kitchen table math, the sequel: letter to the editor, part 2

Saturday, December 5, 2009

letter to the editor, part 2

11/30/2009

To the editor:

On November 24 I attended a school board meeting at which Renay Sadis, principal of Dows Lane Elementary School,* gave a presentation she had rehearsed before superintendent Kathleen Matusiak earlier in the week.

Ms. Sadis’ report to the board did not mention student achievement. Focused entirely on “new initiatives” at the school, Ms. Sadis’ remarks were so empty of substance that one board member called her presentation a “commercial.”

During the time allotted to the audience for questions and comments, I asked the following questions:

How many remedial reading teachers does Dows Lane have on staff?

Answer: 3

How many general education students need remedial reading instruction?

Answer: Ms. Sadis did not know.

How many special education students - students with Individualized Education Plans - are enrolled in Dows Lane?

Answer: Ms. Sadis did not know.

How many of our students would score “Advanced” in reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the federal test known as “The Nation’s Report Card”?

Answer: Ms. Sadis had not heard of NAEP.

Finally, and most importantly, what are our plans to reduce the number of students who need remedial reading instruction?

Ms. Sadis, who last year commanded a salary of $165,000, had no answer.

I’d like to suggest that, going forward, the district consider recruiting teachers and administrators who have worked in successful charter schools here or in states where charter schools have been founded to teach high-SES student populations. A charter school is simply a public school with accountability and a tight budget; no one who has worked in a charter school would show up at a school board meeting not knowing how many struggling readers are in her school.

Educators who have come up through the ranks of the charter school movement have a different philosophy from those who, like Ms. Sadis and Superintendent Matusiak, have worked exclusively in traditional public schools. Where traditional public schools focus on compliance with state and federal mandates, charter school teachers and administrators concentrate on performance. Charter school educators are committed to the success of the individual child.

That is for the long-term, of course. In the short-term, I would like to suggest that the Board require administrators to devote themselves — and their presentations — to student achievement.

Catherine Johnson

The Rivertowns Enterprise
Friday, December 4, 2009
p 21


* enrollment: 493; district per pupil spending: $28,291.

9 comments:

Allison said...

Of course, even a public school official focused on compliance should be able to state the number of IEP students she has, since Special Ed is one of the big compliance mandates!

Can you get a resume for Ms. Sadis? I'd like to see it. I assume you'll have to FOIL it, right? :)

PhysicistDave said...

Ah, Catherine, that was mean!

Truthful, fair, and necessary, but mean.

And, I do mean that as a compliment.

Dave Miller in Sacramento

Anonymous said...

In K-12 education, unlike most professions, knowledge is not a requirement for advancement.

It frequently seems to be an impediment.

At least Ms Sadis doesn't have one of those commuter Ed.D's where they go to class once a month for a day, learn little but gain an Attitude, and then expect all of us with real academic graduate degrees to defer to their every utterance. After all they're a "Doctor".

Katharine Beals said...

Ms. Sadis’ report to the board did not mention student achievement. Focused entirely on “new initiatives” at the school, Ms. Sadis’ remarks were so empty of substance that one board member called her presentation a “commercial.”

Sadly, this makes me think of Bob Herbert's Op-Ed piece in yesterdays Times on the Harvard's new doctorate in educational leadership. Here, too, the focus is all on initiatives, with no mention of curricula (only of "standards"). Like Sadis' report, Herbert's piece is so devoid of substance that, for all its promotion of Harvard's new program, one couldn't even call it an infomercial for it--though it could be excerpted for a glossy brochure. "The idea," Herbert writes, "is to develop dynamic new leaders who will offer the creativity, intellectual rigor and professionalism that is needed to help transform education in the U.S."

Anonymous said...

I think creativity gets far too much emphasis from all levels of educrats, that professionalism is not what I see from educrats and that cintellectual rigor in an ed program at any level is notable by its absence. Other than that, it's all great.

Anonymous said...

Did you notice that the last year of the Harvard program involved an internship? I suppose to see up close the potentials of advocacy.

Is there any sort of dissertation or will it just be an advocacy paper on a point of ed policy produced by a group of 3 or 4 students together? Peabody at Vanderbilt has its Capstone Projects where various policy groups submit Requests for Assistance from ed grad students in lieu of a dissertation. Degrees awarded so the holders can then push and implement desired policy without any pesky facts getting in the way.

It's really hard to convince someone who earned a doctorate for group work that collaboration isn't the best approach to building a solid academic foundation.

kprugman said...

Really this is a travesty and the really bad news is that this is only going to get worse. In the next decade, funding for public schools will be cut in half. Your children will far more likely receive an education somewhere other than a public school and they will be far less successful.

Independent George said...

Your children will far more likely receive an education somewhere other than a public school and they will be far less successful.

Care to elaborate?

Doug Sundseth said...

Since there's a negative correlation between public school funding and outcomes (when you adjust for SES), we would predict that cutting public school budgets would increase education.

Let's start now.