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Comment Archives: stories: News & Opinion: The Range: The Tucson Weekly's Daily Dispatch: Last 7 Days

Re: “Once Again, It's Time to Deconstruct the U.S. News "Best High Schools" Rankings

David Safier is a retired professional educator who has a great deal of direct experience with what does and does not help students prepare to succeed in college. His analysis of what factors do and do not affect placement in the USNWR rankings is helpful and a necessary corrective to poor coverage of these rankings which occurred elsewhere in the media. I wish David Safier (and other education policy analysts locally) would take more interest in educating the public about to what degree AP cram schools should properly be considered "college preparatory" programs, but, disappointingly, that is not a topic he has chosen to address, though I believe he would be well prepared to address it if he chose to do so.

The previous commenter states, "I sincerely doubt that either UHS or Basis would put a top rating from USNWR over more tangible measures like college readiness, acceptance, matriculation and graduation."

From what I saw of UHS as a parent, UHS has no measure of college readiness other than AP scores. They do not plan their curricula based on the faculty's judgment about how to develop students' ability to read complex texts, write essays or research papers, conduct independent research, or identify a strong area of interest which they wish to pursue in college or professionally. They planned their curricula exclusively based on maximizing students' scores on AP exams which measure your ability to cram and memorize content more than they measure the kinds of abilities students will actually need in college and in most professions that involve the exercise of independent thought and judgment.

At the time that I had a student enrolled in UHS, the institution was not and had not been at any point during its history keeping longitudinal data on its alumni. There was no one connected with UHS or TUSD who could provide comprehensive, systematic data about the matriculation, graduation, or professional success of its graduates. During the time that I attended Parents' Association and Site Council meetings, there was a LOT of attention paid to USNWR rankings and much celebration every time they went up. There were policy changes made by the Site Council that were distinctly aligned with keeping up with Basis in the USNWR rankings, including ensuring that seniors registered for a full course load which, given the course offerings available, would include many AP courses. There were attempts to use undesignated tax credit funds that were originally intended to support extracurriculars and fine arts to pay for AP exam fees for families that did not qualify for free and reduced lunch (no doubt the move in this direction was intended to increase the number of students taking the AP exams that affect the rankings). There was absolutely no systematic communication with alumni or the colleges they attended which could support meaningful reflection taking place on whether an AP-intensive curriculum actually enabled students to succeed in college. There are many UHS students who get significant support and guidance from their families that supplement the deficiencies in what the institution provides, and many UHS students who pay private college counselors to help them in ways that UHS is not prepared to do. Many of these students will do very well. But there are also UHS grads who struggle to figure out how to do what top-tier liberal arts colleges are asking them to do in the way of research and writing, UHS grads who leave UHS with no sense of direction about what they want to study in college or do in life and end up interrupting their college enrollment and taking leaves of absence from college to try to figure out, and UHS grads who change their intended professional course because their coursework at UHS has not prepared them for what college level work in that discipline will require of them.

The League of Women Voters observed UHS Site Council for a number of months in 2016 and their observation report is available here:
http://www.lwvgt.org/files/ObsCorps09.2016_Observer_Corps_Report_-_UHS.pdf

Public governing bodies like school site councils are required to follow Arizona's Open Meeting Law, which requires that records of meetings be publicly accessible. For any one who is interested in basing their opinions about what UHS is and is not on reality rather than speculation, the policy changes made by UHS Site Council and some record of discussions of the rationale behind them can be reviewed by reading minutes on the UHS Site Council website:
2012-2013: http://uhssitecouncil.weebly.com/2012-2013.html
2013-2014: http://uhssitecouncil.weebly.com/2013-2014.html
2014-2015: http://uhssitecouncil.weebly.com/2014-2015.html
2015-2016: http://uhssitecouncil.weebly.com/2015-2016.html
2016-2017: http://uhssitecouncil.weebly.com/2016-2017.html

Posted by Are AP cram schools genuine college preparatory programs? on 04/28/2017 at 9:44 AM

Re: “Once Again, It's Time to Deconstruct the U.S. News "Best High Schools" Rankings

Safir is an idiot and a political gadfly with allegiance solely to Grijalva and Foster.

He knows nothing about what it takes to develop, teach and support successful students.

Both UHS and Basis clearly state that they are rigourous college preparatory high schools. This means that students who chose to go there are planning to go on to a 4-year college upon graduation.

The fact that they have an AP-focused curriculum seems entirely consistent with their stated mission.

More telling is the fact that these schools consistently have the highest AP and SAT scores in the entire state.

In UHS' case, an even important measure is that UHS alums generally have the highest cumulative GPA of all high school graduates entering the UofA.

Safir seems to think that they have something to apologize for.

With respect to USNWR high school rankings, they may provide bragging rights, but they are meaningless and most serious college admissions officers give them absolutely no weight.

As a former Yale University dean of admissions once observed regarding these rankings "U.S. News and World Report, a magazine that has actually gone defunct and exists now only as a purveyor of rankings to exert undue influence."

Better to look further at UHS' and Basis' graduation rates, colleges that graduates are accepted to, whether their students are prepared for college when they arrive, and what the 4-year graduation rate is for those incoming freshman.

I sincerely doubt that either UHS or Basis would put a top rating from USNWR over more tangible measures like college readiness, acceptance, matriculation and graduation.

1 like, 2 dislikes
Posted by TucsonMom on 04/27/2017 at 9:16 PM

Re: “Libraries Trump Hate

My fellow library advocates might be interested in a plan for a privately funded national library endowment, which among other things would at least help cushion libraries against the stupidities of short-sighted politicians:

LibraryEndowment.org

Articles about our plan have appeared in the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Library Journal and elsewhere.

Sadly, the Gates Foundation is actually winding down its Global Libraries initiative. We need to reverse this via a multi-donor endowment. The .0000000001 percent could create it with just a speck of a speck of the billionaires' spare change.

Here is contact information for the Gates Foundation:

http://www.gatesfoundation.org/Who-We-Are/General-Information/Contact-Us

Educate Mr. Gates about our needs!

David Rothman
Davidrothman@pobox.com

3 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by David Rothman on 04/27/2017 at 8:14 AM

Re: “Once Again, It's Time to Deconstruct the U.S. News "Best High Schools" Rankings

Some feel that education is not a game and should not be largely about learning how to anticipate what corporate employees want you to answer on machine graded multiple choice tests. The "skills" required to successfully complete those kinds of tasks have little to do with what high quality liberal arts colleges will be asking students to do: read and interpret complex texts, conduct and analyze research, think critically, and write well and at length. I've been a teacher in both private and public schools and a parent at UHS and at a college prep private. My concerns about UHS are not a case of "sour grapes." My UHS student took 9 AP exams and got 4s and 5s on all of them. He had a higher than 4.0 weighted GPA and perfect Board scores in math. He's a bright, hard working kid and is doing well in college, but he had to learn some of the things in college that his sibling who attended a college prep private school had solidly in place before the end of his junior year in high school. Why is this? Because the curricula were better in the private school and the faculty and administration understood the role that faculty should play in designing interdisciplinary, complex projects that draw on and developed a much broader range of skills than a multiple choice test or a cookie-cutter essay question ever could.

The critiques of AP cram curricula and the doubts expressed RE the legitimacy of media-generated rankings like US News and World Report you read here and elsewhere are not about putting hard working students down. Among educators, these discussions are about understanding what it actually benefits students most to spend their time doing and how we can give them the best kind of preparation possible both for college-level work and to be constructive citizens and strong contributors in our communities.

Sorry to say it, but in this country we seem to want everything to be easy and cheap. Public is cheaper than private and cramming for a multiple choice test is a lot easier than conducting original research or writing an excellent essay. Easier for the teachers, and easier for the students. Unfortunately for the kids enrolled in these cram programs, it is also considerably less valuable educationally.

7 likes, 7 dislikes
Posted by Cramming for APs is not college preparatory. on 04/26/2017 at 4:25 PM

Re: “Once Again, It's Time to Deconstruct the U.S. News "Best High Schools" Rankings

My son went to UHS and he has a first class intellect they helped develop. I did not ever see him working simply to memorize useless information. How is "gaming the system" any different from simply playing the game, the game of life. If you want an academic, intellectual curriculum you by and large have to take tests to measure achievement. There are other ways, but they are pretty much alternative models, which have their own place, but are not part of a standard public school system. Any way you cut it, the acheivements of UHS and Basis are pretty awesome and for all these kids' hard work, I hear a lot of cynical adults putting them down.

9 likes, 7 dislikes
Posted by Luckyone on 04/26/2017 at 2:09 PM

Re: “Once Again, It's Time to Deconstruct the U.S. News "Best High Schools" Rankings

The real story is that the all-AP curricula that successfully game the system to win these awards do not work as valid forms of college preparation, but that's a story David Safier has for four solid years refused to touch, to the detriment of students subjected to these abusive programs and to the detriment of parents who look to education commenters in the media to try to understand which schools will most benefit their students. It's especially sad when EDUCATORS like Safier fail to use their media platforms to disabuse the public about the actual quality of the College Board / AP racket.

I see University High has successfully climbed up a few notches again. They did that in part by adding two inflexible AP requirements to the FRESHMAN curriculum and by adding a pre-freshman year summer boot camp program where they try to give their hapless recruits the "skills" needed to cram for mindless multiple choice tests. Also by requiring seniors to register for a full course load including many AP classes whether or not they needed these classes to meet graduation requirements.

Many in the media and politics seem to be intent on disparaging and undermining the decent private educational programs left and the families using them. The charter- and district-connected political networks haven't found a way to profit from small scale, locally controlled Independent Schools or from schools affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, so economic disincentives must remain in place to discourage constituents from using these kinds of institutions. Meanwhile, in terms of the actual educational value of programs in publicly funded schools, charters and districts are engaging in a race to the bottom to see who can more completely transition to a corporatized, mindless and superficial memorization-and-regurgitation factories first.

Hurray for "democracy." (Corporatocracy?) It's producing great results these days, across the board.

8 likes, 10 dislikes
Posted by David Safier continues to avoid real EDUCATION reporting. on 04/26/2017 at 10:40 AM

Re: “Good, Available Child Care Benefits Society

Rat T. is a female. Keep trying. Maybe one day you'll get something right. But I doubt it.

0 likes, 8 dislikes
Posted by CW13 on 04/26/2017 at 10:35 AM

Re: “Once Again, It's Time to Deconstruct the U.S. News "Best High Schools" Rankings

Tucson should be damn proud to have these most incredible schools. No one is required to attend, but if you do you get a world class intense education FOR FREE! But people need to complain about something...

7 likes, 14 dislikes
Posted by Luckyone on 04/26/2017 at 9:34 AM

Re: “Once Again, It's Time to Deconstruct the U.S. News "Best High Schools" Rankings

If you want to prove a point and get the public to start thinking the way you want them to do all you have to do is create the illusion with smoke and mirrors. It's especially easy when you are pulling all the strings and pushing all the buttons to make your thingamabob look more beautiful and so much more intelligent and worthy than the other whatchamacallit. Republicans use this ruse over and over and it seems to work because the public believes everything at face value and never pulls back the curtain to reveal the phony behind it. If you trust anything that a Republican supports then you are already too far gone to redeem. There are only two motivators for Republicans and they are POWER and MONEY. They do not know how to govern, just to rule. They have the compassion of an iguana and as a group they are more cohesive than a band of fire-ants regardless of whether their objectives are right or wrong. The day that I trust ANY Republican is the day they pry my computer from my dead, cold hands.

9 likes, 11 dislikes
Posted by Beneal Good on 04/26/2017 at 9:11 AM

Re: “Once Again, It's Time to Deconstruct the U.S. News "Best High Schools" Rankings

This is education culture. Test scores, test scores, test scores.

Yet, for 20 years the academic gains, the productivity, of American schools have gone down.

Education is substantially more complex than the average policy makers believes.

Focusing on test scores doesn't work.

It doesn't even work for BASIS. Less than half their graduates go on to graduate from college.

10 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by jhuppent@hotmail.com on 04/26/2017 at 7:57 AM

Re: “Good, Available Child Care Benefits Society

Ummm ummmm ummm. Rat T in disguise.

7 likes, 1 dislike
Posted by Rat T should know that he exposes himself by repeating himself. on 04/26/2017 at 7:50 AM

Re: “Once Again, It's Time to Deconstruct the U.S. News "Best High Schools" Rankings

Winds...My Sweet Lord!

That has to be your best comment ever!

7 likes, 10 dislikes
Posted by SonoranWinds has her moments on 04/26/2017 at 7:35 AM

Re: “Once Again, It's Time to Deconstruct the U.S. News "Best High Schools" Rankings

Ducey is cumming all over himself ....

10 likes, 13 dislikes
Posted by SonoranWinds on 04/25/2017 at 8:07 PM

Re: “BASIS Charter School News From Phoenix

I agree with much of what was posted by "Fraser." I probably have a fair idea of what makes a school work for different students. I taught in a variety of public and private, as well as Australian schools, in my 37 years in the classroom. As was pointed out by "Fraser," her daughter got a good education from a BASIS middle school. Not so much her other children. The daughter "packed the gear," as I heard Marine Drill Instructors say when I went through OCS at Quantico, Virgnia, about 60 years ago. The daughter had the intelligence and the motivation to do the advanced work required at the BASIS school. Apparently, he other children did not. Which brings me to another point: in the early 1960s when I got out of the Marine Corps, I was fortunate enough to find a job teaching high school English at the Shoreline School District, north of Seattle. The administrators at Shoreline at that time "tracked" kids, mostly depending upon their test scores and grades, but also on written assessments by their former teachers. Kids who scored high on standardized tests, had good grades previously, and received favorable assessments from former teachers were placed in either the "Intensive" or the "Honors" classes. For both these classifications, it was possible for teachers to assign more complex and difficult reading material, especially for the so-called "Honors" students who made up less then 5% of the school population. They "packed the gear." Later I taught in schools where students were not segregated according to their test scores, etc. I found it was next to impossible to challenge the brightest while providing assistance to those who found any kind of abstruse learning material impossible to master. While teaching in Australia, I saw what happens when schools "weed-out" students in the first few years of high school so that in grade 12 a teacher would have a class of no more then a half a dozen students. Finally, as "Fraser" pointed out, a BASIS school may be a perfect fit for one child and not so much for another. The question seems to be: what is the cost, both financially and sociologically, for Charter Schools to drain off public funds for a small minority of students who "pack the gear." One might ask, Wouldn't that student who "packs the gear" prosper just as well in a public school when the school offered the kind of "tracking" I mentioned earlier?

Posted by Morrie Schneider on 04/25/2017 at 4:07 PM

Re: “Good, Available Child Care Benefits Society

This is where our education money went. Given choices politicians lose sight of any priorities, so everything becomes their priority. Take away the funds, leave them the purse.

6 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by Debbie Sue on 04/25/2017 at 3:56 PM

Re: “Good, Available Child Care Benefits Society

In the 60s we had no child care and the children were more productive and Intelligent and did not require police in the schools. Less of this:
Several hospitals, including ones in Stockton (40% Hispanic & Bankrupt), CA and Dallas, TX, report as many as 70% of their deliveries are to nonUS-residents. Similarly, the parents of infant citizens still qualify for welfare in order to protect the child.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michealene-cristini-risley/the-14th_b_1343158.html

What other things do these parents have to do since they have kids every 2 years to maintain Welfare Services. The majority don't need daycare because they don't work and don't plan to work!

3 likes, 10 dislikes
Posted by Postimpressionist on 04/25/2017 at 2:11 PM

Re: “Good, Available Child Care Benefits Society

Repeal Birthright Citizenship:
WIC, ($7,000,000,000) SNAP ($80,000,000,000 a year), TANF ($31,000,000,000), Supplemental housing ($24,000,000,000) and MEDICAID ($265,000,000,000), CHIP ($9,000,000,000) School Lunch Program ($11,600,000,000) total $795 BILLION A YEAR this doesn't count 8 Cash Assistance programs 8 vocational training programs 3 utility assistance programs total 2 child care and development programs. ALL together are tax payer burdens.

That would save the US TRILLIONS!
In 2010 there were 6,000,000 kids of illegals in the us. 1 year of education = $12,600 (2010) KP-12 = $163,800 X 6,000,000 = $982,800,000,000.

Mexican Anchor Kids come over the Mexico/US border in Juarez to attend school and burden the people of those counties. Pregnant women sneak over the border to DROP human flesh on US soil leaving US with the Hospital bill and the Educational Bill the Medical bill and any other kind of bill they can suck out of US! The Banditos! Stop Bandito Births!

3 likes, 11 dislikes
Posted by Postimpressionist on 04/25/2017 at 2:03 PM

Re: “Good, Available Child Care Benefits Society

A recent study out of the University of Chicago....just think of the irony that U of C could not look at results in Chicago, so they went outside their own state.

Ummm ummmm ummm Obama. Chicago bleeds for you.

3 likes, 11 dislikes
Posted by Once Great American City on 04/25/2017 at 12:02 PM

Re: “Good, Available Child Care Benefits Society

Could you make an argument with some actual thought content to it in support of a different point of view?

Compensation and credentialing standards in the child care "industry" are an acknowledged problem among educators. It's people who mindlessly promote expansion of the sector without acknowledging that wage and quality of care issues need to be addressed who are promoting shoddy public policy, a la TUSD's "early childhood education" centers. Talk to an expert in early childhood education some time about whether the execution of that particular local expansion of child care "opportunities" deserved praise or blame.

But asking questions that would help the public understand whether the public policy initiatives party operatives like Safier pitch actually benefit the constituents they are supposed to benefit -- or someone or something else -- is not something you'd be inclined to do. I wonder why not.

8 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by Try adding some thought content. on 04/25/2017 at 9:39 AM

Re: “Statewide Voucher Initiatives Has Been Voted Down Everywhere, Every Time

Should all children receive an equal amount of tax funded support for their educations, or should some receive tens of thousands of dollars of support while others receive none?

When a private institution relieves the state of the burden of educating a child at the state's expense, should the state pay for the provision of those services? When private entities provide citizens other services the state usually provides, they are paid to do so.

Why would a tax increase be needed, Frances? You apply your per pupil funding in one institution or another. It's a zero sum game.

The fact is that without vouchers equalizing the per-pupil funding and remedying a situation in which there has been unfair economic discrimination against educational institutions providing excellent services to constituents and thereby contributing more to the common good than many public educational institutions do, what we have going on is the state creating an economic incentive for parents to enroll their children in schools that produce a less educated citizenry. If the government creates incentives, it should be incentivizing behaviors that produce better outcomes, not worse ones, cf. Cass Sunstein on policy "nudges."

4 likes, 9 dislikes
Posted by Ask more honest questions & provide better answers. on 04/25/2017 at 6:20 AM

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