This website stands on its own based on published ACT results for USA and OECD PISA reports for international data, in addition to other named publications as they are used herein. We made an attempt to identify all sources and examples here for the website to be clear to all readers, and consolidated the data in charts to show trends. Unfortunately the downtrend of public primary and secondary education dropped so far that it now presents a serious danger to our employers and the USA itself in our opinion. This website is not about its writer. It is about the published data that indicates a significant danger to our children's future. Unfortunately it appears that no one has been or is acting effectively to increase the ACT scores, the key indicator of improvement or failure in education in Tennessee and elsewhere.
Massachusetts' students rank 1st in the US in math. Hong Kong's students rank among the top 5 in the world. The US is 36th, a new low record in math in 2013 (OECD-PISA tests of 65 countries). The best in our country do not come CLOSE to matching even the top 20 in the world. 87% of the questions on the Hong Kong test require a higher level of thinking and knowledge. Only 6% of questions on the Massachusetts test are on the same level. These figures express how woefully behind we are (http://iadvocateforkids.org/PTA/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/CCSShandout4pg-FINAL.pdf
, Page 3). Our example, Tennessee is worse than Massachusetts. The curriculum to get a high school diploma is more rigorous in the top 20 countries than ours. In most of them the curriculum defines what each course is to achieve by year end and the teachers decide individually how they will teach and in what sequence to achieve the curriculum requirement.
The most important outcome of K-12 education (grade 1 to 12) is to have students prepared to be employed or ready for the next level of training. If not employable with enough LEGAL income to live on, he/she will have a terrible life. We are creating too many such children leaving high school.
The ACT has been shown to be a reliable measure of those outcomes yet we have not included it in our education system's objectives. A goal must be to lower the current 80%+ ACT (average score 20.4) UNREADINESS of those leaving high school, to 20%. "UNREADINESS" means no tech school, college or trade job training possibility, with minimum wage opportunity only. 20% ACT UNREADINESS would require a 25 ACT average. A 5% average ACT score increase per year until an acceptable performance is reached seems reasonable. Also reasonable would be tying 75% percent of the superintendents performance review to something measurable such as this 5% ACT increase. As of now the Knox County, Tennessee 5-year strategic plan is filled with unmeasurable goals and objectives which are assuring poor results year after year. Go to KCS objectives
A close second to improving ACT Readiness is improving the low teacher morale. How can we achieve the best results with children if teacher morale is poor?
The board and superintendent must resolve such things by giving teachers full authority in the classroom to rule immediately on any discipline problem such that the child will not repeat it, and by reducing activities that cut down on teaching time such as paperwork, and tests beyond the state requirement. Turnover in any job with a college education background costs many months of the salary and benefits of those employees who are leaving. Maintaining high morale is essential for the best possible student results and for preventing unnecessary spending that is the result of mistakes in selecting and keeping employees at all levels who cannot do their job well.
The professional PR people in our public education districts do not tell the public the entire truth. A proverb says: "A half truth is a whole lie". They create a much better impression of performance for the public than the truth is. This is dishonest, deceptive behavior in plain English especially when done to those who are paying the huge bill of public education with their hard-earned tax dollars: THE PUBLIC. It is inexcusable, especially when the public is burdened to pay for an 80%+ failure rate of their sons and daughters.
They also create the impression that we need more money when we are the 5th largest spender per student in the world producing one of the poorest results among industrialized nations: 36th. We used to be on top in 1970. Recovery to a more competitive position becomes disproportionately more difficult in anything, once you fall below tenth.
In 2014, the World Economic Forum ranked the United States 49th in quality of mathematics and science education of 148 nations. World Economic Forum, The Global Competitiveness Report 2013-2014
OECD PISA tests 65 nations' 15-year olds (includes OECD plus partner countries for taking PISA) every three years. The USA dropped to a new low of 36th in mathematics in the 2012 Dec. OECD PISA test published in 2013
Jobs in the future will require a more educated workforce as in the past. Instead, we are and have been developing less-educated people, more and more students who are unmotivated, and unable to learn a job after high school and have a bad attitude. In addition we treat our children softly, children who use abusive language with teachers, and we do this in preparation for a much tougher world after high school, that will not tolerate such behavior. Between 2008 and 2014, the children who are untrainable for jobs beyond minimum wage averaged above 80% of those students who enter Knox County, TN high schools in 9th grade. As if those weren't bad enough, Tennessee's statewide results are even worse at 89%. 9 out of 10 children who entered 9th grade will leave high school marginally employable close to minimum wage until their job will be replaced by cognitive robots in months not years. Please go through the verification of ACT reports to understand this situation. The poor job the state education department, state leadership and our school districts have done caused this situation. I wonder if our state education department has ever given any thought to how poorly we are preparing the young generation, its consequences on our economy and survival as a state. Look below what McDonalds is moving to in 2015. They are not the only ones.
McDonalds move toward robotics: Customers love them. They're quick, easy, and customers avoid all the "wad U say" frustrations. They get orders in, get their food the way they want it, and they're on their way.
That's fast food. And odd enough, people SPEND more when they're on kiosks. The Harvard Business Review said they found the average check size was 30% higher. They found that 20% of customers who didn't initially order a drink would buy one when it was offered. No $15 minimum wage earners for taking orders.
Our public schools are all things to all people. We permit behaviors that obstruct teacher effort. That's just self-defeating behavior that ensures poor results. American teachers have to do the most classroom hours in the world, the most paperwork, the most tests, and no authority to instantly rule on discipline problems that is needed to keep the teachers' image high in the eyes of parents and students. All of this burdens teaching time. The teachers need to be in command of the classroom if we want better results and measure teacher performance in an effective manner. Second, low teacher morale is very common. Most superintendents and boards influenced by them look at teacher complaints as a negative thing, do not want to find out what the reasons are behind it for fear of having to make changes elsewhere in the organization. Some superintendents need to learn that managing by fear autocratically makes things worse. You will not be able to replace all teachers. Turnover is very expensive, costing 6-9 months of salary for every single college education teacher or person who leaves or is fired - plus the damage they have done after being hired. This applies to all positions including the superintendent, who delivered Knox County, Tennessee more than 80% of the students who entered 9th grade not ACT Ready after high school for seven years as of 2015. That's huge damage. The education board did nothing about it.
The majority of nations spent less per student than we did and delivered superior results. This is the symptom of poor management: poor results and sufficiently funded. THE MONEY IS NOT BEING SPENT IN THE RIGHT PLACES. And the poor inexperienced management keeps making the same mistake every year. This is NOT a right or left wing, Republican or Democrat problem. It happened under both parties since 1970. IT IS AN AMERICAN PROBLEM, and we keep doing not enough about it to make any difference with the ACT or SAT scores that count. It is time for some big changes.
We have a big problem. IN EVERY US STATE, IT IS THE ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD THAT DETERMINES WHAT OBJECTIVES AND PLANS THE SCHOOL DISTRICT WILL FOLLOW. They have more authority than the state or federal government in areas relating to results, spending and operating ratios. Board membership requires only a high school diploma. Imagine that in the case of Knox County, Tennessee, such an elected board oversees an organization with more than 8,000 employees with a budget of more than half billion dollars. That is a huge management task requiring management training and experience on the highest level. Such background and experience is not available in school boards as a voting majority. The results are terrible. No laws exist to achieve a good average ACT or SAT score by the end of high school and to do it all based on the budget that the district board approved before the start of the school year. More importantly, management guidelines from the state to the school boards do not exist to achieve some uniformity for better performance at normal expense levels. Under any state law, one cannot blame the superintendent and the board if they have poor results, unless the board created a specific objective first to reach better results. If such an objective was not created by the board, and performance is poor making most children failures for life, no one can create a change under current education law. Boards and superintendents avoid such "liability" by purposefully not having objectives about things like ACT achievement or not exceeding the approved budget - producing terrible results. Just look at the example of objectives below. We could have two options if we did not have this problem:
Unfortunately the first alternative is not happening, and our leaders are not encouraging the needed change in laws.
- Immediate and efficient action to correct the education system so that they produce 80%+ students out of high school who are qualified as ACT Ready. The above mentioned 100 year-old laws allow only the board to set such objective, but they do not want to take a chance on not meeting it. That means that the average ACT score of a school district must be at or above 25 for 80% of the students to be ACT Ready. Or
- Keep producing what we have today, 80%+ who are NOT ACT Ready who will have spotty employment ending up homeless most likely. Our children and grand children cannot be but among them with such a high percentage. No one is immune to such an outcome. Remember that a high failure rate like 80% is not caused only by low income, poor inner city children. Such a high percentage WILL CREATE POOR PEOPLE OUT OF CHILDREN ALSO WHO COME FROM FAMILIES WHO ARE NOT POOR. For this reason, the existing education system actually increases poverty.
Why would anyone be motivated to put in the extra effort to correct a poorly performing education system as measured by the ACT:
Sadly, that is what we have in Knox County, Tennessee.
- If their income is certain, regardless of the results they produce,
- If they have no specific, measurable academic objective to meet, like an average ACT score,
- If they receive at least the same amount of money to spend as the year before, regardless of results they achieve,
- If they can spend that money in any way, they want by law. When asked what the ADDITIONAL money requested will be used for, a board of education chair (I.K.) replied to the Knox County Commission at its meeting in 2012-13 "You just give us the money! We will decide how to spend it!". And,
- If they tell the public only the good part of the truth, to create a better opinion of the school system in the public eye, than the entire truth would. "A half-truth is a whole lie" - says a proverb.
Who was responsible for these poor results in Knox County, Tennessee? The chair persons of the elected school board: India Kincannon, Karen Carson, Lynn Fugate, Mike MacMillan (in minority and voted down often) and superintendent Jim McIntyre who never even managed a single school before the board hired him with a 5:4 decision, to manage 89 schools, more than 8,000 employees and a half billion dollar budget. The 5:4 vote was influenced by the wealthiest local family endorsing Jim McIntyre, the Haslams, whose son Bill was Knoxville Mayor at the time and became the Governor of Tennessee shortly thereafter.
Read this website. Verify the sources. Decide where the truth is, and what they don't tell you. "WILL MY CHILDREN AND GRAND CHILDREN BE EMPLOYED?" Your child's future depends on them.
"Things may come to those who wait...but only the things
left by those who hustle!"
A. PERFORMANCE AND RESULTS: OBJECTIVES AND AN ANNUAL OPERATING PLAN
A presidential project, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5 (2010)", concluded that "disparities in U.S. K-12 education compared to those of many other nations, impose the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession
- one substantially larger than the deep recession the country is currently experiencing."
You can read it here
Good education is the only certain way out of poverty. Unfortunately, our education system has become so poor that it can drive even children who are not from poverty, into poverty.
Between 1995 and 2014 Knox County, Tennessee students increased only 14% but administrators increased 130%. BUT THAT IS NOT ALL. Administrators hire people to work for them. The real increase ends up 650-910% if they hire 4-6 people per administrator for only a 14% increase in students. However, with this huge increase in management, the ACT results dropped like a stone setting an all time low record in 2013 with a score of 20.2! ACT Readiness reports indicate that as a result more than 80% (statewide 89%!) of those students who enter 9th grade are ready only for minimum wage employment, the types of jobs that will disappear. This huge percentage of management increase was not reversed to this day, and it did absolutely nothing but cost a lot of money! So money is being shifted away from the classroom producing poorly prepared children in large numbers, and management overhead is increased purposefully, but the results dropped like a stone. I am sorry, but the wisdom with which the public's money and these decisions appear to be handled at the boards and superintendents is mind boggling, and no one in leadership appears to have the wisdom to stand up to reverse such foolish spending. Is the state leadership's objective to waste as much of the people's money as possible and to dumb down virtually the entire workforce?
For years now, our education system in Knox County, Tennessee has been creating more than 80% of the students from 9th grade who are not prepared for jobs beyond minimum wage after leaving high school, according to ACT. The State is worse at 89%.
For black students the percentage of these low performers is 98%. The public is unaware of these facts. The black student figures are very disturbing. A chain of charter schools with poor black inner city children (Success Academy Schools of New York City 1
, Success Academy Schools of New York City 2
) worked hard and had outstanding results with 32 schools in 2014. These black inner city children from poor families scored in the top 1% in Math and the top 3% in English on the difficult Common Core tests in the entire State of New York, the fifth best performing state in US education. THE PROBLEM CAN BE SOLVED, BUT NOT THE WAY OUR PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICTS ARE MANAGED.
We have created a powder keg that will surely blow up.
All of this, because state law delegates ALL decisions to the school districts' elected board everywhere, whose majority has no management experience on the scale of the school district. Important: The states do not provide management guidelines.
OBJECTIVES AND THE ANNUAL OPERATING PLAN: What is the biggest reason for the poor performance? In a school district or any organization with a hundred employees or more, one MUST HAVE AN EASY-TO-UNDERSTAND, SINGLE SENTENCE, VERY CLEAR, MEASURABLE, PERFORMANCE-RELATED OBJECTIVE THAT NEEDS NO FURTHER EXPLANATION FOR EMPLOYEES TO UNDERSTAND IT, SUCH AS "IN THE 2015-2016 SCHOOL YEAR, KNOX COUNTY SCHOOLS SHALL ACHIEVE AN AVERAGE CONSOLIDATED ACT SCORE OF 22.5". WE MUST ALSO HAVE A MONTHLY REPORT AND OBJECTIVE ON SPENDING VS. THE APPROVED BUDGET FOR THE SAME MONTH AND YEAR-TO-DATE. LET'S CALL THESE PRIMARY OBJECTIVES THAT ARE ASSIGNED TO THE BOARD AND THE SUPERINTENDENT FOR THEIR PERFORMANCE EVALUATION PURPOSES, WITHOUT ANY ADDITIONAL OBJECTIVES. The clear measurable objectives continue down to all supervisory employees focusing on their measurable performance-related and spending objectives in every single school. THESE ARE SECONDARY OBJECTIVES. This would be called the ANNUAL OPERATING PLAN, not to be confused with the Five Year Strategic Plan. We are missing these important elements IN THE SUPERINTENDENT'S FIVE YEAR STRATEGIC PLAN.
Knox County, Tennessee School District's Objectives
What we have are two different groups of unmeasurable, unclear objectives IN 2015. One is on the board's website. The second set is in the Superintendent's Five Year Strategic Plan.
In the school district's website:
The superintendent mentions that: "In fact, you may remember that a key goal of our strategic plan is 100/90/90/90, that is:"
- "100% of students completing high school" (What is the value of "completing" high school with 80% of those who entered 9th grade not being ready per ACT but for minimum wage jobs at best?)
- "At least 90% graduating with a regular diploma" (What is the value of a diploma when 77% of those with a regular diploma are not even ready to be trained for a job or to enter a college or tech school per ACT?)
- "At least 90% of our graduates taking the ACT, and" (All students take the ACT by law. What is the value here? Just taking a test has zero value in any case.)
- "At least 90% of ACT takers scoring a 21 or better" (An average ACT 21 score means that 73-75% of those who entered in 9th grade are NOT ACT Ready and are prepared for minimum wage jobs only. This is a shamefully low objective. A neighboring school district's objective is ACT 27. The top twenty countries in education are delivering high school students in an ACT equivalent range of 26 to 31).
In the superintendent's Five Year Strategic Plan we have these different objectives that are also not appropriate, unclear, not measurable, neither academic nor spending related.
Are these easy to understand, clear, measurable academic objectives and a spending objective vs. the approved budget? Of course not. That is the reason for poor performance. No one is going to pay attention to such objectives, and when they are not measurable, there can be no possible consequence. Ignoring it works.
- "Guarantee Excellence in Teaching and Learning."
- "Personalize Learning"
- "Facilitate High Quality Student Supports"
- "Build & Support Our Community of Learners"
- "Build & Support Our Community of Leaders"
- "Value Our Hardworking People"
- "Build & Strengthen Our "One Big Team""
- "Invite & Earn Stakeholder Feedback"
- "Improve Customer Service & Communication"
Poor teacher morale is very common and it is a major impediment to good performance:
- Teacher morale is low and too many superintendents don't know how to solve that basic management problem without being defensive with structured "satisfaction surveys". 250 of our teachers demonstrated at an August 2014 board meeting about how they are being treated. It is a management fact that when you have a number of overt complaints as in this case, there are at least ten times as many employees behind it. That makes almost all teachers having the same feelings about their jobs. The resolution in a situation like this is an anonymous, confidential 3rd party survey that is open ended and not structured. Structured surveys are multiple choice and can be structured to a specific conclusion.
- The elected boards and superintendents make up their own approximately 8-15 vague objectives, and then they give themselves excellent performance reviews based on those objectives, while their compensation is guaranteed. This method actually ensures no focus on any objective, and poor performance as a result. In a poorly performing environment, management needs to be focused on a single objective for performance.
- The ACT or SAT score measures what children have learned from grade 1 to 12. There is no single performance objective in any school district that is an ACT score that is only 5% higher than the last one achieved. That is what is needed.
- The approved budget is not taken seriously and spending rises as performance declines. There is no objective to not exceed the budget.
- Teacher product knowledge and teaching methodology needs updating to the top ten internationals' level (Reference1, Reference2, Reference3).
- In the top performing countries teachers above 3rd grade were among the top ten percent in their master's degree program for the subject they are teaching. Teachers under 4th grade have a master's degree in education. Teacher pay is only average in the high performing countries, but job satisfaction is very high with very low turnover.
ACT Readiness, unreadiness (not being ready) and how we calculate the results are explained at http://usaedustat.com/1actscoresexplained.html
The poor primary and secondary education will create increasing unemployment. This will result from more advanced cognitive robotics entering the labor force slowly in 2016 and increasing job requirements by employers. Our public school district in Knox County, Tennessee is creating an 80%+ failure rate, or 80%+ mortality from the employability point of view (98% for black students) with homelessness, crime, jail time, violent life and perhaps early violent death.
Look at the Knox County, Tennessee high school ACT score trends for 11 years in the second chart below. One has a slight increase and the rest are declining. According to ACT in 2014 the best high school, Farragut, had only a 45% Readiness (first chart). That means that 55% of the graduates were not ready to be trained for a job or to enter a college or tech school. In the worst high schools 98-99% are not ACT Ready (e.g., Austin East and Fulton). The worst high schools have been getting more than twice the funding per student of the best high schools over the 11 year period. IT MADE NO DIFFERENCE. The poor performers just keep going down. THE MONEY IS CLEARLY NOT BEING SPENT FOR THE RIGHT THINGS TO RAISE RESULTS. We as a country also are delivering the lowest result among the industrialized countries. In a chart further down, we can see that we are spending more money per student than most of the high performing countries in the world. We have become the fifth highest spender per student in the world. "Unreadiness" means spotty minimum wage jobs with eventual homelessness. Starting in 2016, cognitive robots will start eliminating employment possibilities for these poorly prepared children, except for those who enter a university to pursue a degree in demand. The more difficult degrees. The future looks discouraging for marginal students who graduated from our high schools. That's more than 80% of those who entered 9th grade in Tennessee, will not be ready for job training after leaving high school. The Governor and his leadership initiate only small impact programs that will not make any difference, when the entire school system needs to be made more productive. We need eight education laws amended. Experts predict that one third of jobs will be replaced by robots
We were on top in 1970. Neither party's administration has done anything to raise the ACT scores.
What would you do if in the only hospital available to you where you could take your sick child, 80% of patients/children became infected with an incurable fatal infection? Would you be very concerned? This analogy is better than you think right now. More than 80% of those children who enter public school in grade 9 are dead from the career point of view when leaving high school. You should be very concerned.
Click here to look at more performance-related issues
Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil.
B. OVERSPENDING THE BUDGET
The "Current" budget is approved at the beginning of the school year. It excludes certain education-related expenses, like capital and interest expenses, legal and other expenses that are comingled hidden in different county cost centers. That means that we do not know exactly how much we spend related to education. A special investigative audit, called a forensic audit would be the efficient way to identify ALL education related spending.
The "Current" Budget is overspent 15-18% every single year (2008-2014), and we get the above poor results for it. The state publishes the Grand Total Education Expense Spent in the school district, that is overspent 28-38% every year beyond the approved budget, including the capital and interest expenses covering school renovations and new schools that the education department decides to perform or build respectively, but excluding them from the budget they present. Even the Grand Total doesn't include all education-related expenses. All this points to another very important thing that is not being done: ZERO BASED BUDGET PLANNING.
ZERO BASED BUDGET PLANNING means that the budget being prepared for all departments identifies first all actions that they will have to take during the coming year to improve results and reach a specific performance objective. Then each department and school puts the budget together for themselves on that basis. That is how one can make sure that any surprises are minimized for the coming year, and it is an important part of planning and creating an operating plan for the coming year only. Poor planners do a quick and easy way, called INCREMENTAL BUDGET PLANNING in which one looks at what one spent last year, and modifies it by adding or subtracting amounts that one just guesses without planning. For small organizations that total less than 100 employees one can do that. For larger organizations, the end result is overspending beyond the approved budget every year, and that is what is happening in Knox County, Tennessee and in many other school districts. When one starts putting together multi-year plans, like the five year plan, it just does not make sense because too many unanticipated things will be changing each year that no one can predict that far ahead. Therefore in well-managed operations one sees zero-based budget planning for a ONE-YEAR OPERATING PLAN, based on which the spending can be managed accurately. That is what well management schooled and experienced superintendents do.
When one sees a five year plan, with simply a fixed percentage increase on activities every year, and then adds a tenth year result that looks very good, no serious planning went into that plan. The superintendent in such a case prepared a "selling document only", it is always a beautiful colorful document, but without any serious planning.
The Knox County, Tennessee school district has an unusually large PR group whose planning and execution on any action they target is excellent. They do not report all of the news. They report only what looks good, creating a positive image in the eyes of the public. As a result, the public is unaware how poorly their children are prepared.
One sees significant additional money requests annually from the board of education, with two big problems.
Click here to look at more facts about our spending
- They are never tied to a plan to show how much they will raise the ACT results that count. Other than that the promises are endless.
- Most such programs do not produce any improvement in the ACT scores. However, the amount approved one year just keeps included every year thereafter and no one questions it. It is sad how the people's hard-earned tax dollars are wasted in education without any improvement in results.
A half truth is a whole lie.
More than 30 states cut back education spending since 2008. See http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=4011
. Even with such reductions in spending, the US is the fifth largest spender per student among the industrialized countries, with the lowest academic performance among those nations.
All things are possible - if one is smart.
C. EXCESSIVE ADMINISTRATOR OVERLOAD
In Knox County, Tennessee, we have increased administrators by 130% between 1995 and 2014 while students increased only 14%. Administrators have people working for them. That number is unknown. When a commissioner requested a couple of years ago a list of people from the superintendent who are not performance reviewed by a school principal or his/her in-school supervisors or managers, the superintendent would not supply him with such a list. I requested the same from the superintendent on June 1, 2015. The resulting administrative increase beyond normal in Central Management does not disappear until all those employees with the excessive number of administrators go elsewhere. Reference to normal is presented below.
The ACT test measures what children learned from grade one to twelve. They also predict accurately who is ready for a job or further learning beyond high school, or not ready. The ACT results did not improve with the addition of all those administrators and their employees. The school district's ACT score went down setting an all time low ACT record in 2013. If money spent on administrative excess was spent in the classrooms, we would have had a much better chance for improved ACT results.
All Central Management employees, meaning all school district employees who do not work for a school and whose performance evaluation is not performed by a school principal or the principal's staff, must not exceed 1% (one percent) of the school district's total employees. Reference the second graph below. The Knox County, Tennessee school district exceeds this limit by more than 600%!
The actual pages of the referenced book can be examined by clicking here.
"Our progress as a
nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The
human mind is our fundamental resource."
John F. Kennedy
(1917-1963) Thirty-fifth President of the USA
D. MINOR PROGRAMS AT MORE PUBLIC COST WITHOUT IMPROVING THE ACT SCORES
Most important question: did they raise the average ACT scores? The answer is "No". Someone who destroys the job-readiness of 80% of your children is NOT your friend. I am not sure that our leaders recognize the difference, or act accordingly.
80% of those children who entered 9th grade have not been prepared by the high schools for gainful employment of further learning. The remedies from the top are programs that will cost more money because it is not financed from the failing education systems that failed: 2 years of remedial schooling offered after high school, 5% of low performers getting a voucher, and a lot of talk to increase charter schools under the influence of the long poorly managed school districts. I hope that you see what I see: poor strategy, big effort to maintain the failing monopoly in the style they are accustomed to, and spending more of the people's money while we are dumbing their children down. How about a slightly different idea? Let's fix the badly failing school districts. Just look at the management guidelines I am providing. They could do a turnaround instead of pouring more of our citizens' money into poorly managed Failure Factories. None of these new help programs will remedy the huge 80%+ failure rate in our public school districts.
We have become the 5th largest spender per student as a country. In performance, we dropped to 36th. It appears to me that instead of spending more money for two more years of education, we should learn from the top performers in education systems and correct our's in order to produce much better results. Why are we not raising high school performance INSTEAD OF MORE SPENDING so that our graduates' ACT Readiness is at 80% instead of under 20%? WE ARE CERTAINLY SPENDING MORE ON IT THAN OUR INTERNATIONAL COMPETITORS, EXCEPT FOR FOUR, ALL OF WHOM OUTPERFORM US WITH CLOSE TO 100% READINESS.
I understand that some concerns exist among some legislators about the PR power of school districts, teachers' unions and a fair number of foundations who are pro status quo.
WE HAVE TWO OPTIONS AS WE SEE IT. We either keep allowing the destruction of our children's future with more than 80% of those who started in 9th grade at a very high expense to the public. They are prepared only for short-lived minimum wage jobs that will be replaced by cognitive robotics. Or, the second choice is to start a major campaign to inform the public of the truth about our children's education and the necessity for some important changes in education laws to manage each education district more efficiently and uniformly to ensure a better future for our children. The suggestions are made under "Management Guidelines" below.
I even heard explanations stating that we want to start small with the new ideas so that we will face less opposition. We are starting with small steps against public education who are destroying 80%+ of our children's future. That is not an effective counter strategy. They are a monopoly and act exactly like one.
Every year the board and superintendent convinces the county commission to receive additional millions for some project that sounds impressive. However, the subject of how much such a spending will increase the average ACT score for the county is always avoided. Although such projects are not successful, the money committed to them remains in every future years' budget.
Governor Haslam, it is you who would be most effective to educate the public about who and what the extent of our education problem is, and what effect it will have on 80% of those children who enter 9th grade. Someone who destroys the job-readiness of 80% of your children is NOT your friend. Help them become friends by establishing management guidelines to get much better ACT results. We need public support with the truth to change that.
See the second chart from the bottom above. The three countries marked with a red square are among the top five in the world, their cost of living is higher than ours, yet they pay much less for far superior education per student.
I am going to suggest a few management guidelines to propose as legislation if you do not want to keep our failing education, that destroys so many young people's future today. In my opinion, we will keep failing without implementing such guidelines.
The listed Management Guidelines are a necessity when one is a poor performer. We are not focused on achieving higher ACT scores that represent more than 15-25% of our graduates being ready for job training or just one year of college or tech school according to ACT. Our significant overspending beyond the approved budget, with certain education expenses hidden in other cost centers in school districts, is not only reckless management of the people's money, but it damages the employment prospect for more than 80% of the children who entered high school in 9th grade in Tennessee education districts like Knox County.
MANAGEMENT GUIDELINES TO IMPROVE EDUCATION RESULTS
If you were never management trained at an excellent university, and you did not manage an organization with at least 100 professional people to achieve a significant result for each of five years minimum, on which your job depended, I don't expect you to appreciate and understand any of the management guidelines below. That is why your results as a superintendent have been so poor.
In a poorly performing organization, you have too many people in management, perhaps on the very top, who did not have good training for it and did not have a good manager above them to guide them. You have to manage all key activities more tightly than in a well performing organization. You are changing attitudes, quality, job knowledge, management techniques and so on - are the reasons. This all should be done with kindness and understanding with all employees - hopefully with a superintendent who is the type who likes people. If anyone is not suited for the job, there are at least 2 tests that if correlated, give an excellent reading of where they would do well and be happy, and help them by crossing that bridge without pressure (Strong Interest Inventory and Myers-Briggs Psychological Inventory). If someone does not enjoy their job, how can they do well in it? I am talking only about those employees who are trying to do well.
Management Guideline 1: The board of education and the superintendent must have one academic objective: It shall be an average consolidated ACT score that is at least 5% higher than the score actually achieved last, until a consolidated district average ACT score of 25 is reached. One cannot FOCUS on achieving excellence otherwise. The board's and superintendent's annual performance evaluation shall be based on meeting both this academic objective and the financial objective below.
Management Guideline 2: The board of education and the superintendent also must have a financial objective. The superintendent shall prepare both a "monthly" and "monthly year-to-date" expense budget for board approval along with the usual annual expense budget. In this objective both the board and the superintendent shall not exceed the initially approved monthly, year-to-date or annual expense budgets.
The 25 ACT score represents the possibility of an 80% ACT Readiness, a minimal target in our opinion. The above two objectives shall focus the board on ACT score achievement within the approved budget, both of which have not had enough focus in the past. Many objectives dilute each others' importance. Immeasurable objectives do not tell you if you reached them or not. Numbers are your friend. The board in the past prepared many objectives, so did the superintendent with board approval, with many objectives vague and immeasurable. They do their own performance evaluation based on the objectives they prepared. No wonder that the results are poor and the reckless overspending without ACT score improvement is the standard.
Management Guideline 3: Apart from any other plan that the superintendent creates, the superintendent must create an OPERATING PLAN for the school year for which he prepared an ACT and budget objective under Management guidelines 3 and 4. Said operating plan needs to be double spaced, typed in 8th grade English language, it must have an academic monthly objective for every single school that is AT LEAST 5% higher than the same actually achieved in the prior year, such that each such objective supports progress toward the achievement of the annual school district ACT objective. Such a plan must also have one, or two or not more than three objectives for every supervisory or management person in each school and in Central Management with all such objectives supporting progress toward the school district's ACT objective achievement. All objectives must be clearly measurable.
Management Guideline 4: Teachers must also have an annual objective that is AT LEAST 5% higher than the achieved objective in the prior year. As a suggestion the following could be a good fit. Maintain a base-line average GPA automatically covering the prior three years of individual average GPAs for any starting class, starting with 4th grade. Ignore transfers in and out for current class GPA calculation only. They are too small. The teacher's objective will be to achieve a 5% higher average class GPA than the base-line GPA was at the start of the class. All tests shall be on line and the answers unalterable, except by the principal, under password control with an audit list of such changes. TVAAS is currently using a performance database of students to forecast performance growth whose reliability is questionable. TVAAS could be easily modified to provide class GPA and class base-line calculations automatically whose reliability would be unquestionable. This data should be present in TVAAS now.
Management Guideline 5: The total Central Management employees in any school district shall not exceed ONE PERCENT OF TOTAL SCHOOL DISTRICT EMPLOYEES PLUS 25 to protect smaller school districts. See backup for this at usaedustat.com (References: Dr. Allan Ornstein, Dean, Grad. School of Education, published 50 education management titled books and more than 2,000 research papers at St. John's University, NYC, and the American Association of School Administrators, Nancy Prodheroe article is of the same opinion). The resulting millions from a Central Management reduction need to be transferred to the schools to improve teaching methodologies and academic results.
Management Guideline 6: We are raising soft kids for a much tougher and more demanding world. We better get as tough as their world is going to be with discipline and the curriculum. Teacher authority must be increased to deal with discipline problems immediately and so firmly that both the offending student and parent will be discouraged from trying it again. We also need to demand higher student performance in the classroom, with the recognition that we must help all students, from the worst to the best to perform better and stop focusing only on the poor performers, especially those who have not performed well. We cannot be all things to all people and expect to develop excellent results.
Management Guideline 7: Anyone who changes student grades for the better, shall be dismissed immediately. If it is found that such grade alteration was requested from a teacher that was reported by the teacher immediately without delay, the teacher's principal shall be dismissed.
Management Guideline 8: The school board and superintendent approaches the county commission for additional millions of dollars for projects that sound impressive. They do not present it with measurable outcomes so that the public can tell if the spending produced success or not. The amount stays in the budget for every year in future years. No such additional moneys shall be approved by anyone without a measurable objective it shall achieve, e.g., a higher average ACT score increase committed to specific school years, and if such objective is not achieved, the money shall no longer be provided.
There can be no improvement when such basic management controls are not present in every single school district.
There are a few comments on management that could be helpful.
- When you have poor results, the money is not getting to the right places.
- If there is bad morale in any group, fixing it provides the quickest gains in results. Denying it simply shows that a person is unaware of what's going on in the most important area of his/her responsibility. The number one requirement to achieve outstanding performance is happiness in the job and looking forward to it every day. A superintendent must create such an environment.
- American teachers have the most classroom teaching requirement in the world at more than 1000 hours. That means that they do not have enough preparation time. The top twenty countries require 600-800 hours. We require the most paperwork. That cuts preparation time more. We do more testing in Knox County, Tennessee, and tests require preparation, administration and result review time. That cuts into teacher preparation time even more. Since our results are poor, we should be able to rebalance the teacher loading to something much more productive to get better results.
- All supervisory and management employees, as well as teachers must understand clearly what objectives are expected to be met by them, and must have the freedom to do their best without interference to produce better results to the best of their ability. To that end both the students and their parents must see proof that the teacher is in charge in the classroom, and will make all decisions including decisions about disciplinary violations on the spot such that both the offender and his/her parent will be discouraged from trying the same behavior again, including but not limited to any disrespectful behavior or words with the teacher. All this with full backing of the principal, the superintendent and the board.
- The current (2015) teacher performance evaluation is prejudicial (the observations) and inaccurate, and subject to redefinition in use by the state (TVAAS has the capability and needs to change from inaccurate growth prediction to GPA base-line definition for a fair end of course class-GPA result). A fair teacher performance evaluation must be present measuring class academic achievement gains during the year, with which the board and superintendent objectives, as described, are compatible.
- Since the outcome of the school depends on the teachers who have a bad morale, board members and especially the superintendent, must spend time with as many teachers as possible (e.g., 25% of his/her time) to be aware of their job satisfaction to raise their morale. (Ref: Peters: Management by Walking Around) Mr. Superintendent, your teachers do not like you and it is up to you to convince them that you are a warm human being who really cares. There are examples of SCHOOLS WITH ENORMOUS SUCCESSES with poor inner city minority children that could be emulated (e.g., Success Academies in NYC).
- We are substantially behind the international competition in teacher subject knowledge and teaching methodologies. They are generally hired with a master's degree in the subject that they will teach above 4th grade. Focus teachers on a continuing education program to improve their subject knowledge and teaching methodologies. http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsb0602/.
Today the competition is international. Anyone can sell their products and services in any country, and they can sell their products and services in the US. That means that the competition is international in every industry. Therefore the workforce has to be internationally competitive in order to create competitive products or services. The schools that prepare the workforce must be internationally competitive. Because of our poor performance since 1970, our public high schools are not competitive and our workforce is no longer competitive as a result. That is why we have been inundated with imports. That is why our national income or GNP is so poor. Our private schools are internationally competitive, with an ACT Readiness percentage above 90%.
- It is only with teachers who are well matched to their profession who will be happy in their job. THAT IS WHAT PRODUCES GOOD QUALITY WORK. FIRST, YOU CAN TEST FOR THE VOCATIONAL MATCH, e.g., using tests like the STRONG INTEREST INVENTORY correlated with the MYERS-BRIGGS PSYCHOLOGICAL INVENTORY.
It is difficult to appreciate all the above if one did not have at least five years of experience managing at least a few hundred people with successful results. If one has not, well, everyone has an opinion about almost everything. The chef at Calhoun's is excellent and he may have a negative opinion about the way the New York World Trade Center was designed. The new one that is.
Superintendent of the Knox County School District in Tennessee claims that the drop in ACT scores in the chart below is due to the state mandating 100% student participation in 2009 to take the ACT. Knox County's ACT performance is higher than the State's. 92% of the children in 11th grade took the ACT before the 100% requirement. The increase was announced two years prior in order to allow school districts to prepare. We did not prepare. The state dropped 1.0 point. Knox County dropped 1.3 . We had four years since to catch up. Instead we set an all time low record ACT score at 20.2 in 2013 in Knox County, Tennessee. We need to have much better results.
MORE ABOUT PERFORMANCE
The results are poor. No wonder why. Read below about the mystery of two sets of different objectives - when not any of them make sense and are unmeasurable.
On the board's website, the superintendent's presentation says this about HIS OBJECTIVE:
"In fact, you may remember that a key goal of our strategic plan is 100/90/90/90, that is:
- 100% of students completing high school (What is the value of "completing" high school with 80% of those who entered 9th grade not being ready per ACT but for minimum wage jobs at best?)
- At least 90% graduating with a regular diploma (What is the value of a diploma when 77% of those with a regular diploma are not even ready to be trained for a job or to enter a college or tech school per ACT?)
- At least 90% of our graduates taking the ACT, and (All students take the ACT by law. What is the value here? Just taking a test has zero value in any case.)
- At least 90% of ACT takers scoring a 21 or better" (An average ACT 21 score means that 73-75% of those who entered in 9th grade are NOT ACT Ready and are prepared for minimum wage jobs only. This is a shamefully low objective. A neighboring school district's objective is ACT 27. The top twenty countries in education are delivering high school students in an ACT equivalent range of 26 to 31).
It should be very clear to anyone that this 100/90/90/90 objective that the board and superintendent have been using makes no sense and it is not appropriate for improving the results. Objectives that are vague, not 100% in line with THE key indicator of success in the activity, the ACT score, or are a limit instead of a very specific target to reach, simply do not work. When one includes such elements in an objective, the entire objective will not work and become confusing.
The Tennessee Code Annotated, TCA 49-2-702 (a)(2) controls two areas above that may need to be amended because they set the minimum standards for performance that is too low for today, although the Board has the right to select higher goals than what the state law specifies. Sub. (A) here wants a graduation rate of ninety percent (90%) or higher; The ACT shows the readiness of regular diplomas at 19-23% that is very poor, with 77-81% graduates with a regular diploma NOT READY for a job that is better than minimum wage.
Sub (B) Exhibits an average student ACT score of 21 or higher etc. This ACT score (21) and the corresponding SAT score has a readiness of 25% only of those achieving it. We would have to be at 24-25 ACT average to have 80-90% readiness. The readiness for today's and especially tomorrow's job requirements need to be much higher. Since the elected boards control all such decisions and therefore uniformity of performance becomes elusive, the amendment of these two laws would go a long way to raise our poor performance. "Low expectation" objectives produce results below low objectives. With "High expectation" objectives people rise to the occasion to exceed such objectives and that is how one achieves higher results. The superintendent likes to claim "high rigor world class performance with excellence for all children". Our performance is the opposite. It is very poor. Why? Because the primary objective is wrong, and an annual operating plan per school does not exist. But we certainly spend a lot of money, more than the high achievers do.
When one does poorly with an organization that depends on public dollars like the Knox County, Tennessee's school system, one needs a large PR group to make things look better for the public, because the truth would make the public very unhappy. Unfortunately, this is how our boards and superintendents think. It is sad that the kind of leadership does not exist where one can admit openly that we failed and have to take action, however, we will correct it with serious objectives and operating plans and not with five year plans that had a tendency to fail ever since they were started by the communist countries after WWII. We do not see PR groups in the top performing countries. The results THAT COUNT speak more loudly than PR stories.
INTERESTINGLY, A DIFFERENT SET OF OBJECTIVES APPEARS IN THE FIVE YEAR STRATEGIC PLAN. NEITHER THAT ONE NOR THE ABOVE WILL MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE IN PERFORMANCE BECAUSE THEY ARE VAGUE, INAPPROPRIATE AND INEFFECTIVE OBJECTIVES IN BOTH. DOESN'T THE SUPERINTENDENT AND THE BOARD REALIZE THAT SUCH VAGUE OBJECTIVES ARE USELESS IN FOCUSING THE STAFF ON THE TASK OF IMPROVING EDUCATION?
School districts like to prepare beautifully produced FIVE YEAR STRATEGIC PLANS. They are loaded with information that looks pretty and sounds good, 40-60 pages worth. However, the most important achievement by far is to have high ACT scores and ACT READINESS percentages at the end of high school, to tell the public how well they have prepared our children for employment or further learning. Unfortunately our children are very poorly prepared because education districts are not focused on an ACT or SAT objective, whichever is supported by the state.
It stands to reason that if a school district is spending $560 million per year in 2014, including ALL education-related expenses not disclosed to the public, like capital and interest expenses, AND the fact that their ACT Career and College Readiness percentage of regular diplomas is only 20% counting from 9th grade entries (meaning that 80% with a regular diploma cannot even be trained for a job), a large portion of the money is not being spent correctly to produce good results, and they have serious management problems. The FIVE YEAR STRATEGIC PLANS do not focus on what is important, and they are not strategic. I have looked at many in several states. They have much in common. There are nine objectives listed in the new FIVE YEAR STRATEGIC PLAN of the superintendent of Knox County, Tennessee. Remember that objectives have to be measurable to be able to tell if you achieved them or not. They also have to be important in that they better reduce the existing ACT Unreadiness of more than 80% of the children after high school to get a job that provides enough money to live on or to enter college or a tech school. Do you see any objective below that deals with that?! For example:
- "Guarantee Excellence in Teaching and Learning."
- "Personalize Learning"
- "Facilitate High Quality Student Supports"
- "Build & Support Our Community of Learners"
- "Build & Support Our Community of Leaders"
- "Value Our Hardworking People"
- "Build & Strengthen Our "One Big Team""
- "Invite & Earn Stakeholder Feedback"
- "Improve Customer Service & Communication"
The above cannot qualify as objectives. Objectives have to specify a specific achievement, preferably a numerically expressed achievement that in this case must be a higher number than what was previously achieved, because the result was too low. One has to be able to see clearly that the objective has been achieved or not, the result not being subject to any argument. Numbers don't lie. In addition the objectives described need to become the personal objectives for the people intended for their performance evaluation. If the objective(s) do not possess the qualities stated, they become useless in focusing a team of any size on what needs to be achieved. The above objectives cannot perform as objectives. The person who wrote them simply did not have management training for a management job, not to know such a basic requirement. Such a person who writes vague objectives is not sure about what needs to be achieved, and how it will be achieved. They do not want responsibility for results. And such management, no one needs and wants because they lose every time and produce poor results as the ACT performance history shows. HOW DOES ANY OF THE OBJECTIVES ABOVE FOCUS THE BOARD, THE SUPERINTENDENT, CENTRAL MANAGEMENT AND ALL THE SCHOOLS TO DELIVER AT MINIMUM A HIGHER AVERAGE ACT SCORE, THAN THE LAST ONE ACTUALLY ACHIEVED? HOW DOES IT FOCUS ALL SCHOOL DISTRICT EMPLOYEES AND THE BOARD TO IMPROVE THAT TERRIBLE 21% ACT READINESS PERCENTAGE OF REGULAR DIPLOMAS TO ONE THAT SHOWS THAT WE IMPROVED THE RESULTS TO 41%, AND WE ARE STILL NOT WHERE WE SHOULD BE BECAUSE MORE THAN HALF OF OUR CHILDREN WILL BE JOBLESS?!
DOES ANYONE IN LEGISLATURE UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SNOW JOB, AND WHAT IS NEEDED FROM A MANAGEMENT PERSPECTIVE TO IMPROVE OUR POOR RESULTS AGGRESSIVELY?!
If anyone believes that immeasurable and vague objectives like the ones above will improve the poor education of our children, they do not have the experience to make anything successful. Just like the person who wrote the above objectives.
But the problem is much larger than that. The board writes up its own objectives, and then the board writes its own performance evaluation based on them. The superintendent does the same and the board approves it. Under such conditions a school district will never have objectives that are challenging enough to raise the average ACT scores and Readiness. This is a huge problem. The performance evaluations and the actual performance of a school district will never improve with such practices. Who is going to change it?
THE POOR RESULTS ARE THE PRODUCT OF OUR CLASSROOMS. THE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S PRODUCTS ARE THE STUDENTS, FOR WHOM EMPLOYERS AND EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS ARE THE CUSTOMERS. THE STUDENT "PRODUCT" MUST MEET THE CUSTOMERS' NEEDS. 80% DO NOT MEET THOSE NEEDS TODAY ACCORDING TO ACT, AND THAT IS SOMETHING TO BE TAKEN VERY SERIOUSLY.
MORE ABOUT OVERSPENDING THE BUDGET
If we just keep providing more and more money, the school districts' results will not improve without a single ACT score goal and spending limited to the approved budget, as described here. Taxing the people to provide more money for our poorly performing school districts is just more wasting of the people's money, unless we see changes in the objectives as described here.