The following letter was sent to Dan Hoffman in late November:
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
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.
published in This Week in Shaker, Volume 7, Number 42 December 7, 2009