Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saga of a top 5 high school
as rated by
US News & World Report

The solution of how to improve schools involves better decision making by those running the schools or perhaps changing the decision making structure.

See this letter by Jim Milgrim about a top 5 school:

By far the most interesting school on the list is #3, Pacific Collegiate, which was #2 last year. This school, in Santa Cruz, as is the case with all charters in California, is an open admission school. Santa Cruz is not known for its school system. They tend to be fuzzy, and the cost to the two teachers from Santa Cruz that helped me and Wu with the California Math Framework was to be forced out of their jobs. As a consequence, as you might imagine, the student tend to not be very well prepared for advanced work.

The school had been started by Reed Hastings, but he has not been directly involved for a long time. And initially it wasn't that successful. Then, about 8 or 9 years back they hired Jan Keating as the principal/directore ss. She, in turn, took the perspective that teachers who knew what they were talking about were far more important than teachers with a certificate. So she started hiring subject matter Ph.D's. Some had been retired, others ????, but she got them.

From that point on she had to spend a lot of her time finding ways to keep them, not because they wanted to leave, but because,
being Ph.D's, they refused to jump through Calif.'s certification hoops. And the school started showing results amazingly fast. Within two years they were #1 or #2 overall in Calif. on the state tests.

Of course, interestingly, once the school reached that level, political types on the school board saw that the director position was a valuable commodity, so Jan, more or less totally oblivious to these things, had to start fighting for her position. She lasted another two years before she finally resigned. She's now the director of EPGY's virtual high school.


PCS--A School that Challenges and Rewards:
Pacific Collegiate School ’s mission is to provide exemplary, standards- based college preparatory and fine arts education for public middle and high school students of Santa Cruz County and bordering areas. Our vision is to offer any student the same quality of education offered by the most academically distinguished schools in California . Our graduates will be prepared to enter and thrive at the world’s finest colleges and universities.

In addition to a core college preparatory curriculum, Pacific Collegiate School will emphasize international, cross-cultural, and technological education in order to prepare graduates for life in the 21st Century. Pacific Collegiate students will be introduced to the rich variety of world cultures and become fluent in at least one foreign language. They will become proficient in the basic information technologies essential for cultural literacy in the 21st Century.

Founded in 1999, Pacific Collegiate School is a college preparatory public charter school for grades 7-12 located in Santa Cruz, California, and accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Due to our rigorous graduation requirements, we attract a highly motivated group of students who flourish in the school's academically challenging environment.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like a piece of sarcasm, is this seriously a good school or not. In your opinion?

dan dempsey said...

The Pacific Collegiate Charter is a top college prep school. Although in California all charters are required to accept almost all applicants PCC maintains extremely high academic standards. Thus if a student is not willing to work hard.. they will not get any credits ..and eventually leave.

Her is the link:

Anonymous said...

2006 California Charter School of the Year

So looking at there 7th grade pre-algebra textbook - McDougal-Little by Larson, Boswell (hardly one of the DOE's exemplary mathbooks) and if you don't get a c- or better then you can't take algebra.

Student:Teachers = 19:1

SAT combined = 1905

150 students grades 7-8
280 students grades 9-12

So I see nothing that remotely resembles any school I know about in Washington other than Lakeside.

Anonymous said...

PCS sounds more like Harvard Westlake - I get it, a prep school funded with public money. Nothing wrong with that picture.

dan dempsey said...

Larson and Boswell....
Yes real math books

Any public schools in WA like that?

I think Evergreen High School in Vancouver perhaps... unfortunately it is fed by a k-8 program without that kind of good stuff.

Anonymous said...

So we are now back to square 1.

First, you need a decent elementary program that prepares students for Larson, et al. Second, Larson and Boswell can't be read by more than half the population of seventh graders anyway, so right there PCC is selecting for the top 20% of middle schoolers - its a program that can't be duplicated publicly anywhere else in California, except La Jolla and Sacramento.

Our district uses Larson and Boswell, but so far results are not that good. The elementary program is part of an MSP - they're using TERC.

Automatically, that puts 80% of our students in extended algebra - and true to our nature, we avoid teaching regular math and opt for spreading a one year substandard algebra book (Glencoe) over two years. Yawn....

We have a large adult program that carries roughly the same number of adults as we have full time students.

Traditional textbooks are better than reform books (pure disaster), but can't beat Singapore so far as teaching to a broader spectrum of children.

Anonymous said...

Beyond algebra - in our district 80% of the kids will take algebra twice, then geometry, followed by senior math, and then cross their fingers and hope they graduate.

dan dempsey said...

It seems that TERC/Investigations must be followed by CMP because the kids are not prepared for much else.

CMP must be followed by IMP or Core-Plus as the kids are not prepared for much else.

I do think that Singapore used k-10 would be very interesting.

Sacramento's use of Saxon I would think would allow a lot of kids to be successful in Larson and Boswell.

I think that serious students are being neglected by the baloney math programs that are being pushed by districts like Seattle.

The Seattle high school math adoption is this spring (2009)and follows CMP2 SPRING 2006 EVERYDAY MATH SPRING 2007.

I expect more of the same from the SPS.

Anonymous said...

This is a bit off topic, but some kids told me today that their English teacher was teaching Intelligent Design and they didn't believe in Evolution. Hah! I'm no longer responsible for teaching science I suppose. Only in Bushland where people believe in fairytales.

Anonymous said...

TERC is not preparation for CMP. CMP is mostly fake it, until you make it to the end of the year. The majority of middle school is worksheet, followed by another worksheet, etc. Simple algorithm.

Anonymous said...

What teaching math has taught me, is that its a specialized content. The material is taught and learned or it isn't. For instance, you cannot automatically assume that young adults know their times tables. Especially with second language learners. A high school math teacher should not pretend to teach algebra, knowing the majority of kids in their classroom can't comprehend fractions or the decimal system. I do not blindly teach from a textbook, yet that is what the majority of my colleagues are doing - They don't teach kids, they teach 'standards'. It is inconceivable to me that kids in certain classrooms will start school and beginning on week 1 outright fail the chapter 1 test and then continue failing all of their tests until the middle of June. What is the point? It undermines our authority in the community. It is not ethical.

Anonymous said...

Core Plus is the most miserable textbook planted on earth - look at the students and the teacher. It is like Job's adventures sitting in the belly of a whale. "When will it ever end?" is the most frequent comment heard outside the classroom right before Christmas. Students look forward to the three weeks of test prep worksheet packet when they come back from vacation. The teacher is never sure when they should intervene while students sit puzzling over what needs to be done. Core plus is like arriving in another galaxy. Anyone care talking to extraterrestrials?

Anonymous said...

Should we bind Prometheus again?Do superstitious Achieve elitists believe trig and logs should not be taught in public high school? Or are they, skebanga pulling a mbeki?

Lets make algebra the barrier to achievement and forbid half the kids from earning a meaningful high school diploma. Lets use scripted lessons and force chattis hegemony into urban classrooms.

When is algebra, not algebra? When Van passes the Achieve Standard. Your DEFR is another skollie front.

Benni, Boot, and Bay A. Lewf

dan dempsey said...

Correction for 12-17-08 at 8:11

Job was not in the belly of a whale.

It was that other J guy, Jonah.

Anonymous said...

School's biggest secret is the dropout rate. Hah!

Anonymous said...

Seattle and Minneapolis are rated by Yahoo as most literate cities. The article says nothing about their illiterate.

Here is the full Top 10 Most Literate list for 2008 (OK, there are 11 cities on the list) generated by Jack Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University:

Minneapolis (tied for 1st)
Seattle (tied for 1st)
Washington, D.C.
St. Paul, Minn.
San Francisco
St. Louis
Cincinnati (tied for 10th)

USAToday authors even slip in a Mark Twain quote "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."

????? More socialist reform propaganda.????? One wonders what their top ten list of books would be. Must be all those software employees reading books at Borders and Starbucks.

Miller's study ranks the USA's "most literate" cities not by how many residents can read, but by various measures of how many do. And by those measures, Minneapolis is the most literate, El Paso, the least.

The study examines the extent to which residents of the USA's largest 79 cities behave in literate ways — such as buying newspapers and books or checking materials out of the library.

RM was also an ed researcher at U.Wisconsin.

I'm not surprised.

How does the Fed wage war on poverty?

About as well as it does on foreign policy.

I'll file this under unique ways of measuring literacy in the US - some scholars no longer see poverty as a function of literacy and apparently neither do the feds.

Anonymous said...

Dan, you corrected me on that J word once before - years ago. I guess I'm just not teachable.

Anonymous said...

USA Today is like aspirin - if you want to feel good, then take USA Today.