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Monrovia School Link ~ Number 47 ~ Sept. 11, 2002

Overall, the district reports good progress on test results for the elementary schools, but not as good for the upper grades. But I told you that already. What really annoys me, though, is what the school-level data screams out. It is yelling, "Bradoaks has a big problem!." What bugs me even more, however, is that people on the board either don't seem to know or don't care. At least they don't say anything about it.
~ Brad Haugaard (brad@sacklunch.net)

SAT-9 ~ Associate Superintendent of Instruction Joel Shawn gave the rundown on the SAT-9: He said the district's demographics have remained fairly stable over the past few years. About same number of whites, Hispanics, Asians, English speakers, and free- and reduced-price-lunch recipients. I'm not entirely sure what that was all about. If the population *had* fluctuated radically, that would be a good excuse for some problem scores. But he said it hasn't. One enlightening point, however, was his estimate that 55-60 percent of students are "poor," based on the number of free- or reduced-price-lunch recipients. I had guesstimated about 30-35 percent. Maybe I was low, but he may be high. I consider this possible because I suspect there may be some cheating in the lunch program. Why do I suspect such a horrible thing? Because when my wife worked as a teacher, she knew another teacher who had her child on the free-lunch program. Or maybe this just means teachers *really* need a raise.

MIDDLE MATH ~ Shawn said the elementary schools are making progress, but the middle schools are "a little flatter." He said, "We're paying a lot of attention to this." He added that what he's "really, really concerned about" is math at the middle school level. He said at the middle schools the focus has been on "traditional" mathematics. But what it takes be successful now, he said, is more algebraic math. He said the district has adopted a new elementary school math program, and now has a new middle school math program. Also, he said, "We need to commit to a lot of staff development."

TEACH KIDS ~ Shawn said there is a different "pedagogy" at the middle schools (It means "teaching style." I know because I looked it up). He said middle school teachers "teach content rather than kids." He said they need to "change back to teaching kids." I believe he means teachers can't think they're done if they get up and just lecture. They need to make sure the students understand. On the flip side, Shawn said, students gotta do their homework.

NORM ~ Shawn also said the state is moving away from "Norm-referenced tests." I don't personally know this Norm guy, but I think the kind of tests he references are the "how you did compared to others taking the test" sort of tests.

PUBERTY ~ In the discussion about the test results, Board Member Monina Diaz said something odd about puberty in high school. Uh... yeah? Well, I think she was saying what with puberty pouncing on students they maybe get kinda distracted so maybe you can't totally, like, expect their test scores to be that hot. Ya know? But don't *all* students go through puberty? And aren't Monrovia's pubescent students being compared with other pubescent students? So shouldn't it be fair? Wait! I got it! Monrovia students must go through a *worse* case of puberty than students in other districts, so they're at a disadvantage.

EXTRA ~ Well, it appears that most of the Monrovia elementary school deserve extra congratulations. As you probably know, overall the elementary schools have been improving nicely according to the SAT-9 tests. So why extra congratulations? Because this was accomplished *despite* the rotten performance of Bradoaks School. Yup. While all the other schools in the district were improving, Bradoaks is basically going the wrong direction.

ONE BAD APPLE ~ Bradoaks is probably close to first-placed Mayflower in terms of the affluence of its parents. (And Shawn said affluence tends to increase students' test performance.) So then, where does Bradoaks rank? For second grade its scores were the worst in the district - across the board. For third grade, it was last in reading and in second to worst in math and language. It did a bit better in fourth grade, coming out third in reading, math and science, but then back down it went for the fifth grade, where it was worst in reading, worst in math and tied for second worst in language.

WORSE THAN ITSELF ~ What's worse, Bradoaks is doing worse than last year. Out of 12 scores (three subjects, four grades), seven were lower than last year, two were the same and only three were better. It takes hard work to score that badly. This is really discouraging because I thought the school had been doing better. You Bradoaks parents are a long-suffering group.

COMPARING ~ But Associate Superintendent of Instruction Joel Shawn said we really should not look so much at how well last year's second grade students, for example, compare with this year's second graders, but - if I understood him - we should compare how well the third graders are doing compared with their own scores last year when they were second graders. Well, I think both ways of looking at numbers are valid, but let's look at the numbers the way he prefers. When we do, Bradoaks is still bad. The only group that improved between 2000-01 and 2001-02 were the third-fourth graders. The second-third and fourth-fifth graders went down.

THANKS ~ The Monrovia Arts Association donated $2,000 for Monrovia High School Band Uniforms. On Oct 12, 13 the association will have a show at Library Park and will display student art work. Also, Washington Mutual donated $3,816 and $3,073 (from, I take it, two different Washington Mutual offices). The money goes to the Monrovia Village Centers program. I wonder what that is.

ENROLLMENT ~ Enrollment in the district is more than last year at about this time, but less than expected, according to a report by Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Debby Collins. There are 6,484 students enrolled, 74 fewer than expected but 277 more than the 6,207 enrolled this time last year.

NO DRUG TESTS ~ As I mentioned after the last meeting, the district is planning to study whether to allow cell phones and sodas on campus. Prez Bruce Carter said a "fact finding team" will try to determine what to do about that, probably within a year. He said, however, that while the Supreme Court has ruled that schools can institute random drug testing, the staff or board (I'm not sure which) is afraid that having a policy could expose the district to "potential liability." So no random drug testing policy.

CONGRATULATIONS ~ Mitch Wood, who has served as a social science teacher and assistant principal at Santa Fe Middle School, is taking a job as a principal at a "large" middle school in Modesto. He's from Northern California so it's kind of a move back home. The board gave Wood a lamp with balloons. President Bruce Carter said the lamp was because of the "light you shed on social sciences" and "for being a guiding light." Clever, huh? Congratulations also to Nancy Cabrera, who was sworn in as student representative to the Board.

BATHROOMS ~ And I get correspondence: "Know what I would do? If I were principal, I would only use the student bathrooms. And I'd scream and yell about their filthy conditions to everyone in power ... It's hypocritical of staff to have nice bathrooms and the kids have crud.

EXIT EXAM ~ More from my teacher correspondent. "You know the high schol exit exam kids will be required to take? I just got the 'study book' at our staff meeting yesterday. It's the size of a telephone book - and that's just the math portion! The language arts portion is another telephone book! Which means they're the size of textbooks, which means a teacher could use them an entire year as a textbook and still not cover everything in it. It's such a joke! Public schools are doomed to become test prep centers."

WHOLE LANGUAGE ~ And another writer: "I cannot help but be reminded of the 'victims' of whole language teaching (who are now students in the 8-12 grades), and wonder about how that might affect scores.

VENGEANCE ~ President Bruce Carter adjourned the meeting in honor of the fallen heros of September 11, 2001. He gave a very nice statement followed by a moment of silence. He said we've lost our sense of safety and "distance from vengeance." I appreciate the sentiment, but I don't think we've done anything to deserve "vengeance." My dictionary says it means "punishment inflicted in retaliation for an injury or offense." Oh well, I'm sure it was just a slip of the tongue. Speaking of 9/11, Superintendent Louise Taylor said that at 9:11 a.m. today all the district classrooms had a moment of silence.

SORRY ~ Gotta go. My wife is going through withdrawal symptoms. She needs my computer to play Spider Solitaire. (It comes with Windows XP.) Okay Honey, here's the computer. But just one more time, okay? Please? You've gotta fight these urges.

NEXT BOARD MEETING ~ The next regular board meeting is on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the administration office at 325 E. Huntington Drive.

Copyright (c) 2002, Brad Haugaard. Also on the Web at: monroviaschools.tripod.com