Monday, February 28, 2011

How We Reached One Hundred...

It wasn't easy, but we managed to reach our goal of one hundred followers.  Since a few naysayers are contesting our total, we'd like to take a moment to explain the methodology behind the count.

Beginning with our initial count of 22, we added the five of you who joined via the traditional route.  Next, using the auditing skills of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe in a consulting capacity, we were able to triple the new total to obtain a subtotal of 81 (27x3).  Since, in Alexandria, a zero is no longer a valid number and all F's are D's, C's or Incompletes (<60=60+70/2), we felt certain in advising our consultants that this was a permissible calculation.  The 81 was increased by the 'they'll believe this' corollary.  That is, if 80% of the people are against longer school days and school years by most reliable surveys, yet the 80% is eviscerated by the ACPS study and published as less than 60%, then add 20 to your total.  That leaves us with 101.  However, when Mr. Hilburg left with his integrity intact, you must subtract two.  Add in, Kiwi Squeaks, and you have 100!

"God is a comedian playing to a crowd to afraid to laugh."
— Voltaire

Thank you!

The founders of the Underground would like to congratulate ourselves and everyone else on reaching the 100 follower mark.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Persistently Low Achieving...Better than Consistently Overinflated?

A friend recently returned from a conference in Richmond where, among other topics, the status of TC Williams came up.  What was of great interest to those at the conference was not TC's Persistently Low Achieving (PLA) position, nor was it the course that the city opted to take to remedy PLA standing--the so called TCW Transformation.  No, what had the room abuzz was the approach to grading in the city of Alexandria's only high school.  Word has reached the capital of the commonwealth that the approach to evaluating our students has taken a turn that has parents, colleges and teachers alike scratching their heads.  
If the intent of wholesale changing (raising) of grades by administrators, the ban on issuing 'F's' and the insistence that summative assessments be administered ad infinitum was to project a positive image, the result has been just the opposite.  According to those in the world of academia who study the effects of such radical grade inflation and manipulation, TC is making yet another foolish mistake.  While some parents will be lulled into thinking that pumping up GPA's and forcing higher enrollment in AP courses are signs of progress, colleges and universities are not so easily fooled.   In fact, the trend toward higher GPA's among the lowest achieving high schools is already the subject of scholarly studies.  To wit:

Grade Inflation: The Current Fraud

By M. Donald Thomas, Ph.D. President Emeritus, School Management Study Group
William Bainbridge, Ph.D. President, SchoolMatch Corporation, Columbus, Ohio

After conducting a large number of audits, the auditors were amazed to find that some grade inflation was apparent in most schools. What was unexpected was that the highest amount of grade infaltion existed in the lowest achieving schools. Five high schools in one school district showed these results:
SchoolSATNorm Ref. TestGrade Point
A75035 %tile26 %tile3.6
B90040 %tile42 %tile3.2
C99048 %tile48 %tile2.8
D105058 %tile55 %tile2.6
E112567 %tile74 %tile2.5
It is extremely difficult to explain how the lowest achieving school can have a higher grade point average than the higher achieving schools. Yet, this same pattern is found in most of the school districts in which the authors have conducted "School Effectiveness Audits."
The conclusion can be drawn that in low achieving schools with high grade point averages, expectations are extremely low—just the opposite of what research indicates should be done. Having low expectations begets low achievement. The fraud is that the high grade point average gives a FALSE message to the students. Schools which expect little and provide high grades, regardless of the level of academic achievement, are fraudulent educational systems and should be corrected.
It is our position that every high school examine its grade point averages to uncover grade inflation. Wherever it exists, it should be forcefully and quickly eradicated.

The short term, 'feel good' fix that is grade inflation is a danger.   It is the responsibility of every teacher and administrator who knows of this wrong to report it.  Why not begin by sharing your account here, anonymously.  State officials are reading this blog.

"Everything's fine today, that is our illusion. "
— Voltaire

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Here's An Idea!

Whether to show your support for the Underground or for free speech, become a follower. It's easy to do, it's anonymous and it is free! Our goal is 100 by ten o'clock Sunday night.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's A Done Deal!

This is the link to the document, from which Jim Loomis will speak at tonight's school board meeting.  Whether you agree with the outcome or not is not the point.  This demonstrates that anything can be railroaded through.  ACPS is truly a third world (I know, not politically correct) school district.  This would never be the protocol in Arlington or Fairfax.

This attachment from the school board page of the acps website reveals that the issues concerning the extended school year and the extended school day have already been decided.  What's worse, the unrepresentative EAA is the entity that (with Mort Sherman) decided it.  I have already submitted my letter stating my desire to leave the Association.

What is clear, is that Alexandria is place where those with private agendas may experiment, tinker, corrupt and create without fear of oversight or accountability.  Muaaaahhhhahhhh, let the consultant creations LIVE ON!!!!

A New Feature for Undergrounders

ACPS Underground is about the community, and the responses on the blogsite comprise one of the most critical components of the site.  In recognition of the genius of many of our readers, therefor, we will feature the Comment of the Week.  Here, then, is this week's awardee:

How would you create baseline data for an ever changing student population? The method you seem to propose would be the value-added method which has been debunked by many (not just within academia) as being a invalid and unreliable measurement. Also, what do the numbers actually show you? And at what point do the SOL scores no longer reflect initiatives from previous Superintendents and start reflecting current initiatives? Are the "improvements" (SOL scores) you see due in part to programs from the age of Perry and before? Go beyond the SOL number crunching and examine what is taking place at this moment and judge the "improvements" for yourself. Within ACPS now, progress is measured by the number of students enrolled in a course, regardless of their performance or the course's academic appropriateness. This started under Sherman's tenure. Within ACPS now, progress is pointing to a litany of programs regardless of their effectiveness. This started under Sherman's tenure. Within ACPS now, progress is adding minutes to the day or days to the year regardless of research indicating additional time as an ineffective way of addressing student needs. This started under Sherman's tenure. Within ACPS now, progress is dividing two middle schools into five, regardless of the effectiveness or rationale. This started under Sherman's tenure. Within ACPS now, money is being siphoned away from classrooms and into the pockets of associates of the Superintendent. This started under Sherman's tenure. Within ACPS now, a grading and attendance computer system which worked, has been replaced by one which repeatedly fails. This started under Sherman's tenure. Within ACPS now, a math and literacy coaching model has been implemented which actually limits availability of reading and math coaches for students and teachers and goes against all research on the subject. This started under Sherman's tenure. Within ACPS now, students at risk of failing are now referred to as "at promise." This started under Sherman's tenure. Within ACPS now, guidance counselors, who once met with students to guide them into appropriate classes, mediate disagreements or teen concerns, and mentor at risk students, have been turned into clerks and record keepers of IAPs. This started under Sherman's tenure. Within ACPS now, $12,000 a month is spent on a PR consultant to "brand" ACPS with absolutely nothing to show for the enormous cost, time, and use of resources. This started under Sherman's tenure. Within ACPS now, teachers are spending outrageous amounts of time out of the classroom to attend mandated "professional development" for programs run by FRIENDS OF THE SUPERINTENDENT. This started under Sherman's tenure. Shall we continue? Teachers see the approaching tsunami and are raising the red flags as fast as they can in the face of all of this worthless diddly-squat. If ACPS were already in the depths of the Underworld, as you so matter-of-factly state, I am not sure the Sirens songs of the Superintendent's Songsters or the special appearances by celebrities of eras past, are going to pull us out of the lake of fire and brimstone which is our public school system. We traded a Superintendent drunk on wine from Theismanns for a Superintendent drunk of celebrity and self-promotion. Alexandria can and should do better.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Everything You Know Is Wrong!

Unbelievable!  Here is what central administration expects us to believe are the results of the surveys!

Highlights of the survey results:

1,723 surveys were completed regarding the topics listed below.

    • Starting before Labor Day
      • 55.4 percent of the 1,723 participants were in favor
      • 52.3 percent of the 1,019 parents were in favor
      • 65.7 percent of 485 teachers were in favor

    • Adding time for teachers (with a 2-3 percent salary increase) 
      • 56.5 percent of the 1,723 participants were in favor
      • 62.2 percent of the 1,019 parents were in favor
      • 48.8 percent of the 485 teachers were in favor

    • Adding time to the student day
      • 43.3 percent of the 1,723 participants were in favor
      • 43.5 percent of the 1,019 parents were in favor
      • 44.3 percent of the 485 teachers were in favor
A new reality has settled over Alexandria.  Up is down, wrong is right, black is white.  While most of us expected something ludicrous to come of the survey, seeing the results only serves to reinforce the consensus belief that ACPS Administration will resort to any form of fraud and deceit to impose its will.  Little wonder that Alan Hilburg resigned rather than participate in a public relations boondoggle.  Every other survey, teacher based, school based or from the website, shows overwhelming (as much as three to one) opposition to the early start/thirty minute extension plans.  Even with the doctored stats, the majority of teachers, participants and parents objected to the adding of time to the day.  Any reasonably prudent person would take this as a clear signal to drop this latest moronic measure.  I'll bet you dollars to donuts that both initiatives will be enacted, over the majority's objection.  Whatever else you may think, if you ever believe another word that comes out of Mort Sherman's mouth, or his mouthpieces, you are to be pitied.

"Men use thought only as authority for their injustice, and employ speech only to conceal their thoughts."
— Voltaire

Sunday, February 20, 2011

You Call This a Solution...or an Invitation to Talk?

There is no reason to list the litany of problems with ACPS.  With the exception of the few willfully ignorant, the impediments to delivering quality instruction in this city are legend.  Heck, even the superintendent (the source of many of the obstacles) sees that something must be done about a school system in desperate need of repair.  It's just that there is a very real difference between how Sherman, on the one hand, and teachers on the other respond to the instant crisis.  Sherman, acts as an opportunist, embodying the carpetbagger approach, a chance to make the bucks, reward cronies and promote himself.  The true stakeholders, those who have lived and taught in Alexandria, whose children sit in the classrooms want to roll up our sleeves and rebuild--to do the heavy lifting.  We are not afraid to detail the fraud and waste even as some of the more pollyannish among us carp, "Stop complaining, be happy with what you're being given!"  Oh, that it were that easy. This admonition to either get on board with the ludicrously inexpensive and wasteful initiatives being proffered or seek employment elsewhere is a false choice.  Missing from the logic of those who espouse a simplistic approach to what ails ACPS is the need to clear one's mind of the failed practices of the past three years.  Don't tether your thinking to Habits of Minds and Skillful Teacher.  Don't be afraid to view the current curricular crap as anything but that.  Anyone endorsing a solution that tolerates no criticism of the status quo and who discerns no flaw with throwing expensive, crony-pitched, repackaged drivel at difficult, entrenched, and ever evolving challenges is either ignorant or misguided.

Something new, something far more creative and flexible must be brought to the discussion.  Any viable proposal must make use of the great pool of talent that is the bulk of the ACPS teachers.  We must not be afraid to follow the money when asking what others' motivations are as they come forward with 'snake oil' packaged as answers.  And so, the criteria that embody this 'follow the money' philosophy would not need a CEO/Superintendent making in excess of $250,000, nor an executive staff that devours precious dollars.  A real attempt to address our needs will not be comprised of consultant's and their high-priced gimmickry.  A sincere desire to close learning gaps and ensure that all who can succeed--will, asks stakeholders (those who stand to gain nothing monetarily) to give of their time and expertise to develop schools that deliver quality instruction.

For those seriously interested in such an approach, I point you to two articles.  These are, for brevity's sake just snapshots of what the full articles outline. The first, "Does a district need a superintendent?" looks at a school district's decision to overhaul the typical command and control structure.

Does a district need a superintendent?

Written by Robert Gelchion and Nancy Mitchell on Feb 7th, 2011. | Copyright ©
Third-graders at Evans Elementary in the Falcon 49 School District studied in class last week.
Third-graders at Evans Elementary in the Falcon 49 School District studied in class last week.
A school district east of Colorado Springs is poised to test the reaches of the state’s Innovation Schools Act, which allows waivers from state laws and collective bargaining agreements.
School board members in the Falcon 49 School District are buying out the contracts of their top four district administrators – including the superintendent, a job that would be eliminated – as they scrap a traditional governance structure for something completely different.

The second article, by Valerie Strauss, reinforces the first and can be somewhat summed up by the following excerpt:
There’s so much wrong with traditional schooling it’s tempting to say it’s beyond salvaging. Its very system of organization—based as it is on 19th Century Prussian military theory—is upside down. Those who know the most about the system—kids and teachers—have the least power to change it. Its continued use of a rigid, standardized curriculum designed to produce compliant workers for a system of industrial production that America will never see again, assures irrelevance. Its failure to put in place multi-year, manageable-sized groups of learners guided by small instructional teams, builds in instability and lack of continuity.
 So it's not, as some allege, that we rank and file educators lack the vision or insight to correct what is wrong in our schools.  The agonizing reality is that, just as government is influenced (even controlled) by lobbyists and corporations are misled by obscenely compensated CEO's, so too is our school system.  The difference being, teachers can't vote out of office those being lobbied nor remove the CEO.  
Again, the answers to our questions are there.  If not in full, then at least the information to find answers is there.  The will to apply the answers to our questions and needs lies in every dedicated teacher and parent.  You will not find the answer in the almighty dollar.

"All styles are good except the tiresome kind."
— Voltaire

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Yeah, Voltaire, we know what's happening in ACPS isn't worth a Martian nickel...but what do you propose?

So very glad you asked!  Check back frequently to see a common sense approach to our educational dilemma, here, in Alexandria.  Consultants won't get rich from it, and teachers' input will be valued, but we might just want to take a look at it nonetheless.

"No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking."
— Voltaire

Friday, February 18, 2011

First Goldie Hawn... now Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber are coming to ACPS?

Take a moment to read the following three paragraphs...PLEASE!  There is a common thread running through the three-- the future of education in our public schools.  In particular, each of the three is speaking to the notion that a new, radically different course must be charted if we are to close the "achievement gap" in education.  If you are interested, Michael Winerip has written an outstanding piece, highlighting Harvard professor Ronald Ferguson in the February 13th edition of the New York Times.  He is one smart guy.  And it is easy to be sold on his vision as the panacea to what ails ACPS.  But before you fall in love with Ferguson and the 21st century, take time to read Jay Mathews in today's Washington Post, I've excerpted it below.  His conclusion that this is all "dreamy nonsense" is spot on.
Look, it's not only okay to have these discussions about touchy subjects such as race and poverty and how they relate to intellectual development and how they shape debate about education, it's not just okay--it's essential.  But, when school systems adopt the vision and say, "That's the answer!"  We're in trouble.  As Jay Mathews also writes, "That leaves us with the idea of a new social contract to make this all work.  It is a lovely thought.  We can dream. But it isn't going to happen.  Their European examples sound good, but they don't address negative trends like the demonstrations in France last fall."  (By the way and speaking of demonstrations, did anyone else feel like we were missing something the last couple of weeks by not airing and discussing, at school the Egyptian uprising and its import to the very future of our planet?  I dared not switch on the TV even for an hour at TC.)  But I digress.  ACPS not only fails to look critically and skeptically and yet another cure all for what ails us, we buy the whole damn thing!  And just as our superintendent loves to rub elbows and eat out with Goldie Hawn and the beautiful people, he evaluates these visionaries as if they are Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber.  We don't need no stinkin' rock stars!  Yvonne Folkerts is letting us all know that we are going the very 21st Century route that Mathews warns us about.  In fact, the talk at Central Office is that the pursuit of a new curriculum that will replace all we've ever known, to date, will be a three year process and will guarantee that Sherman and his friends will be around for at least that long.

So, call it yellow journalism, portray it as a grudge by Voltaire but this is a wake up call. We, as a city, are about to expend enormous resources on this new model.  Thousands of teacher hours will be spent training to implement it, millions of dollars will be spent to implement it.  Many fine educators will leave because of it, morale will suffer along with it, great teaching models will be replaced by it and we will be the poorer for it.

Jay Mathews, Washington Post

Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 02/18/2011

Smart people + big report = dreamy nonsense

I had high hopes for the latest high-profile plan to save our schools. "Pathways To Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century" has 63 contributors, including some of the smartest people in education. The project that produced the report is based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and led by two of its brightest luminaries, academic dean Robert B. Schwartz and senior lecturer Ronald Ferguson. Those familiar with the sad history of similarly ambitious reports have already detected the signs of impending disappointment. The reference to 2lst century education is troubling. People who use that term tend to start talking gibberish, without intending to.
Yvonne Folkerts, ACPS School Board
During the retreat, Board members were given a handbook written by ACPS staff titled, “Literacy Framework:  Research-based Best Practices for Promoting 21st Century Literacy.”  This is a big title for an even bigger task:  providing our teachers and administrators with strategies to promote all students’ literacy development. The book is available online (yes, even parents can access it!) and gives teachers information about how to assess a student’s literacy across all curricula, how to use strategies to improve a student’s reading comprehension, how to use questions and thereby encourage students’ critical thinking skills, how to improve a student’s writing, and more. A second handbook will be issued later this year for math literacy. That handbook will arm teachers with strategies to incorporate math across the board into all subjects a student is studying.

Mort Sherman, Superintendent, ACPS
Morton Sherman, the Alexandria school superintendent, watched him (Ronald Ferguson) defuse the anger at a meeting of 300 people. “He talks about these things in a professorial way, a kind way,” Dr. Sherman said. “It’s not about him. He doesn’t try to be a rock star, although he is a rock star in this field.”

"You're a bitter man," said Candide.
"That's because I've lived," said Martin.
— Voltaire (Candide)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Just When You Think It Doesn't Make A Damn Bit of Difference...

This blog is being read at a great rate...20,382 page views to date.  Yes, I know some will ask for proof that this number is not the result of psychotic Voltaire viewing the post 24/7...I can only assure you that I am far too busy watching back episodes of Doc Martin to do that.  In addition to the staggering number of reads, the comments left on the blog spot are, at once, informative and compelling.  Taken together, the popularity of this site and the spot on, expositive contributions by the readers, we have achieved much more than intellectual 'gum chewing.'
And the media is responding.  The letters, emails, and phone calls have, if nothing else, turned the focus of both local and national publications' to this blog.  As a result, those who value free speech, specifically concerning our schools, our students, our children, will have some of their views entered into the realm of public discourse.
It is all to easy to feel like a voice in the wind when faced with intimidation, ignorance and inaction.  But, if we can believe the various media outlets who have contacted and interviewed Voltaire, our voices are about to be heard.  So don't despair...don't stop talking, texting and emailing and mailing.  Continue to reach out and educate Alexandrians.
Stay tuned...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Please send this one can do so anonymously.

Above you'll find the email of School Board Chairperson, Yvonne Folkerts.  A friend that she and I have in common says that she sincerely believes that most teachers are in favor of the two day early beginning, the thirty minute daily extension and the myriad of programs that Sherman has foisted upon us.  She (my friend) tells me that she is open to being convinced otherwise, but that to date no one has expressed any dissatisfaction with the state of our schools.

So, here's your chance!  Send her an email, anonymous or not...let her know how you feel.  Be respectful and articulate, be passionate and clear.  Put a copy of your email here, on ACPS Underground.

I'll let you know in a day or two if my friend sees a shift in Yvonne's position, as a result.

Who knows?

"One great use of words is to hide our thoughts." 

Friday, February 11, 2011

What now?

It would be folly to try to characterize teachers as having a particular makeup, to claim that educators embody a fairly regular and repeated  personality type.  But I think that most of us would agree, the teaching profession neither attracts nor produces a large number of revolutionaries, radicals, or even confrontational figures.  Rather, our faculties, generally speaking, are made up of caring, nurturing, compassionate, even-tempered types.  These are the character traits that serve us well in the classroom, but not so well in the boardroom (school boardroom, that is).
No, when it comes organizing, questioning authority and holding to account those who govern, teachers are slow to mobilize and reluctant to express themselves.  Factor in the current climate, featuring a down economy, an administrative culture that turns a deaf ear to teachers needs and ideas and a superintendent who has serious personal and professional shortcomings when it comes to morale building and inspiring, and it's easy to see why ACPS teachers are as passive as sheep.
The notion of using the EAA to represent our views seems, at first blush, to be a good one.  But an EAA that has gone from bold and innovative to blah and impotent in just a few short years, is not the answer.  Teachers fear for their jobs and any forum that embodies language and positions that smack of outrage or even mild disagreement will only serve to ensure that our colleagues will run for the cover of anonymity.  Who, among us, is brave enough to tell the False Emperor Sherman that he has no clothes?  
Appearing later this weekend on this blogsite is a proposed solution to the "Timid Teacher in a Tempest" dilemma that we now face.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Come out tonight!!!

It is your one chance to be heard, or at least seen!  Wear black to the board meeting tonight!  Speak up! Bring signs!  Ask questions!  Show up!  May the force be with you!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How d'ya like them apples?

This just in...
From Michael Pope, Connection Newspapers
In a drastic cut to Superintendent Morton Sherman’s proposed budget, Hartmann funded less than half of the requested money for capital needs. Although the School Board has yet to vote on a capital budget, the superintendent outlined a need for $372.6 million to meet the needs of growing enrollment by taking on five major new projects. Yet Hartmann included only $158.1 million in his proposal, setting the stage for a confrontation between the city government and the school system.

"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible."
— Voltaire

So for those of you who thought that one's credibility, or lack thereof, borne of sweetheart deals with consultants and spinmeisters had no bearing on our schools and students, think again.  There are real consequences to one's actions.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Thursday Night...

Parents, teachers, supporters,

At 7:30, this Thursday evening, the school board will meet to address the very issues (some of them, anyway) that this blog was designed to entertain and consider.  So many of you have written both passionately and sensibly about unreasonable, untested, unwanted and unrealistic initiatives that are being and will be imposed on teachers in our school system.  The nature of the programs and logic behind the changes being proposed falls far short of what we, as educators expect.  Meanwhile the number of these half-baked, hair brained schemes multiplies.  We, and our students, deserve better.  Your voice and your presence will make a difference.  Despite our generally passive and acquiescing nature, we teachers are not in any danger of recrimination when we speak out.  You cannot lose your job for being active in this effort.  

So...over the next 24 hours, submit questions that you would like the board and Sherman to address.  Sign up to speak at the board meeting, or get a friend/colleague to do it for you.  Write a letter/email to each of the school board members and the members of the city council.  A concerted effort, now, can restore sanity to our schools.  Inaction and capitulation will ensure more of the same insanity!

Speaking at Board Meetings

Any citizen may address the Board at any regular meeting during the designated period called "Communications and Addresses to the Board." Persons wishing to appear before the School Board are requested to contact the Clerk for placement on the agenda. A reasonable period of time, as determined by the School Board, will be allocated at each regular meeting for citizens to present matters of concern. Individuals will have three minutes and organizations will have five minutes.
Rosemary A. Webb
Clerk of the Board
Tel: 703-824-6614
Fax: 703-824-6611

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sherman and Peabody...the cartoon!

The Time is Now!

Everyone who saw the extra thirty minutes without pay as a done deal (and there were quite a few of you), you must be feeling pretty prescient right about now. has an extensive piece, making the point that Sherman will be exacting revenge for those of us who thought we lived in a democracy and expressed outrage that an extra half hour of crappy initiatives would be mandated for the coming year.
Now Sherman has admitted as much.  As Doc Martin once said, "The unctuous platitiudinizing eunuch" has spoken.  There is a poll on the website.  Not sure what good that'll do.

Better to plan on attending Thursday's School Board meeting (more on that tomorrow), think about working to the rule, and continuing to contact every news media outlet and elected official you can!


"I should like to know which is worse: to be ravished a hundred times by pirates, and have a buttock cut off, and run the gauntlet of the Bulgarians, and be flogged and hanged in an auto-da-fe, and be dissected, and have to row in a galley -- in short, to undergo all the miseries we have each of us suffered -- or simply to sit here and do nothing?' 
That is a hard question,' said Candide." 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Be Careful, Be Very Careful!

"The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe." 

Anyone interested in reading an appellate decision concerning contracts signed by Dr. Sherman during his tenure as superintendent of the South Orangetown Central School District can find the opinion here (
The appeal, it should be noted was dismissed.  However, it was dismissed because, in part it lacked merit, was time barred, or not filed before the statutory period for filing had passed.  The trier of fact was forced to dismiss the claim, but still made clear his sentiments on the matter.  What is interesting is the language used by Commissioner Mills in his ruling.  In pertinent part, it reads:

There is no dispute that Dr. Sherman asked the district's attorney to incorporate the Foundation, and that Dr. Sherman and respondent Barbara Scheulen were members of the Foundation's initial board of directors. 

Although I am constrained to dismiss the Cimple contract claim as untimely, I am deeply disturbed that a contract in excess of one-half million dollars was signed without review by the district's attorney and apparently without formal authorization by the board, that the district contracted to pay a pre-performance installment of $195,000, approximately 35% of the entire contract, with no justification for such advance payment provided in the record, and that such fiscal practices were justified by the board on the basis of a purported need to put these services in place as soon as possible.
Although respondents assert that Dr. Sherman was authorized to "sign" the contract on the board's behalf, respondents provide no evidence of such authority or the means by which such authority was delegated to Dr. Sherman.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Facts, Voltaire, Just the Facts....

"Dare to think for yourself." 
As you read just some of the allegations made against the ACPS Superintendent's Office, and the evidence, think for yourselves, ask yourselves, "What do I believe?"

ALLEGATION: Longer Days. A longer day (thirty minutes, in fact) was implemented last year for a major portion of the school year (as a result of Snowmageddon)  and almost every school in the system still failed to make “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP).  

EVIDENCE:  The school division as a whole did not make AYP, again.  How about it, teachers...did your school make AYP?  Please comment.

ALLEGATION: Failed Standards. This is the second year that the school system has failed to meet its “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) as mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. 

EVIDENCE: The school division as a whole did not make AYP.  Did your school make AYP?

ALLEGATION: Data Manipulated. The two middle schools were split into five ‘schools' in order to ensure that the population in the subgroups will not be large enough to be included in AYP data.

EVIDENCE: The middle schools were divided into five schools.  It will have the effect alleged.  ACPS denies this was the rationale for the change.  What do you think?  Why the change in structure?

ALLEGATION: Costly Initiatives - Failed. Here are some of the initiatives put into place by the Superintendent since coming to ACPS: Columbia Teachers College Writer Project, Skillful Teacher program, Skillful Leader program, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, International Baccalaureate Program, Habits of the Mind, Mind Up Individualized Achievement Plan, Open AP Enrollment, Increased Algebra I Enrollment..
What do all of the above initiatives and many other initiatives within ACPS have in common? Not a single one of them has been repeatedly and continually assessed to determine their effectiveness on student achievement in Alexandria. So naturally, in the course of gathering good scientific data, Alexandria’s Superintendent wants to add yet another variable into the equation of public school student achievement. Acknowledging that “time is a variable,” the Superintendent wants to increase the school year and day before first assessing the effectiveness of the initiatives already in place in ACPS. This notion is one that even the youngest of Alexandria’s public school students would immediately recognize as foolish and scientifically flawed. There has to be at least a few controls to the Superintendent’s experiment. Time should be one of those controls. The school day should not increase nor should the length of the school year increase until the already implemented initiatives can be evaluated. Why the rush to make dramatic changes to the school schedule which will impact the amount and quality of family time, local business staffing and revenue, teacher compensation and workload, facility maintenance and operating costs, transportation and scheduling logistics, specialized services to students, extracurricular activities, school athletics, tutoring, sports camps, vacations, childcare, and many other important community concerns ignored by the Superintendent?

EVIDENCE: This is a partial list representing some of the initiatives that have been put in place.  We have seen little research  demonstrating their efficacy in ACPS.  To date, the teachers (affiliated with our blog site)  being asked to implement these initiatives have seen no routine method for assessing the effectiveness

ALLEGATION: Insufficient Data. Lacking was a draft calendar of the proposed 2011-2012 school year so parents, students, and teachers could plan accordingly. Lacking was a clear timeline outlining the increase in school days and hours from one academic year to the next (the community was led to believe the plan just called for two additional days and 30 extra minutes to be added). Lacking was an economic impact analysis showing how the increased time proposals would affect local businesses reliant on high school student employees. Lacking was a clear plan outlining how the extra time would be utilized within the schools. Lacking was a fiscal impact analysis of how the increase in hours and days would affect Alexandria’s cash-strapped budget. Lacking was information about how the increase in time would impact students’ intellectual, cognitive, neural, social, or moral development. Lacking was a legal analysis of the impact to federally mandated IEP services. Lacking was information as to the impact of the longer school days on Alexandria’s special education students (Alexandria has over 1,660 special education students). Lacking was a means of assessing the effectiveness of the proposals. Lacking was survey data from parents, students, and teachers (the community was led to believe that teachers were in favor of the added time). Lacking was research from a multitude of sources supporting either the lengthening of the school year proposal or the addition of 30 minutes to the school day proposal. Thursday night’s debacle was just another notch in the Backpedaling Superintendent’s belt of poor planning, haphazard implementation, and utter lack of collaboration. Over the past two and a half years Alexandria has watched the Superintendent backpedal or attempt to explain hastily laid out initiatives such as: T.C. Leadership New Middle School Model Jefferson Houston Public-Private Endeavor Math and Literacy Coaching Models Early Childhood Program Extended School Day Extended School Year.

EVIDENCE: Unlike years, and administrations past, there was no draft calendar presented.  No economic impact analysis nor outline of the nature described was/has been provided. Lacking was any legal study..ok, point well-taken.  Everything, as mentioned in this allegation as lacking was, in fact, lacking.