Sent: Sunday, September 07, 2003 10:32 PM
To: Joel I. Klein, Chancellor
Subject: Re: Your talk at the New York Law School Breakfast Forum - Three Success Stories in Sacramento and additional California data
At the New York Law School breakfast last week, you mentioned Sacramento in your response to an audience member's question about your choice of reading program. I understood your explanation to be that research showed that use of a scripted phonics based reading program led to only small initial gains that quickly leveled off after a year or so. You cited the case of Sacramento.
Some Sacramento schools are showing in fact multiyear gains, and some rather significant, after adoption of Open Court and Saxon Math, programs that are indeed antithetical to those you've chosen for NYC schools. (See article, "3 Schools Post Big Test Gains," Sacramento Bee, October 31, 2002 - forwarded below)
"Mark Hopkins raised its API scores from 560 points to 623. It's the third straight year of gains for the school, whose initial assessment in 1998 earned a 341 score, one of the lowest in the district."
"Laura Reed, principal of the Meadowview school, called the school's test results "mind-blowing." "It's not whether the subject is taught," she said, "but whether students understand what's taught." Since nearly one-quarter of the students are new, Reed said it's crucial for them to have consistency in curriculum. She credited the district for adopting two programs in reading and math, Open Court and Saxon Math, to meet students' needs."
Among the NYC HOLD survey responses provided to the Numeracy Working Group is data on sustained patterns of academic improvement well beyond one year in California schools and districts using Saxon and Open Court. The survey responses are available on our Web site. See in particular the response of Martha Schwartz http://www.math.nyu.edu/~braams/nychold/quest-0211.html#schwartz-m
Your oft stated view that the instructional program doesn't matter, that programs are but one tool in a teacher's toolbox and that what does matter is skilled teachers is so unfortunate. BOTH matter in the extreme. Also your assertion that the curriculum debates are politically motivated and unworthy of your attention is very naive and misinformed.
Parent, Region 9
Co-Founder, NYC HOLD Honest Open Logical Debate on Mathematics Education Reform
3 schools post big test gains
Officials credit family participation and a unified curriculum.
By J.D. Sparks -- Bee Staff Writer Published 2:15 a.m. PDT Thursday, October 31, 2002
Three economically disadvantaged elementary schools in the Sacramento City Unified School District greatly exceeded their growth targets on the Academic Performance Index. School officials at Isador Cohen, Freeport and Mark Hopkins Elementary schools said a combination of family involvement and a uniform curriculum in reading and math are responsible for improvements in their API scores. Isador Cohen Principal Virginia Grabbe said she had to look twice to make sure she was seeing the numbers correctly.
"I couldn't believe it," she said. "Everybody was working very hard, but we hadn't been too successful the year before. This is a great boost to staff and our students." Isador Cohen, in the Larchmont-Riviera area, has a large number of economically disadvantaged students with 63 percent qualifying for the free or reduced lunch program. Cohen's score on the standardized tests jumped 56 points from 703 to 759. The state Department of Education had set the school's API target growth at 5 points for the 2001-02 school year. The API is based on the combined results of the Stanford 9 achievement test and the California Standards Test given to students in spring. Scores range from 200 to 1,000 points, with 800 set as the statewide target. Next year the California Achievement Test will replace the Stanford 9 in API scores.
When Cohen lost ground last year and its scores slipped 25 points, administrators changed their way of doing business. The school adopted a theme, a school uniform and a contract to promote school unity and parental involvement. "There's no question, family involvement and parental advocacy are a tremendous plus," said Kathi Cooper, associate superintendent for the district. "It's hard to say whether the parent extends what the school does or the school extends what the parent does. But it's optimum when the two work together."
Because of the high mobility rate among Cohen students -- 22 percent of them are new to the school this year -- Grabbe said students need established, reliable courses that are the same from school to school. In response to this need, the school switched its reading curriculum last year to Open Court, which is used in all of the Sacramento City district's 49 elementary schools. Cohen also implemented a contract between the teacher, the student and the family. Each agrees to strive for 100 percent attendance, and parents are encouraged to find ways to reward children for attendance and homework. "When you get in there and make children feel good about themselves, then you have success," Grabbe said. And success breeds success, she said. Freeport Elementary School's API scores increased 61 points, from 560 to 621. All Freeport students are considered economically disadvantaged, and 25 percent of the population is new to the school. "We can't stop here," said Principal Lee Yang about the Meadowview school. "We need to continue by doing more of what we're doing."
Yang said the school has worked hard to increase parent involvement in the classroom and last year formed a Parent Teacher Association. The PTA is offering incentives such as bikes and scooters to children who have perfect attendance and regularly wear the school uniform. Yang said the school offers its students after-school tutoring for three hours a day, four days a week. Additionally, 30 parents have volunteered this year to help in classrooms. With these reinforcements, he said staff has the modest goal of doubling the target growth set by the state. "I think when teachers care so much, kids want to learn," he said.
Mark Hopkins raised its API scores from 560 points to 623. It's the third straight year of gains for the school, whose initial assessment in 1998 earned a 341 score, one of the lowest in the district. Laura Reed, principal of the Meadowview school, called the school's test results "mind-blowing." "It's not whether the subject is taught," she said, "but whether students understand what's taught." Since nearly one-quarter of the students are new, Reed said it's crucial for them to have consistency in curriculum. She credited the district for adopting two programs in reading and math, Open Court and Saxon Math, to meet students' needs. Cooper said the benefit of a consistent curriculum is that all schools deliver the same information, regardless of other resources available to them. "More importantly," she said, "our curriculum in math and reading is 100 percent aligned to state standards. Our great hope is to move schools toward standards mastery."
At Hopkins, Asian students' scores rose 17.8 percent. Reed attributes the results, in part, to an after-school reading and math tutorial for Hmong students, who comprise 15 percent of the student population. But Reed credited parental involvement and early interventions for boosting students' achievements. Last year, Hopkins received $15,000 in state award money that funded the school's extended day program. Reed said she hopes to be able to keep it afloat this year with a new influx of state money. Reed said teachers hope to raise scores to 700 next year. The district will celebrate its schools' accomplishments at a special awards event in December.
About the Writer
The Bee's J.D. Sparks can be reached at (916) 321-1209 or email@example.com.
Sent: Monday, September 08, 2003 10:02 AM
To: Joel I. Klein, Chancellor
Subject: Re: your talk at New York Law School, additional data on Sacramento test scores 1998-2002
In evaluating the efficacy of a reading program through longitudinal test score data in Sacramento one should consider that Sacramento, and especially Elk Grove ( comprised of almost half the urban Sacramento region ) began implementing a scripted, phonics based approach to reading instruction several years before 1998. Reading scores had already begun to improve dramatically by 1998. ( the first STAR year) Open Court pilots began in Elk Grove USD in 1995. Elk Grove 's striking reading gains over the next several years attracted statewide attention and were regularly cited in public discussions during the state standards reforms, as good evidence of what kind of reading instruction and program works well for a typical urban population.
I've taken the trouble to forward four charts, below. The charts do not include the latest scores, in 2003. Last year a new and different test was administered in California, the CAT-6 , which replaced the SAT-9. And so, the latest scores are not as useful for the purpose of observing longitudinal patterns in ahievement. As you will see, in 2002 reading scores in Sacramento City USD as a whole did drop a bit in 2002 , Elk Grove's remained flat.
The article I sent previously indicates year by year improvement continued in some schools using Open Court through 2002.
Obviously districtwide scores paint a picture of student achievement with a very broad stroke.
It seems to me when considering patterns of test scores in a district to evaluate the merit of Open Court or any instructional program it would be important to study individual schools within that district and to take into account more information, including the admissions policy, student demographic, teacher qualifications, professional development, instructional policy , funding etc - in all cases looking at the baseline and changes during the period of years studied.
Parent, Region 9
Co-Founder, NYC HOLD Honest Open Logical Debate on Mathematics Education Reform www.nychold.com
Elk Grove USD SAT-9 Reading Ave NPR
Grade 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2 50 57 65 68 68 3 44 50 55 58 59 4 43 47 54 58 60 5 44 46 51 54 55 6 49 50 56 58 59
Sacramento City USD SAT-9 Reading Ave NPR
Grade 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2 35 50 54 59 53 3 29 37 43 52 42 4 33 38 45 53 46 5 33 38 41 49 44 6 38 44 46 54 46
Elk Grove USD SAT-9 Math Ave NPR
Grade 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2 49 54 63 70 74 3 44 56 66 71 73 4 37 42 55 63 66 5 41 43 53 62 67 6 50 53 60 67 72
Sacramento City USD SAT-9 Math Ave NPR
Grade 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2 30 46 55 57 57 3 30 47 56 60 59 4 32 39 50 57 58 5 34 43 49 55 64 6 43 53 61 64 54
Return to the NYC HOLD main page or to the News page or to the Letters and Testimony page.