Comments about ‘Teachers at top schools cite collaborative efforts’

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Published: Monday, May 23 2011 10:30 p.m. MDT

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Chuck E. Racer
Lehi, UT

Interesting that the top ten schools are all in mid to smaller districts. None of the top ten schools are in the biggest districts.

Chuck E. Racer
Lehi, UT

It would be interesting to compare scores to school size, comparing the number of students at 500, 700, and 900+, rather than just the 250+ mentioned in the raw data, and particularly being adjusted for socio-economics. Previous studies show much better scores at 500 per elementary school than in those over 900.

Lifelong Republican
Orem, UT

I'm going to bring up the elephant in the room. I hope the mods on the site will let there be a discussion about it since it was mentioned in the article about the Ogden schools.

It all comes down to the population of student. The schools with high minority populations are scoring lower. It doesn't matter on socio-economic status as much as if they are a minority.

So why is that?

Canyon Crest in Provo was third on the list. Yet Farrer school drops down quite a bit. Guess what? Farrer is full of minority kids. The teachers at Farrer and Canyon Crest are both from the same district. They both do collaboration and have Professional Learning Communities like the article discusses about the top school. Having spent time at both schools I would even say the teachers at Farrer are working harder and achieving more than any teachers in Provo district. So it isn't the PLC's or the collaboration. It is the students.

Now the big question. If we aren't getting the results we want, how can we better reach the minority populations?

I hope we can have a civil discussion.

Lifelong Republican
Orem, UT

Also for those that are touting "merit pay" as the answer, it obviously can't be based on test scores. The teachers working the hardest are at the lowest achieving schools.

If the Dnews and KSL really want to dig deep into this subject, they need to find a school that is 50% or higher minority students and is having great success. Report on what they are doing right. What is working for them.

I watched the KSL story about the Logan school that was at the top. They said why is this low income school achieving such great success...then went on to say it was collaboration and PLC's. Yet when I watched the report I didn't even see one student that looked like English was their second language.

You are just skimming the surface by publishing these scores.

Dig deeper and find what is working.

Lifelong Republican
Orem, UT

I also found it very interesting to note that my local elementary, Scera Park Elementary, scored significantly higher than the charter school that is almost across the street from it. To hear the parents talk, the charter was giving a much better education and was the answer to all of our problems. I would even venture to say that the socio-economic status is higher at the charter.

Maybe there really is something to having experience and getting a teacher that has been teaching for a while.

This opens up another big can of worms. If the regular elementary school is doing better than the charter school less than a block away, why do we have the charter school in the first place?

They aren't scoring higher and the regular school has plenty of room for more students. Why are we spending money funding a school that is doing worse?

Shouldn't we give the charters a five year block of time to surpass the local elementary school or else decide it isn't doing a good job and send the money and students back to the regular school?

Where is the accountability in that?

troutman
Washington, UT

once again I am so proud that I was educated in Cache Valley. Cache School District and Logan School district have always been in the tops of Utah when it comes to these types of things. My own children were educated in the Cache Valley Schools while I was attending Utah State University as an older returning student from 1985 to 1989. I have 6 kids, 3 boys and 3 girls. The first 4 kids were educated in Cache Valley Schools and those 4 have all graduated with Masters degree's from Universities. My last to kids were educated in the Uintah School district in the Vernal area. They have struggled with their education, they have not gone on to college and have struggled with learning. The teachers in Cache Valley are far superior to those in Vernal is one reason. All of our kids were out of the same mold. The first 4 loved learning because of the way it was presented in Cache Valley. the last 2 hated learning because the way it was presented in Vernal.
It truly does make a difference where your kids go to school

Goet
Ogden, UT

Success doesn't have to come by means of PLCs. It does, however, come from time; time that is given to teachers to plan, to develop professionally, to collaborate, to just plain get out from under the load of paper in their laps.

Unfortunately, for many schools there is no time. Stack 'em deep, teach 'em cheap is the mantra.

How I would LOVE to have time to collaborate... at least with my own dept., even better with other teachers.

laynemeyers
Ogden, Utah

Mr. Lewis, and Ogden School District, let's be honest. Your failing schools received the grant but not "new" principals. Principals were just shuffled around and those failing principals just went to different schools within the district. Let's not act all surprised and blame poverty when different OSD schools become the lowest performing in the state in the next few years.

Yak_Herder
Lehi, UT

Collaboration is the latest fad in education. It's the program of the minute. I'm not saying it isn;t good, I'm just sayin'...

It's nice to say "Let's all collaborate", but it doesn't work for every teacher. Teachers in the secondary schools are often the only ones in the building who teach a given subject. In those cases, meaningful collaboration would require pulling together a district-wide meeting.

Second problem, let's just be honest here, "collaboration" can quickly break down into gripe sessions.

In the end, it's really very simple: good teachers find ways to learn from other good teachers. It's not something that needs to be (or should be) structured.

Chuck E. Racer
Lehi, UT

Collaboration happens easier and more naturally in medium to smaller schools and districts. It doesn't happen even when forced in big schools and big districts.

Goet
Ogden, UT

Collaboration only works where teachers are taught HOW to collaborate. You can't just stick them in a room and expect things to happen. You need a coordinator, an instructor, templates, etc. You start with a goal-defining session, both as a school and in smaller groups.
Then you need committed teachers; teachers willing to spend the time to improve their curriculum. It involves teachers across the curriculum. Science teachers collaborate with history, English with the Technology, etc.
"Gripe sessions" come from schools that don't have the proper framework and leadership. It's the stick 'em in a room mentality. It goes nowhere fast. Once you realize that this is YOUR career and no one is going to carry you on their back, then maybe you're able to help others see it as well. Then, your school is more likely to want to improve.

Have a plan. But, first, have a supportive administration. Then, make time to develop the plan.
Most of us are still on step zero--fighting for time.

worf
Mcallen, TX

Collaborative efforts resembles the Borg of the star trek series. The reach for perfection through a collective.

Too much time is spent analyzing and not enough teaching. No wonder our students are suffering. It was reported on television about a week ago, that three out of four high school students don't even know who the first president was. Most don't know the times table or are able to take a topic and create a research paper.

If there are proven successful strategies? Do they work in all or most schools? Do test scores measure the common sense of our people? Isn't teaching more important than playing politics with test scores? When in the past forty years have standardized testing been beneficial?

Demisana
South Jordan, UT

@LifelongRepublican - You state:

"I also found it very interesting to note that my local elementary, Scera Park Elementary, scored significantly higher than the charter school that is almost across the street from it. "

I don't know your schools, but I do know something about charters vs. neighborhood schools, having used both.

Beyond test scores are some of the reasons parents choose charters in the first place. I guarantee you many students are there because they were not doing well in a previous school, they needed more personal attention than possible in a crowded classroom, or a more disciplined atmosphere, where chronic troublemakers soon are gone. A typically crowded Utah public school with overworked, tired teachers, is a tough atmosphere for many kids to cope with. In my son's charter high, 1/2 the kids are "geeks". Many have Asperger's, ADHD or similar issues. One teacher described it to me as "Geeks R Us". It is absolutely a lifesaver for my son, who would be totally lost in our local high school, with its 35-40 student classrooms, and nearly 3,000 kids.

Be glad these kids are not in your local school.

Lifelong Republican
Orem, UT

Thanks Demisana. You gave a valid reason.

However I do disagree with this statement.

"A typically crowded Utah public school with overworked, tired teachers, is a tough atmosphere for many kids to cope with."

I would say a typical Utah public school is full of great teachers that while overworked are still there everyday smiling and loving the students in their classroom. They teach and achieve great things. We are receiving more for our money than any other state in the country.

I still don't see a reason for so many charter schools that are achieving so poorly. If a school is needed for special needs students like Demisana stated, then let's do it. If it is just for an experiment by a group of parents, there needs to be a time limit for them to prove they can do it or else close them down.

With our legislators always touting a tightly run financial ship, I'd think this would be the first thing to go.

liberal larry
salt lake City, utah

The only way to rank state schools is to handicap the scores. Make statistical allowances for parental education, and the number of minority students in the school. Look for schools that out perform their expected levels, and see what they are doing right. You aren't going to glean much information from middle class, and upper middle class kids doing well in school.

Demisana
South Jordan, UT

@Lifelong Republican, perhaps I should have said "tough for kids like mine." He attended 2 different local elementaries (we moved during that time) for 2 years, and made no progress at all, in spite of entering years ahead academically from being homeschooled.

It's not about special ed, which is mostly for those with academic handicaps. There's some flawed reasoning in asking that the charters, which are full of kids who did poorly at regular schools, do better overall than those regular schools. The individual kids are doing better than those same kids were doing at the regular schools. That's why the parents are so much happier - because they see the improvements in THEIR kids. The sense that the school is responsive to their needs is priceless. For example, at times my son has had needed IEP changes within days, instead of months.

As for tightly run financial ships, charters get less funding due to formulas than regular schools. It SAVES the state money to have charters. Not stating this is good or bad, it just is. In an ideal world they'd get equal funding.

Mrs. Moody
Enoch, UT

We appreciate the fact that you are taking an interest in our schools and test results. However, it is inappropriate to publish a news article about test scores using last year's numbers. Why not wait for this year's results? Gateway Preparatory Academy was ranked next to last in your article. Gateway was also in its second year of existence when those tests were administered. It takes a while for a new school to take roots. GPA is a charter school with a large number of students with special needs. These students are here because their needs were not met at a traditional school. They must take the same test as students without learning disabilities. It makes a difference in the total score. Our school is improving steadily and will be showing results soon.
It must be taken into consideration the fact that we teach to a national standard as opposed to traditional schools that use state standards. They will also have to use national standards in the near future, so we are actually ahead. Please come and visit us and see for yourself how our kids are doing.

classicalmusiclovers
Salt Lake City, UT

The reason Beacon Heights and Dilworth rank so high, is because when you child has a disability...ADHD, Autism, LD, etc... they make you and your child's life miserable to the point that you transfer.

As a Beacon Heights alumni (from waaaaayyy back when), very sad... very sad indeed!! All about test scores!!

catcrazed
Eagle Mountain, UT

As an Alpine District teacher, I can tell you that our collaboration sessions are not "Gripe sessions." We really collaborate, for the benefit of all our students. Many of us will be working this summer, thanks to some grants from our district. We will be discussing and preparing materials for the students who will return to us this fall. We are in a low income area, with many parents who work double jobs. Many of my students come from single parent families. 50% of my students come from stable homes. We have work to do, both in and out school. When parents,students, and teachers work together, students do their best.

worf
Mcallen, TX

Wow! You guys just don't get it. The all important test scores are so highly overrated. Education is much more than test scores. A waste of time and resources. Our teachers, parents, students, schools and districts have lost their individuality because the state wants to micro-manage with the use of test scores. Two questions:

1. With over half of our population on the government dole. How has these tests helped our population become educated, employed and self-sufficient?

2. To pay off our national debt, we would pay two million dollars per second for a year. Why do we allow our children and schools to be accountable to these leaders?

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