"The Future of Urban Schools" Conference Transcript
The Thomas J. Anton/Frederick Lippitt Conference
Taubman Center for Public Policy
February 15-16, 2001
Schedule of Activities
I. Keynote Address, Mayor Richard Riordan, Los Angeles
II. Panel on "Immigration, Mobility, and Churning: The Impact of Demographic Change on Urban Schools"
III. Panel on "The Challenge of Reforming Our Schools: The Possibilities and Limits of Charter Schools"
IV. Panel on "Reforming Providence Schools"
Mayor Richard Riordan Keynote Address, "Challenges Facing Urban Schools", February 15, 2001
Jim Morone Introduction:
I would like to welcome all of you to the Anton-Lippitt Conference on the Future of Urban Schools. I hope you'll come to all of the events. We have a great set of events on this topic. I'm delighted to see such a good turnout tonight right at the start of the long weekend. Today in class in my class we were talking about a book that stirred a certain amount of well attention to my students. It's called Plunkett of Tammany Hall, a wonderful book, Mr. Mayor you could write your own. It's a man who was active in politics and told what he knew about politics of the turn of the century. He was full of good sage advice. I think the thing that interested my class most, I know many of you are here, was his suggestion that a college boy might succeed in politics but the chances are a hundred to one against him. See, college boys are full of big ideas and grand schemes and unrealistic values. What I'm doing up here tonight is welcoming a couple of college boys who really run true to form. They're full of big ideas and optimistic values about their people. They're the one in a hundred who actually make things happen, who've made Providence what we've all grown to love. So first I want to welcome and acknowledge Tom Anton and Fred Lippitt. Tom is the man who organized the Taubman Center. It's his set of ideas that in a sense that we celebrate today. He's retired which means we can pile lots of work on him. His phone doesn't stop ringing now. Oh and I want to note my friend and colleague, Darrell West, now the current head of the Taubman Center. Good luck Darrell. Finally, what I'm really up here to do, introduce Fred Lippitt, in a sense the most college boy of all. It's the Fred Lippitt endowment that makes this conference possible and I'm gonna just give you a short overview of the Fred Lippitt vita and then let him get on to the business of the day and introduce the mayor. He's been the director of the RI Department of Housing Administration, Judge of the Providence Housing, Chairman of the Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Schools, He's been the head of the Rhode Island House of Representatives for the Minority and currently the chairman of the Providence Plan, the biggest the most idealistic plan of all. I'm going to stop now so we can get on down to business. Thank you again for coming. Keep coming the rest of the two days and now join me in welcoming Fred Lippitt.
Fred Lippitt Introduction:
Thank you very much for that introduction. I hardly recognized who it was but don't think I wasn't pleased because otherwise I might have had to talk about myself and tell you who I was and I haven't got time to do that. I'm allowed five minutes at the very most to talk about Tom Anton, to talk about the Program itself, and particularly Mayor Riordan. The material that I was given by Tom Anton would make it impossible for this to be done so I'm gonna ad lib a little bit. First of all let me just say Tom, that this is a big honor for me to be here and I appreciate very much the work you've done in connecting us with cities. Because cities is now where the action is. It's the place where people are getting involved in politics and the politics of cities. Mayor Riordan has been wonderful because he has done well in each case. He says for example that there's not a problem in the Police Department, public safety, because he's solved it. He's already gone to community policing which means the police love the people. They don't beat them up anymore. I'm not sure I believe all this. I know Los Angeles has never had any problems. He's says that the schools really are terrible but they're all on the outskirts. The bad ones at least are on the outskirts. So basically they try to send their kids to places right across the river. There are mountains in Hollywood and the people there don't want them so they build them schools. They have to because they have to take them. So what are they going to do they have to build more schools. He doesn't have to build anymore. So he doesn't have any school problem and each case he's been very foxy about this. What makes me so happy is that Providence is very much like this. Mayor Cianci has done a tremendous job. You could hardly tell the difference. I don't think the mayor is here but he deserves a lot of credit for the work that he's done that makes Providence so good and we're going to resolve the problems and when we get them resolved we're gonna get them resolved by the help of everybody here. So thank you and we'll go right ahead with Mayor Riordan and if you come up.
Mayor Richard Riordan of Los Angeles:
Thank you Fred I think but you didn't have to give away all my secrets. But one secret you don't know Fred is when I was first elected. I got a call the first day from a professor and he gave me some advice. He said Dick, can I call you Dick and I said sure. He said Dick the first thing you have to learn is to how to rise above principle and I've done that ever since. I have a foundation that gives computer labs to kids to learn to read and write and I get literally thousands of letters written on computers by kids every year. One letter I love where the kids wrote about historical characters and this one young girl wrote about Socrates and she said, "Socrates lived a long time ago. He liked to talk. One day he talked too long and they poisoned him." I won't take any chances so, and then I'll open it up for questions and answers will be a lot more fun.
My wife thought to start out maybe I should say a little bit of who I am. I was a philosophy major at Princeton. I was in the Korean War. I went on to Michigan Law School. I was a corporate transactional warrior. I was a venture capitalist in the early technological phase in Silicon Valley and I've been involved in many charity events. I've become an expert at networking, knowing a lot of people. Knowing who can help me make things happen and I formed a foundation exactly 20 years ago. What we started out with, I read a report called: A Nation at Risk, which was written in the early 80's and it said that if a child can not read and write fluently in English by the end of the second grade you have likely lost that child for life. I decided right then and there that what I was going to try to do was to make sure that every child I could possibly teach how to read and write by the end of the second grade that I would do it. The result was that my foundation has put over 20,000 computer labs and almost 250,000 computers into schools throughout the country. We are in virtually every state. Mississippi and Alabama, we're in schools and a number of states including Rhode Island. We've partnered with the Hasbro Foundation in RI and for example and I'd hate to admit it but, Mississippi passed California in literacy three years ago and we still have an awful long ways to go. I also leaned on my networking. I networked with the Saul Alinsky Group. Do most of you know who Alinsky was here? He was considered a radical liberal from Chicago who started the Industrial Areas Foundation, IAF, which is known in a lot of communities as United Neighborhood Organization and others. That to teach poor people how to get political power by going into stores that overcharge and clogging the isles of the stores so that nobody could shop there and stuff like that. And I partnered with them starting in the middle eighties and we got involved in a number of school reform issues. I won't bore you anymore with that but I learned through venture capital that the way to make money was to pick strong management and empower that management to do their jobs and don't worry about micromanaging.
I also learned that the secrets to success in life are courage and giving. The courage whether it's as a student to write your term paper, get moving, get up in the morning, turn off your TV, to change jobs, to take top positions, to make a mistake, fall on your face and get up and keep going and giving to get outside yourself, to give to others. Whether it's to give in little ways. To help a student who's in trouble or giving in big ways because you're wealthy. But giving is secret of success and happiness and carrying this over to public service.
The first position I ever held in government other than being a commissioner of parks in the city of LA. The first elected office was as mayor and I was telling my wife at the time. I'm worried that there won't be enough challenges. I consider myself a problem solver and I was worried that I wouldn't have as many challenges as a private sector but boy was I wrong. I mean there are ten twenty challenges a day. First of all I have forty-three departments in the city. We have multi-billion dollar airports, department of water and power. Today after being bankrupt when I took over. The department of airports nets eight hundred million dollars a year. Our airport after breaking even before makes about two hundred million dollars a year. We have the biggest port in the country. Our libraries are by far the best public libraries in the country now. Our parks have come a long ways and the secret of doing all that is hiring the best possible people. The same as venture capital. Also involving the best private people. People from the private sector. I've been very lucky in getting literally hundreds of wealthy people in the private sector to adopt schools, to come in and bring technology to our police department, to raise the money for the Disney music called design by Frank Gary, and numerous other projects through out the city. So the secret is hire the best, empower them, and hold them accountable. That's the secret of running schools, running government, running a private business, or running a university.
So now let's get on to schools. The LA school system has seven hundred thousand children K-12 and about one hundred thousand adults. As mayor I have no power whatsoever over the schools. Not even over the budget. It is a separately elected body with it's own powers over taxing budgets and other things. But, never the less as mayor I got to care because these students are my constituents. Their parents are my constituents. I have to make sure that they succeed. When I took over the schools were in terrible shape. A poor six-year-old in the LA schools had a 12% chance. A six year old had a 12% chance to read and write at the eighth grade level by the time they were 18 years old. That means that the vast majority of these kids have little hope to be part of the middle class or upper classes. And hopelessness leads to crime and other antisocial behavior.
It also denies our economy the skilled workforce we need to succeed. For example in Los Angeles County there are over 200,000 jobs that can not be filled in the high tech industry by people educated locally. In Silicon Valley there are over 500, 000 jobs that can not be filled. Also in the school district at the end of every year there would be 30 or more principals that were in total disgrace at their schools. With the parents, with the teachers, what did the school district do? They moved them to be principals at inner-city schools. The schools that needed the best principals and then they had the gall within the school system to call this the dance of the lemons. Moving the lemons around throughout the district. We can not tolerate that as leaders. How do we change it? Well there are no magic pills.
If you listen to the politicians in Washington or at the state capitals, they say vouchers will solve it. Charter schools will solve it. Bilingual will solve it, phonics, all male, all female schools, uniforms in schools, internet, computers, on and on and on with magic pills. But, you know none of these cure a system. The system must have strong focused management. These may or may not be resources to that management but unless you have strong focus management that puts kids first none of these magic pills are going to help at all. Again, you pick strong people. You power them. You put kids first and you have the guts the backbone to use the "f" word. An "f" word for me is fire people who fail our children. It's not fair to the children.
Change in the school district has to start with the school board. A strong school board that picks a strong superintendent. Los Angeles has seven school board members and as I mentioned the mayor has no power over that. They're elected separately. Until about 1980, these seven members were elected at large. Everybody in the city could vote for anyone of the seven members and some of the top citizens of the town like Fred and others were on the school board. Since the eighties the school members have been elected by district and the result is you have seven, or you had seven wanna-be politicians. People who's constituency were not the children they were the bureaucrats, the booksellers, the unions, they wanted to go ahead in politics. Most of them go on and run for higher office instead of sticking with these school system and the result is they hired weak superintendents and twenty years until the last year not one principal in the school district was fired for incompetence.
Two years ago change started. I put up candidates against the incumbent school board members. There were four up for a reelection. I supported one of them and put candidates up against the other three. My candidates won and these are people who really care about kids. They're strong business type people. They're all democrats. Which ain't so bad and they care about children. We have another election coming up in June and I am supporting candidates this time. The school board has reconstituted. Picked Governor Roy Romer the former governor of Colorado to be a superintendent. He's done an excellent job. Not perfect but he's done an excellent, excellent job. You have structured English programs like open court in all the schools and in my opinion you can hear the opposite opinion tomorrow.
In my opinion the kids are really learning. Bilingual education is more or less a thing of the past. It hasn't totally disappeared. My experience going through schools. Kids can read and write in English and they've become truly bilingual. The test scores will not be proven until the end of this year because this is the first year starting last September that all the schools have had this type of structured English. They have structured Math. They have very sophisticated computer systems for learning like warterford which is a Utah based company which is a very sophisticated system for teaching kids to read and write to get the books that bring their experiences up to a level of the average kids in school.
They're also for the first time in twenty years starting to build schools. For all practical purposes no new schools were built in Los Angeles over the last twenty years plus. Their were 65,000 new seats that have to be built almost overnight and even with the building of these seats they will not stop the need for year round schools. If you wanted to stop having year round schools in LA you would need $100,000 more seats. This is not easy to do.
There are challenges ahead for the superintendent. The financial reporting is still week. The invisible bureaucratic government is still strong in too many areas of the school district. Financial and other reporting like the number of teachers and number of employees they don't' know the answers to these. Governor Romer must also continue to bring strong leaders to help him. One person can not handle a nine billion-dollar a year school district. You need many strong people around you. Now you may ask what role should the mayor play in a school district where he has no power and maybe with good reason he has no power in some people's opinion. I believe as I indicated earlier that I owe a duty to every child in my city to get them quality healthcare, nutrition, housing, and education because education is the tool that will make them successful adults. I started out with the board members.
Also there are other resources that I helped with the school district. My office runs, I believe the best after school programs in the country. It's called "LA's Best" and we have seventy-six after school programs and seventy-six of the schools cost only about 5 dollars a day but kids learn computers, dance, pottery all kinds of different things. It works very well. I help them by having my poise find school sites. I personally have found a couple of the school sites for the school district. I've helped them in negotiating purchase of these sites. I've helped them in networking by bringing in a lot of successful people to help them in finding and negotiating for sites for schools. I've helped lobby in Sacramento and Washington and most of all getting back to bully pulpit, I have daily demanded that we owe it to the poor children to give them a quality education. We cannot tolerate anything less for any one of God's children.
Today, I want to make an announcement. Two days ago I announced in Los Angeles, I declared I should say in Los Angeles a war on illiteracy. I called for all citizens to volunteer to be monitors for our schools and for our school children and in following up on this I have talked today to Mayor Rudy Giuliani of New York, Tom Menino of Boston, and Rich Daley of Chicago to form a coalition of big city mayors to lobby Washington. More than lobby, demand of Washington that they give more resources to the poor children of our country.
Now, I want to touch on a few sensitive areas that I've warned you about that. There are a few sensitive areas that I'll give my opinion on and I will say I'm not an ideologue on any of these. I'm not an ideologue on anything. I'm willing to learn but, I'll express my opinions and I think it may make people of the whole spectrum of right to left angry at me. Let's talk about vouchers. I am not ideologically against vouchers. If they work I'm in favor of them. I happen to think they don't work. So, I oppose them now. But, if somebody can come up with a program to like compile a program for vouchers I'm willing to look at it. But, I am not willing to support a voucher program that covers a whole state or a whole school district.
Charter schools somewhat the same way. We've been very lucky in LA. We have very good Charter Schools. I think we've had only one failure but I know other parts of the state and the country. You've had some really flaky con artists take over Charter schools. So it's not a magic pill. You have to be very careful. Let's take bilingual education. I'm not ideologically against bilingual education but I will tell you it was total complete disaster in the LA schools. Essentially kids are supposed to be taught English along with their native language and to transition to all English within two to three years. Most of the kids went seven or eight years. Some of the kids went through high school without speaking, reading, write fluently in English. Also, I think what it did was drag down people who were white, black, or other who spoke English at home because the eye was taking off the main object that every kid whatever your language at home is whatever your race, creed, or color has to be taught to read and write fluently by the end of the second grade.
Let's take social promotion, I think that the word social promotion should be taken out of vocabulary because it takes your eye off the ball again. If a kid cannot read, write, or do math at grade level, what should you do? Should you say your going to hold them back or punish them by holding them back or should you say it's our obligation to give them help after school, on weekends and in summers so they can be promoted and can work at grade level. So, I do believe that social promotion is the wrong language.
As a footnote my foundation has supported a four year old kindergarten program for nine hundred kids in a local school district and we start out kids who are at poverty level kids at four years old put them on computers so that by the time they get into kindergarten they are on a level playing field. It works extremely well. Seven or eight years old and it's carried on with these kids through the sixth and seventh grade. As I wine down let me say one thing, I believe that every child can learn. I believe that we have a god given duty to help them learn. Do not accept excuses to say that parents aren't involved, the poverty this that and the other. We can't teach these children because they can be taught.
There are many excellent examples of schools like in the LA school system, Norwood, Shea and Englewood, which are all minorities. Kestle, Benahue, Schools where minority kids perform better than Beverly Hills, San Marino, or Scarsdale. It can be done and we have to do it. So in closing let me quote one of my favorite philosophers GK Chesternet. Chesternet said that all theology can be wrapped up in two sentences the first one is I'm important. The second one is Everybody else is just as important as I am and that's how we have to approach it. Whether a kid is rich or poor. They're just as important in God's eyes. We have to give them all an equal education. The tools to compete. We cannot fail poor children one day longer. To us for them failure is not an option. Thank you very much. You can ask any question. I've had enough tough questions so you can try to embarrass me if you want to.
Audience Question and Answer Session with Mayor Richard Riordan
Q. Ok, I have a question today you said you are announcing the formation of a big city coalition could you tell us a little bit more about what you have in mind, what you would like to lobby for and also you said you have talked to several big city mayors what was their reaction to this plan?
A. Right, I talked to New York mayor Rudy Giulioni and Chicago mayor Rich Daley, and Boston mayor Tom Menino and we have decided as a group that we will form a coalition to lobby Washington for more help for the big cities because as I mentioned we have a highly disproportioned number of poor children who are not getting the right education. We need to be able to pay teachers more so we can get the best teachers. We have to have computers on every desk but more importantly we have to teach the kids how to use a computer and the teachers how to use them and on and on and on. But, I think as a group we can effectively lobby the government in Washington because I think there is a heart there but somehow or other you have to lead them in the right direction and we know we're on the ground. We're seeing things that are going wrong and I think we have pretty good ideas on how to solve them.
Q. How do you suggest we hold the people responsible for the Belmont learning complex scandal?
A. The Belmont, oh ok Are you from Los Angeles?
Q. Yes, I am.
A. Belmont is a high school, that they spent 170 million dollars on and is about half finished or about two thirds finished and they found out that there are environmental problems, methane gas. It was built over an old oil field and there were methane gas in it and what has happened is it became a big fraud. Because what had happened was that people in the school district knew what the problems were from the beginning before they started construction and hid them and that's a problem. I do believe from talking to developers that these environmental problems can be solved. There are many buildings in LA and other cities built over methane gas and for a certain amount of money you can redirect that methane gas and make it healthy. As for example, the LA country museum of Order is an example of such a building. I think it can be done and right now I think it will be done.
Q. Mr. Mayor Hi, In this city the mayor of Providence appoint the members of the school board and Baltimore and other cities that's the case. What's your scent would you like to be in that kind of position and would you lobby the state assembly in Sacramento to give you that kind of authority?
A. No, I think it's important. I definitely would lobby to have the mayors appoint the school board. Now, it's too late for me because I'm termed out in July 1 of this year but I think the one thing is the mayors are the only ones who the public knows to hold accountable. You don't know who the seven school board members are. They're very diffuse and anonymous. You know if things go wrong that the mayor can be held responsible plus the mayor with the help of people they appoint can set a policy and then have the power to make that policy a reality and you see that with Rich Daley as Paul Fallis who is running the Chicago schools and they're doing a great job. By the way, from being the most pathetic school district I think in the world to really starting to come out of it now and Tom Menino in Boston is doing a great job.
Q. Mr. Mayor to follow up on Dr. West's question. Will you personally be lobbying in Washington with your fellow big city mayors? And if so is this something we can expect as a post-mayoral career for you?
A. A lobbyist?
Q. An educational lobbyist.
A. I will be personally lobbying them.
Q. What will you be specifically asking for?
A. We'll be asking for additional money because we have a disproportionate number of poor kids and by the way we are. We get the short end. The big cities in the country get the short end of money disproportion. I mean like Grand Rapids, Michigan got twenty times per much per capita per new police officers as the city of LA and it shouldn't be because we have a disproportionate number of the poor and I think we have to be in there demanding in God's name, in whatever name we can that we.... Give us the tools and resources to help the poor children. Now, when I'm through as mayor I'm going to work for the school district. And actually I'm going to help run the computer learning program. Because this is something I've had experience in for the last twenty years.
Q. Will you be lobbying as well with your fellow mayors?
A. Well, I will whatever they ask me to do. I'll lobby but not as a living not for money. But definitely lobbying.
Q. Mr. Mayor, you spoke about social promotion and holding students to grade level, are you advocating therefore the continued expansion of high stakes testing. What's your stance on high stakes testing?
A. This so called high stakes testing. They used them in Texas and I know in New York they're just starting to introduce them.
Q. What do you mean high stakes mean testing that means whether you go on to the next grade?
A. Yes, ah I've read about it but I don't know enough about it to and you know I haven't been in the middle of it whether to tell you if that is what I favor. But I do favor holding children accountable because how do you learn how much they've learned. I mean do you just leave them on the side not knowing how to read, write or anything and not holding them accountable. I think you have to find a way and you have to find a way if the kid is not learning to be able to help that kid. How do you help them after school, on the weekend, or in the summer unless you know how well they're doing and ultimately I don't know whether you hold the fact. But you have to do something different for them you can't leave them in class after class after class where they're bored. Where they can't follow what's going on. This is not right to that child, for that child.
Q. Mr. Mayor, welcome, quick question for you. You talked about holding in terms of the accountability issues that you say that you want every child to be able to learn or they have to learn and to read and write by the second grade what is LA's policy in holding teachers in the administration accountable for when a child reaches that second or third grade and they're not able to reach that standard that your establish or that you want to establish. What is the policy of LA and what is the responsibility of a strong super intendent to take action.
A. No, well, the policy-LA is just developing policies. The fact of the matter is for too many years there was no punishment. Nothing was done if the children didn't meet those standards. Right now we're talking in terms of like in Chicago where there is intervention. If the school fails kids for two or three years you go and you have intervention. You essentially fire everybody and they can then get jobs in other schools in the district. But you essentially clean house and put other people. That's the possibility certainly you have to get rid of the words principal. There are many many principles that are totally incompetent and they have to do that but, quite honestly right now there is not a firm enough control of the school board and hopefully it will be after this election to make those things happen.
Q. Mayor, I love your openness to ideas. I really find that appealing and so in the spirit of lobbying I just want to mention that today Dennis Litke who is one of Providence's premier radical educators was meeting with Romer and our ideas just kind of personalized, high school spirit, small schools, I know you're hot on computers. I hope you'll talk to Romer about supporting the creation of very small family like schools for kids.
A. Well, yeah I've read about that just in the last few weeks actually and it's a great idea. Quite honestly, I wonder how replicable it is. I wonder if it just takes too much talent for a few kids to do it and plus maybe too much money. But I love the idea. If you could replicate that I'd be one thousand percent for it. Well we're getting smart on scaling up. So, watch it grow.
Q. I was wondering if you could talk about why you're so in favor of advocating fluency in literacy in English in Los Angeles, which is a community, that is a bilingual community.
A. Well, I'm in favor of bilingual education. In fact, not just for Latinos but for everybody and clearly that. But English is the cash language and that is was Latino parents want of their kids. They want their kids to know English and as I've mentioned you go in the schools now and these kids do know English. They know how to speak English. They know how to read and write it. These are what they need from their jobs in the future and bilingual education the words are not bad. I think it should be bilingual but the system that was set up for too many years was a failure.
Q. Lester Cerone who's book had to list the ten major industries for the twenty-first century for the United States and he also depicted skills that were gonna be needed by American Young people in order to be competitive in the environment. He mentioned that there were five hundred thousand jobs in Silicone Valley that couldn't be met by kids coming out of the district and that's facing a lot of urban areas. How do you attract in the street and in the area? But, you know in my experience in the urban setting so far, How does the systems secondary and post secondary education, How are they held accountable for the teachers that are coming in to the system who don't know how to reach the kids. The skills that are going to be necessary critical thinking as you said to read in English and to take instructions from a supervisor in English and that's something that seems to be lost in this process so far. What has Los Angeles school district done to, I know that coming from New York, how have you partnered with higher education to create teachers who are able to translate these skills so the kids have the ability to come out of high school and to be competitive in the work place and in those industries that you mentioned so far.
A. We do very poorly; I think almost every other state. I know Massachusetts they have some foundation as trying to redo all this but clearly, and we had a discussion at dinner earlier, There's got to be a way to teach people to teach in a much better way. There's one theory which I don't think is practical but it makes a lot of sense and it is to cut out teachers colleges. Have everybody has to get a liberal arts education and then give them one free year in graduate school that teaches them how to teach. Another problem you have is the big schools like Berkley, Harvard, Princeton, and UCLA all the big schools. People majoring in education are not taught to teach they're taught as researchers but the cream of the cream don't go into teaching and quite honestly and this is one thing I didn't mention but I will now is there are good arguments I think for what I call cookie cutter approaches because the caliber of the teachers are so low. One book says that the average teacher reads and writes at about a tenth grade level and I think things like structured phonics like open court reading awareness and others make a lot of sense as do sophisticated computer programs. As long as you have people to train the teachers in using them. To have people monitor them and stuff like this. Unfortunately, maybe the best way to give the tools to kids. It doesn't do what you're talking about teaching kids to think outside of the box, to be critical thinkers things like that. It's unfortunate.
Q. You've already partially addressed the question but I'd be interested in some of the important and innovative ways in which the universities in the Los Angeles area have been a partner to you or a help to you in public school reform. What's USC doing or UCLA?
A. The University of Southern California is sensational on this. They have about twenty schools that they've adopted where the students are mentors in the schools. The professors go in. They actually raise money to help the schools. They've done a very good job. UCLA they do have a micro laboratory K-5 school on campus, which is very good, but it's small. Other than that not much involvement in the communities. Other ways I love UCLA but not in this area. By the way Occidental is very good. Occidental when I announced tried to improve our adopted school area. Getting corporations to adopt a school. They were the first ones to step up and they adopted one of our schools this week.
Q. I just have a follow up question. You use the word strong management and strong leadership. I'd be interested in what you mean by strong.
A. Strong is, first of all, is somebody who is not afraid to hire confident people, not afraid to hold them accountable, not afraid to empower them. Let them make decisions. Let things happen. Strong is holding people accountable. If somebody fails children, is not doing the job. Get somebody else to do the job. That's what I mean by strong. I don't mean nasty. I think a strong person is also fair.
Q. Mr. Mayor my question isn't exactly on education, slightly off the topic but it's related. It deals with the hundreds and thousands of kids that your policy tries to promote or at least help. I don't know how many hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions have brothers or fathers who are in jail in Los Angeles for drug related crimes and I'm wondering what your views are. I guess your philosophy; you probably have some principled ideas about the ex number of people former constituents of yours who are in jail, former brothers or perhaps fathers of these hundreds of thousands of school children?
A. I think it's pathetic, I mean to grow up without an even one of your parents is not healthy. I think it's also not healthy that we're not giving help to the people in prison. Ninety percent of the people in prison are not literate and I think we owe it to them. They're human beings. I think we owe it to them to have a rigid program of teaching them to read and write. So, when they get out of prison they can be successful.
Q. Do you see any problems with the current drug laws as they exist in Los Angeles?
A. You're getting me into an area that I just will not in because I'm not an expert. Any opinion I give is about is pretty amateur on this. I do think from talking to prosecutors and everything this thought that most of these people in prison on drugs are sort of casual drug users is not true. That the vast majority of them are drug pushers. Who copped out for a lower sentence? That a pure casual drug user is almost certain will not be sent to jail.
Q. Can you tell me how you've managed to teach kids English by doing away with bilingual Ed? What have you have done by removing bilingual ed. to improve literacy in lieu of bilingual Ed?
A. What they've done is about ninety percent of the schools in LA have gone on to open court. Which is a structured English program. The Packard Foundation, you know out of Hewlett Packard has applied coaches to the various schools to get them on. It has many books that go with it that teach kids how to read from the books they learn things from the books that they didn't learn from home. It also has an element that allows a teacher to put any kids name in and it will judge that kid from about twenty different things about the kid, about their ability to read, to comprehend, to you know other things that will let the teacher know where this kid needs improvement. It's an excellent program and it's not the only one. I think there are many good programs out there. The problem is I think for a school district you can't leave it up to teachers to pick their own programs. It gets too much of a mess. I think you need the kind of support, training and monitoring that only comes if you pick one type of program or maybe two. In LA they do have awareness for reading in about ten percent of the schools and that's working very well but that has strong support from what I think is called PRAD. It's a Houston based program that is donated to the schools and they do an excellent job. The Disney or Eisner foundation is big part of that.
Q. You've been speaking a lot about bilingual education reading and writing. I was wondering if there is anything being done about arts education. I know the music center has a program that's been trying to I guess make up for the lacking of the Los Angeles school district.
A. No, the question is on arts education. They virtually stopped arts education about three or four years ago in the LA schools and they just started up again about a year ago and we're starting to do well and then in the current union contract they essentially gave the teachers all of the art program money. So they essentially now do not have an arts program starting well as soon as that contract is implemented. I think that is terrible for them.
Q. Mr. Mayor, I commend you on the birth of your new coalition with mayors Giuliani and Menino out of Boston, however, I have to wonder how much good it will actually do on the Federal level. I believe the federal government only gives about seven percent of the total educational budget in the nation and even if they double that I wonder if due to your lobbying of asking them for money if that will actually help. I was also wondering which money or the money that you ask for what specifically will it go to in these inner city schools.
A. Well somebody said a hundred million here and hundred million there and pretty soon it adds up to a lot of money. It can help. I mean 25 million dollars can help and as I've mentioned it can help like on the art programs. It can help kids who would normally be held back because they don't meet grade level to get special help. It can help in buying special computer software and training teachers. A variety of things like that and it's sort of that extra money. Most of the 93% goes to a lot of things like pay more bonded indebtedness to pay off salaries of employees, teachers, non certified and stuff like that. So, it's very meaningful. This extra increment.
Q. Mr. Mayor you have a lot of good ideas about teaching literacy to poor children. When the poor children have learned to read and write will they learn to study. How come so many children are poor and the worlds wealth is so inequitably distributed?
A. Well, that's a subject of another three or four day seminar. The division of the rich and the poor. The gap has grown. I think the main reason is that the poor have not been given the tools to compete for the quality jobs. There are a lot of other reasons. A lot is, a lot of quality jobs have been transferred offshore to other countries. A high paying manufacturing jobs and we've been stuck with a lot of low paying service jobs. The strength of the unions has been weakening in recent years so they haven't been able to negotiate as high as salaries and a variety of other things. There are a lot of reasons for it but one thing. Don't make the mistake of thinking that the gap is the cause. The gap is a result of certain things and I don't like it. I think it's terrible. It is a sign of a very sick society.
Q. And literacy will help bridge the gap?
A. Yes, the only solution I can think of is give kids the tools to compete. The tools mean reading and writing and math and other things or else they're going to be stuck with low level low paying jobs. Thank you
Q. I was wondering if you could speak on your opinions on the ways in which LA schools could use the new standards space performed and if you could speak about the difficulty of California standards as the statewide.
A. I missed the beginning of your question?
Q. Your opinions of the way LA schools have used the new standards space performed in the sort of making standards and testing kids and finding ways to make the schools.
A. I'm not sure to that answer exactly where you met the question but first of all I think you have to test. Because you have to be able to hold accountability. How do you know how kids are doing? How do you know how a school is doing without testing? That doesn't mean that the tests that are given now are good tests. Maybe we have to improve those tests so you can really tell how well kids are doing. Now, Remember who Albert Shanker was, he was sort of a radical, liberal union head for the teachers union. He finally came to the point of liking what they do in Europe. In Europe they really test kids in early grades and they put them on different tracks so these kids like can take in the fourth grade, they have these tough mean exams. The parents and the kids a lot of pressure is put on them. But they perform much better. He felt that we should do that here. I don't think any politician or school board has the guts to implement that in this country though.
Q. You spoke a lot against when you seem to consider the easy cures to educational problems. I felt like you didn't' talk so much about standard based education, like the SAT 9. Tell me if I'm wrong but what I understand that California takes the SAT 9 which is a norm test and continues to have two problems. One being that it kind of obscures how bad the kids in California really are and also it has kids being taught to the test. So that rather than go with the normal curriculum in California teachers end up spending a greater part of every day teaching specifically to tasks and actually doing specific problems from the SAT 9 and that's part of the obscuring effect also how we get how bad these kids are not to mention the fact that it's a norm test and it doesn't test for actual proficiency just California kids verses the rest of the nation.
A. I'll try to answer it if I understand it perfectly that again if you can teach to the test. If that's the only way you teach then the test is wrong. The test should be made so that you can't teach to them. Two, the kids in California are doing poorly with or without the test. Too many people will tell you that the kids are doing much better and the reason that they've looked at is because some people teach to the test and the real teachers, really teach kids to think. I don't buy that. I think we have failed these kids. We have failed them miserably and I do believe the test should be better but I think you need to know how kids are doing. You just can't go along with this permissiveness that's invaded our society where even in some school you send a kid on a mathematical and you say what's five plus five. The kid says eleven and they say well that's close enough. I mean that is not preparing a kid to go out and compete in society.
Q. Do you tend to think that considering it seems to me that in California most schools you don't have over thirty percent of the kids being proficient in reading or math at any level and your talking about firing teachers. Do you think that if students aren't doing better than that's ground to fire a teacher and do you think that really we should be holding teachers responsible?
A. I think you have to start at different levels with the school board, with the superintendent, with the principals. I believe quite honestly that a strong principal will raise the level of teachers and so you won't have to fire. There will be a few teachers that are totally incompetent but the other teachers that. They don't want those teachers around. With a strong principal, teachers will surround a strong principal, will support them and will magically get rid the really weak teachers. Thanks
Q. You mentioned, actually, you just reiterated your point that its crucial to have strong leadership in a school and having the principal for that leadership rule is really essential to having this school succeed and fostering the right atmosphere within the school and throughout the teaching staff. You also mentioned that being fearful of firing is something that is a fear that you don't have. You shouldn't be afraid to fire principals that aren't competent and that aren't getting the job done but you've also mentioned about the lack in higher education. In the training a strong educational community and I'm curious where you're looking to find the principals that have these qualities to replace the principals that you would fire.
A. You stated it much better than I did. It ain't easy. It's frustrating and we're not going to get there overnight. We're going to have to through the little bit everyday. You said it's very frustrating. You want to hold teachers/principals accountable but where are their replacements going to come from? We're certainly not training them. I get asked a lot what are my most embarrassing moments as mayor and one that I remember took place at the Latino School in East Los Angeles where these nine and ten year olds were doing e-mail and this young girl had written a message to President Clinton and she had whitehouse.gov on it and being the egotist that I am, I mentioned how I was a close friend of President Clinton. We had jogged together. We played golf together. Could I add a couple of personal notes? She said fine. So she typed them in and at this point I said well now, have they taught you how to get it to the White House yet? She stopped and she stared at me. I have never seen a look of such disrespect in my life and she said you press send. Thank you very much.
9:00 a.m. Friday, February 16, 2001 Panel on "Immigration, Mobility, and Churning: The Impact of Demographic Change on Urban Schools"
Tom Anton Introduction:
I want to welcome all of you to today's program in this first annual conference on city problems, focusing this year on the future of urban schools. I want to say a couple of things on the outset. One is that we hope that this can be as much as possible a working conference. We want to encourage interaction between people in the audience and the panelists and to that end we have placed in front of the seats toward the front of the room some information a graph and some other information so people who don't have access to that and are interested in some of the material you can use to interact with the participants, please feel welcome to come up to the front. We have plenty of handouts with plenty of graphs and other pieces of information.
This first of today's three panels is devoted to immigration, mobility, and churning the impact on demographic change on urban schools. The graph, which we have placed in the front of the room which all of you people, should can look at. Which looks like this is a graph can provide a little bit of context for what our panelist are going to be talking about in a few minutes. This is a graph prepared by the Providence Plan and those of you who were here last night will remember that Fred Lippit who was the very generous donor to support this conference for the next few years is the chairman of the board of the Providence Plan and the Providence Plan under the superb direction of Pat McGuigan who is sitting in the back and I thought I saw Jim Vander Hei. Jim are you here somewhere. There's Jim. He is the director of urban information systems for the Providence Plan has actually done most of the work in putting this together.
This graph is as about as powerful a single graph as I have seen in a while. What it does is trace and for an over twelve year period what happens to a covert that enters the Providence Schools and if you look at the left hand part of the graph you'll see you want 1845 kids enter the Providence Schools by year 12 only 382 of those original folk are left. So they're leaving meanwhile, the other colors represent the people who are coming into the schools. Every year new people coming in. So, across time a number of students overall doesn't' decline but the mix changes very, very dramatically. So the two bullet points that the Providence Plan analysts have suggested for us is that many students either leave the system or do not advance to the next grade and secondly remaining students are joined by a considerable number of new students every year. And that data by the way was a product of collaboration between the Providence Plan and the School department and also working with Population Studies Center here at Brown. I'm quite certain that this is not unique to Providence that this kind of turning in public schools related to mobility and immigration is in fact a fairly common characteristic and it raises a number of very significant issues on what urban education is all about and how it might be best organized.
So to address that issue we have assembled a powerhouse panel of three very distinguished people. Beginning with Carola Suarez Orozco who is co director of the Harvard Immigration Project. She's also a senior research associate and lecturer in human development and psychology at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and along with Marcelo Suarez Orozco, she co-authored Transformations, Migration Family Life and Achievement Motivation among Latino adolescents. They also are co-editors of the forthcoming 6th volume series on the new immigration to be published by Garland Press. Carola will begin our discussion by giving some idea on all the very interesting work that she's doing you have those of you in the front. Have a series of little tables that she has prepared for us that you can refer to.
Carola Suarez Orozco, Harvard University:
Good morning thank you for joining us. Our world is transforming in very dramatic ways and in part that is fueled by the immigration waves all over the world 130 million immigrants and refugees are to be found across the world. Thirty million of those alone here in the United States and in the last since 1965 twenty million have been admitted to the US. So we're having very dramatic transformations since 1990 one million new immigrants are entering the country. So this is a movement of unprecedented nature in terms of shear numbers, although, in previous waves of immigration for example between 1880 and 1920 the percentages of people coming in were higher then they are currently. So, in that period the percentages of native born are immigrants was practically 14%. Today, although we have more people in shear numbers it's still a little bit under 10%.
Now, what is different about the new immigration is where people are coming from. In 1880 97% of immigrants came from Europe. Today the number is down to 25% and 25% are coming from Asia, 43% are coming from Latin American, and 7% are of afro-Caribbean origin. So, the new immigrants are remarkably diverse in a variety of ways. Not just in terms of ethnicity, race, and color but also in terms of linguistic backgrounds. For example there are 100 different languages represented in New York Public schools today the number is around 90% for Los Angeles public schools whereas in previous days there might have been 6 or 8 languages. So, schools are dealing with very different populations, very diverse populations.
The new immigrants are also remarkably diverse in terms of economic backgrounds. We have amongst the most educated immigrants ever to come for example Indians have very high percentages of Phd's. If you look at the Silicon Valley nearly 40% of those businesses are owned by immigrants. So, we have kind of a bimodal distribution where we have extremely educated immigrants coming in more than any other wave of immigration and at the same time we have immigrants of lower education backgrounds which are quite comparable to previous waves.
Now where are these immigrants coming from? They're coming primarily from Mexico is the single greatest sending country it counts for nearly 50% of migration to the Us. The other large sending centers are the Philipines, India, Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, El Salvador, Canada and I imagine most of you wouldn't notice the Canadian immigrants and China. Now, there are some interesting new groups coming in Colombians, Brazilians, and Peruvians, are new groups that we are encountering in schools in large numbers now that we never had before. These are different. Many of these coming from these countries are tend to be more middle class than what we've seen in other waves.
Now where are the immigrants going to? California is the single largest receiving state 34% of the new immigrants are coming to California. New York, Florida, and Texas follow suite afterwards but, what's interesting in the last five or ten years is an increase in immigrants in states that have never seen immigrants before. For example particularly in the Midwest and in the south so for example in Georgia there has been 102 % increase in Latino immigrants in the past 10 years. In North Carolina there has been 110% increase in the last ten years. In Arkansas 148% increase in the last 10 years. So schools who have never ever had to think about immigrants very much all of a sudden have to mass increases in a very short period of time.
Now why do immigrants come here? Well there are three primary reasons why. There's political turmoil. War is a major cause for people to flee. Political, religious, and ethnic persecution of course fall into that brick. Immigrants are also coming in for reasons of family reunification. Since 1965 there was a seller heart act and that allowed a family reunification to be a reason for legal migration and so people started bringing in their family members. The other large group that accounts for migration are for economic reasons and they're both push and pull reasons. People are pushed out of the countries when there is a transnational globalized changes where the economies are collapsing in dramatic ways. They're also being pulled by the demands of an economy in the US that is virtually addicted to immigrant labor. Now workers are not simply disembodied arms they are human beings with families they bring in their families or they form families here. So the cost, if you will, of immigration is are the families that come with them.
So what has occurred is now immigrant children are the fastest growing sector of the US child population. One in five children in the US today is the child of an immigrant and that is projected to be one in three by the year 2040. So, our world is changing dramatically and how these children are adept and their educational pathways they take will have profound implications for our society. Now what does all this mean for schools? Well, schools are facing unprecedented changes with really very few road maps about how to proceed.
There's very little research about who are the children of immigrants. What are the characteristics they bring with them both in terms of strengths and risk factors? We don't know much about what educational strategies are effective for which kids in what context. We know next to nothing about secondary school immigrants. You know most of us of the research we do have is about primary schools and in fact the recent report that just came out by the urban institute in Washington lets us know that larger numbers of immigrant kids are actually coming in at the secondary level then at the primary level and schools are virtually unequipped to know what to do and how to serve these students and not surprisingly the drop out rates are extremely high as a result for the kids coming in at the secondary level. So, we have very little research and the little research that we have tends to be driven by either or types of divisions such as whole language verses phonetics or bilingulism verses emerging and there's not a whole lot of dialogue about what can we learn from each other in the process.
Now, all of this is complicated by the fact that we're embedded right now in a variety of school reform measures that are recurring all over the country and these school reform measures have been designed as sort of a one size fits all with really not much thought about what are the implications for immigrant kids and often in fact some of these measures many would argue are well intentioned have very serious negative consequences for children for linguistic minority children. For example and some of them you might not necessarily think about ahead of time for example, in California there was a referendum to reduce classroom sizes. California used to have amongst the largest classroom sizes in the nation 32 to 35 and there was a referendum to change that to 20. Now, I would have voted for that. That sounds like everybody knows smaller classes are good but what people didn't anticipate was there was going to be a tremendous teacher shortage. That there weren't rooms to accommodate all the kids at the smaller level and there were certainly not enough teachers who were trained in any way to work with linguistic minority kids. So, the classroom sizes were reduced but the quality of the education didn't' necessarily follow suit.
In the moratorium on social promotions has a pretty dramatic effect on immigrant kids and high stakes testing is something that I'll defer to my student colleague Dr. Garcia but high stakes testing has some very serious consequences for immigrant kids. I don't know if you all saw the Boston Globe front-page story yesterday about a young Dominican girl who has been here for six years. She's an A and B student attending more in schools and she hasn't been able to pass the MCAS so there's some questions about whether she's going to be able to graduate. Now, that's just one person but, I can tell you when the results came back from Laurence public schools which has upwards of 90% of Latino enrollment. The failure rate for the MCAS was in the order of 70%. So, are we going to fail 70% of the kids? Are we not going to give high school diplomas to 70% of the kids? I don't know what the social consequences of that are and I think that we should be thinking about that. We face a variety of challenges in working with immigrant kids. I'll cover just some of them very quickly.
One is a challenge to curriculum development. We need to recognize that immigrant kids come in with transient English language skill limitations and while they are acquiring those skills we need to provide intellectually engaging and challenging materials that allow during the time that they are acquiring these language skills. We need to present information on a multi mobile kind of basis. So, that we can scale on all the children's available resource. In essence we have to prepare our children for the twenty first century. We need... There are serous challenges in the assessment area. I believe very strongly that we need to develop better diagnostic and I use the word clinically but I'm meaning it in kind of an educational sense. We need to get a sense of what the children's immigration histories are. We need to know that as part of our intake with kids. For example we know that there's some research showing that ten to twenty percent of immigrants kids entering schools have had gaps of up to two years or more before they came to school. So there's this large chunk.
This large period of time of interrupted schooling that has some implications in terms of learning. A lot of immigrant kids are coming in versed with issues of trauma. It's hard to learn when you're managing trauma issues and I think that we're going to have to be addressing some of those if we really want kids to learn. We need to do a better job of figuring out what the kids' academic strengths are. There's this assumption often that because you don't know English that you're also not very educated, that you're not very smart. A lot of kids that we worked with in our project come in with fairly high levels of education and they are placed at low levels of math classes for example. Doing things that they did five years ago. So, we need to figure out where they're at so we can keep pushing them rather than taking them back many years. We need to do a better job of figuring out what kids literacy skills are as they enter the schools. We need to do a better job of assessing native language skills. Now I know that's not possible when you have a hundred different languages. I'm completely unrealistic but nearly three quarters of immigrant kids are of Spanish speaking backgrounds. We could at least make sure some of the larger languages being represented we have some decent assessment strategies in place. We also need to do a better job of appropriately identifying learning disabilities.
There tends to be a problem in assessment. We either over represent our immigrant kids or people just throw up their hands and say I don't know what to do with these kids. We need to core them. We need to send them for an evaluation that kids get into and do special education services without really having a true learning disability. Without having dyslexia or some other sort of learning disability. On the other hand we have lots of kids who do have learning disabilities and everybody'' saying well it's a second language issue. You know that's what's going on so they don't get the services that they need. So we need-- need to do a better job at figuring out which one is which. Who's who and how are we going to get kids to services if they need them appropriately.
We have a big challenge in fostering realistic parental involvement and what do I mean by that. Well, we really do need to recognize that immigrant families come in with extremely high hopes for their kids and they do see education as their ticket. I've been in a lot of school lunchrooms. I've been in a lot of hallways and I've heard lot's of teachers say oh these immigrant parents don't care about their kids and that really is a cultural misunderstanding. We've done interviews with kids with parents rather with coming from five different sending centers. Four hundred different parents and it's very clear that many of them frame their migration precisely to give their kids a better education. Now that doesn't mean that they know how to play the game in the US. That doesn't mean they understand that in the US parental involvement really is code for a model of advocacy. The true involved American parent advocates for their child. That's what we think is good parenting and good practice. But, a lot of immigrant parents come from backgrounds where they would never dream of imposing their ideas on teachers. There's deep respect for teachers. They assume that teachers know best and it would be very impolite to say I want this I want that I don't want you to do this. We also have to understand that immigrant parents work very long hours and it's not always easy to get to school. So we shouldn't construe abstinence and silence as not caring. We also need to do. That doesn't mean that we should give up and say we don't want involvement with immigrant parents at all we need to do what we can to bring to have people who can translate for them and make them feel welcome on the hours that they can actually get their. Which is not usually three o'clock in the afternoon if you're working in a low status job you don't have the flexibility to say excuse me boss I need to go to this parent teacher conference. This is one of my pet peeves.
We also have to do a much better job at designing assignments, which don't penalize immigrant children who are not able to draw on their parental resources. I mean theirs a whole lot of what I call parent/child homework assignments that go out. We have to take the kids to the library. We have to get them on-line. We have to there's a lot of middle class parents do a whole lot of reading their kids papers and helping structure their thinking and so then the kids come in and they have better papers. Well surprise, surprise. We need to do a better job of setting up realistic types of assignments that the kids can actually do. Understanding that parents can't always help them then we need to set up after school programs and that sort of thing to scuffle the kids in every way we can. He didn't think I could get through this in fifteen minutes. So, the bottom line we need to work towards fostering robust learning communities where first of all we need to understand that learning occurs in relationships for the most part. So, we need to foster supportive relationships between teachers and their students between teachers and their parents and between students of different backgrounds. We need to maintain very high expectations for our kids and build on their strengths while recognizing the transient nature of their English language limitations. We need to mediate learning in a variety of ways and take advantage of all available linguistic and cultural resources and we as a society need to recognize diversity as a resource for learning rather than a problem to be eliminated. Last we need to recognize that immigrant children come in with tremendously high hopes and we need to do a better job of embracing those hopes and harnessing those energies. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much Carola you've made a believer out of me. You really set the table very nicely for our second and third speakers. Our second speaker is Dr. Eugene Garcia, who is dean of the Graduate School of Education, and Professor of Education at the University of California at Berkley. Before joining the faculty at the University of California at Berkley he was a faculty member at the University of Utah, University of California at Santa Barbara, Arizona State University, and the University of California at Santa Cruz. He has published extensively in the area of language teaching and bilingual development. Authoring and co-authoring more than 150 articles and book chapters along with eight book length volumes but, no mere academic. He has also served as an elected member of an Urban School board and from 1993-1995 he served as senior officer and director of the office of bilingual education and minority language affairs at the US Department of Education. His current research is focused on effective schooling for linguistically and culturally diverse student populations.
Eugene Garcia, Dean of School of Education, University of California at Berkeley:
Buenos Dias! Salutes de California. It's good to be here where it's cold. You get to really understand what it's like to live somewhere else other than California. I appreciate very much the opportunity to be here and if I had to give this talk a title it would go something like this: Reform in Education-Immigrant students in California the aftermath of proposition 227. Keep in mind that proposition 227 in California is probably the largest education reform directly aimed at immigrant non-English speaking students of California. So it is very relevant in the context of Ed reform of what we are doing with a large number of immigrant students in California and it's appropriate to consider it as an Ed reform policy.
Let me also say that a text, which I have, one the title is to look at 227 as I promised. Every text has context and any text without context is pretext. I don't come to you from that great place of Berkley to a nice place and as great a place as Brown with pretext. So let me first provide some context. About 1.6 million non-English speaking students inhabit our schools in California. That's approximately 25% of the student population, student population of California. These students are served in a highly segregated schools and live in highly segregated communities. Physical facilities are those that you might describe in many urban settings and the teacher expertise related to these schools is very characteristic of other urban situations across the country. But, more specifically if you're a third grade Latino student in California you'll likely living in a urban context, you're likely from a family we identify as working poor with a medium family income of less than $25,000 but an intact family a mom and dad. You are likely a first generation immigrant. That is you either came to the country as an immigrant or your parents did. You're primary home language is Spanish. You live in a segregated community mostly with other Latinos and are taught and served essentially in a school that is similar in nature. You are taught pre 227 and presently primarily in English which is sometimes a myth that everyone is getting or was getting instruction in a language other than English and you're very likely served by a teacher who is not trained or credentialed to teach you. If you're lucky your teacher is credentialed but more than likely will have less than two years experience in the profession.
The context of prop 227 decides Latino students and immigrant students in California is that we perceive it as part of a broader Americanization philosophy in California that is: Immigrants should assimilate. It's been a long constant prospective of those who aren't immigrants. After they turn from being immigrants to something they perceive themselves as non-immigrants remember we are a country of immigrants. Second prop 227 cannot be understood without also understanding proposition 187 in California and also proposition 209. Two other propositions aimed directly either at immigrants or at ethnic minorities in California. Third the context of prop 227 is that it is a top down reform. That is a mandate. It is one of the few times the public has essentially said this is what we want you to do in schools. It's a rarity in education but in California it is that kind of reform, public mandated reform.
Let me turn to the text, what is prop 227 quickly. In June 1998 61% of voters in California essentially passed proposition 227. Specifically if you are an English language learner it identifies that term in the new proposition English language learner. Previously, was limited English Proficient. Then the provision of that new law was that you would have one year of intervention called sheltered English immersion, and then you would be mainstreamed. So, it didn't say you were just to be mainstreamed. It said one year sheltered English immersion and then mainstreamed. There were many other provisions of that law which I won't go into at this point but I need to give you at least one other provision and that is that parents could wave their students out of the implementation of sheltered English immersion into something called bilingual education. The parents by signing a waiver fairly substantial process to do so the parents could do that. Now, in Arizona we have proposition 203. The daughter of proposition 227 which follows similar kind of legal mandates. Just to make clear 61% of the voting public ordered for 227 but 68% of Latinos voted no. Fifty-three percent of African Americans voted no and Fifty-one percent of Asians voted no. In general then even though some could argue, overwhelmingly California voted for proposition 227. A break out by ethnic groups indicate that is not the case. The intended effect very straightforwardly was to eliminate the use of primary language in instruction throughout the k-12 system and to essentially eliminate bilingual education.
The second goal of course was if that was done we would raise student achievement of Student language learners VLL. So the intended goal was to eliminate bilingual Ed eventually that leads to English language achievement gains for these same students. We went into the field immediately after the proposition passed. Thanks to a number of foundations, the University of California, and the US Department of Education we studied first twenty districts in starting in September of 1998 three months after the law passed it became a regulation in the state. Thirty-seven schools were a part of that study and then in the 1999-2000 year we went back out and now I have studied sixty districts. I will report very systemly on the Berkley part of that sixty-district study. That is a study of forty plus one districts in California. Forty districts were stratified a random sample. Selected to serve in the study we wanted to get a good picture of what was going on in California. The one of course was LA. You can't just wish that LA gets in the sample. LA serves 700,000 students. Seventy percent of them are English language learners. So, you can't understand California unless you study LA in this sample. So, we said forty plus one. In order to get into the sample 25% of the students in the district needed to be limited English proficient. They were needed to be in a stratified way either rural or urban. Although almost all of the samples in the district were urban and we also made sure to sample districts that were not just Spanish language dominant. We made sure to sample districts that had Asian languages and including more recent immigrants that Carola has referred to in California. We used a cascading methodology for those of you interested in methodology. We started by the selection of the forty stratified random districts we interviewed district personnel there. They gave us two schools and principals to interview and then the principal gave us two teachers particularly a first or second grade teacher in their school. So we cascaded through the district, to the school, to the classroom basically and then we conducted a small number of classroom observations. Particularly, in those schools that had eliminated bilingual education and those schools who had maintained bilingual education.
What are our findings? I'll try to do this quickly. First finding at the district level was that no one broke the law. No one just said we don't care although the superintendent of San Francisco initially as saying " I don't care where gonna do what we're going to do". It turns out they followed the law. Only one district in the state, which is not in our random sample San Jose. One relief from a judge because they had allowed consent decree. Which essentially said we have bilingual education. You have already approved it as a remedy under allows and de seg therefore, we want to continue. The judge said fine you can continue. Ignore 227. Every other district we know of essentially implemented the provisions of proposition 227. There were three reactions from the districts. One very straight forward was staying the course. Of our sample, twelve districts retained bilingual education through the waiver process. Four districts in our random sample had already shifted to sheltered English before proposition 227 so they stayed the same. So in sixteen districts of the forty that we sampled, nothing changed other than maybe some terminology and so forth so either waivers were granted. In the sheltered English districts things were already moving in that way before 227. There was no requirement in California that students receive bilingual education. In fact, only 30% of California students were identified as in bilingual education pre 227. The second district response to 227 was what we call choice. The board of education, the superintendent said we won't have a district policy we'll let each school decide. Do you wan to maintain? Do you want to move to sheltered English? But the districts policy was to let schools decide. Fourteen districts did that of our sample. A third response was to eliminate bilingual education. Nine districts followed that. These are districts that previously had policies which were allowable or essentially were highly promoting bilingual education and essentially that stopped. We will do sheltered English. Put away all your primary language materials. We will eliminate any instruction in the primary language. In general then, 66% of the districts and schools retained a bilingual education. Twenty four percent of the districts in a random sample eliminated or already had moved to sheltered English. So when the New York Times or the LA Times says bilingual education has disappeared off the face of the map in California are random samples suggest that's not the case. At the school level, the schools in those districts that have adopted policies related to the entire district. Those schools followed that policy. That is they either eliminated bilingual ed. or they maintained it. The schools that were in districts that allowed them to choose essentially continued to do what they were doing before. If they had bilingual programs they continued with those. They got the waivers. If they had programs that were already moving to sheltered English they continued on that track.
In other words, there was no great change at the school levels with regard to a response to 227. If you had a long-standing bilingual program you probably had it post 227. At least two years into post 227 as opposed to other school districts and other schools that may have changed. But the key issue is that nobody just sort of went the other direction. They were already headed toward it. This is what we find generally with reforms. Reforms work best where people already doing what the reform. We find no difference in this regard.
What about the classroom level? Teachers essentially had told us. We interviewed over eighty-five teachers now. That they either retained bilingual education or moved to sheltered English on the basis of their personal philosophy, decision by the school or the district to do so, their previous training, and their previous experience with regard to how they teach. We had two extremes one teacher said they can sue me, I'm going to continue to do bilingual Ed. Ideologically, I know that this is the right thing to do. Bring them on. On the other side we had teachers saying this is probably the right thing to do. I need to teach more in English and I'm essentially doing that now whereas before I was doing more primary language instruction. So you found all of those kinds of notions. But clearly philosophy, training, and experience was seem to us what you did prop post prop 227. We found across the state no professional development in those districts that adopted sheltered English. Teachers said we were told from one day to the next you are now doing sheltered English immersion. Do it. What they did is they adopted the English language arts program basically. Whatever it was in English. There was no adaptation of those. There was just stop it and do what everybody else is doing. That serves English learners. We did not find English police. English language police. One of the provisions of 227 says the teacher or district or principal may be sued for not implementing 227. Many teachers felt there would be somebody looking in on them. Instead what we found is open court police. Success for all polices but not necessarily 227 police. That is once adopting open court somebody came in and made sure you did it. I know people going in and saying you've got to do this and sort of following it. They were called coaches technically but teachers said these are open court police. Success for all police etc... The last thing we found in the classroom is a clear shift to more English. No matter whether you were sheltered English, whether you were bilingual. Seventy percent of the teachers we interviewed indicated I'm teaching more in English now. Clearly 227 did that. However, they also pointed out teacher after teacher that their change was not directly related to 227 but, the state accountability system which uses the SAT 9 in English only test to essentially rank schools and provide sanctions or rewards based on that English test. So teachers over and over again said I'm driven more to English language instruction by the SAT 9. Then by concern or by principal in my school/district rather than the prop 227 regulations. What about the students in those classrooms. We did observations in districts, which had retained bilingual ed., and those districts, which eliminated bilingual ed., and we focused on the first grade. Why first grade? Reading instruction is key in first grade. Two ethnographies published in a journal that will soon come out on that work from our Berkley team essentially found that in the sheltered English new adoption programs children were non-engaged in instruction. Children at first grade not being able to understand what's going on.
What we found in another study is teachers by the end of the year had essentially adapted whether it was open court or success for all or other phonics based instructional strategies that were provided for them begin to use the primary language because students just didn't get it. Student achievement what did we find? One of the things prop 227 said is that we will enhance student achievement by the implementation of prop 227. Those of you who listened to Mayor Riordon last night said the kids are doing great. They're doing a lot better. Well in a statewide-stratified random sample of students in California we've found no significant difference on the SAT 9 at the end of grade 2. That is it has been two years into English sheltered instruction, reading has been taught for two years. We've found in those districts in our sample that eliminated bilingual education. Gains from zero to twenty-four percent with the average being six- percent gains on the SAT 9 in English. For those districts that maintained bilingual education we found zero to twenty-three percent gains with the average of seventy- percent increases on the SAT 9. Keep in mind that the SAT 9 measures only English. So you're talking about second grade students in bilingual programs tested in English. Scoring no different than others that have been receiving instructions in English. At least problematically indicated teaching instruction in English. A side bar on this related to high stakes test in the SAT 9 is that three districts sued the state. Indicating that the SAT 9 an English achievement test was invalid in high stakes accountability system of California. Of course that was Berkley, San Francisco, and Oakland Bay area schools and in December 15 the state concurred that the SAT 9 was not valid and appropriate for use with limited English proficient students and therefore, now has allowed the waving of those students but, the districts must come up with alternative measures of academic achievement.
What are the conclusions very quickly? First, please recognize prop 227 is a top down educational reform. Specifically, aimed at immigrants, a large number of them in California. Has all the characteristics of such top down reforms. Particularly those we know of been studied in Great Britain and Australia where lots of things are required of teachers. It is combined with other policies in California. The accountability system, a reform, reading mandate which is a phonics in English and of course others that Carola mentioned class size reduction, phonics reading for all students, and standards in English. So there are lots of things going on in California that essentially hit immigrant students not just 227. There is a definite shift in the service to English language learners and immigrant kids to English, no doubt about it. Whether you maintain bilingual education or you eliminated it but, there is no earthquake or tidal wave distraction. Wrong metaphor; wrong metaphor if you want to use a metaphor try a tornado or a heavy thunderstorms. Some places wiped out and waiting for the green grass to come up after that destruction. No green grass yet. But, I anticipate that it will be there. I honestly don't predict that there will be much green grass in this top down reform and theirs nothing here to indicate that we're heading in that direction. Thank you
Thank you very much. Our third speaker on this panel is Dr. Luis Moll who is professor of the Department of reading, language, and culture in college of Education at the University of Arizona. He has conducted educational research with language minority students for the past twenty-two years and served on the editorial boards of several professional journals. His most recent study is an analysis of biliteracy development how children develop competencies in two languages and the broader social and ideological conditions that mediate such developments. He is also collaborating on an analysis of computer mediated after school programs for language minority children as part of a forthcoming monograph on such settings. His edited volume Regotsky and Education was published by Cambridge University Press in 1990 and later translated into Spanish and Portuguese. His new book Theorizing Practices-Funds of Knowledge and Households and Classroom will be published by Hampton Press. He was elected to membership in The National Academy of Education in 1998.
Luis Moll, University of Arizona Education Professor:
Thank you and good morning to you. I was a little bit fearful coming via Chicago over any delays. Fortunately it was an easy trip but I was telling my colleagues last night that the warm negative consequence of coming here and I was looking forward very much to being here is that I had to cancel a pool party that I had organized for my graduate students but, I promised them that upon return I would organize it for next week.
I've titled the talk Expanding the Educational Ecology of Latino Students-Constraints and Possibilities. The growth of the Latino population is probably most noticeable in urban schools. Latino students along with African American kids are now the majority in the one hundred largest school districts in this country. They comprise approximately seventy percent of the kids in the one hundred largest school districts. This population is among the youngest and the fastest growing. Owing to both birth rates and to immigration so that the educational issues relating to these children both Latino kids and African American kids will continue well into the foreseeable future.
In this brief chat I want to mention three factors that must be considered in evaluating these students prospects for schooling: 1) Their social class standing. Which more than any other factor (at least that's what they claim) determines the nature of their schooling. 2) The pedagogy of control. My term, that parameterizes their schooling that is the subtractive forms of schools as exemplified by the banning of bilingual education in California and now in Arizona. Gene referred to proposition 203 in Arizona as the daughter of proposition 227 in California. The reality is that in my opinion Arizona suffers from California envy. I don't know some has suggested that perhaps the size of the state of California has something to do with it but virtually any of these propositions and especially the most oppressive ones are adapted immediately in Arizona. 3) I want to discuss the development of human connections that make sense and make use of every part of our communities to situate and redefine teaching and learning within a broader educational ecology.
For present purposes I will address the initial two factors in a couple of paragraphs or so and then concentrate on the third point the formation of a broader what I'm calling Educational Ecology as the main theme of this brief talk. However I find that systemic constraints on the schooling of Latino kids based on their social class status and related factor are often understated, ignored, or avoided in addressing their schooling. The Latino population in the US is overwhelmingly a working class and low income population. Take just one indicator. Thirty-five percent of school age Latinos lives below the poverty level. Thirty-five percent compared to eleven percent for whites and Forty-one percent of Latino households make $25,000 or less and from these statistics. If we remove the Cuban American households in Day County the percentage of Latinos making $25,000 or less probably increases to forty-five percent or perhaps closer to fifty percent. In an important analysis of Latinos in LA in Los Angeles where they now comprise a majority population. About forty-five percent of the total population of LA county are Latinos. That represents about 4 and a half million people. The sociologist Vema Ortiz concluded that given existing structural and economic conditions. That this population would remain permanently in the low working class. Notice that claim. The claim is given extent, economic conditions the population will remain permanently in the low working class. Whether her analysis is accurate or not the point is that this lower social class status is a more or less stable more or less fixed structural conditions of Latinos in urban settings and a major factor in their schooling.
In my view this characteristic, the working class status, in of itself does not represent a constraint, however, how the schools respond to the low status of the students is of outmost importance for it defines the nature of their schooling. We know that a pervasive characteristic of US schooling is it's stratification by social class and that certainly is not unique to the US. In general, low status students received a more constrained and limited intellectual curriculum with more rope like instructions then that of more affluent counterparts. This is not an occasional characteristic of some schools. These forms of schooling represent the status quo for these children. With important exceptions of course and I'll describe at least a couple of them. Furthermore this low-level instruction is exasperated by current trends in education for example, these mandated, rigid, and prescriptive phonics reading programs. I referred to these programs as the phonics trap. For they inevitably become dilate correction programs especially with second language speakers. Trapping students into lower level work and seriously constraining any meaningful activities with text.
I must also mention just in passing the ideological underpinnings of this banning of bilingual education. Because these propositions have less to do with language and little to do with children learning English, in my opinion, then with relations of power within society especially within the social context created by the changing demographics as Carola described. The intent of the vote, in my opinion, was to show Latinos who is in charge. To put these people in their place. That is how I interpreted it. As Christian leader has observed the dominant assumption guiding such actions is quote " that monolingual Anglo members of the general public are perfectly capable of deciding what kind of educational programming is best for non-Anglo language minority children and are better able to make such decisions. Then are bilingual educational teachers or the communities that children come from". Now note not only the colonial like control imposed upon these communities or the psychological violence perpetrated on the children by censoring their language. But, it also nullifies their most important tool for thinking their language and their learning experiences they have had through the use of that language. None of the instructional and ideological conditions which I called deep constraints for they are always present at the core of the educational experience of poor and working class kids are likely to change in the near future. They must be mediated at the local level and through broader alliances created to challenge the status quo.
In what follows then I present very briefly, two promising responses to this encapsulation of schooling by dominant policies, practices, and ideologies. I use the term educational sovereignty. A term I borrowed from American Indian educators and researchers and their historical struggle to create some sovereignty in their decisions about Indian children. To capture the need to challenge the arbitrary authority of the power structure to determine the essence of education for Latino students. In particular, we emphasize the type of agency that considers the type schooling of Latino children within a larger educational ecology and that respects and responds to the values of education possessed by Latino families. Nobody, in my opinion, has much faith in education as working class families. In our interviews with many such families particularly women of Latino communities you rarely hear the hypercritical comments about schooling that are so characteristic of the middle class. There is enormous faith placed upon schools. This larger ecology that I'm referring to includes not only schools central to any community but the social relationships and cultural resources found in local households and other community settings. The friends of knowledge approach--there are forms of schooling that I call knowledge creating models where the emphasis is on inquiry and activity in creating new knowledge not on drilled and practice and prescriptive top down practices that deliberately attempt to build upon the resources of the students and their communities in doing academic work.
One example is our collaborative research with teachers on funds of knowledge. We refer to funds of knowledge simply to those bodies of knowledge that underlay household activities. This work conducted mostly with working class neighborhoods in Arizona but also more recently in New York City has been particularly successful in helping teachers approach, understand, and define their schools communities in terms of these funds of knowledge. The teachers in these studies visit their students households not to impart on education or knowledge although that is certainly important or to train the parents in how to reach their kids although that is certainly important as well but, the teachers visit these households to learn from the families and with a theoretical prospective that seeks to understand the ways that people generate knowledge as they engage life. I should mention that a key aspect of this work is creating study groups with teachers and schools. That is creating what we call the disperse space. The time and place where we can work together in order to talk and think about what we're doing. As most of you are familiar with schools now creating such a space for thinking among adults and the schools is a hell of a political accomplishment. So that the goal within these study group settings is to be able to talk and think about what we're doing but also to be able to form symmetrical relationships of work between the university based teachers and the public school based teachers. These are also settings where we're able to develop our tools for the research in house rules, that is both the theory and methodology for how to approach these households and interpret their cultural practices.
So, how do we do this work? In general by approaching the households, gaining permission to enter and let's say during an initial visit we would concentrate on documenting the social history and the labor history of the families. Through those initial interviews a combination of participant observation and ethnographic interviews and through the documentation of such labor history we're able to start identifying what are the bodies of knowledge underlined the productive activities of households. We're also concerned with documenting the social relationships the social networks that tie one household to the other and how these networks function as mechanisms of exchange for the exchange precisely of funds of knowledge. That is the metaphor of funds is used because instead of exchanging capital funds for labor the exchange among households is often an exchange of knowledge. I'm addressing a very mundane activity, that is, I need help with my car because I know nothing about automobiles. I called John or Juan who will come to my house and as a favor will provide me with his knowledge and labor in fixing the car. A month and a half later I get a call from John it is time to reciprocate. No, it is time for the exchange. His daughter is having problems with math in school. He asked me if I could tutor his daughter so she can do well in class and I tell John that my area in research is literacy not mathematics. That I can't do it and he'll ask me how's your car running. It is that indirectness that reciprocity that is the group to in this relationships and that facilitate the exchange and of course I remember that one of my doctoral students who just happen to have a incomplete in one of my classes is a math teacher in a local community college so I activate his funds of knowledge to tutor the girl and do a case study of her learning to finish his incomplete. That type of indirect reciprocal relations is what I'm referring to.
As the networks and the exchange of funds of knowledge, an important implication of this work is that of the bunking ideas of working class households as lacking worthwhile knowledge and experiences and replacing it with a prospective that is able to identify, document, and access for teaching valuable knowledge and experiences for children and their families. Now notice that the approach here is not to tell teachers as valuable knowledge in the community used but it is through organizing first hand research experiences for teachers and researcher generate new knowledge about the household economy, about the social history, the labor history of families, and about the funds of knowledge on the line that productive activities or households that were able to create a new representation of the resources that are available within the immediate community.
This view of households as possessing ample resources for learning changes radically, at least we claim, how the students are perceived, how they're talked about, and how they're taught but perhaps more important than the documentational knowledge is the creation of social relations of trust. What we call relationships of compeanca using the Spanish word for mutual trust between teachers and families. That is facilitating thos4ee human connections and the emotional that sustain them as part impartial of the pedagogy.
I just want to mention another line of study and then I'll really conclude. This is what I'm calling mediating institutional arrangements. This is how to reorganize the schooling experience itself. To mediate is engrained structural restraints that I referred to earlier. An important example here is provided by the work of Hugh Meehan, Bud as we call him. Bud Meehan and colleagues in California on a teacher initiated innovation if three-year high school on tracking program called Avid. Avid stands for Advancement via Individual Determination. A terrible title for the project especially a project that relies so much on creating social networks of support. This work features two key elements and I'll review them very briefly. One, is the placement of students with a regular academic track. Thus beyond tracking, requiring that they take courses that lead to college admissions. A second element providing the social scaffolds his term necessary to ensure that the students who succeed within these courses. In particular, the social supporting includes rigorous weekly academic tutoring with explicit instruction and note taking, test taking, and study strategies. It also included teacher advocacy from the students we have. Part of the caring support for the students and the creation of social networks that facilitated acquiring knowledge and the whirlwind on it necessary to deal with a school culture with playing the game. With playing the academic game and the procedural knowledge required to deal with college applications and admissions. College counseling played a significant part in this innovation.
Another central factor in the success of Latino and African American low-income students within this project was the development of an academic identity. This identity, which like all emerging identities needs much nurturing, featured information of academically oriented associations among students while dealing with potentially incompatible social identities and relationships. As important it also featured both students and teachers developing a critical consciousness about race, class, and school politics and about resistance to the innovation that manifested either in or out of school. All innovations involving working class kids are very fragile. This one is no exception. Thus, reason and consciousness about the resistance to the innovation from others. In all, the outcomes for the study are quite encouraging. In a sample of approximately three hundred students, eighty-eight percent of the kids graduated to a college education. That's eighty-eight percent. Forty-eight percent went to a four-year college and forty percent went to two-year colleges for a variety of reasons including economics. With the highest proportion of college attendance among the students from low income and working class families. I repeat these arrangements are both fragile and fluid. They constantly come apart and they need care-constant care to hold them together. But, these alliances between university, communities, and schools hold great promise in creating an important educational ecology for these students. Thank you.
Audience Question and Answer Session
Q. I've just experienced one of the wonderful ironies of our mobile society. I just returned from a literacy conference at Dean Garcia's university and at that meeting people were bemoaning the implementation of descriptive reading programs. Success for all and open court then last night, Mayor Riordon allowed those programs and then this morning I heard professor Moll speak and he would have been one the people that would have been at that California meeting. You weren't there though were you? So I think about the contrast here. I think what is the difference of perspectives and use of resources. It's not that the political people or the administrative people are necessarily bad people or good people but that we have two very different prospective on organization of schooling and use of resources and I wonder why we're not talking about those two different prospective. Addressing them very specifically and I wonder if here at my university you could talk about that. Why is it that the prospective are so different? Why do literacy researchers have such a different prospective from the administrative people and the organizational people.
A. Let me try, clearly first of all let me agree that there are maybe not only two but various perspectives and there are places where the perspectives sort of come together and I have to admit that the mayor and I don't disagree that we want the best schooling for kids and we particularly want it for those kids that have been probably robbed of that good schooling experience long passed and our more recent experiences in California. There we have no disagreement. Our prospective are the same. We've got to do something. These kids are not doing well. Let's go forward. I think the fact that sixty-six percent of a random sample group of schools and districts chose to sustain or go against the tide of prop 227 English sheltered emergence also gives us a difference of perspectives. Keep in mind there is no evidence that those programs are doing wonderful things for kids. That's not the case. Some are and some aren't. There's a significant difference between some other programs. But, the perspectives in those programs, if you went out and interviewed those teachers, interviewed those parents their perspectives are very different then the set of people who went to the polls and centrally voted on a different prospective. In California we're going to run through these different perspectives I think for the next few decades. The demographics will change. I don't know where it will come out. But, I can't do anything other than agree with you that there are those perspectives and agree with you the best way to deal with them is to lay them out and to have open solid discussions. What worries me in a democratic country, at least one that embraces that democratic vision. Immigrants essentially are placed outside of that conversation. I don't know how many schools we've gone to in which immigrant parents say. I can't vote. I can't participate in the process that determines what happens to my student. So, we will continue that conversation unfortunately, with many individuals not included in the mechanism we've created to try to include them but, quite honestly we won't. On the other hand we ought to continue those different perspective conversations.
Q. What is it that do you think about these programs that is persuasive to administrative and politicians?
A. I spent some time in Washington so I know a little bit of that, as Tom mentioned I was a school board member so I know a little bit about the politics of education and my guess is that as Lisa has indicated that this is part of the politics of education. That is there are people deeply concerned about righting wrongs about educating kids who haven't been educated but, those perspectives those ideologies not invariable data about what's going on in schools but there own perceptions of what ought to go on in schools and what they think will make a difference in schools as long as we have power differentials whether it's elected power, democratic power differentials, socioeconomic differentials, is that I think that accounts for many of those top down reforms. Whether it's again phonics or whether it's 227 or 209. I think you really have to understand the political nature and the demographic change and threats that those bring in the political process. That's the only way I can understand it. I don't' understand it only as an educational a teaching learning phenomenon.
Q. I'd like to get back to the issue of top down and the relationship with University's communities and schools and there is a kind of top down but I think it goes unnoticed and that is that a lot of the thinking that greater part of thinking that goes on about diversity, ethnicity, and education comes from universities downward and I'm just interested in whether or not there are ideas going in the other direction or there are ideas that should go in the other direction that is that we are beginning to learn about experiences of immigrants and poverty and so forth in the K-12 context that should be seen as ways of rethinking what goes on within the university teaching.
A. No I think you make an excellent point. At least the way we try to address that issue is by forming this collaborative arrangement with teachers. Where all of our work is characterized by such arrangements. Part of the importance of this is that teachers are able to give intellectual direction to the research that we're conducting jointly, so it's not simply as imposing or suggesting to teachers this is a good idea. But it is the difficult task of creating the relationships and being able to modify the research agenda on the basis of the comments and the agenda of the teachers working with us. By the way I should also mention I think related to your comment I was surprised the other day when I was accused in the context of the work this collaborative arrangement with teachers that what I was doing along with my colleagues. That we were creating new elites within the schools. That is now the teacher researchers. The teachers that collaborated with university researchers have to proceed. The teachers that don't participate in research have become second class teachers. That surprised me. It surprised me because it certainly was not our intent but it as feed back coming from the teachers. We have to address this as part of our methods.
10:30 a.m. Friday, February 16, 2001 Panel on "The Challenge of Reforming Our Schools: The Possibilities and Limits of Charter Schools"
Marion Orr Introduction:
We think about urban schools and the challenges that leaders face in revitalizing local education. It has not been due to an unwillingness to embark on reform. In my research, which I published in my recent book, The Color of School Reform, we examined four major school districts Baltimore, Atlanta, Washington DC, and Detroit and what we find was that local leaders had attempted an array of reform ideas from site-based management, to choice schools, to contracting out the management of schools and indeed charter schools. It is not that folk have not been trying to do reform. Reform ideas are widely implemented in many of our urban school districts. Charter schools are a reform idea that is widely supported during the Clinton administration both Democrats and Republicans supported charter schools and on the state level both Republicans and Democrats have supported the notions of charter schools. The bipartisan appeal of this concept has fed the movements that have led to its growth. Some twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation for charter schools including Rhode Island. So today we want to talk a bit about charter schools. I want to alert you that Donna Rodriguez one of our speakers had indicated to me to note that her school is not really a charter school but I think that her school and her experience fits very neatly within this discussion.
Let me introduce the three speakers and let them each come up in turn to talk to you about charter schools. Our first speaker would be Ted Sizer. Ted is the founder and chairman of the coalition of essential schools. He was recently a co-principal of a charter school. He is a university a former professor here at Brown and currently a visiting professor at Harvard. He is the author of three books on schools: Horace's Compromise, Horace's Hope, and most recently The Students are Watching Me. Ted will be our first speaker. Our second speaker following Ted will be Dr. Peter McWalters. Peter is currently the commissioner of elementary and secondary education here in Rhode Island. He's held that position since 1992, prior to becoming Rhode Island's Commissioner of Education. McWalters served over 20 years in a variety of education and leadership and teaching positions. Finally, our third speaker will be Donna Rodriguez, who worked in the Worcester school district for nearly thirty years prior to her current position. Before becoming principal, the University Park campus school she chaired a department of world languages at South High School in Worcester. Let me just say something real quickly about Donna's School. The University Park Campus School is a start from scratch 7-12 school. It's an experimental school a collaboration between the Worcester public school system and Clark University. Ms. Rodriguez was hired in 1996 to plan the design of the school and to select and recruit students. The school opened in 1997. So, she is going to talk about her experience with the Worcester/Clark University collaboration.
Ted Sizer, Author and Former Principal of a Charter School:
Thank you it's a great pleasure to be back. I must say that the proceeding panel was for me very upsetting. Particularly the succession of statements we need that Carola laid out. All of the things that she identified, we need and yet when you string them together you were reminded how close to collapse the serious of public system schools is that the obvious needs are not being addressed and there doesn't seem to be much political will to address them. Forty years of careful research by all sorts of people have demonstrated that the pattern and design of American Schooling particularly, the secondary schools is at best inefficient and at worst a system which reinforces the social class system of a society. This is not a new idea. It goes back a long way. At the same time there is evidence over those forty years that the existing system particularly, the political system, the policy system, is paralyzed. That it cannot address those questions. It can not move with dispatch and with decisiveness on the needs that Carola outlined. Just those to start with. This gridlock and this 227-itus that Gene talked about the attempt to push reform top down is a measure of the poverty in thinking about how the institutions operate and how you would reform them.
In my career I've gone to join many commissions, several of them in my former state of Rhode Island where all of the stake holders sat down and we would spend hours and the more time we spent the more the frozen tundra would sort of emerge and the inability of all of the stake holders to come to some kind of agreement beyond rhetoric and a few adjustments was perfectly clear. It was for this reason that I have been increasingly interested in ways of going around the system in which charters are just one means. As mentioned, Donna's school is a different arrangement. The pilot schools in the city of Boston are yet another arrangement that comes out of the collective bargaining agreement. The New York networks now between a hundred and two hundred small new schools in the city of New York have yet another version and you see in the city of Oakland the beginnings of it. Some major effort out there in creating new small schools that really have some major differences with the existing system.
We have to learn how to go around the system and that has been my interest in why, when. Some neighbors and friends in the little town of Harvard, in central Massachusetts desired to start a charter school for their own kids and Nancy and I knew that we were retiring and moving back to our home there. The two of us got involved. So involved that we ended up being for a year the acting co principals. The Francis W. Parker charter essential school is in fact-It is deliberately a different kind of school. That's one of the functions of charter schools. It's very different. It marches to some importantly different drummers. It is by design a small school. It is human scale. Everybody knows everyone else at least by the turn of the year. No teacher has more than 65 kids to teach. Most have 50 or fewer. Every student has an advisor, and sees that advisor at least twice a day. No faculty member has more than twelve advisees. Families choose the school. It is a school of choice. The families are hooked into the network of the school. It is the social scaffolding, to use the metaphor that we mentioned.
I had the opportunity last night to go to a conference with Robert Putnam and heard him talk about the bowling alone syndrome and the evidence that if you do have these social networks. The social scaffolding, it effects all sorts of things like student achievement. In our schools every child as I've said is known. Every child is seen twice a day by the advisor. Every teacher and most teaching is done in pairs has two hours free each day, free of class in order to plan ahead and talk with colleagues about those students. The kids are known. The time necessary during school day for the discussion of those kids is built in to the operation-to the daily operation of the school. So this is a place where the kids are known. The design of the school started in knowing the kids well. This is enormously important in the context of the first panel. These kids will come. They don't in our school because of where we are and the way it works in the state lottery. In these rapidly growing number of schools where there is a lot of in and out by kids and where the kids come from many different backgrounds, in many different languages, in many different religions, in many different expectations knowing each one is absolutely fundamental and unless the social scaffolding is there. It's not only that you have to know the kids. Unless that scaffolding is there. You don't get the combined effect of teacher/child/parent or guardian or grandma or child advocate or whoever the streetwalker. Someone who is working with that kid. That takes time and time means money and you have to invest money in it. So uncharacteristic for the school then is this, if you will quote "light load" of students per teacher. Of course if you take knowing the students well it's not light at all. The better you know the kids the more you know what you don' t know.
The other characteristic I want to mention is that the school is performance driven. It is not age graded. Age grading is a product of early twentieth century thinking and it's an organizational thing. Of course all of us know, that no kids are alike. They learn in different ways at different rates and those rates are not constant. They fit and start. How can you say that all ninth graders will do x. It makes no sense, except bureaucratically. Therefore, the school is organized for rising seventh graders. Kids who would go into seventh grade, eleven plus twelfth and they move forward over the schools program on the basis of their exhibited performance. This exhibited performance to be crafted out of two major curricular areas the Arts and Humanities, including Spanish; and Math, Science, and Technology and the youngsters when they are faculty advisors and when their parents think they are ready go through what we call a gateway. If they meet the standard and the standards have to be very clearly defined they move ahead over three divisions. There is space for thinking to use another wonderful metaphor that was mentioned in the previous panel because when the youngster has to explain her work the very process of explanation needs lots of preparation time. The prospect of being asked questions about the work means that the kid not only has to know the stuff she has to be able to understand it in order to ask what might be to her an unfamiliar question. Its intellectually very demanding work. Now, how do you do this? You do this by having a very very simple school. There are no electives in our school. For example, we believe in learning a foreign language and that one in our school is going to be Spanish. It would be nice if we could offer German and Latin and so forth. We can't afford it. But, the whole school the ideal is able to speak both English and Spanish.
We don't have an elaborate extracurricular program. We don't have an elaborate interscholastic program. It's a very simple focus, uncomplicated school and thus it is able to bring those loads per teacher down and it's able to be flexible because the daily schedule is not so complicated if you want to redirect it or if you want to group kids differently you can do so. What are the possibilities of schools like this? Increasingly, promising our youngsters have done well in two respects. They've done well on the state tests. Even though the curriculum we provide is much narrower than the state framers. It's counterintuitive but the kids figure out how to do testing. Even though they don't know the subject matter. Another measure is the fact that we are widely over subscribed. That is many parents this current year has dropped come from thirty-nine different towns and cities and the possibility continues in another respect a kin of our school will be called North Central Charter Essential School will be opening a year from September in Fitchburg and Leominster, which are cities in Central Massachusetts. Thus we will be able to better to serve more students in a variety of ways.
Why do we do this rather than work through the system? Even with good people in the system, it's very hard to make the dramatic even if they are insensible. Dramatic change is necessary in the way that resources are focused and the basic thinking behind those resources and it's again-charters are a means to an end. The end is to change the system because it doesn't work. I should say finally that one of the most remarkable new schools resting on quite different ideas sits in the state of Rhode Island and that's the Met School which, was started primarily by three people Dennis Litke, Elliot Warshaw, and Peter McWalters, the state commissioner. It is even more radical meaning different then Parker. The record of its first group of kids is absolutely striking and I wonder if the Met School would have been possible ten years ago politically. It's been possible in our time because of a somewhat different climate in this state and because RI is blessed with the best state commissioner of education in the country. Is that a form of introduction?
Peter McWalters, Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education:
Welcome back Ted, that was very nice. There are days that I really need that kind of a boost. I want to kind of get right to some of the fundamentals and play off some of the images that Ted started with. One has to do with the primary question. Is it going to be all kids to some standard or isn't it? So, it's still for me driven by access to pass the equity and terminal excellence. Exiting to standards and I want to be careful to use the word standard, I do not mean standards as in tested. I mean it in a child exhibiting mastery and we can fight about how you measure that in a number of ways but, it is the fundamental issue about all children and I want to concur and confer at least from where I sit that the structure as we know it wasn't set up to do that. I'm not sure it could ever do it, as we know it and that in the sense of the frozen tundra.
Constituent conversation we do keep reminding ourselves that we're our own worse enemy and by our inability to come to consensus that allows us to respond quickly to the individual students to meet the merging expectation of higher performance, whatever that means then we leave ourselves ripe for simple political answers. Then they're always research driven and they always tend to be preachy and top down and simple and I can't help but getting irritated and tired because as we have over the last ten years-we've kind of gone in two different directions, I guess. It's either the levers will finally tighten the screws right and it will all work or we have systematically searched for better organization and better strategies and those of us who have taken the more complex route are increasingly overwhelmed by how complicated it is and I've come to start getting to a point in these presentations where if I'm talking to teachers particularly or politicians, you want to go you know it is rocket science.
A good teacher adequately prepared, positioned well institutionally, networked well in terms of the capacity to change an informative reflect, and authorized to make the kinds of decisions that they need to make that is one hell of a complex system if you think of it from state house to school room and we don't have it but it is "rocket science" in that sense and even when the system is working the primary burden is to position the instructional player the teacher/student relationship to be informed of dynamic and powerful then that the system revolves around it. Now, that's a point of departure. That's a little different point of departure then simply thinking in terms of the standard as objective, the assessment as the measure, and the consequences and rewards are conventional incentives. Until we kind of force them to do it right or scare them into doing it right or something.
Now, with that kind of a back drop. Right now we're talking about charter schools but any of us that have been in the business for as long as I look out here and recognize many of the faces. This is not a new conversation. If you're in the education business in this country, right after you enter it. Right after you enter it and I entered it thirty something years ago you kind of instantly are given that point of departure. It's either up the down staircase or you instantly get caught. Am I in this system to be co-opted by it or is the system part of the problem? We have gone down the roads of choice. We have gone down the roads of magnet schools. We have gone down the road of decentralizing decision-making but all of it is a "really is an attempt to get around the system" to get around the system. So, when I use that frame of reference we have in our state right now three operating charter schools. The first bill meant the charter schools could only be proposed from inside the current system. They had to basically be approved by not only school committees but all the waivers had to be agreed to by labor management contracts and in some cases that meant that every alternative in a proposal would end up actually having to be voted on by the ranking file at a general assembly meeting. Not exactly heading you down rapid change. That was the bill and we had one or two and as national studies have shown ones that start off inside the systems even if they start off in good faith as it tends to change the system to the extent that they are bound by the conventions of the system labor management, the hierarchy, the superintendent, the school committee, whatever however that is set up they tend to return to center even if they start off as a charter. They systematically are whittled back until they're what we know they should have been in the first place. So then you end up with the more advanced charters.
The charters with the state which, are at least are more clearly an attempt to acknowledge that the system you're in is part of the bureaucratic dilemma. So you literally charter with the state and you have everything from the Arizona experience to the Wisconsin experience to our experience where we have now one charter with the state and then the state schools. The Met school that because it started new is virtually a charter but, it isn't a charter in the law. Again, attempts to get around the system. Attempts to focus intent. Attempts to bring up systems that meet the test of political focused standards driven, smaller units, personalization, all the criteria for "successful schools". But quite honestly at least in terms of the question today the role or the hope or the future of charters. I think they have a future but they will always be examples of trying to get around the system. I don't think this is the answer to American public education. I don't think it's the answer to America urban education in the sense that one at a time. I do think they are part of the pressure until the constituents in the system decide that every school.
Every single one of our public schools should essentially be a charter. Every one of them. Which means all of the bureaucracy from the state regulations through district policy making through labor management contracts should be focused on how do you set up individual schools to be self governing responsive to children and accountable to the system through agreed to principles and or results. In that sense I think the charters will continue to be modest and I think they will continue to be places where you go to for examples and we can keep proving the same thing. That it's less about the strategy and the content than it is about the focus, the commitment, the personalization, and the relentless dedication to the student as opposed to the system. We can keep opening charters. They won't change what they're teaching us. But, they apparently not yet have caused a bigger system from the state to the districts through the labor management history to the school to actually make the fundamental shift and until we make that we are going to keep losing the political battle. I mean I feel reasonably proud that in this state given the last ten years and this was actually I mean I'll credit Ted although he may not want it. Many many years ago as a matter of fact Fred Lippitt is in the office I saw him. We had our first retreat it was almost eight or nine years ago and Ted Sizer facilitated the board of regents and the whole issue of standards and assessment was kind of churning out of the national summits and I thought one of the colonials of wisdom that we were lucky to pick up that came out of a conversation with Ted was.
You know it's perfectly reasonable for parents to want to know how their kids are doing in reading and math. Don't fight that. You can't win the battle of not doing testing when, you're testing something as elegantly fundamental as can the child read to high levels and can they solve problems. So, early on we grab the fact that if the state is going to go into this business we're going to do it in two subjects only and to this day I still think that decision has been a wise decision to prevent us from shutting down every alternative program because they don't have to get ready to take ten state tests in rigorously narrow subject areas that don't mean anything. So, you can have tremendous variety in our system and still be preparing to take the state assessment systems. I think our accountability system is based on the school as the unit. It's based on lots of good information and it's based on a continuous improvement exercise. With very very little top down consequences except for these vague threats that say if you cant get our act together over time we're going to change the nature of our relationship. With that kind of a backdrop you would think we would see more and more emerging school discussions and quite honestly they are.
Many of the SALT visits are exposing both schools struggling to become charters in their systems and schools that need to be jolted into at least thinking about being responsive. So, what have we learned in the last few months or the last year and a half? As schools take that seriously with increasing focus on the need for them to take responsibility for their own programming. We are now into the dilemma of trying to set up compacts between schools and districts and the districts are having a hard time with that. Districts are very reluctant to set up individual compacts with individual schools and they retreat back to fairness of resources, equity of resources, oh but the kids are mobile, and what if the reading program changes from third grade to third grade. All of the conventional, let's return to center.
Let's resist that the chartering of individual schools. So, I'm very pleased with some of the tensions we have in our state but I look at the wave coming in the Federal rhetoric and I quite honestly get apprehensive that we because of our inability as a constituency as a industry to confront our own non responsiveness around the fundamentals of personalization of fundamentals all kids organize for them rather than us because of our inability to do that. We are victims to an increasingly simple rhetoric that if we just get the standards right as in the private sector and the instruments right as in David Driven and the consequences right as in shut down in effective places that somehow that simple logical drive this thing. When I step back and look at who the system has served and the fact that when you're talking about failing schools. Only some people realize that the Saturday morning mall, the shopping malls phenomena of lost middle class kids also includes failing schools. Too often people think we're only talking about urban schools and poor kids. I just don't trust the system when the whole lesson the whole accountability system and the standard assessment and intervention system is set up to fix the very places that we have never as a nation or as any state fundamentally taken on as our responsibility either in terms of adequacy, excellence, or equity. So, long to make a very long story shorter I think the charter schools are images of what need to be. Each school needs to be chartered and the only way to get there is to still to take on the system. I don't think there wonderful models but I don't think that the charter movement as in outside the system will ever take on the weight to change the system until the system itself says we need to replicate that on mass both in policy and the politics of education. Thank you
Donna Rodriguez, Principal, Worcester Experimental School:
I think I'm probably in the running for a longevity prize for someone who has chosen to stay in the public school system. I've been in the Worcester public schools for thirty-two years, twenty-seven of which I was a classroom teacher and in different urban high schools in the city. The last five of which I've been in heaven. I say I've been in heaven because "eureka I've found gold and I like it. If it took me twenty-seven years of an investment in a profession to find something that I have wanted. It's worth it because every single day at University Park Campus school I see kids who are reaping the benefit of excellent teaching and high expectations.
For the last five years I've had the incredible professional opportunity to design, plan, recruit, and open a start from scratch complete autonomy seven to twelve school in collaboration with the Worcester public schools and Clark University. University Park is plum right in the middle of the poorest neighborhood of Worcester. I know the neighborhood well. I've grown up in that neighborhood and I still live there with the kids. The school serves only children from that neighborhood. There are no buses, which any of you out there who are principles or assistant principles I just gained twenty years of my life not having to deal with bus routes and a little bit about the neighborhood, a little bit about the neighborhood used to be called Main South now it's called University Park because of Clark's initiative in the neighborhood. The neighborhood wouldn't be what it is with out Clark University. It's everything that you ever heard about an inner-city neighborhood. Unemployment is higher, educated adults are fewer, two parent families are rare. There is a high minority rate. There is a high mobility rate, a high juvenile crime, and a lot of gang presence in the neighborhood. Kids coming from those three deckers and I know because I was one are the kids who aren't supposed to do anything. They just ain't supposed to succeed in life. They're not supposed to do well in standardized tests. They're not supposed to do well in getting into college and University Park has started to reverse that trend. I speak to you with hope in my voice and from my heart because I can't even think of the kids in that school without my heart coming out.
At University Park campus school, the number one weapon that we have are the most excellent teachers that I have ever seen in my life. Since it is a Worcester public school I still had to deal with union issues although; the union was very supportive of the change that I proposed. It seems that the more outrageous that I got the more they thought that it was a great idea. I wanted an eight-hour school day. I wanted the teachers compensated at their rate of pay. It's not an additional time at the end of the day. It's time that's built in to the regular day that they're actually teaching. I wanted common planning time for teachers as Ted said. I wanted a streamlined program. We have no enrichments there. It's simply what they have to know to succeed and every single child in the school also takes Spanish because when we opened I taught and I taught Spanish. That was what the choices were for foreign languages. I found that in my years. Many years of experience, kids will meet especially kids who feel supported. They will meet teachers expectations but there is a problem with that because some teachers don't have high expectations for kids and that's reality and those kids meet those low expectations or meet no expectations at all. Some teachers have high expectations for kids and when the kids feel supported in their environment that scaffold thing that you all mentioned is essential. Then they will rise to those expectations and that's what I see every single day. The kids rising because every adult in that school from the cafeteria woman to the custodian thinks those kids can do it. No one has ever told them they can't. Jack Foley is here from Clark University. He brings groups over from universities all the time to see what about this university public school collaboration and one woman from a college said what are you going to do with the kids that don't get into college form your program. I said what do you mean? She said well what are you going to do with those kids that don't make it? What are they gonna say? I said don't tell the kids that they're not going to make it. We don't do that here.
We have an eight-hour school day at University Park that's flanked on both ends because they just simply can't do the work. They're coming in... The kids are coming in at three at least three grade levels below in Math and English. Massachusetts has also gone to a high stakes testing. Massachusetts is also testing Math and English only for the beginning. Graduation depends upon the kids passing the MCAS test in Massachusetts. The class of 2003 is the class. My present tenth grade that will have to pass to graduate. I need an hour before school and I need an hour after school to help the kids with their homework because as you have already eloquently stated they are not going home to families where there is a special room or a special desk for them to do their work. The exceptional thing about University Park is that the teachers stay. The teachers that they have during the day also stay before and after school. The Clark University student body is supportive of the kids. They fall in love with the kids. You can't go there and not fall in love with these kids. It's impossible. I invite you. The Clark University kids are giving students, they come to the school, they come to the school for homework center, they mentor these children. It's like they take tremendous pride that these kids are accomplishing what they do. The Clark professors are involved. We have eighth grade Shakespeare with a Clark professor. The kids take a sociology class. They study their family histories. The Clark students are learning from my students. The diversity, the struggles that some of my students have had to come to this country. It's a situation where everyone is benefiting.
I've been able to have Foundations fund programs like this. They like to see results that students have had especially inner-city students. We have had incredible results on the Mcas test. We've scored higher than the district and well above the state in all areas, although more than half of my population does not speak English at home. Not one child failed the English Language part of the Mcas. It's incredible. We were the second school in Massachusetts in Social Studies. There was only one other school that scored above us. It's incredible work. I also have grant funding to open a month early. I want the kids in August. I have to have the kids in August. I do have a computer program in Worcester. It's a CCC program where I can get kids on. I start in August with kids in the fourth grade who might be feeding in to the University Campus Park School someday. Mobility rate is tremendous. Across the street at the elementary school the mobility rate is sixty percent. I don't have a mobility rate. I have the highest student attendance at my school than any other school in the city. My teacher attendance last year was 99.7% and I was the one out. Believe me I take my share of riving on that. I have an adult education program. When I was recruiting for the school. It was such an experience. That parents would come and I'm saying Clark University is offering you, your children free tuition to Clark and you too if you're accepted. Clark University has stepped up to the plate in Worcester for this initiative. They said to me how can I, is there any way that you can help us in our education there? And I was just opening the school. I knew I couldn't go to the Worcester public schools for the funding. They're gonna say, you haven even opened the doors yet. But, I went to a foundation and had a leap of faith. So there is an adult education program there every single night from 5:30-7:30, which is free.
The beautiful part of that is that the kids will stay to help their parents in the computer lab, and the kids will stay to help their parents get their GED. The GED graduation at University Park is kids talking about how proud they are that their mother or father finally got the GED that they had talked about for many years. It's an opening place it's a welcoming place. While the parents or any adult in the neighborhood learns they can bring their younger children and Clark students come to the school to read and play puzzles play with the younger children and it's a literacy movement that is just grass roots. No one ever thought it would be a literacy movement but it is. I just want to end on one note and I take it from your it is "rocket science" because believe me it is "rocket science". Anyone who says it's not "rocket science" is wrong. If we are truly engaged in bridging the educational gap for minority gap for minority children then you know what we have to get serious about education. We have to get really serious. We have to take a look at what's going on in those classrooms because I think you would be horrified. You have to take, you have to want the same type of education for every child that you would want for your own and that takes serious people. I am very clear at my school. I'm clear to parents and I'm clear to students and I'm clear to any teachers who come in who think they want to teach there. That buddy, you're not going to be retired on this job because I won't support that. You're going to come in here. You're going to grade these homework papers. You're going to treat these children with respect and you're going to set expectations for them. And believe me clarity is not my problem with this school because my heart is in this school. We better get serious about teaching and we better find some serious teachers to do the job because if we don't we will never reverse that trend.
Audience Question and Answer Session
Q. We have some time for some questions, answers, and comments but before we begin I want to make an important announcement and I will do this by using two words-free food. There are boxed lunches available for free at the back of the hall. Our next panel begins and what we want to do is come back and have your boxed lunches paired and ready for the next panel at least before the noon hour. We will open the floor to questions.
Q. Well I want to thank the panel. Every time I hear about what an excellent school I feel inspired whether it's a charter school, a lab school, and a professional development school. Whether it's in the system or out of the system and that's what keeps me going and I thank you for expanding my sense of the images of the possible. That being said I guess I've seen a lot of really neat mediocre charter schools. I've read the research in Arizona where there is a much greater number of charter schools than locally but there's been some to me very troubling media coverage about Edison schools for example in Massachusetts. So, my question is, are charter schools in any way more likely to produce better schools than comparable innovations. I grant that there seems to be some excellent charter schools but I remain very uncomfortable about charter schools as a panacea of any kind.
A. Let me as both commissioner and one of the charter givers concurred that I don't want anybody in any way to assume that even if you supported charter movement that there is any guarantee in the graining of the charter that you're going to get a good school. So the same issues are either if it's a performance contract that doesn't meet its expectations shut it etc...But I do have to I mean again, assuming that I'm a supporter of choice and excellence and that my bigger frustration is that with the inertia of the current system, I would love to use elegant measure of effectiveness with the current system and kind of go around and say that ones good and that ones dead and pull the charters and that is what an awful lot of states are struggling with right now. How do you set up any mechanism that is politically viable that has some sense of. It isn't just simple. It's not just a simple logic. So, I guess my answer is yes, I do not want to suggest that charters are the answer but there is certainly a dynamic in the ability to be a school centered charter that allows the conversation about responsiveness and results and holds up the image of what could be....
Q. I have one question of both the commissioner and Ted any evidence at all at this stage that charter schools have had some impact on improving public schools generally speaking. I know you mentioned the efforts of the public schools. Any evidence that the charter school movement has had an impact on what public school systems are doing generally speaking?
A. Well, it depends how you define charter schools. Charter schools are simply a mechanism. It isn't a kind of school. I think there is remarkable evidence in the city of New York where through the string of chancellors that were the extraordinary support of Sandy Feldman when she was president of the UFT. A string of small powerful schools starting in the 70's and I think the evidence coming out of those schools and in district 4 and district 2. In the Annenberg supported networks of schools that those small-focused neighborhood based schools dramatically served the kids better. That is they don't drop out. They don't get into trouble. They do graduate. They do get into college. They do graduate from college and the irony is the state of New York may crush those schools because they don't fit into the pattern. Just ten days ago there was sort of solidly the community was holding these schools which are using performance assessment to a very strict standard which wasn't applied for the regions. That's example one and I think probably in the East Cost the most dramatic example locally in our experience are the initial, when the Parker school got started I invited the local superintendents to lunch and they ate the lunch but they yelled at us. We were the devil in carnet. Three years later when Nancy and I were the acting principal, the leader of the opponents invited us to dinner in order to thank us. Why did she thank us? The reason was because we existed and because we were drawing respected families in her district she was able to put on the agenda of the school committee, items you never would have gotten from the school committee and got the votes for them. So there is this early evidence. I think the New York evidence is the evidence to go with. I'm going to answer a little different part of the question. I actually think that there are clear evidences and I agree with Ted that I could take you to charter schools that are improving lots of children without question. But whether or not charter schools are rippling back and causing the big system to change not from where I'm sitting yet. I don't see evidence of that. I see more of the as I was saying in some of the reports that I've been reading. Either there is so many charters that they're own mediocrity ends up justifying the public system to say " see, no magic there" or they are under such pressure if they're charters within the system that they are slowly having this huge pressure to uncharter them. So even the successful charters to me are still examples of outside the system. That it's not like the charter movement has yet informed the system in a way that the system is trying to either compete with it seriously or learn from it systematically. It may be a little overstated but that's the way it feels.
A: I'll try again just to follow up on that. I think we need to start thinking about charter districts. That is getting the states to allow schools, which are gathered by educational ideas, rather then just geography. So that clusters of schools would give more oomph more power to it. That's why I'm so interested in a kin of ours starting in Fitchberg and Leiminster. I should of mentioned but didn't that the two people starting both are Brown graduates, of course.
A: I just realized something because if this is about levers of change and model building for those of you who know about the Rhode Island financing structure of charters. We do not pay for them all by the state and there are arguments that argue that it would make it easier to have them but it also means that there is no pressure on sending a losing system if there's no consequence and we have a very complicated financing structure where depending on your "share ratio" and if you're a city you get more state aid and if you're a suburb you get less. So if we approve a charter and it's financed in you're a suburban system you actually have to pay more to support that charter. That one thing and it's not yet about the quality of obstruction. That one dynamic is the first signal I've had that the decision to approve a charter is causing the system to think about umm, do I try to shut it down by the politics of it. Do I try to compete with it by quality programming so, there is something? So we only got one year into this but some of the signals are encouraging maybe not for the right reason but they're encouraging because it does mean descending systems have to start either trying to outrun it politically and shut the whole thing down or position themselves to compete and I suppose in that sense it's a lever that has potential.
Q: I have one question of Donna. Any talk at this stage about scaling up and moving this beyond the school in the community you are currently working in? Is this something you foresee and could you be satisfied with just working with and improving the lot of those with the number of students that you're working with but do you have this urge and is their any discussion about scaling up beyond your experiment now.
A: Yeah, I hope the scaling up means small schools scaling down. The district right now is in conversation about taking the large comprehensive high schools and breaking them down somehow to personalize education. It has to happen that using University Park as a model for that kind of reform. I've been big and I've been small and small is better. There is no doubt especially with inner-city children. That's fueling a large discussion in Worcester right now and I know probably in the state in general.
Q: I think this is a follow up to the discussion you're having but I want to frame it in a very particular way. Ted, you said you see charter schools as a means to an end. I'm assuming that the panelist all shares the same end which has to do with systemic change. Which gets to the equity and access that Peter was talking about but, I'm wondering what the means actually is and the framework that I want to put that in is trying to think of always having in New York with the regions less is ironic than as predictable in relation to an education political culture which changes rapidly with dynamic speed and I think I would agree with Peter and we or those of us interested in these things tend not to. What's the means by which charter schools, excellence schools, what lab schools or however we want to categorize them. What's the means by which we can make a case for the change of the educational system and it's actual institutional the elements that constitute it's institutional history and assistance. How can we actually use those things to help change the thing that needs to be changed so that kind of change can actually be maintained across districts and states in the country? Research proceeded by alliances, that is we need to keep very good records. We need to be prepared to make our case on the basis of not so much the kid's test scores but the kids' lives. There has been very little funding or interest in funding at these longitudinal studies. Like the eight-year study and we need to crank those up again and clusters of schools have got to find a way and the government has to find a way to make that possible because I think the cases are going to be strong only if we have a significant number of varied lives to demonstrate. I think the universities have a big role here. The university Ed schools by large have focused on assessment evaluation portraiture. What's going on? They have done very little in the design work and I think that's a great gap. That is the intellectual armament that is necessary to put together on a first class basis. A first class school given the particular population that it's aimed at. Right now done by the seat of the pants and there is a gap in higher education. It's not that we need advocates. We need people to track what we're doing. We need to track it ourselves but we also need people on the front end of the conversation. People who are working hard on the architecture of these community schools on a sustained basis. We got to be patient. It's going to take a long time and we have to persist.
A: I have two pieces to my part of that answer. One is right now I think the alternative schools and I'm thinking more of in New York than I'm thinking here. But it's the same problem that I have with the met school in terms of its success not easy to demonstrate. I think whoever wins the race right now for figuring out how to use the measurement system to anchor paper in a writing assessment. We need to anchor paper the exhibitions and we got to do it quickly. We got to be able to when Dennis Litke has his show up here and graduation and the kid doesn't exhibition, it's one of those things right now it's a leap of faith. You either believe that's real standards or you kind of say well how did they do on the test. It seems to me there is an answer to that and I want help with that and I think the universities owe it to us. The other one is the universities are part of the problem in the sense that the more alternative you are and the more exhibition sense your graduation requirement is the less likely your to be considered for admission in most big administration systems. I mean the ones we're having the most problem with is the big public institutions that are state and surrounding states for the kids that are the highest performers on the exhibition piece and the final piece is I was very impressed with the Met school who anticipated well. Not only did they graduate the kids; they actually freed up a staff member who had been with them for four years full-time to transition them into their colleges. They've already facilitated two quick transfers by mid year or first year. Didn't lose the kid and they are determined because it's not like the colleges are waiting to be friendly on this front and as soon as an alternative program has a high drop out rate in the first year of college never mind that we all know that it's a high dropout rate for all kids. It's not like it works but there is a system that anticipates that and says if that's the measure I want a matrix for exhibitions that will stand the test of a rhetoric of assessment and I want the university systems to be ready to receive and recognize an exhibition graduate and then I want to be able to track the two kinds of graduates and I would suggest we fair well.
A: Universities have to be receptive to the children that we're educating. I know in Worcester at Clark next year in the eleventh grade ten of my students will be taking courses at Clark. The Clark professors are involved in the kids' education. They welcome them on the campus and that's essential because kids get a message very soon that they are not welcome on a university campus and that has to change.
Q: I want to start by saying that the answers you just offered start me on the road on the answer that I hope you will give to the question that I'm about to ask. I've been struggling to reconcile three comments that were made earlier today. One was Luis Moll's reference to advent program and he called it fragile and I think fragile describes a lot of programs not just that perhaps it describes a good charter school for example. I've also been thinking of Peter McWalters comments about, well I could just pull the charter if the charter school doesn't prove to be good and I've been thinking about Donna Rodrigues comment about her heart is in the school and in that community she's from there. She's of there which makes the pessimist in me say well what if she isn't from there and of there and somebody else comes along ten years from now in that school and doesn't have the same kind of neighborhood disposition. My question is I'm trying to reconcile how in a sense the fragility problem can be solved. What kind of infrastructure do we need to put in play so if she chooses to retire there is still a potentially good school? Is the only instrument to open it or close it or are there alternative ingredients for in a sense intelligent mediation? Where a school that has weaknesses gets fixed rather than shut. So what is that infrastructure look like from a sort of point by point basis?
A: One is I came in toward the end of the previous panel and I don't want this to sound more foolish but somewhere in the successions the transitions of leadership to the extent a good school and I'll use the district in New York City as an example of a good system. We have to start thinking about those transitions and they are "imbedded in the network of community" it is as much about having sole and institutionalized the expectations, the belief system, the focus on children system, and the need to be responsive in a sense of continual renewing if that is institutionalized then the leadership can change. I fear sometimes we don't spend enough time in education on the transitions, on the succession planning.
A: My answer is adding to that, networks of schools and some of them have been around a long time. Some of these networks starting what they have called an aspiring principals program. That is a veteran principal takes on a teacher who might like to become a principal of a similar school and the one in our region is in association of Northeastern University. But the networks are critical. It's easy to pick off schools one by one but as in New York with a consortium, the performance assessment consortium, which is leading the struggle with the regions and that, includes like-minded schools from as far west as Russia, even though most of them are concentrating in the city of New York and in Boston it's the pilot schools and the city of Boston has financed through the center of collaborative education a collective set of programs. They support one another and they also pay attention collectively when one of them flounders these are networks that are not part of the hierarchy. They are private networks and they carry with them this-an answer to both these questions-Do they support one another? Does best practice get spread, so forth and so on? Are they really looking at building a succeeding leadership?
A: That's an excellent question. As a principal of my school and that school is me I guess. I give so much autonomy to my teachers. It's just something as a principal that I always wanted to do. I never got it for twenty-seven years but I do it in my school. You're the expert in English, you tell me. You're the expert in Math, you tell me and I think by doing that I'm building a staff of potential leaders in that school. Quite honestly I see the leadership after I leave University Park from someone within the school now because they've come on board with me and they've also started the school.
Noon, Friday, February 16, 2001 Panel on "Reforming Providence Schools"
Darrell West Introduction:
For those of you who are just joining us I'd like to welcome you to the first annual Thomas Anton/Fred Lippit conference on the Future of Urban Schools. I'm Darrell West the Director of the Taubman Center for Public Policy. This conference has been set up as an annual event to address problems of American Cities and to bring together scholars and people who are actually on the floor fronts who are working on various policy problems. We would very much like to thank Fred Lippit, whose generosity has helped make this conference possible, also Tom Anton, the founding director of The Taubman Center for Public Policy for all of his hard work and effort over the years. I'd also like to acknowledge Happy and John Hazen White, who are in the front row over here, who have been long term friends of Brown University. We appreciate all of those individuals help in pulling all of this together.
Earlier this week we at Brown University released a public opinion survey dealing with among other things Providence City Schools and how Providence residence felt. We found that nearly half of the city residents feel that the schools are moving in the right direction. Last night we had a packed house for a lecture for Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordon, who discussed his efforts to reform the schools, and we had two panels this morning that were wonderful panels for laying out some of the latest in terms of academic research as well as the views of some of the people who are actually in the schools trying to bring about change.
Now we are delighted to host the grand finale, a keynote speech by our new Providence school superintendent Diana Lam. Ms. Lam is passionate about improving our schools. She came to Providence in 1999 from San Antonio. She has been literally around the clock to try and make a difference in our community. So we will hear first from her and then after she speaks we will have reactions from Richard Hoag, who is the President of the Providence/Washington insurance company. Dick has been very active on behalf of the business community in working to improve our schools. Phil DeCecco who is the President of the Providence Teachers Union also will give his prospective on what is going on. After we hear from these three individuals we will open the floor to questions and comments for you. Please join me in welcoming Diana Lam to Brown University
Diana Lam, Providence School Superintendent:
In the past few weeks, I have been deeply impacted by re-reading Disturbing the Peace, by Vaclav Havel, the writer, dissident and former president of the Czech Republic. The complexities facing urban school districts are not very different from the crisis facing society. Havel believes the fundamental crisis is a crisis of human identity - who we are and the degree to which we live in the light of that truth.
Havel's view of who we are as humans, and hence our potential to effect change across history, is profoundly hopeful. It is the hard-won hope of a person who has been imprisoned for his political beliefs, and could have led a much easier life had he accepted the temptation to denigrate his integrity and go along or pretend he was someone other than who he is. Havel is writing about his own country, but consider his words in light of America's urban schools.
"If every day a person takes orders in silence without questioning, if every day he solemnly performs ritual acts which he privately finds ridiculous, if he unhesitatingly gives answers to questionnaires which are contrary to his real opinions and is prepared to deny his own self in public, if he sees no difficulty in feigning sympathy or even affection where, in fact, he feels only indifference or aversion, it still does not mean that he has entirely lost the use of one of the basic human senses, namely the sense of humiliation."
I think of the bright young teacher who is struggling with whether to stay in the field of education - where his or her evaluation depends on how quiet he or she is able to keep the class. I think of the energetic high school student who is trying to find authentic expression somewhere within the large, impersonal, fragmented institution we have constructed - the urban high school. I think of the earnest parents who speak a language other than English, who come to enroll their children in public school and are made to feel neither welcomed nor valued as partners in their children's learning.
Sadly, in some schools, which are still organized as institutions rather than communities, humiliation is the dominant characteristic of school climate.
Havel continues, "On the contrary, even if they never speak of it, people have a very acute appreciation of the price they have paid for outward peace and quiet: the permanent humiliation of their human dignity. The person who can resist humiliation can quickly forget it; but the person who can long tolerate it must long remember it. In actual fact, all the fear one has endured, the dissimulation one has been forced into, and worst of all, perhaps, the feeling of displayed cowardice - all this settles and accumulates somewhere on the bottom of our social consciousness, quietly fermenting."
So what has been fermenting in Providence over the last few decades? What is the price this community has paid for the outward peace and quiet?
For a very long time we did not believe that all children could learn, and some still think that high achievement is not possible for all students. Our worst enemy is the low expectations we have for poor and minority children. Our schools were structured to support a few and to tolerate the most. No voices have been raised about achievement levels and there are no protests when most of our schools can easily qualify as low performing.
For all communities in this country, there are those who have a vision and high expectations for all students and those who do not. We can pretend that improving schools and student learning is all very complicated but it simply involves making the difficult choice of deciding which side one is on. Is one on the side of using flowery language and going through the motions, or on the side of putting work and wholehearted commitment on the line for children.
I came to Providence with a vision for its children and its school system that was and continues to be based on the belief system that all children can achieve high academic standards and that all children have a right to a quality public education that provides them the opportunity to achieve this level of success.
This belief system encompasses every single child. I cannot think of one child we should leave behind or exclude from this right. Every child is our child. We do not believe the accident of birth predetermines life's script. Public education asserts that every child has a right to unlock the riches of the world's greatest literature, art, scientific and mathematical thinking and discoveries. This cultural and intellectual heritage belongs to all.
I would like to speak about some of the discoveries I have made - and that I am still making about leadership and change in school systems. I would like to mention some factors that either facilitate or impinge on how leadership can advance improvements in student achievement.
The first of the issues are the practical issues of stability and risk that affect so much of leadership in the public sector. As a society, we need to look at how we encourage and support leadership and risk-taking in public sector administration. Perhaps there is a contradiction already built into the notion. It's possible that, given the way our public sector is constructed, we want our leaders to be fundamentally conservative. The system is certainly set up that way and mitigates against risk-taking and change. In education, we have a very "mixed" system, as a superintendent I report to different groups with different agendas that are only rarely phrased in terms of improving outcomes for children. Instead, these groups have different levels of control and points of view on the resources available to make change in school systems. These crosscurrents make it difficult for leaders who want to steer a straight course.
Risk-taking in these crosscurrents is almost impossible since dramatic steps in one direction may please one group but anger the rest. It is extremely rare for these groups to give up issues of control and to put aside the structural, political dynamics that get in the way of their working together. Even when a leader puts forward an overarching vision, the cynicism that is so inherent in public life today often dampens any sense of possibility and things go back to political "realities."
There is a lot of structure of our educational system that mitigates against leadership, too. Schools have become sociologists' classic example of a "loosely coupled" system. In this view, detailed decisions about the heart of education are made in its "technical core." Decisions about what should be taught at any given time, how students should be grouped for instruction, what should be required for students to demonstrate their knowledge, and how students should be evaluated are made in --or pretty close to - individual classrooms.
The theory of loosely-coupled organizations holds that decisions made in the institutional shell around this core don't effect what goes on in the core in a significant way. This model goes on to say that what goes on in the core is most often weak and uncertain. It cannot be translated into reproducible behaviors, it requires a high degree of individual judgment, and its not susceptible to external evaluation. So, the theory goes, the administrative superstructure exists largely to buffer the weak core from outside inspection, evaluation, or disruption.
This brings us to my second problem of leadership - how we can create a "tightly coupled" organization. This is a problem of fundamentally changing the context within which leadership operates. I speak not just of the leadership at the Superintendent's level, but leadership throughout the school District. In education, there should be one priority and one agenda and that should be the best interest of our children.
It sounds like an abstract problem, but in Providence, I believe we are making a very promising, concrete beginning to a solution.
Since I began work in Providence 18 months ago, we have been working with Lauren Resnick and her colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh around the concepts of a new understanding of intelligence, building a nested learning community and studying and acting on the 9 Principles of Learning which should permeate teaching and learning.
Perhaps the most important idea is the one that defines intelligence as:
- BELIEVING THAT YOU HAVE THE RIGHT AND OBLIGATION TO UNDERSTAND THINGS AND MAKE THEM WORK, and
- BELIEVING THAT PROBLEMS CAN BE ANALYZED AND THAT YOU ARE CAPABLE OF ANALYSIS.
I don't think I can over-emphasize how "counter cultural" and important this idea is and how closely it relates to how leadership works. The Principles of Learning place on all of us the responsibility to think, to transform our own circumstances, to construct our own work and workplace.
The way we have done that, in Providence, with the Institute's assistance, has been to develop "nested learning communities" in which educators as well as students are learners. Teachers, principals and central office administrators have now formed communities of adult learners who are focused on improving their practice and becoming more expert as conductors of learning communities in the classroom, school and district.
These learning communities are separate but interrelated. Each has the responsibility of creating and sustaining learning opportunities for the next level, right down to the creation of new learning opportunities in classrooms.
In these "nested learning communities," we think we have built a "tightly coupled" organization instead of a "loosely coupled" one and we think we have reunited leadership with learning.
We reinforce our work on the Principles of Learning and nested learning communities with a variety of supports including: principal study sessions, extensive opportunities for professional development, much of it job embedded. We are also working on common planning time for our teachers, learning in and from practice, intervisitations, LearningWalks and content-focused coaching.
LearningWalks are structured visits to a school's learning areas conducted by administrators, including the superintendent. With LearningWalks and inter-visitations in which teachers visit other schools and critique their practice, we think we have linked the "inner core" and the administrative structure of the school system.
With the Principles of Learning beginning to take hold throughout the district, we have had some wonderful successes in creating and implementing other new initiatives to ensure all children will achieve at high standards. From the beginning a significant core of teachers embraced the need for change in moving the instructional agenda for students. They sought out and welcomed guidance and direction in how to address standards. They requested a consistent, focused K-12 curriculum across the district. To begin to address these issues and capitalize on this willing spirit, the district put in place both structures and initiatives which have proven enormously successful in a brief period of time. I would like to touch on just a few:
Balanced Literacy Initiative.
Literacy was made one of the top three priorities. Our goal is to have all children reading on grade level before they leave third grade. This is a daunting task since half of Providence students are two or more years behind. To support this goal, we have done the following:
- Balanced Literacy Framework:The district designed a Balanced Literacy Framework in collaboration with teachers, the union leadership and partnership staff from the Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. It is a research-based model for teaching reading that embraces a balance of best methodologies and practices. To support this we have put a Literacy Coach in every school. These coaches are master teachers who have been relieved of classroom teaching responsibilities to provide instructional leadership to their peers in the area of literacy. The coaches provide daily-embedded professional development, technical assistance, model teaching and demonstration lessons and all round instructional leadership.
- Literacy Leadership Teams: To support the coaches each school has both a primary and intermediate literacy leadership teams to assist in moving the literacy agenda. Teachers plan collaboratively and deliver professional development, provide model classrooms for peer observations, and in general serve as peer leaders. This model has allowed us to begin to build capacity by developing depth and breadth of expertise on every elementary campus.
- High-level of Implementation: Asa result of the alignment of professional development, resources, and a network of support, there has been an unprecedented high level of implementation of high quality literacy instruction at the elementary level. We anticipate that measures of student achievement will demonstrate results.
Data-Driven Decision Making & Accountability
For the first time, principals were asked to become familiar with their student data and use it to plan and guide decisions. The result has been a much more focused instructional agenda based on identified student need. Each school has developed a school improvement plan consisting of a comprehensive needs assessment and action steps.
- Another established priority is mathematics. Fewer than 10% of Providence students are able to pass the problem-solving portion of the state exam. To address this both resources and professional development support have been provided. We have had math institutes for teachers in Grades 6 - 8, Algebra I, Algebra II, Geometry and Calculus. Teacher attitudes have been amazingly open and willing to embrace new practice. Consultants consistently praise the teacher participants as being exceptional in this regard.
Redesign of High Schools: Through the generosity of a Carnegie Corporation Planning grant we have started to rethink how we structure our high schools and how we provide services to our students and their families. As we started discussing the high school redesign process we kept bumping into the problem that we were not used to collaborating among ourselves. We all had our own ideas about academic standards, role of electives, and schedules. Could school teams get together and agree on a common set of principles that will be the cornerstone to the high school redesign? To get to a solution, we have to test our assumptions about the sacredness of "turf" and department lines. But I feel optimistic that as we continue working together, we will become allies. As colleagues we have much to share with each other. Relationships - like intergalactic travel - are risky ventures. It takes time for discovery. It has been an important investment to provide time for the school teams to meet and work side by side on the high school redesign plan. The members have engaged in thoughtful dialogue, been willing to learn as much as possible about their data and have connected this information to the redesign work.
These days if you do a LearningWork of our schools, you will see enormous changes have taken place. Our faculty and administrators are doing a marvelous job implementing the Principles of Learning. Signs of it are everywhere. Of course, we have not yet reached everyone and there is still a great deal of work to be done.
However, there are two potential insurmountable hurdles that can impede the School Department's progress to act on these beliefs. The first is the conviction of the Community to these beliefs and the second is the strength of the city's leadership to fully support and stand by these beliefs.
Let me begin with the Community. I think of public schools as the yeast that makes it possible for a community to rise toward fulfillment of its grandest dreams for itself and its children. Baking bread - or transforming communities - requires daily perseverance and care and no ingredient can be left out, and most certainly not the yeast! No single group, or individual, can change communities or schools alone. We need students, parents, teachers, community, political leaders and business leaders all working together on behalf of educating children.
I began this talk by telling you my beliefs-all children can achieve high academic standards and that all children have a right to a quality public education that provides them the opportunity to achieve this level of success. We, in the School Department, can all work as hard as possible, but unless the Community embraces these beliefs and the work being done to support this in an active way, they will not come alive in any meaningful way. The School Department cannot do this alone- this is hard work and often unpopular decisions need to be made along the way. To accomplish this, community support is critical.
Who do I mean by "community" and what do I mean by "support"? Providence is typical of many communities around this country. When tough decisions are made - the majority of the public who voice their opinion are those in disagreement. By default, this becomes the whole community's opinion, whether held by a majority or held by a minority. It is these voices that are reported in the news. I appreciate and applaud those citizens who do take advantage of their right to influence the course of public policy. However, when only those in disagreement show up, there is no rich public discourse, no way to determine what the community really believes or wants for its children. It becomes difficult and demoralizing to make difficult decisions in this type of environment.
I use as a point in case the current discussion here in Providence around the possibility of closing the Alternative Learning Project, our smallest high school. In one sense it was a difficult decision to even present this proposal - I knew that it would in the short term disrupt lives and, I knew that this change would be both difficult and unsettling for the ALP family of teachers, students, and parents. However, while difficult, I knew that it was important for our community to consider this possibility. In my estimation, ALP was not providing children with the best education possible.
As we have all seen in the papers and on television over the past few weeks there has been a quote-unquote "community" outcry against the closing of this school. The community in disagreement with this proposal was certainly vocal, but did they truly represent our community's beliefs about what we want for our children? Is it the case that our community believes that it is acceptable for only 71% of all students on a daily basis to come to school in the month of December? Is it the case that our community believes it is acceptable that only 4% of 10th graders have achieved the standards on the Basic Understanding portion of the State administered reading test or that 41% of all students failed math second semester last year? In my heart I don't think so. However, I have no evidence to support that. Few voices have been raised about achievement levels at ALP or any of our other schools and there are no protests when most of our schools can easily be considered "low-performing" schools. Ultimately, the community must accept the consequences and take responsibility for its silence.
The second potential hurdle is the strength of the City's leadership to fully support and stand by these beliefs. Children are not a strong lobby in the halls of power. We need to elect people who will champion their rights. It does matter who sits at the table making decisions. The question that I pose is whether Providence is ready to commit to the notion that all children can learn, and that they can learn at high levels. If we owe young people anything, we owe them courage and hope.
Many of you have asked me privately whether I see a grain of hope in Providence. Havel was asked a similar question in the 1980's, while he was in prison, and this was his response: I should probably say first that the kind of hope I often think about, I understand above all else as a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us or we don't; it is a dimension of the soul and it is not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not a prognostication. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart.
Hope in this powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises obviously headed for early success, but rather, an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. The more unpropitious the situation in which we demonstrate hope, the deeper hope is. It is not the conviction that something will turn well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.
In short, I think that the deepest and most important form of hope, gives us the strength to live and to continually try new things, even in conditions that seem as hopeless as ours do, here and now."
I face the Providence challenges with an insatiable sense of urgency. This urgency is the life blood of my work.
Phil DeCecco, Providence Teacher's Union:
Good afternoon everyone, The leadership of the Providence Teachers Union has stated publicly on a number of occasions that superintendent Lam has brought to Providence its best chance to reform its schools. She has the insight, the enthusiasm, and the financial resources that make it possible. Schools in Providence are already experiencing many successes due to the reform agenda of superintendent Lam. Superintendent Lam speaks today on reforming Providence schools leave very little to disagree with or really comment about.
I would like to make a few statements on the union's role in reforming schools. The American Federation of Teachers and the Providence Teachers Union have also been actively involved in reforming public schools. The late Al Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers had the foresight to introduce and advocate educational reform and change the local teachers unions across the United States. The AFT has continued this direction with its present president of Sandra Feldman. I am proud to state that the Providence Teachers Union followed the AFT lead and has been actively involved in educational reform in Providence Schools.
The Providence Teachers Union was one of the first local unions to make changes in their collective bargaining agreement as part of a reform agenda. Some of these changes included the elimination of a recall list which enabled the Providence School Department to hire a greater number of minority teachers and teachers willing to relocate from other parts of the country. The elimination of daily transfers of teachers from job to job by creating the summer job fair. We agreed to two pay freezes since 1990 to assist the city of Providence out of fiscal crisis. Providence teachers salaries fell from number one in Rhode Island in 1990 to last in Rhode Island after the second pay freeze. The Providence Teachers Union also introduced a new teacher evaluation system by utilizing a portfolio assessment instrument designed cooperatively by management and the union. We also introduced Site based management in the formation of the site based management technical support committee. Presently Fortes and Vartan Gregorian elementary schools are site-based schools and their success is evidence in their test scores. These changes are but a few of the many changes made in the collective bargaining agreement in the past ten years to assist in the reforming of Providence Schools.
The recent Brown University public opinion survey indicates that 32 percent of the people surveyed felt that the Providence Teachers Union was doing a good to excellent job. We at the Providence Teachers Union feel that we have changed the public perception of the union from one of being hated to one of respect. This was accomplished through out willingness to make changes and our collective bargaining agreement that aided the reform of the schools in a positive public relation campaign. I do believe and am committed to a continued cooperation between the union and the Providence School Department leadership is essential in reforming schools in Providence.
Richard Hoag, Providence Business Community:
Hello everybody, I must say as I stand here and look at the audience and the panel here I'm humbled. I'm going to start by saying I am not an expert in Urban School Reform. I know that I want you to know that. I am a student of it however and I have been studying it for the past eight years or so. I am something else relative to school reform as well. That is I represent a major customer base and as a business leader I am a customer for three reasons, three that I can think of any way. Number one I buy your product, when I hire employees that come from this school system I'm actually buying the product of the school system. Number two as a major business owner in the city of Providence I pay a disproportionate share of that process to the taxes that I pay.
Far more important however and the thought that I'd like the audience to deal with is the business pay for the failure of the system. I believe it is true that we can educate one student for six years in the Providence Public Education System for what it costs us to incarcerate one person for one year. What do you think the correlation is between the high school drop out or an undereducated student and incarceration. I'll leave that to the sociologists the answer. I think it's probably high.
Diana talked about the conviction of the community. Interesting concept. As a business owner my experience says that one of the most common mistakes business owners make is they don't understand who the customer is. I'd like to give you a premise to think about it. Who is the customer for Urban School Reform? Is it really the community or is it a much smaller, much more powerful, much more influential set of people who have an even greater stake of reform? The community is certainly the customer of the system but reform, systemic reform, I wonder if their isn't really a different customer base. I've already made the point that the business community is absolutely a big major customer for reform. I'm going to explain that a little bit more later.
There are three others I'd like to make sure that we don't miss. The second one is the universities, for the universities obviously the product of the system is your platform. It goes far beyond that because it is the university that is preparing the people that work in the system. I know the business community has not been active enough, proactive enough on the issue on the need for urban school reform. We've been far too silent. I would say the same thing about our universities.
Number three public efficiency whether it's the city council or the mayor's office or the state house. If for no other reason than the public officials need to have the taxes that the businesses pay based upon economic development. Public officials should be leading the cause here for urban school reform. We have not seen that. We need to see that at all levels and I call on the public officials of the state of Rhode Island to get on the bandwagon along with the business community and then finally we have the educators the people who run the system, the teachers who deliver the product.
Phil said that the Providence Teachers Union has been involved in cooperative in the area of reform and I think that is true. I think that's a fair statement but like the business leaders who have not been proactive, like the universities who have not dealt with the fundamental problems and like the public officials who have liked to pretend that everything is ok the unions have to do more. The unions can't do it all by themselves. Systemic fundamental changes whether it's a business or a school district is dependent on leadership and I was really pleased to hear how Diana talked about leadership.
A couple of thoughts from a business prospective on leadership if I may. What is the place for your silence I believe is a quote from Diana? What a great great quote. What's a leader? We have a leader. We went to some pain to go and find the best leader we could find and I believe we have that in Providence. No where near enough. One person can only do so much. Leadership is a system of leadership that I know that superintendent Lam is working on. What do we need? What is a leader? A leader is someone who has a vision, not enough. A leader is someone who can get other people to understand what the vision is, still not enough. A leader is somebody who gets people to want to make the vision reality. That's leadership number one, not enough. A leader is someone who measures, measures the results.
Diana talked about data. Ever hear of W. Edwards Deming? The total quality management guru went to Japan and came back here. He says, "In God we trust, all others bring data". That's right you can't measure without data. We don't have the data and we don't have the system to put the data in. Leaders measure, that means they have to have data. Leaders remove obstacles.
When Diana talked about leadership she mentioned the word risk taking. To me removing obstacles particularly in a system like urban education is risk taking. A lot of what needs to be done somebody's not going to like. Maybe a lot of people aren't going to like it. Who's the customer? If it's the general community and a hundred people show up and say we should not do this. Are they right? I don't know. Leaders remove obstacles. Last but not least, a really good leader provides consequences.
I read the remarks of Mayor Riordon in the paper today. I wish I would have heard the speech. He already beat to death the notion of the penalties associated with not delivering, so I won't go into that. But what we don't talk enough about in the school systems, in my opinion, is the incentives. The incentives for good results. A leader provides not just the penalties. A leader provides incentives. I believe we have that kind of leader in Diana Lam. I believe that we have not developed enough of those kinds of leaders below Diana Lam and I believe until we do we won't have an effective reform in the city of Providence or for that matter any place else.
One last piece and I'll sit down. Diana talked about literacy. Business perspective on literacy-my company-the jobs in my company are far productive and far more complex than they were as little as five years ago. I have three hundred employees. We generate three hundred and fifty million dollars worth of revenue. That's seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars in revenue a year per employee. That is three times more productive than what we were seven years ago. Seventy-five percent of the jobs we have in my company require a college degree or better. Eight years ago seventy-five percent of the jobs in our company were clerical jobs. Think about literacy for a minute. Almost every piece of work that we do, we now do on the Internet throughout the company and everybody is moving in that direction. Why, because it's cheaper.
The Internet is a written word method of communication. If the people we hire can't read and can't write. They can't do the most basic job I my company except for maybe deliver mail. The Internet is providing all of our companies with a level of information. I shouldn't say that a level of data that we never dreamed of before. To do the jobs in our companies at the ultimate level will be people who can assimilate that data and turn it into information and make their own judgements on how the business should run. Literacy what does literacy mean to the business community? Without it we are out of business it is simple as that. So I'll leave you with this one thought. We have hired the best leader we can find. That leader has a vision. She's turning that vision into something that we can all understand and I say to all of us. Let her lead. Let's not micromanage, let's follow the lead of our leader but let's assure that we are not silent as it comes to our support for the notion of real reform.