Monday, October 29, 2012

A Different Kind of Segregation?

Questions have come up as to whether the school privatization movement is moving in a de facto direction of re-segregation.  This post by Anthony Cody and follow-up by Diane Ravitch provide some insight.

Interestingly,  I was listening to a podcast on investing where they discussed the stock trends of some for-profit education providers.  These investment folks talked specifically about how the enrollment of these providers (charters) are dropping as they become more selective in their student bodies.

We historically think about segregation in terms of race.  In the education world we also had segregation through tracking. 

My impression of some charters is that they are minimally selective at initial enrollment, but counsel kids out based on their behavior, work ethic, and parent support. 

The political landscape leads me to believe that school choice measures will only expand.  I do wonder if they will bring a new type of segregation; one where those with parent support for learning drift away from what they perceive not to support learning. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Reality vs. Perception

What do you glean from these metrics?
  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) the dropout rate in 1970 was 15%.  In 2010 the dropout rate was 7.4%.
  • NCES data also shows that NAEP scores are at their highest point since we started tracking in 1973.
  • There were 3,000,000 kids in kindergarten in 1970, but up to 4,200,000 in 2010.
  • There were 7,000,000 co-eds in college and grad school in 1970, but up to 18,900,000 in 2010, with more being women than men.
These metrics look pretty positive, yet confidence for public schools has fallen.  In 1973 58% of people polled by Gallup said they had "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in K-12 public schools. In 2012 that number was down to 29%.

When you dig deeper into the Gallup numbers you find that people realy like the school their kid attends, but that likability falls as one gets further away from their own school.  So, my school rocks, but that school across the country isn't so good.

What could account for such a difference in reality and perception?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

No Milkshakes

My typical day is to take Zack to school then drive to the office.  After dropping Zack off I typically listen to three moving songs to settle a busy mind then listen to podcasts.  What I listen to varies, but I have a variety of interests.

Recently I listened to an interview with Jerry Murrell, CEO and founder of Five Guys Burgers and Fries, the fastest growing restaurant chain in the US.  Their simplicity and focus on only a few things is a large part of their success.  As school leaders we can learn alot from such simplicity and focus. 

Often times we take on too much.  We have this initiative and that initiative, not to mention another one over there.  And sometimes they don't always align.  We do the grant or program of the day because we need funds to expand this or that.  Or maybe a principal got a sales pitch at a conference and wants to bring in X product.  But how does it align with what we're already doing?

Over the past few years we've made a concerted effort to focus.  The result has been stopping some things we were doing and aligning around what we call our three rocks:  student engagement; rigor in curriculum, instruction, and assessment; and taking data to action.  So far the results are much more positive than when we had lots of disparate, unaligned initiatives.

Jerry Murrell doesn't want to do milkshakes because it would take the focus off what they know they do well.  We call the things that aren't in our focus the wiggles or squiggles.  By keeping those things in check we can continue to focus on the things that matter and get results.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October Paddle

Our October paddle was on a section of the Meramec River we've not travelled before.  The warm temperatures made for a nice day of easing down the river and the fall foliage was outstanding. 

Mr. Shaw's new rack worked great. 

Looking forward to a nice November/December trip to the Eleven Point.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What ever happened to the Missouri Vision Project?

Some time ago educators from across Missouri participated in the Vision Project for Missouri Public Education.  The final report was issued in October of 2011, but where are we now?  The October 4, 2011 news release from MASA read:

The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) and the Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) have completed a joint Missouri Public Education Vision Project. MASA and MSBA represent those charged with legal responsibility for governance and executive leadership of Missouri Public Schools and each group has developed advocacy positions in past years. This project is the first time these groups have jointly developed a comprehensive vision for public schools in Missouri.

To create this vision, a task force made up of education leaders from MSBA and MASA was formed with two major purposes: (1) to critically examine the components of our current public school system; and (2) to suggest changes that could transform our current system into one that better meets the needs of 21st century learners and ensures that graduates of Missouri public schools are prepared for college, career and life. The project was coordinated by Dr. Tom Cummings, Retired Superintendent from North Kansas City.

To complete the vision, the project reflects three major goals: (1) to create unifying transformational principles around which coalitions will form to change the education culture in our state; (2) to provide guidance to local school districts as they develop strategic improvement plans for increased educational opportunities in their communities; and (3) to build trust and support for public education.

To accomplish these goals, this project report will be shared and discussed with legislative and educational policy makers; boards of education; superintendents; school staff members; students; parents and the general public.

On the surface it looks like the report was published, several Boards of Education adopted resolutions supporting it, then it faded away.  I don't hear much talk of it.  There aren't any easy-to-find links from the MSBA website or the MASA website.

I had the privilege of serving on the governance, leadership, and accountability subcommittee.  Good stuff came from our group and the other groups.

Will the Vision Project end up being a nice document on a shelf, or will statewide leaders collaborate to implement the recommendations?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Comparison of MO Political Platforms

It had been my intention to put the Democratic and Republican Platforms side-by-side for comparison.  Unfortunately I've been unable to get my hands on the Democratic Platform.  Instead I'll look at the Presidential candidates in terms of education.

Interestingly, there's not much difference in President Obama and Mr. Romney when it comes to education.  They both like high stakes testing, tenure reform, performance pay, choice, etc.  The biggest difference is in the area of vouchers -- Romney supports, Obama doesn't.

In a month we get to enter the ballot booth and make our selection.  Be sure to vote!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

MASA Adopts Legislative Platform

The Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) adopted new legislative priorities at its business meeting on September 28, 2012.  The business meeting was held during the annual cooperative conference between MASA and the Missouri School Boards' Association (MSBA).

Thanks to the legislative committee for their work on the document.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What is Prop B?

The last week has seen a flurry of anti-Proposition B signs going up.  Billboards now line the highways and it seems like you can't get gas without seeing 3 or 4 of them.  But what is Prop B?  The last time a similar issue was on the ballot voters thought it was an increase in the gas tax.  Wrong!  It is an increase in the cigarette tax.  Here are the sides.

Here's what the Prop B supporters have to say:
  • Increasing the tax will save lives and reduce health care costs.
  • Increasing the tax will generate revenue to fund educationa and tobacco control programs.
  • Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the country at 17 cents per pack.
  • Missouri has some of the highest rates of smoking and lung cancer.
  • 9,500 Missourians die each year from cancer and other smoking related diseases.
  • Tobacco use accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths and 87% of lung cancer deaths.
  • 8,600 Missouri kids become new daily smokers each year.
  • Each year, annual health care costs in Missouri directly caused by smoking $2.13 billion and $532 million is spent on the state’s Medicaid program.
  • Every household in Missouri pays $565 per year in their state and federal tax burden from smoking-caused government expenditures.
  • $2.51 billion in smoking-caused lost productivity
  • Increasing tobacco excise taxes on cigarettes is one of the most cost-effective strategies to reduce tobacco use among adults and to prevent youth from starting.
  • Tobacco use is the most preventable cause of premature illness and death in the United States and Missouri.
Here's what the Prop B opposition has to say:
  • 429% tax increase on all cigarettes (increase is 73¢ per pack, from 17¢ to 90¢ per pack).
  • Prop B will decimate cigarette & tobacco sales for every convenience store & retailer inMissouri.
  • Prop B will put every convenience store & retailer at a massive competitive tax disadvantage with Kentucky (60¢ per pack),Tennessee (62¢ per pack),Nebraska (64¢ per pack) &Kansas (79¢ per pack).
  • Prop B will drastically reduce the advantage Missouri retailers have over Oklahoma ($1.03 per pack), Arkansas ($1.15 per pack), Iowa ($1.36 per pack) & Illinois ($1.98 per pack).
  • Never forget that the ultimate goal of the anti-tobacco zealots who support Prop B is to outlaw all tobacco products by initiating, supporting & pursuing outrageous & unfair taxation & regulation!
  • MPCA continues to support a reasonable tax increase on tobacco products that will allow Missouri retailers to maintain their competitive tax advantage over our higher-taxed border-states.
I find two things interesting about the opposition's positions.
  1. Many Missouri retailers are at a disadvantage because most internet sales are not taxed.  Would MPCA support a tax on internet sales?
  2. MPCA claims it would support a reasonable tax increase, yet has opposed every tobacco tax increase that has been on the ballot.  What is the level they would get behind?
I don't smoke and think it is a nasty habit.  We also know it causes some bad health issues.  Not sure how I'll vote, but whatever your feelings are on the issue, vote.  Express your opinion at the ballot box.