Sweet Home Alabama

Didn't quoting numbers get a certain losing presidential candidate into hot water a few times?

The scathing report by Novato Unified School District staff presented Tuesday night criticized North Bay Educational Foundation’s charter petition on several points. Novato Patch Editor Brent Ainsworth has a story that reports that out here.

During both the presentation and subsequent questions and comments by trustees, I was struck by criticism leveled at the expectation that 75 percent of charter students would score at proficient or above. Having paid attention to test scores far too much over the years, I couldn’t see what the complaint would be.

NBEF Board Member Robert Verhoeff spoke at the conclusion of the presentation and trustee discussion to take staff and, in particular, Trustee Derek Knell to task for criticism of that goal. Knell made a comment along the lines of, “Where are we? Alabama? Who wants just 75 percent proficient?”

Verhoeff pointed out in his comment where NUSD falls below that number. And that's true for many of the scores for the district as a whole.

Before Verhoeff even began speaking, I already knew the numbers and was showing those around me. Why, there are links posted and tables posted right on the district’s website. Fancy that! Last spring's scores show the district ranging from a low of 64 percent proficient or above (in sixth grade) to a high of 80 percent (fourth grade) for English-language arts. For math, NUSD ranges from a low of 50 percent proficient or above (in eighth grade) to a high of 78 percent (in fourth grade). (You can see the summary data on the state's site here.)

If you’re like me, the first thing you did when you got home last night from the meeting was — on a lark and because you were pretty sure you knew what you’d learn — find out what Alabama’s numbers look like. You can see on the PDF I uploaded that, according to Alabama’s State Department of Education, 87 percent of third graders and 77 percent of eighth graders meet or exceed the standards in reading. For math, it’s as many as 89 percent (in fifth grade) and as low as 71 percent (in seventh grade) meeting or exceeding the standards.

All of which brings to mind a paraphrasing of a line from an amazing rock ballad.

Well, I heard Mr. Knell sing about her.

Well, I heard ol’ Knell put her down.

Well, I hope Derek Knell will remember ...

a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow.”

There were lots of other reasons the staff issued its scathing report of the charter, but the number 75 percent shouldn’t be referenced again. You know, glass houses and all, y'all.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

LoveNovato December 12, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Out of curiosity, I went on the website for the STAR test scores, and plugged in EL in NUSD. It was broken down into even smaller groups, but I went with reclassified, meaning they had been deemed proficient at some point and we no longer EL--right? While elementary school goes ok, look what happens to these kids in middle and high school, and the percentages of below proficient and basic by 11th grade. I understand that people are against the charter, but all of this talk about how the schools are doing so great...when you delve a little further, doing great for whom?! Fingers pointed at the charter people, saying they aren't looking out for EL, but is NUSD?! http://star.cde.ca.gov/star2012/ViewReport.aspx?ps=true&lstTestYear=2012&lstTestType=C&lstCounty=21&lstDistrict=65417-000&lstSchool=&lstGroup=4&lstSubGroup=8
Tammy R December 12, 2012 at 07:19 PM
this article makes no sense. If Knell knew the scores of AL were better , which I doubt, why would he mention it. And since he wouldnt know their scores, I highly doubt he would "roll the dice" and hope their scores were worse than CA. I think he was just phrasing it as an example of "is 75% the standard elswewhere?". He wasn't trying to "one up" the State of AL, he was trying to determine why 75% profficiency was a standard that the charter people were using.
Amy Oclassen December 13, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Tammy, I think you missed the point...Trustee Knell questioned the proficiency objectives of the charter petition (which were deliberately kept conservative, in anticipation of a diverse student body) while apparently being unaware that those goals exceed current NUSD proficiency statistics.
Betty Pancakes December 13, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Far be it from me to be a voice of reason .... But might I suggest that instead of writing this article ... and now watching a thread of discussion ensue ... might somebody simply ask Knell what he meant? And/or ask Verhoeff why he's aiming for a 75% proficiency rate?
Patty Maher December 13, 2012 at 01:18 AM
Betty, thanks for keeping the humor alive.
Betty Pancakes December 13, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Hey, I'm good for SOMETHIN' ... right?! Like that lovable aunt that gives you ugly sweaters for Christmas ... but you know she means well (I've got several of those ... crazy aunts, not ugly sweaters). And in the interest of making this post relevant ... LEST me be gettin' my hiney booted from this thread ... HAS anybody asked Knell about the Alabama reference? And ARE Alabama standards comparable to California's (like is it a national standard or are Alabama test scores irrelevant because they have a different bar than California?). My head is starting to hurt from all of this reasonable-ness. xoxo, BP
Patty Maher December 13, 2012 at 01:32 AM
You've seen my sweaters, right? And you just assume my aunt from Alabama bought them and sent them to me. You're wrong, ma'am (or sir), I buy all my own clothes. No, I didn't ask Knell what he meant. I made the leap that when he said what he said that he meant Alabama would be less, er, discriminating than Novato. My post was totally whimsical and I picked on the 'bama reference because I was amused. And a tune kept going through my head. But the overall point is picking at 75% when NUSD can't meet that threshold is ridiculous. And xoxoxoxo right back at ya, honey. Now, no more posting on this thread tonight because me and the young'uns are off to see Lion King.
Amy Oclassen December 13, 2012 at 02:15 AM
Jealous, Patty! Have fun...:-) It was, in my opinion, a rather offensive jab at the south to make the statement he made. But, I would not be running to research what Alabama might be "doing right" because it is true that every state devises its own tests and standards (while then being held to a national standard of "proficiency" with regard to NCLB). All states are not created equal. Ain't Government fun!
Tina McMillan December 13, 2012 at 05:00 AM
Knell was on a roll. His comments ranged from derisive to inane. He didn't realize that NUSD provides Spec Ed services to NCS or that it is typical to have a district act as LEA for a charter. For all intensive purposes he didn't bother to read the charter proposal or the manual to assess charters created by the California School Board Association. Knell's aggressive tone and his attempts at ridicule were the icing on the cake. While the other board members were more respectful in their comments, Knell seemed the most put out by the charter petition. When comparing Novato education goals to Alabama's Knell didn't realize that California falls below Alabama and just above Louisiana and Mississippi in Rand's 2009 rankings. Patty, you hit the nail on the head whether you intended it or not, Knell has no place insulting Alabama when NUSD has much to do for its minority, poor and English as a second language students. The API spread between White students and ELL students is 195 points. Though our overall API is at 839 that is only because Asian students test in at 927 and White students test in at 921 compensating for API's for Hispanics at 751, Blacks at 724 and Disabled students at 658. If we want to bridge the achievement gap then we have our work cut out for us. Perhaps Knell should read about Core Knowledge... http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2004/RAND_MG186.sum.pdf
Betty Pancakes December 13, 2012 at 08:26 PM
@Patty, I'm sure your sweaters aren't THAT ugly. Besides, it's what's on the inside that counts. AND, Ugly Sweater Parties are all the rage these days. So, either way, I've got your back. @EveryoneElseInTheWorld, I'm not a big fan of humor at the expense of southerners or back country woodsmen, but we could (and should) squash this whole debate by asking Le Source (i.e. Senor Knell) what he meant by the Alamaba Slamma. @YouKnowWho, I often find you accusing SONS of stoking the flames, making negative comments, hurling mean-spirited comments, etc, etc, so I would encourage you to evaluate such comments as: "aggressive tone and his attempts at ridicule" "Knell was on a roll. His comments ranged from derisive to inane" "he didn't bother to read the charter proposal or the manual to assess charters created by the California School Board Association" (how do you know that?) You clearly have no desire to be BFFs with Knell, and that's fine. But he's entitled to his opinion and you certainly do nothing to improve the tenor of the debate (yes, BP is capable of using real, big girl words like tenor) with such comments. If the crux of your argument is that "choice is good," well then ... he's entitled to choice as well. You may not like his choice, but he's entitled to choose against the charter. Hugs and kisses 'til the end of time, BP
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) December 13, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Verhoeff made it clear in his public comment time that the 75 percent figure was a minimum target, not a maximum.
Tina McMillan December 13, 2012 at 08:50 PM
All you have to do is watch the tape to see the attitude displayed by Mr. Knell as well as his ignorance of simple subject matter such as LEA's and SELPA funding. The CSBA manual on charters provides up do date explanations about the process of reviewing charter petitions. It is the California School Board Association's resource. Mr. Knell appeared to know very little about charter schools and since we have one whose MOU was just approved through 2016, I would think he would be more educated in this area. Anyone that was at the meeting could clearly see Mr. Knell's intentions when he made the Alabama comment. The other board members were far more respectful in their questions and comments. The district staff made clear their opinion of the charter proposal. The process eliminates any possibility of questions being answered and so the district staff assumptions are the basis for their report. At this point the charter goes to the county and state. I don't know if their process includes a dialogue with the founders to elucidate on questions specific to the curriculum but I am aware of schools in California using the same curriculum with a population of learners like Novato's, and with better scores for ELL and ED students. Mr. Knell also seemed ignorant of the struggles in this area. As Patty so clearly points out you just have to go to the district website to read the data. Perhaps Mr. Knell has lost interest in learning how the district actually functions.
Betty Pancakes December 13, 2012 at 09:27 PM
If I was Mr. Knell, I would not take kindly to your comments. They are mean and unnecessary. And based on whopping (like king salmon sized) assumptions. When you say things like "ignorance of simple subject matter" you appear to be ridiculing him. Are we all supposed to be experts in every speck of the earth? Sure as the day is long, I ain't.
Amy Oclassen December 13, 2012 at 09:42 PM
I don't think it's too much to expect of a Trustee to be aware of his district's proficiency rates.
Tina McMillan December 13, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Betty For all I know you are Mr. Knell. And no, it is not too much to expect a school board member to be responsible for the information that allows them to make educated decisions about the district. His homework was to know the board's responsibility in assessing the petition so that his role in confirming or denying would be more than purely symbolic. If community members can be up to date on district stats and the charter process then it is not too much to expect the same of our school board members. Here is the link. The PDF is the CSBA Manual for Charter Governance. http://www.csba.org/
D Rex December 14, 2012 at 03:59 PM
(maybe Tina is Amy, or maybe Amy is Tina?) oh, bother, some are so blinded by anger they are attacking a board member and refuse to see real issues. Is there any concern that a founding teacher of this charter school (Kevin McDonald) gave $200 to the presidential campaign of Tom Tancredo. The 2006 Colorado politicians campaing was based on deporting students, building a wall with Mexico, making english the "official language" of USA and lots of other pretty little proposals. Maybe these ladies should criticize Knell for paying teachers too much, appparently they have disposable income to support some real "wonderful" causes like Tancredo. p.s.(regardless of you stance on immigration) go ahead, try to defend 'ol Tommys actions and comments, I double dog dare you!
Tina McMillan December 14, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Since Amy and I post under our real names it is a stretch to say we are the same person. Mr. MacDonald is an incredible teacher. Over the years the comments about his class reflect the work of a man who cares a great deal about education and the children he teaches. Mr. Knell's behavior is what I found offensive, not his beliefs. Board members have a code of ethics that includes promoting a constructive dialogue about controversial issues. A 10 minute presentation is not a dialogue and leaves no room for discussion. The district got exactly what they wanted. They chose not to give the NBEF board time to present their curriculum. This eliminated the possibility of clarity about the approach. What they would have learned about this program is its existence in CA schools and schools throughout the country and its efficacy with ED, ELL and LD students. I doubt Amy is blinded by anger. I on the other hand sat through the presentation where there was absolutely no acknowledgement of the success of the CK program and the need that exists in our district to find a curriculum that benefits all learners. So my words have been without any empathy for board member Knell whose rude behavior made the entire process that much more of a farce.
D Rex December 14, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Tina or Amy or for all we know you could be Rob Verhof or MJ Lonson....you do seem to be pretty involved here. That would make sense if you had a vested interest, right?. Venting anger since so much time was spent on the flawed plan. Its never easy to ge panned. Oh well, while we are asking questions of people, why not as Kevin MCDonald why he gave $200 to a politician in Colorado. Kevin was a Novato resident when he made the donation, seems odd, especially given the issues. Amazing stuff I have found.... Tancredo pushed for a three-year moratorium on all legal immigration to allow those immigrants already in the country to be assimilated. Tancredo called for the deportation of the family of Jesus Apodaca, an undocumented immigrant child in a Denver high school.Tancredo criticized the Denver Public Library system for purchasing reading materials written in Spanish and for offering space for classes to be held for these library users, on the grounds that putting Spanish-speakers in a 'linguistic ghetto' would delay their integration into American society. I wonder if NBEF has a code of ethics regarding this stuff?
D Rex December 14, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Tancredo sponsored legislation to eliminate H-1B visas for temporary workers in 2005.Tancredo was the sponsor of a successful, bi-partisan amendment to a Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill that would withhold federal emergency services funds from 'sanctuary cities. sendning this guy money, on a teachers salary (or any salary for that matter)....seems, oh, fishy?
John B December 14, 2012 at 11:47 PM
I'd love to watch the tape back, Tina, to hear Knell's comments again. But, "oops" the district didn't record it. Honest mistake probably. No reason not to want all this great fodder on tape, right?
John B December 15, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Who's calling who a what? The lady doth protest too much, methinks. (anyone "Culturally Literate" would immediately understand this reference...) I gave money to the ACLU last year to help overturn DOMA and fight Prop 8. I must be gay. (shhh, don't tell my spouse about all that bathroom toe tapping I've been up to) Core Knowledge and this charter school has a real shot at helping ELL families if only they could get a fair shake at their outreach plan (which is supposed to happen AFTER authorization which is looking a tad unlikely for Tuesday, I'd say). Let's keep doing what we are doing and accept that 2/3rd of our disadvantaged kids are below proficient for Language Arts. A 71% or 75% proficient rate would be a dream come true for these families. If not the charter, what tricks does NUSD have up its sleeve? What is going to happen at Lynwood as we go another year in PI status. Waiting for a parent to pull the trigger law (like in LA) or are we just Waiting for Superman.


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