Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Anchorage School District Hits the Hump

Anchorage Daily News: Test scores decline in Anchorage schools by MEGAN HOLLAND
ANNUAL REPORT: Poor test results in 'three R's' come after four years of gains.
I guess the good news is that all of my kids schools did much better than the district, but I suspect that it's only a matter of time before they start showing declining scores.

Unfortunately, the Anchorage School District seems to have put itself on the path to less effectiveness.  

Recently, the school board formally adopted Everyday Math after a flawed evaluation process.  Of course, many schools in the district were already using Everyday Math.

In reading, the school district uses Houghton Mifflin Reading, which is just a repackaged whole language program with just enough phonics thrown in to meet the Reading First guidelines.  It's effectiveness has yet to be determined according to the What Works Clearinghouse.

If the School Board had any common sense at all, they would take a look at what's happening over at Eagle Academy Charter School.  According to their Profile of Performance, they are kicking ass.  73% advanced in Reading, 69% advanced in writing, and 75% advanced in math.  Compare this to district percentages of 40%, 35%, and 40% respectively.

I tried to get my kids into Eagle Academy when I first arrived here, but unfortunately they didn't have enough slots for all my kids, and the logistics of getting them there was going to be to difficult.  I would like to think that we provide an equivalent educational experience by supplementing our kids instruction at home, but it sure would be nice if the school district used charters schools like they should, and adopted the more successful instructional practices.


tft said...

Every family will be required to fulfill a 16 hour volunteer commitment.

Charter schools tend to outperform their public siblings due to rules like the above from Eagle Academy Charter School.

If you can't pay, you can't play.

Chartering isn't the cure, and those higher scores are almost always a result of the self-selection process inherent in applying for a school spot. You get better students, and they get better scores.

If we charter every school, we will be left with the very same problem we have now.

Charters are not the answer....

Parentalcation said...

Charters are not the answer, but they are a good tool for experimenting and discovering what the answer is.

As far as the self selection process of Eagle Academy, I compared it's scores with that of Aquarian charter which is a constructivist charter that has the same selection criteria and similar demographics.

Eagle Academy easily had much higher scores.

I am not anti-public schools. If public schools got their act together, there would be no reason for charter schools.

I have no doubt that part of Eagle Academy's success is attributed to selection, but when compared to other selective institutions including the dedicated gifted program it still kicks ass.

tft said...

Do you have any idea why it kicks ass? Are you sure it is not the self-selection process?

I agree there are good teachers and bad ones. I don't think the good ones are all at charters, so the quality of the teacher must not account for the charters' success.

I attribute it to the student population. Simply.

Parentalcation said...

Do you have any idea why it kicks ass?

They use a form of direct instruction and saxon math.

Are you sure it is not the self-selection process?

Yes. Well at least part of it, since other charter schools with the exact same demographics do worse.

I agree there are good teachers and bad ones. I don't think the good ones are all at charters, so the quality of the teacher must not account for the charters' success.

I don't believe the teachers are better either. I attribute it to the curriculum.

I attribute it to the student population. Simply.

Your wrong.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
tft said...

Lots of schools have used Saxon, and they don't measure up.

I think you are wrong about this one. If it were the curriculum, we would have solved it by now; we haven't. Unless you choose to go to a school where education is valued, and strived toward, your education--YOURS--is mostly up to you.

Surround yourself with other smart, motivated students, and the rest will rise to the occasion, save a special outlier.

Surround yourself with poverty and drugs, and, well, we see what we get.

Got any other easily debunked reasons why charters are "better"?

Anonymous said...

Charters definitely seem better for the kids who are in them. That, by itself, is reason to support charters.

TFT, What about the incentive problems faced by teachers with tenure in public schools. If they are competent, they recieve no reward, if they are incompetent and have tenure, there is no consequence.

tft said...

Charters seem better, yes; they seem better. Why do they seem better? Because of the population in them--selectivity.

And what about incentive problems? I have not heard of them. Are you creating a straw-man? Do you think education sucks because teachers have no incentive (read: money/bonus) to do better? Let me tell you something, pal, most of us find it rewarding without extra money. But, if you would like to financially incentivise teaching, go for it! I can't think of a better lesson: do it for the money, kids!! Money makes the world go round, right?

It's folks like you who are going to ruin education for everyone and create a/ revert to a class based system where the poor are marginalized, and the rich are rewarded; hey, that seems like what we have.

Anonymous said...


So kids at charters do better because the parents want their kids there. I don't concede that this is true, but if it was, so?

The kids are still doing better.

I do think a major problem with public education is that parents have little to no say in what happens to their kids.

The teachers have no skin in the game. A kids learns or not, no repercussions for the teacher. Major repercussions for the kid and the family.

I am glad you live in a place where the teachers are effective and all the students get to learn.

I am not powerful enough to ruin education for everyone, and I actually do have better things to do. I am trying to get my kids a good enough education.

Unfortunately, my kids go to a system where the richer families have a parent who can stay at home and take their kids to Sylvan, Kumon, etc. I have to work to help support my family.

If we had a charter school we would consider sending our kids there. Even better would be vouchers that would offset the $15,000 cost of sending our kids to private school where they could learn.


tft said...

Jane, you are simply blind. Nobody stays at home with my son, nor do I send him to a charter, or private school, yet he gets A's. You know why? His parents! Me!

When are you going to demand the same rigor of parents you demand of teachers? Do you honestly think teachers are going to save kids whose parents can't get on board with their kid's education?

As soon as all the schools are chartered, we are back to square one anyway. Think deep, even though it hurts!

Anonymous said...

The acquisition of A's doesn't guarantee a quality education is being had. We get more reports every day about high-performing high school students having to take remedial classes once they get to college. Is your child getting A's because you've instilled a good work ethic and make sure he fulfills his obligations to school, or because you are reteaching him at home? What many parents are finding is that more and more the type of preparation they want their students to have, academically, is up to them at home, and it's understandably frustrating to people who might choose home schooling if they could afford it, or an academically challenging charter school if more choices were available.

By the way, charter school selectivity isn't as extensive as you perceive it.

Finally, as a teacher, I find it difficult to understand other teachers who want to fight this battle of demanding certain behaviors from parents. I don't feel that's my place - any more than I would expect an airline ticket agent to demand I know the ins and outs of the airline industry before getting me my ticket to Ohio. If a parent wants to participate in the education of their student, that's wonderful and certainly something I support and encourage. If they don't, it doesn't change my obligation to teach the student what they need to know in my classroom while they are with me - and sometimes that includes behavior for students whose parents aren't as involved. (Note I said behavior, not morals and values.)

Being an educator simply does not invest me with any special moral authority to comment on, judge, or disdain choices parents make when raising their children, any more than working at McDonald's gives me the right to tell people they should eat healthier. As for the disrespectful sarcasm in your last comment, I can only hope you keep that sort of thing for online forums, and don't take it into your classroom.

tft said...

Charter school selectivity is as extensive as think. Every charter I have seen has a strong code of conduct that is immutable. Maybe there are a couple that don't have such a code, but they are the few.

As for your facile analogies, well, they are facile. Teaching kids is not rocket science, nor does anyone need to know the ins and outs of school bureaucracy to teach a kid.

And for McDonald's, if you don't tell them it's unhealthy food, and that they should not eat it everyday, aren't you contributing to their poor health, or lack of knowledge that McD's is not healthy?

You want to forgo demanding proper preparation from families.

Let me ask you, does a doctor have a right to tell you about how bad smoking is, or that one's weight can be a risk factor for many illnesses? According to your rule, doctors should treat, and shut up about it; let patients live as unhealthy a lifestyle as they want, and when they show up for a procedure, just do the procedure and send them away without telling them why the procedure was needed, and how to prevent another one.

Your analogies are ridiculous. And you can call my sarcasm disrespectful, but you ought to realize that your arguments deserve little respect!

tft said...

*as I think

Anonymous said...

"Teaching kids is not rocket science..."

"Let me ask you, does a doctor have a right to tell you about how bad smoking is, or that one's weight can be a risk factor for many illnesses?"

First you trivialize teaching as a profession, then compare the obligations of its practitioners to those of doctors.

"According to your rule, doctors should treat, and shut up about it;"

I haven't attempted to establish any rules. Certainly I believe a doctor has the right to tell their patient about health risks - but I've never encountered a doctor who presumed to dictate how my immediate family should conduct their lives, though they may give me pamphlets to pass on. In other words, as the teacher it is certainly my obligation to tell students what they need to study, and when, and give them tools for doing so, and to make that information available to parents. But the student is my patient, not the parents.

Charter schools having a strong code of conduct does not mean they are privy to any extreme exclusivity that would make their success with student achievement secure - it simply means that they are offering another choice to parents who might desire that code of conduct for their students if it is not available at the local public school.

I in no way advocated foregoing proper preparation from families. I simply believe it is not the place of classroom teachers to dictate what that preparation should be (outside of school supplies), nor to pass judgment on what they perceive (in their limited understanding of that family) the parent is doing or not. It is the presumed moral and ethical judgment of fellow teachers that I find difficult to stomach. If I have any obligation to the parent other than to prepare their child academically, it is to support their involvement when it is offered, and to keep them informed about their child's progress. Support parents. Welcome and encourage involvement. Provide information as needed. Teach the student.

tft said...

Charter school codes of conduct exclude the kids who will make it difficult to teach the others. That is the big problem in public school--the bad behavior. Get rid of that, and your home free.

And, sorry, teaching isn't rocket science, nor is telling an overweight smoker they will die if they keep it up.

And you can go ahead and not pass judgment all you want; seems to me it is our job to instill, teach, and model good judgment, even for the parents, who seem to need it the most, as it is their kids who need to be taught these basic tenets of civil society.

You and I are very different. You refuse to make anyone uncomfortable, and I just don't give a shit; in my mind, maybe the lack of comfort will cause some of these parents to get it together.

This in no way means I don't teach the kids in my class. I do. But it sure would be nice if I only had to teach them the curriculum, and not how to behave, think, eat, treat others, ....

tft said...

I think you are conflating a couple things; because I want, and expect, parents to be completely involved in their child's education does not mean I operate on the assumption I am going to get what I want.

I mentioned in another post here that I have zero expectations when it comes to how I teach. I assume the kids in my class have unconcerned, uneducated, too busy, drug addicted parents. That way I am sure to cover all that needs to be covered, aside from reading writing and arithmetic.

You seem to think that what I want, and I think its safe to assume even you want, is too much to expect, therefor I should forget about it; pick your battles, and all.

I disagree. I want kids to be better prepared for school, and parents are the ones who can do that. Just because I am not getting that doesn't mean I should give up, or be quiet--I should do the opposite! Shout at the top of my lungs that You Parents! get involved and help your kid!

Ok. Peace and crab tacos.

Anonymous said...

"You seem to think that what I want, and I think its safe to assume even you want, is too much to expect,"

Please don't assume on my behalf. I believe nothing of the sort. The only real difference between us is that I prefer to believe most parents are hard-working and have positive intentions, while a minority may not be fulfilling their complete duties as actively involved parents. I find that I am well able to make people uncomfortable by being in constant contact when the situation calls for it, and pushing students to meet higher expectations than they are used to.

You seem comfortable making the assumption that the majority of parents are "unconcerned, uneducated, too busy, drug addicted" and therefore deserve your disdain. I simply don't think that way, and don't think I ever will be able to. And I certainly hope my children's teachers won't make that assumption about me.

tft said...

You don't get me. Oh well. Peace.