By Sean Dedalus
(September 26, 2014)
Ref: Full Speed Ahead at West Sedona School
By Tommy Acosta
As I read your article exploring changes in the administration of the West Sedona School district, I am left with the opinion that, putting aside self interests, the educational problems are completely unremarkable. I think it would be helpful for you to understand that America’s educational system is in the process of dramatic reform due in whole to “Race To The Top” federal Legislation. In a nut shell, in return for federal monies, all of the states in the union have agreed to implement common core curriculum, that is, a curriculum that places an emphasis on English and Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics. The second important policy factor you should be aware of is that core curriculum rejects social promotion. It requires 3rd graders to have 3rd grade ELA and math scores, 4th graders to have 4th grade ELA and math scores and so on. Prior to Race To The Top, American students, as a whole were/are dysfunctional. Students in community colleges could/can not comfortably handle 10th grade reading and math and could/can not express where Texas or Iraq are located on a map of the world. Thus, core curriculum was a response to an sober understanding that public education in America was a joke. The third policy factor that you should understand is that common core curriculum changes the way teachers teach. Emphasis is now placed on honing the child’s thinking process and development of critical thinking instead of rote learning and lazy assessment of reading passages. Teachers nationwide have not been prepared to roll out the new curriculum and consequently feel inadequate and have come to resist implementation of the reforms.
Objective proficiency scores will fall dramatically as core curriculum is implemented and tweeked. The scores will fall because objective tests should accurately measure where our children fall on the educational food chain and accordingly, parents will be able to really see the true level of educational proficiency of their children. Needless to say, over half of the children are not where they are supposed to be (failed) and only 25% – mostly white students – are where they are supposed to be (passed).
Get common core under your belt. Now let us look at the subject of your article. Your article says that scores have fallen. If common core curriculum is being implemented this is to be expected. The public should scrutinize high test scores because they basically lead to two roads, good teaching or cheating. God bless the good schools – we should see what they are doing and duplicate their good work. The cheaters cheat nobody but the children. Whether it be rigged tests, curving scores, false scores, forged scores, or other devious test cheats – in the end the children are never properly assessed and we can never fix the darn thing until we see all the underlying problems. It is like cheating on your stress test.
Now, schools with a high population of children of color pose unique problems to the educational system. Many of the children come from families where English is a second language, where homes are headed by a single parent, where domestic violence is more pronounced, where exposure to criminality is not uncommon and where education is not valued as a ladder to social advancement. The space between those in poverty and those not in poverty is growing. Basically, poverty can be the determining factor of whether your child succeeds in school or drops out.
As a matter of policy, it is cheaper for the taxpayers to intervene while students are children. The cost of incarceration can be as high as $40,000 a year in some states and the United States houses more prisoners than any other nation in the world.
Accordingly, I recommend:
Arizona Highest High School Drop Out Rate in America. Find out the reason why Arizona has the highest drop out rate in America.
Embrace Common Core Curriculum. It is tougher than the old curriculum and it should be. Our children cannot compete with Asia and Europe. Test scores should reflect where our children are on the proficiency scale. Social promotion should be banned.
Community Schools. Our elementary and middle schools should be opened until 8:00 PM. Parents and at risk students should be required to attend English as a Second Language. Community Schools should integrate the Department of Social Services into the after-school concept to ensure that health services are provided for substance abuse, domestic violence, mental illness and bullying. Community Schools should offer enhanced classes for parents and students, especially in mathematics. Community Schools should offer physical education programs and nutrition instruction to reduce obesity. Parenting classes should be administered. The clergy and selected non-profits should be made part of the community school.
Technology Reform. Smart boards and I-pads should replace paper books. Internet/WiFi service should be made available to the most impoverished areas in the school district for free.
Teacher Evaluations. Not everybody is a gifted teacher. Teacher evaluations should be designed to provide honest, accurate and reliable evaluations of teaching skills. The teaching union should have an equal say in the formulation of such evaluations.
Teacher Pay. Teachers should be paid properly. Gifted teachers should be paid commensurate with their skills and gifts.
Parent Evaluations. Every parent has a responsibility to reasonably support the educational efforts of elementary and middle school children. Where there is evidence of neglect, parents should be called to the carpet and made accountable for their actions or omissions.
As I said to you the two principal concept is OK when you have money to blow. It sounds to me like the Board was inept and unwilling to make the hard decision to replace Dr. Hirsch. Now the taxpayers have to pay more for administration instead of teaching positions. Dr. Hirsch has a great record, a great reputation and so does Derek Jeter. The difference is Derek knows when its time to let young people step up. Great leaders welcome the moment when their legacy is passed on to the next generation. A change in leadership is not an insult in the case of Dr. Hirsch. It is simply a time to shake things up and let someone else sail the ship … that’s all. No conspiraacy, no plotting, the same as the Beatles breaking up and going their own way.
This is all for now.
Great letter – You would find the book “50 Myths & Lies That Threaten America’s Public Education” very interesting.
I’m very concerned about our kid’s education, and I am not invested in school administrators one way or the other. My concern is for the kids first, and evidently Sedona is not doing the best job it could. It certainly is not paying teachers adequately to keep them in the district or entice other teachers we need.
Moreover, I think this state is in real trouble with educating future residents to be able to fill jobs that are increasingly requiring more technical skills and critical thinking. Enticing companies to locate here without an educated employee base is not going to work. I think Sean’s ideas are interesting, but not easy to implement in many cases. What is Sean’s background in education?
A refreshing analysis on our state’s (and country’s) educational system! You hit the proverbial nail on the head (in fact many nails) and underlined the importance of improving our lagging educational system. I liked the way you explained the importance of Common Core in all of this. You explain it well and why it is so important. Unfortunately, Common Core has been the focus of many ideologically swayed people, who believe, mistakenly, that it is all a Government plot to control the minds of our children. How sad. States are free to use Common Core as they wish, as are individual School Board Districts. I believe Common Core and its focus on teaching our children to think (but NOT how to think) is a great start.
So, you took the focus off of one particular problem school, and opened this up to an evaluation of our school system. Why don’t you run for our School Board?
Am I the only one in Sedona with questions? Or have I missed something, Mr. Dedalus? You speak with authority explaining education goals just as Superindentent
Lykins attempted in his lengthy newsprint justification for a second principal in such a small school. But if that “unremarkable” (your word) event caused such a public outcry, why have we not yet been privy to the rationale?
Yes, the student body is shrinking but it is not a typical school. With 49% Hispanic and under 14 with English a second language for most, it’s an enormous challenge for both principal and faculty. Yet they managed a barely passing Az. Standards Score of “C” last year.
Why can’t Sedona’s unique assets retain good teachers? Why should entire
faculties feel compelled to resign en masse twice in three years? Were there unfair demands, failed negotiations or other unknowns? Surely not salary since they signed contracts. Why can’t there be more disclosure? I’m open to any/all reasons.
My concern is based on long-ago experiences teaching Jr. High English three different years in two states. I loved it…and a significant factor was always the principal.
Meanwhile, considering Dr. Hirsh with her extraordinary background and dedication inadequet is like saying Meryl Streep is no actress.
Answers to all your questions were discussed during school board meetings in June and July. The superintendent and two school board members spent 2 hours with the Sedona Red Rock News weeks ago presenting the facts and rationale that they did not publish. You can make an appointment with the superintendent anytime to discuss with him his rationale – I have done so numerous times. And to your analysis about Meryl Streep – Just because someone gets degrees in acting does not mean that they will be a great actor or can handle any role in any production.
To Sean Dedalus: I was willing to read through your article until I came to the place where you start causing me to question you and wonder: What and where are your Facts? You say: “Now, schools with a high population of children ‘of COLOR’ pose unique problems to the educational system. Many of the children come from families where English is a second language, where homes are headed by a single parent, where domestic violence is more pronounced, where exposure to criminality is not uncommon and where education is not valued as a ladder to social advancement. The space between those in poverty and those not in poverty is growing. Basically, poverty can be the determining factor of whether your child succeeds in school or drops out.”
Did you make a rather raciest statement in reference to Color? Education is for all and Color doesn’t matter.
I was having a hard time getting from your point A to B and then on to Z……….but decided to continue reading – UNTIL I came to your words of “Community Schools. Our elementary and middle schools should be opened until 8:00 PM. Parents and at risk students should be required to attend ENGLISH AS A SECOND Language. ”
As I recall: ENGLISH is our FIRST Language as this is America and while we welcome LEGAL Immigrants – aren’t they required to learn the language of our country to pass the test so they can become citizens?
So you lost me at that point along with all your other socialistic concepts.
This country was not fought for in order for all to have ENTITLEMENTS and I, for one, am tired of that mentality.
It used to be that it was an HONOR to be a REAL citizen of the United States of America rather than an entitlement citizen.
Common Core should disperse actual and factual history vs spin jobs. Education should be NON-PARTISAN.
As a past school teacher, I completely understand the importance of factual education with no Personal Spin in order to educate our children with the ability to learn both sides and their abilities to make up their own minds – rather than the spin jobs the Union Teachers preach!
This comment and response is submitted as is, and not to be subjected to being Edited.
Yep Fay – too many questions need to be answered.