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  • Monday, January 30, 2006

     

    HEDGEHOG Digest



    Orange Net News Announces new
    News Analysis Series


    Orange Net News has announced a new original locally produced news analysis series named HEDGEHOG Digest.The new analysis series will report on Orange Unified School District Superintendent Thomas Godley’s Good to Great management pedagogy based on management guru Jim Collins' concepts in his best selling business model book, Good to Great.

    Orange Net News and the other Orange Communication System family of news products are the leading independent electronic news source for orginal information programing in the central Orange County Metro area in the Greater City of Orange communities.

    The first installment for HEDGEHOG Digest is scheduled for early February 2006.

    Friday, January 27, 2006

     

    OCR ROCCO ARTICLE


    Orange County Register's take on OUSD Trustee Steve Rocco
    http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/news/atoz/article_969529.php

    Thursday, January 26, 2006

     

    TWISTED BADGE UPDATE


    Orange’s own Shirley Grindle
    on KUCI Radio's
    Orange County Variety Hour


    Whether you hate or love Shirley Grindle, she remains a force to be reckoned with in Orange County politics. Regardless of your feelings, most would agree they’d much rather have her on their side than have her investigating them. Twisted Badge has posted the KUCI FM radio interview with Shirley Grindle from the OC Variety Hour with host Cameron Jackson from his Wednesday January 18th program. While Grindle is never shy to speak with the media, the Jackson interview is special because you hear directly from the political watchdog herself. If you missed the interview live, you can now listen to it from the convenience of your computer thanks to Twisted Badge .

    Just CLICK ON the interview at the Twisted Badge website: www.twistedbadge.com.

    Orange Net News ecasts local interest Twisted Badge stories as a public service. To get the full inside story, back issues or other Twisted Badge information Click On: www.twistedbadge.com .
    If your friends and associates would like to get the inside story, please ask them to sign up at www.twistedbadge.com NOTE - If you wish to send a story and/or documents to TB, our mailing address is PO Box 1021, Lake Forest, CA. 92609. Our 24 hour toll free hotline is (888) 623-4426. We answer all mail and return all calls.

    Monday, January 23, 2006

     

    COMMUNITY UPDATE

    A community news service of
    Orange Net News /O/N/N/


    The Orange Park Association will have its annual meeting January 28th at the Villa Park Fire Station #23. Nominations and election of three new directors top the agenda that among other business includes discussion of planned 2006 projects like the “Bennyhoff Trail” connector to the Canyon Open Space.

    The full agenda is listed below:

    Orange Park Association
    January 28, 2006
    AGENDA

    Place: Villa Park Fire Station # 23
    5020 Santiago Canyon Road

    08:30 - Coffee and Donuts

    09:30 - Open meeting
    Pledge of Allegiance
    Welcome dignitaries
    Treasurers Report
    Acknowledgments
    4H
    Introduce Board
    Introduce Officers

    Nominate new directors- vote for 3 new directors

    O.P.C.C. - Richard Seibert

    2005 - Year review
    • Horse boarding
    • TIC
    • Vinyl fencing
    • Welcoming committee
    • Orange Park Blvd. Beautification – OK from the city
    • Wood replacement on the Gaddi Vasquez bridge
    • Cut new trail portion on Rattlesnake Trail
    • Trails vision committee
    2006 - Projects/ business for the year
    • Work on Orange Park Blvd. Beautification
    • General trail improvements- DG on flat areas where possible
    • Trail encroachments
    • Stop sign at Randall/Meads
    • Work on trail for Meads loop
    • Bennyhoff Trail- connect to upper Dakota Trail and access to Cannon Open space
    Ridgeline
    Fieldstone
    Salem

    Wednesday, January 18, 2006

     

    Metro Views

    The views expressed in Metro Views are not necessarily the viewpoints of the networks that ecast it. Community groups are welcome to submit editorial viewpoints on LOCAL issues for Metro Views.

    As a past president of the Orange Unified Education Association, John Rossmann led the one day strike against the Recalled OUSD Board. Rossmann now leads a group called the Orange Professional Teachers Association that has advocated ending the local teacher’s association ties with the powerful California Teachers Association. Rossmann sends out a local emailed commentary on various issues pertaining to the Orange Unified School District. The following commentary was originally emailed on 1/15/06 and appears here with permission.


    OUSD vs. Parents & Kids
    OPTA Reports 1/14/06
    from John Rossmann


    OUSD's secretive school board members are at work behind the scenes to radically change and undermine the education of children in the district. Here's what you need to know about.

    Increasing Class Sizes
    On paper, OUSD upper elementary class-size is supposed to be a ratio of 30:1, students to teachers. Of course, anyone who's been in an upper elementary OUSD classroom lately knows that's pure fiction.

    Here's how the school board gets away with claiming a 30:1 ratio even while actual class sizes are typically 32-35. The school board calculates the ratio not on the number of actual classroom teachers, but on the total number of personnel who have teaching certificates. The number of personnel holding teaching certificates who aren't classroom teachers is significant, and even though these people aren't classroom teachers the school board counts them in its calculation. The result is that the board can tell the media that they are providing kids with a 30:1 ratio, although the board knows that's not true.

    Now the school board members want to raise even that on-paper-only 30:1 ration to 32:1. If they succeed, the actual numbers of kids packed into each classroom will rise even higher than it already is.

    The only thing blocking the board is the teachers: When teachers negotiate a contract, they are also negotiating for the kids and their parents. Teachers in OUSD have fought the school board members for years to hold the line at 30:1. So now the school board is threatening salary and benefit repercussions against the teachers if teachers don't give in
    to school board demands to increase class size increase class size.

    The easy thing for teachers to do is to give in and get a raise — but they are resisting and won't do that if the community rises up against the demands of the school board to undermine the quality of children's education.

    The school board got a budget boost for this current school year of more than $10 million plus carrying over a cash surplus of $17.8 million in Unrestricted cash from last year and has budgeted to end this year with yet another $10+ million surplus of Unrestricted cash, and is getting as much as $20 million more from the state next year, so there's no
    monetary reason for wanting to increase class size.

    In fact, it's absolutely unfathomable why school board members who have the legal and moral obligation to provide children with the best possible educational experience are determined to jam kids into overcrowded classrooms where learning is undermined?

    School Scheduling Yo-Yo
    Without any consideration of the hoops parents have to jump through when it comes to picking up their kids after school and arranging for care, OUSD school board members are also demanding unlimited authority to change the school-day hours at each school as they see fit.

    Once again, only the teachers are standing in the board's whimsical way. Once again, board members are threatening teachers with salary and benefit repercussions if they don't give in.

    Once again, the easy thing for teachers to do is simply say OK and get a raise. It's not a much-focused-on fact that when teachers negotiate a contract with a district, they are also negotiating for the rights of kids and parents, too, but that's the fact. If the teachers were to give in, board members could set and re-set school day times throughout the district as they see fit and as many times as they want. Don't ask why they would want to because there's no sense to it except that it's an exercise in power over people's lives, just like increasing class size.

    Some teachers have already caved in at a few OUSD schools because you can only withstand the pressure for so long. The result is that at some schools, kids are on what's called a "Modified Day." Some days they go home earlier, some days they stay later...and the schedule can change at the whim of the school board.

    Stigmatizing Kids Again
    Were you ever in a "low" Reading or Math group when you were in elementary school? Remember how you felt?

    During the 1980s, "Grouping" was finally driven out of most schools across America, but not without a lot of effort and solid research. The most comprehensive research was published in the prestigious Journal of Educational Research (Vol. 79, No. 1) in 1985. The study was long, following students for five full years to determine with certainty if there were real improvements in their learning.

    Long-term studies are the only way to see the true results because kids typically show a "placebo effect," like in medical studies where the patients who receive only a sugar pill improve in the short term because they didn't know they were given a sugar pill. Kids also often show initial improvement in learning after beginning a different program because they feel that special attention is being paid to them; but it doesn't take kids long to realize that they have been placed in a "low" group, no matter what words are used to disguise that fact...their peers in the higher groups or regular classes see that, too, and the stigmatizing begins no matter what administrators try to do about it.

    Tragically, school boards seldom actually test changes at all before putting them into effect — remember that "wonderful" experiment with "Whole Language" and "New Math?" After five years of imposing that mess on kids, school boards suddenly said "oops, we bad" and dumped those disasters. The children were just guinea pigs.

    Unfortunately for tens of thousands of California kids who today are still struggling with Reading and Math in college, kids can't simply re-live those years of their lives lost to failed educational experiments.

    Research Pans "Grouping/Differentiation/Leveling"

    If you really want to get into this issue of Grouping (today it's been
    re-labeled as "Differentiation" or "Leveling"; see below), you'll find that
    researchers of hundreds of ability grouping studies all the way back to the 1920s
    have shown that instead of helping low students, Grouping/Differentiation hurts
    them. A comprehensive review of all this research can be found on-line at
    the ERIC site: Esposito, D (1971), Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Grouping:
    Principle Findings and Implications of the Literature, Columbia University, ERIC Document ED 056 150.

    The findings of all the genuine long-term research are the same as that
    reported by the comprehensive Columbia University research.
    The operative phrase is "genuine long-term research" because much of what
    you'd find right now "supporting" Grouping/Differentiation is nothing but
    anecdotal "placebo effect" personal testimonials from school board, principals,
    and some teachers. Actual hard research refutes them.

    Here's what's reported in the Journal of Educational Research: The
    comprehensive 5-year examination of the impact of Grouping showed that:

    • "Low" students were harmed by being stigmatized. No matter what the schools using Grouping tried to do paint Grouping as a "positive," they could only fool some of the kids for some of the time.

    • After the initial "placebo effect" in which grades went up
    slightly, grades not only went down to previous levels — they went below previous levels. Even the students in the "average" groups went down.

    • The decline of the average students scores was found to be the
    result of lack of differentiation in their classes. What happened was that when
    the low students were removed for the "pull-out" instruction (the low group was
    sent to another teacher), the lower of the average students then saw
    themselves as the new "low" kids in their group, and that dragged them down.

    • Early in the implementation of the programs, even while teachers
    and administrators were convinced that the programs were working, the actual
    hard test data showed insignificant statistical improvement and then showed
    declines. It seems that teachers and administrators can get themselves so hyped
    about something that they become blind to what's actually happening.

    This has been the same case with Grouping/Differentiation/Leveling
    nationwide. For example, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
    reported:
    • Ability leveling leads to diminished self-esteem and low
    expectations.
    • Rather than helping lower students, Differentiation actually
    magnifies differences in achievement and ability.
    • Instructional Grouping is in some schools a mechanism for
    segregating students by socioeconomic and ethnic strata.

    The highly respected Scholastic magazine flatly states that "ability
    grouping generally depresses student achievement and is harmful to kids."

    As noted, the claims in favor of Grouping/Differentiation/Leveling is
    anecdotal, that is, it's typically the opinion of someone who is doing it and
    likes it. Teachers in the schools that are doing it like it because it takes the
    low kids off their hands. Instead of actually having to teach to these kids,
    the kids are put into a "pull-out" group and sent with other "pull-out" kids
    to a teacher who teaches what's "appropriate" for them. "Pull-out" is another
    way of saying "dumped-off." Still, the only thing parents and media hear from administrators and teachers at schools using "Differentiation/Grouping" is how wonderful
    it is...it's all "They Say" type of "proof."

    In his book, You know what 'They Say': The Truth about Popular Beliefs
    in Education, researcher Alfred Kohn shows that "They Say" anecdotal support
    for Differentiation/Grouping completely unreliable. He flatly says that
    Differentiation/Grouping is "a terrible idea."

    Unfortunately, some of those same OUSD schools that have caved in to
    board pressure on modifying the school day have also caved in to board pressure to
    "differentiate" kids and are doing so now.

    Stop Improving!
    Incredibly, school board members are also demanding the power to limit
    teachers' ability and incentive to continue to upgrade their skills by — at
    their own expense — taking graduate-level college classes and obtaining advanced
    degrees.

    Huh? Why would school board members want to do that? Kids, families, our
    state, and our nation benefit from having the most highly-educated and trained
    teachers possible. So, why would OUSD board members want to deprive our
    community's children of having the best possible teachers?

    So Why?
    School board members might be low on the political ladder, but they
    become infected by the same thing that sooner or later infects everyone on the
    political ladder, all the way up to and including Congress: Power.

    Time and again at all levels of government we see the truth that "Power
    Corrupts." One of the reasons why power corrupts is that people who come into power
    are surrounded by "Yes-Men (and Yes-Women). What congressional staffer or
    school district staffer or school principal is going to tell his or her boss "you
    can't do that," or "you're making a mistake"? Just the opposite: "That's a brilliant idea! We'll get right on it!"

    Realizing that you have the power to control key aspects of "ordinary"
    people's lives is a heady idea. It's intoxicating and addictive. And when all
    you hear is the praise of your Yes People, you begin to believe that you not
    only have the power, you also have the right, and you are right.

    That's why teachers have been provided certain protections from the wrath
    of school boards. Teachers are the first and last line of defense for kids
    and parents against the often lame and frequently harmful ideas of school board members who have never taught.

    The views expressed in Metro Views are not necessarily the viewpoints of the networks that ecast it. Community groups are welcome to submit editorial viewpoints on LOCAL issues for Metro Views

    Tuesday, January 17, 2006

     

    Orange Unified Schools DIGEST


    OUSD TRUSTEES DIRECT GODLEY TO
    BRING BACK RECALL REFORM



    Orange Unified School District (OUSD)
    Trustees at their January 5th meeting
    directed OUSD Superintendent and Secretary to the Board Thomas Godley to reinstate the second public Comments to the Board at the end of the OUSD Board of Trustees Agenda. The only place for public comments on the Board Agenda
    before the Orange Recall was at the very end of the Board Meeting. This created problems for citizen’s who wanted to make comments during meetings with controversial issues because the meetings often went on late into the night. When the current Citizen’s Board took over after the OUSD Recall they added a public comment section in the beginning of the meeting as one of their many reforms and also kept the ending comment section giving the public two chances to address the Board. That practice stopped (apparently without telling the Trustees) shortly after Godley became Superintendent.

    In November 2005, in response to an Orange Net News inquiry
    about eliminating the second Public Comment section, Godley wrote:
    “Communications from members of the community are welcomed and
    encouraged. Currently, there are two opportunities for community
    members to address the Board during a Board Meeting: the first is
    relevant to individual agenda items (see notice at the beginning
    of the agenda), and the second is relevant to items not on the
    agenda (see item 11. of the agenda). It is believed that these
    two opportunities to address the Board are sufficient to encourage
    open communications to the members of the Board during the open
    meetings. I hope this addresses your concern.”
    Thomas A. Godley
    Superintendent of Schools and Secretary to the Board


    At the January 5th meeting, for the second time since removing
    the second opportunity to address the Board, the problem again
    arose where a citizen came late to the meeting and put in a
    request (a “blue card”) to speak to the Trustees about a concern.
    Since it was after the Public Comments section, the Board was
    required to consent to hear the speaker. Board President Kim Nichols
    expressed concern that this procedure could continue to be a problem
    without the second chance to address the Board at the end of the agenda.
    Trustee Kathy Moffat (who was Board President when Godley made the
    change last year) stated she was “Surprised when the second
    communications to the Board was removed.” Moffat stated she saw
    no “downside” in having a second opportunity for the public to
    address the Board. Trustee Rick Ledesma added that some people
    arrive late to skip the opening items and that not many people
    speak at the end. After asking for Board consensus, Nichols directed
    Godley to reinstate the second Public Comment section.

    STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS ON 2006 EXIT EXAM DIPLOMAS
    Agenda Item 12 A (Agenda page 2-3) for the January 19, 2006 OUSD
    Board Meeting has staff recommendations for awarding high school
    Diplomas for the 2006 graduating class. This year the California
    High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) is required to pass to earn
    a high school diploma. Agenda Item 12A states 200 seniors in OUSD
    have yet to pass both sections of the test. The OUSD Administration
    is recommending the Board approve Diplomas for the following students:
    • Students meeting all graduation requirements and passing CAHSEE by March 2006
    • If the Chapman Settlement is passed by the state legislature:
    Special Education students who have met all graduation requirements
    and have taken the CAHSEE at least twice (once in their senior year) and participated in intervention classes to pass the CAHSEE, but still
    have failed to pass both sections.

    The OUSD Administration is recommending the Board approve Certificates
    of Completion and allow these students to participate in all graduation
    activities including the graduation ceremony for the following students:
    • Students meeting all graduation requirements and have taken the
    CAHSEE at least twice (once in their senior year) and participated
    in intervention classes to pass the CAHSEE, but still have failed
    to pass both sections by March 2006.

    The OUSD Administration is recommending the following students not
    receive a diploma or a Certificate of Completion and not be allowed
    to participate in any graduation activities including the
    graduation ceremony:
    • Students not meeting graduation requirements whether or not
    they passed the CAHSEE
    • Students not meeting graduation requirements and have not passed
    both sections of the CAHSEE and have not taken the CAHSEE at least
    twice (once in their senior year) and participated in intervention
    classes to pass the CAHSEE.
    For information on the Chapman Settlement CLICK ON: http://www.dralegal.org/cases/education_testing/chapman_v_ca.php

    OUSD PROPOSES LARGER ELEMENTARY CLASS SIZES
    The OUSD Administration is proposing larger class sizes in
    negotiations with the Orange Unified Education Association (OUEA)
    according to a statement released by the OUEA.
    Current agreements between the OUEA and OUSD set the
    staffing ratio formula as 30:1 in elementary schools.
    According to the statement, the OUSD administration wants
    to increase the staff ratio formula to 32:1. The 32:1 increase is
    not an individual classroom cap, but part of a formula for school
    staffing that counts all personnel at a school site (teachers in
    classrooms and others not teaching in a classroom) who hold a
    teaching credential. Under the ratio formula the current 30:1 ratio
    produces classrooms with 32 students and higher. Under the new
    proposed ratio, classrooms in elementary schools could approach
    40 per class. Another one of the many proposals OUSD is making
    is to “bank” minutes in elementary schools to allow schedules
    such as “late start” days that are currently in the secondary grades.

    Last year during the state budget crisis the OUSD Board voted
    to eliminate class size reductions then reinstated some with
    the help of fundraising efforts from the Orange Education Foundation.
    The Trustees have been widely criticized by some in the community
    for rubberstamping OUSD Administration spending during lean years
    like the $2 million plus Focus on Results consulting contracts.
    Cuts to music programs and class size reduction programs helped
    produce this year’s OUSD budget surplus of over $15 million dollars.
    Next year’s budget proposals by the Governor see OUSD gaining at
    the least, a 6% cost of living (COLA) increase to its budget
    from the state.
    For OUEA Release CLICK ON:

    http://www.teachersoforange.com/Negotiations.html


    Highlights of the NEXT OUSD BOARD MEETING January 19, 2006
    State of the School Report: Canyon H.S. by Student Representative:
    Erin Hong
    Item 12 B- Board Policy Revisions- OUSD Administration (2000 series)
    Item 13 A – Report on Pulliam Information System
    Item 13 B- Williams Settlement Complaints Report
    Item 13 C- School Calendars- proposal calls for a Fall Break
    (one week off at Thanksgiving) with the days added to the beginning
    of the year.
    Item 13 D- Costs and Fee Schedule for Kelly Stadium adjustments to
    pay for the “new” Kelly Stadium
    CONSENT AGENDA- $200,000 to OUSD Law Firm
    Parker & Covert Item 14 D page 28

    COMMUNITY DONATIONS: Office Max donated office
    supplies to Canyon Hills E.S.
    “We’re a $220 million dollar business;
    we’re going to spend the money somewhere”
    -OUSD Trustee Wes Poutsma 9/22/05
    Digest’s EDUCATIONAL TAX DOLLARS WATCH 2006
    Total for Watched Tax Dollars spent in 2006: $ 200,000.00:
    2006 Attorney Fee Tally:
    1/19/06 Parker & Covert: $200,000

    Total for Watched Tax Dollars spent in 2005: $ 978,300.000:
    Total 2005 Conference Administrator/Board Fees: $ 7,500.00
    2005 Attorney Fee Tally: $730,600.00
    Total Watched 2005 OUSD Consultant spending: $ 270,200.00

    The next Orange Unified School Board Meeting: January 19, 2005
    Closed Session will begin at 6:30 pm, Regular Session
    remains at 7:30 pm
    For a complete OUSD Board Agenda CLICK ON:
    http://www.orangeusd.k12.ca.us/board/pdf/agenda_011906.pdf
    For more information call the OUSD Superintendent’s office
    at 714-628-4040

    Friday, January 13, 2006

     

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

    Monday, January 17th


    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

     

    Metro TALK


    Orange Rotary Funds $16,628 in Grants to OUSD Teachers

    Thirty eight Orange Unified elementary school teachers received mini-grants of up to $500 each as part of the Orange Rotary Innovation in Teaching Grant Program. The Orange Rotary program was established to help enhance the educational programs offered to students of OUSD by giving money directly to teachers for classroom program use. The Orange Education Foundation also contributed to the funding by donating $2628 of the total grant money for the Rotary Innovation Grant Program.

    The following are the teachers and their seventeen schools receiving the Rotary Innovation in Teaching Grants:

    Nohl Canyon: Karen Tillis; Ralalis Mershon;
    Sycamore: Helen Ramsey; Robin Ray
    Silverado: Jeanette Maloof-Owen;Christine Willey
    Mc Pherson: Paula Roach; Cindy Ludby; Laura Karg; Carolyn Erratt; Lori Christensen;Patricia Berger;Cathrine Wagner
    West Orange: Alana Snavely; Cathy Lanergan; Tammi Daffen; Chris Callopy
    California: Carol Dubbs; Nan Fryer;Kathy Lundberg; Michelle Navarro
    Riverdale: Shelia Florento
    Olive: Kathleen Nygaard
    Lampson:Cindy Hoang; Marge DeSales
    Serrano: Carol Saukola; Christy Covington
    Prospect: Sandra Van Doren
    Taft: Sandy Clark;Joanne Hayward; Susan Sollik
    Palmara: Jennifer Mai
    Linda Vista: Becki Dodd
    La Veta
    : Cynthia Armenta
    Fairhaven: Laura Sire; Karen Lockyer
    Anaheim Hills: Sharon Cecchi; Pam Verdone

    For a history of the Orange Rotary CLICK ON:
    http://www.orange-rotary.org/default.aspx?id=30

    Sunday, January 08, 2006

     

    Metro VIEWS

    The following email letter was sent regarding the second issue of School News Roll Call in the Greater Orange Communities to the publisher Kay Coop.

    Kay Coop
    Publisher
    School News Roll Call
    kay@schoolnewsrollcall.com


    Dear Ms. Coop,
    We are writing to tell you how disappointed our group is in the second edition of School News published in Orange Unified. In addition, we are deeply disappointed in you. You stood before the Orange Unified School Board and told them your publication is not political and does not publish politically controversial articles. This apparently was not true.

    In the most recent publication on page eight the article on the OUSD Legislative Coalition was clearly very political in nature and not about "good news". While some may argue much of it was marginally political, clearly some was very political. Point #2 clearly deals with Proposition 98 and the election cycle just completed. Point #6 is a political position that is in response to the election of Trustee Steve Rocco an attempt to stop him from running again. While the Greater Orange Communities Organization has not taken a stand on any of these issues, we are deeply troubled that you have so early on broken your pledge not to publish political articles. You should also note that the majority of voters in the Greater Orange Communities voted to support the Governor's propositions that the OUSD Board and Legislative Coalition opposed. Do you intend to let others in the community respond in opposition to this political agenda? We are sure some of the potential advertisers in the Greater Orange Communities that you are trying to attract will do not politically agree with some of the political stands taken in the article.

    In addition, Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Cohen's article on page 36 is clearly a defense of the very controversial consultant program called Focus on Results. While this program is not directly mentioned, Cohen does write "we identified an outside consulting firm". This article is not "good news" about schools, but a very direct intentional response to the controversy and political pressure put on the district and her over the $2 million dollar waste of educational tax funds resulting in cuts to class size reduction and music program cuts. Clearly, this is NOT "good news" . We invite you to check the links to the archives of the articles about Cohen's Focus on Results below.

    When School News was proposed to be part of OUSD, our news arm Orange Net News was emailed to you. You quickly asked to be taken off the email list because your paper was NOT political. We hope you will quickly correct the political nature of the second issue and return to the mission of your paper"good news" before your paper gets a reputation as a political mouth piece.

    While our organization reports on the many political and organizational areas of the district, we welcome your mission to report on "good news". However, if you lied to the Greater Orange Communities and intend to be come a political mouth piece of the Trustees and OUSD Administrators, we will be sadly disappointed. We will continue to monitor your publication and hope to see your commitment to be non-political reflected in future issues.

    Yours in community,
    The Orange Community Group

    Wednesday, January 04, 2006

     

    Orange Unified’s Focus on Consultants PART IV


    OUSD’s “Marriage Encounter Program” Approach
    vs.
    U.S. Department of Education’s Real Scientific Rigor


    A Principal working for a firm she recommends that then gets multiple year contracts; pirated works copied without the owners’ permission; top administrators comparing the program to “marriage encounter training”; 40% of the consultant contracts cut back with no reciprocal program cuts: Welcome to the Focus on Results program in the Orange Unified School District. 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 program; the financial implications; and the worth of the program to the taxpayers that paid for the controversial consultant program.

    At the same time Orange Unified School District (OUSD) administrators were comparing their Comprehensive Reform Model called Focus on Results to Marriage Encounter Training, the independent non-profit American Institutes for Research (AIR) in association with the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) was using authentic scientific criteria developed by What Works Clearinghouse (a USDE research arm) to publish a study that evaluates the quality and effectiveness of 22 widely adopted Comprehensive Reform Model programs.. The study was released two months ago in November. The study evaluated programs that had extensive research on their effectiveness. Focus on Results was not one of the models in the study.

    Since 1999 the American Institutes for Research (AIR) has operated the USDE funded Comprehensive School Reform Quality Center that has pioneered research driven consumer-friendly research reviews of education programs. For the Comprehensive School Reform Models Study, the AIR reports it conducted “extensive reviews of about 800 studies to rate the models”. Reviewing the 800 studies with scientific criteria, the AIR study rated the models in five categories of quality and effectiveness that including the ability to improve student achievement. The study framework was developed in consultation with an Advisory Group made up of leading experts and researchers that aligned the study with the No Child Left Behind requirement for scientifically based evidence.

    Of the 22 reform program models examined none received the study’s highest possible rating. However, two received the second highest “moderately strong” Category 1 rating (showing “evidence of positive effects on student achievement”): Direct Instruction’s Full Immersion Model (based in Eugene, OR) and Success For All (Baltimore. Md.) Five models met Category 1 “moderate” standards (noticeable evidence of positive outcomes); eight met a “limited” standard (some evidence of positive outcomes, but more research is needed); and seven received a “zero” rating indicating meaningful studies attesting to their success were unreliable or unavailable. None of the programs received a “negative” rating which would mean that no research was available to review (like with Focus on Results) or strong evidence demonstrated negative effects.

    The most significant information in the report for Orange Unified (aside from modeling authentic scientific research rigor for OUSD Administrators and OUSD Trustees) was the relatively low costs for the most successful programs, including those with the highest effectiveness according to authentic scientific criteria developed by USDE researchers. The two highest rated programs cost significantly less per year than OUSD’s yearly investments in Focus on Results (which has no rigorous scientific based criteria).OUSD has paid as much as $250,000 a year for Focus on Results in elementary schools, plus another $250,000 a year for secondary schools. According to the AIR report, the Direct Instruction K-8 program (operating since 1968) costs $74,000 annually compared to the $250,000 a year price tag for the OUSD K-6 schools alone with Focus on Results. In addition, Direct Instruction’s program had high effectiveness in both literacy and math in K-8 programs. In OUSD, Focus on Results only focus is “literacy”. Success for All (operating since 1987 in over 1400 schools) was the other top rated program. Success for All had scientifically proven results with its program that focused on three areas: literacy, math and social studies. The yearly cost for this scientifically proven program (with a three area focus) is only $88,580.

    In November, about the same time AIR’s comprehensive scientifically rigorous study was released, OUSD Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Cohen gave her long awaited report to the OUSD Trustees on the effectiveness of the $2 million dollar OUSD Reform Model program Focus on Results. Having no realistic data or scientific rigor to support the program, Cohen instead compared the $2 million taxpayer supported Focus on Results program to “marriage encounter training” prompting surprise and outrage across the greater Orange communities. At the same meeting, OUSD Trustees Kathy Moffat, Kim Nichols, and Wes Poutsma continued to defend the value and cost of the $2 million dollar program despite the obvious lack of comprehensive scientific rigor, or related data in the Cohen Report.

    In her many appearances before the OUSD Trustees supporting OUSD’s $2 million investment in Focus on Results, Cohen has recounted that the program in OUSD originated when some OUSD principals were introduced to the program by their involvement in the Los Angeles Times’ Reading by Nine initiative and brought it to her attention (Focus on Results is no longer listed as a participant in the Reading by Nine program CLICK ON http://www.latimes.com/extras/readingby9/who.html). In Cohen’s accounts, she has never mentioned that one of those OUSD principals at the time was also a Senior Consultant for the Focus on Results program. That principal’s school, Prospect Elementary is still listed on the Focus on Results website as a “Case Study” for the Reading by Nine program (CLICK ON: http://www.focusonresults.net/results/ourresults_readingby9_b.html ). Since 2003, Prospect’s state test scores have declined (last year it posted OUSD’s biggest state score drop) and it is now designated by the State of California as one of OUSD’s many Underperforming Schools.

    A major factor in wasting huge amounts of educational tax dollars on unproven programs is the fact that district administrators across the county do not research the data available for school reform programs, and school boards routinely act as rubberstamps for district bureaucratic requests. In 1998, Sam Stringfield (the principal research scientist at John Hopkins University Center for Social Organization of School and considered a top researcher in educational reform models) provided guidance in his widely circulated papers to help school administrators select an improvement program. Stringfield’s much renowned writings give guidance on how to analyze a reform program using three basic questions: 1) Does the program meet specific researched objectives? ; 2) How strong is the research backing the program?; 3) Are the financial and human costs beyond the resources of your district?

    It appears none of this widely known best practice model for choosing a comprehensive reform program was used by the OUSD Administration in choosing Focus on Results. Years after this important work was published, the OUSD administrators, admittedly on just the advice of a few district principals (one who worked for the firm), committed themselves to an unproven program (at the time of OUSD’s initial investment, Focus on Results had only been around for two years) with no research rigor in a way contrary to leading research on the best practices available for choosing reform programs. When community pressure forced the OUSD Administration to justify the spiraling expense, the OUSD Administration has tried to manipulate data to prove their investment was worth it. Unfortunately with no research to back them, the rationale with the most “rigor” was for them to compare a $ 2 million dollar educational taxpayer investment (while proven programs like class size reduction and music programs were slashed) to “marriage encounter training”.

    This month AIR is scheduled to release its report on secondary reform programs.

    To view Part 1, 2 and 3 of this exclusive Orange Net News report CLICK below
    PART 1
    PART 2
    PART 3

    Research Links (Click On the link provided):
    The AIR/ CSRQC Elementary CSR Model Report
    Information about the American Institutes for Research (AIR)
    Information on USDE What Works Clearing House
    Information on Comprehensive School Reform Quality Center
    Information about Reading By Nine
    Prospect Case Study by Focus on Results
    Information on Comprehensive School Reform Quality Reports
    AIR Press Release on CSR Report
    Sam Stringfield CSR Guidance (1998)
    The latest USDE Research on another OUSD Program in use- SAXON MATH

    Monday, January 02, 2006

     

    Orange Unified Schools Digest


    GODLEY and NICHOLS ELEVATED IN OUSD

    Nichols Becomes OUSD Board President
    Orange Unified School District (OUSD) Trustee Kim Nichols became the President of the OUSD Board of Education at the December 8th OUSD Board Meeting. Nichols rotated into the office by the Rotation System instituted by the OUSD Board as one of several Recall Reforms. Ironically, later in the evening the Board voted to end that rotation system as the latest Recall Reform to be dumped by the current trustees. Nichols in a prepared themed statement stated “We are the village”. She continued her statement by addressing the ever present political nature of the huge district that encompasses numerous cities, communities, stratified economic-social classes, all with a diverse ethnic population and a strong conservative voting bloc, by asserting that education has nothing to do with politics. Nichols stated: “I believe education has nothing to do with politics. It’s about what’s right for kids and it’s about supporting education. Education is not political.”

    Godley Takes His Place on the Dais
    In a another break with long established democratic protocols, Orange Unified Superintendent Thomas Godley moved his seat to the upper dais of the Orange Unified Board Room next to the elected OUSD Trustees. The elevated dais has a long traditional throughout the country as being reserved only for the duly elected officials. Godley’s staff continues sitting lower in the traditional place reserved for the unelected administrative district staff. Nichols too broke with tradition by moving the traditional position of the OUSD Board President from the center of the dais, to the end of the dais next to Godley.

    Long time OUSD watchers noted that all the former women OUSD Board Presidents- Kathy Moffat, Melissa Smith, Linda Davis, and Kathy Ward- had enough personal presence to preside over the Board from the traditional center chair. Observors added that the new arraignment made “Kim” (as Godley continued to refer to Nichols throughout the evening) look weak and subservient to Godley who some observed now looked at the least not quite her superior (but definitely not an employee of the Board), and at best like a “co-president”. To reflect this new change, the long familiar orange cover sheet of the OUSD Board Agenda has been changed to remove the pictogram of the seating chart of the OUSD Board Room which for years explained the boardroom seating arrangement with the elected OUSD Trustees on the dais and the Superintendent and administrative staff seated lower and to their right.

    From his new perch, Godley bestowed never before seen lavish praise from an OUSD superintendent on the outgoing Board President Kathy Moffat, who he referred to simply as “Kathy”. While Godley continued to refer to the women members by their first names, the OUSD Trustees continued to address each other with the traditional etiquette using the formal mister and misses attached to the trustee’s surnames.

    Godley recited a list of 27 accomplishments he attributed to the OUSD Board under Moffat (“Kathy”) during the year. Board watchers noted most of the “accomplishments” cited by Godley where beyond the OUSD Trustees control or initiative. Those included: required actions under the law (approving a balanced budget; approving state requirements for underperforming schools); community initiatives (Fred Kelly Stadium renovation; Orange Education Foundation priorities); outside community awards (California Distinguished School awards; Disney Teacher Awards); political initiatives (Pink Slip Campaign; voting opposition to Prop 76); and actions brought on by community pressure (restoration of some class size reductions; restoration of video broadcasting of Board meetings; approval of the Santiago Charter). While Godley listed as accomplishments the contract agreements with the teachers and support staff and increase in substitute pay (as well as jokingly mentioning himself becoming Superintendent), he failed to mention the controversial pay increase for the Superintendent and pay increases for top district administrators. Also missing from his list was moving top district administrators to the yearly pay matrix, thus removing their pay increases from needing separate Board approval.

    When discounting those items beyond the Trustees’ control the “accomplishment” list narrows to just a few including: joint use facilities agreements; the controversial Irvine Company Mitigation Agreements; Board Policy Revisions and Superintendent and Board Goals; and contracting with School News. Godley did not mention anything having to do with the controversial and expensive consultant program Focus on Results. After his recitation, Godley gave a tearful Moffat a warm embrace, a kiss, and a souvenir gavel as the pair embraced for a picture. He then turned his attention to Trustee Nichols, who he also referred to with the informal and familiar “Kim” and also presenting her with a kiss, and gavel, and embraced for a photograph.

    COMMUNITY COMMENTS
    During the Comments to the Board, long time community activist Denise Bittel spoke regarding comments Trustee Steve Rocco made at the October 25th OUSD Board meeting which Bittel characterized as “defaming comments about my character”. Stating that she tried to contact Rocco privately to clear up the matter, Bittel said because Rocco had not responded she was speaking now. Bittel addressing Rocco, stated “People have said you are an inept and ineffective school board member” then recited a list of complaints about Rocco that included: Rocco’s continuous abstention votes; not removing his hat during the Flag Pledge; cited his comments about test scores and race; no visits to school sites; stated he has done “nothing to advance education” for students; and said he misrepresented his occupation on the ballot. Bittel concluded that Rocco’s comments about others “not as forgiving as I” could lead to a slander lawsuit. She concluded: “I have spent over a decade in OUSD without a personal or hidden agenda. My only interest has been helping the students of this great district.”
    As Bittel took her seat, Rocco responded by shouting out to her as he pointed to Kathy Moffat: “I think your only interest is to get her seat…which everyone knows you want!”
    Bittel’s comments prompted a December 27th Los Angeles Times article. The article described Bittel and Rocco has having a “tense relationship” and featured the core issues of Bittel’s comments about Rocco from the December 8th OUSD Board meeting (to view CLICK ON: LA TIMES/ROCCO STORY).

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