Some of you may have received an e-mail from the Super who is reacting to the release of the Common Core test results. As usual, the messaging is notable not for what was written, but for what was ignored.
As I’ve mentioned, you can tell the delivery of bad news or when the district is attempting to hide something by the length of the message: The longer the message, the worse the news or the bigger the issue they wish to hide. The Super’s message is about 700 words, which is roughly 1.5 pages of single-spaced, 12 point Times font in a word document. That’s a lot of explaining.
These documents are also notable not for what they convey, but for what they do not.
The Super starts by writing, “The first year’s results of the new statewide testing system are in and we are encouraged. We also recognize that there’s a great deal more to be done.”
“Encouraged?” That’s it? That’s the best they can say? After all of the prep and training and the touting of their “customized” Common Core curriculum that was implied to be an improvement over the common Common Core curriculum that everyone else is using, the results are “encouraging?” What happened to all the fluffy descriptions we hear at board meetings, you know: “Amazing!” “Exciting!” and “Fabulous!”…
I’ll tell you what happened to them and what the district and board are not telling you. They can’t use them because they don’t apply. Common Core failed, or certainly failed in Costa Mesa. As I wrote yesterday, half of the schools on the state’s list of 34 tested schools in the district failed to meet state standards in at least one of the two subjects. That’s half the schools. And 13 schools failed to meet standards in both. That, readers, is a dismal failure or, again, a dismal failure in Costa Mesa.
Most of the Newport Schools did well and the Newport stats are being used to dilute the overall failure of the program. That’s why you read or will read terms such as “district-wide,” or “collectively” or “overall,” because anyone who takes two minutes to review the data can spot failure. And it’s almost all in Costa Mesa.
The Super’s attempt at mollifying critics is in the second sentence, where he writes, “We also recognize that there’s a great deal more to be done.” Gee, ya’ think? That’s a euphemism for “Costa Mesa needs work.” What’s missing here is what is usually missing from the administration, which is a strategic plan to do something about a big problem. OK, so more needs to be done. We know that. What we don’t know and what the Super has a responsibility to tell us is exactly what he plans to do to improve the Costa Mesa scores.
But he can’t do that because he doesn’t have a clue.
In a crisis like this, a real leader would have spelled out even preliminary plans to do something about Costa Mesa’s failures. He or she would have told you that “an executive committee is meeting today to develop a specific action plan to ensure that all students in Costa Mesa meet the state requirements and receive and education that will help them succeed in the global economy, blah, blah, blah.” Something like that.
That’s what leaders do. They meet challenges head on and try to fix whatever problem has occurred. They admit failure and offer concrete plans to fix things. They are transparent in their communication and, most important – really, really, most important – they accept full responsibility for failure. Without this, there is no credibility.
Instead you get spin like this: “At every grade level, the percentage of elementary students who met or exceeded standards in ELA and math surpassed those percentages at the county and state level. When factoring in the percentage of students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, English language learners, and foster youth in our schools, we are also the most diverse and highest performing school district in Orange County.”
That paragraph is a pathetic, desperate attempt to excuse failure by telling you that the district had one foot nailed to the floor by these darn “socioeconomically disadvantaged, English language learners, and foster youth in our schools.” This messaging is inexcusable. These kids have been part of our district for decades and if the current administration can’t crack the code to teaching them successfully, they should step aside and let someone else try.
Why should Patrice Apodaca and Steve Smith be the ones offering solutions? Apodaca wants later start times, and I want stand-up desks, both of which are PROVEN to improve academic performance. Why don’t these ideas come from any of the highly-paid people on Bear St. Why? Because as I wrote recently, the DNA of the administration doesn’t allow for anyone to be innovative or entrepreneurial-minded, that’s why. So instead, taxpayers pay millions of dollars to a handful of people who are too scared to stick their necks out, even though it may be in the best interests of students in need.
We don’t need any more cheerleaders – we’ve got seven of those sitting on the dais twice a month.
What we need is a wartime consigliere: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4f7ln_al3qo
I would continue with a breakdown of this sad, sorry message, but frankly, it’s too painful.
So, what happens next? What happens next is what always happens in a time of crisis in the district: Nothing. Trustees Davenport and Snell, who represent the areas of Costa Mesa that need some serious attention and who should be pounding their shoe on the dais demanding it, will say nothing. Worse, they may even try to tell parents that they are pleased with the scores.
Saying, “I failed” or “I’m sorry” are not signs of weakness, they are signs of strength. They also happen to be some of the most effective ways of silencing critics.