Tuesday, October 27, 2015

AV#138 - For Seabiscuit, as you enter 9th grade

October 27, 2015


When English teachers hand out a new book, we will not say this out loud, but we hope our students will identify with a main character–Holden or Scout, Romeo or Juliet, maybe even Odysseus or Penelope.

In that spirit, if I were handing out Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit - An American Legend to 9th graders here early in the school year, my wish would be: May you identify with Seabiscuit.

Such a critical year for so many 9th graders. The first time they look at their GPA—and are told it means something about their future. The first time many fail a class or two.  The first time some 14-year-olds ask themselves: is there anyone in this building looking out for me, pulling for me to succeed?  Anyone who believes I am more than that D or F?

In Seabiscuit, prior to freshmen year, there had been little to cheer about.

“Noah, the foaling groom at Clairborne, had summed it up about as well as anyone when he pulled Seabiscuit into the world. ‘Runty little thing.’  Clairborne handlers had been so dismayed with the colt that they had hidden him in the back barn when (the owner) came to look over her new crop of horses. A year of maturing had not helped much. ‘Seabiscuit was so small,’ said (the legendary trainer Sunny Jim) Fitzsimons, ‘that you might mistake him for a lead pony.’… strange-looking, shaggy, and awkward.…”[1]

Now a high school freshman.  1936.  First day of class:

“The colt was practically sneering at him. Tom Smith (his future trainer) was standing by the track rail … when a weedy three-year-old bay stopped short in front of him, swung his head high, and eyed him with an arch expression completely unsuited to such a rough-hewn animal. ‘He looked right down his nose at me,’ Smith remembered later, ‘like he was saying, “Who the devil are you?”’ Man and horse stood on opposite sides of the rail for a long moment, sizing each other up.”

The teacher checks the record of the new kid.  At first glance, little promise.

                “Smith flipped to the horse’s profile in the track program…. The colt’s body, built low to the ground, had all the properties of a cinder block…. blunt, coarse, rectangular, stationary. He had a sad little tail, barely long enough to brush his hocks…. Asked to run he would drop low over the track and fall into a comical version of what horsemen call an egg-beater gait, making a spastic sideways flailing motion with his left foreleg as he swung it forward, as if he were swatting at flies.  His gallop was so disorganized that he had a maddening tendency to whack himself in the front ankle with his own hind hoof.” 

“But somehow, after throwing a fit in the starting gate and being left flat-footed at the bell, the colt won his race that day.… He was a horse whose quality, an admirer would write, ‘was mostly in his heart, and Tom Smith had been the first to recognize it.’”

“The horse’s name was Seabiscuit.…” 

More first impressions: Lazy. A wallflower. Easy to overlook.

“While every other horse at the track raised hell demanding breakfast, (Seabiscuit) slept long and late, stretching out over the floor of his stall in such deep sedation that the grooms had to use every means in their power just to get him to stand up. He was so quiet that Fitzsimmons’ assistant trainers once forgot all about him and left him in a van for an entire afternoon in brutal heat while they went for a beer.”

Potential? What potential?

“…his career prospects looked dim. He was as slow as growing grass. He barely kept up with his training partners, lagging along behind with happy ineptitude.  Worked over and over again, he showed no improvement.”

But one teacher “began to wonder” if this horse might not be fooling them all.  Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons commented: “He struck me as a bird that could sing but wouldn’t unless we made him.”

Even as the new student proved more than able—if still lazy—a few faculty members puzzled over how to push him. But again, with so many other— “better”—students to deal with….

“Seabiscuit had the misfortune of living in a stable whose managers simply didn’t have the time to give his mind the painstaking attention it needed.… Fitzsimmons had bigger things to worry about. In early May, a few days before Seabiscuit earned $25 for finishing fourth in a race …, Fitzsimmons and Granville (his top horse) shipped off to Churchill Downs to go for the $37,725 winner’s share of the purse in the Kentucky Derby.”
                                                                                                                     
The youngster then meets a new teacher. Who sees what others had not…

“(Tom) Smith made his case with four sentences: ‘Get me that horse. He has real stuff in him. I can improve him. I’m positive.’”

Veterinarians were sent to inspect the horse.

“They were only lukewarm about his prospects, eyeing that iffy left foreleg and pronouncing the horse only ‘serviceable useful.’ But in this horse, Smith knew there was something lying dormant.”

Before a new owner, Charles Howard, would commit to buy Seabiscuit, he needed to see him perform. Unfortunately for Seabiscuit, who “did not run his best in the mud,” on the day of race—a “pouring rain.”

“Seabiscuit broke slowly and dropped farther and farther back. By mid-race he was trailing by at least ten lengths.  Smith was dismayed.  But Seabiscuit began to rally. Slogging through the slop, he lumbered up to his competitor, pushing as hard as he could, and passed him.  It wasn’t much of race, but it was a win nonetheless. Howard was satisfied.  The horse had grit.”

“I can’t describe the feeling he gave me,” Howard said later, “but somehow I knew he had what it takes. Tom and I realized that we had our worries and troubles ahead. We had to rebuild him, both mentally and physically, but you don’t have to rebuild the heart when it’s already there, big as all outdoors.”

A second chance. A new class.  A teacher who believes in your possibilities.  All this during freshman year, 1936.

Sophomore year: In 1937 Seabiscuit finishes second at the Santa Anna Handicap.

Junior year: In 1938 Seabiscuit wins the Hollywood Gold Cup, defeats War Admiral at Pimlico, and is named Horse of the Year.

Senior year: too amazing to give away. Turn to chapter 20, “All Four of His Legs are Broken”— and read on!

**

Leading us, their teachers, to ask our freshmen – how big is your heart?

And to ask of ourselves  — can we see the possibilities?









Another View, a newsletter by Peter Huidekoper, represents his own opinion and is not intended to represent the view of any organization he is associated with.     Comments are welcome. 303-757-1225 / peterhdkpr@gmail.com




[1] CREDIT LINE: Excerpt(s) from SEABISCUIT: AN AMERICAN LEGEND by Laura Hillenbrand, copyright © 2001 by Laura Hillenbrand. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 12, 2015

#137 - AP RESULTS - What the Colorado Education Initiative won’t tell you - … but DPS (thanks for the 10/1/2015 update) will

October 5, 2015


DPS released 2015 AP results last Thursday.  At Abraham Lincoln High School, of the 53 students taking the AP Language and Composition test, 1 student received a passing score.  Of the 31 students taking the Physics 1 test, 2 passed.  On the Biology AP, 3 out 33 taking the test passed.
-From Denver Public School’s Department of Accountability, Research and Evaluation. (Details, page 3)


At CEI’s web site - Look for “Complete Report” – an odd term, when this data only tells the story from 2013 of CEI’s FIRST-year work in 23 of its schools.
Average First-Year Growth
(23 Colorado Legacy Schools)
It’s a mystery why the Colorado Education Initiative, which tells journalists about the success of its Advanced Placement Initiative, continues to post the good news on its website about the first year of its work with 23 schools … from 2010-2013. Nothing on its work with those schools (Cohorts 1 and 2) in years two and three.  Nothing on 2014, or 2015.  Nothing on its work with its 10 newest high schools (Cohort 3)  (http://www.coloradoedinitiative.org/our-work/colorado-legacy-schools/results/).

It’s a mystery why channel 9, a year ago, did not insist that CEI’s Dr. Greg Hessee, leading this effort as Director of the Colorado Legacy Schools, provide data to support his assertions about the success of the program.

In AV#114 I showed its boast of a 70% jump in qualifying scores “during the 2012-2013 school year” was inaccurate; it was closer to 33% based on the data made available by the Colorado Legacy Foundation.   A main reason every time I see claims like this I ask: any proof?
Nov. 20, 2014 - Colorado Education Initiative celebrates increasing access to Advanced Placement classes to more diverse student.   (Nelson Garcia)       
Hessee says so far, the program is working. At the schools where the program currently exists in Colorado, he says 73 percent [see box-left] more students took AP courses and passed the exam for college credit.

It’s mystery why The Denver Post, last May, spoke of the “remarkable results,” the stunning increase in the number of students  in poverty  and minority students  achieving qualifying scores–when CEI gives the public no evidence to back it up those claims. The Post’s commentary revealed a lot, unknowingly, by quoting Hessee’s crass statement about more “butts in seats”—and one incentive for students. $100. Cool!

May 16, 2015
Opinion - Should students be paid for success? (by Jeremy Meyer)
The program is now in its fourth year and in 34 Colorado high schools, but it isn't really about scores, Hessee said.
"It's more about getting butts in the seats in more rigorous courses," he said.
"It is to dispel peer pressure for those kids who we know are AP capable and AP worthy but who generally opt out of those classes."
Many of those are kids of color, females or those in poverty, who get razzed for taking the brainy courses.
"They can turn around to their peers and say, 'I got $100 for my test, how about you?' " he said. "That's a pretty damned good response."
The program is targeted for schools with at-risk populations, including several in the Denver area. When it is first introduced, enrollment in AP classes generally jumps by 80 percent, he said.
The results are remarkable. Students in poverty generally see a 78 percent increase in qualifying scores. Latino and black students see a 107 percent increase.
It’s a mystery why Chalkbeat Colorado reports on CEI’s summer workshop for AP teachers and only provides data on the growing number of students taking AP classes.  We might as well talk about the growing number of students taking the Colorado driving test to get a license.  I’d feel a bit safer on the highway if we knew: Are they passing?  Are they learning what they need to be good drivers?

July 17, 2015

At summer seminar, teachers learn advanced courses aren’t just for some (by Susan Gonzalez)

More than 60,000 Colorado high school students were in enrolled in at least one AP course during the 2012-2013 school year. That’s 7,000 more than just five years before, according to data from the Colorado Department of Education.

And it’s mystery why the Colorado Department of Education, does not tell CEI to stop making certain claims that appear on its website:
·         “Today, we act as the innovation and R & D partner for CDE.”   http://www.coloradoedinitiative.org/who-we-are/history-accomplishments/
·         “We work in partnership with the Colorado Department of Education and education, business and policy partners across the state to accelerate bold improvement in student achievement through innovation, collaboration and capacity building.”

To the best of my understanding, CDE initially viewed CEI (when it was created in 2007, known as the Colorado Legacy Foundation) as a partner.  CEI states it was originally set up “with the narrow focus of raising funds to help support the Colorado Department of Education.”  While that arrangement has changed, it is hard to be an R & D partner to anyone when you won’t release data to show if and how and where an effort in 34 schools is proving effective.  In the age of accountability, our state department of education might wish to disavow ties to a “partner” apparently so unwilling to be accountable.

The case of the missing data

Sherlock Holmes, where you are you when we need you most!

Someday the mystery will be cleared up.

Someday journalists will dig into and demand hard data to see if CEI can verify its claims.

Someday, the CEI board will wake up and tell its executive director that—notwithstanding CEI’s strong staff and much good work, the organization’s credibility is being undermined by its failure to be accountable for the results of its AP initiative—especially in schools like Abraham Lincoln.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
Until then, let’s check in when new facts become available. 

As CEI continues to provide no recent data to support its claims of success, especially in the kind of high schools which have been the focus of my newsletters* on the AP push the past two years (#95- Mismatch – Adding more AP classes in low-performing high schools  - March 26, 2013; #114 – Questions continue on rationale for more AP classes in our lowest-performing high schools -June 4, 2014; and AV#126 - AP Results - What the Colorado Education Initiative Won’t Tell You -Feb. 3, 2015), I return here—as I did last February—to the one source providing helpful data (Denver Public Schools), in one school taking part in the CEI Initiative (Abraham Lincoln).  (Addendum A - three excerpts.)

The AP results for 2015, in red below, were released Thursday by the Department of Accountability, Research and Evaluation at Denver Public Schools.  All data at http://dpsare.com/teachers/test-results/.
Our thanks to DPS for being accountable and reporting this information to the public.
In Colorado, in 2015, the average % of scores at 3 or above – considered passing scores”- was 60.2%  The U.S. average, in 2015, it was 57.5%.  See Addendum B.


Abraham Lincoln High School

AP Tests in MSE* passed – from DPS Accountability, Research & Evaluation
*MSE = Math, Science, and English courses – the focus of CEI’s AP Initiative


2012 – BEFORE CEI AP INITIATIVE
2013 – First year of CEI AP INITIATIVE
2014 – 2nd year of CEI AP INITIATIVE
2015 – 3rd year of CEI AP Initiative

N tested
N passed
%
N tested
N passed
%
N tested
N passed
%
N tested
N passed
%
Biology
8
*
*
8
*
*
13
*
*
33
3
9%
Calculus AB
29
2
7%
26
1
4%
35
13
37%
38
8
21%
Chemistry
0
*
*
11
*
*
9
*
*
11
*
*
Computer
Science A
13


11
*
*
9
*
*
8
*
*
Eng. Language & Composition
77
4
5%
75
3
4%
86
3
3%
53
1
2%
Eng. Literature & Composition
37
4
11%
49
2
4%
37
0
0%
28
4
14%
Environmental Science
0
*
*



13
*
*
15
*
*
Physics B
24
0
0%
37
1
3%
18
3
17%
31***
2
6%
Physics 2









3
*
*
Statistics






7
*
*
11
*
*

167**
10
6%
187**
7
3%
176**
19
11%
183**
18
10%
* Scores not reported for groups with fewer than 16 students.
** Total of tests taken where # passed is available
***Now called Physics 1.

Abraham Lincoln is hardly alone as a low-performing Denver school where, even without CEI’s backing, the results suggest the district’s AP push (see http://www.denverpost.com/ci_16254380. Denver’s push for students …” 10/5/2010) is misplaced. See Addendum B for the grim results in several other DPS schools.
                       
I wish I could also provide details on the AP results at Aurora Central High, which, along with Abraham Lincoln, has been part of CEI’s Cohort 1.  Up until 2013 Aurora Public Schools released results on the AP tests at its high schools.  But as of year ago March, the APS Division of Accountability and Research told me “our office doesn’t do the AP report any longer.”  Yes, the Division of A…..  The mystery continues.

Another View, a newsletter by Peter Huidekoper, represents his own opinion and is not intended to represent the
view of any organization he is associated with.  Comments are welcome. 303-757-1225 / peterhdkpr@gmail.com



Addendum A – Yes, I repeat myself …

FROM Another View #94   (March 26, 2013)
The easy answer?   -  As hard as an AP class can be for a student, as demanding as it is for a teacher to learn the curriculum and attend all the professional development classes to teach an AP class well, what we may need to admit is that AP FOR ALL is an easy answer. It doesn’t require the more difficult work of figuring how to adapt curriculum and instruction to help a 10th grader move from unsatisfactory to proficient by the time he or she graduates—or to wrestle with bigger questions about the impersonal structure of our large high schools, and much more.  All of us who have followed trends—fads?—in public education need to ask if we are caught up in another one, especially when the facts we look at say: this is not working.”

FROM Another View #114   (June 14, 2014)
“… in our high schools, especially those where most juniors and seniors are not at grade level, let’s ‘meet students where they are.’ Revise and adjust what is taught. Help students finish up college-ready.  This will be a far better use of time and resources than adding AP classes at schools like Bruce Randolph where [in 2013]—the Spanish AP’s exempted—just 5 out of 126 passed in 2013. What’s the point of that?” 

FROM Another View #126   (Feb.  3, 2015)
“My argument all along – in my first piece on this issue (AV#95 - Mismatch - Adding more AP classes in low-performing high schools - Why the push to expand AP classes in schools where so many students fail to achieve qualifying scores?) and last year – has been that the AP Initiative is an inappropriate choice for schools where most students perform below grade level.  It does not address a much bigger problem. Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver has been my prime example—but it is not alone. In AV#95 I reported that Lincoln’s AP scores (4 out of 77 passed AP English tests in 2012) indicated it was one of several high schools where the AP expansion by DPS (“Advanced coursework is pushed in DPS,” Denver Post, Aug.21, 2009) made little sense. 


Addendum B – SCHOOL REPORT OF AP EXAMS 2014 & 2015 (BY STATE)
% scores of 3 or above
2014
2015
Colorado
60.4%
60.2%
U.S.
58.7%
57.5%


Addendum C- AP results in 7 other DPS high schools* 

·         Bruce Randolph: the Spanish AP’s exempted—just 13 out of 134 passed; a passing rate of 10%.
·         High Tech Early College: the Spanish AP’s exempted—just 10 out of155 passed: 6.5%.
·         Martin Luther King Early College: Spanish Language AP exempted—15 out of 203: 7%.

Overall passing rate for:
·         DCIS Montbello - 11% (19/179);
·         Venture Prep - 11% (4/35);
·         Manual - 10% (8/82);
·         West Leadership - 4% (1/27).
*From DPS Division of Accountability, Research and Evaluation - http://dpsare.com/teachers/test-results/