Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

November 19, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

Phoenix's Roosevelt School District


  • A review of the latest on the state's unsuccessful attempt to take over Phoenix's Roosevelt School District.
Guests:
  • Larry Pieratt - Director, ASU Charter Schools Initiative
Category: Education

View Transcript
David Majure
>> Discovering new and improved ways to educate kids, innovations that can be passed from school to school is what the polytechnic school in mesa is all b it's a charter school that opened this year as part of A.S.U.'s university public schools initiative. Larry Pieratt is the initiative's director.

Larry Pieratt
>> It's a real opportunity for students to come in and learn and learn in different ways, an opportunity for A.S.U. in partnership with university public schools to introduce new innovations that take in pulling those best practices currently in the field to implement them, do the research and once proven worthy share those with all schools across the state with the goal of improving student achievement.

David Majure
>> Out of this temporary office building and into its permanent home research will be aided by cameras in the classrooms. Only A.S.U. researchers will have access to the video recordings, which are periodically destroyed.

Larry Pieratt
>> As education continues to grow we see innovation in lots of ways. People tend to pick different parts of it and implement it. What we are doing here is the whole thing.

David Majure
>> It includes team teaching formulating individual learning plans for all students, and grouping kids by ability but placing no limits on the level of work they can do.

Larry Pieratt
>> Our goal is that we create a college-going culture so all students here expected to go to college or university or post secondary experience of some sort. That's graduation isn't enough anymore.



David Majure
>> Teachers at Polytechnic Elementary spend 90 minutes each day in professional development. They earn merit pay and work 12 months out of the year.

Larry Pieratt
>> We have to be prepared to support that. Financial financially with those folks, they have that full-time pay. But the key is that we have to have the frame of mind this is a business about helping children learn.

David Majure
>> The university public schools initiative plans to add more member schools with diverse student bodies serving a variety of needs. Then it's up to the research to produce results that can be used to improve education.

Ted Simons
>> Michael, obviously, a school with high academic standards needs teachers that can get the kids there. How do you get those teachers? How do you keep those teachers?

Michael Block
>> Good question. One of the things we do is we search nationwide for talent. First requirement is that the teachers know their subject area. And if we make any errors at all it's on the basis of making sure that the teachers know their material. And we do pay a little bit better. We try to pay a little bit better than the competition. We also provide a very good environment. We provide an environment where the teachers have a lot of freedom. And where essentially they have students who are willing to learn. So it's a very good environment. We've actually started a major fund raising project in Scottsdale called the master teacher program, which we're now spreading to Tucson, where we actually give significant salary supplements to teachers, and that money comes from donations by parents and outside philanthropists and business firms, and we want to expand that program. I think you do have to pay for performance. But it also has to be an agreeable job. And we try to make it agreeable and accountable. There's no question that we make sure that the teachers produce. Because there's very little resting at Basis. But other than that, I think it's a pleasant environment.

Eugene Garcia
>> In our effort, you heard on the tape, we are look at this being a profession. You actually work at it. Secondarily as you work with your colleagues to essentially be sure that every day you are trying to reflect on and intervene in different ways that are related to how you have done that day or done that week or done that month. So I think what's really a professionalization of the teaching profession and our effort. Michael built a couple of good schools. Our effort is to not only bring good teachers in but have them work with us on new ways to think about teaching and innovation. The teaching force is actually hired one of their criteria is are you willing to participate in new things? Things that may not have, you had any experience before. So this sort of experimentation development is part of the idea of bringing on a good teacher.

John Wright
>> If you look at these two examples of innovation, the two schools described in the piece, you really see the sorts of components of good quality public schools that the education coalition and the A.E.A. work for all the time. And professionalization of teaching, paying a professional salary, having a year-round work force and 90 minutes or more of professional development each day, support of the parents, kids who want to learn. What we need to try to do is make this a social investment across Arizona so you don't have to rely on a partnership with the university or the philanthropy from Scottsdale residents to make it work in these two examples.

Ted Simons
>> Should teachers in more challenging school districts be paid more?

John Wright
>> I think that we find some sort of incentive pay to bring people into a district is often effective in the recruitment process but it won't keep them there. Because the compensation is necessary but insufficient. What they really need is the type of working environment you are talking about. Supportive administration, freedom to innovative and freedom to make their own classroom decisions

Ted Simons
>> Is that enough to get a teacher into a challenging district?

Eugene Garcia
>> I think it takes a lot of incentives, the support, ongoing professional development and it takes some success. Teachers will stay where they can be successful. And what you have in many places, a record of not being successful. Nationally one of the things that Title I, the federal effort has done is try to get the best teachers in the most challenging schools. That's not easy.

Ted Simons
>> And real quickly there are a few easy fixes in education. School -- and school districts north created equal. Some have more access to funding than others and some serve children with extra needs like school we are about to take you to. It's in a district that up until recently was facing a state take over because of poor academic performance.

Principle
>> Oh, boy. We'll tell you. So good morning, everybody. Good to see you.

Student
>> Good morning!

David Majure
>> Each morning as students arrive at Sierra Vista Elementary School in South Phoenix, the flag is raised along with renewed expectations of success.

Barbara Hatcher
>> We are looking for 100% passing. We need to help you, those of us who have passed, we need to help you achieve that goal.

David Majure
>> Barbara Hatcher teaches students in the fourth grade.

Barbara Hatcher
>> I set high goals where they come in. I tell them, you are smarter than you ever thought you were. And we are going to prove it.

David Majure
>> The school has a lot to prove when it comes to student achievement. For three straight years, Sierra Vista failed to make adequate yearly progress or A.Y.P. as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind law. After two years as an underperforming school, last year it was labeled a failing school by the state.

Daniel Salaz
>> But our label doesn't define who we are and certainly when we were labeled a failing school, that didn't define us as failures.

Daniel Salaz
>> How's it going?

Student
>> Pretty good.

David Majure
>> Daniel Salaz is the school's principal. He and the staff started taking a hard look at how to improve.

Daniel Salaz
>> The teachers came together here at Sierra Vista and we looked at the state standards. We looked at our pacing guide, curriculum maps and really came to terms with what is it our kids need to know and when do they need to know it?

David Majure
>> It was something the entire Roosevelt School psychiatric started doing in 2006 under the leadership of Superintendent Mark Dowling.

Mark Dowling
>> The district really took on the task of redesigning our curriculum. The other thing that happened in June of '06 was a training of 400 teachers voluntarily came in for training. I guess when you put that together, the big change is we became very child-oriented in our approach and it's paid off.

Barbara Hatcher
>> Excellent job.

David Majure
>> But it didn't pay off immediately. As of last year more than half of the district's 21 schools were underperforming or failing. This summer the state board of education considered allowing the state department of education to begin managing the district. But evidence of academic progress convinced the board to let Roosevelt continue managing itself. Now 18 of the district's 21 schools are labeled performing or better. Sierra Vista improved the most.

Daniel Salaz
>> So for three years we didn't make A.Y.P. for three years we were underperforming, and within a year's time, we made A.Y.P. and now we are performing plus schools knocking at the door step of being a highly performing excelling school.

David Majure
>> But continuing to improve will certainly be a challenge. Especially when 30% of its students are learning to speak English. And 90% live in poverty.

Daniel Salaz
>> And so there are these social, cultural factors that we are also contending with such as poverty, gangs, drugs, and how do we address those issues that are very real and prevalent in our young people's lives? Here at school.
Ted Simons
>> John, as far as labeling schools, the entire process, talk about how that affects the education experience.

John Wright
>> Well, labels won't bring about school improvement or school reform. In their own right. What you really want to do is have a focused effort of the school community as we just saw with Sierra Vista that says we want to improve. In that segment you heard the principals and teachers asking questions like what do our students need to know? How can we help them succeed? We are in the middle of this system that slaps label that is either cause consternation because they are punitive or cause to you celebrate because it says we have done great. But the real work is the work that we were watching just then. Planning instruction, assessing student performance and figuring out what to do to help their students improve and do it everyone better.

Ted Simons
>> Can labels make a difference?

Eugene Garcia
>> I think labeling is the wrong way to think about this. What you want to do is think about accountability, I think the idea that we need to have every child move ahead and learn to meet a set of state standards and maybe even national standards. How we measure that, labeling process, sometimes can be very negative. I mean, and you can get very bad consequences, negative consequences. Teaching directly to the test, doing that only is not good education. Being well rounded student sometimes is not on the mind of many instructors who essentially have to be worrying about what kind of score they will get on a test. Good instructors that results on a test, I think Michael would agree, is a product of what you do. It's not the goal. It's a product of good instruction. So labeling folks on the basis of that can have its negative consequences.

Michael Block
>> We approach this as a -- the test is a results are really a by product of the educational experience. I think there is an elephant in the room, and that is that we are really talking about when we are talking about state standards we are really talking about standards that are way below world standards. I mean, we have two problems. We have a level problem, that is the United States is at too low a level and we have an distributional problem, absolutely disgraceful schools in low-income areas. But we have two problems. Even our best schools, I mean, we are an excelling school but there are a lot of excelling schools I think that don't measure up by world standards. I like to think that we do. But we really need to focus on very high level. I mean, you go back to Finland. Everyone takes the same curriculum up through grade nine, which is really our age grade one above that. So it's 15 or 16. Very high standards. No excuses. And, you know, you can argue that they don't have the same diversity in the population that we do. They do have some diversity. They have laplanders. They don't make any excuses. Everyone has to meet these high standards. And I think that's -- that's key in this business. You can't ignore that.

Ted Simons
>> And can that national model work, national testing in general, a national model in particular, can that work here?

Eugene Garcia
>> I think we have talked a lot about standards. One problem is that they vary by state. Because we leave this up to the states to do. We have talked a lot about introducing national standards. Maybe voluntary at first. Maybe some of the way. But how do you raise standards nationally? Remember, good education is not just good for Phoenix, Arizona. It's good for the country. If we are going to be competitive globally then we need all of our students in the United States to do well. Not just pockets in the schools that Michael does, but we need them everywhere.

John Wright
>> Let's talk about in Arizona. We need to have a conversation among our communities to decide, does the set of high school requirements for graduation that doesn't meet the entrance requirements for our regents universities make sense in the 21st century? That's a very basic question to ask and we need to talk about that as well as standards and academic content areas and make sure we are recruiting and training and keeping the teachers who are able to provide that instruction.

Ted Simons
>> We will stop it right there. Great discussion. Thank you for joining us. Thank you for joining me on this special he had education of Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. You have a great evening.

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