Kati Haycock, director of The Education Trust, has released a new
report full of data that she hopes will support efforts to improve the
quality of public education.
WASHINGTON On two huge screens at the front of a hotel ballroom,
Kati Haycock displays a chart demonstrating that in the past five
years, schools in El Paso, Texas, have brought up test scores of its
Black and Latino students by about 50 percentage points. The jump has
nearly eliminated the achievement gap with White students, who improved
their test scores at the same time. All kids appear to be doing better
in El Paso.
“My challenge to you is this,” Haycock said to the 800 or so educators from around the country. “Beat El Paso.”
Haycock was speaking at the November conference of The Education
Trust, an organization she created to “promote high academic
achievement for all students, at all levels, kindergarten through
college,” with a focus on those students often left behind — Latino,
African American, and Native American students.
The conference attendees included parents, teachers, guidance
counselors, university administrators, and heads of local and state
school systems and education associations. Many among this loose band
of people at all levels of the education system feel a sense of urgency
that if they do not act quickly, their school systems may be dismantled
by charters and vouchers. In the words of a top official from
California’s school system, “this may be the last chance we have to
save public education.”
That urgency is shared by Haycock, who, with characteristic
bluntness, said later in an interview, “The polls among Black folk
around vouchers versus public education are an indication that you
cannot continue screwing a whole bunch of people and have them not
catch you at it and decide that the game is so rigged that they may not
continue to play. I think we’re hovering on the edge of waking up to
the fact that this is a seriously rigged place.”
That “rigged place” is public education, and it is Haycock’s goal to change that.
“I find it scary to think about the future of this country without the common glue of public education,” she said.
To save public education, she wants to make sure that every student
has a high quality education. But first, she has to convince people —
particularly people in school systems — of how serious and dire the
situation is. Her instruments of persuasion and change are data, data,
and more data.
Haycock has data on curriculum, class work, teacher quality, and
test scores. According to the Trust’s findings, poor students and
students of color are much less likely to be assigned college
preparatory classes, no matter what their previous test scores are.
They are much more likely to be given coloring assignments and
worksheets than White, middle- and upper-class students. Poor students
and students of color are much less likely to have teachers who have
majored or even minored in the subjects they teach. And despite
considerable gains in test scores in the 70s and 80s, African American
and Latino students’ scores on many measures have stagnated or fallen
in the past 10 years.
Haycock also has data on places that have changed those dismal statistics — places like El Paso.
Two years ago, The Education Trust published The Data Book, which
gathered a great deal of data — both national and state-by-state —
and which has served as the basis of Haycock’s “data shows.” Early this
month, the trust published its second volume — rifled Education Watch
1998 — with much of the same kind of facts and figures, updated (see
charts, pg 16).
The Pueblo Example
Much of Haycock’s time is spent presenting the data and then using
it to spur action. One of her success stories is in Pueblo, Colorado,
where one of the poorest schools in a heavily Latino area recently
posted the biggest gains in test scores in the state. This was after
years of work by the Pueblo Community Compact, a project managed by The
Education Trust for Pew Charitable Trusts. The compact — a consortium
between the University of Colo., Pueblo Community College, the two
Pueblo school districts, the Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, and the Latino
Chamber of Commerce — was first shocked into concerted action by a
presentation of national data by Haycock.
“It was eye opening for the people here,” says LeeAnn Withnell, the director of the compact.
The first reaction among Pueblo’s leaders, Withnell says, was, “Why
is she talking to us about those people. That’s not our data. But
Haycock’s national data prompted a serious look at Pueblo s own facts
and, Withnell says, “Our data might not be exactly the same, but it was
close enough to scare us.”
One of the pieces of data that particularly scared Pueblo’s leaders
was that of every 100 Latino students who entered Pueblo schools as
kindergartners, only about 51 graduated from high school.
“Latino parents knew things were bad,” said Withnell. “But they didn’t know how bad.”
In addition, she says, “We discovered three middle schools in the
district — half of them — were not even offering pre-algebra.”
After that initial shock by data, Pueblo undertook a series of
changes, including a method of teacher professional training that has
been developed by The Education Trust. The training involves teachers
and other educators meeting to look at student work in a serious and
structured way. By focusing on student work, the professionals get a
sense of how low expectations for some students are. This newfound
sense has prompted the setting of new and higher standards.
The process of looking at student work was a key reason, Withnell
says, for the dramatic improvement of the Bessemer Elementary School, a
school which has enough poor students to qualify for Title I federal
funding. Because of that improvement, schools throughout the state are
asking Pueblo how to run their own teacher training programs, and
Withnell is currently helping write legislation that will have teachers
all over Colorado looking at student work.
The fact that the school is poor forced Colorado to take the Pueblo
reforms seriously, says Withnell, because so often the excuse used by
school systems for low performance is that children are poor, or
African American, or Latino.
“We’ve accepted every excuse in the world about why kids don’t
learn,” says Withnell. “That is one of the things I admire about Karl.
She is so focused. It’s easy to listen to all their excuses and say,
`Gee, I can see why you can’t do anything.’ But she stays focused [on
the fact that] if we have them six hours a day and we stay focused on
academics, we will succeed.”
A Finger in Every Reform
Haycock identifies several areas which need to be changed in order
to reform public education, beginning with a set of standards that
every child should be expected to master, that every teacher should be
expected to teach, and that every test should be expected to measure.
Clear standards, she says, will allow students and their parents to
hold their school systems accountable and ensure that each child is
prepared to do college-level work.
Attending college, Haycock says, is the absolute minimum
requirement for advancement as we enter the new millennium because
those people who do not attend college are destined to live lives of
poverty and dependence. As such, colleges need to be involved in
developing standards, and teachers need to be prepared to teach to the
standards. That means that schools of education must concentrate much
more on content than they have in the past, and that many current
teachers must switch gears and teach to higher standards.
That is a complex analysis, requiring action on several levels
simultaneously, causing many people in the education world to throw up
their hands. “People feel absolutely overwhelmed by the complexity of
the task,” Haycock says. “Our task is to help people figure out what
they can do.” That explains why The Education Trust has a finger in
just about every piece of that complex school reform pie.
Ellen Burbank, program officer of Pew Charitable Trusts, which
provided The Education Trust with most of its money in the early years
and continues to support it, says, “[The Education Trust] looks at the
continuum and tries to intervene at places where it believes it is
crucial to intervene.”
The Education Trust has a project to promote teacher development;
one to promote linkages between public schools and colleges and
universities; a new one to transform guidance counseling (see story,
page 19); and one on developing learning standards and assessment. And
it’s very big on accountability.
It was, in fact, one of the forces behind the new accountability
measure tucked inside the Higher Education Reauthorization Act which
said that graduates of schools of education must be able to pass
licensure exams, and if they don’t, the schools and universities must
be held responsible. That idea has already caused a huge flap in
Massachusetts after many new education school graduates could not pass
that state’s licensure exam.
“It is a very blunt instrument,” says Arthur Wise, president of the
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, of the
accountability measure. “And it will certainly have an effect.”
Dr. Michael Nettles, head of the Frederick D. Patterson Research
Institute, the research arm of The College Fund/UNCF, welcomes that
“That kind of accountability can be very useful as long as its done
properly … as long as there is proper warning and support to meet the
goal.” As an example, Nettles points to Grambling University, which at
one time faced serious problems in its school of education. “Fewer than
10 percent of the graduates were passing the NTE (National Teachers
Exam),” he says.
Under the leadership of the dean, Dr. Burnett Joyner, now president
of Livingstone College, Grambling rose to the challenge, and today all
its graduates pass the exam. If you don’t have accountability, the
problems fester, Nettles says.
The Patterson Institute director credits Haycock for pushing states
and local school systems to develop more and better data, which will
permit more of that kind of accountability.
“She’s been an effective spokesman on challenging schools,” he says.
Beginning With Affirmative Action
Twenty years ago, Haycock was helping develop affirmative action
programs for the University of California. But she quickly became
convinced that college admission was too late, that true affirmative
action must begin in the public schools. As The Education Trust’s
sweatshirts say, “College begins in kindergarten.”
Since then, she has worked with the California Achievement Council,
the Children’s Defense Fund, and the American Association of Higher
Education (AAHE) before striking out on her own.
Russ Edgerton, who was president of the AAHE for many years, is the
one who brought Haycock to AAHE, with the idea that she would develop
the linkages between higher education and K-12 systems that are needed
to reform. The two agreed that the AAHE would act as something of an
incubator for Haycock to develop what mined out to be The Education
“She was a perfect person to bring over and turn loose,” he says. “I just got out of her way.”
When The Education Trust got bigger than AAHE, it moved out and
worked on its own, getting funding first from Pew but later from other
foundations — including Ford, Knight, Annie E. Casey, the DeWitt
Wallace-Readers’ Digest Fund, and the Carnegie Corp.
“[Haycock] is a very powerful person,” says Edgerton who is now
director of education for Pew Charitable Trusts. “She’s very
analytical. She has a powerful mind, but she has a passionate
commitment to these issues. There are a lot of smart people in
Washington, but they don’t have a lot of courage. She has the courage
to get out in front.”
Even Edgerton, who worked with her for years, can’t identify from where her passion springs.
“I don’t know where her deep commitment to minority access and
equity comes from,” he says, “but it’s down to her toes. She steps out
in front and has the courage to be open and passionate about these
issues and work 24 hours a day on these issues.”
As one of four daughters born to a Mexican immigrant father who was
a cottage cheese truck driver and an Anglo, stay-at-home mother,
Haycock says her passion is rooted in personal experience. By a genetic
quirk, she inherited her blue eyes and blond hair from her mother’s
side of the family.
Throughout school in the Los Angeles Unified District, she saw her
Black and Brown peers shunted into classes that were not even designed
to prepare them for college, while she was always in the highest,
fastest, most accelerated academic track. She never once doubted that
she would attend college, and she did. She attended the University of
California-Santa Barbara, where she received her bachelor’s degree,
followed by UC-Berkeley, where she received her master’s and “all but
dissertation” in educational policy. She says she’ll never bother
getting that doctorate because she found graduate school “so boring.”
Later, as the mother of two children going through public school
systems — in Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Md. — HayCock
again observed the inequities and the unequal treatment of different
children, even within the same school. While she acknowledges the
impact these experiences have in inspiring her work, the real driver is
not anecdotal support. What drives her is data, data, and more data.
RELATED ARTICLE: Highlights from Education Watch 1998
Early this month The Education Trust released its new data book, an
update of the first data book published two years ago. Using statistics
from the Department of Education and from scholarly papers around the
country, it paints a picture of a public school system that often has
abandoned its poor students and students of color to low standards and
poorly trained teachers with low expectations — with results to match.
It also shows examples of places that have reversed that trend, with
comparably high results.
What follows are two of the hundreds of charts and graphs, which
include state-by-state data, published in The Data Book, volume 2. For
information on ordering a complete copy of The Data Book, phone The
Education Trust at (202) 293-1217, or go in their Web site at
State Report CardFinancial: Effort N/A Disparity of Funding N/ACurricula: 8th Grade Algebra Overall 25% African American 20.2% Latino 19.8% Title I 16.1%Under-qualified Teachers: Overall 16% Disparity by % Poverty 7% Disparity by % Minority 6%ACHIEVEMENTNAEP 8th Grade Math Overall 271 points African American 242 points Latino 250 points Title I 244 pointsNAEP 4th Grade Reading Overall 214 points African American 186 points Latino 188 pointsMath Progress: Low Income Students N/A ACT Gap 4.6 points SAT Gap 200 pointsATTAINMENTEquity: High School Graduation N/A College Graduation 65% Chances for College 58.5%
Source. Education Watch, 1998, The Education Trust
RELATED ARTICLE: La Raison d’Etre
“When I listen to the rhetoric of affirmative action, almost all
the arguments are couched in terms of making up for past discrimination
or somehow compensating for the lingering effects of past
discrimination. For me, this is very much about current discrimination.
I don’t have to go back even a minute to be able to document lingering
and serious inequities between how we educate poor minority kids and
how we educate other kids.
“Rather than just compensate for that at the point of [college]
admission, I would argue that we ought to fix that once and for all.
That’s really the driving passion here. Twenty or 30 years ago people
really did believe that Black or Hispanic kids needed something
different — voodoo education, multicultural, whatever. What I think is
so clear now is that what they need is the same thing White kids need,
the same thing suburban kids need.
“It’s high quality education with high expectations from teachers
who know their stuff. There’s no mystery about this and there’s no
reason we can’t supply it to all our kids.
“We [The Education Trust] exist primarily to argue that case and to
try and get the nation to go about the business of doing it.”
— Kati Haycock, director, The Education Trust
COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com
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