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


The Biggest Scandal in Education is Hiding in Plain Sight

Quote from Article:

Kids hear all the time that working hard and earning A’s and B’s in school will open opportunities for them later in life. Families rely on those grades to tell them whether their kids are getting what they need out of school to become happy, successful adults. In fact, they trust report card grades more than standardized test scores or any other indicator of their kids’ progress. Unfortunately, for millions of families, report card grades are deeply misleading—offering false confidence that their children are well-prepared for their futures when they’re not.

Earlier this month, the Fordham Institute released a study that further confirmed this scandal that’s hiding in plain sight in almost every school in the country. The study found huge variation in grading standards among Algebra 1 teachers in North Carolina—meaning that an A or a B might reflect very different levels of mastery from classroom to classroom. Grading standards depended not on policy, but on factors like the teacher’s experience level, the selectivity of the college they attended, and even their gender. Crucially, these different grading standards had a significant impact on students: According to the study, students learned more from teachers with higher grading standards, and those gains persisted up to two years later.


The study also found that high grading standards were not distributed randomly, but are a product of the same pernicious inequities that dictate how critical resources like talent, funding, and access to excellent instruction are provided. Suburban schools and schools serving more affluent students were far more likely to have high grading standards.

This fits with what we at TNTP have found in our own research, and what we see in classrooms every day. In The Opportunity Myth, we found that out of students who earned B’s—widely considered to be a good grade—only 35 percent were at grade level on state reading and math tests, and just half met the benchmark for college readiness on the ACT or SAT.

More disturbingly, we found evidence that the same grade can have very different meanings depending on a student’s race, a factor not analyzed in the Fordham report—to the point where black students who earned A’s were only about as well-prepared as white students who earned C’s. When schools grade students of color at a lower standard than their whiter or more affluent classmates, they’re simultaneously denying them opportunity and lying to them.


These discrepancies stemmed not just from low grading standards on challenging work, but from a lack of opportunities to even attempt grade-appropriate assignments in the first place. Earning a “legitimate” A or a B based on fifth-grade work says little about a student’s readiness for high school, college, or beyond if they’re in eighth grade—yet most of the students we studied spent most of their time doing work far below their grade level. This helps explain the unconscionable dynamic where national high school graduation rate has climbed past 80 percent, but 40 percent of those who enroll in college are still shunted into remedial classes—racking up a combined $1.5 billion in extra debt to learn skills their report card grades told them they’d already mastered.


Transparency is the critical first step to ending this widespread grading scandal. Schools need to stop misleading families and be clearer with them about what grades really mean. Parents see an A or B on a report card and understandably assume that their student is on track. But if that’s not the case, whether it’s due to low grading standards, non-academic factors in a grade, or something else, schools should make that clear. Grades can certainly measure more than academic mastery—a student’s attendance, class participation, or contributions to school culture could all reasonably factor in—but students and families need to know exactly what they mean, and the extent to which they capture academic readiness.


This isn’t a step we can fairly expect individual teachers, school leaders, or even school districts to take on their own. In a world where low grading standards dominate, those who apply higher standards will face enormous pressure from students, parents, and supervisors to just give the grades that make everyone happy in the short run but obscure the inadequate education too many students receive.

Changing those incentives will likely require action at the state level. 

District Deeds Synopsis:

After reading this article we decided to confer with a number of San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) Stakeholders to determine whether this “scandal” was evident in our district schools.

The results were as we expected under the incompetent Elementary School Superintendent (ESS) Cindy Marten and her equally incompetent hand picked sycophants in the central office.

  • There are no uniform grading standards for identical classes from one teacher, grade or school to another in the SDUSD.  For example, one class requires that a student attain a 70% for a passing grade while another requires only 40% for the identical class om another school.
  • In the SDUSD, students are being given passing grades in classes and being promoted to the next grade level while not meeting grade level “on state reading and math tests”.
  • Grades given in schools with different student demographics vary dramatically versus the state performance test results and graduation rates indicating students are graduating with only a fraction of the skills needed to succeed after High School.
  • The large amount of Principal turnover caused by ESS Marten has put the new “rookie” Principals under extreme pressure to “to just give the grades that make everyone happy in the short run but obscure the inadequate education too many students receive”

The article also mentions that “Changing those incentives will likely require action at the state level.”

But the incompetent, corrupt Marten has that covered also.

Despite not having a clue on how to run a school district (as District Deeds has exposed over the last 6 years), Marten’s cronies in the Democratic party have recently appointed her to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing – which allows the inconsistent and harmful grading practices to continue to prop up the fake SDUSD graduation rates.

The Governor who appointed her is a Democrat, the State Legislature has a Democrat super majority and the State Superintendent pf Public Instruction is a Democrat.

Actual proof that the status quo of self serving SDUSD leadership will continue to receive millions of dollars of compensation, mismanage the SDUSD budget every year, and continuously beg us for more money like Prop 13 while producing zero educational progress at he expense of the neediest students in the neediest schools!

Actual proof that the current State and local leadership will be paid off by the upcoming 13 $15 BILLION Prop 13.

Actual proof that absolute power corrupts absolutely!

Actual proof that ESS Marten and her political cronies are an actual disgrace!


Ready for Genius Hour? Do This, Not That.

Quote from Article:

Genius Hour is an excellent way to encourage students to explore topics of interest and help school become a place of passionate learning.

The Genius Hour concept was originally inspired by Google executives, who noted in a 2004 corporate report that 20% of employees’ time was available to pursue ideas driven by personal passion and curiosity (Gmail and Google News are among the projects said to have emerged from the “20-percent time”).

Google’s goal was to develop happier, more creative, and more productive workers. Since then, many educators have adapted this approach for the classroom, shaping the concept to provide  students regular time to pursue their own passions.


When we apply Genius Hour with students and allow them freedom to design their own learning and explore their own interests, they experience increases in intrinsic sense of purpose. Many schools are now implementing Genius Hour or some variation, which typically occurs for a minimum of one hour per week.


Do This

Terry Heick of TeachThought describes six principles of Genius Hour. By integrating these principles, your students are more likely to be successful.

There are several strategies that can help you structure Genius Hour to ensure success of all students. First, once students have identified a topic, ask them to give an “Elevator Pitch” which is a three-minute talk proposing the idea. They can present this to other students or to you. periodic feedback from you and other students.

Although you want to give students the widest latitude possible to choose their topics, you may need to provide some guidance. I found with my students that it was helpful to offer a list of possible topics to choose from if they don’t have a focus already picked out. There are endless possibilities – here are just a few from my lists.


Not This

We must also consider the things NOT to do, since they can derail your efforts to increase learning through Genius Hour. First, don’t allow total choice without providing guidance and support.

Students work best when there is some structure and guided support when needed. For example, one teacher I met allowed total free choice on the topics. Predictably, he had a few students who took advantage of that freedom to choose “easy” topics that were more suited to elementary school. Let students know you expect they will challenge themselves in some way.


When I was a teacher, I allowed choice in many assignments (not just Genius Hour) using the following criteria. You may find it helpful, but it is also appropriate to have less structure since Genius Hour is designed to be student-driven. You know your students best. Over time, you may find they can handle more freedom.


Second, don’t assume you aren’t teaching during Genius Hour. You may be teaching a mini-lesson with some students, but even if you are not doing that, you are still teaching, just in a different way. This can be the place where you are truly the “guide on the side.”

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that you need to be a traditional teacher who controls the classroom.  Rather, you will be facilitating the learning, allowing students to drive their own instruction.


Another “Don’t Do This” is to forget to leave time for processing and reflection. Due to schedule demands, teachers may try to rush the Genius Hour process. When we do this, students are not allowed time to connect their learning to other concepts, gain feedback from you and other students, or explore questions in depth. Finally, as a part of the rush to finish the process, we can push students to present their final product without practicing their presentation, or without completing it with more depth.

District Deeds Synopsis:

After reading this article we thought about the many dedicated Teachers and Principals doing their best in the toxic SDUSD work environment to come up with innovative ways to successfully engage students.

Understanding that much of the SDUSD budget goes to paying off unqualified ESS Marten sycophants, Teachers and Principals need to be creative in their educational strategies.  This “Genius Hour’ idea seems to be a strategy that could be implemented in any classroom in any SDUSD school with any and all students including Special Education students.

Just to be sure that we did not miss the deployment of this idea in the SDUSD, we did a search for “Genius Hour” on the SDUSD website:

As expected, and as usual, in the dysfunctional SDUSD under dysfunctional ESS Cindy Marten and dysfunctional SDUSD Board of Education Trustees…


Science of Reading Changing How it is Taught in Stark County

Most Stark County schools are changing how they teach students to read, now using the science of how the brain learns to read as their foundation.

Quote from Article:

Annabell Rowe punched her hand toward the ceiling as she emphasized the “s” in the word yes.

The Genoa Elementary kindergartner then clasped her hands together and swung them in a chopping motion as her teacher Meghan Ross led the class in pronouncing each letter sound in a series of three-and-four-letter words.

“Say wwwiiiinnnn,” Ross began.

“Win,” the students repeated in unison and chopped their hands three times from left to right as they enunciated the sound of each letter, “Wuh! Ih! En! Win!”


“Let’s try that one again,” Ross said.

They chopped together, “Wuh! Ih! En! Win!”

This is not how most of us learned to read.

We learned through immersion – being exposed to a wide range of books and texts – and likely only sounded out letters when we got stuck on a word we didn’t know. The idea was – and still is in many classrooms nationwide – reading is a natural process gained through exposure, similar to how we learned to talk.


The Ohio Department of Education began six years ago gathering experts statewide to study the state’s literacy data and identify gaps in learning, as well as examine how students were learning to read and how Ohio’s teaching methods compared to other more successful states.

“In Ohio, we had pretty much flatlined in reading since the 1980s,” said Debbie Hartwig, a former Minerva educator who is now the school improvement consultant and literacy coach for Ohio’s State Support Team 9 and one of the literacy experts brought in to do the research. “We were trying to figure out why and how to change that, especially with our students with disabilities.”


After two years of research, the experts determined the way students were being taught to read – largely through literacy immersion – wasn’t working for many children.

They began learning about the science of how the brain reads and found it needs explicit instruction to learn the sounds and letter connections to read words correctly.

“You are not born wired to read,” Hartwig said. “You have to develop the neuro-circuitry in the brain to read.”

She said roughly half of children can develop that neuro-circuitry by being frequently exposed to books and language. For others, it doesn’t develop as quickly and must be taught. They found using systematic phonics helps all students, from the natural readers to those with dyslexia.


The experts developed a state improvement plan that aligns literacy instruction to the science of reading and helped create an interactive online edition of a training program designed to help teachers learn how to teach reading to their students based on the way the brain learns to read.

That training program – called the third edition of Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, better known as LETRS – is now being used by many Stark County schools and it has led to changes in how students here are being taught.


The scientific approach to teaching reading seeks to align instruction to what has been learned through neuroscience, cognitive psychology, linguistics and special education.

For example, eye-tracking studies and brain scans show we don’t read whole words. Instead, we see every single letter of the word and quickly connect them to form the word. That has led educators to emphasize helping students hear and identify individual sounds in spoken words – known as phonemic awareness – and then how to connect the sounds to letters – known as phonics. Science of reading instruction follows a specific sequence so no skills are missed.

Critics of the science of reading approach believe too much emphasis on sound-it-out drills could turn students off of reading entirely. They also say the science of reading’s systematic approach doesn’t allow natural readers the chance to go beyond phonics when they’re ready.

But Hartwig disagrees.

She says the science of reading hits all five essential components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

“It is teaching and using rich vocabulary, it is reading aloud to students, it is having children read grade-level text everyday, it is having rich discussions about the texts they are reading and writing in response to that reading as well,” Hartwig said. “It is also teaching handwriting. It is all of this. Teaching reading is rocket science.”


David Brobeck wishes he would have learned about the science of reading sooner.

“When I did my master’s degree in reading, they told us that people learned to read pretty much the same way that they learned to talk,” said Brobeck, a reading teacher in Kent City Schools for 17 years who then set up middle school reading programs as a principal in Woodridge Schools and later served as a superintendent in Salem City and Field Local school districts. ”… What the science has discovered is that’s really a myth.”

He becomes emotional as he thinks about his students who struggled to read despite his best attempts. He now realizes many of them likely needed more phonics.

“I wish I had known it because there were kids I could’ve helped more,” he said. “I just didn’t know these things.”

District Deeds Synopsis:

The thing that struck us the hardest in this article was the statement by Teacher Brobeck:

He becomes emotional as he thinks about his students who struggled to read despite his best attempts. He now realizes many of them likely needed more phonics.

“I wish I had known it because there were kids I could’ve helped more,” he said. “I just didn’t know these things.”

We are sure that many of our SDUSD Teachers feel exactly the same way.

Every day many of our SDUSD Teachers struggle to help students read and write with inconsistent support from unqualified and unprofessional ESS Marten central office appointees only concerned about keeping their head down and their mouth shut in order to preserve their employment in the SDUSD.

Too many times Teachers and Principals in the SDUSD are left to coming up with educational solutions on their own which only increases the educational disparity between the SDUSD student and family haves and have nots.

That is why we are doing our best to provide these articles in our blog.  Hopefully these articles provide some ideas and some relief to our dedicated Teachers and Principals and better education to our SDUSD Students and families!

Now for our Quote of the Week:

“To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.” – Confucius

Have a great week!!!



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FIRE San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten Immediately!

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