Equity Shaker

race and class in public education

Correspondence with the schools on the Achievement Gap

Posted by equityshaker on 12/08/2009

The following letter was sent to Dan Hoffman in late November:

Dear Dan:

We regret that our interaction at last week’s Board of Education meeting was not what any of us would want.  Several of the comments you made at the meeting deserve a thoughtful response.  However, to give an off-the-cuff response to very complex questions would be irresponsible.

Technical questions are best addressed by professionals after careful analysis.  To that end, we have asked the staff to prepare the following:

  • A review of the New York City Charter Schools Evaluation Project.
  • Information on best practices for improving student test performance in Shaker’s K-4 schools.
  • A representative sample of research-based programs and practices that are being used in the Shaker schools.

We will share this work upon completion.  As Dr. Stokes indicated in your conversation with her, we are also looking at the Kumon reading program to see whether it might be suitable as a supplemental activity for some students.

We also believe there were factual inaccuracies and mischaracterizations in your ‘open letter’ published in This Week in Shaker.  We will address these issues in detail at a later date.

Our commitment to the achievement of all students is unwavering.  Although we may not always see eye to eye with you on how best to reach that goal, we do appreciate your concern for the schools and hope for a more constructive relationship.


F. Drexel Feeling  

Mark Freeman


Open Letter to Mark Freeman and Drexel Feeling in response


In response to my ignored questions of last week’s meeting, you now propose, in your letter this week, to ask your technical staff to prepare answers for me.   An Achievement Task Force would have this at their fingertips.  But why be so timid about discussing this?  It is not rocket science.  It is largely about more time on task with personal attention, phonics and vocabulary building.  Kumon effectively provides that.

The deadly silence to my questions last week spoke volumes and apparently served to expose the lack of The Board’s acquaintance with, and ability to discuss this problem.  I already know enough about the answers you are having prepared.  They are producing the following kinds of results:        

Between 19% and 42% of the 3rd graders can’t read well and between 19% and 36% of the 4th graders can’t read well according to the state Achievement tests.  Aside from the tragic frustration, loss of self-respect and potential among these kids, this problem is at the heart of The Shaker schools’ slide in ranking and reputation.  Meanwhile the Board spends thousands of dollars and surveying time searching for a “Strategic Objective.”  Well here’s one; teach EVERYONE to read comprehensively by the 4th grade.  It’s the raison d’être of all elementary schools.  Life’s learning tool should be denied to no one. The first and biggest dime you spend should be here.

While I’m focusing on getting better results in closing the achievement gaps, you are focusing on defending what gives you the current results.  That implies The Board is satisfied with the present results and thinks it’s the best that can be done.  We are talking past one another.

You’ll recall one of the questions that went unanswered by The Board last week was: ‘Are you satisfied with the current Achievement gaps?’  The silence was uncomfortable to say the least.

You propose that your technical staff provide information on ‘Best Practices.’  This might be more useful to you and The Board than me since none of you could tell me why Lomond and Onaway consistently lead the others in producing the smallest Achievement gaps.  If Shaker’s Leaders really do employ ‘Best Practices,’ one would think you should be conversant with the foregone and would be asking and helping the other schools to emulate Lomond and Onaway.  Some of them don’t have the voluntary help to carry this out.  I think they call that leadership in most places.

Best Wishes,

Dan Hoffman

published in This Week in Shaker, Volume 7, Number 42                    December 7, 2009


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The Public is Paying Attention – another reason for optimism

Posted by equityshaker on 11/15/2009

Open Letter to the Shaker School Board            Oct. 22, 2009

 At the last Board meeting, Drexel Feeling’s response to my pilot program for out-sourcing failing readers to Kumon was, ‘There are a number of programs already in place.’  And that’s just the problem; a number of programs piling up with no evaluation or accountability as to their effectiveness—which could be done by a task force.  Only Lomond and Onaway score consistently number one and two respectively, showing some valuable results.  Below are Shaker’s achievement gaps by school reported from the State Achievement tests.  They haven’t changed much for 15 years. 

             From page 64 of the 2007-08 Fact Book

 ‘The racial/ethnic achievement gap in third grade reading varied from 19% difference at Lomond to 42% difference at Mercer. 

 ‘The racial/ethnic third grade achievement gap in math varied from 21% difference at Lomond to 55% difference at Fernway.

 ‘The racial/ethnic reading achievement gap in the 4th grade varied from 19% difference at Onaway to 36% at Mercer.

 ‘The racial/ethnic 4th grade math achievement gap stretched from 16% difference at Lomond to 42% difference at Fernway.’

 Other districts and schools are narrowing the gap.  We aren’t.   A Kumon reading out-sourcing pilot program can be available for evaluating in 9 months.  Each child is first tested to find his or her level of understanding.  Then each is started separately with individual attention at a level slightly below his or her competency so each can first experience success.  This creates momentum and enthusiasm in each child immediately.  The child begins to enjoy it and starts to accelerate up through his level of difficulty and onward. 

No extra teachers needed.  No loading extra hours on teachers.  No extra time needed for additional teacher training.  No union contract problems.  Just a bus two or three times a week to take them over to Mayfield Road Kumon Center.

You could start saving these kids next week.  While we talk and plan and dither, many little lives are losing the one chance they may ever have to avoid a lifetime of failure.  If their lives don’t move you, what about the later behavioral effects they have on the school and society.  Common sense tells you the cheapest and most effective fix is here and now.  What does your heart tell you?  You say I’m pushing this like it’s a major crisis facing the School Board to act on?  Well, it is a major crisis, not in your lives, but for those little kids in the second grade.  How many more years must you talk and dither, providing no direct leadership?  No evaluation and decision at the top.  Oh, look!  Another year’s gone by.  Oh, well. 

 I’m reminded of a time before any of you were born, and history now seldom speaks of it.  The Germans were over London every night, pulverizing it in preparation for invasion.  The man at the top in Britain, Churchill, signed every order emanating from that office with a footnote reading. ‘ACTION THIS DAY.’  When there’s a need, that’s what leaders do.  They point the way, and demand action.  Those kids would love ‘Action This Day.’  You run a school.  Teach ’em to read.

Will the leader of the Shaker Schools please identify himself, stand up and tell us what he’s going to do?


Dan Hoffman

published in This Week in Shaker, Volume 7, Number 39                    November 16, 2009

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School Board Election Results – reason for optimism

Posted by equityshaker on 11/05/2009

Precinct by precinct results below show an extremely strong showing for Mearns.  She defeated the incumbent school board president in 27 of 28 precincts and districtwide by a margin of 23 points.   This is reason for optimism – the voters of Shaker Heights are paying attention and overwhelmingly supported a candidate who promises to address the achievement gap. 


CLEV 4-Q 184 38% 124 26% 277 58% 228 48%
CLEV 4-R 127 41% 93 30% 139 45% 118 38%
CLEV 4-S 130 41% 123 39% 134 42% 132 42%
CLEV 6-T 7 24% 8 28% 8 28% 11 38%
SHAKER  A 99 50% 81 41% 100 51% 84 42%
SHAKER  B 185 39% 158 33% 323 68% 250 52%
SHAKER  C 197 40% 155 32% 331 68% 319 65%
SHAKER  D 216 46% 174 37% 334 72% 276 59%
SHAKER  E 208 49% 151 36% 261 62% 255 61%
SHAKER  F 169 61% 133 48% 142 52% 123 45%
SHAKER  G 196 62% 157 49% 172 54% 121 38%
SHAKER  H 261 65% 220 55% 211 53% 163 41%
SHAKER  I 183 60% 140 46% 160 53% 148 49%
SHAKER  J 116 46% 100 40% 133 53% 110 44%
SHAKER  K 189 56% 178 53% 194 57% 157 46%
SHAKER  L 235 58% 203 50% 206 51% 198 49%
SHAKER  M 259 52% 229 46% 280 57% 281 57%
SHAKER  N 158 46% 148 43% 169 49% 198 57%
SHAKER  O 188 43% 167 38% 250 58% 248 57%
SHAKER  P 211 45% 186 40% 270 58% 263 57%
SHAKER  Q 158 36% 150 34% 336 76% 271 61%
SHAKER  R 127 35% 103 28% 256 71% 207 57%
SHAKER  S 176 38% 126 27% 341 73% 275 59%
SHAKER  T 168 36% 163 35% 355 76% 247 53%
SHAKER  U 199 41% 167 34% 312 64% 240 49%
SHAKER  V 150 34% 135 30% 285 64% 236 53%
SHAKER  W 244 43% 211 37% 369 65% 302 54%
SHAKER  X 168 36% 134 28% 290 61% 240 51%
ELECTION DAY 2677 44% 2249 37% 3621 60% 2938 49%
ABSENTEE 2231 46% 1868 38% 3017 62% 2763 56%
TOTAL 4908 45% 4117 38% 6638 61% 5701 52%


     source: Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, does not include overseas or provisional ballots

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National Merit Semifinalists

Posted by equityshaker on 09/24/2009

The trend continues – the good news is there were 17 National Merit Semifinalists at SHHS as there were last year.  The bad news is that of the 17 students, 16 were white and 1 was asian –  also the same racial representation as seen last year.  This is difficult to explain in a high school that is majority black and only 37% white according to the Ohio Department of Education.

17 Shaker Seniors Named National Merit Semifinalists

September 16, 2009 – Seventeen members of the Shaker Heights High School Class of 2010 have been named Semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship program.This year’s National Merit Semifinalists from Shaker are Alison Boyd, Abigail Christman, Grace Crosby, Benjamin Davis, Rose Egelhoff, Samantha Goldfarb, Julie Gyurgyik, Maxwell Haber, Carol Hundert, Anirudh Jayanti, Rachel Leonard, Lawrence Neil, Callum Orr, Caelyn Rosch, Kathryn Rownd, David Stahl, and Harper Sutherland.

These scholastically talented seniors are considered top candidates for admission to the most selective colleges. They also have the opportunity to continue in the competition for National Merit Scholarship awards that will be offered next spring, and will be candidates for other scholarships as well. Last year, Shaker had six National Merit Scholarship winners as well as one National Achievement Scholarship winner.

Nationwide, 16,000 National Merit Semifinalists have been designated from approximately 1.5 million program entrants in more than 21,000 high schools nationwide. Representing less than 1 percent of each state’s high school seniors, Semifinalists are the state’s highest-scoring students on the 2008 Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT).

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) is a not-for-profit organization established in 1955. Since the inception of the program, Shaker has consistently been among the top schools in Ohio in producing National Merit and National Achievement scholars. Historical chart…


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Report Cards Released

Posted by equityshaker on 08/25/2009

The ODE released the most recent set of report cards for Ohio schools and school districts today.  A quick look at the data for Shaker shows that of the K-4 schools Fernway did not make AYP.   Woodbury did not but both the Middle School and the High School did this year.  Finally the district as a whole did not make AYP.

More details to come.

Report Cards and additional information are on the ODE website Report Card page.

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Imagine Shaker: together we achieve

Posted by equityshaker on 08/22/2009

The Shaker Heights Board of Education has initiated a public engagement project to involve residents in planning the future of the schools.  Take a look at the link and consider signing up to participate.

Imagine Shaker

We can only hope that the newly imagined Shaker includes equity in education.

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Obama holds town hall meeting at SHHS

Posted by equityshaker on 07/28/2009

Exciting to have the president in Shaker last week talking about health care reform.  Only thing that would have been better would be if his subject were school reform. 

Speech on health care reform is here

Questions & Answers are here

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How to use data to improve your school

Posted by equityshaker on 07/22/2009

The Education Trust has made available a guide to help parents use school data to understand school performance and push for improvement in their schools.

Making Data Work: A Parent and Community Guide

Mission Statement: The Education Trust works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-kindergarten through college, and forever closing the achievement gaps that separate low-income students and students of color from other youth. Our basic tenet is this — All children will learn at high levels when they are taught to high levels.

Now the challenge – sit down and go through the worksheets with data from Shaker schools.

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Obama on Education as Civil Rights

Posted by equityshaker on 07/17/2009

President Obama at the NAACP Centennial – video here 

The African-American community will fall behind in the United States and the United States will fall behind in the world unless we do a far better job than we have been doing of educating our sons and daughters.   In the 21st century – when so many jobs will require a bachelor’s degree or more, when countries that out-educate us today will outcompete us tomorrow – a world-class education is a prerequisite for success. 

You know what I’m talking about. There’s a reason the story of the civil rights movement was written in our schools. There’s a reason Thurgood Marshall took up the cause of Linda Brown. There’s a reason the Little Rock Nine defied a governor and a mob. It’s because there is no stronger weapon against inequality and no better path to opportunity than an education that can unlock a child’s God-given potential. 

Yet, more than a half century after Brown v. Board of Education, the dream of a world-class education is still being deferred all across this country. African-American students are lagging behind white classmates in reading and math – an achievement gap that is growing in states that once led the way on civil rights. Over half of all African-American students are dropping out of school in some places. There are overcrowded classrooms, crumbling schools, and corridors of shame in America filled with poor children – black, brown, and white alike.

The state of our schools is not an African-American problem; it’s an American problem. And if Al Sharpton, Mike Bloomberg, and Newt Gingrich can agree that we need to solve it, then all of us can agree on that. All of us can agree that we need to offer every child in this country the best education the world has to offer from the cradle through a career.

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Anniversary of Title VI – Every Child has the Right to an Education

Posted by equityshaker on 07/01/2009

In a statement issued to mark the 45th anniversary of the enactment of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan reminds us that  ” Education is the civil rights issue of our generation. If we are to emerge from this global recession and ensure the future prosperity of our nation, every school must provide every child with a quality education that offers the path out of poverty and toward equal opportunity.”

From the statement –

 What work still needs to be accomplished?

Although college enrollment rates for African American and Hispanic students have increased since 1976, significant disparities exist between underrepresented minorities and their white and Asian peers in terms of college enrollment:

  • In 2004, 60.3% of Asian/Pacific Islander 18- to 24-year-olds and 41.7% of white Americans were enrolled in college, compared to 31.8% of African Americans, 24.7% of Hispanics, and 24.4% of American Indian/Alaska Natives in the same age group.
  • Similar disparities exist for college completion. In 2003-2004, African Americans represented 12% of the population, but earned only 9.4% of bachelor’s degrees and 5.9% of doctorate degrees. During the same school year, Hispanics represented 14% of the population, but earned only 6.8% of bachelor’s degrees and 3.4% of doctorate degrees.

Significant disparities also exist in elementary and secondary schools throughout the country:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Education’s 2006 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), African American students represented 13.4% of graduating seniors in U.S. public schools, and represented only 7.9% of students enrolled in Advanced Placement courses.
  • According to the 2006 CRDC, African American students represented 17.13% of enrolled students, but comprised 35.67% of students receiving corporal punishment, 37.40% of students who received out of school suspensions, 37.86% of students who were expelled, and only 9.15% of students in Gifted and Talented programs.
  • According to the 2006 CRDC, Hispanic students represented 20.41% of enrolled students but comprised only 13.72% of students receiving a high school diploma, 12.79% of students in Gifted and Talented programs, 11.53% of students enrolled in an AP Math course, and 12.04% of students enrolled in an AP Science course.

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