Failure Factories: When Education Policies Desert Our Children panel

>>Lynette Clemetson:
Thank you for coming. My name is Lynette Clemetson. And I’m the Director
of Wallace House, here at the University
of Michigan. Wallace House is a program for journalists here
at the university. We run two programs. We have the Knight-Wallace
Fellowship for journalists. That is an academic
year-long fellowship. We bring roughly 20
fellows journalist a year, mid-career journalist here
to the university for a year of immersive study and research,
and fellowship with one another, working on areas of
journalism that they as individuals are
specializing in. We have Knight-Wallace
fellows in the room, if you could all just stand
so people know who you are. [ Applause ] And our fellows every year
come from around the world. And so, we always
enjoy a wonderful mix. Some of them may have moved
in and out of your classes and they move around campus because they are taking
courses here at the university. And oftentimes, we find that people are unaware
of our program. And so, I want to
be very deliberate about saying we are
Wallace House. And in fact, from here we
are just down the street. We are downhill, pass the
rock, make a left on Oxford and we sit right on Oxford road in a beautiful house
called Wallace House, hence the name of our program. The other program
that we administer from Wallace House is the
reason we are here today. It is the Livingston
Awards for your journalists. It is an annual awards program
that recognizes excellence in journalists under 35. And despite what suggestions
to the contrary might be, there’s an enormous amount of really excellent
journalism being done in the United States right now. And it is not just by
seasoned journalist, the young journalist
working around the country at news papers, at websites
at broadcast, local stations, at national stations,
at networks, people are doing
incredible work, focusing on accountability,
story telling, spotting trends and society and starting
conversations and we at Wallace House, one of– part of our mission is
elevating the work of journalist to spoke– sparks of like
engagement and conversation that extends beyond
someone’s engagement, with an individual story. So we brought here today
winners of our local prize for local journalism from
the Livingston’s last year. And you’ll meet them
in a moment, but we want to bring Livingston
Award winning conversations to this campus every year, and so you’ll be
hearing more about it. We do a range of
events around campus, and I’d like to invite you
all to one we have coming up later in the month. The topic I think
is as interesting as the one we’ll have, a
conversation about today. It is called “Leaks,
Whistleblowers and Big Data: Collaborative Journalism
Across Borders.” The event’s going to be held
on February 20th at 3:00 p.m. in Rackham Amphitheater and we
hope to see some of you there as well and to increase
your engagement with our programs
at Wallace House. I’d also like to thank our
co-sponsors for this event. One of the things that we prize
and what makes it so special for us to have this home for
journalism at the University of Michigan is our ability
to collaborate with schools, and departments, and units
across the university to bring different
departments together because it sparks more
interesting conversations. And so, I would like to thank
our co-sponsors for this event, Gerald R. Ford School
of Public Policy, the Education Policy Initiative
and the School of Education. And I’m going to turn things
over to our moderator who comes from the Education
Policy Initiative here. Brian Jacob has agreed to
moderate the conversation with this group of journalist
and policy experts here today. He is the Walter H. Annenberg
Professor of Education Policy. He is a Professor of Economics, Co-Director of the
Education Policy Initiative and Youth Policy
Lab, and Director of the Ford School’s
Doctoral Program. He leads ongoing research
collaborations with policymakers and practitioners including
the state of Michigan, Department of Education,
the DC public schools and the Miami-Dade
Public Schools. We thought he was the perfect
person to jump in the weeds and make this conversation
lively for you. Those of you who are
coming in, please come in. I think we have some
seats scattered through the middle here. There’s a few down here.>>OK. And with that I’ll turn
it over to Brian Jacob. Thank you all for coming. [ Applause ]>>Brian Jacob: Good afternoon. Thank you, Lynette. It’s my pleasure to serve
as moderator for this panel. And I would also like to thank
the various co-sponsoring organizations and also some
of our distinguished guests. We have Martha Darling,
who is a long time friend of the Ford School who was
able to join us here today. And so today, we’re
going to hear a story about how local education
policies can dramatically affect school climate, student
experiences in academic outcomes, and
the role that the community, local school board
administrators, teachers, parents and the press can
play in making positive or not so positive changes in policy. We are pleased to
welcome our guest from the camp Tampa Bay Times, who authored the
Failure Factories series. It’s won multiple awards
including the Livingston Award now. I’m going to introduce
our speakers shortly. The format will be each of
the panelists will, you know, speak for five or 10 minutes,
and then we’ll open up the floor to kind of audience questions
and have the discussion. So, to facilitate the
questions, we’re asking you to please write your questions
on note cards that will be– were available when you came in. And I think there
will be folks to pass out more if we need some. Is that right, Julie,
we have people out here passing out things. You can either write your
questions on note cards or post them via Twitter
using the #WallaceHouse. We’ll have some of the
Knight-Wallace fellows. We’ll collect and
collate the questions and ask them to our panelists. And I’ll sort of– kind of to
moderate the Q&A at that point. So with us here today, we–
starting at my left here, we have Michael LaForgia. He is in investigations or
Editor at the Tampa Bay Times where he heads up a
dedicated investigations team. He has twice won the Pulitzer
Prize for Local Reporting in 2014 for exposing problems in a Hillsborough
County Homeless program, and then in 2016 for the
Failure Factory series. He joined the Times in 2012. To his left we have
Lisa Gartner, is a writer on the enterprise
team at the Tampa Bay Times where she previously covered
Pinellas County Schools in higher education. She joined the Times in 2013 and
started her journalism career on the education bid for
the Washington Examiner in the DC Metro Area, and
she attended Northwestern University’s Medill
School of Journalism. To Lisa’s left, we
have Nathaniel Lash. He’s a Data Reporter
at the Tampa Bay Times. A fellow– He was a
fellow at the Center for Investigative Reporting,
an intern at News Day, and a news applications
developer at the Wall Street Journal. Nathaniel holds a degree in
news editorial journalism from the University
of Urbana Champaign. And finally, to Nathaniel’s
left, we are pleased to have Professor Tabbye
Chavous to join us. She is a Professor of
Education and a Professor of Psychology here
at the university. She is the co-founder
and current– one of the current directors
of U of M Center for the Study of Black Youth in Context,
and currently the Director of the National Center for
Institutional Diversity. Her work is, you know, over
the years, she has touched on many kind of depressing
education policy issues that will be discussed in the
context of failure factory, so we felt to be great
to have her voice in the discussion as well. So with that, I’m going to kind
of give the lectern to Michael who will start off
our panel discussion. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Michael LaForgia:
First, I want to say that– I want to say thank you to
Wallace House for having us out and to the Ford School
for hosting this event. I know that I speak on behalf
of the whole team when I say that we are delighted
to be here, so thanks. So OK, we’re going to jump in. I don’t have a lot of
time for my section here, but what I’m going to try
to do is stir you guys through two sorts
of separate things. And that is, I want to
let you in a little bit to the reporting process,
and I also want to kind of go over briefly what it is that
we uncovered in the course of about 18 months of
reporting on these series in Pinellas County, Florida. So to begin, I’d like to show
you a chart, an interactive sort of trailer that we put
together to kick off our series. And this was done by Nathaniel, with some input from
other people. Based– So the title is “Why Pinellas County is
the worst place in Florida to be black and go
to public school”. Nathaniel is a pretty
quoter usually. OK. Here we go. Eighty-four percent of black
elementary school students in Pinellas are failing
state exams. Almost every other
country does better. Only seven of Florida’s
67 counties do worst. All are poor, rural places. Pinellas has four
times as many students as all of them combined. Pinellas was much
better off in 2007. These lines show how integrated
south county elementary schools used to be. Then, the School Board
abandoned the integration. The schools in south
Pinellas started changing. Five schools changed the most. They became a little
more segregated, and a little more segregated, until they became
extreme outliers. Today, Campbell Park,
Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose are the most
segregated school in Pinellas. As the schools became
more separate, they became less equal. Their test scores
got steadily worst. Today, they score worse than
any school in the county. They score worse than almost
any school in the state. Ten Florida elementary schools
have similar failure rates. Take away privately run
charters and there are eight. Take away schools with
children or for children with disabilities or behavior
problems, and there are six. Take away a nontraditional
early learning center and look what’s left? The five elementary schools in Pinellas County’s
black neighborhoods. Melrose is the worst-performing
school in Florida. In 2014, 160 children
there took state exams. A 154 failed reading or math. Only six passed both. Who is responsible? And that was the
question that really sort of launched in our series. Right here, we had coming
Thursday, #FailureFactories, sort of transformer style, we
wanted to engage people and sort of build a little bit of buzz
for our series ahead of time. And it worked, it was– we
got a lot of advance attention for the first part of
the story which was good. It helped impact the series. So here’s how it got started. As we said earlier, I’m
on the investigations team at the Tampa Bay Times, but this
story was really one that came out of the beat, the daily grind
where Lisa was laboring along with my wife, Cara Fitzpatrick,
who is not here with us today. Each of them had sort of been
encountering trends in their day to day beat coverage that
were raising larger questions about what was going
on with black students in Pinellas County Schools. For her part, Cara who
had covered schools in four other large
school districts in Florida by the point, or by the time
she arrived at Tampa Bay Times in 2012 was noticing that
black kids were doing worse on standardized test in Pinellas
than they were doing in any of the other school
districts that she covered, which was a little odd. It didn’t make any sense
because she had worked in places like Broward County
and Palm Beach County, which has communities
like Belle Glade and some of the most impoverished
places in the US. And she had experienced
looking at test scores in places like Duval County, which has
some of the highest rates of violence, violent
crime in Florida. There’s a neighborhood
there that is so violent, its nickname “Lil
Baghdad,” right? And those kids in those schools
were doing two and three times as well as black
kids in our schools. And we didn’t have
the same types of broad-brush suicidal problems
that these other places had. So the question of what
was going on was a big one. Simultaneously, Lisa
who had come from Washington was interested
in looking at the punishment of black children in our schools and particularly
young black kids. She requested some data
like this here that showed that young black kids in our school district were
being punished at rates that far out strip the rates that white
kids were being punished. And it seemed like they were
being punished more harshly for minor sort of hard
to define offenses. And so that was a
second question that sort of really bugged answering. At that point, we on the
investigations team sort of got involved, if you guys
have seen the movie “Spotlight” that sort of what we do, only
we don’t have dorky name. They brought us in and
we decide that, OK, this is probably two sides
of the same story and rather than treating it is a separate
issue, we should put it together and explore it as
sort of inquiry into one school districts
attitude toward their black students. And that’s how we–
that’s how we approach it from that point on. We fund out to find the answer. We brought in Nathaniel to
analyze millions of rows of data from all over the place,
all different sources. And we conducted hundreds
of interviews with children, parents, teachers,
administrators, policy experts and a bunch of others. These are some photos sort of
behind the scenes of the time when we were doing it. That’s Cara interviewing a
kid in a credit recovery class at one of our high schools. That’s the photographer on the
project, Dirk Shadd clowning around with one of the
kids he was photographing. That’s Nathaniel figuring out what he wants
to order for lunch. [ Laughter ] That’s how data guys work. That’s me, that’s
my Al Pacino face. It terrifies public
officials whenever I’m around. Oh is that a meeting with
black community leaders. It was a lot of off-hours. It was a lot of working
around the clock. This is us on a weekend
trying to tease out the answer to
a data problem. That’s Nathaniel and my
colleague and friend, Adam Playford who is
the director of data, the data editor at
our news paper, sitting at my kitchen table
with my daughter trying to work out of thorny problem,
and the irony is it looks like she is the only one who
was working at this time. [ Laughter ] There is Lisa in the midst
of an interview with a child that featured in
one of our stories about over disciplining kids. Eighteen months later you can
see I just grabbed a screen shot of the folder on my computer
where this data is stored, the data, the interviews,
the documents that we used, and it was over 26
gigabytes of information that we had pulled together. What we learned, so what we
came away with after doing all of these sort of intensive
scrutiny of this problem was that this was not an
inevitable occurrence, this wasn’t a product of
some sort of immutable truth about the world that black
kids when you concentrate them in that place or just going
to do worst at school. This wasn’t like a product
of single parent homes or low parent engagement or any
of the normal sort of excuses that are held up to explain
away problems like this. What we found was
this was, you know, completely set race
aside for second. This was a story about policymakers
making concrete decisions in the real world and deciding
where they devote their money and resources and
time and attention. And I can explain to you
a little bit how we reach that conclusion over the
next couple of slides. The first story, so the
story came out in five parts. The first one focused
on a decision by the Pinellas County
School Board to step away from a controlled
choice program of– a controlled choice system of
school zoning for boundaries, boundary attendance and toward a
system of neighborhood schools. That had the result
of making the schools that were immediately
approximate to the black neighborhoods in
St. Petersburg, majority black, and that included these
five elementary schools that we ended up focusing on. At that time the policymakers
who were debating this measure, they knew what they
were getting into. I mean that was one thing that
was very clear from the record, from the minutes that we
perused from the clips and from the recordings
that we pulled. There was no question that
this was going to be an issue that they needed to focus on if they we’re going
make this decision. And that is, what are you going
to do when you have a population of kids, forget race,
who have a higher needs, there’s higher rates of
poverty, there are higher rates of all sorts of things
that need extra counselors or behavior specialist or
resources in the classroom, and those kids previously
were distributed across 18 different schools. Now, you’re going to collapse
those down into five schools. So they’re going
to go from a place where they had 18 schools
worth of guidance counselors or behavior specialist
or resource people and suddenly boom
they’re down to five. So to get around that what the
school district promised was we are going to flood these schools
with extra money and resources. We’re going– we’re going
to hire more teacher aids, we’re going to devote what we
need to devote to make sure that there aren’t
any of these problems that you all are
predicting will happen. And that didn’t come to pass
for a variety of reasons that we can talk about. Basically what did come to pass,
less than a decade later was that 95% of the black
kids tested at these schools were
failing reading or math, making the black
neighborhoods in South St. Pete, the most concentrated site of academic failure
in all of Florida. I mean, all of the schools were
the 15 worst schools in Florida and they were concentrated
within a six square mile area. You could walk from
one to the other. Teacher turnover was a chronic
problem, leaving some kids to cycle through a dozen
teachers in a single year. In 2014 more than half of the
teachers in these schools ask for transfer out and at least
three of them walk off the job without giving any notice. As I said before this all
tied back to a decision that the school board
made in 2007. It was a recent phenomenon. By ’07 when the board ended
in aggression black students at the schools had posted games
on standardized test in three of the four previous years. None of the schools was
ranked lower than a C at that time of the decision. At the time that we publish
the story all had F ratings. After reshaping the schools, the district funded
for them erratically. Some years they got
less money per student than other schools
including those in more affluent
parts of the county. In 2009 at least 50 elementary
schools got more money per student than Campbell Park,
one of the five schools that we’re going to talk about. Other districts with
higher passing rates, we’re doing way more to
aid their black students, including creating
special offices to target minority achievement,
tracking black students progress in real time and offering big
bonuses to incentivize teachers to come and work in the schools. Pinellas was doing none of those
things when we reported this. The second part of the story
was something that came out of our outreach to sort of
the people in the community, we had done a lot of data
work that Nathaniel is going to talk about, but we
needed to supplement that with real stories
from the community. So we fund out and interview
more than a hundred– the parents and families of more than a hundred students
in these schools. One of the things– you
know, as we were doing this, as we were sort of
envisioning what types of stories we might tell, we
hadn’t really pegged violence in the schools as a
potential area of focus. But one of the things that
families kept telling us over and over again was,
well, my kid can’t learn because of the disruptions and
the violent behavior of one or two other kids in
the school, to the point where we decided we had
to take a look at it. The little girl in the picture
here is a prime example of that. Her mother told us a story. Her name Alana Crawford
[assumed spelling]. Her mom told us a story
about how she was so bullied and tormented at the
school, where she– one of these five schools
that she ended up laying down in the car pick up line
in the path of oncoming cars and telling the teacher that
she didn’t want to live anymore. When we started looking
into these reports of violent incidence, we found that in Pinellas counties most
segregated elementary schools, the five schools that
we are focused on, violence was a part
of daily life. Now, the thing that you got to
keep in mind when we’re talking about elementary schools is that these are kindergarteners
through fifth grade. We found that children at
these schools had been shoved, slapped, punched or kicked more
than 7500 times since 2010. The equivalent of eight
times a day everyday for five years straight. It was more violent incidence
that these five schools than in all of the county’s 17
high schools combined during the same period that we look at. The incidence that the
schools had more than doubled since 2010, which was
when the sort of fall out from the decision to
abandon the integration, and the school district really
started hitting terminal mass. And this was happening even as
other schools in the county, we’re seeing drops
in violent incidence. So what was causing it? We found that for years district
leaders gave the schools the same number of employees to
handle eight times the amount of violence faced at the
other elementary schools. We talked to teachers in the
schools who describe calling for help in their
classrooms only to be ignored because there is nobody
on hand to respond. The same teachers
often were overwhelmed. Many said that they didn’t
have the training and the types of techniques that they needed
to keep control of a classroom or to intervene when bad
behavior is happening. And part of that tied
back to the rampant turn over that was going
on in these schools. Let’s see here. What do have? More than half of the teachers at the schools requested
transfers out in 2014 and we also heard
several accounts of teachers being taken away
from the schools and ambulances after they had suffered attacks
from students or panic attacks from distress of
what was going on. Part three. Built on what we
learned about teachers. This is a picture of kid named
James Samson [assumed spelling], who is in the second
grade at Melrose, the worst elementary school
in Florida with his mom, and this kid was in the
rough shape when we met him. He could barely read the
back of Rice-A-Roni box. And part of the reason for that
was this sort of progression of teachers that had been in
front of him during his time at Melrose Elementary School. This is an excerpt
from the story but he– on his first day
of his second year in second grade he had a
teacher named Ms. Davis, but by the fourth day of
school he had Mr. Ware and then Ms. Flynt, Ms. Schick,
Mr. Graveley and Ms. Smith. At the end of the year basically
he had a dozen different teachers between August
2014 and June 2105. More than a quarter of his school year was
taught by substitutes. So we built on that. And we did an analysis with the
help from that and some others. That showed basically
that black kids in the county’s most segregated
schools got worst teachers than children anywhere
else in the county. The teachers in the wider
schools got more experience or were more experienced,
they more likely to stay in their jobs and more likely
to have clean employment records than the once who are in
the segregated schools. The teachers in the mostly black
schools were less experienced, more likely to quit in
the middle of the year and more likely to
have been flagged for incompetence or misconduct. The fourth part of our series
had to do with discipline, over disciplining black students
compared to white students. And it’s important to note
here that we weren’t looking at how the district handled
incidence of violence like we had reported
on in part two. In fact we exclusively
concentrated in this story on very minor sort of vague hard
to define offenses like defiance or disobedience or possession
of an electronic device, things that sort of can be
interpreted in different ways by different administrators
and teachers. And what we found was that black
kids in Pinellas are suspended at rates seen and virtually
no other large school district in Florida. It wasn’t for acts of
violence like I said not even for border line infractions but
for hard to define infractions such as not cooperating,
unauthorized location and minor class disruption. In the five years
that we looked at, black kids lost a
combined 45,942 school days to suspensions for these
and other minor offenses, white kids who outnumbered
blacks in the district, three to one lost 28,
665 days by comparison. Oops not there. So this just gives you a little
insight into sort of the process and the pressure that we were under as we were
bending toward December in the production
of this series. That’s a stack of every draft
that we had produced so far and you could see it
almost a foot tall. This is a picture of my daughter
editing our story on the day after Christmas, the final
piece ran on December 27th, and that piece was this. It was about access to
magnets and special programs. There’s a– there’s a program
that we used in Pinellas County. It’s a little bit of hold over from the way things
were done in the ’70s. It’s called a fundamental school and what it is is it was
introduced back in the ’70s, alongside magnet programs
a sort of back to basics, get tough sort of
parental engagement out premium model of schooling. And in Pinellas County
they are widely viewed as the best schools in
the district, they– parentally turned in the
best standardized test scores and they report the
lowest problems with behavior– excuse
me, et cetera. What we found is that
basically they were off limits to black kids because
of a variety of sort of structural policy decisions
that the school board had made. Probably the biggest of
which had to do with the fact that they wouldn’t provide
bussing to these schools. And not only did they
not provide bussing with the schools, but
they also moved the ones that had been close to the
black neighborhoods away from the black neighborhoods
into predominantly white places. And that was it, so
that’s my overview. We’ll turn it over to
Nathaniel to do the rest. [ Applause ]>>Nathaniel Lash: Michael
did the slides for this one, so it’s about as descriptive
as he’s going to get on on that particular case. This doesn’t pick up very far. I have to really lean into it. All right. So yeah, my name
is Nathaniel Lash. I was the data reporter. I worked on this along
with Adam Playford who is our data director. And I’m going to talk
to you a little bit about how we approach
kind of trying to get all these information
most of which isn’t stuff that the school district
was particularly interested in publicizing. Now, we turned it into the
foundation that we kind of put the series off of. So, a lot of that
was finding the proof on a few different levels. So, we wanted to
explain a few things. It showed that this was a unique
and kind of tremendous problem, and we’re drawing attention to
that because this is something that we have been
kind of covering for a long time even before the
schools became fully segregated. But we are kind of
throwing them as kind of like we’ll black
student achievement is down that sort of thing. So, those were all kind
one-offs, but we wanted to find a way to kind of capture
the full scope with the problem and how bad it had gone. So this map is in–
this map which we kind of launched the series with was
a way of showing, hey Pinellas, black student specifically are
doing worse than black students in other districts
around the state. And that was– we kind
of alluded to that, where Pinellas is
fairly affluent county. You weren’t seeing these sorts
of things in other places. So, we wanted to find
a way to kind of prove that this was a unique problem. And not just something like
well, some County is going to be the worse eventually, you
know, if you rank them all up. But we wanted to find
out how bad it was. And we kind of went about
that by kind of cutting away from what people typically used for measuring student
achievement. So, when everything is
published at the end of the day, everyone looks at reading, how–
what percentage of the students by whatever way you want
to slice and dice them. How many of them are
passing reading according to state standards. And then they look in
another bucket and that go to math’s course and that
sort of thing are like, well, how well are these
students doing in math. But there wasn’t– once
we started looking at it, we realize that hey, maybe the
thing that we need to be looking at is how many students are
coming out with a good math– with a good mastery
of reading and math. So that kind of thing we kind of
have to go to the state and say, we need you to show us how
many people are passing both of these subjects. When we look at that it was kind
of terrifying, what we ended up seeing, we saw things
like this where a lot of schools maybe up
to three quarters of the kids were passing
both reading and math. And this is the class from Melrose was this
just the third grade class or I don’t remember. This was a third grade class
at Melrose Elementary School where literally only six people
were actually being taught both reading and math. Let’s get one. So, when we look at
something like this, we were seeing every
school in the state and we’re seeing how far
away our schools are not just in the County but everywhere
else in the entire state, by looking at this
particular thing. And this was something that school district
never publish before, no one in the state had ever
published before and something that took hours and hours
probably actually weeks and ended up costing
about $500 for the state to actually produce
this kind of report. So, this is the kind of approach
that we kind of take in trying to find what’s the best way to
actually highlight the problem to show how unique
this problem is. As you saw in the chart
that we started out with, the other schools that
are performing below 10% of the students actually
passing are kind of marked by charter schools,
children with disabilities and those were going against
the students that we had and just our normal
prerogative– our normal just neighborhood
schools in south Saint Petersburg. So, once we kind of got
there, we went after the idea that a lot of these could
have been explained away by the poverty and as Michael
kind of talked about we have to look into the
neighborhood and see if there is something unique. We go over rims of census data. We go over– all these things
that kind of point to– this is a community that has
some long standing problems of poverty, but are kind of
pale in comparison to things that you’d see in like
Belle Glade, Florida or in places in Jacksonville. And– but the thing
that kind of made it– made us feel when we started
moving forward on the story that this wasn’t something that
could just be explained away by something that’s going on
at home, not at the school was when we found– again another
one of those little datasets that nobody really pays
too much attention to, which was the kindergarten
readiness. So, what ended up happening was
every school basically did test with their students before
they really taught how to read. And they measured
certain things– Lisa do you have a good
idea of what they kind of covered fair readiness?>>Lisa Gartner: So, you
would think that going into kindergarten it’s all like
how many blocks can they stack on top each other, but they
actually do a collect data on PhoneX, Visual
Recognition, you can– it’s not like a written
down test but there– as anyone familiar with education policy
knows you can be on track or off track entering
kindergarten. And what we found was that kids
entering Pinellas were just as ready as kids anywhere else.>>Nathaniel Lash: Yeah. Especially compared to– so
students in other communities where there were worst problems
as far as what we could tell from census and just
by ground-truth and just sending reporters out
there and that sort of thing. These students were entering
better prepared, better ready to learn in ways that you
would predict like, oh, the students are not going to be
performing as the worst cohort of students the most poorly
performing cohort is students in the state. And that was kind of what kind
of put the nail on the coffin for us as far as
we’re thinking, well, this really can’t be explained
away by something that’s unique about Pinellas County
in some other way. So those were the
things that we start off. We were looking for proof that
this is a tremendous problem. We have proof that this can’t
be explained away by a lot of the other factors that people
in the community just kind of got used to saying
like, well, everyone knows south Saint
Petersburg has always had these problems, it’s always
been this way. And if you’ve lived in Saint
Petersburg for a long time, you just kind of get used
to that as the explanation for why this was happening. When we finally came down to
trying to find ways to measure– I don’t why this
slide is in here, to measure the effects of it. So, I’m just– because were a
little bit pressed for time, I’m just going to talk about
how we got after the idea of– we talked about that
students who had, I think 12 teachers
over the course of–>>Yeah.>>Yeah, I think even just
in the first semester 12.>>Nathaniel Lash: In
the first semester, he had 12 different teachers. There’s this thing
of rampant turnover and the schools were kind of
struggling to find teachers to replace people who
quit, like those three who literally just walked
off the job without notice and that sort of thing. And to actually understand that,
you know, you go to the district and we ask them like,
hey, how often– how long the teachers stay here? How long are teachers actually
staying teaching school, because a lot of
experts were telling us like a solid teaching core
was going to be something that really gave a
school lot of stability. So we– what we kind of did was
we then again, wanted the state because we wanted to know
whether this was a unique problem to Pinellas, went
to the state and found a way to basically get where
every teacher teaching for a public school in the state
of Florida where they taught, and we got that each year
over the course of the decade. And so– yeah. So, we got the whole haystack. It was like, gosh, like three
million records all in all just of every teacher and where they
were in each of the schools. So, what we ended up doing
is we had to spend weeks kind of sticking each one
of those years was kind of a desperate year because
this wasn’t the kind of thing– the district doesn’t publish like here’s our turnover
numbers, here is– because it doesn’t reflect
on them particularly well. State doesn’t do it because
they don’t have any horse in that game. So, what we did is we looked
where every teacher came from, who taught at the school. So, this is– this
is what it looks for like Shore Acres
Elementary School. And so each one of
those little rows– this was web app that we built
to kind of explore the data. Each one of those little
blue cells is kind of a year that each of those teachers which is each row
spent at Shore Acres. So, Shore Acres was– Shore Acres is a title
one school, right? Lisa, do you remember?>>Lisa Garter: I don’t.>>No.>>Nathaniel Lash:
So, this isn’t one of the schools that
we looked at. This was not one of
the wealthiest schools in the district, but it would–>>It’s commonly white school.>>Lisa Garter: It’s
in North DC?>>Nathaniel Lash: Yeah.>>Exactly.>>Nathaniel Lash: So, it’s
a predominantly white school. And this kind of shows how
stable the teaching core is. So you have some new teachers,
some people who taught at private schools
at other places in the district for
a little while. And you kind of see like– you’ll see in a moment
what this actually means. And this is in the average
school in Pinellas County. This is Campbell Park. Where for every teacher
just in 2013 or 2014, most– the vast majority this was their
first year teaching for a lot of these– if you go
further down, I don’t have it on hand right now,
but basically, very few of these people stay
for more than a year or two. And you can kind of see every
teacher who is going there. So, that was one of the ways
that we kind of took stuff that we’re hearing from the
students, from the families, and finding ways to really
measure the full extent of those facts. But, every dataset needs to be
treated like another source, you got to vet it
and you got to see if what you see here actually
matches up with what’s going on on the ground, and with that,
I’ll turn that over to Lisa, who is the expert in this thing. [ Applause ]>>Lisa Gartner: Hello. I know we’re doing
terrible on time and I apologize,
so I will be fast. I might just flip it
through like this. Oh, fantastic. Human reporting. It would be cool if we had like
alien reporting or something, but we don’t today
for you, I apologize. So, that’s me and
those are children. Don’t miss the face of
the kid on the right. It keeps me up at night. It’s terrifying. But, so as Nat I was saying,
it was important for the story, and in all stories
but especially here to talk to “real people.” Like Nat says, it
validates the data. I don’t know if you guys
have ever heard of polls that then reflected
different outcome. Nothing comes to mind for me,
but it is important to make sure that the conclusions
you’re drawing from the data are actually
reflected out and the people that are living this reality
on the ground just because, you know, we’re sitting at
our computer seeing results. You know, we want to
make sure it resonates with the community
that we’re covering. To do that, you actually
have to go out into it and talk to people. And something that our editor
Chris Davis said yesterday is that stories gave impact when
they make you feel something. And the human storytelling
we did for failure factories went along
way I think in turning that data in these policy decisions
into realities that played out for real people, you know,
struggling to get their kids, you know, just not even
an amazing education but an adequate education. So, it also was important
because it lead us on different reporting paths,
like Michael said earlier, we hadn’t envisioned our
story on behavior problems in the schools until we talk
to kids and their parents and we’re hearing this
over and over again, that this was a huge
barrier to learning. So that’s something that had
we just relied on the data. We would not– we would not
have gotten in our stories. So, when we first started
trying to find real people, we called churches, we
talk to community leaders, we have a group called
COQEBS, Concerned Organizations for the Quality Educations
of Black Students. We talk to the urban league
and everyone had anecdotes, oh yeah I know it ton
of families like this, but it wasn’t really
panning out. And I think the reason
is we just needed to get on the ground and do that. We had to called– call
teachers when we wanted teachers for day one, and
that was maddening for anyone sitting near
me for those few days, because I have this
little script where I was leaving voicemails. I went through like hundreds
of school board agendas, every meeting for the last
few years and I scrolled through looking for any teachers
that had resigned or retired from these five schools in
the past like three years. We didn’t want anyone who
had been fired just incase, you know, it was an ax
to grind type situation. And I would call them and I
would say, “Hi, I’m Lisa Gartner from the Tampa Bay Times. I know this is so out of
the blue and I apologize. But, I was wondering if
I could ask you, about.” And I did this just
like a hundred times in a row for like 10 days. And not everyone wanted to talk. But what I think made it
successful in the cases that it was was just
thinking about the motivations of why people want to talk
to you and tell their story. This was, as Michael touched on,
an open secret in the community. Nobody, he was sending
their kids to the schools thought
everything was fine. And I think there was a
frustration and, you know, a breaking point, really, where people wanted
the story out there. And they, they wanted
it to be told. So we talked to teachers who
had recently left the schools and some of them who
were still there. And we talked on background
with teachers who were scared about getting fired over it. But, we also wanted to talk to
a lot of kids and their parents. I remember I was out of town
for one of our weekly meetings. So when I came back,
Cara was like, oh, yeah, we’re going to get
a hundred kids. So I was like, oh, great. Just like, I think,
you’re going to do it. It was like cool. So, I’ll talk about the
process a little bit by looking at some of these kids. So this is Tyree Parker. He was in kindergarten
at Maximo Elementary. I met Tyree by going to one of
the many wreck centers there in South Saint Pete and standing
outside for three hours trying to catch parents as
they came to pick up their kids from
the aftercare. And it was– I think,
this one was Sanderlin [assumed spelling]. I also went to Campbell Park
and Child’s Park and said, “Hi,” you know, the same
of kind of script, but “can I give you
a call to talk about your child’s education?” And followed up the next
day, we talked on the phone if they had a good story
and many of them did and had the same story. I mean I talked to
a ton of people and I don’t think I
ever heard anyone say, everything is going
great, you know. We could talk, but– so, yeah. So, I– that’s how I connected with his grandmother Lennis
Washington [assumed spelling]. They moved down from Georgia. As we had mentioned
earlier, they do have metrics to measure how you’re
doing in kindergarten. And we were able to
get copies of his, even his pre-K report cards that showed he had
mastered simple skills that his kindergarten
teacher was now saying he like was hopelessly deficient
and he was getting kicked and hit and threatened
and bullied. He got pushed into a
bathroom and knocked down and his pants torn, someone
destroyed his teenage mutant ninja turtle hat that
his mom had given him. I mean, we spent time
with these people and it was heartbreaking
at times. I believe that this
family, who were desperate to get another school,
but can, you know, meetings with the
superintendent, and anything you’ve heard about
uninvolved parents, please throw that out the window here. They ended up moving into like
a tiny apartment in Largo just to get into an average
school for him and he was doing much better. So, that’s Tyree again
looking a little happier. So, this is Katan Bowden
[assumed spelling]. He featured in day
one of our story. I found Katan by hanging out
at little league practices at Late Vista Park
in south Saint Pete. Kid– parents sitting on the bleachers while
their kids played. I ended up talking to a
woman who run a preschool for a few years and she
remembered Katan as a student who had been, you know, full of potential doing
really well, super bright. And by the second or third grade
at Fairmount Park Elementary, he was failing every
class but PE and Art. So she got me in
touch with his family. It took a few calls
for us to connect. I think, sometimes, as
journalists, we think, well, someone doesn’t pick up,
they don’t want to talk, but a lot of times,
these are busy people and you’re just interloping
in their lives. So, we stuck with it and
I was able to talk to her. She prays with her sons everyday
before school for their safety and for their success. They lived a block or two,
and I think, just a block from Jamerson Elementary,
an A rated magnate school, that she’s applied to
multiple times to try to get her son into
but she can’t. She keeps losing the lottery. So, instead, Katan has to walk
to Fairmount Park Elementary, one of the worst
schools in the state, where he was having a
miserable time and about to fail his first year
of standardized tests. You know, he faced being
held back, being transferred to an alternative school. And he was still on a wait
list at the time the story ran and he, he never got off it. He, he may have since in this
new school year but I know for this, for this
year he didn’t. And we spend time with
these families, you know, we walked to school with
them, we got ready with them, you know, we saw what
their routines were like. That’s, that’s me, super tired. Like, I don’t really do s7 a.m.
I don’t know about you guys, but talking to Fairmount
Park Elementary with Katan and his mother, Lewanda
[assumed spelling]. So this is Naomi Gaines. We talked about how
the second day story, the behavior story came out
of talking to people and ended up being an unexpected
story that we did. There are also story
avenues we followed that never came to light of day. We looked up the
graduation rates. Pinellas had one of the most
horrendous graduation rates for black students in
the country, really. But we couldn’t, you know,
really put together something that fit in with the
rest of the package. And that is how our
photographer and Cara met Naomi. She was in a credit recovery
class at Gibbs High School because she wasn’t going to
graduate on time, otherwise. So, while we were doing the
discipline story, day four, they crunched the data,
and they found that the, the most discriminatory school
in the county was Gibbs, black and white students
who were reprimanded, who got referrals for
doing the same things, and black students were punished
more harshly and in ways that removed him from, from
the classroom as compared to their white classmates. So we were looking into
talking to people from Gibbs and we thought, well, we
had Naomi’s name from that. So I gave her a call and found
out that the reason she was in credit recovery was
because she had headphones on her desk unplugged
and she got a referral for electronic device. No one really believed her
that she wasn’t using them or listening to anything. She was punished with an
alternative bell schedule which is when you go to
school at different hours, like in the evening and she
had to no way to get there. So she missed it. And when she was begging for
a bus pass or another way to get there, they told her
no, and she ended up trying to, you know, in trying to
meet their punishment, missing like almost two weeks of
school and falling really behind and just crying every night,
really stressed about that. The last thing I’ll say about
that is Chris Davis is a tyrant. He’s a really good auditor,
butt he pushes you to do things and get people and anecdotes that you wouldn’t otherwise
even think to try to get. So, I walked into his office
and immediately regretted it. I think I would just
like wanted to say hi, or see how you were doing. He was like, yeah, that section. What if we got a, some
white kids from Gibbs saying that they, they get away with things all the time,
the black kids don’t. I was like, what? Like how am I going to get that? I went back to my desk and was
like furiously texting Cara who was out on assignment, like,
Chris has lost his damn mind. But, within– actually an hour
or two, we had that quote. I– like, before I
even went out to Gibbs, I like send some Facebook
messages to some kids who had graduated the year
before and we’re at college and it was just like, hey, like is this is something
you would talk to me about? And I got this girl on the phone
and she’s like, yeah, you know, I would walk by administrators
to leave, you know, cut school early all the time. And they never stopped me but
they would stop black kids. It’s like, all right. So, if you don’t have
someone pushing you like that you might think
to not even try to get that. So, that was really helpful
in reporting the series, and really took it
to the next level. I’m going to stop talking now. [ Applause ]>>Tabbye M. Chavous:
Good afternoon everyone. I just want to say that I
am honored and privileged to have been invited to
participate on this panel. I am not one of the award
winning journalists, but I think that the issues
that they touched upon and that they beautifully
illustrated and executed in the series, please read the
whole series if you haven’t, illuminate things that in my
research and action worlds as a faculty member and
someone who works with schools, using this, using research
that is in, lovely case study in illustrating the
multiple forces that affect black youth
outcomes and that ones that are often studied
in isolation in my field. So we have individuals who are– So we have individuals who
study educational policy and decision making of leaders. Oh, I’m also the–
Can you hear me now?>>Uh-huh.>>Thank you. There are those who study,
you know, teacher educators, there are those who, like me,
study youth and sometimes youth and families and how they
experienced schooling. There are others who study
structural and poverty factors that impact directly and
indirectly schooling. And you could see from this
portrayal the confluence of factors that come together
that worked interactively to affect these black
children’s outcomes. And they executed the
piece in such a complex and multifaceted way that it
was impossible to place blame or culpability on one
actor or set of actors, which is often the tendency,
the teachers, the bad parents, their bad cultures,
the students. But at the same time, they
really provided clear points for cause, for intervention
that either didn’t happen, should’ve happened,
has started to happen, still needs to happen, in a way that was really quite
accessible. And it also made me
geek out as a researcher because I was able to, you
know, both address questions, the who is to blame,
was a very– I thought very clear about
like what, kind of things where to blame, but it
also raised on questions that were not answered,
which is what, you know, cool research does, right? I guess that my role is kind
of a discussant here is to kind of point to a few themes
that are both connected to other research in this area
but also that might be connected to the localized context
here, in Michigan, as well as national kind of
trends that are happening that mirror what was
found in the Tampa piece. I want to– This piece
illustrated that once again, you know, our countries attempt
to do the experiment of separate but equal just doesn’t work. No. Because separate
always is accompanied with unequal conditions
with regard to resources, with regard to constructions
of children themselves and your view of their
deservingness, their view– your view of their humanity. Even when race is not on
the table, it’s on the table because it’s hard to imagine and I literally can’t
imagine these set of conditions persisting
over time, happening with other
populations of children and being tolerated this long. And so– or happening at all
and then being tolerated. I would say as a, both
the researcher and, and someone who wants to use and
does try to use research to work with schools and with
children and families, is that this piece also
complicated the notion of poverty and what
poverty means. If you read the piece but also
heard the kind of introduction that it wasn’t that the
school, you know, had children who were poor in other schools
who were performing better, so the indicators of the, to
the children’s background. But one of the things that
the series did highlight was something about the history
of the neighborhoods. Like once they went from
the strategic bussing to the neighborhood schools, the authors provided
an interesting context around the concentrated
segregation in that neighborhood that had– and isolated
segregation that had resulted from historical housing
discrimination and job discrimination policy. And so the idea of, you
know, poverty, meaning, kind of one size fits all, is really a challenge
in this piece. There are poor neighborhoods
that have organization and stability and access
to other recourses, but there can also
be poor neighborhoods that have been disenfranchised
in such ways that there are higher
concentration of stressors that also impact those
children, families and then those concentrations
come to the school setting. So it really made me think
about the way we study poverty and apply poverty in policy. And I mentioned that in the
context to this, in this series because when pressed, if
the school district level– and when pressed– when various
policy makers were pressed around providing additional
resources to support the school, one response was, well,
there are other schools with poor children, too. So we have to kind of
distribute those equally when in fact the conditions
of poverty in the neighborhood and even in the school were not
equal, and so, really thinking about how to apply policy
around poverty and resources in an equitable way
not just being equal. The other thing that I want
to highlight about the piece, which relates to like
the work that I do in my scholarship related to
how students experience schools, the climate and cultural
schools, an implications for their longer
term trajectories. And I will say I usually
study people at the later end, a lesson in high schoolers. And in Michigan right
now, the graduation rates for the black students are about
67% up, and compare it to 83% for white students,
90% for Asian students, about 72% for Latino students. And so you can see how the
processes that, you know, were put in place in early in
students lives may also play out to affect these
longer term outcomes. But one of the things that
I think is really striking about what they were able
to uncover is the impact of this desegregation or
this re-segregation decision on the school climate
and context itself. One of the things that we
are known for, long periods of time is that the
relational context of schooling actually
predicts a lot about what children
end up doing. How they behave,
how they engage, an interest and curiosity. And so, this change actually
is a change that relates to an unequal academic
experience. So, for instance, does– do
students who feel more connected to schooling to make– connected
to their subject matter or more likely to
engage and persist. If we move to a school structure
where there is an over reliance on management and behavior and
compliance where we have schools where teachers change
every few minutes, that the relational context is
inhibited, school bonding itself with teachers and with peers in
schools actually predict lots of things about school
persistence and drop out, and you can’t imagine
that lots of bonding and connectedness can happen
when you have teacher turnover, and when you have teachers
who are focusing on management and not creating communities
where students are connecting with each other either. The implications are not
just for the students, the implications are
actually a part of the process that you saw unfold because the
literature would also suggest, and these are contextualize
small studies and even nationally
represented– representative studies, that
students bonding to actors in the school, the teachers
and with each other, actually relates
to school violence or a decrease in
school violence. And so, how can we
explain why a school that didn’t have these issues
came to have these issues that such as dark and
such as start rate and such a short period, is that
the actual relational context of the school is
being affected in ways that then become a self
fulfilling prophecy. So students are acting out, in
ways that relate to the ways that they have been structured
and now allowed to engage with each other or adults
and, as was mentioned here, individuals who come into the
school because there was a lot of turnover get a history
that is always been like that. And so, it’s always been like
that leads to the attribution, that it’s the parents,
that it’s the children, or that it’s the
culture of these families that is happening
instead of the actual– despite the parents values for
education, despite their efforts to engage their children in a
high quality educational space, that they’re, actually, the children themselves are
being shaped and formed, and influenced by
the school structure and the school climate. So, it’s not just something
that’s affecting those individual students but
it’s also setting a culture in place that’s affecting
students in subsequent cohorts to come, and it’s actually
creating a school culture that wasn’t there to begin with. One of the things that I wanted
to ask the authors and so– are about this really
strategic use of data. So one of the things that I also
thought was really, you know, innovative and smart about this
piece is that they seem to think about the collection on data,
and also the implementation in the rule out and the
presentation of data in ways that seem to anticipate
different questions that would come up like oh, it’s just these kids
are differently poor than these other kids. No, we actually collected
data to show that these kids demographically
did not look different from these other kids even
in poor neighborhood spaces. And so, it’s something that’s
going on in the school. Oh. It’s something to do with
the parents and the like too and so really providing
kind of real faces and let the experiences
to counter that prevalent perspective that parents don’t value
education or that– is engaged. So, you mentioned that a little
bit and so I will take advantage of my position here, to
place that as a question, as we go to Q&A to ask you about
your strategy around the data, the types of data, and then as
you discover things going on, like the disciplinary issues
and the violence, how you chose to collect data and present
those data strategically to your different audiences. And finally I will say because
if we’re over and I need to let us go to Q&A is
that I hope to engage with this audience or
this audience will engage with this group and
really thinking about how the current
approaches to educational reform and maybe the upcoming
approaches to educational reform
bode well or not well for addressing the types of
issues that were highlighted in the piece and in the series. One of the prospects
for not continuing to create failure factories or
not recreating failure factories in the forms of other public
school options in the context of the new potential
educational leadership. So, you know, we’d
have it like– they can’t talk about
politics but I can. So I will stop there, again,
to express my gratitude in being able to participate
and learn from this panel and this sets of authors and
to really learn something about the setting
and the set of topics that I had not known before. Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Brian Jacob: OK. We’re getting some questions
correlated, any thoughts on the question that
Tabbye laid out?>>Michael LaForgia: Yeah. No absolutely, it’s
a great question. And I will tell you that it is– so the idea, the notion of
shooting down the arguments, pinning the blame for this
phenomenon that we were seeing on societal reasons or some
type of parental non engagement. Annihilating arguments
like that became important to us pretty early on in
this process because we’d– not only because we
could anticipate them but because we went back through
past coverage of this issue and read the letters to the
editor and read the APEDS that it followed, and each of
them sort of echoed these themes of well, you know, if they read
to their kids, we wouldn’t be in this mess, et cetera. So we knew pretty early
on that we needed to go and completely annihilate
that argument. We were pretty methodical
in how we went about it. We– I think pretty early
on knew that we wanted to compare our community to other similarly
situated communities, so we got on the
phone with sociologist at the Florida State University
and he helped us design sort of some measures that you would
look at if you’re going to try to predict how kids
would do in school. And so, we did that and found after we pulled this information
together from the Census Bureau and American Community Survey,
that our county was dead in the middle of the
pack when it came to this different measures. But really the nail in
the coffin came when Lisa and Nat collaborated to come up with this kindergarten
readiness testing. And just to recap what Nat said
basically what we did was we analyze these tests scores of
tests given to kids as they come in the school to see how ready
they were to start school. And what we’ve found was that
black kids in our county came in to school no less
prepared than kids in scores of other underprivileged
schools across Florida. And it was only after two
years in the school system that they started
tanking in comparison. So that to us seemed like
a pretty clear indicator that it had more to do with
the school and the setting that they were in than
with the kids themselves.>>Lisa Gartner: Of course this
didn’t stop us from getting lots of racist voicemails and
emails and other things. People sometimes just
believe what they want, which is frustrating, but we
did sort of everything we could to inoculate against that.>>Brian Jacob: OK. Why don’t we start with some
question from the audience?>>OK. So, I’m going to
combine these two questions because they’re kind of similar. Did you experience resistance
from school officials who feared that the series will reflect
poorly upon them and also kind of coming of with that where
the school board members and other administrators honest or did they avoid
[inaudible] right?>>Michael LaForgia: So, yeah
they weren’t happy with the way that they were depicted
in the series. I don’t think– you
know what we never heard that we were being unfair
to them interestingly, but we weren’t unfair to them. We actually bend ever
backwards to be fair. One of the things that
we do in the course of an investigative project is
we reach out to the subjects of our stories early in
good faith before we draw in any sort of firm conclusions. And we ask them to explain
sort of their take on the world and as they see it and their
explanation of the phenomenon that we’re looking in to. And that’s something that we did
with the school board members. We went up to them
and said, well, hey before we even brief
word one about hey this seems like a pretty serious problem.,
you guys seem to be kind of remiss in how you’ve
conducted yourselves over the past decade. We ask them we’ll
take, you know, tell us what you think
about this problem. Is there an issue done
in south Saint Pete that we could be
doing more to address? Have you guys done enough? What is your general
take on resegregation, desegregation that
type of thing? And we got honest answers from
them, so at the end of the day that we presented
to them with all of our findings before
we publish and gave another
opportunity to respond, so.>>Lisa Gartner: They were very
restrictive of access though. They really didn’t let
us in the schools at all. We had to work around that. We requested multiple times
to observe class to see for ourselves, walk the hallway. We we’re transparent about why
we were looking at this schools because they were
so low performing, but they would tell us that
we would be a distraction to learning, which always made
us laugh when they we’re holding like you know Columbus
day events and stuff there that was you know taking
up the whole day, but yeah.>>Did you explore the role
or lack of the teachers union in Pinellas County and
policy development? If so, what conclusions
did you draw?>>Michael LaForgia:
That’s a great question. So we did. And in fact– so did we explore
the role of the teachers union in any potential
capability and turnover at this school and the climate? In fact we did look at that. And there was some
blame to be spread around the teachers union. We determined that there was a
policy that they had helped hold in place that allowed
teachers to be transferred out of the school in
the middle of the year, and there were other policies that I’m not remembering right
off the top my head right now but they had a hand in sort
of keeping in place that led to making it easier for
these teachers to turnover.>>Lisa Gartner:
Involuntary transfers.>>Michael LaForgia: The involuntary transfer
policy was one of the most as well, yeah.>>Brian Jacob: I’ll jump
in with the question. So one– I mean Florida was
known historically is having a very strong and kind of complex
state accountability system. And this was all
occurring around the time when the accountability
system is in place and then no child left behind. And I wanted to speak about like
the state’s role or lack of role in intervening in Pinellas and
got particularly relevant now that kind of, you know, policy
is being kind of pushed back to the states more and more.>>Michael LaForgia: So that’s
an interesting question as well for a couple of reasons. So they were you know based on to the result standardized
test scores triggers in place in Florida where the state will
come in and potentially take over a school after
a certain point. Interestingly, the
superintendent of our school district in Pinellas County formerly
was the chancellor of education at the department– Florida,
Department of Education. And he was responsible
for creating a sort of fail safe measure against
a total state intervention. And it was called a hybrid model where there would be a little
more state involvement. I’ll mess it up before I
describe the specific right now, but it was a hybrid model
that was once step short of having the state fully
take over a struggling school. And at least one
and possible two of the school are now
in that hybrid model. And so, the state has
been sort of hanging over the entire situation
like the Sword of Damocles, but it hasn’t fallen yet
because there has been so many opportunities
built in to the model.>>OK.>>And this question might also
be more directed at Tabbye, but I’m sure if you all have
something to add, please do. If this is as is an isolated
incident that happened in Florida only or has this type of boundary reorganization
happen in other states in essence, is this a trend?>>Tabbye M. Chavous: Well, short answer is, no
it’s not isolated. And as I think about the
State of Michigan sort of Michigan is one of the most
segregated state in the country, and so has been a natural
experiment in some ways coupled with economics stressors
and some spaces. There are examples of the
creation of spaces, again, not all poor or impoverished
context, you know, will have these outcomes
but there are examples of redistricting
efforts and zoning. And I think a couple of
people that I’ve seen in here today are actually quite
expert on the history of kind of demography in
neighborhoods in Michigan that includes discriminatory
policies and practices that have concentrated poverty
and mobility in spaces and that in ways that have
affected schools. And so, we have schools spaces
not only in Detroit space, but even in other areas
that have student outcomes and changes in student
outcome that mirror some of that trends describe
in Tampa. I would also say some
of the national trends around the impacts of
moving toward of trying to address impoverished schools
by taking on strong management and overemphasis on management and discipline have
also been linked to some of these same outcomes
compared to schools that are impoverished spaces that have move toward
participatory student respect kind of democratic oriented
management approaches which require expertise,
which require experience, which again is one of the issues
that happens in the schools too that the students– the
teachers are less likely to have that training or
leave, you know, before they’re actually able
to be in a space long enough to implement it effectively. So it’s not isolated
unfortunately.>>Another question. And this is I think
for the team, but you might have some way
in here as well, Tabbye. Michigan has Pre-K programs
for high risk students like head start or great
start readiness programs, does Pinellas have these
and how effective are they?>>Nathaniel Lash: Do you
want to– the fair test on–>>Michael LaForgia: Go ahead.>>Nathaniel Lash: — the
professor we talked about? Yeah. So not an expert in a lot
of these, but we’re finding– we actually wouldn’t– when
we’re coming up with the idea of like let’s compare
how prepared kids are when they coming in the
kindergarten, we actually went to the person who created the
program in the first place. And she was telling
us, yeah, we have ways to actually improve the scores for kids coming to
the poor schools. And we went to Pinellas
because we knew the same things that you are noticing and
we wanted to kind of bring in the bit of the pilot program. Yeah. So, we had a head start. And do you know why the
district kind of just–>>Michael LaForgia: No. So we spoke to this
researcher and she said that she’s got this pilot
program that has been proven to boost kids reading ability
in underperforming schools. What she let slip in
an interview with us, and this is breaking news because we haven’t
reported it yet–>>Nathaniel Lash: I’m sorry.>>Michael LaForgia: — is that Pinellas County
had an opportunity to use these programs
in these five schools and actually did not
allow the program into it. They wanted to direct– they tried to even direct the
program toward B rated schools and some of the predominantly
white neighborhoods. The reasons for it were not
entirely clear though she felt the researcher I think indicated
that it might have had something to do with the board
wanting to look like they’re distributing
resources equally across the district
and what not. So anyway we might get
at the bottom of that in subsequent stories.>>OK. Well, staying
along the same line, a proposal being
discussed in Michigan is to close the worst
performing schools 25 out of 38 are in Detroit. Is that what would–
Is that what has been or would be recommended
for Pinellas County, the closure of schools?>>Brian Jacob: I mean, I was actually thinking
the same thing. Let me add on one
corollary to that question. I mean, there’s kind of a
comment, somewhat kind of ironic or puzzling to some people like
phenomenon where kind of parents and kind of very impoverished,
very low performing schools and all of the standard
measures kind of– are resistant to the
closure of the school or even kind of wholesale
reform. And so, I’m curious if there
had been discussions of closure, and if so, how have some
of the families responded?>>Michael LaForgia: So,
I have not heard any sort of serious discussion
about closing the schools in Pinellas County
at this point. I mean we have seen other school
districts who have gone about “closing the schools” and
then reopening them as sort of a more– in a more gendered
segregated academy, for example, trying different techniques out. But basically though
when it comes down to it, these schools have still
been to sort of carved out as predominantly black
places with a lot of kids who have low income and needs that are not present
across the board. And what they’re trying to
do right now is something that I don’t think is ever been
done before, which is to sort of by their way out of a problem
that has been created over time when another option would be do
draw the attendants boundaries in such a way that distributes
these kids across other schools. So you know the closure is not
on the horizon as far as I know. But they’ve got big
task ahead of them.>>Brian Jacob: I
think we’ve made time for one more question, we–>>OK.>>Brian Jacob: Pick
the best one.>>I know I’m like well, what reforms have
resulted from the series?>>Brian Jacob: Excellent.>>Lisa Gartner: There
have been a lot of things that have come out
of the series. And I will name a bunch, but
I’ll probably forget even more. So, feel free to
back me up here.>>Michael LaForgia: Yeah.>>Lisa Gartner: At the district
level there were a lot policy changes and hires. They hire a turnaround leader
with an 8% team to oversee, you know, these five schools. Everyone reinterviewed
for their jobs, teachers at these schools
got $25,000 bonuses if they qualified for
them, which is a reform that the district
previously laughed at putting in to place even though
districts like DC and Duvall over in Jacksonville
have done successfully. They changed. They hired minority achievement
officer, someone who focuses on issue specific to the kids in
the schools, which is something that also what’s happening in other districts
that they scuffed at. They changed their discipline
policies to limit the number of days that kids could be
suspended out of school. They’re also exploring and
may have already decided to open centers where
suspended students go and can receive tutoring
and counseling instead of just going home to like
play videogames and eat snacks. They– what else at
the district level?>>Michael LaForgia: They removed the
principles at the schools.>>Lisa Gartner: Oh yeah. They–>>Michael LaForgia: They
removed five of the principals.>>Lisa Gartner: —
removed all five, which I have mixed
feelings about. I mean principal turnover was
part of what was contributing to problems at the school not
having consistent leadership. But at least one of those
principals had been in place for a long time and the
school wasn’t getting better. At the district and federal
level, it was the Department of Education that opened the
civil rights investigation in to the school system. Arne Duncan, the
secretary of Education and his successor John King came
down to Campbell Park Elementary and they spoke there and
put a lot of pressure on the superintendent. They called what had been done
there education malpractice and a manmade disaster. If you watch sports,
you probably like have a crush
on Lebron James. Me and Cara, the other
education reporter were like, “Oh my god, Arne Duncan.” But– [ Laughter ] — So it was an exciting day. And the state also is
doing a review looking into the funding model and whether the schools got the
extra money they were supposed where Pinellas planted,
you know, took away their own funding and then use the federal
dollars to fill in the hole. What did I miss? OK. That was a lot of it.>>Brian Jacob: OK. I like to thank all
of our panelists. [ Applause ]>>Lynette and– you can
join us for a conversation–>>Lynette Clemetson:
For a conversation. We always want to take
these events and use them to spark conversation that
goes on beyond the event. So we invite you to stay
and talk to your panelists and to the other journalists
in the room and to one another about the ideas that
this sparked. And thank you for coming.>>Thank you. [ Applause ]

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