, higher in those four years than the remaining 9 years combined. Strict focus on value added measures causes the system to severely neglect the most important years of a students life.

This problem also exists at the state level. Over a period of six years, the RAND corporation did the three most sophisticated studies aimed at separating school effects (school performance) from home effects (the degree to which the home is responsible for academic outcomes). Massachusetts, the number one state in published test scores, came in 27th.

This means that education culture is always looking in the wrong direction. It extracts false meaning from the measures of performance. The Superintendent of Massachusetts was not even aware of these RAND studies. He actually believed that Massachusetts was number one. Also, the leadership of the true number one state had no clue that they were number one. In fact, that leadership was very busy changing the policies that had very likely made them number one in all three RAND studies.

This is, in a sense, a cultural disease, the widespread belief in something which is not true. In this case, it is the belief that schools create the test score that they publish.

One answer to a disease ridden feedback loop is to shut it down. In 1995, I ran legislation to make participation in testing by schools and school districts voluntary. It got one vote - mine.

The reality of this problem is that it creates a self fulfilling prophesy. Teachers flee low socio economic schools because they can't get credit when they do great work. We actually have F rated schools with academic gains (student growth percentiles) higher than the BASIS system.

I have spent the last year and a half volunteering full time, using my engineering degree to teach math, at a school for the homeless. All of the school employees were world class. The principal came from an A rated school. The teacher training both in quality of delivery and curriculum was unbelievably good. The principal worked so hard and intensely that she literally had a stroke. Everyone was working hard, really hard. The employees of this school very possibly are creating more education value than any other school in Arizona in terms of changing life outcomes for their students. They are an F rated school. That is their reward for their great work. I talked with one teacher who left after three years. She was completely exhausted and worn out, spiritually and emotionally. She had given the mission more than one hundred percent.

This school has taken the classical education system: lecture, homework, quizzes, tests and modern disciplinary systems pretty close to the limit. If the charter school board thinks they can improve Arizona education by shutting down F schools, they are insane.

Another answer to a disease ridden feedback system is to come up with an alternative. Every August, the Gallup corporation publishes the Phi Delta Kappa poll. In that poll, parents rate the quality of the school their child attends. In the most recent poll, August 2015, the next one should be coming out shortly, 24% of parents rated their child's school an "A". The equivalent of excellent.

In the Chandler Unified School district, who contracts with WesGroup to mimic the Gallup poll for their district, 75% of parents give their child's school an A rating, up from 38% in 1998 - 3 times the national average. Unlike test scores which only reflect reading and math, this measure incorporates the entire range of excellence the school district has been able to achieve from the most broad coverage of Advanced Placement classes in the state, to world class technical education to the sports.

The focus on excellence or the A rating as the standard is the key. Most school districts do a poll and look a the B rating of 80% or higher and conclude they are doing great and nothing needs to change. Last time I checked, their are 76 numbers higher than 24. Unlike any other district or charter school system in the state, Chandler Unified is busy climbing that ladder of excellence and can prove it by measurement. Its called continuous improvement and they are doing it a couple of points a year.

2 likes, 7 dislikes
Posted by on 08/17/2016 at 6:11 AM

Re: “Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: Day 89. "No More Reading Tea Leaves" Edition

Q. You know how to tell when Governor Ducey is lying?
A. His lips are moving.

An old joke, but after so many examples of Ducey duplicity, it isn’t funny anymore.

26 likes, 5 dislikes
Posted by sgsmith on 08/17/2016 at 4:28 AM

Re: “Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.

Why is it so much easier to equate "spending more on schools" with measurable (?) student progress (on what?) than with paying teachers a living wage commensurate with their education and experience as with other professions? Why is it so easy to dismiss all of the extra personnel required to educate many more diverse and neglected students over the last 30 years as "spending more on schools" without acknowledging the societal changes that have required those extra personnel?

8 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by gcb1 on 08/16/2016 at 11:05 PM

Re: “Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: Day 89. "No More Reading Tea Leaves" Edition

Why would anyone who voted no on 123 be surprised? I hate to be in the position of saying "I told you so," David, but anyone who has lived in AZ for more than 30 years, and I am at more than 50 years here, knows that the current majority refuses to fund education properly in our state. I knew the governor and the legislative majority could not be trusted, let alone the school boards, and I will vote accordingly in November. Didn't 301 teach you a proper lesson?

24 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by gcb1 on 08/16/2016 at 9:14 PM

Re: “Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: Day 89. "No More Reading Tea Leaves" Edition

Good idea. (Vote for candidates who can create a new majority on public ed funding.) Much better than the pointless "Next Steps Watch." No one who understands the lay of the land in this state has ever thought there would be a next step coming from Ducey, as commenters on this inane series of blog pieces have repeatedly remarked.

At some point, you might want to acknowledge that perpetually begging for more gas for the car when you refuse to advocate for plugging the leaks in the pipeline getting gas from the tank to the engine isn't confidence-inspiring. (Translation: start advocating that the TUSD Board demand transparency, promise fulfillment, honesty and student-focused applications of funds from their CEO. Then you can once again beg for more money for them, as you did in the run-up to the Prop 123 election. (No, we haven't forgotten your role in that....)

26 likes, 7 dislikes
Posted by The holes in your credibility are showing again. on 08/16/2016 at 4:19 PM

Re: “Ducey 'Next Step' Watch: Day 89. "No More Reading Tea Leaves" Edition

This reads like Ducey won't talk to you so you kind of do a Jimmy Stewart routine with Ducey being your Harvey...the 8 foot rabbit.

11 likes, 16 dislikes
Posted by Admin has the money on 08/16/2016 at 4:05 PM

Re: “Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.

You mean like dreamers getting citizenship? And then they will vote for her. That's exactly what Hillary is doing. SELLING ACCESS. It's what she does.
Democrats can't win ideas based on ideas with results.

But you can work yourself out of poverty and poor schools. Don't let them addict you to the drug of promise. Hope and change was never meant for Americans.

11 likes, 16 dislikes
Posted by Rat T on 08/16/2016 at 1:47 PM

Re: “Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.

I don't blame teachers. No, I blame Democrat administrations that are dedicated to keeping people in poverty so they can promise freebies in exchange for votes.

10 likes, 14 dislikes
Posted by Once a teacher on 08/16/2016 at 12:41 PM

Re: “NAACP Calls For a Moratorium on Charter Schools

Thanks Once. I gleaned this from your link:

In other words, minority kids from the same neighborhood, going to school in classes across the hall from each other, or on different floors, are scoring far above average and far below average on the same tests.

If black success was considered half as newsworthy as black failures, such facts would be headline news -- and people who have the real interests of black and other minority students at heart would be asking, "Wow! How can we get more kids into these charter schools?"

"The truth shall set you free!"

This problem begs for vouchers for charters, private, and parochial. Give them the same funding as public schools and let's see where the parents take their children. The longer I listen to this problem the more I think it is the public process that has rotted from the head.

1 like, 2 dislikes
Posted by Dave W on 08/16/2016 at 11:59 AM

Re: “About That "Shadow Faction of Charter School Operators" Diane Douglas Talked About

I worked for FlipSwitch (formerly American Virtual Academy), which is the curriculum development company Creamer owns, and which supplies Primavera with all of its curriculum. Let's just say things are not entirely on the up-and-up here: they hire people who wouldn't be qualified to teach to write their curriculum (i.e.: physical trainers writing junior high school English curriculum). They hire content quality review and standards alignment people to work internally, then ignore them when they raise red flags about VERY serious issues (i.e. failure to align to State/Common Core standards, blatantly plagiarized content). The idea that this place sucks money out of the public schools to provide an education that is INFERIOR to state and national education standards disgusted me. Damian Creamer pretends to be in it for the students, but he's just lining his own pockets. It's truly shameful.

0 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Former Employee on 08/16/2016 at 11:56 AM

Re: “Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.

The testing regimes and the "excellent school" lists serve many purposes. For the middle-class parents of children in "good" schools, it gives satisfaction. For those who want to punish teachers and attack tenure and public schools in general, it gives ammunition. "Failing" schools have one and only one thing in common: poverty. Children who started out behind, stay behind, keep falling behind, and then we blame the teachers for not solving systemic societal problems because those six-year-olds without a computer at home or many books or who have parents who work too much to help with homework generally get shoved along to the next grade at minimal proficiency at best. Sure, some have well-pulled bootstraps and succeed, but statistics show most don't. And for this, we blame the teachers. Put the staff of UHS at Pueblo for a year and see if they forget how to teach. Put a bunch of teaching rookies in UHS and they'll probably be on a tenure track by their second year. Why? Because testing will show that different students start with different abilities.

If we're going to use scientific methods based on testing, and have it affect the careers of teachers, we need to improve the science. A teacher who says a kid is failing isn't a bad teacher if that kid is failing. A teacher who says a kid is doing great might be if that kid can't pass a test. But we also need to test these kids before they even see those teachers if we're to really know, aren't we? The way things are done, all we know is that poor schools perform poorly. I could have saved everyone millions if not billions of dollars and pointed that one out decades ago.

10 likes, 7 dislikes
Posted by mr. meade on 08/16/2016 at 11:38 AM

Re: “Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.

Rather than looking for solutions, it's much easier to limit discussion to "just asking for more money."

But we all now see that it has produced even worse results.

"U.S. school spending up 375 percent over 30 years but test score remain flat."

Read the conclusion at the end.

10 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by Debbi L on 08/16/2016 at 9:32 AM

Re: “NAACP Calls For a Moratorium on Charter Schools

Here's a bit of truth, Mr. Safier. If you can take it.

1 like, 1 dislike
Posted by Once a Teacher on 08/16/2016 at 9:27 AM

Re: “Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.

Consider this:

5 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Once a teacher on 08/16/2016 at 9:15 AM

Re: “Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.

In 2014, Newsweek stopped ranking high schools that serve students below grade 7 -- like every BASIS.ed school.

THAT'S why BASIS.ed schools are no longer ranked by Newsweek.

The Newsweek methodology is easy to find on their rankings site.

9 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Blue Zona on 08/16/2016 at 8:33 AM

Re: “Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.

If only these teachers did have a sound knowledge of the 3 R's. Much more focused on indoctrinating our kids with "progressive" ideology.

9 likes, 7 dislikes
Posted by Once a teacher on 08/16/2016 at 8:19 AM

Re: “Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.

A kid with some food in their tummy and a teacher with sound knowlage of the three R's is set for success... anything less is a waste of time... those old school one roomers that had to walk up hill both ways turned out ok... with only chalk and small boards! It's not how much money you have ... it's what and how you have been teaching!

10 likes, 2 dislikes
Posted by Kommon Cents on 08/16/2016 at 7:59 AM

Re: “Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.

Look at number 3, Stuyvesant High School with a 47.3% poverty rate. I guess Stuyvesant is the exception that proves the rule

6 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Cactus Barb on 08/16/2016 at 7:22 AM

Re: “Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.

The war on poverty has been lost. Much like all the other wars our politicians have waged, they somehow manage to lose them. I agree with the shackled analogy for many of these folks are frozen waiting for something to "be delivered" to them. Forget waiting for it, better yourselves and move forward. You have tolerated a failing educational system and look what you have gotten.

12 likes, 10 dislikes
Posted by Larry McNeil on 08/16/2016 at 5:23 AM

Re: “Want To Be a Top High School? Better Not Have Too Many Low Income Students.

Paul, if you are specifically referring to the poor economically disadvantaged children in TUSD as american citizens, you would only be half correct.

The other half are illegals, exploited by the liberal public education system to line their pockets and have a permanent second class of citizens to clean their toilets and keep them in power.

And you are correct, Safier will never have the courage to address it. His entire career has been living off the backs of taxayers and ruining our public education system.

11 likes, 19 dislikes
Posted by What, Again on 08/16/2016 at 5:18 AM

© 2016 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation