Jacob J. Walker's Blog

Scholarly Thoughts, Research, and Journalism for Informal Peer Review

Archive for the ‘Twin Rivers USD’ Category

News from Twin Rivers: Dr. Martinez is doing good work.

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Bruce Maimam wrote an excellent article in today’s Sacramento Bee about how Dr. Martinez has been doing excellent work to move the district forward in a positive direction, and thus the issues with Cortez Quinn are only a mild distraction. And, other than Cortez possibly costing the district money because he is being obstinate, it won’t hurt the district.

I have to echo Bruce’s opinion.  My dealings with Dr. Martinez thus far have shown him to be a good leader who has had to swim in a minefield filled with sharks.  (To mix some metaphors)

Regarding Cortez, I think the Bee is quite right in its recent  editorial, that the board should vote to ask him to resign.

Written by Jacob Walker

November 12th, 2013 at 5:26 am

Posted in Twin Rivers USD

News from the Twin Rivers Board Meeting Tonight about Cortez

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While I could not make the Twin River meeting tonight, I heard from a friend who attended, that Cortez is taking a 90-day leave of absence, and that the board also voted to place on the agenda for the November 15 meeting to ask Cortez to resign.  You can find news reports about this from the Sacramento Bee, Sacramento Observer, News 10, CBS 13, Fox 40, KCRA 3, and Twin Rivers has a Press Release.

I agree with the Sacramento Bee , in that Cortez should do the honorable thing and step down.

Written by Jacob Walker

November 7th, 2013 at 10:05 pm

Posted in Twin Rivers USD

News of the Day: Cortez Quinn arrested

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We interrupt the normal quote of the day for breaking news….

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Written by Jacob Walker

November 6th, 2013 at 10:51 am

Posted in Twin Rivers USD

Last Night’s Twin Rivers Board Meeting

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Last night, there was some very good news about adult education in Twin Rivers.

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Written by Jacob Walker

November 6th, 2013 at 4:41 am

Posted in Twin Rivers USD

Why Refurbish when you can UberFurbish!

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Tomorrow I am going to start the first after-school class of the Computer Refurbishing Community Service Club which is a project that Araceli Perez has been pushing, and is finally coming to fruition.  For this project, we have chosen to go with Ubermix, which is built on top of Ubuntu Linux, but has a simpler user interface, is easy to maintain, and was designed specifically with education in mind.  This was chosen after exploring a lot of alternatives, including Lubuntu, JoliCloud, Chrome OS / Chromium OS, and the OEM license of Microsoft Windows XP that came with the computers.

Windows XP was not chosen, because its support from Microsoft will be ending this coming year, which means it will be ripe for malware to invade at that time.  Also, I think that the demand for technicians who can work on Unix-like operating systems is going to go up dramatically, given that with personalized computer (smart-phones and tablets), there are far more installation of Unix-like systems than Microsoft ones.  Also, the price tag is very good for Ubermix, given that it is open source. Ubermix looks to be more stable and more compatible with the older hardware I have tested it on than the other Linux variations I looked at, and also has a simpler interface.

As part of this process, I’m working on creating an UberFurbish boot CD, which is a customized Ultimate Boot CD, that will make it easy to test the hardware of computer systems before Ubermix is installed.  I’ll be posting more about this soon, and some of the technical challenges and solutions that have been involved.

Written by Jacob Walker

October 14th, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Last Night’s Twin Rivers Board Meeting

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The following is what I said at last night’s Twin Rivers board meeting

Dr. Martinez, Trustees; thank you for time to talk this evening.  Tonight you will be hearing from several laid off Adult School teachers about why an adult-serving charter school would be good for our community, and why Twin Rivers should keep self-sustaining adult school programs open, at least through this school year.

But believe it or not, that is only a part of what I’m personally talking about tonight.  I want to address the bigger issue.  That is the issue of the unbelievably high dropout rate within the Twin Rivers district, such that I estimate about 1,000 kids dropout or simply don’t graduate between Kindergarten to 12th grade. Further, the census shows that their are parts of the Twin Rivers district where over half of the adults don’t have a high school diploma.  This is atrocious on many levels, including being one of the major factors that keeps our communities in poverty.  It also costs the districts millions of dollars, which in turn is the loss of a large number of jobs for both teachers and classified staff.

I believe that this problem can cost-effectively be solved through a 3-prong approach.  First, by improving the use of data within the district, there could be more effective dropout prevention.   Second, by improving marketing and setting a program up properly, there could be a fifth year senior program that could be self-supporting through ADA.  And finally, adults who have been out of school for a while could finish high school through either the adult school or the adult-serving charter school.

To build upon the vision of Dr. Martinez, I ask:  “Why not save dropouts?”

 

Written by Jacob Walker

September 18th, 2013 at 6:04 am

Posted in Twin Rivers USD

Can Data Science Save Dropouts?

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Recently I started reading Data Science for Business, and it struck me that the example it gives of a  company wanting to predict customer churn is quite a bit like what a school might want in predicting whether a student is likely to dropout.

For some time, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of using data to solve human problems. We know that the current economy runs on data science; Facebook and Google are quite upfront that they want to predict what you want, so they can show you ads.  Brick and mortar stores are doing it too, as Target can predict when its customers are pregnant, and send appropriate coupons.   I believe it must be possible to use data science in a manner that is less profit driven and more humanity driven.  And so this brings me to this question, can data science save dropouts?

Looking at an example, in the Twin Rivers school district, I did some rough calculations, and it looks like the district loses approximately 1,000 students from kindergarten to high school graduation.  This is 1,000 kids that will generally find the rest of lives much more difficult than if they were able to graduate.   Further these 1,000 dropouts cost Twin Rivers over $10,000,000 in lost revenue.  If only half of these kids could be recovered, the district would be able to fund at least 50 faculty and staff positions.

So how could the district solve this problem?  There are two answers: dropout prevention and dropout recovery.  I have personally worked a lot with dropout recovery for adults, and I am currently working on creating an adult-serving charter school that can help solve this problem, which I will talk about more soon in other posts.

Dropout prevention is something that is usually done in very broad strokes, and if these programs are more targeted, with support groups or extra help, they usually aren’t consistently applied across the student population (they often are based upon self-selection, parent selection, or teacher selection).

But what if there were patterns in the existing data about students that might show they were highly likely to dropout?  These particular students could more cost-effectively and consistently be targeted with intervention strategies to help them stay in school.

The first question would be whether there were predictors in the current data that could be used?  Most traditional demographics should not be used.  Gender, race and ethnicity may at times have a correlation with students dropping out, but these are proxies to other societal issues, and any such use of the data would surely have people up in arms about “racial profiling”, etc.  Some demographics might play a role in doing this type of analysis, specifically looking at socioeconomic status and English language learners. But since these two variables are so broad and change slowly, they would be useful as a tangential or supporting variable at best.  Looking at specific teachers should also not be done as it would be perceived as a form of teacher evaluation, and would probably not be compatible with the contract.  As such it would also likely get the ire of the teacher’s union, and getting their support is important to getting a successful outcome.

So I think the answer is to see if there are patterns in student behavior that might be predictors of a student dropping out.  A school’s various student information systems has attendance data, grades, the courses students have taken, standardized test scores, etc.  By using automated statistical techniques, it could be determined if these variables often have some types of patterns to them when students drop out, and if so, then in almost real-time (although more likely on a weekly basis), the school could look for these patterns, and have counselors or teachers work with the students who were determined to be most at-risk to see if these student can be saved from dropping out.

I am going to share this post with some of the folks with Twin Rivers, and I hope to post more soon about how such a project like this might be able to be done, and which specific steps would be involved.  Maybe, I’ll even be able to be involved with working with Twin Rivers to do it…  We will see!

Written by Jacob Walker

September 13th, 2013 at 9:55 pm

What I Said at Tonight’s Twin Rivers Board Meeting

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The following is what I shared with at tonight’s Twin Rivers Board Meeting:

Dr. Martinez and Board Members: Thank you for the time to speak this evening.

Tonight I want to bring back an idea that deserves a second thought.  What I am talking about is the idea of an Adult-Serving Charter School.  When we brought this up last year, I think there were misunderstandings of our petition that led to misinformation about our proposed school.

What we would like, is to open up dialogue with the board and stakeholders about how an adult serving charter school could work in harmony with the district to serve the community while also bringing more revenue to the district and also hire back adult school teachers who were laid off; of which I am one.

I want to reiterate that adult serving charter schools get apportionment funding that does not take away from district funding.  And with this funding, we could develop innovative programs for adults, and partner with district programs for kids.  For example, we could partner with the district to provide apprenticeship opportunities to parents and other adults while the district provides apprenticeship opportunities to high school students. We can help parents get their diplomas, and at the same time help them to learn how to help their children with their school work.  We have the opportunity to do many innovative programs, and support the districts mission.

I only ask that you remove any prejudice to the word “charter”; Listen to what we are proposing, and work with us so we can have something that works for everyone.

Written by Jacob Walker

September 4th, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Posted in Twin Rivers USD

Some Updates about Twin Rivers and the Adult School

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I just emailed the following to the Twin Rivers Adult School Faculty and Staff, and thought it would be good to share here as well:

It has been some time since I emailed everyone, but I thought it was appropriate.

First, I will leave some elephants in the room, and I won’t be talking about my unemployment nor the charter in this email.  I’ll address those in the future.  (You can also read my blog at http://JacobJWalker.EffectiveEducation.org/blog for general updates about many different things in my life, including sometimes those, if you are so inclined.)

But, I want to tell everyone that I am working on getting a volunteer badge, so I can help out a little (keyword here is “little”!), especially with wrapping up things, and possibly doing specific voluntary projects at the behest of the board.

Speaking of the board, I went to the board meeting last night, and I want to report some positive news for the Adult School:

First, Rebecca Sandoval, who has been a continual strong supporter of adult students was elected as President of the board.  Bob Bastian who strongly supports vocational education as a valid pathway for students became vice president, and Mike Baker has been re-voted as clerk.

And everyone knows we have a new superintended, Dr. Steven Martinez.  And, from my dealings with him thus far, I think he will treat the adult school fairly, and work to have continued adult education services for our community.

Also, Dr. Walter Garcia Kawamoto continues to support adult education, asking that the adult school becomes part of every superintendent report.

I think these are all positive changes and events, and I feel the speaking out that was done by us and our students contributed to this changing of the tide, and for more awareness of the adult school and the students we serve.

Written by Jacob Walker

July 3rd, 2013 at 7:22 am

Posted in Twin Rivers USD

Letter to My Colleagues about My Plan for a Month of Intensive Preventative Medicine

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I just sent the following today to  all my colleagues and supervisors at Twin Rivers Adult School:

Dear Colleagues,

These past few years have been quite challenging, and since receiving my initial layoff notice this year from the district, it has given me much time to reflect about what is important to me.  With the stress of the job, I have realized that my personal health is a critical factor to my ability to benefit the world.  While I do not currently have any acute medical conditions that I’m aware of, I do have some chronic life threatening conditions, including high cholesterol, class I obesity, and intermittent high blood pressure.  These conditions, combined with stressful work have a sufficiently high probability of leading to heart attack and stroke, that I do not wish to let them linger.  One only needs to look at former Adult School staff who lost their children to heart attacks, to realize how serious these conditions can be.

Given that for the rest of this contract year I do not have any other classes that I will be instructing and that our teaching contract allows us to use medical leave for medical appointments, I am choosing to complete an intensive proactive medical plan to address my current medical issues which will include education, exercise, diet, and evaluation of my progress. This month of intensive focus should lead to improved health habits, that can extend my lifespan, and so I have arranged for daily medical appointments with my health care provider to do these activities.  While this will reduce my future CalSTRS retirement benefits, I have come to realize that retirement doesn’t do me any good if I’m dead.

I do not know whether or not I will be employed with Twin Rivers next year, and even if I am, I will not be taking on any of the additional duties I have been doing, and will only take on those duties generally expected of a teacher.  Thus, I will also be working on transferring all of these additional duties that I have taken on to others, which I will generally work to do in an educational fashion, to help point people to appropriate resources to solve their problems, and also provide additional knowledge if it isn’t currently documented.  Staff should email me with any questions, as I will not be using my personal cell phone for work related calls, and also it is important to have written documentation of procedures so they can be referred to in the future.

– Jacob

Written by Jacob Walker

May 10th, 2013 at 9:32 am