Monday April 21, 2014
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No one who is qualified that desires to take the risk with this Board, or who has not been spurned by this Board.
It's interesting you should ask. The Common Core Standards, or in Arizona what is called the College and Career Readiness Standards do not convey HOW districts, schools and teachers should get the kids to meet the standards. In other words - instruction. What has happened is educational theorists have seized the opportunity to inject their, in many cases "fluffy" and inefficient approaches to teaching. Kind of like "new math" of the sixties or "whole language" of the eighties. Gullible educators then bought these methods, often hook, line and sinker. In addition, many have neglected to start with the standards and build backwards to determine individual skills that must be taught and assessed for learning in the most efficient manner. As a consequence, often times, solid, excellent veteran teachers who know how to teach are often accused of being, "old school" and out of date. New Wave educators will tell watch them teach and say, "That's not common core. That's not common core." In reality, if the goal is to get kids to those standards, the skills those teachers are teaching are in the skill set the kids need. Tragic! I think this is referred to as "Throwing the baby out with the bathwater. As well, the Common Core Standards also end up taking the blame, but once again, Common Core does not recommend instruction. That is left up to the local district and educators.
I will try to give a thumbnail sketch. In eduction, "core" traditionally, refers to "core subjects". Usually English, Math, Science and History/Social Studies. The idea being that these subjects encompass the information and concepts students will need to be competent citizens as well as members of the work force. More recently the definition and perception of "core" in education has changed. It still encompasses core subjects, but more specifically refers to a set of standards that define what students must be able to do by such and such grade level to show they are competent. A 5th grade standard in reading in the are of Reading Level and Text Complexity would be: "By the end of the year, read an comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 4-5 text complexity band independently and proficiently." Embedded in this standard are many skills that students must learn in order to reach this reading standard. It is up to the district and teachers to essentially work backward from this standard to the 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, K, preK standards to determine the skills to be taught, then teach and assess those skills to ensure that by the time the student reaches the 5th grade they have the skills to reach the standard.
This is an important issue. The Board President is quoted in regard to finding an interim superintendent, "I think it's free"? It has been several weeks since the original vote to release Mr. Hitchcock. I expect statements with a little more surety.
In reality, the ASBA does not just keep a pool of interim superintendents on staff. What they do have, is access to some resources such as Educational Services Inc. (ESI): https://educationalservicesinc.com who can contact retired Superintendents and invite them to apply. As well, they (ASBA) will post on their website: http://www.azsba.org/jobs/ There is also a pretty strong informal network of administrators out there so the word gets around pretty quickly.
My hope would be that a good experienced hand is out there and will take the challenge on. On the other hand, my hope would be that this board and particularly the incoming Board President can listen and act prudently.
Along about 1994 or '95 the PUSD School Board paid Dr. Donna Cranswick, then Superintendent of the Creighton District, $6000 (I believe) to do a study and present to the Board the reasoning behind changing from a 7-8 (Junior HIgh) to a 6-7-8 (middle School) model. At that time, the Middle School concept was all the rage around the country. It was to use a phrase, "The latest silver bullet." However, one of the complications associated with the model was (and is) that the staffing to run it properly is very costly. Consequently, the true model with pods and scheduling, counseling etc. etc. was unsustainable. Google it and you will find that a common complaint was, "Well we really didn't have the funding to implement a 'true' middle school model."
Fast forward to about 2002 in Payson. The subject of K-2, 3-5, 6-7-8 comes up. At the time I was an elementary principal. Our school had mentored six failing elementary schools around the state. Four of the six were in districts that had embraced a K-2, 3-5, 6-7-8 model. When we talked to teachers we found that in every case, the k-2 had embraced a certain instructional approach in reading while the 3-5 which was geographically separated had adopted another - and they were at odds. The result was, at time that was absolutely critical in terms of continuity for learning, students changed schools and the schools had different instructional approaches. Not only did the number of changes increase K-8 but the instruction changed, the geographical site changed and the support staff for the students and parents as well! This had a negative impact. Lo and behold, PUSD adopts the K-2, 3-5 school model in 2011!
In the meantime, the K-8 model provides continuity of instructional and support services through every critical period in a child's development. It also provides opportunities for peer mentoring, in class tutoring and modeling. In a town like Payson which happens to be surrounded by two K-8's in Pine and Tonto Basin, it also creates an instant little interscholastic league of five schools. Look in the literature as I did in 2002 when K-2, 3-4-5 was first mentioned and you will find plenty about academic and social benefits of a K-8 model. You will find almost nothing regarding K-2, 3-5.
Just some thoughts and a challenge for people to do a literature search.
I am so thrilled for Coach Zach Lee, his staff and his kids. I am so blessed that Payson wrestling is successful. Go Payson Wrestling! If I could add one thing, it would be this, "Boys, remember the type of intensity and you are displaying in the room. Apply it to your future endeavors and pursuits. And when you coaches are tough on you and cut you no slack - Listen! Someday you will thank them for it."
Board Input Part 3
• Advanced Placement Courses: Provide courses and programming that will truly prepare students for competition. This costs money, particularly at the high school level. I have often made this statement to parents, “Colleges and scholarship committees look at a student according to the following order of priority: 1) ACT or SAT scores, 2) Rigorous Classes defined by Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and college courses in high school, 3) GPA, 4) Community service and student leadership, 5) Extra-curricular participation. Somewhere, way down the line, is the consideration of whether or not a child is identified as ‘gifted.’ However, if a student is “gifted” but does not have the numbers on the first five, they are severely handicapped.”
• Extra-curricular: Invest in strong extra-curricular programs and teams with strong head coaches and an emphasis on coaches as instructional staff on the site. Whether some choose to believe it, truth is that high participation and success in athletics and clubs adds to a positive climate and culture of hard work and success in the classroom. Coaches, based on the campus are in a position to recruit students to teams and clubs while also holding them accountable for behavior and academic success on a day- to-day basis.
Challenge #4: Tracking and Owning Understandable Data
Utilize expertise to develop a set of annual data points for the district. These data points must be simple; easily understood by the Board and the public. They must be kept longitudinally and used to set goals. These data points must be used to celebrate, and used for the Board to self-evaluate. Publicize the data. Articulate the data and goals. Reiterate the data and goals. Create pride around growth and achieving the goals.
In closing, the public is aware that a number of egregious mistakes have been made. Certainly paying out $58,000 for someone to leave halfway through the year, then additionally posting, hiring and paying for an interim Superintendent ranks high. Public perception is, ALL of you support this action fully because you voted for it unanimously before the public. At some point however, we would like to stand behind you and support you in rectifying and addressing mistakes and raising the quality of academic opportunities for our students. We must, must, must ensure that all of our students are fully prepared to develop and pursue their life long goals. Thank you.
Board input Part 2
Challenge #2: Long Term Thinking to Create Opportunities
Begin making decisions with the long-term academic and vocational preparation of students as the highest priority as opposed to vendetta and/or favoritism. Our students face a highly competitive market, vocationally and academically. As an example, my son will be graduating with a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering this May. Seven thousand students began in engineering at ASU. Eighteen hundred will graduate. He was fortunate to have had an excellent and very traditional elementary school education right here at Payson Elementary. While he attended RCMS was allowed to take Algebra 1 and Geometry at the high school. At Payson High School he was able to complete seven core Advanced Placement courses by the end of his senior year. When he reached ASU, he still met many students who were better prepared. Let’s be honest. Right now, our student’s opportunities are limited. We are not competitive. I know one of you has a child in our system, who has not been provided the same opportunities as my own children. As a constituent, I desire that our current students have the same opportunities my children had at PUSD. In fact, my desire is that they have more opportunities than my own.
Challenge #3: Direct Impact on the Student
Earn back your credibility with the public by making solid, financial decisions with a long view (as in #2), while directly and positively impacting the fundamental point of contact between an outstanding teacher and student and outstanding staff and student. In the realm of maintenance and operations, this involves many areas. I would like to point out some possible priorities for your consideration:
• Teachers: The quality of the teachers you are able to attract and the quality of teachers you retain. You will not create an outstanding teacher from an individual with low basic skills and abilities. Major league scouts find the right people with the right stuff and do everything they can to obtain their services. Then they make them better. Find the great teachers, do what it takes to get them – and keep them.
• Principals: You must hire site leaders who are experienced in assessment, data and academic disciplines, while equally adept at being highly mobile, visible and connecting with students and staff on a daily basis. Recent research by WestEd has elucidated and corroborated that the impact of a climate and culture of high expectations is as critical as assessment and response to data. The bottom line is, if students are not inspired and motivated to give their best effort, assessment and data are not reliable and therefore ineffective. Find the great site leaders who are sold out to their students and faculty, who inspire their students and faculty – and keep them.
I spoke to them at their public meeting Monday night. This is what I said in two or three posts. Whatever it takes here:
Input to the Payson Unified School District Governing Board
December 9, 2013
Roy and Sylvia Sandoval
Madam President, and members of the Board: good evening. My name is Roy Sandoval. I have lived in Payson for forty-one years. My wife Sylvia and I matriculated from Payson Unified Schools, our three children as well. I should add that Sylvia’s father, Dr. Watson Lacy served on the PUSD Board, and was Board President in the early 70’s. We were part of the Payson Unified School District and served as committed educators for twenty-five and twenty-three years respectively. Obviously, we have history and a long-term interest here. Payson is our home.
Over the last several years, we have become increasingly concerned relative to district instability, poor decision-making, lack of financial planning, low staff morale and fewer academic opportunities for students attending PUSD. Consequently, I am proposing some challenges to the Board as individuals and as a collective entity.
Challenge #1: Individual Board Member Accountability
Meaningful and positive change begins when each board member accepts responsibility for the current state of the district. In other words, “I as a board member made a mistake; in fact ‘mistakes.’ However I am committed to rectifying those mistakes and improving my future decision making process and decisions on behalf of our students and the community.” I understand and have experienced legal advice from attorneys. I am familiar with the Board training, “Debate all you like behind close doors, but when you leave executive session, it should be a 5-0 vote before the public.” I pose the question, “What type of governing body operates with a consistently unanimous vote?” The answer is totalitarian, certainly not democracy. I do not intend to understate the importance of unity. However, a false front over time results in dire consequences. It causes a Superintendent to search position listings when a 4-1 vote occurs, then, apply vigorously if a 3-2 vote occurs. It empowers a single board member to create a split vote, with the knowledge that a consistent split, will in short order, run a superintendent off. Ultimately, it produces instability. The “unanimous concept” while creating the illusion of a united board, in reality removes individual accountability by allowing board members to remain concealed behind the vale of executive session and “the board” as an entity.
Arizona Board of Regents represents all of the colleges in Arizona, not just ASU. Most likely it considers those who leave to attend college out of Arizona as well.
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