Cal State

1999 Conference on Standards-Based K-12 Education

California State University Northridge

Transcript of Question and Answer session


. _

 Go back to transcript of Jimmy Kilpatrick

Ms. Jennings: It is a wealth of experience, and I regret to have to pass that two minute napkin. We are now open for questions and direct them individually. Please come to the mic. I understand they are recording and I know you are ready and primed.

Mr. Evers: I first wanted to mention to people in the audience.

Audience member: I can't hear you.

Mr. Evers: Am I now -- can you hear me now? Can you hear me now?

Audience member: Yes.

Mr. Evers: A lot of you who are interested in this general slant on education reform may have come in and just gotten a name tag. You didn't preregister so nobody has an e-mail address or a mailing address for you through the postal system. And if something happens again, no one will know how to find you. So think introspectively, "Do I want these people to keep track of me?" (Laughter) if you do, make sure that somewhere out at the front desk, or to Aida Metzenberg or David Klein or Stan Metzenberg, that your address is in somebody's hands.

I wanted to also mention that out of the experience of people like this and other parents, there has been increasing talk about having a parent organization, statewide, in California, aimed at solid curriculum and explicit teaching and promoting the Standards and so forth. The idea of this group is to focus only on these things. In other words, one's belief about abortion or the United Nations or the U.S. War in Kosovo would not be part of the agenda of this group. So it would allow for the political and religious and social diversity of this group to still flourish and be an effective group. And we have had a donor who has offered to help pay for the legal work and some of the start up costs. This will probably happen. We have been talking about it for a few years now. Unfortunately, new crises capture our attention (Laughter).

I wanted to say some stuff to Jimmy who is a friend and somebody who has done great work in the trenches here. But I think it is possible he is going a little overboard in his stringent desire for fully effective educational program. I think we do have good diagnostics in reading. I think some of the names of people that he mentioned, such as Barbara Foreman, have developed excellent diagnostics in reading. There's a wealth of information about effective interventions for kids that are in trouble in reading. I think -- I'm not denying his point, but that we're going to not succeed with every kid. But I am going to say that, with virtually every kid, we have the potential to tap that kid's potential for reading. And have that kid live up to his or her potential for reading and do as best as humanly possible for that kid.

Some of the ways that Jimmy phrased things sounded a little bit bleakly pessimistic to me and are running a little beyond evidence. I think we have an idea of what we're doing with phonemic awareness and its centrality and alphabetic principle and that thing.

It's funny, you always hear the Texas jokes and the Alaska jokes, and we hear now an "anti-Texan Texan", and this is sort of new for us in California. I think the thing to bear in mind, whenever you hear, you have been told they are the best so they want to assure you they are actually at the other extreme, the're really the worst. It is still the Texas mentality is still at work here in a sort of glorious way (Laughter). But I think what really we are looking at, we have very high standards, okay, we all are going to see, that no state is meeting, including Texas, okay? We want to see even better standards than exist in California -- now, eventually, maybe, okay? The point is not that. When people talk about Texas, every criticism, and a lot of the criticism that Jimmy and his friends have been making are often right. There are people here like Paul Clopton and Sandra Stotsky, she did interesting work. That's not the point. The point is that compared to other states, and compared to where Texas was, and given the population in Texas and the weaknesses in family background and education that exist in Texas -- Texas has done so much better than California that it is embarrassing to us in California. And certain of these states like Texas and North Carolina, even though you can spend something as long as this whole conference on the problems with that, you also have a lot to learn from the basic fact that they have had standards and they have had an accountability system, so they have a feedback loop, so they are exposing some of the centers of problems, and they're making some effort at improving them. And of course the pressure needs to be kept on. It's only in comparative terms that Texas is the greatest. It is not in absolute terms, and we'll give you that (Laughter).

Mr. Kilpatrick: I want to make a quick comment. When you talk about the TAAS test, it's a great, the test. The concept of the TAAS, and you all are going to develop something out here. Be very careful on the actual test questions. The system's nice; the test is bad because of the way -- they've done the rigor of the test. The problem, once again, with Texas is, yeah, we have some comparison -- I don't compare my son Jimmy or my other two sons with other children intentionally. But by and large I expect top notch honesty and truth. And this is what we are not getting from Texas. When Maureen DiMarco came to Texas and said "we went first, furthest and deepest". I'm returning the favor to California. Watch Texas and learn from our mistakes in reform. We started at basically the same time you did. And be careful of what you are doing to be sure the accountability systems you are setting up will be right.

Ms. Jennings: I think I have to alternate right and left in keeping with the overall umbrella thing -- I did left. Now I'll do right.

Audience member: My name is Akemi Knight I graduated in physics back in 1995, and my husband also graduated in 1995 in math. I wasn't planning to come up here and speak, I spoke with Dr. Klein a few moments ago. He urged me to come up and relate a story I told him. I currently teach physics at West LA College and here's my story.

I have come to a conclusion that a lot of my students, and I'm using strong language here but this is the only word I can think of -- they were lied to for many years. Now, the story goes like this. I failed a whole bunch of them, and I'm talking about stone cold, hard F's, okay? (Laughter) And once a shop of horror -- this is one of those stories you will either believe or not. Some of my worst students are begging me to please come back. They were begging me to come back over the summer and have review sessions for them. Now, to distill many long stories into as few words as possible, they say that I'm the first teacher who told them the truth. They said all along -- now I'm retroactively angry at high school teachers I haven't seen in a few years, I realize "Mr. or Mrs. so and so -- they BS'd --they lied. I mean, I shouldn't have been passed. I didn't know anything but they passed me just for being a good kid and showing up in class. Now I realize my deficiency were all correctable. If Mr. so and so told me what was wrong, I would not have been flunking your class today." This is strange. I am supposedly the bad guy, the masked executioner -- I'm the person who gives them all the D's and F's, and strangely, they said to me, you know, you are the first teacher who really did anything for me. They are begging. These are F students -- now F, okay? F students. They said, are you going to come back next fall and teach? I had to tell them the truth which is I don't know because I have nothing to do with personnel and administration. All I can do is put my name in the pool of applicants. I can't hire myself. I had a bunch of F students tell me that they are going to go to administration and ask the people there to please hire Akemi back. And I'm the guy that gave them the bad grades, keep that in mind. They said to me, you know, sometimes they named specific teachers or the whole system -- said "I should have never been passed." And it is a little anecdote I was relating to Dr. Klein and he asked me to share with you. (Applause).

Ms. Jennings: Diana has a comment.

Ms. Dixon-Davis: This is the very same problem we have in the high schools, and this is why as parents we need to support our teachers. If they are going to start implementing the Standards and let that be the guide to run the classroom and set those standards high, there will be a lot of failures, what happens is basically administration does not like to see a lot of F's. We have to as parents say give him an F if he deserves it. Give him a chance, but give him an F, we this is something that we as parents can do, because Administrators tend to keep the grades, the GPA's up just to keep everyone quote unquote happy. But if the kids don't learn, in the long run no one will be happy. What you are doing is admirable and it is something has become endemic in this district. LAUSD has grade inflation, and I think these standards will hopefully raise the floor in the classrooms.

Audience member: May I make an analogy with what one of my F students said. I'm not an M.D., But I'm a doctor. And I have reasons to believe that guy has early warning signs of diabetes, heart attack, cancer or whatever. Listen, I have a cousin who is an M.D., Okay? And one of the hardest things psychologically for any M.D. to do is tell a guy, you might die. I mean death, it's very unpleasant, okay? Even for a seasoned M.D. like my cousin, it's not fun. But if you think there's a problem, you have to tell them. And you don't tell them in a punitive way. You try to tell them -- this is my style. I quotes unquotes fail them. But with a rehabilitation mentality. I'm not trying to pass moral judgment that you are a rotten kid. It's more like a doctor and the patient is sick, I'm trying to cure you. Once that message got through, the kids were appreciative that I am trying to help them.

I had one guy tell me, he had planned to transfer to a big four year UC or CSU. At first he was angry saying you messed up with my plan, what's the matter with you? But by the end of the semester, he was relieved and scared at how close he had come to trouble because he says now he realized had he gone to a four year, it would have been bad grades and also a financial disaster. Because a four year college costs plenty of money, you know. The one thing I told David Klein about these F students, character and competence are not the same thing. These are not bad things. All the character, morals and ethics areas, they are great. They are not troublemakers or disciplinary problems. They are the nicest, hardest working, most committed people you ever met. So how come they are getting all F's? It is not because of a moral thing, but I think they are telling me now, "Mr. or Mrs. so and so, my algebra or trig teacher in high school, I think they passed me just because I showed up."

Ms. Cloud: One of my junior sons got an F on the midterm in English. When I saw the teacher in the parking lot the next day I thanked her for giving him an F. She looked at me dumb-founded and said "Are you being sarcastic?" I said "No, if he earned it, he deserves it and if he did not do the work, now he is improving." Parents too are at fault for not allowing our sweet, dear little children to take the hard knocks of life (Applause).

Ms. Jennings: When I first began my battle, the administrator said, she is getting an A, why are you are worried? I said it's because she is getting an A that I am worried.

Audience member: I'm a parent. How is school-to-work or school-to-career, to fall into all of this? It's being implemented very quietly. I know very few parents who know about it, and it's coming. I mean, I hear it. I go to PTA meetings and I hear it. All the parents say "What is that, what is that?"

Ms. Cloud: I think people who know me know I have a great concern about school to work -- one of the things that will stumble school to work is high standards because Oregon standards, and most of the states have fuzzy standards, and school to work fits right in -- we have high academic standards and that does not mesh real well. So I think the only protection against the fuzzy people that are bringing in school-to-work, is to have solid academics.

Ms. Jennings: If I could add, and where did she go? Oh, there you are. Watch the counselors in the school. You know, my daughter wants to go to medical school. She went there for counseling one day. They said, have you ever considered modeling? I said, what is that? (Laughter) And so, you know, there's almost this attitude of we know better for your child than you do. So I think at the heart that have is the counseling and I think you have to -- as I say to Sarah, "Never leave the counselors unattended with you" (Laughter).

Ms. Joseph: I too need to address -- I had to get the mike down here, you can understand that (Laughter). My friend Jimmy, and I have about three or four points. First of all, two weeks ago, I was in Washington, and there was an enormously important learning disabilities summit. And it was funded by the organization -- LD something -- Ann Ford is the primary chair. There is no question, there were people from every state, and the issue of getting the research based programs into Special Ed., The whole concern about learning disabled children or pedagogically disabled children was definitely the highest concern. It's interesting that they plan two more summits in quick order -- guess where? One in Texas and one in California. So I guess they think we know.

I also then have to straighten out the situation about, Marilyn Adams would not say --.

Mr. Kilpatrick: I have that quoted.

Ms. Joseph: Wait a minute, Jimmy, get this clear -- she would say, "what is the research all about?" In order to become a good reader, what do good readers do? They learn to become fluent and automatic decoders as a first essential, not sufficient, but essential base. Now, what did NICHD discover? That you cannot do that. You can teach people who have no phonemic awareness. You can teach them phonics until they are purple. They won't get it. The issue is that they must -- you must deal with the phonemic awareness issue. Now we know that. So phoneme awareness and that whole capacity is what is the foundation. And then you teach them the phonics and the decoding. You teach the phonics and decoding without phonemic awareness and you get no place. That's the issue.

Now, Joe Torgeson's work essentially says if you do it right, you could get those kids down to 2%. You could get 98% of the kids, and we know that to be true because we have schools in California that do just that, where they have 2 to 3% kids in Special Ed. Because they teach them right. And we will have a principal this afternoon who will talk about that. So it's not that -- I too have a learning disabled grandson, you know that, Jimmy, we share that -- but it can't be said that no one is looking at that.

One last thing. The State of California last year started a small program, $2 million at UC Davis, for a mind institute. They have added, now I'm told it is $4 million extra dollars, to deal with all the neurological issues -- autism, learning disabled and so forth. We will be having a center right in California, funded by California because we don't have an NICHD center. And we have a massive organization committee, some members are here, where we are trying to get the word out about the research based programs for Special Ed. Then we want to reduce Special Ed. by at least 40% because they don't belong in those programs. The point, Jimmy, it isn't as bleak.. I agree -- every parent has to worry about his own kid. But the system, we are trying to do something about it, and it will take a lot of effort, just as you say. But it's not impossible. And we can't let it be impossible. Now, the message here that we have to go out with is that, does the tests -- the STAR and most importantly the augmentation -- if we do not maintain those, if they are allowed to be killed in some way, to break the chain of longitudinal data, then it's all over. And people would rather kill the messenger than recognize what the messenger is bringing us -- that our instruction, our curriculum, our training for teachers has not been standards-based or standards-high, we all know that, how could it have been? We didn't have the Standards. So if you are going to fight for anything, it is to maintain those tests because without them it will be all over. There's simply no question about that. And there will be many movements to get rid of the tests. That will make things easier, we won't have to worry about the Standards any more or good curriculum or the good textbooks. That's really the message. And you will see what will happen. Anyway, I'm sorry to take so much time. Jimmy, you and I will have to have more conversations. (Applause).

Mr. Kilpatrick: The issue with Torgenson, I believe, we exchange e-mails and talk about this, is that we're talking about, there's a gap in there -- it's not all children. And the point is that the data he is showing, they talk about this, but I want to see the data. Just like with Foreman, it went from 10% probably and now it is 15%. Something is fishy. I have no problems with replicated research but who is going to talk about your grandson's children and my grandson's children if we run on the perception that replicated based classroom instruction is going to fix 98% the kids. The only study ever started in the country -- get it straight. We have 20%, figure out where they are and who they are and stop giving us these non-- not replicated classrooms. Sure there's an example here and there. But broad based, there's no data to support it statewide (Applause).

Ms. Norris: I wanted to address something Marion said, because as one who represents special education children, I think she is absolutely right, there are way too many kids in Special Ed. who don't belong there. But I also want to address this to the policy makers and researchers in the audience. From a policy making point of view, parents are absolutely stonewalled when they go in, in the first grade to tell teachers and administrators that there's something wrong with their child. I don't know what it is, but something is wrong with my child and they are turned away. I've even had one case of a parent after 5 IEP's with an autistic child who was reported to child protective services, which is child abuse reporting in California, for telling the district that she would file a petition for fair hearing to get the services that under state and federal law she is entitled to. This should not be going on. She is not the only case I have had. Policy makers must put some sort of sanctions that attorneys can work with into the laws, and they need to do that -- there's a move right now to undo the federal regulations for special education. That would be disastrous for the very children that we're talking about. Thank you. (Applause)

Ms. Schwartz: I know it's been going on for a while. But I wanted to say something briefly about the issue of honesty. I teach remedial math at an urban CSU campus. First day of the semester I typically ask two questions. I put two mixed numbers on the board and ask the students just to add them and multiply them. And I typically only have two or three out of 50 students who even feel comfortable trying. The second question I ask them is what math did you have in high school? The minimum of any of them is a year of algebra and geometry or two years of integrated math. Many have had algebra II, and there's always a smattering who claim to have been through a calculus class.

Ms. Jennings: Over here and then over here.

Audience member: I am a registered nurse in a neonatal ICU unit and I know I'm discharging kids who will have learning disabilities. I would like to reiterate the frustration parents have with getting any of this identified. In my local high school when I brought up, discussing the unmotivated bad kids who have bad parents at our school. Two thirds of the regular school are getting D's and F's, and they are all bad parents with bad kids, they're all unmotivated. I bring up, "don't you think possibly since there is a huge percentage of people who have learning disabilities, that aren't physically apparent?" This is not possible according to the faculty of the school. They will not recognize this. I've brought up there's diagnostic tests for reading, they don't know about them, and besides, this is high school, we don't have to do that, we don't teach reading. These kids can't read the books. They are never going to succeed and they're just thrown away. It's extremely frustrating. When you're a parent, my child isn't having these problems, but I'm there advocating for the D and F students that, quote, "have bad parent and are bad kids and don't want to learn." That's all I hear at my school, they don't want to learn, there's nothing we can do. This is where we need parent advocate that are out there, trying to do something.

On a personal note, right now I'm trying to put on a parent community meeting for gifted students, an informational meeting. I have a meeting time, I have a meeting date, I have speakers, I have a place. A week after 2500 flyers went out, the principal at this school changed the date and didn't tell me. Next Thursday, I am having, God knows how many people showing up at this school, with no place to hold the meeting. The district and one of the board members, her office told me, "We cancel meetings all the time. Just put a sign up and tell them. We'll reschedule it." This is LAUSD's disrespect to parents' involvement and parents. They don't want parents informed. And I don't, you know, I'm trying my best. There needs to be support from community. There needs to be support from within the district. This isn't right. This shouldn't happen. Thank you. (Applause).

Mr. Lee: I'd like to thank the last speaker for helping make my point. And that is, when parents are out organizing and talking on their own and sharing information, it really causes concern, not in good districts, but in districts that don't want to change the way they do business. And that's a defensive mechanism -- change the day, cancel it and don't tell anybody. We had a meeting in our district a couple days ago, having to do with grade level retention that was passed. The notice went out to the principals but was not generally spread to the community. You can imagine the level of turn-out because of that. Communicating with parent in a timely manner is very important if you are getting information to them and say you have had a dialogue.

Ms. Jennings: One more.

Audience member: Thank you. Well, I've had the privilege of getting to know Jimmy this weekend. I want to respond to his comment that nobody is looking at these low performing students. As a person who has spent their career working with children with learning disabilities, at least a small group of us have been very, very interested in solving these problems. As a teacher in high school for the first part of my career using corrective reading which came from the direct instruction Follow-Through model, there was never a student who came to the high school who I could not teach to read. Many of those were in the bottom 15 and 20%. With one student it did take four years. Fortunately she was there four years, one of the most seriously learning disabled kids I saw. And I think Jimmy takes his data from Wesley, the fact they have 15% of kids who are not meeting the proficiency standards for Texas. And we all need to try to work to get these kids to perform at higher and higher levels, but that is actually amazingly good for a school serving that low income community, that if 85% are passing, that's a terrific accomplishment.

One of the things maybe you should publish in your Education News, Jimmy, we did research with a statistician in Texas coming out of the TAAS in Texas, one of the not widely published facts is what percentage of students did you give the test to? At Wesley, it is given to 100% of the kids and they found 15% did not pass the proficiency standard. And another school, and there are many, Ysletta though, near El Paso is one that gets a lot of recognition for having a very high pass rate. But when we found out how many of their elementary kids took the TAAS it was only 25% percent of the population. And everybody in California goes to Ysletta to see how to teach. (Laughs and comments from other audience members). We did our own testing of Wesley where we could get every single Special Ed kid, every single kid from the school. We went there ourselves to find them and give a test. And we also gave the same test to this middle school I'm working in, in California. Just for this comparison, Texas and California, the bulk of third graders at Wesley are performing at a higher level than the bulk of the 7th and 8th graders at this at-risk middle school in California. So there (Laughter).

Ms. Jennings: Before we take a break, I want to close with just a thought, it strikes me with the assurance that we come from a wide political range up here, and that we all have different reasons for involvement and different concerns, different relationships. But the one thing that it strikes me we have in common, even with the debate that Mr. Jimmy has enjoyed down here about Texas -- it is that and something I mentioned in my introductory remarks -- all I want is the truth. And if I'm wrong about the truth, so be it, and I will accept that.

It reminds me of a phrase a speaker used at my law school graduation, that truth is violated by falsehood, but it is outraged by silence. And I think that is the role of the parent in this whole thing, and that is that if we remain silent, we have committed the greater wrong. And it is not that we are here for our agenda other than our children. It is that we are on a quest for the truth. If we can all just have that as the goal, then the political issues and all the other kinds of things fall by the wayside because "Truth", as the novelist Kelperin said "percolates like a natural force." Thank you. (Applause)

(Morning break)

Go to transcript of Sandra Horn 


Contact the organizers

Postal and telephone information:

1999 Conference on Standards-Based K12 Education

College of Science and Mathematics

California State University Northridge

18111 Nordhoff St.

Northridge CA 91330-8235

Telephone: (Dr. Klein: 818-677-7792)

FAX: 818-677-3634 (Attn: David Klein)