No goal? No plan? No millage. (Part 1)

Pro-bond supporter, Robert Bokram, insisted Ferndale's K-12 program is 87 percent in-district students. If that number is correct, our district's performance is worse than we thought.

Last Sunday's issue forum on the $23 million school bond proposal is available now on YouTube. During the discussion, pro-bond supporter and member of Citizens for Quality Schools, Robert Bokram, took issue with some of my numbers (available here for anyone to review). He insisted that Ferndale's core K-12 program is populated with 87 percent in-district students.

Let's pretend his number is correct. Does that number reflect any better on our community's schools? Do we really believe that our community's students, after 13 years of a Ferndale School District education are only capable of a 36 percent proficiency in math? 53 percent in reading? 54 percent in science?

I would expect that if we believe Mr. Bokram's number is accurate, our community should be embarrassed that its dedication to its school system, that $62 million spent since 1995, and another $23 million proposed in two weeks has only managed to educate our students - to prepare them for their future - so disproportionately less-achieving than two other districts that share a boundary with ours.

Again, voters must ask themselves what is the district's goal for our students? What is its plan to achieve that goal? If there is a goal and there is a plan, is that goal and plan to increase our students' readiness for college and jobs in health care, engineering, alternative power, or other high-tech industries our state is trying to grow?

The good news, if you can call it that, is that Ferndale is performing better than either Oak Park or Hazel Park. But with those two districts performing near the bottom, we should be careful not to brag too much.

(Original plosted at http://tggagne.blogspot.com/)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Bradford Parks February 20, 2012 at 12:23 PM
I have two children in the Ferndale school district - one at the Middle school, one at Roosevelt Elementary. My daughter is in the National Junior Honor Society, on the award-winning Marching Band Color Guard, and is on the Ferndale High Robotics team, who just completed building a basketball-playing robot from scratch for Regional competitions next month. My son just got a Principal's award for reading. I am also a member of the Board of Ed Curriculum Committee, which meets every month and whose meetings are open to the public. I invite anyone who is interested to come and learn about everything Ferndale schools are doing to prepare our students for the future. I urge all Ferndale school district residents to vote YES for the school bond on Feb 28. The bond will fund much-needed infrastructure improvements for all schools in the district. I urge you to support your local students, teachers, schools, and community by voting YES.
Thomas Gagne February 20, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Mr. Parks, thank you for reminding me about transparency. I was unable to find any information about the curriculum committee on the district's committee webpage at http://www.ferndaleschools.org/boardofeducation/committees.html. Probably just an over-sight on their part.
Keith Warnick February 21, 2012 at 05:12 PM
One more click will get you to the schedule for all of our committees. Here is that link: http://www.ferndaleschools.org/boardofeducation/documents/Committee%20Schedule.pdf
Thomas Gagne February 21, 2012 at 05:52 PM
Thank you, Keith. I was looking for information on the Curriculum Committee that Mr. Parks serves on. It doesn't appear to be listed on either the page you linked-to or mine.
Bradford Parks February 21, 2012 at 05:53 PM
I mis-spoke by calling it the Curriculum Committee. The proper title is the Program Technology Committee. The schedule is on the website Keith linked to. Sorry for any confusion.
Erik Roberts February 22, 2012 at 01:21 AM
My daughter (in second grade) is reading at a 3rd+ grade level (based on the DRA) and I attribute that to Roosevelt Elementary. Education is what one puts into it. I know of instances where Ferndale alumnus have gone on to prominent universities with scholarships. I think it's important to stop putting all of the blame on schools and start looking at societal issues (I believe this is why Mr. Gagne is questioning the 87% statistic...rightly so) schools (ANY schools) have little control over how students live at home...that home life has a huge influence on the learning environment. I love the education my daughter is receiving at FPS...I'm proud to say she is a student in Ferndale and will support its growth. I truly appreciate Mr. Gagne's position and support his right to oppose the millage. I will always read his input to get an opposing view...can't say it will change my mind but I will read it with an open mind. P.S. This is why I love the Patch
jennifer February 22, 2012 at 08:51 PM
I'm trying to understand the doubt I hear in "Let's pretend his number is correct." It seems that people forget that Ferndale's school district is comprised of a hefty portion of Royal Oak Twp and some of Oak Park, as well as all of Pleasant Ridge and nearly all of Ferndale. If you have some reason to doubt that 87% of the students in Ferndale schools are from those 4 cities, can you offer some data? Yes, Ferndale serves some very poor children (even some not from Ferndale, but still in-district), as well of lots of middle class and affluent students. It is truly a diverse district in every meaning of the word (and yes, this diversity often yields lower mean test scores -- look at the disaggregated data to see that the schools are doing a very competitive job with most groups). The district is willing to share hard statistics about the number of investigations it does to ensure eligibility and residency, if you are concerned. And the 13% of other students are made of Schools of Choice students from within Oakland County and homeless students, who are legally permitted to attend. My daughter is a student at JFK and is wonderfully supported and performing well above grade level, and I look forward to the many opportunities that Ferndale Schools will offer her. I'm hopeful that the community will continue to support our schools so that she and her lovely friends may enjoy the same quality of programs and amazing school community when she is at the high school.
Thomas Gagne February 23, 2012 at 03:12 AM
"If you have some reason to doubt that 87% of the students in Ferndale schools are from those 4 cities, can you offer some data?" Yes, Jennifer, I do. I distributed it at the forum and I posted it online. The link is in the article above where it reads, "..some of my numbers (available here for anyone to review)." In that spreadsheet you'll see that Ferndale's total 2011 enrollment (according to the state department of ed) is 3952 students--only 2096 are from the district. When I do the math I come up with only 53% in-district students. I asked the school district last spring for a break-down by city of where our in-district students are coming from. For instance, how many students in-district students are from Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Oak Park, and Royal Oak Township. The district didn't provide the break-down but instead pointed me to the state numbers I used in my spreadsheet. "..diversity often yields lower mean test scores." I don't accept the premise that student achievement must be proportional to diversity. Diversity is a hollow term too-often used as an excuse for lower expectations. ".. look at the disaggregated data to see that the schools are ... competitive job with most groups." Did you look at the data? It shows our district is competitive with one group--not most.
Derek Delacourt February 23, 2012 at 05:59 PM
I see two diferent statistics, is the 87% students in the "core" K-12 program, cited by Mr. Bokram, the same as the State enrollment statistics Mr. Gagne is citing? If not we are talking about apples and oranges and the comparision is no acurate.
Thomas Gagne February 23, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Derek, I've not found the 87% number in the information I've found online. I could be missing something. The information from the State DoE I've found (https://www.mischooldata.org/DistrictSchoolProfiles/StudentInformation/NonResidentStatus/Snapshot.aspx) doesn't break-down the information by-school or by which schools are "core" and which are not. Wherever that number comes from, I'd love to review it to compare with the state's numbers.
Robert Bokram February 25, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Mr. Gagne; the number is 86.3%. The dist. administration can/has provided the data. We don’t have to pretend this is true…it is. But this debate is a red herring. The real issue is about fostering a quality education for all our students, whether resident or non-resident. Passage of the millage will provide for structural improvements that don’t necessarily correlate to improved test scores; removal of all asbestos, new kitchens for UHS and Roosevelt, upgrades for the auditorium and pool infrastructure, new pavement, and both interior and exterior facilities improvements. That said, there are also numerous fund investments that WILL improve student test scores; a new technology infrastructure that will enable new teaching methods (along with a new curriculum that utilizes these technologies), smart-boards, hand held tablets, more computers for the classrooms, wireless access across the district, HVAC, new security systems for a safe learning environment. Mr. Gagne says we should wait until the district has a plan for improved test scores, yet seems blind to the benefits embedded in this well-defined plan for the bond funds. If we wait, our bond capacity drops from 25 million to 13 million. Does this make sense? Not if you want to maximize the value of the district assets (bond funds spent on capital improvements accrue onto the total asset value). The district has an innovative 5 year plan for the district and proven the merits to the public, in detail! Vote YES.
Debi February 26, 2012 at 06:33 AM
VOTE NO UNTIL THE RIGHT PRIORITIES ARE IN PLACE! Money, buildings, technology, etc. has never taught a student how to learn! Students performance on standardized tests reflect the levels of knowledge achieved. There is no disputing the decreased learning taking place in the Ferndale Public Schools over the last decade. Let's put the emphasis on providing a good academic education to the students, which is the greater good, than how comfortable or tech savvy they are! STUDENTS WILL LEARN WHEN GOOD TEACHERS: ~ possess knowledge & enthusiasm for what the subject matter is ~ demand civility, respect & courtesy of all in the classroom ~ concern for the student's learning exceeds his/her own personal concerns ~ teach academics & stop teaching agenda driven social issues ~ be professional - the students do not need to know about teachers personal lives Also, let's go back to using the words "teacher" & "student". It creates a warmer & more humane atmosphere than "educator" & "learner".
Brian Clark February 26, 2012 at 06:38 AM
Is there an example of a school district that's doing things the "right" way?


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something