Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Proficiency gap greater than expected

From the NYT, the proficency gap between black and white students is greater than expected:


The article discusses a new report to be released by the Council of the Great City Schools showing that black males not eligible for free/reduced lunch "are doing no better than white males who are poor."

The article notes that the report discusses the importance of early childhood parenting practices but not reforms such as "closing failing schools, offering charter schools as alternatives and raising the quality of teachers." The executive director of the council explains that there is "not a lot of research indicating that these [reform] strategies produce better results."


Questioner said...

It's hard to imagine that raising the quality of teachers wouldn't lead to better results- but if the quality of teaching isn't the main source of the problem then raising the quality of teaching may not resolve the problem as much as hoped. Or maybe reliable methods for raising the quality of teaching haven't been developed or proven yet.

Anonymous said...

Or maybe if you take all the teachers from a mostly middle class high school and move them into a school in a high poverty neighborhood, the scores wouldn't change anyway. Do you really believe that "failing schools" are just overflowing with bad teachers? And that "successful schools" just happened to luck out in the hiring process and filled themselves up with exceptional instructors?

Please. Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

Define raising the quality of teachers.

Questioner said...

To get an exact definition of what the Council of Great Schools means by "raising the quality of teaching," it will probably be necessary to ask them. Unless there is a definition in the report expected to come out next week.

Wounded said...

Here we go again, it's the teacher's fault (that's what "raising the quality of teachers" really means).

In my decades of teaching, I have come across only two bad teachers, two teachers that I wouldn't want teaching my own kids. That's two out of the hundreds of teachers I've interacted with over the years! Two!

So why are teachers blamed? Because it's soooooo easy to do so! Much easier than confronting classroom discipline problems, or insanely out of touch administrators, or apathetic parents.

What? We're losing the war? It must be the fault of the front-line soldiers! Quick, go out shoot a couple of them!

Sorry for the rant...

Questioner said...

PG editorial on this report:


Anonymous said...

Yes, these statistics are "stark" ____ indicating a gap of about 30%. Yet in a number of PPS schools the gap is even wider. The PPS District-wide Achievement Gap is 39% _____ and a review of individual schools reveals an even wider gap in the following schools.

At Allderdice the gap is 44% in Reading and 47% in Math. At Colfax the Gap in Reading is 41% with Math at a 43% gap. Frick is a 40% Gap in Reading and 33% in Math. Minadeo 40% gap in reading and 31% in math. Monetssori has a 46% gap in Reading and a 34% gap in Math. Other schools with gaps of 30% or more are Brashear, Southbrook, Mifflin, Perry, Linden, and Liberty.

Many of these school have a gap that has significantly widened since last year.

Parents and Communities must demand much more progress in eliminating these egregious achievement gaps between black and white students.

Anonymous said...

Yes, maybe parents and communities should start holding these people accountable for the product coming IN to the schools as opposed to the product coming OUT of the schools.

Maybe this ridiculous notion that teachers are responsible for the crumbling infrastructure of our poorer neighborhoods will stop. Maybe people will look around and say, hey, maybe these areas ARE really terrible places and maybe the politicians SHOULD do a little more in the way of creating more responsibility among residents instead of just throwing money at them and people in jail...maybe.

Because, maybe, just maybe, the rest of us are sick of hearing about it and sick of hearing how it's our fault instead of the people who are actually causing the problems.

Anonymous said...

The responsibility of educators is to educate.
"Parents are sending the best kids they have," as they say. Educators who find this an impossible task should transfer to schools where the kids meet their qualifications. There are urban schools where the demographics are not as good as Pittsburgh yet the educators who are moving academic achievement into the 85th and 90th percentiles.

If it is being done in other places, why can't PPS rise to the same challenge?

Anonymous said...

Poster says: "There are urban schools where the demographics are not as good as Pittsburgh yet the educators who are moving academic achievement into the 85th and 90th percentiles.

If it is being done in other places, why can't PPS rise to the same challenge?"

There are schools that are doing it, yes, there are not any districts doing that, to the best of my knowledge. And I don't include urban charters in there, either, since they really can hand-pick, even if they say they don't.

If you have evidence of an entire urban district that's succeeding (and not based on something like "graduation rates" which are very easily "fixed") please, please post about it here.

Anonymous said...

Schools make up Districts, thus, if any of our schools in the most urban of areas (Peabody, Oliver, Westinghouse, Langley, Perry) which surpass the comparative demographics cited in the previous post can achieve at very high academic standards what reason is there in Pittsburgh that at least one of our schools cannot show improvement. Currently, our District/Schools are declining in achievement compared to 25 other districts/schools in PA that have worse demographics. While these schools had lower achievement rates that Pittsburgh 8 -10 years ago they have shown at least 20% more improvement that PPS.

And YES there are urban schools in cities such as Houston, Chicago, Baltimore, Austin and more that put PPS to shame by advancing achievement from 20% to 90% over five years. Do the research____as opposed to looking for excuses and rationales that do not hold any weight.

Questioner said...

This doesn't sound like a 90% success rate in Chicago public schools:


And hasn't it been reported recently that the Chicago strategy of closing low performing schools did not work? Where can we find evidence of 90% math and reading proficiency in Chicago public schools?

Anonymous said...

Please excuse the typos in the previous post; however, I think you get the 'gist." Over the past three years, Dr. Jerome Taylor has invited the Principals to share their successes in seminars here in Pittsburgh and OPEN to the Public.

In October, the Principal from Baltimore presented on a Thursday night and the again in PPS on Friday afternoon. 30 of PPS principals were sent invitations via Dr. Lane's office. The presentation was at Weil and the Weil Principal was the ONLY principal who attended. The Presenting Principal was phenomenal, a true leader, a model for what it takes to take a school from 20% to 90%.

Questioner said...

So what was the secret, and have the other Baltimore schools picked up on it so that 90% of the students in the district as a whole are proficient?

Anonymous said...

We are talking about schools, school leaders, principals who are showing the way_____proving that it can be done. Believe it or not there are urban schools in the cities mentioned including Chicago who are defying the odds.

Why would we not look to them to see what might be learned, since there is NOT a single such school in PPS despite the monies expended, the consultants hired, the time and resources extended (ALAs) etc. that has shown even minimal improvement in academic achievement to say nothing of reaching 90% our schools cannot even reach 40%.

Anonymous said...

Yes, do the research on improvement in Baltimore.

Anonymous said...

The responses in this blog speak for themselves ____
often demonstrating why Pittsburgh schools has not been successful.

Anonymous said...

The responses in this blog speak for themselves
____often demonstrating why Pittsburgh schools have not been successful.

Questioner said...

No one is disputing that there are schools that have reached a high rate of proficiency. The question (10:27) was, whether there is any urban DISTRICT in the country that has achieved a 90% proficiency rate. Why has the high level of achievement mentioned at a particular Baltimore school not been replicated across the Baltimore district?

Anonymous said...

Switching the original question and research does not change the response which I think was clear to those who are following. If not, it is an exercise in futility. You will find what you seek.

Additionally, the response to the repeated question was:
"Yes, do the research on Baltimore schools."

Hopefully, PPS will find leaders with similar qualities.

Questioner said...

The big question, not just on this blog but across the country, is whether there are urban districts reaching proficiency levels of 80%, 90% or more.

Links to research showing DISTRICTS at 90% proficiency would be MUCH appreciated!

Anonymous said...

WHY is it so difficult to accept that many urban SCHOOLS with less favorable demographics are achieving at 85-90% ______more than 40% beyond

Provide a DISTRICT with a student population comparable to Pittsburgh and we will make the comparison_____I am sure you realize that few DISTRICTS have comparable demographics.

A fair comparison can be made with SCHOOLS___
can you acknowledge that point?

If not, Questioner, what is your purpose here?

Questioner said...

For the last time, no one doubts that there are urban schools with difficult demographics that are achieving at high levels. The question (10:27), however, is whether there are urban DISTRICTS with difficult demographics that are achieving at the 85th and 90th percentiles.

Anonymous said...

Or even urban districts achieving at a 75-80% rate.

Individual schools succeed because of stellar individual leaders. They do not succeed because of scripted curriculums or flavor of the month ideas (6-12, boy/girl, etc.).

However, there just aren't that many of them that aren't either exclusionary (entrance exams, magnet programs that actually do kick kids out, etc.)

Look at NYC -- many years of the same types of reforms, years of hype similar to ours about how well this was all working based on scores...even though scores weren't that great. And then, the finding that scores had basically been cooked and when you looked at the real numbers, it was a lot of change for...no results.

Saying that no one has solved this problem beyond the school level doesn't say it can't be done, just that you can't say that we know how it will get done. We only know that what we've been doing isn't working. And so far, the reaction of the administration has been to do the same thing, only harder.

Wounded said...

To Anonymous 9:52

You said: The responsibility of educators is to educate.
"Parents are sending the best kids they have," as they say.

And you are absolutely correct! No teacher in PPS or anywhere else would disagree with you there.

But please understand there is more to it than that.

Let me just give you one example. A number of years back I taught a lower-level math class of 25 students.

I had one student with behavior issues who simply wandered around my classroom (as he did in every other class) as I was teaching. Another student just liked to talk to her friends in every class, and so she did.

It was a real struggle to keep those students from interfering with the learning of others. The administration kept telling me to call home. That was useless.

On any given day, maybe 15 of my 25 students were in school. Only 11 even showed up to take the final exam.

This is, trust me, not an unusual story in PPS.

There's not much I could have done here to raise scores. I followed the board curriculum, and I tried to be as creative as possible.

If I went to greener pastures, as you suggested, I doubt very much that my replacement would fare much better.

See what I mean?

Anonymous said...

Read this article by Tony Norman. Even though the title doesn't let readers know it, the lack of valuing education is addressed as well as the achievement gap. I think it is a good article. Plus, the rapper he is talking about graduated from a PPS!


Anonymous said...

To Anon 9:55:

I hear you. There are some students who challenge___but calling homes is not a solution___a way must be found to reach each student (in the classroom) ____and that is not always an easy task_____again, a" whatever takes" approach can come closer than often acknowledged.

To become successful with the most "difficult" students is the challenge____but to meet that challenge is the ultimate REWARD for the teacher.

Questioner said...

Specifics would help. Using a "whatver it takes" approach, what should the teacher do with the student with behavior issues who is continually wondering about the class, presumably refusing to pay attention while wandering?

Questioner said...

Because it is true that one approach may not work for every student, about 3 or 4 options would be helpful.

Anonymous said...

Correct______that's is exactly why its" whatever it takes." There are as many strategies that work as there are kids who challenge. You'd have to be a presence in the situation, classroom, time and place to be able to make cogent suggestions. The ability to take a "whatever it takes" approach depends on truly coming to know every student and what makes him/her tick____drawing on true caring, intuition and philosophy___to strike the right chord with a kid. But, it can be done with every student!

Anonymous said...

Contrary to popular belief, particularly in PPS, one size will never fit all.

Questioner said...

So let's look at a program like the Harlem Children's Zone. Geoffrey Canada certainly seems like a "whatever it takes" guy. But, a good number of HCZ students are still not learning. Could it be that figuring out whatever it takes might take him (and us) a while- and that in the meantime, the problem is not an unwillingness to do whatever it takes, but a lack of knowledge of what it takes?

Also looking at HCZ- could it be that PART of whatever it takes is encouraging greater responsibility on the part of both parents and students? Is there a way, without blaming parents, and without blaming students, and withoug blaming teachers, to hold everyone accountable?

Anonymous said...

And while the teacher is trying different chords to find the right one for that child, what happens to the other children in the classroom?

At a certain point as a parent and as a former student, one becomes resentful that the most time and effort and thought seems to be directed at the children who don't seem to want to learn (and yes, I believe that all children really do want to learn).

That means that the 1-8 kids per class that don't yet know how to learn in that setting are hijacking the learning of those kids who do want to learn.

What is the district/school/teacher's duty to those children? When do they receive as much personalized attention, or even small group attention?

I wish this district would stop trying to teach everyone to read in kindergarten and instead concentrate on creating students and learners. Create classrooms where the emphasis is on empathy, respect, listening, respectful interactions with peers.

Children should be engaging in PLAY in kindergarten with teachers helping them learn how to do that in a respectful way. Stories should be read aloud and acted out and pictures painted, etc.

The way to have kids who can work in groups, who can demonstrate self-control and impulse control is to teach it -- through age-appropriate activities. Without those attributes, they will never succeed, no matter how "rigorous" the curriculum.

Instead, kindergarteners are given 4+ page multiple choice tests! It's insane, honestly.

Anonymous said...

Countering Questioner's often specious arguments is too frequently counterproductive____HCZ is only one of many examples.

I would ask however, how many (% or other) are as you state, "not learning" with Geoffrey Canada (and associates)?

And what is your source for that "good number" that you reference?

Questioner said...

Re: HCZ: "But most of the seventh graders, now starting their third year in the school, are still struggling. Just 15 percent passed the 2010 state English test..."

From the NYT article, "Lauded Harlem schools have their own problems" at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/13/education/13harlem.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Why would it not be valid to hypothesize that figuring out whatever it takes might take him (and us) a while, ant that there may at the present time be a lack of adequate knowledge of what it takes?

Anonymous said...

Not Questioner, but:

The school,...should have had a senior class by now, but the batch of students that started then, as sixth graders, was dismissed by the board en masse before reaching the ninth grade after it judged the students’ performance too weak to found a high school on. Mr. Canada called the dismissal “a tragedy.”


But most of the seventh graders, now starting their third year in the school, are still struggling. Just 15 percent passed the 2010 state English test, a number that Mr. Canada said was “unacceptably low” but not out of line with the school’s experience in lifting student performance over time.

from: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/13/education/13harlem.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&hpw

Or info is available on KIPP and its attrition rates too:

"We found that students who remained at KIPP had higher incoming scores in both reading and mathematics than did their peers who entered KIPP in fifth grade but exited before completing the program (see Exhibit 2-5). We also considered the question from another perspective: Are students with lower scores more likely to exit KIPP? We used fall fifth-grade SAT10 scores to predict those exiting KIPP and found that the probability of a student’s leaving KIPP before completing eighth grade is higher for those with lower entering scores (pp. 15-16)."

This link has a link to the PDF of the KIPP study: http://www.schoolsmatter.info/2010/11/jays-missing-footnote-for-todays-kipp.html

Questioner said...

If teachers of low-performing students are constantly told that they must not be doing whatever it takes, without an understanding that we are still working on determining exactly what it does take, teachers may hesitate to accept these positions (ideally everyone is up for the challenge no matter what the consequences to their own career and ability to make a leaving, but teachers have families to support too).