Saturday, March 7, 2009

Spin Doctors or Educators?
The Potemkin Village Tour

In light of recent events and actions, the question becomes do we value spin doctors or education?

It is certainly apparent that many schools seem more about self-promotion and marketing themselves than educating children.

The recent controversy about the suspension of two Seattle Special education teachers appears to have its basis in ...... better scores for the school district while ignoring parents' wishes and the law.

KING TV News (NBC affiliate)

KIRO Radio (CBS affiliate), Dave Ross Show
Click on the March 6, 10-11 am segment. Rachel, one of the parents from the class, did an excellent job with a thorough presentation of the situation. Parent interview begins approximately half way in.

Very often data is used in support of defective decisions rather than to find effective programs and solutions to problems.

School Boards seem to consistently support this nonsense approach to educating our children.

Administrations deceive both the public and the school board in some text material adoptions. Now in Seattle it is clear that continued violations of the law are on the increase by these rogues.

Whatever am I thinking ?? ... this is the school board that will not even follow their own policies, perhaps they have not been deceived but are part of the deception????

A story from C.R. Hoff ...

Recently School Board meetings I have attended might suggest that our School Board has been spending a great deal of time in the Soviet Union! It is often said that American Education parallels the philosophy of the former Soviet Union. The State of Washington was once called the “Soviet of Washington” by one of Franklin Roosevelt’s close associates.

There is a term, now used in English that tends to describe illusions. “Potemkin villages” were purportedly fake settlements erected at the direction of Russian minister Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin to fool Empress Catherine II during her visit to Crimea in 1787. According to this story, Potemkin, who led the Crimean military campaign, had hollow facades of villages constructed along the desolate banks of the Dnieper River in order to impress the monarch and her travel party with the value of her new conquests, thus enhancing his standing in the empress's eyes.

I think that there might be something like this happening in Federal Way education. The Superintendent complimented the current school board for its “positive” visits to various schools. Each board meeting begins with illustrations of successes in our schools that often affect a very small group of students and may be something less than what has been described. As an example the Federal Way High School swim team is often touted as having the “highest GPA” of any athletic team in the league. No mention is made of the courses that they are taking, or the very poor relationship between report card grades and either Advanced Placement (AP) test scores or SAT scores. We do know that there doesn’t seem to be any positive correlation between AP test scores and report card grades, so a “high GPA” may not be a realistic assessment of actual achievement. Basketball and football teams that will achieve, on the scoreboard, are not asked about GPA’s.

Recently, to impress the public, a high school choir was asked if any members were “taking an AP course” and many raised their hands. No one asked if any had passed an AP test. I would tend to believe that there would have been far fewer hands up for that poll.

School Board members, when giving their comments, always talk about the positives that they are seeing in their visits to schools. Catherine the Great probably saw something like this also. There hasn’t been, since this board was installed, a comment such as, “Houston, we have a problem!”

In a public meeting the “Public Relations Officer”, responsible for defusing “unfortunate incidents,” aired the District’s policy of “always promoting the positives.” “We don’t discuss our problems, ”Some call it ‘spin doctoring!”

At least one of the Board members knows fully well that the achievement gap by some of the minorities is now increasing, and the rest of the Board, if they were paying attention to public comments would have noticed this as well. If not as they enter the Administration building there are graphs that would illustrate this for them.

Now, in this financial crisis, the Board is faced with cutting the budget, and all but one of the Board seems to “want to preserve” this system in spite of the statistics that suggest that “All means all” really isn’t a reality.

As was reported in a nearby district “High school is all about friends and sports,” seems to be the philosophy that is to be “preserved” instead of, “High school is about being prepared for adulthood,” which is more like the philosophy of education systems where achievement is not a significant issue. In fact the idea of raising class sizes to balance the budget seems to have a higher priority than reducing the programs offered that are not raising achievement. “Friends, non essential courses and activities, and sports” clearly are sacred in spite of assurances that “the highest priority is achievement!”

On Canadian television I recently saw a commercial for a cough syrup that stated “Tastes awful but is so effective!” I can see a parallel between this and effective education, but our board seems to be out touring Potemkin Villages! Weather in the Crimea is pretty nice this time of year I am told.


Anonymous said...

Potomac village. Has a nice ring.

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