Friday, January 9, 2009

Open processes/ sharing data

Once again, some thought-provoking insights from Mark Rauterkus (blog):


Scrub your speech of these phrases, Mr. Roosevelt and PPS Administrators
Posted by Mark Rauterkus at 7:03 AM

The Tribune Review has the expression in the paper again today, "We looked at the data, ..."

Wave the red flags. Time out. Wash your mouth out with soap.Last night I was at another meeting in the east end hosted by the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp. brass. Three school administrators were given the curtesy of an extended introduction and speaking time and I heard these same phrases again. The PPS (Pgh Public Schools) Administrator said, "We want to bring the numbers to the table." She was convinced of a certain course of action because she was privileged to have seen the numbers, the data, the research. She was hopeful that the numbers could be shared with others who are "at the table." Then, once their facts were spilled, the table would be on-board and see the light.

A third verse of the same theme boils down to an evaluation of the work and outcome suggestions of a special community task force. About 30 members of the public were hand-picked, names still not released to the public, for guidance. These folks formed a task force to make a suggestion as to where to put the long-term home of the district's I.B. program. The I.B. program had been harbored within Schenley High School, which was dismantled last year.
The data that the I.B. long-term site selection task force was able to wrestle with has not been released. Who was on the task force wasn't released yet. And the work product, the meeting minutes, the in-depth decision justifications and any hint of financial impacts -- all are still under wraps.

I don't want the data to be revealed to those who are 'at the table.' I want it to be revealed to everyone everywhere. I don't want to hear how the district administrators have access to findings and raw performance measures yet the people who pay for the schools do not.Often, those numbers are not released because they are embarrassing. Frankly, what is more embarrassing is trying to make fixes to the district while having heads in the sand.

The behaviors we've come to expect within the schools and within the planning process is atrocious. It is unforgivable that the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation has to ask for the results of a community task force that includes more depth than what is read in the Post-Gazette. The questions should not even need to be asked. The insights and details should have been posted to the web all along. Agendas, minutes, attendance at meetings, presentations, facts, figures, costs, projections, historical graduation rates, numbers of certified teachers, costs of additional faculty education, timelines for training, space figures at schools, busing costs, new renovation costs, re-sale projections, etc., etc., etc.I'm sure most of this has been thought of by someone. Well, I'm not sure, but I give them the benefit of the doubt. I want to see it. And, I want everyone to see everything.

We don't know how many kids went to classes at the ALAs (Accelerated Learning Academy) as the school year started two to three weeks before the other schools. What was the August 1st attendance in 2008 and 2007? Now we hear the school year at the ALAs is going to shorten. Why? How successful has it been so far?I don't need to know WHO was in class. I need to know how many were there, how many were to be there, and for teachers too. And, reports as to the effectiveness of these extra school days, by date, needs to be a measure that is revealed.

These few examples are only the tip of the iceberg. How much is paid each year to Microsoft for software licenses? How much is going to be paid for proprietary licenses with the Science and Technology Jr./Sr. High? How much will be saved by using OpenOffice.org and Linux? Who was on the High School Reform Task Force? Where was that group's work product. All of that went out the window by they way when the asbestos excuse was found at Schenley. A group had meetings for nearly two years and nothing of those meetings was able to be release nor implemented. What about the budget for the Pittsburgh Promise?I'm not asking for new audits. I'm asking for an open process.

And, the way that is done in our modern time is with the internet. It goes deeper than a few PowerPoint slides as well.Some months ago I spoke to this same theme with the school board when I heard that the PARENT DASHBOARD system was being scratched. This had been a valuable tool for some parents with some teachers for some kids as they could see homework assignments and class attendence -- nearly real time. But, the district pulled the plug on that window into the schools. (Go figure.) Rather, a new, beefy, whiz bang system, developed in-house, was being rolled out. It would be able to grade tests and measure classroom, school, grade and district results -- more than just an individual score. It was in beta testing and was fast as lightening -- and those on the school board were prohibited from seeing it. They were to authorize it, but they were not able to evaluate it.The elected school board members were kept in the dark. And, by-and-large, they were okay with that. It is worse than being a back-seat driver -- as they were being stuffed in the trunk. Meanwhile, the citizens are not even in the car. We're getting out of the way, happy it doesn't mow down our kids as they walk to and from school. I don't want to hear, ever again, about the data that the district sees that is hidden from what anyone anywhere else can see.
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10 comments:

Questioner said...

What data was it that the PPS administrator at the Bloomfield meeeting was talking about?

PPSparent said...

Speaking of data, here's an interesting excerpt about test scores and achievement gaps (at least scroll to compare the recent years chart to the previous years chart)

PPSparent said...

Uhhhh, here's the link!

http://schoolsmatter.blogspot.com/2009/01/remember-achievement-gap.html

Mark Rauterkus said...

Some data was used by the task force of community folks to reach the decision to move the I.B. Program's long-term home to Peabody. That is important data.

Size of buildings.
Cost of renovations.
Cost per kid.
Numbers of kids.

More than 2 buildings were explored.

This is like we are on a quests. But, we've never given any maps.

When you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.

But, some know where we want to go. And, some have been out and about and have a clue as to what's there -- and what isn't.

But nobody brings back any maps! And, if they do, they are not contrasted and compared to the maps we've already got.

Come square with the data, the landscape, the blasted maps.

Thanks for the link.

IronMan said...

I find commentaries like those of Mr.Rauterkus fascinating. I would wonder if upon hearing the news that Roosevelt was to be named the new superintendent of PPS, individuals like he lauded or derided the choice. After all, what would one expect from Roosevelt and his administration? Here is a man whose very background was corporate and has run this district in the same fashion. Is it any surprise that one of his top lieutenants has the sole responsibility of collecting data and continually pushes for more? Is it any wonder that our students are tested ad infinitum to gather this data? Is it any wonder that the outrageously out of touch curricula that is present in every area of PPS academia these days has been borne out of data assessment?
Everything that has come from this leadership has been indicative of a corporate approach. Is anyone surprised?
Pittsburgh Public Schools has become a simple matter of teaching to the test and teaching to gain a better public image via PSSA scores the like.
It's not education. It's not teaching. It's not learning.
Welcome to the new era of PPS. After all...you asked for it.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Fascinating.

Well, when Mr.Roosevelt came to town I made a few statements. First of all, I was dead set against the early removal of Dr. Thompson. The PPS paid him a lot of money to NOT do his job. The PPS broke his contract and paid dearly for it. I say, we had a leader of the schools. Pay him until his contract ends. Then, if you want to break -- make it at the end of the contract. So, I hate to see people paid for not doing any work for that payment.

Then cam Dr. S -- and she was paid dearly, perhaps 10-times more, than what it cost to get of out the Dr. T contract. She went to US Virgin Isl for a while, I think.

I didn't push for the like of Mark Roosevelt in Pgh. And, upon his arrival, I have it on good sources that he wasn't too fond of me -- saying dispariging remarks about me -- a parent and one with an online life -- at staff meeting(s).

Furthermore, I've got one more point to make about the premise of the "Roosevelt is corporate." Frankly, I think Mr. Roosevelt has a bigger background from being in the Mass State House. He was a politician -- not a corporate wonk. He is a blue blooded Democrat, sorta a cross between Al Gore and John Kerry, Dem.

By and large, the "corporate" knock is very "closed" and "top down" in its theme. That's not what public schools should be built upon. So, I sorta see what you are saying by using the label of 'corporate.' But really, isn't Mark Roosevelt very like Dan Onorato, corporate D, in style and substance?

When Mr. Roosevelt came, I had high hopes that he'd see Pittsburgh's problems as I do. My hopes have been dashed, mostly. #1 issue for new superintendent was the PPS Board. I feel that the computer programming statement, 'garbage in -> garbage out,' fits. We have garbage in our political landscape, hence we have board members that are not the best suited for fixing the troubles of PPS.

An overhaul of the election process of PPS Board Members is most welcomed, IMNSHO. The board, as it is, is a hinderance. Hence, a hassle of leadership from the administation is tossed for a loop.

The board is not smart enough to follow, nor lead, nor manage, nor offer keen oversight.

But, just to be clearn, I want an elected board. I do NOT want appointed board members. I want more democracy, not less. I want more accountability, not less.

Anonymous said...

Mark, thanks for the clarification as to your thoughts. There is an old adage that perception is reality. Some of the perception that was evident at the time of Roosevelt's hiring was the associated glee that comes to local folks when a "name" entity decides to come to our little piece of sunshine. Never mind the fact that the other two candidates for the superintendent position had legitimate backgrounds in the classroom or within the educational community, someone named Roosevelt was going to be in charge. I imagine that numerous residents had hot flashes.
As you point out, Roosevelt is more politician than corporate boss and yet, his methodology has eschewed the need for grassroots, teacher-based input in favor of data, data and more data. To Roosevelt and those around him, the numbers don't lie and getting them in line with what is deemed "acceptable" trumps understanding of just who the urban student is, where he comes from, the factors in his success or failure, how he learns, what influences him and how we can enter into that equation.
Just let me see the numbers.
Again...PPS teachers might as well call themselves test preparers. We are teaching towards the PSSA, towards the 4Sights, towards myriad other forms of tests.
We are building curricula that numbs the mind. We are keeping our teachers' feet to the fire in telling them we have devised a "canned" curriculum to be used as written on a daily basis. There is little to no room for personal touch---and it's all based upon the perceptions of those within Roosevelt's inner circle of number crunchers.

We forgot that students are people first and foremost. We might as well be conducting distance learning education.

There's a reason the attendance/enrollment is down, and it's not because that residents stopped having babies. There's a reason for people leaving the city or for people who decide to enroll their children in private schools. There's a reason that large portions of our comprehensive schools are now comprised of large percentages of learning disabled kids and kids who are very poor.

And Mark, this transcends the democrat/republican debate. It's galling to note what has taken place in this district, and it's sickening to realize that there are board members who support this downward spiral.

Questioner said...

We can't even be sure the numbers are correct when we keep hearing stories of for example extra time being given for tests. It's easy to dismiss these concerns as "just rumors," but now that tests have such high stakes why not treat them as high stake tests like the SAT and adopt similar procedures? Otherwise the results are the data equivalent of play money.

justaparent said...

Re: Questioner's "extra time for tests..."

IEP students are permitted to ask for extra time on the PSSA and there are very strict rules to follow if extra time is given. It used to be Tina Still who was the PPS authority on the full set of rules. I do not know what rules exist for Benchmarks and 4Sight, etc.

Questioner said...

Yes but who is in the room at testing time to monitor the proctor?