Search The Tattler

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Emery Schools Chief John Rubio Appeals to Parents: Don't Listen to the Tattler

Rubio Speaks

His Tattler Bashing Letter Claims He's Doing a "Great" Job

The Tattler's revelatory recent story of plunging test scores amid the imposition of racist practices at Emery Unified School District and the role the Superintendent of the Schools has played in that has caught the imagination of parents and guardians at the ECCL campus and caught the attention of the Superintendent who has responded with a widely distributed countering letter.
The September 16th Tattler story reveals that after nine teachers testified at a June 15th School Board meeting that the Superintendent, John Rubio, had installed what they called racist practices at the District, their warnings that a drop in academic achievement for black students would likely be forthcoming have been prescient, at least when using test scores as a metric.
Emery Superintendent
John Rubio

Reporting the teacher's side
is so unfair.
The Emeryville Tattler is
the enemy of the people.  It's
standing in the way of Making
Emery Schools Great Again.
Interestingly, Mr Rubio uses his counter letter to tell parents/guardians how much he respects the teachers; strange to hear after the nine teachers testified against him at the June 15th Board meeting describing a culture of "bullying" by the Superintendent against them.  Perhaps the claims of his respect for teachers are exaggerated.

Superintendent Rubio has been distracted by the Tattler story, so much so that he sent the letter (below) to the parents/guardians of every Emery student, refuting the Tattler story's veracity (without mentioning it specifically).
Mr Rubio accuses the Tattler of posting untruths, a charge we patently decry as false, and we hereby challenge Mr Rubio to back up his claims with specifics. The easiest thing in the world for someone in the Superintendent's position to do who has been called out for a gross lack of leadership is to make blanket claims of a prevaricating press, to shoot the messenger as it were.  We can think of another 'Great Leader' doing the same thing on the other side of the continent.  

The following is the text of the letter from a distracted Superintendent Rubio, received yesterday, with the Tattler's responses in red, directed at the Superintendent:

Dear Parents and Community Members,

The State of California is preparing for their official release of certified Smarter Balanced test scores from last spring.

From year to year, we have seen our test scores fluctuate. This is year three and they have not fluctuated, they have stayed at the bottom of the area.

The over all percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards in English and in Math increased from May of 2015 to May of 2016, and those overall percentages went back down to about the same 2015 levels this past May. The scores dropped below the 2015 levels. It should also be noted the there was a shift in who was tested in those years, 2015 to 2016.

This is not a surprise to our school staff. Consistent positive growth takes time, a district-wide focus on classroom instruction, having a great teacher in every classroom, and a concerted effort on the part of all members of our community. Zero growth over three years is not the same as consistent positive growth. It is zero growth.

If you break the data down by grade level and into different groups, we see that our English language learners are doing great in some areas and not as well in others. We see our African-American students outperforming African-American students in neighboring districts, and our English language learners greatly outperforming English language learners in neighboring districts but still not doing as well when compared to last year. The terms "great" and "greatly" are not the correct modifiers. Statewide, 13% of ELA students were proficient or above in English Language Arts and 12% in Mathematics. In Alameda County, the scores are the same in ELA and slightly higher in Math (13% and 15%). Emery’s scores are about the same in English and slightly higher in Math (12% ELA and 18% Math). This is not doing great. Nor did African-American students greatly outperform nearby districts. Emery was one or two percentage points above our neighbors in Oakland and Berkeley, that falls within the statistical error rate. Countywide, 26% of African-American students met the ELA standards and 16% met the Math standards compared to 20% ELA and 17% Math in Emery.

As an organization, we have to face our challenges and recognize areas for improvement, while we continue to work to be the best we can be. After three years, zero growth is the best we can be?

We know that the quality of the teaching staff is critical in improving student achievement. We interviewed over 200 applicants in person last spring for seven teaching positions. Your process is to interview 30 candidates for each position? That seems inefficient. Industry standard is 3 to 5. To be extremely diligent, 10 should be more than adequate. If you are interviewing 30 candidates for each position, that is not something to brag about. At the elementary level, which most of these positions were, you could be seeing 60 candidates for the same job. This is a point of pride? Did you screen the same ratio, 30 to 1, of candidates to interview? It would be impressive if 6,000 teachers applied for the 7 positions. This reads like you did zero resume screening and just interviewed everyone.

If you measure the quality of our schools by the quality of our teachers in each and every individual classroom, then this year looks like it will be our strongest in the last four years. All the teachers that have left were not good teachers? Does this include the Yale Scholars that have left? The past Teachers of the Year?

For the first time in three years, I can walk through all of our three schools: the elementary, the middle, and the high school, and see strong teachers in all of our classrooms. I think this is uncommon in public schools, and yet we have now achieved it. Your disrespect for public schools and teachers is impressive. The majority of public schools have strong teachers in every room. It seems the common denominator of the halls you walk is you. Maybe you have only worked at schools that struggle.

By strengthening our staff through the hiring of high quality teachers who joined the ranks of a group of high quality veteran teachers, we will see test scores increase this spring. If this is a goal, it should be quantified. Given that one in five students is proficient in Emery, test scores could go up by simply asking students to guess on multiple choice questions.

I know that having test scores that go up and then back down opens our district to negative attacks, untrue exaggerations, and an attempt to shame the district and our teachers online. Reporting on bad test scores is not an attack by fake news and only the School Board should be shamed. As for untrue exaggerations, see your above uses of "great" and "greatly".

Our teachers are working extremely hard, and they don't deserve that. Hard working and effective are two different things. Emery teachers would be more effective if leadership did their job and not require teachers to participate in 20 to 25 unnecessary interviews (in addition to all the interviews driven by the constant replacing of teachers because Emery, under your leadership, has the worst teacher retention of any school district in the East Bay).

No matter where we are sitting, we are improving, and we will continue to improve. We will do it by holding each other up and supporting one another as we continue to improve our practice, our strategies, and our great program offerings (e.g. Scientific Adventures for Girls) which cannot be found in most other schools. As we want to avoid exaggerations, programs like Scientific Adventures for Girls are available on most campus and Scientific Adventures is on eight school campuses, four libraries, including Golden Gate across the street from ECCL, and one club.

We have every reason to believe that our scores and enrollment will go up as we move into the 2018-19 academic year because of the changes we made this year. Based on your previous statement that the drop in test scores was not unexpected, did you not have this expectation last year? You made bold claims about EUSD being a destination district this year, you have this year’s enrollment, is it up or down?

I would welcome anyone to come walk through the hallways and visit the classrooms in our schools and see our students, our great teachers, and great administrators all working hard. What time on Monday should we be there?

My glass is half full, I have a positive mindset, and it will remain that way because that's how we support, build up, and respect our teachers. When 1 in 4 students have met the standard in English, that is not half full, that's one quarter full.

We are all committed to do this work, because we are committed to the success of our children.

We will build off of our positive improvements in areas where we are doing well, and we recognize and will make changes where we have to improve - that's the work to be done every day and every school year. We should be interviewing 30 Superintendents, is that the work?

Thank you,
Dr. John J. Rubio

Thank you,
Emeryville Tattler (redlined responses)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Early Release of Test Scores Reveals a Failing Emery School District

Prospects for African American Students 
Dim at Emery

Teachers Warning of Consequences of "Racist Practices"
Appear to be Vindicated

Black Students "Not Served"

News Analysis
Emery Unified School District released an early peek at last season’s yet to be officially released state sanctioned student test scores at Wednesday’s School Board meeting revealing a school wide drop in academic achievement and a district with vexatious problems educating African American students specifically. The disturbing figures come on the heels of a June 15th School Board meeting where nine teachers rose to give warning of such negative consequences as a result of “racist practices” implemented by School Superintendent John Rubio.
 At the Wednesday night meeting, high school principal Jessica Goode said the numbers she called “repugnant”, showed that African American students “are not being served” at the beleaguered school district despite an attempt by Mr Rubio to spin the data to show the opposite.

The presenter of the data at the meeting, Dr Kell, an Emery administrator, indicated the District has formulated a plan to deal with the plunging test scores involving "integrating horizontal and vertical coherence" and a call to "improve the organizational climate" among other ideas. The three Board members attending the meeting Wednesday night seemed to take the bad news in stride but member Cruz Vargas said he was happy the District had come up with a plan to turn the numbers around for next year.
School Board Member
Cruz Vargas

A self described "numbers man",
Cruz didn't say anything about the low
test score numbers but he's happy
there's a plan to turn test scores
 around for next year.

The taxpayer investment of $100 million in a new school campus last year had no affect on a persistent pattern of falling test scores at Emery since Superintendent Rubio was hired three years ago. Despite a decade of promises that the gleaming new facilities at the Emeryville Center of Community Life would help bring up scores on their own, the bad numbers revealed Wednesday were seen by the Superintendent as a chance to countervail the charges of racism from the teachers by using the data to show a rising African American student cohort as compared with others even as test scores within that cohort still showed a decline.

District Spins Racial Achievement Gap 
The achievement gap is measured as the difference between the highest achieving racial cohort, traditionally Asians at Emery and their inverse, African Americans.  Mr Rubio took pains to show a closing gap between academic school year 2015-16 and 2016-17 by using plunging test scores of Asian students, an 11% drop, contrasted by African American student’s drop of 4% netting a 8% drop in the achievement gap in English Language test scores.  The exercise in abject legerdemain by Mr Rubio net a 9% drop in the math achievement gap using the same tactics, leveraging a 12% drop in Asian student test scores against a 3% drop for African Americans.  If the Superintendent was queasy massaging the numbers to show student success by highlighting one group of student's relative uptick by leveraging the failure of another group, he didn't show it.

Rubio Celebrates 'Student Success' 
While the Superintendent unveiled his brand after he was hired by the Board in the form of a new slogan for Emery, “Partners Power Student Success”, Emery Unified’s state testing results have deteriorated since the implementation of the new slogan, this year’s being the worst yet. The preliminary data given Wednesday proved 75% of students did not meet the state standards in English Language Arts.  Last year less than 1 in 3 students met the English Language Art Standards.   Only 30% of the students were proficient or above in ELA, tied with Oakland Schools.  Now down to 1 in 4, it’s possible Emery has dropped below Oakland.  In Math, the story is even worse.  About 1 in 5 students met the standard for mathematics.  Only 79% of the students failed to meet the standard. Last year, Emery was 1% higher than OUSD causing speculation about if that stays true, or given the trajectory, if Emery is now already at the bottom of Alameda County Schools.

A Brief Rise Before Rubio, Then Return To Failure 
The goal of building the Emeryville Center of Community Life was to build on the success that Emery achieved after coming out of receivership.  From 2007 to 2010, Emery improved its academic achievement each year.  Testing was suspended by the state as California transitioned to the Common Core and computer based ‘Smarter Balanced’ assessments.  Testing resumed in Mr Rubio’s first year with the district and that’s when the progress stalled, then reversed.  Each subsequent year as test scores are released, Emery struggles to paint a rosy picture and urges patience until a new plan takes effect for the next year.  Last year at a presentation by the new high school principal, Ms. Goode, she described her plan to improve math performance.  One Board member at the time, Christian Patz (currently a City Council Member) questioned how the new plan was different from the previous plan.  Ms. Goode did not have an answer.
The same could have been asked of the newest plan, rich in arcane academic jargon but lacking in detail, regardless of the excited exclamations from Board member Vargas who as a self described “numbers man” has said he understands that ‘rebranding’ matters and the use of words like ‘innovation’ are good tools to flash.

Black Students Not Served
There were some positives in this year's test scores, white students improved their math and language arts scores by 5%.  Interesting since Mr Rubio worked hard to change Emery’s previous mission statement which included the phrase, “To End Racist and Classist Practices.” Since that change, outgoing staff have told the school board about their concerns about how people of color are treated on campus.  Now the achievement gap, the difference between the how students of color do versus white has grown, despite the Superintendent’s attempt to obscure that fact.  White students attending Emery were twice as likely to have met the standards in math than African American students.  The gap was even larger in English Language Arts.  The achievement gap at Emery is significantly smaller than the gap in state test scores (based on prior year tests) because white students in Emery score well below the state average, as do African American students.  Asian students in Emery had the biggest decline, dropping double digits in both Language Arts and Math.  English Learners remained about the same, while Latinos, the fastest growing group at Emery and the state, matched the District’s 5% drop.

It should be noted that the scores reported come from the district’s presentation to the school board on September 13, 2017.  The state has not yet released scores to the public.  Comparisons to other districts or the state for this story were made using last year’s scores and the numbers just pre-released by Emery.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

City Staff Holds General Plan in Contempt

Contemptuous Staff and Weak City Council Means the People's Will is Ignored

Family Friendly Homes Keep Getting Torn Down Because That's What the Staff Wants

The feeling that (a person or) a thing is beneath consideration or worthless.

News Analysis

For the upcoming City Council September 5th meeting, Emeryville’s city staff, in seeking to grant a developer permission to tear down two houses on Doyle Street, has prepared a report for the Council that deprives them critical information that the two single family houses are in a General Plan protected ‘zone of stability’ and shouldn’t be torn down.  This comes after the staff also hid that fact from the Planning Commission in July.  
It’s not a mistake; the failure to inform the Council (and the Planning Commission) about such houses has been an ongoing issue for the staff ever since the General Plan was implemented in 2009.  It’s part of a pattern and practice that’s been firmly established by a recalcitrant Emeryville city staff that’s contemptuous of our General Plan.

Contemptuous is not too strong a word. Seven times in the last two years, homes in the zone of stability have been proposed by developers for demolition.  In seven out of seven cases, the staff has recommended the Council approve demolition.  That fact tells us the staff, specifically the Planning Department, doesn’t like the zone of stability provisions within the General Plan. Rather, they prefer to tear down homes in our town, zone or no zone.  But more tellingly and more contemptuously, for seven out of seven of those cases, the staff has seen fit to deny the City Council and Planning Commission the fact that the houses in question are in the zone of stability; the very information the decision makers need to make an informed decision.  In fact not once in eight years has the city staff informed the decision makers the information they need to know that a home in question is in the zone of stability.  It betrays their not-so-hidden contempt for democratic processes and contempt for our General Plan.
City Manager Carolyn Lehr
During her tenure at least four houses
in the zone of stability have been demolished
or approved for demolition in accordance

with her recommendations.
As an overseer of the Planning Director, she 

has made sure the City Council has
been unaware the homes were 
in the 
zone of stability as they 
approved destruction.

The ineradicable protections of the zone of stability language notwithstanding, the staff is free to recommend the Council approve a tear down for any home a developer wants to demolish, even those in the zone.  It’s their job to recommend whatever they feel is best, given their encircling directives.  However they are not free to withhold information, especially as derived from our General Plan, that could effect the elected official’s decisions.  Clearly, of all of the houses demolished since 2009, the fact that they were in the zone of stability if made known to the Council, would have affected their decisions about tearing them down.  There is a chance some might have been saved.

The Tattler has alerted the Council and the staff of this governmental breakdown for years but the staff persists in keeping the Council members in the dark regarding homes in the zone of stability.  There’s no conceivable rational argument to be made there’s anything going on here other than a rouge agency pressing its desires by means of deception... and that constitutes contempt.

It should be pointed out that the General Plan represents the will of the people of Emeryville.  The stuff in there is what we want.  We know that by virtue of the fact it’s in the democratically vetted Plan.  We know the staff doesn’t like the General Plan.  It probably feels constraining to them. We know the City Council up to now has not done the people’s bidding with regard to the zone of stability, otherwise at least some of these homes would have been saved over the years.  
We also know that the type of housing protected from demolition by the General Plan, detached single family homes, represent the most family friendly housing there is.  That’s been well documented.  The people of Emeryville had an innate sense of this when they crafted the General Plan.  The elite in Emeryville don’t care about any of that as judged by their record on this.  
Regardless they’re being kept in the dark by the staff, we shouldn’t be facile about this; the Council has been busy tearing down this family friendly housing stock, built before the term ‘family friendly’ was invented, and over the last two or three years, the Council has been trying to build new “family friendly housing” by use of developers.  The result has been disappointing by any metric.  Emeryville continues to be the worst city in the East Bay as far as families go.

The politics in Emeryville is locked.  The pro-developer former City Council majority hired the staff we have and the new ‘progressive’ Council majority so far hasn’t found the strength to impose its own vision for development in our town.  Perhaps it puts too much stock in the juris prudence artifice of stare decisis.  Appearently the people, as they say, will have to wait.
Earns Two Smiling Nora Davis'!
Nora Davis smiles down on her 
hand picked city staff.