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PDK Publishes a Love Letter to the Broad Foundation

Just call this the Broad takeover of Phi Delta Kappan. Ledyard McFadden, founder and president of SchoolWorks, has four articles in the journal. Below, are some comments on one of them.

by Susan Ohanian

The April Phi Delta Kappan has published a very disturbing article, or rather, I should say that PDK's decision to publish this article is very disturbing. Districts That Work: District Learning Tied to Student Learning by Ledyard McFadden, founder and president of SchoolWorks. This is a love letter to the Broad Prize winners and finalists. Nary a word of doubt or criticism. It is a puff piece through and through.

Oh, here's how SchoolWorks describes their relationship with the Broad Foundation--not in the article but on their website:

The Broad Foundation
In 2007, The Broad Foundation was seeking an organization with the capacity to conduct qualitative evaluations of five finalist districts for the annual Broad Prize for Urban Education. SchoolWorks was chosen because of its expertise in the qualitative review of schools and districts and its ability to develop a unique protocol and approach to the prestigious Broad Prize selection process. SchoolWorks applied a research-based framework to eligible district's practices. Evidence was collected on site through document review, interviews and direct observations of life in the district's schools. A tremendous amount of information was distilled and synthesized so that both the Broad Prize Selection Jury could determine the annual recipient and that the best practices of all finalists could be disseminated through publications

There isn't a hint of this relationship in the article. The second paragraph states, "Yet those school districts have all been recognized by the Broad Prize for Urban Education. . . ." Shouldn't the author acknowledge that his consulting company is the one that established the criteria for recognizing said districts? Working for the Broad Foundation with the goal of choosing a winner of the Broad Prize, the author's outfit
  • developed a unique protocol
  • applied a research-based framework
  • collected evidence
  • made observations
  • distilled and synthesized information.

  • PDK readers should be informed of this specific relationship between SchoolWorks and the Broad Foundation.

    Here are a few assertions from the article:

  • We know from research that teachers' actions in the classroom have the greatest impact on student achievement, so the Broad finalists' right focus on curriculum that truly guides teachers 'work, approaches to instruction that help teachers adjust to the needs of each student, and assessments that help teachers understand student learning is a powerful triad of support. (emphasis in original)

    For "curriculum" and "instruction," read "scripts."

  • Curriculum, instruction, and assessment are linked in a cycle of mutual influence in the recent Broad finalist districts. Both Aldine and Brownsville, Texas, discuss the "written, taught, and assessed curriculum"--emphasizing the importance of tracing skills and knowledge from curriculum documents co classroom lessona and finally to what students demonstrate they know and are able to do on a variety of assessments."

  • Curriculum = scripted test prep, test prep, test prep.

  • Both Miami-Date and Broward County give schools nine-week plans with nonnegotiable expectations of what will be taught.

  • How does "nonnegotiable" line up with "professionalism?"

  • In addition, mini-BATs [Broward County] give teachers more frequent assessment data. The mini=Bats are required in struggling schools and optional in all others. The BAT results allow individuals at all levels of the district, including teachers, to narrow student results down to the specific standard and skill. Based on these results, adjustments may be made to better meet the learning needs of students.

    The BAT is also an indicator of hos students are likely to perform when they take the student assessment later in the year--that is, it has some predictive function.

  • Children of affluence get an education; children of poverty get test prep.

  • What differentiates the Broad finalists is superior execution. Everything is tightly aligned and integrated to produce better results.

  • "Execution," as in an educational death sentence for children of poverty.

  • This pattern of organizational behavior has promising implications for other districts.

  • Dare we hope that teachers will break their silence, pick up their tattered professionalism, and shout "NO!!!!?"

    Dare we hope that their unions and their so-called professional organizations will shed their cowardice and start working for the profession?

    NOTE: When Brownsville won the prize, Broad jurors included Lou Gerstner of IBM, Laurence Summers, who's done such a good job with advice on the economy, and Rod Paige. On the same day the District won the Broad award, Texas authorities announced that the district
    had failed to meet achievement targets for two years under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

    Three of the four runners-up for this year's Broad prize, also failed to meet the federal law's annual targets, but they had done such a good job in getting all their scripts aligned, Broad cut them a break.

    Educating for a Command-and-Control Culture

    The following letter, published in the December 2002 edition of California Educator, the magazine of the California Teachers Association describes how administrators ensure that teachers address the state content standards in a command-and-control culture.

    * ... I teach in a school in a very low socioeconomic status community. The emphasis here is placed, not on our at-risk student population, but on teachers' raising test scores. (I know this will hardly surprise you.) How are we to do this? We are to write on the board (three times a day for those of us who have three different kinds of classes each day) the following: date, agenda, lesson objective, relevant standards for the lesson and, beneath the number, the verbal equivalent of the standard--e.g., 4.1, reading comprehension, etc. It has to be on the left side of the board, as studies have shown that people look more frequently to the left than to the right when reading information.
    Candace Lawrence
    Long Beach

    If you want to see how specific they get about curriculum, here's the Long Beach Open Court Pacing guide for 2008-2009.

    Here is The Research Base of Open Court and Its Translation into Instructional Policy in California, by Margaret Moustafa and Robert Land. California State University Los Angeles.

    from the Los Angeles Times, 2004-09-21
    Garden Groves Schools Triumph

    The [Broad Prize] judges also credited Garden Grove teachers with dropping old classroom habits in favor of lesson plans based on data from student testing and state-mandated academic standards.

    Here is what the judges said in awarding Long Beach the prize:

    California's state-wide assessments are at the bottom of the page, with all instruction driving toward them. The arrows reflect the fact that Long Beach believes in an iterative instructional process, where assessment results drive targeted re-teaching. . . .

    As a part of the federal Reading First initiative, Long Beach has implemented Open Court, a research-based [sic], managed-instruction [scripted] program for elementary school literacy. Their assessment plan--called Reading Lions--was developed specifically for Open Court, and the first page of this document describes the components of each test. This document also includes a description of the web-based assessment software--nicknamed OARS--which allows teachers to access assessment data online. Notice that Long Beach's data effort included the development of both: (a) assessments mapped closely to the curriculum and (b) a system to make that data available for immediate use by teachers. Finally, the document depicts an item analysis form, which shows a teacher--at a glance--how individual students performed on different test items, allowing the teacher to re-teach as necessary.

    In Miami-Dade, Judges focused on the Walkthrough Checklist:

    Classroom Walkthrough Checklist
    Identifies key classroom indicators for the eight-step process.
    What to Notice
    This document offers principals or coaches a simple tool to use in classroom walkthroughs. For each step of the eight-step process, the document identifies two to four pieces of evidence that would indicate the teacher is involved in the continuous improvement process.

    And Brownsville:

    The state standards known as Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) constitute the heart of BISD's written curriculum, providing teachers with a framework of scope and sequence documents across subject areas and grade levels that outline what students must know and be able to do at the end of each six-week period. The district has further broken down each six-week period into calendars for teachers that suggest the pace at which content should be taught each day. The calendar also includes objectives, materials, lesson strategies and assessments.

    "Brownsville is the best kept secret in America," said Eli Broad, founder of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

    Ledyard McFadden, whose company is paid to choose the Broad Foundation finalists, concludes his article in Phi Delta Kappan thusly:

    Broad finalist districts drive improvements to the Student Learning Cycle through an Organizational Learning Cyle. In essence, Broad finalist districts are practicing at a systemic level what teachers are asked to do at the classroom level, namely, use data to continually adjust and adapt practice for better results. This pattern of organizational behavior has promising implications for other districts. . . .

    We ignore this exaltation of the Broad plan at the expense of professionalism and dignity--our own and our students'.

    — Susan Ohanian
    Comment on Phi Delta Kappan article




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