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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Greeley CO District 6 Board's Best Chance at Real Change

It has been a while my friends. With twenty-six thousand reads recorded I always feel an obligation to continue to check up on the well-being of education in Greeley Colorado. Rarely however am I moved to write a new post but I appreciate your emails and calls nonetheless. These are important in filling in the details and movement in District 6.

I agree there have been some good changes made over the years and this must be acknowledged. Especially in the Board of Directors changes have been significant. Plus certainly the decision to not renew Lang's contract is the highlight of all that's good in education for the town of Greeley. The chance for a superbly highly qualified and competent Superintendent with the ability to construct a well-honed team lurks on the horizon. I hope the search is extensive and the interview process inclusive of a high regard for education rather than the political dogma and ideology which has gutted the possibilities of District 6 for so long.

However some disturbing news has reached me and raises some new concerns (the reason for this posts obviously) on this topic. As such I am urging citizens of Greeley to be vigilant on the process of hiring Ms. Lang's replacement. It means everything to your child's future that this process be fair, impartial, and objective--with a formal professionalism.

The selection of Mr. Eads to Interim Director is very troubling. As I blogged on some years past,, for example or here as a second example; As an Interim Director with Mr. Eads tendency towards nepotism and favoritism, and I'll argue manipulation of the leadership of the Board of District 6 through the art of "Credentials over Substance", could lead to a very shaky hiring process when combined with other professional debris Ms. Lang left behind. That spells out an even bleaker future for District 6. It is time for the Board to be strong and do their own homework independently.

Emails and conversations have reached me from concerned parents who have brought some dubious actions into light--citing that those with long ties to District 6 are already feeling the tip of the sword Eads is presumed to have been given to wield. It is not a strong sign of Democratic leadership for the leader who climbs into the throne seat to first thing shed the school district of any person worthy of challenging, logically and reasonably, some of the poor positions and decisions that lurk in the District 6 history. In fact it is the sign of desperation to purge those who disagree or challenge one's authority.

To be fair, a strong and well-reasoned human resources executive, along with an objective Board of Directors should check this power surge. Sadly though these historical nepotistic trends in District 6 are not one of the positive changes the Board has driven. The wagons instead, have been circled, allowing those with questionable credentials to pick and choose their friends with even more questionable credentials and place them in high value jobs. An audit on these selective systems and managers would indeed I believe uncover a murky history or clear it once and for all.

Alas, for now, I will hold out that this newer Board will act fairly and objectively, ensuring that their Interim Director has no conflict of interest in selecting Ms. Lang's long term replacement or influencing the people who will choose that person. A truly professional process must be given the chance to thrive. While the local paper will remain a rubber stamp for the inappropriate, and some will argue, corrupt democratic shenanigans, there are twenty-six thousand others watching and reading as a force for doing what is it right--and above question. Democratic process in public institutions after all is a part of the whole job and the check and balance the public relies upon to curtail abuses of power.

I'll be one of those watching this with interest--keep those documents flowing; I'm reading with great concern; I still have family in D6 schools. :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Greeley District 6 CASP Scores Are Out! Not Pretty.

Unbelievable. If you have a kid in a public school in Colorado I strongly urge parents to make both the State and Districts accountable for fully publishing these scores. It appears the State, at least, are playing them down. Too close to elections.
It looks like they have changed the display of the scoring system so results don't look so dismal. 4th grade Math D6 has moved from 33% proficiency to 40% proficiency while 25% are "partially proficient". Hah! That will get those kids a job all right in our future economy--Walmart Stockboy. It looks like they have broken out the Spanish Speaker scores. Anyway you look at it there are still 60% of 4th graders failing full proficiency in Math.
I just took a look at the Colorado State Education site. Oddly, I don't remember it being this difficult to find the CSAP scores last year when I reported on them. Most incompetent school board, District 6, and administrative staff I have ever encountered. And the community of Greeley is doing relatively nothing about it. Both Ms. Lang, Superintendent and Mr. Eads are still raking in the dough with Mr. Eads having extraordinary power for his known qualifications. It was Mr. Eads, if Greeley remembers, who put up the strange figures for the proposed 16 million dollar budget loss--that wasn't really a 16 million dollar budget loss after all but helped the Board sweep through personnel and the Teacher's Union with a wide brush and strike fear into classified personnel. After having spent, in the previous year or two, the District's reserves on software instead of saving it for an emergency prudently!
Meanwhile the Teacher's Union has zero power after the Board forced it to role over while claiming budget woes and drastic cuts that turned out not to be quite so drastic after all. After the District had shed a lot of teachers, undermined the hispanic community schools, consolidated all the violent offenders in with the low performers, and clearly refused to clean house at the Administrative level.
Yet few in Greeley seem to care. Why is that?
Colorado's state assessment system includes three different types of assessments to measure student achievement. The main assessment used in the state is the CSAP, which assesses students in reading, writing and math state standards in grades 3 through 10. The CSAP science assessment is also given...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Oh Where, Oh Where....

Jane has left the building for now. I'll be back.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Greeley School District 6 Cuts Government and World Culture Requirements

Greeley Colorado's infamous school district, District 6, has been busy putting the finishing touches on the mountain of financial cuts the Board has declared as needed. It began, if you recall, with a panicked forced contract on teachers to save money, grew into a dire 15% round of emergency cuts, and has ended with an actual 6% shortfall for next year. That shortfall as I stated earlier could have been almost covered with reserves had the reserves not been questionably spent earlier.

In addition to bullying the teacher's union, firing the District's Human Resource Director and replacing him with a her from the inside, the District has taken on the consolidation of "under-utilized" schools according to Mr. Wayne Eads--the janitor turned operations manager. One consolidation move places alternative students together under one roof at Jefferson. Hence forth parents will be happy to know that students who have a low performance academically will now be attending the same school as kids who have violent histories and have already been, or their next stop will likely be, Platte Correctional Center.

Additionally District 6 has removed Government and World Cultural Geography from graduation requirements and made them "electives". Whether or not the school will continue to fund teachers for these courses every term is also "elective". From this year forward students, our future community leaders and citizen voters, may actually be able to get out of high school without learning ANYTHING at all about government process and people from other parts of the world--formally. What a great plan.

In the meantime there is a lovely discussion going around the community that these cuts have been based on the "best guesses" of people like Mr. Eads and a few accounting studies on utilization rates. It has yet to be seen what Ms. Ranelle Lang, the Superintendent does to earn her pay (see earlier posts on Mr. Eads' inflated role in D6), and why educational outcome studies were not used to base the financial cuts upon. It is very easy to surmise without these studies being published, without Ms. Lang standing up in front of the public in an open question and answer forum or appearing in front of D6 teachers, that the whole hoopla this year, following the failed voter initiative, has been a timely recessional scare tactic for cleaning house at D6.

Only problem is the good old boys are still running the show. They just aren't being very transparent about what is happening. They'd do well I suspect in the corporate private world. It is too bad they've been given a public institution to play with.

But nonetheless the Good Old Boy Board and Administration have made some changes and are in the process of shedding thirty-five employees and putting even more propaganda out in favor of themselves and Ms. Lang within the community. No one is talking education outcomes.

And who'd ever guess by the gutting of World Cultural Geography that Ms. Lang had the wonderful relationship, as stated in her Nebraska job interview process, with the local Hispanic community and its leaders. Which leaders would that be Ms. Lang?

Ms. Lang's home town wouldn't take her back so she may well be around now when those educational scores start coming in during the next two years. Only the Greeley Tribune and the lack of community interest will be able to paint those numbers pretty.

Accountability for poor decision making doesn't fall just on the Board. The community willing to roll over and play intellectually dead while all this goes on around them has to take some hit too. This is what happens when politics and ideology are allowed to embed themselves into a community's public institutions. It doesn't matter what the politics are about or whose side they are on--it is deadly to the outcome.

In this case Greeley's kids will pay the price for a very long time and those in the senior community, with few options to leave, will be able to serve as witness as services dwindle away and the various crime rates rise as happens with communities without viable opportunities for their citizens to succeed.

And the crowning cherry on the top of this muddy mountain? The District is buying its textbooks from Texas.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Should We Concentrate On Building Better Teachers in Greeley Colorado?

Greeley-Evans School District 6 is my idea of a good example. It is a "hiring" problem. But that's not all. The article below on Building Better Teachers shared from the New York Times talks about the problem in common terms we can all understand. Although that isn't the only reason it is a great article. The article looks at the complexity of the problem of measurement and attaching pay to that measurement. Very long but a worthy read for the profession, for parents, and for voters. It focuses the debate on change in a reasonable and identified target area.

I am thinking about the content a lot. For me a hiring problem, like the one I have described underlying Greeley District 6's problems (these are performance problems prior to the fall back in State and Local Taxes), is a management problem. To say that hiring a good Human Resources Director is crucial kind of undermines our common dislike of such people. And most people I know are just happy to have a warm personality in the job. But this job is so very important to a large organization and developing a productive strategy and atmosphere we should get beyond the stereotypes. I've had to do this job and I've got to say there is a good reason the personality types tend to be cool and distant. It also clarified to me why Unions are a good thing to have around as a check and balance. It is not a fun job when all the human drama in an organization gets dumped on your lap and, personally, I didn't find many rewards in it except I was forced to learn an abundant amount of regulations which come in handy. Along with the various methods large organizations use to shed nonperforming employees, measure performance, and how to build a rubric for, and assess, candidates for new positions. Oh, and I know how to read 'ERISA' language and understand the 401k statements before I went to business school. That helped in a course or two.

There are three million teachers in the United States. Unless the merit pay (or similar) idea is used I don't see how education expects to only attract the cream of the crop. As I have said earlier in this blog--some of your teachers are bound to be average. In fact the bulk are likely to fall under the curve.

I'm not convinced either that really low performing districts shouldn't start with the management and the semi-skilled ideologues running the show. Train the human resources department at least. The Director can help train the Boards.

I get the measurement idea but the most effective teachers have something beyond mechanized skills in their pocket. They have spontaneous innovation and a vast breadth of learned material to draw upon. This could be addressed by better education of teachers. I stayed in a fifth and sixth year, before it was "cool", to do so in order to take the courses they didn't make the teachers take. I took the advanced math, genetics, chemistry (the professor thought I was nuts enrolling in bonehead course when I didn't have to), and later pursued upper level economic courses.

Still I remember clearly one of the questions on the teaching credential test. It isn't much of a math test certainly. "If Sue bought a car in 1973 and Bob purchased a car in 1978, how much older would Sue's car be than Bob's in 1980?"

But I digress. On to the article. I'll post a couple paragraphs below from the beginning. And spread it around please.

"But when it came to actual teaching, the daily task of getting students to learn, the school floundered. Students disobeyed teachers’ instructions, and class discussions veered away from the lesson plans. In one class Lemov observed, the teacher spent several minutes debating a student about why he didn’t have a pencil. Another divided her students into two groups to practice multiplication together, only to watch them turn to the more interesting work of chatting. A single quiet student soldiered on with the problems. As Lemov drove from Syracuse back to his home in Albany, he tried to figure out what he could do to help. He knew how to advise schools to adopt a better curriculum or raise standards or develop better communication channels between teachers and principals. But he realized that he had no clue how to advise schools about their main event: how to teach.

Around the country, education researchers were beginning to address similar questions. The testing mandates in No Child Left Behind had generated a sea of data, and researchers were now able to parse student achievement in ways they never had before. A new generation of economists devised statistical methods to measure the “value added” to a student’s performance by almost every factor imaginable: class size versus per-pupil funding versus curriculum. When researchers ran the numbers in dozens of different studies, every factor under a school’s control produced just a tiny impact, except for one: which teacher the student had been assigned to. Some teachers could regularly lift their students’ test scores above the average for children of the same race, class and ability level. Others’ students left with below-average results year after year. William Sanders, a statistician studying Tennessee teachers with a colleague, found that a student with a weak teacher for three straight years would score, on average, 50 percentile points behind a similar student with a strong teacher for those years. Teachers working in the same building, teaching the same grade, produced very different outcomes. And the gaps were huge. Eric Hanushek, a Stanford economist, found that while the top 5 percent of teachers were able to impart a year and a half’s worth of learning to students in one school year, as judged by standardized tests, the weakest 5 percent advanced their students only half a year of material each year."


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Let's talk about what is, what has been, and what can be. What is a town made of? What is the meaning of quality of life? Where does the future lie? And where have all the flowers gone?

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