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


Study: Tough Teachers Get Better Results From Students

A Fordham analysis of grading standards set by Algebra I teachers shows high expectations have long-term impacts and benefit all types of students.

Fordham Study: Great Expectations: The Impact of Rigorous Grading Practices on Student Achievement

Quote from Article:

Teachers walk a fine line, says Jordan Catapano, an assistant principal al James B. Conant High School in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. 

On one hand, he says, educators don’t want to frustrate students by setting standards so high an “A” is unattainable. But they also don’t want to bore students and leave them thinking the quality of their work doesn’t matter. The hope, he says, is students will “rise to the occasion.”

“The term ‘tough teacher’ can have a negative connotation,” he says. “Ideally, a tough teacher is someone with high expectations about what students can accomplish, but is also well-versed to guide and support students along the way.”


These tough-grading teachers also seem to be on the right track, according to a recent study by American University’s Seth Gershenson, who analyzed grading standards of 8th- and 9th-grade Algebra I teachers in North Carolina over a 10-year period and then looked at their students’ long-term outcomes. He found students gained more knowledge from teachers with rigorous grading standards than those with lower expectations.

The study weighed the effect of grading standards on students’ end-of-course exam results, how the grading standards impacted students’ performance in subsequent math courses, and how the impact varied by students, schools and teachers. Gershenson also examined the characteristics of schools and teachers that affect grading standards.


This newest study shows students whose teachers had the highest grading standards scored 16.9% of a standard deviation over those with low-expectation teachers. Tougher grading practices also translated into higher achievement in the subsequent Geometry and Algebra II courses. In Geometry, students whose teachers had high grading standards in Algebra I scored 7.3% of the standard deviation. In Algebra II, that group scored 8.6% of SD.

The results were consistent across all student subgroups including white, black and Hispanic students. They were also consistent across all types of schools, with the greatest impact seen in middle schools and among high-poverty schools. 

Teachers with more experience also tend to have higher grading expectations, and their students achieve at higher levels. The report found students with teachers who had four or fewer years of experience had expectations significantly lower than average, but expectations ticked up the longer teachers stayed in the profession. Those with more than 21 years of experience had the highest expectations.


With more colleges and universities looking beyond admission test results for indicators of students’ college readiness, those GPAs are becoming even more important. As of January 2018, there were 1,000 ACT/SAT test optional colleges and universities.

“Grade-point averages will now matter even more,” they write, “so it is key that they be accurate representations of a student’s academic performance.”

Gershenson recommends school, district and state leaders monitor grading practices to ensure teachers are not giving “easy A’s,” that they address the “damaging consequences” of low grading standards, and that they use grading practices as one aspect of strengthening the teacher workforce. 

“It will take time,” he writes, “but we must learn how to make high expectations and high grading standards a part of the teaching culture through hands-on teaching, optimized incentives and stronger professional development.”

District Deeds Synopsis:

When we read this article we were reminded of the “tough” teachers our kids had when in elementary, middle and high school.

Like all human beings, their personalities varied dramatically.  Some had a gruff exterior, some were very open and welcoming and most were somewere in between.

Being around school sites regularly over a span of 20+ years, we also observed various types of pressure these “tough” teachers endured from many levels of SDUSD Stakeholders.

Incompetent SDUSD senior leadership led by Elementary School Superintendent (ESS) Cindy Marten pressured Teachers to change successful “tough” strategies through hours of useless and conflicting professional development.

Highly qualifed Prinicipal turnover caused by the toxic Marten “leadership” resulted in inexperienced rookie Principal replacements.  These new Principals, lobbied by infuential, wealthy parents, pressured “tough” Teachers to change grades and curriculum OR ELSE.

Some Teachers were allowed (and still are allowed) by rookie and interim Principals to drop passing grades to as low as 30% to ensure the student passes the class and graduates.

Overall, the incompetent, unethical ESS Marten and Board of Education led by Trustee Richard “Tricky Dick” Barrera pulled every trick in their educationally bankrupt book to pump up phony graduation rates by every way possible through waivers and exiling failing students to credit recovery charter schools that don’t count against the SDUSD graduation rate.

We know that there are hundreds of “tough” SDUSD Teachers and we encourage them to be strong and continue to fight for rigorous and challenging teaching strategies that produce fully educated students.

We are all depending on you!

How Some California School Districts Invest in Counseling – and Achieve Results

Investing in counseling can raise graduation and college-going rates, schools find

Quote from Article:

San Francisco Unified is among dozens of districts across California that has invested in counseling in recent years, hiring more staff to guide students through the college and career process and help with their mental health needs. For many districts, the investment has paid off with higher graduation rates, a drop in absenteeism and more students submitting financial aid forms and completing the A-G courses required for admission to UC and CSU.

But while California schools have added more than 2,200 new counselors over the past eight years — a jump of more than 20 percent — student-to-counselor ratios remain high at most districts, and the state average of 609-to-1 is well above the national average and the 250-to-1 ratio recommended by the American School Counselor Association.


High school counselors are trained in academic, college and career guidance, and in most schools that’s their primary job. But they provide a host of other services critical to student wellbeing and campus climate, such as handling discipline and behavior issues, working with teachers on social and emotional learning, and advocating for students with independent education plans. Counselors also have mental health training, and often serve as “first responders” who can identify students who are depressed or suffering from trauma and can refer them to specialists.

Numerous recent studies show that a well-staffed school counseling department can help boost students’ academic performance, decrease absenteeism and narrow the achievement gap between white students and their black and Latino peers. Counselors can also have an impact on suicide awareness on campus, and can help reduce behavior problems among younger children, studies have shown.


In 2015, Hemet Unified, in Riverside County, added full-time counselors to each elementary school and new college and career counselors to each of the district’s four high schools. Since then, the graduation rate has increased and the percentage of students finishing the A-G courses required for admission to UC and CSU has jumped from 25 percent to 43 percent.

In San Francisco Unified, the counselor-to-student ratio is slightly higher than it was a few years ago, but it’s still well below the state average and has been supplemented by a big increase in the number of social workers and psychologists. The investments have paid off: The district’s graduation rate last year was 86 percent, a jump from 77 percent a decade ago. And the rate of students going on to college last year was 75 percent, compared to the state average of 66 percent.

District Deeds Synopsis:

It was refreshing to read about school districts and schools in California that recieve the same type of funding as the SDUSD and choose to do the hard work and smart budgeting that enables full counseling support.

It is disheartening to know that many SDUSD Elementary school sites do not have a full time Counselor and many SDUSD Middle and High Schools are experienciing major cutbacks in counseling due to the horrible budget mismanagement (a projected $64 million deficit) by ESS Marten and the Board of Education.

ESS Marten and her crony Board of Education would much rather put millions of dollars into fighting lawsuits from SDUSD Employees and Families or create phony outreach public relations hoopla than doing the hard work supporting the neediest students through daily, on site counseling.

Marten, Barrera and the rest of the senior leadership are a disgrace that ALL of our students are paying for every single day.

Training Teachers to Fail

Quote from Article:

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the reading crisis in U.S. schoolsCareful reporting has pinpointed a common problem: Many newly-trained and veteran teachers are not aware of the latest research on early reading instruction or comprehension. In 2016, NCTQ reviewed the syllabi of 820 teacher preparation programs across the country and found that only 39 percent of programs were teaching the basics of effective reading instruction. Four years later that number of programs has risen to 51 percent. While this signals a positive trend in adopting evidence-informed reading instruction, the fact remains that 49 percent of incoming teachers do not have the tools to effectively teach reading.

After examining our experiences at two well-known teacher training programs in Minnesota and looking at what we were—and were not—taught about the basics of literacy, we have come to the same conclusion: We were not prepared for the responsibility of the job. This failure to prepare teachers, we believe, should be a red flag for the current system in place for how we train and place teachers into classrooms.


As we went through our respective teacher training programs, we noticed a common theme to our coursework. At every turn, it seemed that student interest was front and center. The idealized teacher should be passive, give minimal guidance, and certainly not talk for more than five minutes. Teachers should not be instructing so much as they should be prioritizing and facilitating student choice. Phrases like this were perpetuated as best practice:

If I come to observe you, you shouldn’t be at the front of the room…The worst thing a teacher can do when students ask questions is answer them…Students only want to write about what they’re interested in.

Reading instruction was assumed to happen largely through osmosis and the now-dominant “workshop” model. The majority of early reading instruction revolved around “read-alouds” with picture books. There was minimal to non-existent training in effective whole-group instruction or the “Big 5” components of reading—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension—although a consensus in research supports the effectiveness of utilizing these insights in reading instruction.


Most alarmingly, when students display lagging decoding skills, our teacher training encouraged us to utilize shortcuts to “increase engagement” like leveled reading, technology, audiobooks, and graphic novels. Clearly these strategies are not working: Minnesota has the widest gap in reading scores between white and nonwhite students in the nation—32 percent of black fourth-graders and 34 percent of Hispanic fourth-graders are proficient in reading, compared to 66 percent of white fourth-graders. Ironically, we also have some of the strictest teacher licensing requirements in the nation.

Rather than grappling with the gravity of the literacy crisis, motivation and interest seem to be top priorities and are seen as the solution to students who are unable to decode. Little attention was given to the fact that a deep and robust background knowledge (gained through social studies, science, and the arts) is a vital part of reading comprehension.

In terms of teaching writing, writers notebooks and other “multi-modal” forms of communication were emphasized instead of focusing on complex, expository writing.


The result of a teacher training dominated by student-interest and minimally-guided instruction was that, oddly enough, we were not trained in how to actually teach. Our training felt more like a philosophy of teaching degree than ensuring students could learn the tangible skills required for success in high school and beyond. As a result, as with many new teachers, the majority of our first experiences with teaching were filled with hours of searching for curricula or making plans from scratch, rather than focusing on whether or not students were actually learning—or worse, feeling unable to assign work for fear of not having time to grade it. Clearly, this is not a sustainable model and ultimately harms student learning and teachers’ morale.

District Deeds Synopsis:

This eye opening article explains a lot as to why the most challenging SDUSD schools have a hstory of multigenerational failure.

Using information from the article, the story goes like this for a new SDUSD Teacher.

The new SDUSD Teacher:

  • Leaves college unprepared to teach (per the article)
  • Since they are the lowest tenured, are assigned to a struggling SDUSD school.
  • Is assigned to a school that has rookie Principal that is still trying to learn their own job and/or has had horrible Principal turnover…somtimes every other year in some schools.
  • Is bombarded by useless Professional Development by a Superintendent who only slightly knows how to teach in an Elementary school.
  • If a teacher of color, you see most all senior SDUSD positions filled by the ESS Marten White Woman Mafia and realize that the only way to survive, let alone be promoted, is to prostrate themselves to Marten and her acoytes unethical practices.
  • Discouragement and disillusionment ensue and drive formerly enthusiastic new Teachers to other school districts or out of the teaching profession completely.

Is it any wonder that the corrupt and incompetent SDUSD has a crisis in atttracting new teachers…especially teachers of color?  Another disturbing and harmful legacy of ESS Marten and Tricky Dick Barrera.

Now for our Quote of the Week:

“People who think you could wave a magic wand and the legacy of the past will be over are blind.  – Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Have a great week!!!



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