Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Reacting to a challenge

It is always interesting to read about the reactions of different organizations to challenges. In the free market, a slight change in consumer preference is enough for companies, large or small, to reorganize in order to better address the future. In the public sector, the same response never seems to occur. Witness the Olentangy Local School Distict.

The educational outcomes of district middle schools have suffered over the years. In real terms, students are being shortchanged with regard to their education while the staff gets to implement whatever programs they choose.

While serving on the board, I fought for years to see improvements, being met each time by administrators operating as roadblocks. After badgering fellow board members long enough about the fact that living in the achievement cellar is no place for a district with strong demographics, I was finally able to get the board to instruct the administration to study the district's middle school program. Given the energy I expended over the years to have the administration review its lagging scores, I still have a very personal interest in the results of this study.

Well, the Middle School Study Update was delivered to the board in January. Where you would find reorganization in the private sector, you simply find re-entrenchment in the public schools. This should not be shocking, as re-entrenchment is the standard government response to any challenge.

Read the study and you will find no mention of any review of core curricular programs, such as math. In fact, you won’t see the word math anywhere in the report. Sure, math scores are well below similar districts, yet the Olentangy response is to embrace the mishmash that is public education in the US. Instead of concentrating on the areas of weakness and advocating for improvements, the study simply calls for more game clubs, service learning, etc., all in an environment that includes a “fully integrated, exploratory curriculum” – whatever that bit of edu-speak means.

Remember, it is the core subjects like math that are lagging, yet the district concentrates on providing “a variety of course offerings including accelerated content courses and exploratory courses in Physical Education and Health, World Languages, Technology, Music, Art, and Family/Consumer Sciences.”

Instead of facilitating maximum learning, the district seeks to “(e)ngage students in the ownership and decision-making of the curricular experiences” and to “(f)ocus on experiential, tangible activities that engage students.”

Can’t they simply teach math, and teach it right? Maybe they could, just maybe, if they got out of the business of indoctrinating and into the business of educating.

So, the district taxpayers are forced to pay for the programs that satisfy the staff, while students suffer and taxes rise. Not much of a solution. But, then, what else would you expect?

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

You, Jim Fedako, are cordially invited to pick up your March issue of The Beacon between 7-7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 21. Don't forget your dollar :)

Jim Fedako said...

Thanks, but much too early. Why not simply post it on the web for the community to read?

Also, I am in a quandry ... Should I purchase 7 individual editions for a dollar per, or should I buy all 7 for $9?

What's the better deal?

Anonymous said...

Why not simply post The Beacon on the web for the community to read, you ask? We do not have the means of doing so. Perhaps we can propose a levy and use your tax dollars to do so. What's your take on that situation? I'm quite intrigued.

Jim Fedako said...

What in the world do you mean when you say that you don't have the means? Doesn't the district have a website where they post articles on a regular basis? My take is that a little problem solving skills would easily solve this minor roadblock. It is as simple as clicking "save to html" or "save to adobe" followed by "publish to web."

Anonymous said...

One things this district does have is a pretty good website. I'm sure the district could easily find the space to put up PDFs of all the various school's newspapers. I mean, the district has space enough to post MP3 audio files of all school board meetings.

Anonymous said...

"In the free market, a slight change in consumer preference is enough for companies, large or small, to reorganize in order to better address the future. In the public sector, the same response never seems to occur."

So vote with your 4,200 tax dollars. Either move or vote against levies. Our "customers" are overwhelmingly satisfied and that is why they remain. Unfortunately you are a vocal minority with a (not so) hidden agenda.

"if they got out of the business of indoctrinating and into the business of educating."

Please explain to me where the line is drawn. Is teaching life skills and social norms not part of the educational process? Believe me, those parents who actually send their kids to our schools want us to teach more that just 2+2.

"Read the study and you will find no mention of any review of core curricular programs, such as math."

I know of at least one new middle school math course offering that was initiated by administrators for next year to address this problem.

"Comment moderation has been enabled. All comments must be approved by the blog author."

Big suprise!

Jim Fedako said...

I have seen the results of your "social norms" indoctrination. Witness The Beacon. I can only imagine what other "norm" you intend to inculcate. Wait, I'm being fallacious here. I know exactly what you intend to create as the new "social norms" by reading the NEA platform. Marxism once again.

Interestingly, not one teacher ever expressed any remorse for that incident - other than the Clintonesque appology from the advisor.

Why do I say Clintonesque? Simply because no other teacher has acknowledged any problem with the articles, even given the supposed appology.

You haven't refuted my free market comment, you simply proved that I am correct. The system has no intent to change anything, it just wants to generate additional tax dollars to support itself.

In the market, the consumer rules. In the public sector, the unions rule. Marxism once more.

One middle school course offering to address the math issue. Don't push yourselves too hard here.

My "agenda" is not hidden; you can read any of the articles that I have had published at Mises.org for over the past two years to see where I stand.

Anonymous said...

If The Beacon were to be published online it would no longer be made by students for students, it would be made by students to quiet Jim Fedako. It will never happen.

There is one thing the Olentangy School System does not fear, and that is a former board member who has no longer has any ties to the school system besides residing in it's district. If you are unhappy with what you see, Jim, leave the district. I would recommend moving to a district with a better school system here in central Ohio, but according to Newsweek, you are looking for something that's not there.

Jim Fedako said...

"There is one thing the Olentangy School System does not fear, and that is a former board member who has no longer has any ties to the school system besides residing in it's district."

So, why the responses if fear does not exist? Simply ignore me.

One point which fits the title of this post: Here's the challenge? Anyone truly believe that the district will advance in the Newsweek list? I bet it won't since the statistical anomaly that put the district there has disappeared. Any idea what the anomaly is? And, how will you react when the district drops in the ranking?

Anonymous said...

Social "norms" taught by this district: A married high school English teacher having in her possession on school grounds photographs of herself making out with other women while intoxicated. Is that a social norm? I hardly think so. How about The Lovely Bones: a father sharing alcohol with his 10 yr old in the school parking lot before class. And the 10 yr old girl realizing at age 10 that she’s a lesbian, and drawing pictures of vaginas in art class. These are not social norms for society at large. What is disturbing is that these may be the social mores of the teaching staff and administration. “Mainstreaming” these social “norms” in public school classrooms is more than circumspect: it is intolerable.

In response to the comment about “voting with your tax dollars and moving”: unfortunately it is not that easy. The housing market is soft: some cannot re-coup the cost of their investment if they can even sell their house at all. Related moving expenses incurred by the homeowner are also costly. I assume the person to whom that post belongs is a math teacher?

Anonymous said...

I'll help your commentor with the following: Public schools are ranked according to a ratio devised by Jay Mathews: the number of Advanced Placement and/or International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students at a school in 2004 divided by the number of graduating seniors.

Both parts of this ratio are suspect. In the numerator, they count the number of students who show up for AP/IB tests, not the number who get an acceptable score. Schools that require their students to take AP/IB tests will do well on this factor, regardless of how poorly they educate their students. In the denominator is the number of students who graduate. That’s right — every student who graduates lowers the school’s rating.

To see the problems with Newsweek’s formula, let’s consider a hypothetical school, Monkey High, where all of the students are monkeys. As principal of Monkey High, I require my students to take at least one AP test. (Attendance is enforced by zookeepers.) The monkeys do terribly on the test, but Newsweek gives them credit for showing up anyway. My monkey students don’t learn enough to earn a high school diploma — not to mention their behavioral problems — so I flunk them all out. Monkey High gets an infinite score on the Newsweek formula: many AP tests taken, divided by zero graduates. It’s the best high school in the universe!

Commentor: Can you now figure out the anomaly?

Jim Fedako said...

Good try. You identified a real problem with the formula, but not how Olentangy benfitted in the latest ranking. But, you are very close.

Anonymous said...

Jim,
We appreciate your invaluable service to the community. This district wouldn't have seen any accountability or review process of the Beacon if it wasn't for your efforts to hold the district accountable. And being held accountable is what the teachers and administrators obviously fear more than your board membership.

Anonymous said...

I was just attempting to provide direction for your commentor: The anomoly is that Olentangy pushed an extraordinary amount of students into its AP classes and many were not up to the challenge. Many students have failed or done poorly in those classes and will not remain on the AP rosters.

Jim Fedako said...

The anomaly: Olentangy's student headcount is weighted to the lower grades.

So, instead of OHS having 350 students in each grade, there are more juniors than seniors, more sophomores than juniors, and more freshmen than sophomores. This is the same concept as stated in a previous post - keeping the divisor artificially low inflates the statistic behind the ranking. For OHS, the divisor is less than the expected 350 hundred or so.

In the current year, there are only 308 seniors yet there are 398 sophomores. The difference between grades at Liberty is not so significant, hence that school's lower ranking (there are 312 Liberty seniors v. 326 Liberty sophomores). The effect of this statistical anomaly will slowly disappear over the years.

All things equal, the ranking will go down as the class sizes become more aligned.

note: The Newsweek rankings were based on headcounts from the ranking year, not the current that I stated in this post.

Anonymous said...

With the opening of the third High School, that quotient will go down even more.

Baker said...

In Defense of Fedako
Baker

It was just one of those February days-- you know, a day where you just had to go to school. Despite, my frustration I trudged through the bitterness in to the warmth of my school. As I walked through those doors, I noticed the rush of wind cease, but something else blasted me in the face.
It was one of those Beacon people.
Fine-- I’ll buy one. I surrendered four quarters and took it to class with me. I had some time before class started, so I decided to read it.
It blew my mind. It opened doors, broke windows, and put a smack down on reality as I knew it. The words spoke to me. The words-- they commanded me. I heard them loud and clear and they were telling me to have sex. They were telling me oral sex was not sex. They were telling me that within the realm of Tangy I could be as promiscuous as I wanted. Sweet.
Ok...it did not specifically say those words, but come on-- it IMPLIED it. The media always implies the truth. Every time I hear Katie Couric talk about W. Bush it is almost like hearing “I hate your soul you Republican Lucifer,” which is the truth-- she, as the liberal media, hates Bush.
When The Beacon was maturely debating a high schooler’s perspective on the act of intercourse, they were subtly implying that this is a course that should be required-- how could you not see it that way?
My eyes were open and attention was erect. Moseying through the halls I began to see that others had taken to heart the edict of The Beacon. People were making out, swapping spit, playing Patti-Cake with more than their hands.
Sexual anarchy. Thank you Beacon.

A couple school days later-- by this time it was June, the fog days let up-- I came in to class and people were disgruntled. Apparently some Libertarian with a taste for censorship was complaining about the school. It was of little concern to me-- I just wanted to get out of Calculus so I could engage my girlfriend.
After a torturous 10 minutes of faking my way through class I was able to dash out and meet her in the hallway. Immediately the books crashed to the floor and we embraced with arms and lips. Next thing you knew we had crashed next to our books. Heavy in the moment we began rolling around the halls of Tangy making out, never coming up once for air or changing the distance between our bodies. Eventually we bumped into something-- we both looked up and there were two fellow scholars engaging each other in the same manner. We took a second to say Hi to the others and then went about our business.
This continued for about 45 minutes--who needs class when The Beacon says all there is to school is intimacy. It stopped when we bumped into yet another obstacle. Pluck-- our faces detached and we looked up and there was a teacher. Politely we said ‘Hello M’am’. She stood there for a second, just looking at us, with curious eyes. Then she asked, “May I join?”

After careful and elongated deliberation my girlfriend and I declined. By that time our backs were starting to ache-- so we decided to go home-- the dense sexual air of Tangy was getting to my head anyways. When I got home the newspaper was sitting on my kitchen table-- what the hell, why not? I opened it and began reading-- AND there was that Libertarian guy, Jim Fedako, that people had gotten pissed off at in class-- what the hell, why not?
So I read the article.
At first I was confused. It sounded like he was attacking our way of life at Tangy. He was calling the staff amoral and the students too sexual. I was angry-- how dare he say that stuff is bad! But then again everything he said was true.
I finally figured out what a smart man he was. Without actually visiting our school-- even as a former board member-- he was able to predict everything that was going down between Lewis Center and Shanahan. Orgies, make out sessions, oral sex-- all of this he predicted.
Fedako never quoted The Beacon or gave an accurate description of what they literally said-- but sly like a fox he knew what that Beacon was IMPLYING! Mass-amorality conducted by the teachers and staff.

Again, my eyes were opened by the media. Like when the Reverend preaches on Sunday or Billy Mays sells OxiClean-- I was convinced about something-- and that something was not that I could get that crude oil off my girlfriend’s prom dress-- it was that Tangy was amoral and it needed to stop.
As of late, people at my school have been complaining about Fedako but they don’t realize he speaks the TRUTH. So the next time I am asked to participate in an In-The-Know orgy-- I will politely say, “Go to Hell.”

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that Jim Fedako can make an off the wall comment that there is too much talk of sex at Olentangy, he's suprised there is time for reading and writing.

I found that Fedako-ism idiotic at the time, but now I find it simply hilarious. Seeing how the comment that prompted his blog, "Some Comments Speak for Themselves," was written by a senior at Olentangy and the beautiful satire in the last comment was written by another senior at Olentangy.

In the blog,"Some Comments Speak for Themselves," Fedako made the assumption that it was a district staff member who wrote the comment, but in all reality it was someone that has yet to receive their high school diploma.

It just goes to show that you can't judge a school by the cover of their newsmagazine.

Jim Fedako said...

No kidding a previous post was satire. Question: If it had the affect you intended, do you really think I would have posted it? Remember, that posting came from a school computer during the school day. Which brings up the main point of this comment ...

Thanks for finally outing yourselves and proving a point. Remember, the Computer Usage Policy which I passed in each of the six years I served on the board.

Rule 10 states:

Students are not to send messages over the network nor participate in online “chat rooms.” Students may not use any e-mail or instant messaging programs on a school’s computer. A student may only use Internet e-mail when a teacher instructs him/her to do so.

Blogs postings were considered the same as e-mails during policy discussions.

Based on this policy, I had to assume that the writer who was the subject of the post, "Some comments speak for themselves," was either a teacher, a student instructed to write the comment by a teacher, or a student acting in violation of district policy. I assumed that the writer was a teacher based on the policy, or a teacher writing through her students. Duped once more into believing policies have meaning and are enforced.

I do appreciate the load, public confirmation that teachers allow students to continually violate board policy on a regular basis.

This is just another instance that proves that many policies are created as window-dressing for the public as the schools never intended to enforce them evenly, or at all.

Of course, woe to anyone who ends up on the wrong side of the district staff, those policies can be dusted off quickly to hammer the offender.

Who actually runs the schools in the absence of professional adults?

Anonymous said...

And let this be a reminder, you are no longer on the board. So if you could stop trying to interfere with the education students have every right to aquire, it would be much appreciated.

Jim Fedako said...

Interesting logic. The US is a democracy when it's time to vote for a levy. Otherwise, the supposed public schools are not the public's by any means.

Read about the concepts of positive and negative rights. Even in Ohio's positive-rights-based constitution, students only have a right to "a thorough and efficient system of common schools."

Students, on their own dime and own time, have the right to acquire any amount of knowledge they desire. They have that right as part of the Delaration's list of natural laws as well an assumed negative right as the ability to remove the right to self-educate is not one of the federal government's enumerated powers.

Blab all you want, but you would have a more forcefull argument if you based your comments on facts instead of what you think.

One root problem with public education is that it has become student-based, where, in order to build supposed self-esteem, the student is encouraged to blab instead of learn.

Your comment is simply an example of that.

I believe that the reason that teachers have gone the self-esteem route is that such a system of education requires little true knowledge on their part.