Recently our new Superintendent of Public Instruction, Chris Reykdal, issued a press release (http://www.k12.wa.us/Communications/PressReleases2017/Long-TermVision.aspx) in which he outlined his “vision” of the future of education in Washington State.
We took the opportunity to email Mr. Reykdal to make some comments and ask a few questions. We got shuttled around between a few of his people but, in the end, we managed to get a few responses from Nate Olson, OSPI Director of Communications. We presume the responses represent Mr. Reykdal’s views and position(s).
Below you will see the email we sent (our comments/questions in RED and their comments/responses in BLUE if we got anything). We folded it all together to make it easier to see what got responses and what didn’t. We hope you find this useful. We won’t make any judgments…we leave that to you.
OLYMPIA — May 24, 2017 — Today, Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal outlined his long-term vision for K-12 education and framework for meeting the state Supreme Court’s decision in McCleary v. Washington at a press conference in Olympia.
“The goal of our education system is to prepare all of our students for post-secondary aspirations, careers, and life,” he said. “In the ongoing struggle to amply fund our schools, I fear we have lost this larger vision.”
Comment: Actually it’s “the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgement, and of generally preparing oneself or others intellectually for a mature life”. Is that not being done now and if so how not?
Response: “The goal of our education system…” State law (RCW 28A.150.210) defines “basic education” as “evolving program of instruction that is intended to provide students with the opportunity to become responsible and respectful global citizens,” among other components. Superintendent Reykdal’s quote wasn’t intended as a mandate/requirement, but as common-sense language about the system. Superintendent Reykdal worries that too much emphasis is being placed on college. But more students do not go to college than do go to college, and the system could do more to help those students succeed.
Reykdal’s vision identifies the McCleary court case – in which the Supreme Court ruled that the state isn’t adequately funding basic education – as a starting point.
“We’ve talked about McCleary for several years now,” Reykdal said. “But too often, people see meeting the court’s mandate as the final destination. I believe our students and educators deserve so much more than just the bare minimum.”
Comment: How much money is Mr. Reykdal seeking per student? I see broad statements but no numbers. Is there data he is willing to cite that ties the amount of money to outcomes or performance? (Please share). I offer the following blog article: http://www.swweducation.org/?p=3939
Response: Money per student: We haven’t costed out how much more per student Superintendent Reykdal’s plan would generate. And we don’t have any data or research on spending vs. outcomes.
Reykdal’s vision is set forth over three phases – each lasting two years – from small improvements to a full redesign of the K-12 education system. They are as follows:
Phase I (2017-19): Performance Improvements and McCleary Framework
To prevent a “McCleary II,” the Legislature must decide on a clear definition of basic education and the state’s portion of compensation for our educators, Reykdal said.
Beyond that, the state will need to provide targeted support beyond basic education for schools with large performance gaps between student demographics. Reykdal has consistently said that we will not shy away from data that expose where we are lacking because it’s what will help move the needle for our most vulnerable students.
Comment: What portion of the students/districts/schools fit his definition of having “large performance gaps”? How much more (resources) is needed and where is the evidence that those investments will produce the desire results (and what are those results defined as)?
Response: “large performance gaps”: We’ve done analysis on this work for the past couple of years. See http://www.k12.wa.us/DataAdmin/PerformanceIndicators/DataAnalytics.aspx#Assessment for that work. It includes data visualization that will show where the gaps are in districts. The main file in question is called “Assessment Analytics.” I don’t have information on how much more money is needed to “fix” the gap.
Additionally, Washington is one of few states that still require students to pass a single exam to graduate. Reykdal’s framework moves the 11th grade assessment to the 10th grade so test results will inform students’ graduation pathway. But in an immediate step, we should stop using standardized exams as a filter on who graduates, Reykdal said.
Comment: I agree with stopping use of standardized tests for graduation immediately. I would also like to see any evidence that there is any correlation between the results of standardized tests and performance, graduation or any other measure that has a positive impact on students. It’s my view that these tests are used by adults to either show their programs are good or to get more money.
Response: Tests and diplomas: Superintendent Reykdal agrees that students shouldn’t have to pass a text to graduate. Just yesterday we put out a release on a bill he’s requested: http://www.k12.wa.us/Communications/PressReleases2017/StateExams.aspx
Phase II (2019-21): Research and Policy Transition
“This is where the long-term vision begins to take form,” Reykdal said. That includes creating meaningful pathways to high school graduation, paying all dual credit fees for our students, and creating more opportunities for parents and guardians to engage in their child’s education, particularly with key investments in technology.
Comment: There isn’t enough detail here to judge whether there is substance in the statements or it’s hot air. Is there more detail and if so please share it. Is he saying that parents and guardians can’t currently engaged or that he has ideas for improving? Technology can be a useful tool in the right circumstances but it also opens doors that lead to data loss, abuse and negative impacts on learning. There is substantial evidence that technology can and is harming learning (I can provide details if desired).
Response: Phase II: more details to the superintendent’s plan can be found at http://www.k12.wa.us/AboutUs/Priorities/default.aspx
Phase III (2021-23): Comprehensive K-12 Redesign
The final phase of Reykdal’s vision includes large transformational changes. These include dual language acquisition beginning in kindergarten, longer K-8 school days and a longer school year, longer lunch breaks, adequate recess times, and universal early learning access, among others.
Comment: I agree that a 2nd language should be the norm. How much longer days and what would that produce and at what costs? Longer lunch = good. More recess time = good. Early learning is more a child care vehicle than anything. Is the Superintendent not aware of the studies that show that by 3rd grade there is no discernible difference between early educated students and those who were not? Is he not aware that the development of children is so variable that it usually takes until the 3rd grade for children to get to parity? And what are the “among other things”?
Response: Phase III: I’m not sure what studies the superintendent is or isn’t aware of. The “among other things” was meant to imply that the examples given are not the only options for longer days/years.
“I know these are bold goals that will require additional investments by the state,” Reykdal said. “But when looking at how much of our state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – the total dollar value of all the goods and services we produce – we reinvest in education, Washington ranks 46th nationally. We can do much, much better than that.”
Comment: This falls back on the premise that more money = better results. Please provide the details that support that claim. I’ve found significant amounts of materials that show no correlation. How is tying GDP to education appropriate? I’m all for investing so long as there is evidence of return that exceeds the costs. The statement in this paragraph smacks of grandstanding rather than being fact based.
Response: GDP: Superintendent Reykdal believes that as a state we aren’t investing enough of what we produce into education. We are tied for 45th in the country on that metric; see www.schoolfundingfairness.org On the front page, click on “Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card.”
Reykdal predicted additional funding for education would amount to about $4 billion a year. “The Legislature has the opportunity to make enormous progress this year when they come to an agreement,” he said. “But we must focus on the education system we need, and not settle for the one that our political climate will tolerate in the short term.”
Comment: What is is projection of the cost per wage earner if an additional $4 billion is added? This again assumes that more money = better outcomes. Evidence? If what he claims is true then he should be able to show how much each additional dollar yields…
“McCleary has given us a chance to take a deep look at how we educate our children so they are successful in their lives and are active contributors to society,” he continued.
Superintendent Reykdal understands his long-term vision is bold, audacious, and to implement, will require the support of parents and guardians, educators, policymakers, and the public. “If we are serious about our children being able to compete on a national and global scale, it’s time we look at our education system in a new way,” he said.
Comment: Perhaps toning down the hyperbole…”…his vision is bold, audacious…” No it’s not. It’s making incremental changes without evidence. When I see this type of statement it comes across as posturing and blustery. If he was really “bold” he would shift resources from “college ready” to CTE and help prepare a large portion of students with real world skills that would help them earn a good living instead of feeling they must go to college when they are not really interested and can’t do it without massive loans that will burden them for decades. How about he be “bold” by truly focusing on those who will be electricians, plumbers, mechanics and a host of jobs that are capable of producing a good livelihood?
Response: “bold, audacious vision”: Point taken.
“Our system redesign can only claim success if it truly provides equal opportunity and an unprecedented embrace of individual learning pathways for each student,” Reykdal said. “We hope you will join us on this transformation.”