The 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk underscored the gap in educational outcomes between the nation’s disadvantaged and the rest of society, while challenging the nation’s confidence in the entire K-12 educational system by unfavorable international comparisons. We have made little progress in closing either the gap between America’s rich and poor, or the gap between our students and those of other nations.
Since 1983, we’ve been looking for a quick fix solution, the one Big Thing that would close these gaps. This is ultimately fruitless. Rochester City School District Superintendent Bolgen Vargas seems to have taken this lesson to heart. As noted in a recent City Newspaper interview, he studiously avoids the temptation to predict speedy, miraculous success by imposing bold new policies bundled up with a clever name. Read more »
Closing failing schools and replacing them with new–hopefully better–schools is at the heart of the Portfolio Plan strategy in place in the Rochester City School District. It sure sounds appealing, especially to those who have long felt that education is a world shielded from the consequences of failure. But does it work?
The answer is critically important, not only for the obvious reason that we all want effective schools for children, but also because closing a school necessarily means dismantling a school community. Perhaps that community was dysfunctional, unhealthy, even dangerous, but it was still the daytime home for the students and staff members in it.
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Dirty little secret #1—When you say “We do program evaluation,” typical reactions include polite but confused nods and rolling or glazed-over eyes. Unfortunately, the real value of evaluation is often crowded out by rhetoric about investing only in “evidence-based” programs on the one hand and pressures of grant compliance on the other.
CGR’s clients operate in the real world, where program evaluation isn’t quite as pristine as it is in academia. Some of CGR’s evaluations have formal designs with control groups, sophisticated statistical analysis, and measurable “hard” outcomes. But the vast majority of evaluations are not as “pure”—and this is where the fun begins. Real programs serve real people who are affected by many things besides the program in question. They have real limited budgets, real funders funding different outcomes, real challenges getting data, and operate in real dynamic contexts. Evaluation often gets a bum rap—either it’s watered down to the point of PR or it’s done just for compliance. So what’s the point? Read more »
Confronted by a Regents study declaring that only 5 percent of Rochester City School District graduates are college-ready, Jean-Claude Brizard declares the findings “terrifying.”
One of Brizard’s best qualities is his persistent willingness to look the facts in the face. Too often our education leadership—the district administration and the Board of Education—has been unwilling to state the obvious. It is a natural reaction: The task is herculean. The need is desperate. The consequences of failure are tragic. Read more »
The Center for Governmental Research has begun a partnership with the Rochester City School District. We’ve been invited to support implementation of Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard’s Five Year Strategic Plan.
I’m a planning skeptic. Often the process of planning is so exhausting that we declare, “It’s done!” when the ink is dry. We forget that the plan serves only to lay out the course and load the starter pistol. The plan is too-often ignored. We continue going about our tasks as though nothing had changed. To the Superintendent’s credit, many of plan’s strategies codify activities already underway. In fact, the first of the five years was 2008-09. Like all good leaders, Brizard is impatient about his plan.
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