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Here are some interesting articles we received and discovered this past week…


6 Things That Happen to a School When an effective Education Leader Shows Up

Quote from Article:

During my seven years as a teacher, I worked in one school district that was in utter disarray. The principal was kind and intelligent, but they just did not have what it takes to be an effective education leader. I just couldn’t take the incompetence, and after one year I moved on. I really liked the principal on a personal level, but on a professional level, I was not growing, and neither were my colleagues or the students. If she were more effective, the school could have been a Blue Ribbon School. That begs the question, what happens to a school when an effective education leader shows up. I have some thoughts.


1. School stakeholders begin to embrace failure as the path to victory. Failure can be the pathway to success, and great leaders know this. But knowing that failure is the pathway to success is not the same as accepting it. When a real leader shows up to your school building, when you fail, they will pick you up, and help you chart a course to victory. They know that continuing after failures is the key to success. 


2. They know that good teaching is all about the fundamentals. Once teachers master the foundational stuff, the rest comes easy. Because of this, great education leaders make sure that their educators and staff know the foundations of education and are up to date on the newest trends and methods in teaching and learning. From that point, student success can take care of itself.


3. A permanent and perhaps radical change in the school environment and culture takes place. When education leaders are tasked with turning around an unsuccessful school, many focus on changing the school culture and environment. How do they do this? They use Invitational leadership, which is a school management model that aims to “invite” all interested stakeholders to succeed. The leadership model utilizes “invitations” as messages communicated to people, which inform them that they are valued, able, responsible, and worthwhile. 


4. A new standard of excellence is introduced. An effective leader models what the optimal performance looks like. They become the living personification of what excellence will look like at their school. As a result, their performance is replicated by everyone in the school, including students.


5. Transparent performance metrics are established to hold everyone accountable. In a school helmed by a successful leader, everyone knows what is expected them and the metrics that will be used to determine if they are successful.


6. They establish a winning culture before the school starts winning.  They establish a winning culture before the school starts winning. You may have to read this phrase a couple of times before it makes sense to you. When an education leader takes over a failing school, there is usually a culture of losing, like a high school team that has been 0 and 12 each of the last 5 seasons. To counteract this, they instantly establish a culture of winning, where everyone believes that they will be successful.

District Deeds Synopsis:

Over our 20 years of experience as a Stakeholder Parent/Community Member in the San Diego Unified School District, we have witnessed the successes and failures of Principals to transform struggling schools.

Over the last 5 years we have witnessed the Elementary School Superintendent (ESS) Cindy Marten dictatorship, through dysfunctional senior leadership, make the job of every Principal exponentially more difficult and doomed many Students to a substandard learning environment and education.

We decided to apply the “6 things” related to schools in the article to the current School District educational disaster under ESS Cindy Marten…here we go!

Article: 1. School stakeholders begin to embrace failure as the path to victory.

ESS Marten Version: 1. School stakeholders just begin to embrace failure.

District Deeds had heard countless SDUSD Stakeholders – Principals, Teachers, School Site Staff, Parents and Students express hopelessness that their schools will continue to get worse under inexperienced, incompetent ESS Marten.  Evidence of this hopelessness is the departure from the SDUSD by the most skilled and experienced Principals and Teachers and the exodus of Students to Charter and Private Schools.

Article: 2. They know that good teaching is all about the fundamentals.

ESS Marten Version: 2. They think that good teaching is all about gimmicks.

One ESS Marten “gimmick” comes to mind…Online Credit Recovery.  Used as a vehicle to improperly increase Graduation Rate, Marten jams as many students as possble through weekly proctored online Credit Recovery.  In Credit Recovery Teachers aren’t Teaching, Students aren’t learning but Marten and her crony Board of Education use the fake graduation rate as a measure of success.

Article: 3. A permanent and perhaps radical change in the school environment and culture takes place.

ESS Marten Version: 3. A permanently damaged and dangerous school environment and culture exist.

The budget mismanagement of finanancially incompetent ESS Marten has gutted the school site support services.  Millions of dollars worth of classroom computer equipment sits idle due to cutbacks in IT Support.  Principals, Teachers and Students endure filthy, unhealthy classrooms that are only able to be cleaned once a week due to custodial cutbacks.  School Choice that been completely hamstrung by drastic cuts to Busing.  At many SDUSD schools the poisonous culture directly reflects the ESS Marten Central office dysfunction.

Article: 4. A new standard of excellence is introduced.

ESS Marten Version: 4. A continuing standard of cronyism is maintained.

Since SDUSD Trustee Tricky Dick Barrera and his Trustee cronies violated the Brown Act and hired his incompetent crony Cindy Marten the legacy of cronyism has plagued the SDUSD.  Rampant cronyism practiced and allowed by Marten and SDUSD leadership has motivated the best Administrators, Principals. Staff and Teachers to leave. Student learning and employee morale has been destroyed because of it.

Article: 5. Transparent performance metrics are established to hold everyone accountable.

ESS Marten Version: 5. Constantly changing and opaque performance metrics are used to hold no one but the most vulnerable accountable.

A very simple metric can be used to prove this ESS Marten version.

Thousands of students have left the SDUSD under ESS Marten leadership.

Marten has been held “accountable” by her crony Board of Education by annually being given pay raises and contract extensions.

A fish rots from the head down—so does the SDUSD.

Article: 6. They establish a winning culture before the school starts winning.

ESS Marten Version: 6. They establish an incompetent culture so schools can’t  become competent.

Incompetence has been the hallmark of the Marten dictatorship,  Like all dictators, Marten is very thin skinned and insecure.  Marten typically only hires candidates that are more incompetent than herself…especially in positions that can expose her incompetence.  Is it any wonder that key positions in her senior staff are filled by individuals who got their jobs due to their relationship as a crony of Marten rather than their credentials.

With SDUSD Departments and Schools being led by Marten hand picked individuals who lack experience and credentials is it any wonder that the employees in those departments and schools mistrust ALL SDUSD leadership and adopt a “keep my head down and my mouth shut” mentality that avoids both risk and excellence..

Unfortunately before any SDUSD schools can have these “6 things” happen at their sites one BIG thing needs to “happen” first.

The rotting head…ESS Marten…needs to be fired!

On ‘Light-Touches’ and ‘Heavy-Hands’: 2 Strategies to Tackle Educational Inequities

Quote from Article:

The United States has long had, and continues to have, large and persistent economic and racial disparities in educational attainment—disparities that have implications for a variety of important life outcomes. Education disparities have been of interest not only to policymakers, but also to behavioral scientists interested in understanding and addressing them. Behavioral scientists have spent the past few decades developing and testing multiple strategies for reducing disparities. These strategies range from “light-touch” interventions that require minimal action and resources to “heavy-handed” interventions that require substantial investment.


Before I discuss intervention strategies, I want to explicitly acknowledge that education disparities are determined by multiple factors in society. That is important to remember because which intervention strategy you choose depends on which specific factor or constellation of factors you are trying to change. 


Light-touch interventions tend to involve small tweaks that policymakers and practitioners can make to nudge students, teachers, or parents to change their behavior in ways that facilitate academic attainment. For instance, if low-income parents are underutilizing tuition-free early childhood education programs, researchers have shown that sending them text messages can increase the rate of completing required verification forms. For lower-achieving adolescents, a one-hour online growth mindset intervention that teaches students that intellectual abilities can be developed (they are not fixed) can improve grade points by 0.10 in core academic subjects.


While the light-touch approach can surely do some good—the small changes this approach tends to produce can, at times, be meaningful—we must not make the mistake of thinking these light touches will solve educational inequities on their own. As behavioral scientists have noted, light-touch interventions are not magical fixes to complicated social problems. They can be effective if the social structure and immediate context supports the messages being communicated in the intervention.


Heavy-handed interventions tend to involve large structural or programmatic changes to facilitate academic attainment by addressing differences in opportunities previously afforded to students from different backgrounds. For instance, to address differences in early childhood experiences, early childhood education programs like the Perry Preschool provided daily classroom sessions to support students and weekly home visits to help parents support their students; that program improved a variety of life outcomes for not only children who participated in it, but also their children in the next generation. For adolescents considering college, offering free tuition or other financial aid substantially increases the enrollment and ultimate success of low-income students in college. Finally, when students from disadvantaged backgrounds arrive on college campuses, particularly campuses that were designed with wealthier students in mind, building learning communities that provide the resources to foster academic achievement and social belonging can go a long way to improve student performance and persistence.


These heavy-handed interventions tend to be less popular (currently), in part because they are more expensive and disrupt the status quo. Rather than tweaking a message, they require spending time and money to redesign or develop new educational infrastructure to produce enduring changes in student outcomes. Although they are costly up front, it is important to consider the long-term gains of investments in quality educational programs—to consider what you get, given what you are paying for. In addition to the academic benefits, holistic interventions can produce long-term, multi-generational gains in employment, health, cognitive and socio-emotional skills, and even reduce crime. 


As long as structural problems continue to drive educational disparities, it seems most promising to address those barriers head on—to invest in more holistic educational interventions, even if they are more costly. Failing to do so (alongside the light-touch investments) may be penny wise and pound foolish.

District Deeds Synopsis:

It is always pleasant to see new approaches to solve educational disparities but then we remember that we are dealing with the gross incompetence of SDUSD ESS Marten, her clueless senior staff and her corrupt, crony Board of Educations filled by “Tricky Dick Barrera and his 4 empty suits.

Maybe after Marten is fired we will see this level of educatonal accomodation for our neediest Students.

How Art Analysis Addresses Cultural Bias in the Classroom

Quote from Article:

Public schools in the United States have a history of cultural and racial oppression that remains evident in today’s classrooms. That might show up as lowering expectations for students living in poverty, viewing schools outside the country as inferior to our own, or having a mindset that non-English speakers must overcome the barrier of their native language to assimilate into our system.

We must be conscious of the deep-rooted racism, biases, and prejudices in our culture and address them when they manifest in our classrooms. Teaching students of all ages to analyze the world from a culturally responsive viewpoint is one crucial step in confronting bias. To help student artists develop this mindset, visual art interpretation can serve as a pedagogical tool to facilitate students’ understanding of multiple perspectives.


A common approach to multicultural education is to have students explore ethnically, racially, and culturally diverse texts, music, and art. As an advocate for arts education, I like to use the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) tool to analyze these works. This allows students to apply their own experiences, thoughts, and feelings to art interpretation, observation, and analysis while enhancing their critical thinking, communication, and evidence-based reasoning (DeSantis & Housen, 2007; Yenowine, 2013). 


For this strategy to attain its full value, teachers must validate all student interpretations and encourage students to support their statements with visual evidence, as well as providing students with adequate time for interpreting the image (Yenowine, 2013). I give my students a specific timeframe based on the piece and their reactions—typically about 20–40 minutes at the elementary level.


Consider this example: Using VTS, I was guiding a 4th-grade group comprising mostly white, middle- to upper-middle class students in the use of VTS to interpret the painting “Three Wise Men Greeting Entry into Lagos” by contemporary African American painter Kehinde Wiley.

Some students interpreted that the three men look angry and are wearing dresses. Others said they are slaves or are making a Black Power gesture. Pure VTS would call for a teacher to respond by asking, “What do you see that makes you say that?” But, in this case, I knew the question would have allowed the students to delve deeper into their cultural biases toward racist interpretations of the work. My approach was to halt the conversation entirely. In looking back, I missed an opportunity to show students how to confront their own biases.


To transform VTS into a tool that develops culturally responsive thinkers, teachers can use one of two lines of questioning.

First, when VTS conversations take a biased turn, teachers must correct and redirect the situation with intervening questions, yet also use language and phrasing that doesn’t discourage students’ further participation. Scholar Gloria Ladson-Billings suggests that “despite current social inequities, students must develop their academic skills” (1995, p. 160). This means that we must maintain academic rigor while battling biases in school. We need to teach our students to confront their prejudices throughout the learning process.


The second line of instruction aims to develop students’ ability to visually analyze from a cultural relativist perspective—the idea that people’s beliefs and practices should be understood based on their own culture, rather than judged against another culture—and develop awareness of the preconceived notions they might hold about a culture other than their own. This part of the whole-group conversation should begin to support culturally sustaining pedagogy—which doesn’t see society as only catering to one culture or language but instead celebrates cultural pluralism and equality (Paris).


It is crucial to create a class environment in which all students understand the existence of biases, prejudices, and racism. A culturally responsive approach to VTS, where teachers design learning experiences to help students question their perceptions of others and consider multiple perspectives when discussing artwork, supports this understanding.

Despite our best intentions, there is no denying that we all have prejudices. A student-centered strategy for analyzing artwork with diverse subjects created by diverse artists lets the art do the teaching.

District Deeds Synopsis:

We were impressed with the insights and recommendations in this article regarding Visual Thinking Strategies.  It shows how a focus on the “deep-rooted racism, biases, and prejudices in our culture” by our skilled Teachers and Administrators can both enlighten and heal our school and community cultures.  

This type of strategy takes a strong moral committment and intelligence by school district leadership to confront cultural bias in a constuctive and healing way.

Unfortunately “moral committment”, “intelligence”, “constructive” and “healing” are not words that exist within the ESS Marten/TrickyDick Barrera dysfunctinal dictatorship.

We are instead left with a bumbling, incompetent Superintendent and a corrupt “get re-elected at all costs” Board of Education damaging the futures of our neediest Students in unsafe school sites every single school day.

Welcome to the SDUSD!

Now for our Quote of the Week:

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”
― Robertson Davies

Have a great week!!!



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