Where are my social dividends?


http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/16/education/a-city-borrows-so-its-schools-open-on-time.html?smid=fb-nytimes&WT.z_sma=US_ACB_20130816&_r=0


http://aspirepublicschools.org/media/filer_public/2013/07/15/130625_edsource-_more_charters_outperforming.pdf

http://credo.stanford.edu/documents/NCSS%202013%20Executive%20Summary.pdf

http://news.yahoo.com/papa-johns-doesnt-want-know-food-194013379.html

http://www.humanmedia.org/catalog/program.php?products_id=356&osCsid=783e24f278ad1342e452600333d01d05

http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Not-vacation-Summer-learning-programs-crucial-4724906.php

http://www.sfchronicle.com/local/bayarea/item/Even-Odds-Part-1-22785.php

http://www.sfgate.com/news/politics/article/ACT-Only-quarter-of-grads-ready-for-all-subjects-4748283.php

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/19/demographics-divide-schools_n_3779523.html

Forewarning: I do not have a strong statistical background so I am always skeptical when I read something as I need to think about and evaluate the information a bit longer than others to make sure I understand. If I miss a detail, please be kind enough to send a correction.

Charter schools are a business entity. They are considered non-profit due to how they re-apply their ‘earnings’ instead of giving the earnings to shareholders. In what one might call a twist up of words, non-profits are supposed to be for the benefit of the community which is why they have certain tax advantages, etc. This means instead of being an individual shareholder obtaining dividends, you in effect become a stakeholder in your community and should receive the type of social dividends which benefit your community and make it better.

 With this in mind, I find it important for charter schools to be accurate in reporting their statistics in the same manner a for profit corporation on the NYSE reports. There are GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles) rules and any accountant should be able to read and interpret the information in the same way if the books are not cooked and the aim of the company is not to mislead the shareholders. Unfortunately, charter schools are by and large allowed manipulate the books in a variety of ways (this includes grant reporting and ADA monies) and they do. This then allows them to also manipulate and actually distort the data as there are even less people willing to spend the time on non-financial information evaluations.  Charter schools follow ‘data’ on how to appeal to specific groups of people as indicated by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research survey  which was conducted June 21 through July 22, 2013. This data demonstrates how different categories of parents think, hence, it is easier to market targeted materials.

 The issue at hand is how charter schools report out students who go to college, graduate college and indeed produce a social dividend for a community.  This is how all great non-profits should be evaluated. Unfortunately, charter schools have never been called to prove the social dividend. I had to question this issue as I worked for a charter school and later continued questioning the morality and ethics of charter schools based on what I now know about the background story.  The story of self promotion to those who wish to promote charter schools rarely matches the reality, thus, there must be a marketing department to distort and mis-convey the facts.

Here is another look at data from a different view.

According to Jill Tucker over at The San Francisco Chronicle, I should note there is a difference  between college ready, expecting to get a high school diploma or taking the GED.  I believe this is called journalist clarity.

In 2009, about 600 African American males started high school in the Oakland school district with Thomas and Olajuwon. Of those, an estimated 80 to 100 graduated college-ready. Another 200 were expected to get their diplomas, but not with UC or CSU admission requirements. Others took the GED, or would continue in adult school. Still others spent time in jail.

During those same four years, 31 Oakland public school students ages 11 to 19 were killed across the city. Most of them were shot and most were African American males.

I note this as college ready does not mean the same thing as going to college, completing college, obtaining a degree and providing social dividend.  For charter schools to actually do something different from any other public school, they need to produce the same amount or greater of students who actually attend college and graduate as every other public school in America is charged with getting students college ready – the goal of public education.  This being said, it should be easy peasy for Aspire Public Schools (the largest in California) and KIPP to produce statistics which demonstrate this trend.  This, to my knowledge has not occurred. In fact, what has occurred is the actual removal from Aspire Public Schools of the map showing where their graduates go to college and no evidence can be found on the website for how many students (after 20 years in business) have graduated college, producing a societal dividend substantially different from other public schools.

Out on 21 August 2013 is data from ACT showing:

“The readiness of students leaves a lot to be desired,” said Jon Erickson, president of the Iowa-based company’s education division.

The ACT reported that 31 percent of all high school graduates tested were not ready for any college coursework requiring English, science, math or reading skills. The other 69 percent of test takers met at least one of the four subject-area standards.

Just a quarter of this year’s high school graduates cleared the bar in all four subjects, demonstrating the skills they’ll need for college or a career, according to company data. The numbers are even worse for black high school graduates: Only 5 percent were deemed fully ready for life after high school.

The report’s findings suggest that many students will struggle when they arrive on campus or they’ll be forced to take remedial courses — often without earning credits — to catch their peers.

The data reveal a downturn in overall student scores since 2009. Company officials attribute the slide to updated standards and more students taking the exams — including many with no intention of attending two- or four-year colleges.

Under ACT’s definition, a young adult is ready to start college or trade school if he or she has the knowledge to succeed without taking remedial courses. Success is defined as the student’s having a 75 percent chance of earning a C grade and a 50 percent chance of earning a B, based on results on each of the four ACT subject areas, which are measured on a scale from 1 to 36 points.

My sense would be every charter school in the U.S. would wish to report out their great ACT and SAT scores for the reason it resonates to some extent the READINESS for any college coursework requiring English, science, math or reading skills.  Any charter school should be tooting their horn regarding the average scores of their students.

I do not have the documentation (hopefully as you read this, you will be able to supply it to me if you know the piece I am referring to), however, I did hear a piece on KQED which regarded how getting a student to college is not enough. In fact, not all colleges are the same and getting children of color to college if the college is not top tier, does not improve rocking the boat and changing the social dividends – in stead it perpetuates it as status quo.

Aspire Public Schools has managed to use data from CREDO (The Center for Research on Education Outcomes – Stanford University) in an odd context. When I read the full report, noted in the URL above, there is a distortion of how one would perceive what is in the full report vs. the carefully selected portions Aspire pulled out to use.

CREDO uses data to show the minute detail of how charter schools have developed their students over time in comparison to other similar schools.  In looking at the data over a 20 year time period, there is an improvement although I would be negligent in stating this improvement is earth shattering or worth of great praise. I will let the data speak for itself.

The national study shows the following for reading and math: Although there is study improvement, 56% of charter school students have no significant difference in reading scores as measured by CREDO than regular public school students. 25% have shown a significant improved difference and 19% show a significantly worse difference.   There is no specific data from Aspire as they are lumped into the national study. In either way, they neither benefit from or substantially detract from the rather sad statistics.

If I break this down, it means only 25% of students in charter schools have shown gains while 75% of students in charter schools were comparable or worse……..Is the effect of changing 25% of students enough social dividend in reading? Should the amount of students positively effected be greater as Aspire has been around for 20 years. Aspire touts how they have the best teachers, systems and data….the statistics are not demonstrating, in my mind, substantial social dividends which I could not have gotten with just improving the public schools over all.

For math, the data is even worse. 40% of charter school students showed no significant difference in gains for math, 31% of students in charter schools fared significantly worse and 29% of students fared better. This means 29% of students in charter schools nationally had improvement while 71% fared the same or worse. Again, this is not sufficient data to show any charter school has leveraged a better system overall.

When more students show no benefit or worse benefit, there is something wrong with your program. It should be the other way around.  If this were a business having to report to shareholders instead of stakeholders, this company would fold.

As a social investment, I am not seeing where charter schools are delivering the goods.

Careful where you set your aim. The charter sector is getting better on average, but not because existing schools are getting dramatically better; it is mainly driven by opening higher- performing schools and by closing those that underperform. Our analysis suggests that the standards of performance are set too low, as evidenced by the large number of underperforming charter schools that persist. The point here is that, as with students, setting and holding high expectations is an important feature of school policies and practices. More focus is required of authorizers and charter school governing boards to set high performance and accountability standards and hold charter schools to them. – CREDO

This is where the Papa John’s piece on Yahoo comes in.  You can call your ‘ingredients’ whatever you wish. You should also be willing to let outsiders examine the ingredients and most of all, you should be proud enough to add in your own data as comparison. In this instance, Aspire Public Schools has failed. I am guessing this is the same for other charter schools as there have been no interesting news flashes in any of the usual educational journals which would love to pounce on this great news.

Another aspect of this issue is how Aspire is spreading to Tennessee.  Aspire needed to do this as financially they could not make it on the same budget as other public schools in California. They were ‘drowning’ and in fact have not merited the same amount of donations year over year as they had hoped for.  The CFO has been cautious in how he couches this scenario, however, the original goal of Aspire was to EXCEED the other schools in the region on the same budget. This has not happened or at least not in a statistically relevant manner.  This relates to the piece from The New York Times on how Philadelphia is borrowing money to open the schools and people are questioning if the schools are even worth opening, which leads back to the quote two paragraphs up from CREDO.

While charter schools continue to advertise their wares, I continue to be skeptical.  I need to see the following and wish CREDO could produce the data:

Just how many students of charter schools have gone to college, how many have graduated in 4, 5, 6 years?

After 20 years, I would think Aspire Public Schools has to have some of this substantially important data.

This would tell me if the taxes I pay which pays the ADA of charter schools is yielding social dividends in my community.

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Why ‘grading’ the teacher is not only wrong, but ineffective. Part II of II Blogs

Gawande, Atul, Personal Best, The New Yorker 3 October 2011  p. 44, 46-50, 51-52

This is Part II of two blogs begun March 2012 which addressed Dr. Gawande (New Yorker Magazine Article). He has a  quest for ‘coaching’ to continue developing  into his Personal Best.  I felt it necessary to analyze the article written by Dr. Gawande in order to address a professional sense of self-reflection, that of a professional surgeon.  Dr. Gawande so thoroughly addressed his personal role in medicine AND all the other potential factors  of medicine that I was compelled to use this as an example.   Dr. Gawande admitted the fault of being human and demonstrated humility in  not being  God.  He noted that the human condition is imperfect yet there is a way to learn and continually improve ourselves over time,  most often with self-reflection and insight from others as it is difficult to view ourselves while being ourselves.

Only by carefully observing other professionals outside the field  of education can we begin to develop a consciousness of  professionalism, what it means to good, better, best, great and so forth and look for tools to apply to the teaching profession.  Focusing only on education assumes the worst case scenario – teachers are distinctly different in the world of humans, but instead of being viewed as deities, in America, they are viewed as pure evil by many, often including their own administrators and the government at state and federal levels.

When we see what others do, we get past the misanthropic view of one group of people (non- teachers)  regarding teachers and notice more of  the similarities between teachers and other professionals.  Once back from the brink of insanity,  we can address the multitude factors which effect the outcomes of education, which are not strictly the result of teacher quality.  Many outcomes in education have everything to do with poverty, parental involvement and  self motivation/will.

If we were to blame only surgeons and doctors for ALL medical outcomes, no one would have surgery any more. It is both a science and an art.  There is not ‘perfection’, rather there are gradations of success based on a whole slew of issues above and beyond the doctor/surgeon.  We may seek perfection –  this involves coaching and improving professional practice.  It is NOT the golden bullet to prevent all problems.  Doctors can not account for your DNA, what you choose to eat, how you choose to take care of yourself.  Doctors have to work with what is presented to them and hope that with their best ministrations, they obtain a positive outcome as they take an oath to do no harm.  In the case of doctors, we need to look from within regarding outcomes of surgery,  because we came to the doctor damaged.

When we grade a teacher, we wish to push results and outcomes on people whom have the least control over what goes on in a child’s life. Teachers have only 40/168 hours, including sleep. Take out sleep (which is substantially important) and you have 40/118 hours assuming kids sleep a 10 hour night. In both cases, 40 hours is very little and yet so much is expected.   Teachers, like doctors, have to work with what is presented to them and hope that with their best ministrations will produce positive outcomes in nine months of the school year of eight-hour school days.  Let me be clear – most kids do not sleep even eight hours a nigh.t Not all school days are actually eight hours so the numbers I present are skewed by things such as testing, minimum days, staying up late at night for a variety of reasons and a multitude of other issues (lockdowns, snow days, illness, etc.).  Grading a teacher on amount of time of ‘influence’ alone is inadequate.

In order to explore  various ideas within education reform, I also sought out different pieces of writing from others who address the ideation of grading teachers.   It is not enough to say something is a  bad or good idea, rather one needs to support different views and perceptions so the discussion can center on what is best for children, not what is best for our sense of power over things we lack control.

As Dr. Gawande indicates, coaching is costly and rarely something schools can afford. It is awkward – in the hospital and in the classroom.  Obtaining coaching can be (and often is viewed outside sports and singing) seen as an admission of failure instead of the converse – an admission of willing to improve.  When coaching is used as punishment in education, it automatically infers substandard performance.  To change the perception of coaching in education will be no different or easier than the exact experience Dr. Gawande addresses at the end of his written piece.   Demonizing teachers does not improve their quality – it does slowly wear them down and destroy them which could not be good for students.

I am done picking at the bone of grading teachers with  a public which hates  teachers, who think denigrating and demeaning teachers (public humiliation/bullying/ exposing student success or failure on our backs) is reform.   This bone is from a  recently dead animal which was left rotting on the street, run over by a car and bits of it are smashed into the concrete. The piece of bone left has tendons and muscle hanging from it, smells of horrible decay and clearly would be of no use to the mammal it came from so we need to start over and not be so willing to kill.  Bloodsport does not ever portend to good.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/04/opinion/sunday/confessions-of-a-bad-teacher.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203458604577263603261494594.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

http://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2012/03/more-wk-value-added-.html#more

http://schoolsofthought.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/06/my-view-when-did-teacher-bashing-become-the-new-national-pastime/?hpt=hp_bn1

So, to use a quote:

New Yorker Magazine cartoon (5 Dec 2011) by Victoria Roberts: “There’s an elephant in the room and no zookeeper.”

Let’s try to find a better course of action because grading teachers is not working the way we assumed it would.  Here is a smattering of examples of alternative perspectives.  What would be awesome is if the people who hired teachers had as much interest in teacher success as their own rise to power.

Almost all men can stand adversity, but if you want to judge a man’s true character, give him power.   (I have been unable to find the source in order to attribute this quote – if you know it, please comment!)

http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/the-8-qualities-of-remarkable-employees.html?

http://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2012/03/thompson-how-is-teaching-different-from-all-other-professions.html

http://scholasticadministrator.typepad.com/thisweekineducation/2012/03/thompson-address-behavior-first.html

http://www.kqed.org/a/radiospecials/R201203292000

https://whereiskatima.wordpress.com/2009/06/28/zagat-type-ratings-at-schools-all-for-it/

When society begins supporting ways for teachers to improve their personal best, obtaining the caliber of teachers  wished for will be in reach.  Brigham and Women’s Hospital in MA and Harvard University are fortunate to have such a self reflective staff member AND some one so willing to share their personal experiences in order to help others.  By supporting Dr. Gawande and his willingness to strive for better, these institutions and patients benefit greatly all the way around.

We would do far more to improve education by creating a positive environment for teachers.   It is our choice – surgically destroy education with reforms that have little to nothing in offering actual  improvement or healing what happens in the classroom by owning our locus of control and assisting teachers in achieving their personal best.

Occupying The Principal’s Office With Principled Dissent

Somehow yesterday, this posting from The Washington Post made it to me. I believe it came from an RPCV/grad school buddy and was posted to Facebook.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/when-an-adult-took-standardized-tests-forced-on-kids/2011/12/05/gIQApTDuUO_blog.html

What garnered my attention was the fact that some one genuinely human and apparently not too wonky took a standardized test to be transparent about why they do/do not support certain boondoggling in education.   This person was willing to share their scores – something which means they have great self-confidence and/or believe in being genuine and authentic in how they posit their beliefs. I am guessing, as it is not indicated in the piece noted above, that the person was not initially looking to see how well the test correlated to the ‘real world’ and this was an after effect. This person did a great deal of reflection – and this made me realize that perhaps this was the latent awakening of the American conscience.

“If I’d been required to take those two tests when I was a 10th grader, my life would almost certainly have been very different. I’d have been told I wasn’t ‘college material,’ would probably have believed it, and looked for work appropriate for the level of ability that the test said I had.

“It makes no sense to me that a test with the potential for shaping a student’s entire future has so little apparent relevance to adult, real-world functioning. Who decided the kind of questions and their level of difficulty? Using what criteria? To whom did they have to defend their decisions? As subject-matter specialists, how qualified were they to make general judgments about the needs of this state’s children in a future they can’t possibly predict? Who set the pass-fail “cut score”? How?”

“I can’t escape the conclusion that decisions about the [state test] in particular and standardized tests in general are being made by individuals who lack perspective and aren’t really accountable.”

I had thought this was pretty much the end of the article and ‘point taken’. I was not expecting what came next in the way that one does not see a great mystery book or movie unfold and is dumbfounded.

Winerip writes: “As of last night, 658 principals around the state (New York) had signed a letter — 488 of them from Long Island, where the insurrection began — protesting the use of students’ test scores to evaluate teachers’ and principals’ performance.”

As otherworldly as it would seem possible, administrators (principals) did something which demonstrated they would no longer follow the common thought pattern of ideologues. Principals would use their own brain to think and reason the data.  Principals would use principled, reasonable thinking – something beyond the comprehension of anyone who has ever been a teacher.   Maybe there is hope as Marion Brady states near the end of this piece. There may actually be a glimmer of  something wonderful beyond compare – a sensibility which does not come from businessmen (most charter school organizations which are not-for-profit CORPORATIONS) or supposed poser educators who think it is so easy.

It is difficult for me not to be cynical and I really would like to see the shroud of darkness removed from the intractableness of NCLB…..could it be as simple as Occupy the Principal’s Office – something teachers have been doing but the rest of the country has been against?

Numbers, Stats – Are We Even Looking For The Right Stuff??

Although convergence is a buzzword, I have been using it for years as a more sophisticated alternative to quinky-dink,  essentially an explanation for when the universe opens up and reveals something important (generally speaking, the universe has sent this message a million times before to myself and others but we were hearing, not listening and so the message was lost on us).   I belong to the group of people who actually ‘believe’ if you will, in possibilities which may have been floating on the far horizon suddenly docking on the doorstep. 

Seeing incentives used to raise college graduation rates was not news to my ears, not new to me, in fact it was older than this blog and the five previous years I had been mumbling and grumbling about it.   Apparently my complaint was one and the same with others and some one important was listening, took note and decided to do something:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/education/22college.html?_r=1&hpw   How this actually plays itself out remains to be seen as there is no ‘convergence’ surrounding the issues of education reform.  Between Michelle Rhee, charter school madness (they now bicker with each other over space, at least in NYC), charter schools not actually putting more kids through college, economic melt down and real nuclear meltdown, there is not the least consensus except to say change needs to occur.  ‘This was not the message from the universe – this is what I call slight of hand.  While government is slaying dragons which it created, there was something else going on.

Which gets me back to what docked at the door step, David Brooks piece in the Jan 17, 2011 New Yorker Magazine.  The piece is from the Annals of Psychology and is titled Social Animal (which most of us humans tend to be).   Mr. Brooks addresses the idea (quite nicely I would add) that education and the various manifestations there of are quite small in comparison to what we really know.

We are living in the middle of a revolution in consciousness.  Over the past few decades, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and others have made great strides in understanding the inner working of the human mind.  Far from being dryly materialistic, their work illuminates the rich underwater world where character is formed and wisdom grows.  They are giving us a better grasp of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, predispositions, character traits, and social bonding, precisely those things about which our culture has the least to say.  Brain science helps fill the hole left by the atrophy of theology and philosophy.

A core finding of this work is that we are not primarily the products of our conscious thinking.  The conscious mind gives us one way of making sense of our environment.  But the unconscious mind gives us other, more supple ways.  The cognitive revoltion of the past thirty years provides a different perspective on our lives, one that emphasizes the relative importance of emotion over pure reason, social connections over individual choice, moral intuition over abstract logic, perceptiveness over IQ.   It allows us to tell a different sort of success story, an inner story to go along with the conventional surface one.

Mr. Brooks then creates a written diorama journey of  Harold, and later Erica, etc.  as they go through life.  The journey has spatterings of  insights given to us by science and throughtful studies.   For almost all of us, we can either identify with the dioramic of  life or at least have been exposed to what is portrayed here through reading novels and watching TV.  It is a dioramic representation of a life as some know it, generally those who think they know what education is and what education should be.

As the article ends, the character Harold attends a conference where he becomes enlightened, rather he becomes aware of the differences between an education in the abstract and education as a lifelong process, education as adding meaning to life, education which leads to self efficacy which leads to happiness and fulfillment.

Kind of like what I hear on NPR when they reference The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation –dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live healthy, productive lives.

And so  I continue to wonder – will a test score ever bring anyone happiness, and if so, will the happiness be fulfilling?

The Measure of a Father

My father passed away on 11 March 2011. While death is one of the most difficult subjects to discuss with anyone, it is an opportunity to reflect on a good life and the measure of what one leaves behind in ways of values, ideals, good deeds and meaningfulness.  Death allows us each to reflect on the past, improve the future and find the bits and pieces which best demonstrate how to do good, live well and be the change we wish to see in the world.

Frugality is one of the many words  explaining my father; He did not own much in possessions which most other people would consider important – he had books and experiences, a few pieces of art. My father valued being learned, having literacy and the capacity for compassion/empathy.  He believed in experiences, supporting causes and being positive about the possibilities ahead  and this was a wonderful legacy to pass on.  Very few people knew he was even ill.  He treated his cancer as an inconvenience to his living…..

Frugality meant using the library, having all the money you desired for books, magazines, models to build to help you understand math, science, history – it meant being wise about money and using it in a purposeful manner.  There was no greater goal than to be educated as this led to self efficacy and a keen responsibility to others.  Frugality meant not having everything handed to me – I had to work to earn things, even though I did receive dispensation along the way (allowance, college tuition as an undergrad, used car….I paid the insurance, gas, repairs!).  Frugality meant saving money from the time I probably first understood what a quarter was and that 2/3 of the value should be put away for some future need or endeavor and not wasted on a moment of abandon.

Becoming a life long learner did not happen by accident, rather it happened by choice (my father’s). The capacity for questioning/discovering, finding things interesting and knowing the world was my  oyster is the best thing any parent can instill – EVER.  As I went through the book-case (my father was a pharmacist and a teacher) I realized my father very much lived his values. I had been through the book-case many times to select something to read and this time it was to evaluate what was near and dear to my father’s heart.

Frugality meant finding things of value at second-hand stores and not always needing the most expensive, immediately advertised gizmo (we were often not early adopters 🙂  .   Despite frugality, I always had a sense of abundance as many things of value can be experienced on a shoe string budget.  My father was a first generation American from parents who survived the craziness of Poland/Russia for the craziness of the American Depression Era.  This man passed along a greater value than a large house and ‘stuff’ – he passed along the value of a quality life, which is substantially different.

As I walked through his apartment, I noticed all the magazines he loved – everything from The New Yorker and Smithsonian to Kiplinger, Road Scholar, anything about pharmacy and science, etc. He just wanted to be aware and in the know of the world.    Friends came by and the most important thing they wished for as remembrance were books…..books my dad had found at garage sales, books from library give away bins, books handed over to him for some type of safe keeping.  His friends wanted books because that was what they really knew of my father, besides friendship was his endorsement of reading and learning. So, I gave away the bridge, chess, finance books – things I don’t really have an interest in, and when I do, will obtain books on these subjects.  I gave away history books to my aunt for her son.  I gave away book ends to another.  It was so interesting how each person truly valued these gifts (these were not books of high value due to age) and knew this would keep the memory of my father alive.  Each time I gave something away, yet another person stated how they had enjoyed discussing subject x,y, and z with my father as he loved to learn.  I truly felt I was giving away both a memory and a very special gift.

Different books had book marks in them – some merely scraps of paper with notes he wrote to himself about this page or that, some tidbit of knowledge to be learned well and share with others.  My father was left-handed so sometimes this scribbles were not the easiest to decipher.

There were coins saved in a container called ‘sunsets’, apparently for a future time where he  might have wanted one more book at the end of the day.   There were notes, cartoons (humor enthusiast would not cover it all), no TV (it was not an object of value or something to covet even, except maybe for Washington Week and 60 Minutes), no gorgeous furniture – just simple things. I found a mechanical watch which was interesting for the ‘mechanism’ being exposed,  a slide rule (really old school math!) and so forth. These treasures are what will keep my father alive in my memory.

I have not finished (nor will I ever, most likely) processing his death, what it means to me in entirety or how he lived.  What I have done is find a tradition to pass down and pass on – the value and power of learning.  I have found a best cause for my endeavors and know, being a teacher myself, the gift of reading and knowledge is more than the sum of its parts.

It has been 10 days since my father died.  He is constantly on my mind as I miss our chats about politics, world events, stupidity in humans….you name it.  Most of all, I miss the philosophical discussions which would have allowed both of us to discuss the following article.  Even better was that my dad did not have a number’ in mind….he just lived.  ‘http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/after-a-diagnosis-wishing-for-a-magic-number/

It’s Looking A Lot Like……Charter Schools

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/education/21boces.html?hpw

Governor Cuomo has a good idea and I for one wish him exceedingly well.  By putting public schools in New York all on equal footing (charter schools and regular public schools), it will be interesting to see the outcomes.  Some charter schools do very well with a bare bones model.

The other message, oft missed when something like this is cast down from ‘above’ is not just efficiencies but the burden of really deciding what is needed as opposed to wanted.  Hopefully this will force principals and other district officials not to glom on to the next ‘new-new’ thing which will save the day and actually focus their resources on what works.

While I can sense the animosity brewing on both sides (just look at what went down in Wisconsin this past week over pay and collective bargaining), it is clear this will allow a sense of  demonstrating responsibility to pass back to administrators and teachers.

I have reason to believe (being a teacher myself) that although resources will be exceedingly tight, administrators and teachers will make good, appropriate decisions for the schools since they will be unburdened to some degree from administrative over-management.  Although I doubt all schools will have equal access to ‘what works’, as noted in my blog     https://whereiskatima.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/when-stealing-is-not-the-issue-at-hand-when-equity-in-education-absolutely-does-not-exist/    , this will hopefully put constraints on some of the over the top spending at the schools which have more than adequate access and resources and quite possibly create collaboration.

A sacred cow for the tipping….or just a gentle nudge in the field

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/07/nyregion/07cuomo.html?hpw

I am not sure which is worse – proferring to cut the lavish salaries of school district superintendents but not acutally doing so or not acknowledging the outlandish salaries and thereby not being accountable to cut the salaries, as no one noticed.  When districts around the nation are struggling for money IN THE CLASSROOM, it would seem that we could start shaking the cushions on the office furniture of administration (and apparently the cushions at home as well!).

Having watched a couple superintendents receive, if not an actual golden handshake out the door, a golden sweep of the broom to please exit, I am confident these political figureheads are overpaid for actual work versus  photo ops.   An example of what I would love to see:  http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2001/09/30/loc_zprincipals_diary.html or a copy of the digital calendar of superintentdents to know how their time is spent doing work instead of spreading the dearth of work around.  Sadly, these calendars or diaries seem to be of highest confidence (almost national security) and no one steps forward to demonstrate what is done. 

As is the case of NYC Schools Chancellor Cathleen Black, superintendents are showcased at important events to lend credibility.  Occassionally superintendents deal with parents – for the most part they are project managers. 

I encourage community members to ‘find out’ what their superintendent does which makes them worth their exhorbitant pay, often in excess of a state governor, at least in New York.  It seems that even school superintendent pay has not managed to hold property values in check with the melt down of the last few years, so even that shibboleth is worn out.

School boards that pay what some consider eye-popping salaries often say that running a school district is an exceedingly hard job with long hours, and that excellent superintendents are scarce. They note that a school system’s reputation is often the main reason that families move to certain communities. Beyond that, property values are influenced in a big way by that reputation — and so a top superintendent is well worth the cost to taxpayers.

Until community members are willing to look at the dollar value of the services superintendents actually provide beyond the name recognition on letterhead stationary, we are throwing unwarranted amounts of money in the wrong direction when it comes to education.