A few weeks ago, I said that San Diego is the best urban district in the nation.
I didn’t say it was the very best district in the entire nation — I don’t claim to know what is happening in all 15,000 or so school districts. But I have visited every one of the big urban districts. San Diego is the best.
I didn’t base that conclusion on test scores, as I know there are a few urban districts that have higher test scores. I based that conclusion on the spirit of collaboration and teamwork that now characterizes the district’s staff and leadership. Teamwork and collaboration are the ingredients that make a school system a good place to teach and a good place to learn.
I wrote this column because I noticed that the U-T had published an editorial pining for Terry Grier, who now heads the Houston Independent School District after a brief stint as superintendent in San Diego. The editorial was based on the assumption that San Diego would have higher test scores if Grier had not left.
So, on my blog, I compared the schools of Houston (where I grew up and graduated from public school) to the schools of San Diego, and found that on the one measure where they are compared — the federal tests — San Diego consistently outperforms Houston.
But I do not see test scores as the highest possible measure of success. Districts can get higher test scores by investing heavily in test prep, by coaching kids to pass the tests, by cheating, by narrowing the curriculum and dropping the arts. They can get them by threatening to fire teachers if scores don’t go up.
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VOSD's resident troll had nothing better to do yesterday than to stir the educational pot. If I had to sit around all day and wait for files to render, I might be inclined to spew about kids and teachers like they were ones and zeroes as well. Luckily, people like Ms. Ravitch, who actually gets out to schools and talks to students and teachers, can make reasonable arguments about the educational directions taken in districts large and small...far removed from the armchair warriors that attempt to make psychological arguments based on nothing more than datasets. Sadly, these UTSD trolls refuse to recognize that the straight up business approach does not work in an environment that focuses on people. People being students AND teachers AND parents. You need all three working together to have success on a large scale. Sorry you had a bad experience wherever you came from JJ.
Another critical look at the author of this opinion, with examples and links of criticisms of her various recent works, including claims that she cherry picks data and is biased in her analysis:
You lost me as soon as Chester Finn's name appeared in that article.
Additionally, most of the article is devoted to how Diane Ravitch "offers no solutions" to the problems she puts forth - and then the author admits to not having read her latest book - which DOES offer solutions. This alone create a serious credibility problem.
So, I have to ask: what is your stake in education? Are you a teacher? A parent dismayed that your child isn't learning the stuff you learned? A businessman looking to make a buck running a charter school? A think-tank mouthpiece with no actual classroom experience?
Thank you, Diane Ravitch. SDUSD has problems, but is in a position to address them. There is no magic wand, and it is hard work. The teacher's union is here to stay, so the district has to find a way to work with it. Teaching is a complex art. Test scores are just one part of the puzzle.
"We simply have two very different philosophies, I am willing to see teachers inconvenienced to give kids a better education, and you are willing to see kids poorly educated to prevent inconvenience to teachers. There is no real common ground there."
A stellar teacher being wrongly evaluated as "ineffective" is more than an "inconvenience." Losing a job is more than an "inconvenience." Children losing good experienced teachers to invalid evaluation procedures is more than an "inconvenience."
And how you can equate a teacher evaluation system that was excellent enough that even our non-educator Secretary of Education could see it was good enough to warrant its duplication in many other school districts, and solid enough to weed out bad teachers by the hundreds, with "benefiting the teacher at the cost of the kids" is beyond me. You get an "F" in Reading Comprehension.
You are right: we DO have two very different philosophies. I would rather see the adults in a child's life work together to make the best possible childhood for that child, including schooling, while you would reduce childhood to test scores. My ideal scenario is not one which pits the needs of the children against the wants of the adults, so you are absolutely incorrect that I am "willing to see kids poorly educated to prevent inconvenience to teachers;" on the contrary, I want the best of all possible worlds for the children first and foremost - and that is generally not the result of top-down mandates and badly-thought-out teacher evaluation schemes, nor of poorly-designed educational standards not created by educators (and administered at the national level by someone who has neither education degrees nor teaching experience).
"Let's try something different, lets put kids before teachers for once. Lets have some real accountability instead of BS catchphrases and false platitudes served up by union shills."
You're the one serving up catchphrases here.
FWIW, I don't know a single teacher who is against testing - but many are against overtesting, many are against teaching to the test for the sake of the test scores (and most who do are directed to do so by administrators who do NOT collaborate but instead merely mandate). I don't know a single teacher who is against being evaluated, but many who are against unfair and faulty evaluations. Teachers have literally lost their jobs based on test scores of children they have never taught (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/15/lawsuit-stop-evaluating-teachers-on-test-scores-of-students-they-never-taught/). Teachers have received incorrect evaluations and lost jobs when test-score-based evaluations have been done incorrectly (http://vamboozled.com/?p=637) - which is precisely why unions have problems with this form of teacher evaluation, and why unions press for due process for teachers. Do you REALLY think it's in any student's best interests to lose good teachers? On the other hand, a stellar teacher evaluation system - PAR (created in my own school system and even lauded by Arne Duncan: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/06/education/06oneducation.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) - must now be changed to comply with Race to the Top; it must use test scores as a "significant" part of teacher evaluation. (Note: PAR was created *in conjunction with* the union, and has weeded out literally hundreds of ineffective teachers from our district.)
So please, take your anti-union screed, put it where the sun doesn't shine. "Union trough" is seriously one of the most overused and completely untrue platitudes, at least where I live with the possible exception of "for the children." If there is one thing that current educational reform does NOT seem to be, it would be "for the children." Putting metrics above the real needs of real human beings in classrooms is NOT going to benefit the children.One of the "Forty-Four" Misclassified DC Teachers Speaks Up and Outhttp://vamboozled.com/?p=637Two weeks ago I wrote a post about what's going in DC's public schools with their value-added-based teacher evaluation system, and more specifically about the 44 DC public school teachers who received "incorrect" VAM scores for the last academic year...Lawsuit: Stop evaluating teachers on test scores of students they never taught (2nd update)http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/04/15/lawsuit-stop-evaluating-teachers-on-test-scores-of-students-they-never-taught/A group of teachers and their unions filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Florida officials that challenges the state's educator evaluation system, under which many teachers are evaluated on the standardized test scores of students they do not teach.Montgomery County, Md., Sets Example With Teacher Evaluationshttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/06/education/06oneducation.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0ROCKVILLE, Md. - The Montgomery County Public Schools system here has a highly regarded program for evaluating teachers, providing them extra support if they are performing poorly and getting rid of those who do not improve. The program, Peer Assista...
Thanks for proving my point that public schools is about benefiting the teacher at the cost of the kids with your links.
We simply have two very different philosophies, I am willing to see teachers inconvenienced to give kids a better education, and you are willing to see kids poorly educated to prevent inconvenience to teachers. There is no real common ground there.
You do have the weight of the unions, most politicians and most teachers on your side, so i expect your side will continue to win and kids will continue to lose. Congratulations.
"Education can and must be measured, if it is to succeed. It is a quantifiable and finite knowledge base, by class and by grade."
Wow.... you have a really limited version of what schools and teachers and students are capable of, and what schools are for.
*I* feel sorry for the kids that have to suffer in classrooms in schools where they are viewed as nothing more than data points and test scores, as if nothing else counted. These are the kids who will parrot phrases like "union trough" without really understanding the background behind the teachers' unions, or the benefits of them. Did you know, Jim Jones, that most of the countries whose test scores are above ours - since that seems to be your favored "real" metric - are also the ones with the STRONGEST unions?
If you think that "best spirit of collaboration" is NOT necessarily better than test scores, then I cannot help but think that you have never experienced it. Collaboration makes us human. Try it sometime.
Sorry Matt, but you are just reinforcing my point, there has been re-gentrification in the just south of the 8 neighborhoods, the difference between North Park and South Park reflect that, and there has been an improvement in a few schools just south of the 8 that reflects that. "South of the 8" isn't an exact term, but if you plot a heat map of school rankings it's clear that there is a huge area south of the 8 that has really really bad schools, and where people have money for alternatives SDUSD can step up to keep the complaints and competition down.
"a neighborhood that has some upscale. Atypical for south of the 8."
I'm not sure what your definition of upscale is. A family sized house in North Park or South Park or University Heights or Normal Heights or Golden Hill or Hilcrest or Kensington runs $400,000 to $1,000,000 easy. In what world are those 'downscale' neighborhoods? I make pretty good money, but 'north of the 8' neighborhoods like La Jolla or Coronado or Rancho Santa Fe seem as remote to me as the Upper East Side in Manhattan. Nearly every young white collar family I know looks at housing prices 'north of the 8' and observes that everything hip or trendy in San Diego is already 'south of the 8' and makes the easy choice to live in more affordable neighborhoods.
Jim, it sounds like you are not at all familiar with the School of International Studies with in San Diego High. I'm proud of the fact that my daughter goes to school there.
Grant is OK as SDUSD schools go, but it's also younger kids, not a high school where you are actually supposed to learn in depth, and it's in a neighborhood that has some upscale. Atypical for south of the 8. As get out of sight distance to the eight it gets dramatically worse.
As far as vouchers, the reason there are no $10k private schools is because there is no demand for them, because there are no vouchers to pay for them. Without vouchers private schools remain the choice of the wealthy rather than the common man. Ordinary working stiffs can't afford a $10k school. Rich people can afford $25k.
"Is there any parent who actually loves there kids here who would choose to send them to a SDUSD south of the 8 dumification domicile union shop if they had an alternative?"
Yes. Grant is one of the best schools in the district. McKinley is also excellent. There are others that are also good. When we filled out our CHOICE paperwork for my daughter, who is in first grade, our selections were McKinley and Longfellow; she's at Longfellow. If there was a Spanish-immersion school in the district south of the 8, she'd be there instead, since we live in City Heights and Bay Park isn't the most convenient location. We visited 9 schools: 3 charters, 2 magnets, and 4 neighborhood schools before filling out our application. Only 3 of those (including one charter) were north of the 8. None of the charters made our top 5.
Regarding private schools: you're faced with the choice of having your kids get religious indoctrination at an affordable parochial school or paying $25,000/yr student for kindergarten at Francis Parker or or Bishop's or La Jolla Country Day. My wife and I both make white collar salaries, but that's somewhat out of our reach. Vouchers wouldn't solve this: SDUSD only spends about $10,000/yr per student.
Wow, you really think I don't know what our public schools are for? They are for the teachers benefit, not the students.
But I'll tell you what, lets go to a 100% voucher system and give parents true choice as to what school they want, public or private, let the free market decide, and if the public schools really are the best we as a city and nation can do for the money, then all attempts by private schools to get that voucher money by providing a more student focused better education will fail.
But that won't happen, because like I said, here in this state and nation public schools don't exist for the kids, they exist for the union teachers, kids be damned. And one of the weapons used by union trough feeders is catch phrases and dumb comparisons with other countries where they do care about the kids, union or not.
Is there any parent who actually loves there kids here who would choose to send them to a SDUSD south of the 8 dumification domicile union shop if they had an alternative? I can't imagine there is. Let's try something different, lets put kids before teachers for once. Lets have some real accountability instead of BS catchphrases and false platitudes served up by union shills.
I feel so sorry for the kids that have to suffer as these blockers to real educational reform promote hand-waving and catch phrases that only exist to keep union teachers performance from being measured, at great cost to kids who remain cheated out of the education we taxpayers are paying for.
Education can and must be measured, if it is to succeed. It is a quantifiable and finite knowledge base, by class and by grade.
People like Ravich make a good living fighting for teachers "rights" to do a bad job at teaching. To minimize the reporting and tracking of actual performance and replace it with a slackers bag of excuses and soon to be broken promises of improvement based on grafters fast-talk.
"Best spirit of collaboration" is supposed to be better than real metrics? You would have to have come through a south of the 8 SDUSD school to buy that one, or be getting fat feeding at the union trough to pretend to buy it.
How can you possibly have enough knowledge about other districts to know who has the best spirit of collaboration. Sorry, but I don't buy it. Stating that others disparage public education simply for disagreeing with you is nothing more than a petty straw man attack. Performance metrics are the only way to measure performance. I also have a hard time believing that most teachers don't want performance based bonuses and/or raises.
Pete, I'm sure you can see the difference between merit pay and firing incompetent teachers, can't you?
She has spent her entire career studying education, she has visited all the major school districts, and it's, you know, her opinion. That's how she knows.
Jim, you do realize its not as simple as firing the bad apples, right? For example, you have to figure out how to keep the good ones. Now regarding metrics, I want you to remember all the teachers you've had. Which one had the most positive influence on your life long term? Was the most important thing that person did for you, in the long run, was to get you to score better on a standardized test? I didn't think so.
Actually, Jim, *you* were the one who brought up merit pay.
And you still haven't answered my questions about what metrics you consider to be valid.
Jim, I thought you might find this study in the Harvard Educational Review interesting. "Merit pay and the evaluation problem: why most merit plans fail and a few survive"
One thing to note from the article is that movement for equal pay for equal credentials and seniority pay scales in the school systems predates teacher unions.
Here's another study from the Journal of Economics that says basically the same thing.
"The" anti-common core activist? LOL!
OK, talk to us about "real metrics," then. What do *you* consider real enough, dependable enough to paint an accurate picture of teacher and school effectiveness? And on what do you base your choice?
" A little critique of her flip flopping and decent into the role of union shill."
Oy, enough with the catchphrases already!
Exactly! Lets get some real metrics going here, so we can fire the teachers that are cheating our kids out of a decent future.
BTW, are you the anti common core activist who lives in Maryland, not San Diego?
A little critique of her flip flopping and decent into the role of union shill. "For poor kids, it’s a tragedy": http://www.city-journal.org/2013/23_4_diane-ravitch.htmlThe Closing of Diane Ravitch's Mind by Sol Stern, City Journal Autumn 2013http://www.city-journal.org/2013/23_4_diane-ravitch.htmlEducation writer and activist Diane Ravitch is very angry these days. She's convinced herself and her followers that elements of the American corporate elite are working to destroy the nation's public schools, the indispensable institution that has h...
Then you need to go and read the research and the anecdotes. (Here, I'll do it for you: http://dianeravitch.net/2014/01/10/teachers-in-lee-ma-return-merit-pay/) Besides, it doesn't raise test scores. http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-09-21-merit-pay_N.htm
And perhaps, just maybe, there is more to be measured than "performance." How do YOU define "performance," anyway? Only test scores? "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." Einstein really did say that.Teachers in Lee, MA, Return Merit Payhttp://dianeravitch.net/2014/01/10/teachers-in-lee-ma-return-merit-pay/The teachers in Lee, Massachusetts, received merit pay for higher scores, funded by the Gates Foundation. In a letter to the Berkshire Eagle, they explained why they rejected the money. http://www.berkshireeagle.com/news/ci_24675094/letter-no-merit-p...Merit pay study: Teacher bonuses don't raise student test scores - USATODAY.comhttp://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-09-21-merit-pay_N.htmNASHVILLE - Offering middle-school math teachers bonuses up to $15,000 did not produce gains in student test scores, Vanderbilt University researchers reported Tuesday in what they said was the first scientifically rigorous test of merit pay.
Pete, the teachers with most positive influence on me weren't the ones treading water who didn't make an effort to teach the required subject matter.
Metrics don't hurt the exceptional teachers, but they do identify the really bad ones and that's a first step.
U.S. Schools have been crap for decades, and the one thing we do know is the current lack of standard enforcement and metrics is hurting millions of kids. No matter what sort of apologist blather the union drones spew out in order to protect a system of skater teachers, every single one of us knows that forcing these teachers to either teach the minimum they are tasked to teach or to move on is helping kids, not hurting them.
"I based that conclusion on the spirit of collaboration and teamwork that now characterizes the district’s staff and leadership"
How nice. Do they have more elves frolicking in the playgrounds as well? I mean if we are going to use non testable abstract concepts instead of real metrics, why not just dispense with any modicum of reality?
It must be great to make a living being a champion for failure, the bar is really low and success so easy. Tests aren't perfect, so lets just pretend to do something until people stop caring instead. A truly uncaring way to treat our children's futures.
"Public schools need more concentration and attention paid to metrics precisely because they are so bad."
OK, Jim - give us specific citations. If you're going to make a big bold statement like that, it will only hold water if you can back it up. "They are so bad" - precisely how? Test scores? School districts populated primarily by wealthy students score among the top PISA scores in the world, so perhaps it's wealth. By what metric(s) do you measure schools - and can you cite them, chapter and verse? Can you do it from sources any LESS biased than you accuse Diane Ravitch of being?
But P, how on EARTH will we measure the benefits of that kind of intervention? And since it's so hard to measure, it must not be important! (<--- yes, that was sarcasm.)
There's a big difference between testing and overtesting. I agree with you that teachers should know their stuff, but good teachers should also not be blocked from teaching well, but encouraged.. There needs to be carrot, not just a stick, and, as I showed you above, financial incentives are not that.. It would be a real waste to their students education if the good teachers were prevented from doing the best they can, or, even worse, leaving the profession altogether. We've been doing the metrics thing for a long time now (remember No Child Left Behind?) It's not working! We need to try something different.
Agreed Deb. Unless you were born with a silver ladle in your mouth, or are one of the very few who has an idea that fundamentally changes something (and those people are "thinking outside of the box" -- i.e not along standardized testing models) you need to play well with others. Teachers can have an enormous effect on a child's development, or lack thereof, even at the collegiate level, both in terms of interpersonal skills, and personal development. I agree with Neil DeGrasse Tyson's recent comments that what he calls the "culture of testing" is resulting in students who have studied how to take tests, rather than spending that time learning real basic principles of scientific knowledge. Becoming enamored with, and then really being driven to understand, for example, how computers work and the logic behind it is very different, and ultimately more valuable, and more enjoyable, than just learning how to use MS Word. A good teacher can strongly help develop the love of learning that encourages those personal passions that lead to great careers and happier lives. Really "grokking" a subject is something that can't be measured accurately.
Sure, some theoretical "good" teacher is a wonderful alternative, just like drivers who are watchful and skilled enough to avoid hitting pedestrians in any circumstance would be a wonderful alternative to crosswalks and looking both ways, but guess what? The mythical wonderful teacher left with the elves and unicorns.
Metrics are needed because schools are failing, because depending on Gandalf and Bilbo isn't working.
If you can take and pass a test on a subject, we darn well know that you know it better than the guy who can't pass the test. This pretending that passing tests is some sort of bad thing is silly.
Jim, my point about the disabled is that there are thousands of students who have a harder time in school because of issues that are no fault of their own (disabilities are just the most immediately obvious of those issues), private schools get to pick and choose who their students will be, the students who are harder to teach get turned away. They would be very different places if their admissions standards were the same as public schools.
What public schools need is less time wasted on arbitrary metrics, and more teachers, advisers, counselors, librarians, etc, that will actually sit down and work closely with the students, with much more one to one attention.
Jim, if test scores are the be all and end all, and private schools are the beacons all parents strive for, how come so many private schools try to minimize the amount of standardized tests the students are forced to take, and their evaluation of students is often a narrative approach, rather than a numerical one. Now about universal vouchers, they would be horrible if all the schools were required to be able to educate students with disabilities,( physical, developmental, and psychological ), and if transportation were provided to all the schools in the district so that, say, a poor kid from San Ysidro would actually by able to get to Francis Parker.
Sorry Peter, but private schools don't need to use public school methods anymore than a star track runner needs a wheelchair. Public schools need more concentration and attention paid to metrics precisely because they are so bad.
Also I am not sure what your point is with the disabled. Are you saying you are siding with Diana Moon Glampers?
Who said anything about using "non testable abstract concepts *instead of* real metrics" [emphasis mine]?
Can we not consider them *in addition to* "real metrics?" And just because you consider test scores to be the only usable "real metric" doesn't make them the best indicator of what goes on in schools. I said it to Shawn Fox above, and I'll remind you too: "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
It's not "knee jerk" to consider pulling my kids after 4 years of developmentally inappropriate curriculum so I can let them have at least some of their childhoods while they're still kids, is it?
What my children are being tested on is almost laughable. My third-grader has had more algebra so far this year than my 6th-grader, taking 7th grade math. My third-grader is NOT, however, expected to learn her times tables any more - not in school, anyway. By ME, yes. That's not "being tested on the basics that they should be learning in the first place," although our new assistant principal assures us that this is all a good thing - while showing us an example of a multi-step math problem from PARCC that will in fact require kids to know their times tables if they are to get through the problem in under 20 minutes (instead of taking the time to deconstruct and reconstruct all the math).
We homeschooled for 2 years a while back because the school wasn't meeting the needs of my older child, who is special needs. After 2 years, she was not only on grade level but above it - in some areas FAR above it - even by the limited metrics of the school district, so I'm pretty sure that with my 2 education degrees I'll muddle along fine if we do go that route. Do you really truly think that if something isn't measured it must be that it's being done badly? And if so, on what do you base this assumption?
Well Deb, I am overjoyed that you are pulling your kids out of school because they are being tested on the basics that they should be learning in the first place. Thanks for accusing me of being knee jerk.
So what's your plan? Home school them on why basing a system on measured performance is bad, that's it's much better to depend on non specific wishful thinking, then send them out in the world to be non specifically successful but not by any metric? I think I gave a buck to a guy who was successful by no metrics, he had a cardboard sign and stood on the corner. Probably a great collaborator.
Nope, sorry, haven't been "imported." Gate-crashed, perhaps. LOL
Public schools have come a long way since Einstein was a pupil, as has education overall. Interesting that you chose the quote about education interfering with learning as a counterpoint, because that is exactly what is currently happening in my own children's educations in public school: they *were* engaged in true deep learning and are now being fed test prep, aligned with standards that unqualified non-educators wrote, to be tested by tests created and funded by corporations (not educators), and run by a Secretary of Education who has far less education credentials and experience than I do - and I'm far from qualified for the job, so what does that make him? I don't belong to a union right now precisely because I have left public school teaching, despite positive evaluations from K-12, and I fight this fight because my kids' public experience and quality of learning has taken a significant nosedive since "reform" hit our state upside the head. It's because my children are now "data points" to my school system first and foremost, merely cogs in the machine, to be spit out at the other end like so many widgets, that I do not support corporate-style reform and reliance on data first and foremost. Show me a school system with standardized children, and then we'll talk about standardized metrics.
I am just about ready to take my children OUT of a highly-regarded school system precisely because their education has become less about learning and more about test scores - and I'm hardly the only one, even in my school system. One other question: is there something about collaboration that means a school system that works with it will necessarily be a bad or weak one? Because your knee-jerk response to that quote of Ms. Ravitch's was pretty strong.
Sorry Deb if my statement made you think I was overestimating you, because my estimation could hardly be called "over". It just makes me wonder if the people who really despise metrics are so rare that SD has to import opinions from 2000 miles away.
Personally I can't think of anything in the universe that can't be measured. If you can't get the wheels in your noggin spinning up fast enough to see the value in measuring school performance at all levels then I pity you.
It is interesting that you quote Einstein, a man who was neither impressed by or impressed with the public school mediocrity and the way public schools fail the best brains.
The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.
Ah, yes, as if I have been summoned to this post by The Invisible Hands Of The Interwebz. I came across it while Googling something else entirely, actually. But it's nice to be over-estimated once in a while. I'll take it as a compliment to be called "the Maryland based anti-metric activist," if it makes you happy to call me that. *grin* Oh, and the Einstein quote? I can count a lot of things that make a child's life - and education - better that can't be measured with traditional metrics. If you can't, then I pity you for the joyless world which you must inhabit. Einstein himself did not fit the mold of "Good Public School Student;" I have a hard time imagining that he would take offense at my use of his quote.
Deb, are you the Maryland based anti-metric activist? If so I have to wonder has SDUSD gotten so bad it can't find local cheerleaders and has to get them from 2000 miles away?
And enough with Einstein already, he wasn't championing mediocrity in public schools when he said that, and I am sure he would not want his words used as pro union anti kid propaganda.