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  • Monday, May 15, 2006


    SPECIAL REPORT: Focus on Consultants

    Panorama Principal’s “Once upon a time…”
    –a fairytale without Minority Subgroups

    An OUSD Principal working for a firm she recommends that then gets multiple year contracts; pirated works used in district meetings are copied without the owners’ permission; a top OUSD administrator comparing a controversial multi-million dollar educational tax dollar consultant program to “marriage encounter training”; 40% of the consultant contract is cut back with no reciprocal program cuts; the consultant program is paid for by local federal teacher training money that could supplement specialized training in other programs and free up money for student centered needs: Welcome to the Orange Unified School District’s Focus on Results program. The Focus on Results educational consultant program in OUSD has cost taxpayers over two million dollars in educational tax funds over the last four years that include years with budget cuts of popular programs. Orange Net News is producing this yearlong exclusive news analysis series that examines the OUSD consultant program; the financial implications; and the worth of the program to the taxpayers that paid for the controversial multi-million dollar program.

    The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released their statewide 2006 Special Survey on Education (April 2006) that showed a high level of dissatisfaction among Californians with their schools and the elected officials responsible for them. In the PPIC Statewide Survey almost every area of California’s education system gets poor grades. In the survey 60% say the schools are not doing a good job in preparing students for the work force; 53% say that the schools are not doing a good job preparing students for college; 44% said the schools are failing in basic teaching of reading, writing and math skills. The survey reports that of likely voters: only 16% approve of the California Legislature’s handling of educational issues; 32% approve of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s handling of educational issues. Fiscally, only 12% in the survey of likely voters trust the state government on fiscal decision making; 13% trust school principals; 30% trust teachers; and only 36% trust local school districts about monetary issues.

    One of the survey’s most glaring statistics is that 81% of residents, and 83% of most likely voters believe better use of existing educational tax funding would improve education in California. Events over the last four years in Orange Unified provide supportive evidence as to why this statistic is so overwhelming. Two almost identical Measure A Bonds were defeated within months of each other by local OUSD voters. Meanwhile, community members and watchdogs have complained about the spending priorities and influence of what they describe as OUSD’s bloated administrative spending priorities and the creation of a Consultant Culture as student centered programs have been cut. Even as the district and the OUSD Trustees insist that the district has cut district bureaucracy, community members point to an administration that has balanced its budget for the most part by eliminating proven student centered programs and hard won community centered reforms. OUSD’s multi-million dollar consultant driven local Focus on Results program is pointed to as a prime example of wasted educational tax funds. Yet, even with program cuts to proven student centered programs, the OUSD Trustees continue to approve OUSD educrats request to continue to spend on OUSD’s Focus on Results, a program so lacking in hard evidence of any effectiveness that Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Cheryl Cohen described the program in a report to OUSD Trustees as being akin to “marriage encounter training”.

    As further proof of the purported disconnect between the OUSD Administration’s Consultant Culture and local taxpayers, the Greater Orange Communities Group, a community watchdog group, has highlighted the blatant administrative “consultant cheering” in the latest OUSD edition (April/May 2006) of its “Good News” newspaper- School News. While every other OUSD principal wrote about their schools “good news” (from innovated reading and writing programs and contests, to honoring parent volunteers), Principal Michelle Moore of Panorama Elementary School choice of “good news” was asserting that OUSD’s Focus on Results consultant program was responsible for her students outstanding test scores on the state standardized tests.

    The Greater Orange Community Group disputes Principal Moore’s assertion. The 207 Panorama students tested scored a top score of 10 in the 2005 Statewide Ranking (all 2005 Similar School Ranks have temporarily been withdrawn by the state). Under state rules, of those 207 students, only the 142 white students were “statistically significant” as a subgroup (i.e. numerically significant) and collectively those white students scored 902 on the state Academic Performance Index (API) base scale ( the target for a whole school’s API scores are expected to be above 800). Panorama had only 13 English learner students and 16 socioeconomically disadvantaged students, numbers too small for their scores to be counted apart from the white population as “statistically significant”. The whole school’s API base score for 2005 was 887. Six years ago in 1999 (well before OUSD’s controversial Focus on Results program) Panorama’s first school-wide API score was 819, nineteen points above the state target of 800. In six years, Panorama has increased its total API 11 points a year, not significantly above the state-wide rise in scores during the same period. In addition, as a school with an API score above the targeted 800, Panorama has never had to make a yearly API Target Score because schools above 800 have met the states 800 target score. Most of the Panorama’s API gains occurred before Principal Moore.

    The Greater Orange Communities Group uses OUSD’s California Elementary School as a comparison to Panorama. The 548 California Elementary School students scored 472 on the API scale in 1999. The school had 467 Latino/Hispanic students, and a total of 455 students were identified as socioeconomically disadvantaged. The school had a total of 56 white students, too small a number to statistically qualify as a subgroup. In the 2005 API testing, California Elementary had 432 students tested. Out of the 432 students, 378 were Latino/Hispanic, 375 were socioeconomically disadvantaged and 280 were English Learners. California Elementary had more “English Learners” than the entire Panorama student body of 207 students. In 2005 the California Elementary API Score was 701. In six years, California gained an average of 38 points per year. In the latest OUSD edition of School News (April/May 2006), California Elementary Principal Andrew Fisher writes about 22 teachers at California Elementary participating in the federally funded Reading First program to ensure all students have learned to read by the end of third grade. The Greater Orange Communities Group compared Panorama Principal Michelle Moore’s School News article (page 42) choice of focusing on a consultant program to explain her elite students moving ahead slightly on the API scale, to California Elementary Principal Fisher’s article (page 16) highlighting the real work of education his staff is doing as follows:

    “Panorama Principal Michelle Moore’s choice of highlighting the OUSD Administration’s “Consultant Culture” in her fairytale-school does not come close to representing the diverse challenges facing education in the majority of this district’s schools and across the state. Moore’s hollow endorsement of OUSD’s waste of educational tax dollars with Focus on Results is in stark comparison to the back-to-basics approach of Principal Fisher with his “Good News” that the basics work in the real world of the educational challenges facing California and OUSD. If Moore believes her own ‘Once-upon-a-time’ story in the May edition of School News, the community challenges her to transfer to one of OUSD’s many California Designated Underperforming Schools to bring those struggling children into her fairytale world with her Consultant Culture.”Greater Orange Communities Group; May 2006

    The same week as the April/ May edition of OUSD’s School News was delivered, the Associated Press (AP) released a comprehensive investigative report (see link below) on how public schools across the nation skirt the penalties of the federal No Child Left Behind Act that require all races that are statistically significant at a school to show progress on standardized tests (at Panorama, only whites are counted as statistically significant, while at California, whites are not counted as statistically significant). The AP report stated that nationwide over 2 million minority students scores do not count statistically because the states set the number of students needed to be considered a “significant” subgroup. In California schools the number is 100 students in a subgroup at a school are needed to be “significant” and have their scores impact the schools standing. When a California school has a subgroup of students (i.e. Hispanic; English learner; poor/disadvantaged) of less than 100 students, then that subgroup’s scores (like minorities at Panorama) do not count as a statistically significant subgroup. The AP report cited various state examples of different state requirements including the state of Washington. In Washington, schools sub-groups were considered “insignificant” and not counted only if they had fewer than five students. The reason the subgroups are important is because if a statistically significant subgroup does not make progress on testing, then the whole school fails to meet their goals. The AP investigation argues by keeping subgroups statistically insignificant, their scores cannot jeopardize the schools results.

    The Public Policy Institute of California survey shows citizens and voters nationwide want public schools to make better use of existing educational tax dollars. Yet, the OUSD Administration and “fairytale” administrators (without significant subgroups at their schools) are quick to support spending educational tax dollars on a Consultant Culture even as the district’s leading consultant program, Focus on Results, is characterized by OUSD Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Cohen as “marriage encounter training”. This is just a local example of why the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) statewide 2006 Special Survey on Education (April 2006) showed a high level of dissatisfaction among Californians with their schools.

    For further information on the items in PART VI:
    Public Policy Institute of California 2006 Special Survey on Education CLICK ON:

    OUSD’s Racial Make-up CLICK ON:

    Panorama’s 1999 API Scores and subgroups CLICK ON:

    Panorama’s 2005 API scores and subgroups CLICK ON:

    California Elementary 1999 API Scores CLICK ON:

    California Elementary 2005 API Scores CLICK ON:

    CNN/AP Summary Story on Associated Press NCLB Minority Students investigation CLICK ON:

    Associated Press NCLB Minority Students Investigation and related AP Stories CLICK ON:

    To view the previous parts of this exclusive Orange Net News special series CLICK below:





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    Greater Orange News Service is a community service of the Orange Communication System /OCS/, the communications arm of the Greater Orange Community Orgainization