Does Student Performance Depend on Which Schools are Closed?

Closing Schools in a Shrinking District: Does Student Performance Depend on Which Schools are Closed? This report is based on a study by a group from RAND Corporation, Carnegie Mellon University, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., University of Pennsylvania, and Vanderbilt University. The study evaluates the impact of school closures on student achievement by analyzing student achievement growth before and after the closures when a school closure plan explicitly seeks to move students from low-performing schools to higher performing schools. The methodology is complicated and detailed. The results are interesting. Here are some excerpt from the study:

Overcapacity was great enough that the district closed 22 schools at the conclusion of the 2005-06 school year. In selecting schools to be closed, academic performance was not the only criterion, but it was the first priority. The district designed the closure plan with the principle that any students who had to be moved because their school was closed would be moved to a school at least as high-performing as (and ideally higher-performing than) the one they left. Our aim is to examine the extent to which the district’s approach succeeded in producing better results for students forced to move, without undermining the achievement of students who did not move.

This suggests that the district’s strategy of seeking to move students to higher-performing schools was well founded: students moving to higher-performing schools saw smaller declines in achievement, and those who moved to substantially higher-performing schools could have seen no negative impact at all, as the benefit of the higher-performing school cancelled out the negative effect of moving.

Overall, this suggests that closing schools can have adverse transitional effects for students in closed schools, but these effects can be offset by relocation to schools with stronger academic performance. Moreover, there is no evidence that the influx of new students has negative achievement implications for the students in the receiving schools.

The results suggest that if a district needs to close schools, then closing low performing schools and transferring students to higher performing schools can minimize any adverse effects.

Does this support the argument to keep Scenario 3 off the school closure list? Should Silverwood be closed under these assumptions? Should the District implement more programs like Monte Gardens and Sequoia in order to provide more successful school alternatives?


School Closures – What makes the most sense?

Theresa Harrington reported online today that the School Closure Committee has come up with potential scenarios for closing schools. The committee has put together 10 options and the “Superintendent’s Council” has offered an 11th. What do you think of the choices?

1 – 1: GLENBROOK (to El Dorado, Oak Grove, Valley View);
SILVERWOOD (to Ayers, Mountain View, Highlands);
HOLBROOK (to Wren, Sun Terrace, Monte Gardens, Westwood);
Savings: $1,504,453

1 – 2: SILVERWOOD (see above);
HOLBROOK (see above);
EL MONTE (to Wren, Westwood, Woodside);
GREGORY GARDENS (to Hidden Valley, Fair Oaks, Valhalla);
Savings: $1,738,320

2- 1: GLENBROOK (to El Dorado, Oak Grove, Valley View);
WREN AVENUE (to El Monte, Holbrook, Monte Gardens, Westwood);
SILVERWOOD (to Ayers, Mountain View, Highlands);
Savings: $1,533,504

2- 2: WREN AVENUE (see 2-1 above);
SHORE ACRES (to Rio Vista, Bel Air and possibly Delta View);
SILVERWOOD (see 2-1 above);
GREGORY GARDENS (to Sequoia Elem, which becomes partial neighborhood school like Monte Gardens; Hidden Valley, Valhalla);
Savings: $1,819,386

3-1: SEQUOIA ELEM. (to home schools);
SEQUOIA MIDDLE SCHOOL (to home schools);
WREN AVENUE (to El Monte, Holbrook, Monte Gardens, Westwood);
Savings: $1,607,769

3- 2: FAIR OAKS (to Bancroft, Cambridge, Strandwood);
SHORE ACRES (to Bel Air, Delta View, Riverview and Rio Vista, which all become K-8);
OAK GROVE (to Foothill, El Dorado, Pleasant Hill and other surrounding if necessary);
Savings: $1,543,916

4- 1: SEQUOIA ELEM. (to home schools);
AYERS ELEM. (to Silverwood, Highlands, Mountain View);
MONTE GARDENS (to home schools, residents to Westwood, Wren);
FAIR OAKS (to Pleasant Hill Elem., Gregory Gardens, Bancroft):
Savings: $,685,242

4- 2: SEQUOIA ELEM. (to home schools);
SEQUOIA MIDDLE (to home schools);
MONTE GARDENS ELEM. (to home schools, residents to Westwood, Wren Ave.);
Savings: $1,563,095

5- 1: WREN AVENUE (to El Monte, Westwood);
SILVERWOOD ELEM. (to Ayers, Highlands);
GREGORY GARDENS ELEM. (to Valhalla, Strandwood);
BANCROFT (to Fair Oaks, Walnut Acres, Woodside, Valle Verde);
HOLBROOK (to Sun Terrace);
RIO VISTA (to Shore Acres, Bel Air);
Savings: $2,761,978

5- 2: GLENBROOK MIDDLE (to Oak Grove, El Dorado);
plus any two elementary schools from scenario 5-1;
Savings: $1,470,929 – $1,615,613, depending on which elementary schools are chosen

Superintendent’s Council recommendation:
OAK GROVE (to 6-12 campus at Ygnacio Valley HS);
GLENBROOK (to 6-12 campus at Mt. Diablo HS);
Convert Riverview Middle School to 6-12 campus;
Savings: approximately $1.5 million

For the full story Contra Costa Times or On Assignment

Engaging Students – Michael Wesch, Kansas State University

Gary Eberhart responded to the last blog post and made the following comment:

I think the idea to discuss what’s going on in our district relative to what other districts are doing is a great idea. I would eagerly participate in doing so.

I like that idea and would like to expand the discussion to include college campuses where the trends seem to be a bit ahead of K-12.

Michael Wesch, a Professor of Anthropology at Kansas State University, along with the collaboration of 200 students created this video:

Should we change the way we teach our children in order to not only engage them, but provide them relevant skills for careers in the 21st century?
Skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.
The use of digital media/internet can transform teaching from the dissemination of information to coaching, facilitating, and mentoring students. Information is everywhere. Students must learn to qualify the information they find. They need to know how to recognize bias and credible sources. Do they need to memorize massive amounts of information and historical dates? Or instead do they need to understand why what happened on those dates is relevant.
Yesterday a teacher, inspired by Michael Wesch, wrote on his blog Ten Simple Strategies for Re-engaging Students. Can you guess what his 10 strategies were?

More from Michael Wesch:

Of utmost concern to me, was the nature of questions I was hearing from students, which tended to be administrative and procedural rather than penetrative, critical, and insightful. My least favorite question was also the most common: “What do we need to know for this test?” Something had to be done, so I set to work creating the World Simulation.

The World Simulation itself only takes 75-100 minutes and moves through 650 metaphorical years, 1450-2100. It all takes place in large room where all of the “cultures” interact with one another with props for currencies, natural resources, and other elements that recreate the world system. They simulate world history in an attempt to understand the underlying social and cultural processes that interconnect us all. The ultimate goal is to allow students to actually experience how the world system works and explore some of the most important questions now facing humanity such as those of global inequality, globalization, culture loss, environmental degradation, and in the worst case scenario, genocide.

How can we engage high school students and make their experience in the classroom as content rich as their interactions outside the classroom?
How do we keep the curriculum relevant and rigorous?
With the entire world a click away how can we expand the school experience and make it a global experience?

Can MDUSD and MDEA join the reform movement like Baltimore?

Wednesday Baltimore City teachers voted almost 2 to 1 to pass a contract that will change the way teachers are valued and compensated.

The Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) has six of the 188 lowest performing schools in the state and are at an impasse with two of their non-teacher labor unions. MDEA (the teachers union) and MDUSD have yet to even sit at the negotiating table. Do we have any hope of seeing sweeping change in this district? Is the California Teacher’s Association so strong in this state that our legislators will never have the political will to do what is right for our students and change the Education Code? I would strongly argue that reform would be good for our dedicated and effective teachers as well as for our students.

Here are excerpts from the Baltimore Sun:

“Baltimore is now one of a handful of cities that is leading the nation in innovative contracts and making teachers real partners in reform,” U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan said in a statement.

Under the new pact, teachers will no longer be paid based on step increases, which are automatic raises based on tenure or the number of degrees acquired. Instead, they will climb a four-tier career ladder, which will see an elite corps of teachers earning six-figure salaries. Teachers will also have the opportunity to vote on working conditions at their schools, such as longer school days.

In addition, in the last two years of the contract, teachers’ pay will be based on an evaluation system not yet drafted by the Maryland State Department of Education that would tie a proposed 50 percent of student performance to teacher evaluations. The contract could also serve as an example to other districts as the state works to reform how teacher evaluations are conducted.
Baltimore Sun 11/17/10

The Baltimore Sun’s editorial board salutes the city teachers who recognized that this contract — which establishes a new way of doing business by evaluating teachers more on their abilities and their students’ performance than on years of seniority — represents the wave of the future and launches our city into the forefront of the national school reform movement. Well done, Baltimore educators.
Baltimore Sun 11/17/10

High School – Looking for a New Option?

Award-winning curriculum, state-of-the–art school facilities, individualized attention, small group learning environments, consistent course content… Interested?

New Charter High SchoolWith future state budget cuts we will continue to see an impact on our children’s education. The loss of class-size reduction in 9th grade has hurt our incoming freshman class and left them without the individual attention given to classes that have preceded them.  Some district high schools are facing the possibility of losing AP classes and electives.  Our teachers are struggling to accommodate larger classes with less time.

Out of adversity, often comes innovation.

Flex Academy is a charter school organization with proposed plans to open Mt. Diablo Flex Academy here in the Mt. Diablo School District attendance area in fall 2011 and in San Francisco in fall 2010. The San Francisco location is in downtown San Francisco, close to BART, open to students throughout the Bay Area and is currently accepting enrollment applications. Student can attend Flex Academy in San Francisco this year and transfer to Mt. Diablo Flex at a later time. Flex Academy is tuition free and offers the following:

  • California’s first full-time, five-days-a-week “hybrid” high school, serving students in grades 9-12 from anywhere in the Bay Area
  • Engaging and personalized learning that truly maximizes each student’s full potential
  • Award-winning curriculum that meets University of California “a-g” requirements
  • State-of-the-art digital tools and online courses and resources
  • A robust catalog of 130 core and elective courses, many of which aren’t offered in other high schools  – Course List
  • Classes and small group instruction with highly qualified, California-credentialed teachers
  • Books, materials, and laptops for each student to help facilitate the learning process
  • Tuition-free public education
  • Small class sizes for more personalized schooling, plus after-school clubs, tutoring, and sports

This new charter school option is being called a “hybrid” due to the fact that it will provide the best attributes of a traditional school, a sense of community, academic supports, clubs and activities and the best attributes of online schools, with their differentiated learning, broad course offerings and continuous feedback through assessments built into the curriculum.   At Flex Academy the majority of classroom instruction is delivered online at a new state-of-the-art school facility. On-site and online credentialed teachers will have the ability to spend more individual time with students and facilitate small group discussions and projects. In addition, students will have the opportunity to individualize the pace of the course content by spending extra time where needed and moving ahead if ready.  Flex Academy offers a wide breadth of electives and AP courses including; Computer Programming, Introduction to Entrepreneurship, and Anthropology, just to name a few.  Online curriculum provides consistency of content for all students and offers students the ability for meaningful review of lectures and materials at anytime.

If you would like to attend an informal get-together where you can ask questions of the Flex Academy Founder/Superintendent and the  San Francisco Flex Academy Principal, please contact me for more information.

Flex Academy

Chat with Mark Kushner, Superintendent/Founder of Flex Academy

Alan Frishman, Principal S.F. Flex Academy

August 10, 2010

7:00 pm

Walnut Creek

For Information and RSVP

Mt. Diablo Flex Academy is proceeding through the charter process for approval of the new school in this area.  Flex Academy has already obtained approval to open one school in San Francisco (receiving unanimous approval at the state level) and three in Santa Clara County (receiving unanimous approval at the county level). After being turned down by MDUSD, Flex Academy is in the appeal process and is confident that they will be successful either through the County or State approval process. There is currently a great deal of pressure both at a national and state level to provide parents school choice by approving new state charter schools that meet high quality standards.  Provided below are bios for both Mr. Kushner and Mr. Frishman.

About Mark Kushner

Mark Kushner is one of the country’s leading charter experts as a charter school founder, state charter commissioner, and instructor on charter schools at Stanford University. In 1995, he founded and led Leadership High School in San Francisco, one of the pioneering charter high schools dedicated to equity and excellence. In 2001, Mr. Kushner next founded, and led as CEO, Leadership Public Schools (LPS), a prominent charter management organization dedicated to serving low-income students in California. LPS is now ably led by the former chief academic officer of Oakland Unified School District and Mr. Kushner serves on the board. In 2008 he joined K¹² Inc., the country’s leading provider of online courses.

A former high school English teacher, coach, school administrator, and attorney, Mr. Kushner also serves on the board of trustees of San Francisco University High School and the Town School for Boys. Selected honors include the Harvard Club of San Francisco’s Secondary School Educator of the Year, and the Hart Vision Award, the highest award given to charter school educators in California.

Mr. Kushner earned a B.A. from Wesleyan University, a J.D. from University of San Francisco and an Ed.M from Harvard University. He also completed graduate work in literature at The Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Oxford University. He is married to Dr. Mimi Winsberg and has two children. Recent honors include the Hart Vision Award for School Site Administrator, the highest award given to charter school educators in California, and the Harvard Club of San Francisco’s Secondary School Educator of the Year.

About Alan Frishman

Mr. Frishman has a long and distinguished career in school leadership, most recently with New Leaders for New Schools where he served as support to ten area schools (seven high, one middle, and  two elementary schools), and coach for nine principals, six assistant principals, and five teacher leaders. He worked with two schools and two principals in partnership with Partners in School Innovation and was a presenter to resident principals-in-training.  He has extensive experience as a High School Principal, leading innovative programs and driving school reform. He founded, led, and maintained groups whose primary focus is school reform at both the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute and the Anneberg Institute of School Reform. He holds a B.A. and a M.A.T. from Yale University.

San Francisco Flex Academy website

Is MDUSD Emphasizing the Importance of Human Capital in Education?


Lamar Alexander, US Senator and former Secretary of Education, May 2009

Human capital in education is a buzz phrase found throughout articles and web pages as one begins to search for school leadership improvement programs. This topic interested me after I had an opportunity to chat with a gentleman from New Leaders for New Schools, a non-profit organization reaching out nationwide to ensure high academic achievement for every student by attracting, training, and mentoring outstanding leaders and supporting the performance of the urban public schools they lead.

“With research indicating that nearly 60% of student achievement can be attributed to principal and teacher quality, our schools not only need principal training and hiring to be highly selective, but also need school systems, states, and the federal government to redefine the principalship to focus on teachers and students,” said Ben Fenton Co-Founder and Chief Strategy and Knowledge Officer at New Leaders for New Schools.

This is especially vital for turnaround schools, where studies find no examples of success without effective principal leadership.

New Leaders found that certain leadership actions within the following five categories are critical to achieving transformative results:

1) ensuring rigorous, goal- and data-driven learning and teaching;
2) building and managing a high-quality staff aligned to the school’s vision of success for every student;
3) developing an achievement- and belief-based school-wide culture;
4) instituting operations and systems to support learning; and
5) modeling the personal leadership that sets the tone for all student and adult relationships in the school.

K-8 schools led by a New Leaders principal for two or more years are nearly twice as likely as others in their district to make breakthrough achievement gains.

As my conversation continued I couldn’t help but think about MDUSD.
Are we putting that much emphasis on our recruitment of new principals?
Is the placement of Dent Center employees as new school principals the best move for student achievement?
How will the new coaching program work?
How much oversight will exist and how high will the bar be raised?
How does our new student achievement program compare to the training and mentoring offered at New Leaders?
Is MDUSD eligible to use New Leaders as a resource for new principal candidates?
Have or will any of our current, or potential, school leaders apply to the program?

New Leaders for New Schools website
Article – New Report Shows Crucial Impact of Principals on Student Achievement
The Report – Principal Effectiveness