Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Poor Kids: Stupid or Unlucky?

In 281 Exposed "Test Scores Decrease Again" , the writer states the following regarding the Sun Newspaper RAS Test Score article. It fits right in with my last few posts, and my comment is awaiting moderation on their site. So, let's test the waters over here also. Please feel free to comment and keep up at both sites.

"Superintendent Dr. Aldo Sicoli said the following in reaction to the test scores; “These results are not as good as we would like them to be. We are committed to the academic success of our students. We are continuing implementation of programs that we believe will help more students improve their state test results.”

Gee, we haven’t heard that before. I thought lower class sizes were supposedly going to bring us great results. Poverty must be the reason we can’t score well. Remember according to the district and their apologists poor kids are all stupid."

My response is:

"Yes, I must be one of those apologists… However, I do not think they are stupid… I think that the poor students have almost insurmountable obstacles to overcome. Here are some advantages that my own children have that many poor students do not:

  • Parents that both speak English fluently and have read to them daily since they were infants.
  • A parent (ie Mom in our case) that has been home for them everyday after school since they started school.
  • A parent (ie Mom) who held them accountable daily for reading, studying, doing homework, etc
  • A parent (ie Mom) who taught them self control, listening and study skills that help them everyday in class
  • A parent (ie Dad) that makes enough money to enable this, and parents that make financial life choices that make this possible.
  • Parents that are very familiar with working systems and bureaucracies to ensure their kids get as many opportunities as possible
  • Parents who set and are there to enforce strong value based rules, and follow through with appropriate punishments consistently when the little darlings wander to far of course. Even when it is not convenient.
  • Parents that attend all conferences, volunteer in the class, get to know the teachers, etc
  • Parents that teach the kids to respect their teachers and classmates. And follow through if they gets reports of any misbehavior in school.
  • Parents that can afford 2 computers with the latest software and high speed internet
  • A parent (ie Dad in this case) that can tutor them in any Math, Physics, etc coursework.
  • A parent (ie Dad in this case) that can work with or fix pretty much any computer, wood working, mechanical, audio visual, etc tool or system. (ie even helping them to put video and sound clips into presentations… It was a learning experience for me…)
  • Parents that promote the importance of learning and academics. (for better or worse.. I do not think they know there is a non-college career path)
  • Parents that encourage their kids to try new things, and then try again if things don’t work out so well.
  • Parents that praise their kids often.
  • Parents that ensure boredom leads to positive hobbies or work. (whether the child likes it or not…)
  • etc, etc, etc

Now, being a kid in a poor family is unlucky since they often do not have the above advantages. Even the best poor families do not have the free time or funds to provide their kids with many of these. And often the poor families are poor because they do not have certain knowledge or skills. Your denying the reality of their challenge is interesting to say the least.

By the way, there are some poor families that chose that lifestyle. They choose to live very modestly so that the kids will have a parent at home. That full time parent can do wonders to help the kids not be a statistic.

The graphs on G2A show the unfortunate reality of the poverty related academic proficiency gap that is so pervasive in our society. Denying it is not the answer."

By the way, I would like to take a moment to thank my parents for making ME one of the lucky kids. They made many of the same choices that my wife and I have. They made my development one of their top priorities. Therefore I can freely and happily offer my children the same excellent opportunities.

So what do you think?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Comparison: Just One More

Well, here is the data for that "other" Plymouth school whose demographics are somewhere in between Wayzata and RAS. Not quite as challenging as RAS and yet much more complicated than Wayzata...

So do we run from our local communities/schools and move to Wayzata, Orono and Edina? Or do we stay put and fight for them?

I asked a friend once what a parent should do who is faced with having their kids in a challenging school situation? He answered immediately that it was their responsibility to move the kids immediately to the best possible school. Then I asked him what would happen to his local community/school if every engaged parent and good student did that? He didn't like the resulting situation.

I have pondered this discussion for a long time and still do not have the answer...
  • I want my kids to get a good education that will help them succeed in life.
  • I want the my RAS communities to thrive and grow, not wither and shrink.
  • I want my kids exposed to diversity in a healthy and positive manner.
  • I want my kids to learn to have empathy for and help student's that are not as lucky.
Any thoughts on this very personal decision that we all face?

By the way, we are here for the duration unless something changes significantly. I think this community is worth fighting for... And there is more to school and life than Math and Reading scores... Though they are pretty darn important !!! (This opinion of course coming from an Engineer/Project Mgr...)

Osseo Demographics

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Results: A Comparison

Well, the question always arises... What about that "other" popular Plymouth school?

This is a bit like comparing apples to oranges due to the demographic differences, however here is the data for Wayzata.

Just keep in mind how much easier it is to help at risk kids if it is only ~10% of your student population, and not ~40%. Just the student peer pressure and focus would make a difference. (ie lots of good examples) Also, only 3 challenging kids in a class of 30 instead of 12.....

Wayzata Demographics
RAS Demographics

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Results: One More Try

Per Speed's note, I looked into mobility and found the graphs looked similar to earlier postings, so I did not post them.

However, during this I learned how to show the graphs I wanted. Here are the results by Race and Economics. (it took 2 graphs per subject...) To me these make the RAS to State gaps look smaller, but they clearly show the Race and Economic gaps at both levels.

Folks can pick on the Public schools all they want, however these lead me to believe that academic success has more to do with the family / student than with the school. We spend a great deal more per student in the schools with a higher level of poverty and yet the test scores continue to be lower.... I find it unlikely the schools can fix this embedded problem by themselves. What do you think us citizens can do to help? What else do you see in these graphs?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Data Manipulation Gone Bad

So, I was purposefully going to use the data to show that RAS was doing better than the State in various classes. My hypothesis was that we were being unjustly criticized because of our relatively high poverty... Man, I had my soap box ready and everything !!!

The problem with data however is that it sometimes surprises us. See below... Thoughts? What factors am I missing?

If I get time, I may do the same thing for language, mobility or race....

2 more pics recently added for you to ponder... Too bad the tool can not give me Race and Financial at the same time. It would likely be an interesting chart. Remember you can access these at. RAS Report Card Then select Analyze Your Results, far down on the left side.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

MCA II Reporting Oops

Well, typically the SUN Sailor seems to be very pro-RAS. However today they seem to have chosen to reverse that trend... The headline reads District 281 MCA-II Test Scores Drop.

Now the headline is likely very accurate, however the details include some interesting errors and omissions:
  • First they state on the front page that ZLE only exceeded the state average in Math. Which of course is INCORRECT, and corrected when you look at the details. (ie ZLE and SE got reversed on Pg 1) This will steam some of my ZLE friends...
  • Then after the attention grabbing Page 1 headline, they proceed to discuss which schools did better than last year. Maybe they felt bad about the headline.
  • Then no where that I found in the article are the details behind the headline. Which RAS high level scores dropped and by how much?
  • Finally there is no discussion of the on going demographic shifts that the district is under going. Or discussion regarding the new internal boundary shifts that likely contributed to the school level changes.
Well, give it a read, tell your friends and post your comments.

Useful Links:
State Student Demographics
RAS Student Demographics

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Too Many Days Off ?

I know this a hard time of year for bloggers, I mean who wants to be at their computer when it is so beautiful out... However, my readership slows when things are too quiet. So make your voice heard and stir up some discussion if you want these topics viewed by more people... (ie politely) Or forward the link to your friends or others that you think need to know this...

Here are some documents worth comment. My primary thoughts:
  • WHO gets 8 weeks of vacation soon after starting with an organization?
  • WHO gets to bankroll so many days and get paid for them upon leaving?
  • Should the schedule of these employees seemingly be tied to the school calendar even though they do not work with the kids? (ie Summers off ?)
  • These folks do work hard and long days when in the office. (ie late mtgs, etc)
  • Salaries and benefits need to be competitive to get good employees.
Now, I work for a fortune 100 company, therefore I am used to a pretty good comp and benefits pkg. However they definitely do not compete with the Public School System's use of our tax dollars. How did this get so crazy???

RAS Executive Director of Business Services
RAS Cabinet Level Administrators

Ironic that this comes up right after the academic results posting. Remember: though I think RAS can do more, I lay the primary contribution for the poor test results mostly at the feet of poor parenting. Therefore the huge swing in results within the same district's schools.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

MCA Scores

Well, here are the MCA II scores for the year. I included RAS, the State and Beacon Academy. I figured they should be there for comparison purposes, since RAS fears them so much that they won't sell them an excess building. By the way, R = Reading and M = Math....

Mn Dept Education News Release
Mn Dept Education MCA II Results (MS Excel)
Mn Dept Education Home Page

I'll hold my thoughts for now. What do you see in these results?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Help Support Northport Elementary

Whether you are in the district or not, please take a few minutes to get a kaboom user id and become a fan of this project. Also, please tell your friends and have them help. Patrick Smith is an incredible Principal and the Northport kids would certainly appreciate your help. Thanks John

Ps. The more support you show... The more points they gain... So add comments, photos, etc...

Note from Patrick:
Help Northport Elementary School get an eco-friendly playground upgrade!

Please become a fan and pass on to everyone you know. The more fans we get, the better chances to win the grant.

Become a fan of Northport Elementary School and help it win an Imagination Playground in a Box from Underwriters Laboratories and KaBOOM! Use the map at the link below to find and click on your favorite playspace. Then enter it in the running by becoming a fan!

Patrick Smith, Principal
Northport Elementary School

Northport Web Page
Northport Demographics