Wednesday, November 20, 2019

AV #202 - A Thanksgiving Note to the Colorado State Board of Education

What if local school boards demonstrated a similar focus on student achievement?

Same topic – How is Aurora Central High School (ACHS) performing? – entirely different responses. The contrast—notably what the Aurora School Board did NOT say when the district presented its reports on ACHS at board meetings this fall, as opposed to what the Colorado State Board of Education DID SAY, repeatedly (see below), at its November 13 meeting—tells us a lot. It might explain why a school district feels little pressure from its board to address such dismal academic results.

I realize the local board has a different purpose from the Colorado State Board. Perhaps especially in a setting like last week’s meeting, when the state board was in a quasi-judicial role. Such encounters are not designed to be either friendly or hostile. They are supposed to be rigorous and fair—as I found it to be.

Moreover, for a district, the relationships with the superintendent, staff, and a number of others in the schools, these are personal. I understand why board members might be inclined to be supportive of the hard work being done by the people they see on a regular basis. And yet I fear a board can be blinded by its very proximity to these men and women. It’s tougher to challenge what the district presents as positive news; it’s easier to be polite. It can even lead to cheerleading, when it is hardly warranted.

No need here for a full summary of the comments or questions from the Aurora School Board in meetings earlier this fall leading up to the district’s presentation to the State Board last week regarding the progress at Aurora Central High School. Addendum A includes comments from APS board members in the official minutes. Not a word on achievement. In listening to both meetings, I heard no tough questions about the decline in SAT scores, last spring, for this year’s senior class. In contrast to what State Board members focused on last week.

Local school boards should take note. If they put a similar focus on achievement, perhaps schools like Aurora Central High would not be in such dire straits—on the 9th year of the accountability clock. If the APS board had taken its role on accountability more seriously these past nine years, perhaps the attention paid by State Board members TO THIS ONE ISSUE would not sound so … well, almost odd. To some, maybe unexpected.

Aurora’s new board members will be sworn in on December 3. Several attended last week’s Accountability Hearing before the State Board on ACHS. They witnessed what the APS school board has failed to do for years. One might blame the school’s chronic failure on Superintendents John Barry (->2013) and Rico Munn (2013-present) and the district, but ultimately our elected officials, the school board members, are accountable.  

Below, my transcription of a few statements by members of the Colorado State Board at the Nov. 13 hearing.  I do not include numerous compliments they also made regarding positive steps evident from the various reports, so out of context the following passages may seem harsh. I simply want to stress the State Board’s attention to student achievement. Any errors here in the transcription are mine, for which I apologize.

Comments by State Board of Education Members, ACHS Accountability Hearing, Nov. 13  (All bold mine)

Debora Schoeffel: I understand the focus has really been culture and climate… When you look at the achievement, how can you raise the achievement of these students? … but then you look at the achievement scores, and your students – they really need to improve their achievement if they’re going to be able to participate in the culture and have a future that they do dream of…  What can you do differently to improve your achievement?

[Speaking to a concern about PLC’s, Professional Learning Communities.]
So I’m wondering how you’re structuring those collaborative opportunities …  unless it’s structured on what goes on, it can be great social opportunity, it can be a great professional opportunity, but it may not translate into student achievement, so can you address that?

Rebecca McClellan: I kind of eased into this but I do want to touch on the achievement levels …when I’m looking at the School Performance Framework ratings dipping – help me understand ow we take confidence that we’ll can see some movement going forward   help us know what’s going to happen from here - … so we know if we go forward with the continuation of the innovation plan as is recommended that we’ll take confidence we can see some movement there.


*2019 ACHS results - SAT
     (state average – 505)
MATH – 400
(state average - 496)
Rating - all student groups
     Does Not Meet
Schoeffel: I don’t feel that I read or hear enough specificity on your model that will translate into student achievement gains in the near future– it feels too vague. Maybe there’s more to it than I’ve read or hear. I feel like the partnership you have, the direction you have, while helpful, the student achievement piece, it lacks specificity. It seems like an external management partnership could be beneficial to really boost student achievement.     
McClellan: I am going to concur with the State Review Panel recommendation    
for continued innovation, with a very sharp eye toward the achievement levels. I know we all want to move them off of that first percentile [ACHS SAT*/PSAT scores] so that we can make the most of each student’s potential … I’m really hoping that we can turn that into movement on the achievement level.

Steve Durham: Sooner or later the things that sound like improvement need to actually result in improvement, and what we are really responsible for at all levels is closing achievement gaps and to improving overall achievement and that hasn’t happened here and it would appear the last couple of years the numbers are at best mixed.
I’d encourage you …  to try to bring some people on the academic side that could perhaps make the same sort of impact you’ve seen on the culture side…  I would not give this a two-year extension but a one year that helps you make improvement. … The fact that there has not been any academic progress really doesn’t allow us to give this an extended time frame.

Angelika Schroeder: We want to make sure that you, students in particular, are prepared in high school so that you can have all the options available to you after graduation... However, I’m looking at the students and how little time they have in your school, four years, just four years. Your presentation today … highlights that the day-to-day instruction students receive is still not meeting grade-level expectations There appears to be a real need… for intensive sustained focus on improving instruction, particularly for English Language Learners … it’s critical that this focus supports them… I will vote you add an academic management partner. You do really need that greater emphasis. We don’t want to wait.


For such a strong focus on student achievement, a sincere THANK YOU to the State Board of Education.

Addendum A
Comments from the Aurora Board of Education on ACHS discussions – from official minutes*

Sept. 3, 2019 - Board of Education Business meeting
Information: D. Aurora Central High School
Presenter: Director of Accountability and Research Dr. DJ Loerzel

Director Colbert pointed out she was elected to the Board in 2015 when the work started and appreciates seeing the leading indicators, however, like many, would like to see improvement with lagging indicators. Parent survey responses are very important to her, which she says speaks to a level of community engagement that was done with the innovation planning. Leading indicators are exciting to see, however, know there is much more work to do.

October 1, 2019 – Board of Education Business meeting
Information: C. Aurora Central High School Pathway Recommendation
Presenter: Superintendent Rico Munn; Office of Autonomous Schools Executive Director Jeff Park; ACHS Principal Gerardo De La Garza

Dr. Armstrong-Romero asked how long and what changes would be seen by continuing the innovation pathway for ACHS. Munn said as a direct result of the innovation transition structure a large staff turnover occurred. ACHS now has a large number of new, young staff leaving the need for professional development. He said there is also a need for a clear college pathway. Class and school intervention strategies for new staff are also areas to focus on, said Park. De La Garza said the ACHS staff focus is around Professional Learning Communities (PLC), Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), and first-year instruction, however, the staff is starting to mark year four at the school.

Director Wildman asked how many veterans are currently on staff. About 20% of staff who have 4-5 years at ACHS are now veteran staff members, said De La Garza. What is a large class size at ACHS, asked Wildman; a large class size is a room with about 35-36 students, said De La Garza. Director Gerkin commented on the hard work at ACHS staff has done. She recognizes it takes time to demonstrate progress and appreciates seeing the overall analysis. Gerkin asked if there was anything needed from the Board. The district would like to engage the Board’s confidence in the recommendation at the upcoming state review panel, and then, provide the best presentation to the State Board on November 13, said Munn.

Director Ivey made note of some of the teacher stresses on slide 57 of the presentation which he found concerning. Ivey asked what the school is doing for staff with the concerns noted. Munn said the school is currently at 97% capacity with 2,020 students enrolled, turning around a comprehensive high school is a difficult task. Teachers reflecting on the challenge is not surprising.

Dr. Jorgensen asked if there were alternative options than the recommendation provided. Munn said the analysis displays there are other options, however, not a viable option that is better for students than the path ACHS is currently on. Director Ivey asked if the four methods have proven to be successful. A study by the Federal Government on the four methods in 2016 resulted in no imperial [sic] proof that any were successful. Execution makes them function, said Munn.

Director Colbert thinks the elementary and high school comparison is valid; the further faster concept makes sense to her. ACHS only has two years of implementation, and in her opinion, starting over is a disservice to the students who have been part of the process. Director Gerkin says she has great hope, because the last two years have shown a tremendous shift in climate and culture. Outlined pieces for upcoming opportunities such as MTSS and second language learner supports are huge. She questioned and supported for ACHS to receive additional funds and experienced teachers placed at the site for extra support. Dr. Jorgensen agreed and suggested placing highly qualified teachers for additional support.

There were no further questions or comments from the board.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

AV #201 - Autonomy, independence, self-governance – and schools

Hong Kong, Ukraine, Ireland

It may be a stretch to connect the appeal of self-governing schools to geopolitics and international events - demonstrations in Hong Kong, bullies imposing on Ukraine, or the tragic 700-year struggle for independence in Ireland. But all of us who wonder how public education might look different in the future realize we must consider themes that transcend our sector, such as the themes of power and control. And fundamental concerns: Who has the authority? Who is responsible? Who is in charge?

You might ask, where—in our lives, in this world – are these not central questions? Exactly.   
From “What is a Charter School?” (CDE)
“A charter school in Colorado is a public school operated by a group of parents, teachers and/or community members as a semi-autonomous school of choice within a school district…”[i]
We see such concerns on the front page every day. A school person is reminded that there is something universal in our longing to decide and not be dictated to, to be free to control our own path without outside (and often unseen, distant) powers telling us what we can and cannot do, who we can or cannot become. 
And, inevitably, such beliefs lead to a related theme: the longing for independence. For self-governance.

A school person follows the news from Hong-Kong with particular interest. The protesters fight for what schools inside large districts wish for – the ability to manage their own affairs, to govern themselves. Demonstrators point to Beijing’s promise to grant semi-autonomy to Hong Kong; schools point to such assurances as: “DPS believes that those closest to students – families and school leaders – know what’s best for their students academically, socially and emotionally….”[ii] In reality, though, we see the bully in Beijing or the nice folks at the central office operate in ways that asserts that they are in charge. No wonder we identify with the confrontation in Hong Kong these days. (For anyone interested, Addendum A presents a number of news stories from this past year, where I see a parallel.)

A school person sees the news from Ukraine in a similar light. A country that only gained independence in 1992 struggles to stand up to the bully—even if it is less clear, these days, who that bully is. Most lethal, of course, are the Russian soldiers who moved into eastern Ukraine, an incursion, a threat to its sovereignty. But now we add a White House asking favors. We cheer for the little guy in his fight to control his own destiny, while Big Powers merely seek their own advantage.

A school person visits Ireland, as I was lucky to do in September, and sees another David vs. Goliath story. A country invaded and stomped on by its English neighbor for roughly 700 years. We collect stories from 100 years ago, the fight for independence—finally achieved in 1922. Listening to family histories, we sense that the resentment towards and mistrust of their one-time English landlords survives. We are told Eire’s new generation, though, does not carry this bitterness. Perhaps true as well, we wonder, for our young teachers. Unlike the veteran staff so often disillusioned by the central office, cynical about the district’s profession that it will “step back” and grant real authority to the principal, perhaps the “rookies” imagine that it is a new day. Na├»ve (or optimistic enough) to believe the district is sincere in affirming that it truly does see “The School as the Unit of Change” (Boasberg, 2016[iii]).

Such analogies fall apart if this sounds like we see the central office as cruel or tyrannical. This is not my intent. Not at all. But they apply, do they not, if we are talking about control, power, and independence?

How many of us have taught inside a system of 50 or 100 or 200 schools and wondered why the district office presumes to know best? Why can’t it realize that even the simple phrase, “district-run schools” (the term DPS applies to over 130 schools[iv]) is absurd. Those of us here in our building, we “run” this school, thank you very much, not those of you off at the central office, miles away. We feel anger and distrust when people who are not in classrooms, who in some cases we suspect were eager to leave the day-to-day work with students (and garner a higher-paying district position), speak to us as underlings.

It is especially infuriating when we watch our principal and school administration hesitate to act, unnerved by the sense that the district still holds the levers of power. It still plays Big Brother. It still believes it does indeed “run” our school. A sure way to cripple school leadership.

Last summer in AV #196 I looked back 30 years: “SELF-GOVERNING SCHOOLS” IN COLORADO – Nearly 14% of our K-12 enrollment. This was the language back then—at the 1989 Keystone Conference—before our first charter schools opened in 1993. Some interpret the entire movement as a modest desire for greater flexibility from state and district requirements, a mild reform that grants principals and schools more control of whom they hire, which curriculum to use, and how money is spent.

This understates the conviction many of us have about where control, in our public education system, belongs. It fails to take into account how strongly many educators want to take the responsibility for what happens in our buildings. We are embarrassed by the way public education seems inhabited by finger-pointers: the oft-repeated, “They (the central office, the state, the federal government) made me do this.” We do not want to blame, or defer to, them. We do not want to be looking over our shoulder wondering if this is OK with the district. Don’t you see? It is this very model we seek to disrupt.

Much as—and this is why the analogy seems apt for a number of us—people in Hong Kong, or Ukraine, or Ireland, who believe they have every right to operate as an independent nation or entity, are unwilling to submit to rulers in Beijing, or Moscow, or Washington, or across the Irish Sea.

Leave us alone, they say. As do we.

A school person thinks a district should have other priorities (buses, choice, food, etc.). In our building we will follow the law; we want to be accountable for how we spend taxpayer money; we fully agree to address the state standards in our classes. But we insist on our freedom to create and/or choose our curriculum, how we engage our students, how we evaluate our teachers and staff. Don’t intrude where it is not your business, we want to say. It may sound huffy, or disrespectful, but we are doing the real work of teaching students, true? We know them, their parents, and this community as you do not, over there, across town. So yes, grant us the authority—and the autonomy—to own our success, or failure.

The self-governing school model is hardly new. In public education, the prime example is the 26-year old charter school design. In private education, we call them independent schools; I went to one such school (founded 1797), taught in another (founded 1814). Those of us who argue for self-governance believe two centuries should be sufficient proof that this model works. And that such schools can be … no, must be, accountable to their students and families, if they are to survive. The charter movement (see Addendum B—"Autonomy and Accountability go together”) believes public schools can do likewise.

Addendum A - 2019 articles on Hong Kong, where a school person says: I identify with that!
(All bold mine)

Note 10 references on these pages to:
autonomy, semi-autonomy, autonomous

January 19, 2019
“Anti-anthem protests in Hong Kong – Tuning out,” The Economist

   “… many Hong Kongers concluded that what China meant by ‘one country, two systems’ was really just one country, with the Communist Party in charge of it and with Hong Kong enjoying only a semblance of the ‘high degree of autonomy’ that China promised it could have for at least 50 years after Britain’s withdrawal.” 
   “…calls have been growing for Hong Kong to be granted greater autonomy from China, if not outright independence…. In response, China has become more paranoid, directing Hong Kong’s pliant officials to nip any sign of separatism in the bud…                                                                                                              
   “A survey by the University of Hong Kong found that in May 54% of respondents lacked confidence in ‘one country, two systems’—a near-record high. At the time of the handover fewer than one in five had misgivings about the idea. Over the same period those who expressed distrust in the central government rose from fewer than a third to nearly half of those surveyed.” 
Feb. 23, 2019                                                                                                       
“Hong Kong and its region – At Bay,” The Economist

Geopolitics: autocracy and intervention from on high vs. autonomy and freedom for the people.
… China unveiled a long-awaited master blueprint for the Greater Bay Are (GBA) … Some have a bigger worry [about this plan]. [Hong Kong’s] long-standing strength, points out Alvin Yeung, the leader of the pro-democracy Civic Party, is in being ‘not just an ordinary Chinese city.’ Hong Kong is        
permitted high degree of autonomy until 2047…. Yet by tying the city ever closer to the mainland, Mr. Yeung fears that the GBA may end up costing Hong Kong its special status.”

June 15, 2019
“Hong Kong – Huge demonstrations have rattled the territory’s government – and the leadership in Beijing,” The Economist – Leader

“Hong Kong’s government … has said that only extradition requests made by China’s highest judicial officials will be considered. But the decision will fall to Hong Kong’s chief executive. That person, currently Carrie Lam, is chosen by party loyalists in Hong Kong and answers to the party in Beijing. Local courts will have little room to object. The bill could throttle Hong Kong’s freedoms by raising the possibility that the party’s critics could be bundled over the border.”

June 16, 2019
“Hong Kong extradition bill: Protesters return to streets despite suspension,” BBC News

“Is Hong Kong part of China?”
   “Hong Kong was a British colony from 1841, when China ceded the island to the British after the First Opium War …. It remained a colony until sovereignty was returned to China in 1997.
  “It is now part of China under a ‘one country, two systems’ principle, which ensures that it keeps its own judicial independence, its own legislature and economic system.
  “It is what China calls a special administrative region - enjoying a great deal of autonomy that has made it a key business and media hub in the region.
  But it remains subject to pressure from mainland China, and Beijing remains responsible for defence and foreign affairs.”

July 6, 2019
“Hong Kong protests – Anti-establishment day,” The Economist

“Demonstrators should be careful what they wish for. Some veterans of the democracy movement have privately told foreign contacts that Mrs Lam’s resignation as chief executive is something to fear, because only the fiercest of hardliners would be willing to take her job in the present climate. Others worry, too, that the Liaison Office would exert more influence, pushing Hong Kong towards more political integration with the mainland.”

Aug. 3, 2019
“Protest, but no movement”The Economist

  “The obvious and perhaps only way to resolve the crisis would be for China to keep its promise to let the people of Hong Kong choose their own leaders. Dream on. The radicalisation of the protests is, in part, a consequence of China’s strategy of persecuting more moderate opposition leaders trying to work within the system.  
  “For now, China is out to define its enemies in Hong Kong and delegitimise them. In the propaganda, Hong Kong’s quest for genuine self-rule is being portrayed as on a par with ‘splittists’ elsewhere on China’s fringes, in Tibet or Xinjiang.” 

Aug. 4, 2019
“Greater demands sought as Hong Kong Movement grows,” Yanan Wang, Associated Press

“When Great Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, the city was promised certain freedoms under the framework of ‘one country, two systems,’ creating a distance between the territory and the Communist Party-rule central government on the mainland. In recent years, however, some Hong Kong residents have accused Beijing of chipping away at their democratic rights….”

Aug. 10, 2019
“Turmoil in Hong Kong,” The Economist

“Yet Hong Kong remains more important to the mainland than might at first appear, and not just as a showcase for how China acts in a way befitting a country claiming greater status on the world stage. The paradox is that the more autocratic the mainland gets the more it needs Hong Kong commercially.
“China will not take action in Hong Kong lightly: it knows how much is at stake economically and how much its biggest firms depend on the territory, quite apart from the reputational risk. Yet it also sees the situation spiralling into a threat to the Communist Party itself—one that America, it believes, is trying to exploit.”

Aug. 10-11, 2019
“China Blames US. For Hong Kong Protests,” Wall Street Journal

“A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy denied that Washington was behind the protests, saying that Hong Kong demonstrations reflected residents’ concerns about eroding autonomy.

Aug. 10-11, 2019
“Hong Kong’s Millennial Dissidents,” Wall Street Journal, by Jillian Kay Melchior, on Nathan Law

“Still, his fellow protesters give him reason to hope. Many are his age (26) or younger. Without anyone telling them what to do, they spread the word about where and when to meet, and they show up with useful supplies like water bottles and first-aid kits. Some even tidy up the streets afterwards to prove their orderly and law-abiding intentions. ‘It’s a leaderless movement.’ (Nathan) Law says. ‘That’s very valuable. These kinds of independent acts actually make them more experienced in terms of having political actions.’ Sounds like excellent preparation for self-government.”

Recurring themes:
control, self-government, independence
Aug. 26, 2019                                                                                             

Aug. 26, 2019
“The Battle for the Soul of Hong Kong,” Time Magazine

  “‘We have to look at Hong Kong as a part of the People’s Republic of China, which happens to be governed by the Chinese Communist Party,’ says Christine Loh, a former legislator and Under Secretary for the Environment. ‘That’s a reality check that many people seem not to want to deal with.’”
   “If the view from Hong Kong is one of impending doom, the view from mainland China has been one of irritation.  China is a nation of 1.4 billion people, and Hong Kong is no longer a key portal.  Its residents are seen as spoiled and disloyal, the problem as distant and isolated. Beijing is seasoned in dealing with what it sees as ‘troublemakers’ agitating for democratic change.”

Aug. 31, 2019
“Getting a grip–How China might bring Hong Kong to heel without sending troops from the mainland,” The Economist

“On August 25th the state news agency, Xinhua, reported on a gathering of officials to study speeches by Deng Xiaoping, the leader who devised the ‘one country, two systems’ model, a promise to preserve Hong Kong’s Western-style freedoms after British rule ended in 1999.  That pledge of autonomy is quite compatible with sending troops to crack skulls, Xinhua reported: Deng himself stipulated that if Hong Kong drifted into turmoil, the central government should intervene.”

5 references to:
freedom, freedoms

Aug. 31- Sept 1, 2019
“Beijing Moves on Hong Kong,” Wall Street Journal, editorial

“China appears to be making its long-expected move to crush dissent in Hong Kong, with arrests of pro-democracy lawmakers and activists and a ban on a march planned for this weekend. The crackdown is a gamble that the public will be cowed, but it could ignite even more resentment and protests.”
“Ms. Lam and the police claim they want to preserve order and rule of law in Hong Kong, but they’re the ones eroding both. If there’s more unrest this weekend and beyond, the fault lies with Beijing and its refusal to honor its promise to Hong Kong and Britain of ‘one country, two systems’ through 2047. The world needs to speak up for Hong Kong and its brave freedom fighters.” 

Sept. 5, 2019
“China Is Playing a Cautious Waiting Game in Hong Kong,” Time Magazine, Ian Bremmer

“… Xi believes he can outlast the protesters, as China did following the Umbrella Movement five years ago. Some will be tempted to fault Trump for refusing to side with those who demand democracy, but it is Xi who has fueled these protests, by his refusal to allow Lam to resign and his uncompromising approach. Many in Hong Kong believe that Beijing means to fundamentally undermine their government. It’s clear that Xi won’t try to persuade them otherwise.”

Sept. 11, 2019
“Protesters defy ban, warnings,” The Washington Post

   “Five years ago Beijing announced a plan for limited democracy in the semi-autonomous territory, kicking off a 79-day occupation of city streets that invigorated a new generation of Hong Kong activists.
   “A now-suspended plan to allow extraditions to mainland China floated earlier this year has again awakened the sense that Hong Kong does not control its future, and millions have taken to the streets over the past months to protest Beijing’s creeping influence.”

Sept. 21-22, 2019
“‘You Don’t Have to Face It Alone.’ Hong Kong Protests Propelled by Hidden Support Network,”
Wall Street Journal

   “The U.K. returned the territory to China in 1997 under a ‘one country, two systems’ agreement that promised Hong Kong a measure of autonomy until 2047.

Familiar concerns: “accommodation” with the larger system; compromises “to please” the authorities; a “gradual erosion” of autonomy and freedom.
   “That arrangement was challenged this year by a proposed law allowing extradition to China… (The 50-year-old Hong Kong resident featured in the story) saw it as the death of one country, two systems and Hong Kong’s way of life.” 

Sept. 22, 2019
“Hong Kong’s resistance offers lessons for Taiwan,” by George F. Will – Washington Post

“During the Cold War, ‘Finlandization’ denoted the process by which a small, civilized nation could be compelled to accommodate a large, coarse one. The fact of Taiwan refutes the theory that such accommodation is inevitable.”

Sept. 23, 2019
“More clashes ahead of Chinese holiday,” by Eileen Ng - Associated Press

   “HONG KONG: Protesters and police clashed in Hong Kong for a second straight day on Sunday, throwing the semiautonomous Chinese territory’s business and shopping belt into chaos and sparking fears of more ugly scenes leading up to China’s National Day holiday this week.
   “Protesters say Beijing and Lam’s government are eroding the ‘high degree of autonomy and Western-style civil liberties promised to the former British colony when it was returned to China in 1997.”

Sept. 27, 2019
“For China’s Xi, the Hong Kong Crisis Is Personal - The Chinese president has long stressed Beijing’s authority over the onetime British colony,” The Wall Street Journal

   “Privately, some (Chinese officials) admit they failed to appreciate public anger over the sense of gradual erosion, under Mr. Xi, of the city’s relative political freedom.
   “The Hong Kong crisis is fueling criticism with China’s political, business and academic elite of Mr. Xi’s autocratic leadership style, which prizes loyalty and discipline over initiative and policy debate.”
   “Mr. Xi now saw himself being locked in in a struggle for control of Hong Kong....
   Mr. Xi “visited Hong Kong in mid-2017…  Then came a warning: ‘Challenging Beijing’s power,’ he said, ‘is an act that crosses the red line.’
   “While some political figures in Hong Kong accuse its government of emulating Mr. Xi’s intolerance of dissent, others blame Beijing’s representatives in the city for overreaching in an attempt to please the Chinese leader.”

Oct. 5, 2019
“Xi’s embrace of false history and fearsome weapons is worrying,” The Economist, Chaguan column

“What was not inevitable was that Mr. Xi would embrace populist, nostalgic, red-flag waving nationalism, while glossing over the party’s terrible mistakes…. Mx Xi is not a revolutionary like Mao, bent on dismantling the party. Rather, he is an authoritarian, obsessed with stability, determined to assert the party’s absolute authority.”

“Unrest in Hong Kong – Crashing the party,” The Economist (same issue of Oct. 5)

Protest against
 and rejection of the China model
"... tensions will remain high. The Legislative Council is due to reconvene on October 16th.... on November 24th Hong Kongers go to the polls to elect local councilors.  Further protests could erupt if the government attempts to bar candidates who are deemed to lean towards Hong Kong’s independence from China, as it did during elections in to the legislature in 2016 and 2017…”    

Oct. 7, 2019
“Will Unrest in Hong Kong Spoil China’s Big Party?” Time, Laignee Barron

  “But as Xi seeks to project an image of Chinese strength and unity, the discontent in Hong Kong offers an alternative picture. ‘Under Xi Jinping, China’s message to the world is that the China model is superior to the liberal values and the universal suffrage practiced in the West,' says [professor Willy] Lam. But this 'is belied by the fact that in Hong Kong, the one free place in China, the China model is being rejected.’
  “The situation in Hong Kong also threatens Xi’s long-held ambition of Chinese reunification with the self-governing island of Taiwan. Beijing had hoped the ‘one country, two systems’ framework for semiautonomy in Hong Kong, a former British colony, could be a model for bringing Taiwan back into the fold after seven decades of estrangement. But as the framework has eroded in Hong Kong, popular support for sovereignty among Taiwan’s citizens has swelled further. ‘We will not become another Hong Kong,’ President Tsai Ing-wen pledged in July.”

Addendum B - “Autonomy and accountability go together”*
“School autonomy and accountability: Are they related to student performance?”

 “In countries where schools have greater autonomy over what is taught and how students are assessed, students tend to perform better.
 “The bottom line: Autonomy and accountability go together: greater autonomy in decisions relating to curricula, assessments and resource allocation tend to be associated with better student performance, particularly when schools operate within a culture of accountability.”


   “We've tried to flip the normal district structure, so that principals can say to us, "Here's where I need extra training for my staff. Here's where I need advice on where to use my budget. Here's where I need some training in my program about how we structure the schedule." In exchange for that autonomy, the deal we've made with principals is, "You're going to be accountable for how your kids do."
   “Because of this exchange of autonomy and accountability, everyone in the system knows that the way that you succeed is if your kids are learning…  I think if you're a principal today in New York City, you really do have the levers in your hands to shape your school in a way that's unique.
   That sense of responsibility breeds a different kind of leader. So, when we see hundreds of schools that have turned around in New York City over this period, I attribute a lot of that to the fact that we found good people and have given them the flexibility to design something that works in their specific environment and then asked them to be accountable for what happens as a result.”

   From “Balancing Autonomy and Accountability in School Leadership: An Interview With New York City's Shael Polakow-Suransky - Districts Matter: Cultivating the Principals Urban Schools Need” (Oct. 2, 2012).


Policy gives autonomy to schools and teachers, in exchange for accountability”

“Why? So that schools and teachers can design the learning program to meet the unique needs of the students who enroll and that they serve. Design decisions have to be made at the working level, by those who know the students.
How? Policy should give teachers and other school staff the authority to make decisions as a group at the school, program or department level. This is not a concept of a single leader with full authoritative control, or an individual teacher autonomous in their own classroom.”

“In a portfolio district the most important figure in improving student achievement is the school leader. School leaders should be given as much authority as possible to make the right decisions for their school: choosing who is part of their teaching and administrative teams, and having control over their budget and freedom to buy the services their school needs. In exchange school leaders must work within their budget and be held accountable for results.”

   From Center for Reinventing Public Education,


[i] The full definition reads: “A charter school in Colorado is a public school operated by a group of parents, teachers and/or community members as a semi-autonomous school of choice within a school district, operating under a contract or ‘charter’ contract between the members of the charter school community and the local board of education.”
[iii] See the statement of Sept. 2016, by Denver’s former Superintendent Tom Boasberg: “Equity and Empowerment – The School as the Unit of Change.”$file/DRAFT%20Theory%20of%20Action.pdf
[iv]What is a district-run traditional school?”
“District-run traditional schools are public schools that are directly run and overseen by the district.” 
[DPS lists 95 of these schools. Only 36 of the 95 rated Distinguished or Meets Expectations, so three-fifths of these schools are on Academic Watch, Academic Priority Watch, or Academic Probation. If these are “district-run” schools, what does that say about DPS?]
“What is a district-run innovation school?”
“District-run innovation schools are district-managed public schools with a strategic plan that allows waivers to specific district policies, state statutes, and collective bargaining agreements with the goal of improving student outcomes and executing with excellence a specific model.”
[DPS lists 40 of these schools. Only 10 of the 40 are rated Distinguished or Meets Expectations, so three-fourths are of these schools are on Academic Watch, Academic Priority Watch, or Academic Probation. Same question as above. If you “run” it, are you responsible for its low performance? But by what definition can we say that the district office “runs” almost 140 schools?]