Lisa Gartner, Michael LaForgia, and Nathaniel Lash discuss "Failure Factories" - their Tampa Bay Times investigation of what happened after the Pinellas County School Board abandoned integration. February, 2017.
>> Lynette Clemetson: Thank you for coming. My name is Lynette Clemetson. And I'm the Director of Wallace House, here at the University of Michigan. Wallace House is a program for journalists here at the university. We run two programs. We have the Knight-Wallace Fellowship for journalists. That is an academic year-long fellowship. We bring roughly 20 fellows journalist a year, mid-career journalist here to the university for a year of immersive study and research, and fellowship with one another, working on areas of journalism that they as individuals are specializing in. We have Knight-Wallace fellows in the room, if you could all just stand so people know who you are.
[ Applause ]
And our fellows every year come from around the world. And so, we always enjoy a wonderful mix. Some of them may have moved in and out of your classes and they move around campus because they are taking courses here at the university. And oftentimes, we find that people are unaware of our program. And so, I want to be very deliberate about saying we are Wallace House. And in fact, from here we are just down the street. We are downhill, pass the rock, make a left on Oxford and we sit right on Oxford road in a beautiful house called Wallace House, hence the name of our program. The other program that we administer from Wallace House is the reason we are here today. It is the Livingston Awards for your journalists. It is an annual awards program that recognizes excellence in journalists under 35. And despite what suggestions to the contrary might be, there's an enormous amount of really excellent journalism being done in the United States right now. And it is not just by seasoned journalist, the young journalist working around the country at news papers, at websites at broadcast, local stations, at national stations, at networks, people are doing incredible work, focusing on accountability, story telling, spotting trends and society and starting conversations and we at Wallace House, one of-- part of our mission is elevating the work of journalist to spoke-- sparks of like engagement and conversation that extends beyond someone's engagement, with an individual story. So we brought here today winners of our local prize for local journalism from the Livingston's last year. And you'll meet them in a moment, but we want to bring Livingston Award winning conversations to this campus every year, and so you'll be hearing more about it. We do a range of events around campus, and I'd like to invite you all to one we have coming up later in the month. The topic I think is as interesting as the one we'll have, a conversation about today. It is called "Leaks, Whistleblowers and Big Data: Collaborative Journalism Across Borders." The event's going to be held on February 20th at 3:00 p.m. in Rackham Amphitheater and we hope to see some of you there as well and to increase your engagement with our programs at Wallace House. I'd also like to thank our co-sponsors for this event. One of the things that we prize and what makes it so special for us to have this home for journalism at the University of Michigan is our ability to collaborate with schools, and departments, and units across the university to bring different departments together because it sparks more interesting conversations. And so, I would like to thank our co-sponsors for this event, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, the Education Policy Initiative and the School of Education. And I'm going to turn things over to our moderator who comes from the Education Policy Initiative here. Brian Jacob has agreed to moderate the conversation with this group of journalist and policy experts here today. He is the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Education Policy. He is a Professor of Economics, Co-Director of the Education Policy Initiative and Youth Policy Lab, and Director of the Ford School's Doctoral Program. He leads ongoing research collaborations with policymakers and practitioners including the state of Michigan, Department of Education, the DC public schools and the Miami-Dade Public Schools. We thought he was the perfect person to jump in the weeds and make this conversation lively for you. Those of you who are coming in, please come in. I think we have some seats scattered through the middle here. There's a few down here.
>> OK. And with that I'll turn it over to Brian Jacob. Thank you all for coming.
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>> Brian Jacob: Good afternoon. Thank you, Lynette. It's my pleasure to serve as moderator for this panel. And I would also like to thank the various co-sponsoring organizations and also some of our distinguished guests. We have Martha Darling, who is a long time friend of the Ford School who was able to join us here today. And so today, we're going to hear a story about how local education policies can dramatically affect school climate, student experiences in academic outcomes, and the role that the community, local school board administrators, teachers, parents and the press can play in making positive or not so positive changes in policy. We are pleased to welcome our guest from the camp Tampa Bay Times, who authored the Failure Factories series. It's won multiple awards including the Livingston Award now. I'm going to introduce our speakers shortly. The format will be each of the panelists will, you know, speak for five or 10 minutes, and then we'll open up the floor to kind of audience questions and have the discussion. So, to facilitate the questions, we're asking you to please write your questions on note cards that will be-- were available when you came in. And I think there will be folks to pass out more if we need some. Is that right, Julie, we have people out here passing out things. You can either write your questions on note cards or post them via Twitter using the #WallaceHouse. We'll have some of the Knight-Wallace fellows. We'll collect and collate the questions and ask them to our panelists. And I'll sort of-- kind of to moderate the Q&A at that point. So with us here today, we-- starting at my left here, we have Michael LaForgia. He is in investigations or Editor at the Tampa Bay Times where he heads up a dedicated investigations team. He has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting in 2014 for exposing problems in a Hillsborough County Homeless program, and then in 2016 for the Failure Factory series. He joined the Times in 2012. To his left we have Lisa Gartner, is a writer on the enterprise team at the Tampa Bay Times where she previously covered Pinellas County Schools in higher education. She joined the Times in 2013 and started her journalism career on the education bid for the Washington Examiner in the DC Metro Area, and she attended Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. To Lisa's left, we have Nathaniel Lash. He's a Data Reporter at the Tampa Bay Times. A fellow-- He was a fellow at the Center for Investigative Reporting, an intern at News Day, and a news applications developer at the Wall Street Journal. Nathaniel holds a degree in news editorial journalism from the University of Urbana Champaign. And finally, to Nathaniel's left, we are pleased to have Professor Tabbye Chavous to join us. She is a Professor of Education and a Professor of Psychology here at the university. She is the co-founder and current-- one of the current directors of U of M Center for the Study of Black Youth in Context, and currently the Director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity. Her work is, you know, over the years, she has touched on many kind of depressing education policy issues that will be discussed in the context of failure factory, so we felt to be great to have her voice in the discussion as well. So with that, I'm going to kind of give the lectern to Michael who will start off our panel discussion. Thank you.
[ Applause ]
>> Michael LaForgia: First, I want to say that-- I want to say thank you to Wallace House for having us out and to the Ford School for hosting this event. I know that I speak on behalf of the whole team when I say that we are delighted to be here, so thanks. So OK, we're going to jump in. I don't have a lot of time for my section here, but what I'm going to try to do is stir you guys through two sorts of separate things. And that is, I want to let you in a little bit to the reporting process, and I also want to kind of go over briefly what it is that we uncovered in the course of about 18 months of reporting on these series in Pinellas County, Florida. So to begin, I'd like to show you a chart, an interactive sort of trailer that we put together to kick off our series. And this was done by Nathaniel, with some input from other people. Based-- So the title is "Why Pinellas County is the worst place in Florida to be black and go to public school". Nathaniel is a pretty quoter usually. OK. Here we go. Eighty-four percent of black elementary school students in Pinellas are failing state exams. Almost every other country does better. Only seven of Florida's 67 counties do worst. All are poor, rural places. Pinellas has four times as many students as all of them combined. Pinellas was much better off in 2007. These lines show how integrated south county elementary schools used to be. Then, the School Board abandoned the integration. The schools in south Pinellas started changing. Five schools changed the most. They became a little more segregated, and a little more segregated, until they became extreme outliers. Today, Campbell Park, Fairmount Park, Lakewood, Maximo and Melrose are the most segregated school in Pinellas. As the schools became more separate, they became less equal. Their test scores got steadily worst. Today, they score worse than any school in the county. They score worse than almost any school in the state. Ten Florida elementary schools have similar failure rates. Take away privately run charters and there are eight. Take away schools with children or for children with disabilities or behavior problems, and there are six. Take away a nontraditional early learning center and look what's left? The five elementary schools in Pinellas County's black neighborhoods. Melrose is the worst-performing school in Florida. In 2014, 160 children there took state exams. A 154 failed reading or math. Only six passed both. Who is responsible? And that was the question that really sort of launched in our series. Right here, we had coming Thursday, #FailureFactories, sort of transformer style, we wanted to engage people and sort of build a little bit of buzz for our series ahead of time. And it worked, it was-- we got a lot of advance attention for the first part of the story which was good. It helped impact the series. So here's how it got started. As we said earlier, I'm on the investigations team at the Tampa Bay Times, but this story was really one that came out of the beat, the daily grind where Lisa was laboring along with my wife, Cara Fitzpatrick, who is not here with us today. Each of them had sort of been encountering trends in their day to day beat coverage that were raising larger questions about what was going on with black students in Pinellas County Schools. For her part, Cara who had covered schools in four other large school districts in Florida by the point, or by the time she arrived at Tampa Bay Times in 2012 was noticing that black kids were doing worse on standardized test in Pinellas than they were doing in any of the other school districts that she covered, which was a little odd. It didn't make any sense because she had worked in places like Broward County and Palm Beach County, which has communities like Belle Glade and some of the most impoverished places in the US. And she had experienced looking at test scores in places like Duval County, which has some of the highest rates of violence, violent crime in Florida. There's a neighborhood there that is so violent, its nickname "Lil Baghdad," right? And those kids in those schools were doing two and three times as well as black kids in our schools. And we didn't have the same types of broad-brush suicidal problems that these other places had. So the question of what was going on was a big one. Simultaneously, Lisa who had come from Washington was interested in looking at the punishment of black children in our schools and particularly young black kids. She requested some data like this here that showed that young black kids in our school district were being punished at rates that far out strip the rates that white kids were being punished. And it seemed like they were being punished more harshly for minor sort of hard to define offenses. And so that was a second question that sort of really bugged answering. At that point, we on the investigations team sort of got involved, if you guys have seen the movie "Spotlight" that sort of what we do, only we don't have dorky name. They brought us in and we decide that, OK, this is probably two sides of the same story and rather than treating it is a separate issue, we should put it together and explore it as sort of inquiry into one school districts attitude toward their black students. And that's how we-- that's how we approach it from that point on. We fund out to find the answer. We brought in Nathaniel to analyze millions of rows of data from all over the place, all different sources. And we conducted hundreds of interviews with children, parents, teachers, administrators, policy experts and a bunch of others. These are some photos sort of behind the scenes of the time when we were doing it. That's Cara interviewing a kid in a credit recovery class at one of our high schools. That's the photographer on the project, Dirk Shadd clowning around with one of the kids he was photographing. That's Nathaniel figuring out what he wants to order for lunch.
[ Laughter ]
That's how data guys work. That's me, that's my Al Pacino face. It terrifies public officials whenever I'm around. Oh is that a meeting with black community leaders. It was a lot of off-hours. It was a lot of working around the clock. This is us on a weekend trying to tease out the answer to a data problem. That's Nathaniel and my colleague and friend, Adam Playford who is the director of data, the data editor at our news paper, sitting at my kitchen table with my daughter trying to work out of thorny problem, and the irony is it looks like she is the only one who was working at this time.
[ Laughter ]
There is Lisa in the midst of an interview with a child that featured in one of our stories about over disciplining kids. Eighteen months later you can see I just grabbed a screen shot of the folder on my computer where this data is stored, the data, the interviews, the documents that we used, and it was over 26 gigabytes of information that we had pulled together. What we learned, so what we came away with after doing all of these sort of intensive scrutiny of this problem was that this was not an inevitable occurrence, this wasn't a product of some sort of immutable truth about the world that black kids when you concentrate them in that place or just going to do worst at school. This wasn't like a product of single parent homes or low parent engagement or any of the normal sort of excuses that are held up to explain away problems like this. What we found was this was, you know, completely set race aside for second. This was a story about policymakers making concrete decisions in the real world and deciding where they devote their money and resources and time and attention. And I can explain to you a little bit how we reach that conclusion over the next couple of slides. The first story, so the story came out in five parts. The first one focused on a decision by the Pinellas County School Board to step away from a controlled choice program of-- a controlled choice system of school zoning for boundaries, boundary attendance and toward a system of neighborhood schools. That had the result of making the schools that were immediately approximate to the black neighborhoods in St. Petersburg, majority black, and that included these five elementary schools that we ended up focusing on. At that time the policymakers who were debating this measure, they knew what they were getting into. I mean that was one thing that was very clear from the record, from the minutes that we perused from the clips and from the recordings that we pulled. There was no question that this was going to be an issue that they needed to focus on if they we're going make this decision. And that is, what are you going to do when you have a population of kids, forget race, who have a higher needs, there's higher rates of poverty, there are higher rates of all sorts of things that need extra counselors or behavior specialist or resources in the classroom, and those kids previously were distributed across 18 different schools. Now, you're going to collapse those down into five schools. So they're going to go from a place where they had 18 schools worth of guidance counselors or behavior specialist or resource people and suddenly boom they're down to five. So to get around that what the school district promised was we are going to flood these schools with extra money and resources. We're going-- we're going to hire more teacher aids, we're going to devote what we need to devote to make sure that there aren't any of these problems that you all are predicting will happen. And that didn't come to pass for a variety of reasons that we can talk about. Basically what did come to pass, less than a decade later was that 95% of the black kids tested at these schools were failing reading or math, making the black neighborhoods in South St. Pete, the most concentrated site of academic failure in all of Florida. I mean, all of the schools were the 15 worst schools in Florida and they were concentrated within a six square mile area. You could walk from one to the other. Teacher turnover was a chronic problem, leaving some kids to cycle through a dozen teachers in a single year. In 2014 more than half of the teachers in these schools ask for transfer out and at least three of them walk off the job without giving any notice. As I said before this all tied back to a decision that the school board made in 2007. It was a recent phenomenon. By '07 when the board ended in aggression black students at the schools had posted games on standardized test in three of the four previous years. None of the schools was ranked lower than a C at that time of the decision. At the time that we publish the story all had F ratings. After reshaping the schools, the district funded for them erratically. Some years they got less money per student than other schools including those in more affluent parts of the county. In 2009 at least 50 elementary schools got more money per student than Campbell Park, one of the five schools that we're going to talk about. Other districts with higher passing rates, we're doing way more to aid their black students, including creating special offices to target minority achievement, tracking black students progress in real time and offering big bonuses to incentivize teachers to come and work in the schools. Pinellas was doing none of those things when we reported this. The second part of the story was something that came out of our outreach to sort of the people in the community, we had done a lot of data work that Nathaniel is going to talk about, but we needed to supplement that with real stories from the community. So we fund out and interview more than a hundred-- the parents and families of more than a hundred students in these schools. One of the things-- you know, as we were doing this, as we were sort of envisioning what types of stories we might tell, we hadn't really pegged violence in the schools as a potential area of focus. But one of the things that families kept telling us over and over again was, well, my kid can't learn because of the disruptions and the violent behavior of one or two other kids in the school, to the point where we decided we had to take a look at it. The little girl in the picture here is a prime example of that. Her mother told us a story. Her name Alana Crawford [assumed spelling]. Her mom told us a story about how she was so bullied and tormented at the school, where she-- one of these five schools that she ended up laying down in the car pick up line in the path of oncoming cars and telling the teacher that she didn't want to live anymore. When we started looking into these reports of violent incidence, we found that in Pinellas counties most segregated elementary schools, the five schools that we are focused on, violence was a part of daily life. Now, the thing that you got to keep in mind when we're talking about elementary schools is that these are kindergarteners through fifth grade. We found that children at these schools had been shoved, slapped, punched or kicked more than 7500 times since 2010. The equivalent of eight times a day everyday for five years straight. It was more violent incidence that these five schools than in all of the county's 17 high schools combined during the same period that we look at. The incidence that the schools had more than doubled since 2010, which was when the sort of fall out from the decision to abandon the integration, and the school district really started hitting terminal mass. And this was happening even as other schools in the county, we're seeing drops in violent incidence. So what was causing it? We found that for years district leaders gave the schools the same number of employees to handle eight times the amount of violence faced at the other elementary schools. We talked to teachers in the schools who describe calling for help in their classrooms only to be ignored because there is nobody on hand to respond. The same teachers often were overwhelmed. Many said that they didn't have the training and the types of techniques that they needed to keep control of a classroom or to intervene when bad behavior is happening. And part of that tied back to the rampant turn over that was going on in these schools. Let's see here. What do have? More than half of the teachers at the schools requested transfers out in 2014 and we also heard several accounts of teachers being taken away from the schools and ambulances after they had suffered attacks from students or panic attacks from distress of what was going on. Part three. Built on what we learned about teachers. This is a picture of kid named James Samson [assumed spelling], who is in the second grade at Melrose, the worst elementary school in Florida with his mom, and this kid was in the rough shape when we met him. He could barely read the back of Rice-A-Roni box. And part of the reason for that was this sort of progression of teachers that had been in front of him during his time at Melrose Elementary School. This is an excerpt from the story but he-- on his first day of his second year in second grade he had a teacher named Ms. Davis, but by the fourth day of school he had Mr. Ware and then Ms. Flynt, Ms. Schick, Mr. Graveley and Ms. Smith. At the end of the year basically he had a dozen different teachers between August 2014 and June 2105. More than a quarter of his school year was taught by substitutes. So we built on that. And we did an analysis with the help from that and some others. That showed basically that black kids in the county's most segregated schools got worst teachers than children anywhere else in the county. The teachers in the wider schools got more experience or were more experienced, they more likely to stay in their jobs and more likely to have clean employment records than the once who are in the segregated schools. The teachers in the mostly black schools were less experienced, more likely to quit in the middle of the year and more likely to have been flagged for incompetence or misconduct. The fourth part of our series had to do with discipline, over disciplining black students compared to white students. And it's important to note here that we weren't looking at how the district handled incidence of violence like we had reported on in part two. In fact we exclusively concentrated in this story on very minor sort of vague hard to define offenses like defiance or disobedience or possession of an electronic device, things that sort of can be interpreted in different ways by different administrators and teachers. And what we found was that black kids in Pinellas are suspended at rates seen and virtually no other large school district in Florida. It wasn't for acts of violence like I said not even for border line infractions but for hard to define infractions such as not cooperating, unauthorized location and minor class disruption. In the five years that we looked at, black kids lost a combined 45,942 school days to suspensions for these and other minor offenses, white kids who outnumbered blacks in the district, three to one lost 28, 665 days by comparison. Oops not there. So this just gives you a little insight into sort of the process and the pressure that we were under as we were bending toward December in the production of this series. That's a stack of every draft that we had produced so far and you could see it almost a foot tall. This is a picture of my daughter editing our story on the day after Christmas, the final piece ran on December 27th, and that piece was this. It was about access to magnets and special programs. There's a-- there's a program that we used in Pinellas County. It's a little bit of hold over from the way things were done in the '70s. It's called a fundamental school and what it is is it was introduced back in the '70s, alongside magnet programs a sort of back to basics, get tough sort of parental engagement out premium model of schooling. And in Pinellas County they are widely viewed as the best schools in the district, they-- parentally turned in the best standardized test scores and they report the lowest problems with behavior-- excuse me, et cetera. What we found is that basically they were off limits to black kids because of a variety of sort of structural policy decisions that the school board had made. Probably the biggest of which had to do with the fact that they wouldn't provide bussing to these schools. And not only did they not provide bussing with the schools, but they also moved the ones that had been close to the black neighborhoods away from the black neighborhoods into predominantly white places. And that was it, so that's my overview. We'll turn it over to Nathaniel to do the rest.
[ Applause ]
>> Nathaniel Lash: Michael did the slides for this one, so it's about as descriptive as he's going to get on on that particular case. This doesn't pick up very far. I have to really lean into it. All right. So yeah, my name is Nathaniel Lash. I was the data reporter. I worked on this along with Adam Playford who is our data director. And I'm going to talk to you a little bit about how we approach kind of trying to get all these information most of which isn't stuff that the school district was particularly interested in publicizing. Now, we turned it into the foundation that we kind of put the series off of. So, a lot of that was finding the proof on a few different levels. So, we wanted to explain a few things. It showed that this was a unique and kind of tremendous problem, and we're drawing attention to that because this is something that we have been kind of covering for a long time even before the schools became fully segregated. But we are kind of throwing them as kind of like we'll black student achievement is down that sort of thing. So, those were all kind one-offs, but we wanted to find a way to kind of capture the full scope with the problem and how bad it had gone. So this map is in-- this map which we kind of launched the series with was a way of showing, hey Pinellas, black student specifically are doing worse than black students in other districts around the state. And that was-- we kind of alluded to that, where Pinellas is fairly affluent county. You weren't seeing these sorts of things in other places. So, we wanted to find a way to kind of prove that this was a unique problem. And not just something like well, some County is going to be the worse eventually, you know, if you rank them all up. But we wanted to find out how bad it was. And we kind of went about that by kind of cutting away from what people typically used for measuring student achievement. So, when everything is published at the end of the day, everyone looks at reading, how-- what percentage of the students by whatever way you want to slice and dice them. How many of them are passing reading according to state standards. And then they look in another bucket and that go to math's course and that sort of thing are like, well, how well are these students doing in math. But there wasn't-- once we started looking at it, we realize that hey, maybe the thing that we need to be looking at is how many students are coming out with a good math-- with a good mastery of reading and math. So that kind of thing we kind of have to go to the state and say, we need you to show us how many people are passing both of these subjects. When we look at that it was kind of terrifying, what we ended up seeing, we saw things like this where a lot of schools maybe up to three quarters of the kids were passing both reading and math. And this is the class from Melrose was this just the third grade class or I don't remember. This was a third grade class at Melrose Elementary School where literally only six people were actually being taught both reading and math. Let's get one. So, when we look at something like this, we were seeing every school in the state and we're seeing how far away our schools are not just in the County but everywhere else in the entire state, by looking at this particular thing. And this was something that school district never publish before, no one in the state had ever published before and something that took hours and hours probably actually weeks and ended up costing about $500 for the state to actually produce this kind of report. So, this is the kind of approach that we kind of take in trying to find what's the best way to actually highlight the problem to show how unique this problem is. As you saw in the chart that we started out with, the other schools that are performing below 10% of the students actually passing are kind of marked by charter schools, children with disabilities and those were going against the students that we had and just our normal prerogative-- our normal just neighborhood schools in south Saint Petersburg. So, once we kind of got there, we went after the idea that a lot of these could have been explained away by the poverty and as Michael kind of talked about we have to look into the neighborhood and see if there is something unique. We go over rims of census data. We go over-- all these things that kind of point to-- this is a community that has some long standing problems of poverty, but are kind of pale in comparison to things that you'd see in like Belle Glade, Florida or in places in Jacksonville. And-- but the thing that kind of made it-- made us feel when we started moving forward on the story that this wasn't something that could just be explained away by something that's going on at home, not at the school was when we found-- again another one of those little datasets that nobody really pays too much attention to, which was the kindergarten readiness. So, what ended up happening was every school basically did test with their students before they really taught how to read. And they measured certain things-- Lisa do you have a good idea of what they kind of covered fair readiness?
>> Lisa Gartner: So, you would think that going into kindergarten it's all like how many blocks can they stack on top each other, but they actually do a collect data on PhoneX, Visual Recognition, you can-- it's not like a written down test but there-- as anyone familiar with education policy knows you can be on track or off track entering kindergarten. And what we found was that kids entering Pinellas were just as ready as kids anywhere else.
>> Nathaniel Lash: Yeah. Especially compared to-- so students in other communities where there were worst problems as far as what we could tell from census and just by ground-truth and just sending reporters out there and that sort of thing. These students were entering better prepared, better ready to learn in ways that you would predict like, oh, the students are not going to be performing as the worst cohort of students the most poorly performing cohort is students in the state. And that was kind of what kind of put the nail on the coffin for us as far as we're thinking, well, this really can't be explained away by something that's unique about Pinellas County in some other way. So those were the things that we start off. We were looking for proof that this is a tremendous problem. We have proof that this can't be explained away by a lot of the other factors that people in the community just kind of got used to saying like, well, everyone knows south Saint Petersburg has always had these problems, it's always been this way. And if you've lived in Saint Petersburg for a long time, you just kind of get used to that as the explanation for why this was happening. When we finally came down to trying to find ways to measure-- I don't why this slide is in here, to measure the effects of it. So, I'm just-- because were a little bit pressed for time, I'm just going to talk about how we got after the idea of-- we talked about that students who had, I think 12 teachers over the course of--
>> Yeah, I think even just in the first semester 12.
>> Nathaniel Lash: In the first semester, he had 12 different teachers. There's this thing of rampant turnover and the schools were kind of struggling to find teachers to replace people who quit, like those three who literally just walked off the job without notice and that sort of thing. And to actually understand that, you know, you go to the district and we ask them like, hey, how often-- how long the teachers stay here? How long are teachers actually staying teaching school, because a lot of experts were telling us like a solid teaching core was going to be something that really gave a school lot of stability. So we-- what we kind of did was we then again, wanted the state because we wanted to know whether this was a unique problem to Pinellas, went to the state and found a way to basically get where every teacher teaching for a public school in the state of Florida where they taught, and we got that each year over the course of the decade. And so-- yeah. So, we got the whole haystack. It was like, gosh, like three million records all in all just of every teacher and where they were in each of the schools. So, what we ended up doing is we had to spend weeks kind of sticking each one of those years was kind of a desperate year because this wasn't the kind of thing-- the district doesn't publish like here's our turnover numbers, here is-- because it doesn't reflect on them particularly well. State doesn't do it because they don't have any horse in that game. So, what we did is we looked where every teacher came from, who taught at the school. So, this is-- this is what it looks for like Shore Acres Elementary School. And so each one of those little rows-- this was web app that we built to kind of explore the data. Each one of those little blue cells is kind of a year that each of those teachers which is each row spent at Shore Acres. So, Shore Acres was-- Shore Acres is a title one school, right? Lisa, do you remember?
>> Lisa Garter: I don't.
>> Nathaniel Lash: So, this isn't one of the schools that we looked at. This was not one of the wealthiest schools in the district, but it would--
>> It's commonly white school.
>> Lisa Garter: It's in North DC?
>> Nathaniel Lash: Yeah.
>> Nathaniel Lash: So, it's a predominantly white school. And this kind of shows how stable the teaching core is. So you have some new teachers, some people who taught at private schools at other places in the district for a little while. And you kind of see like-- you'll see in a moment what this actually means. And this is in the average school in Pinellas County. This is Campbell Park. Where for every teacher just in 2013 or 2014, most-- the vast majority this was their first year teaching for a lot of these-- if you go further down, I don't have it on hand right now, but basically, very few of these people stay for more than a year or two. And you can kind of see every teacher who is going there. So, that was one of the ways that we kind of took stuff that we're hearing from the students, from the families, and finding ways to really measure the full extent of those facts. But, every dataset needs to be treated like another source, you got to vet it and you got to see if what you see here actually matches up with what's going on on the ground, and with that, I'll turn that over to Lisa, who is the expert in this thing.
[ Applause ]
>> Lisa Gartner: Hello. I know we're doing terrible on time and I apologize, so I will be fast. I might just flip it through like this. Oh, fantastic. Human reporting. It would be cool if we had like alien reporting or something, but we don't today for you, I apologize. So, that's me and those are children. Don't miss the face of the kid on the right. It keeps me up at night. It's terrifying. But, so as Nat I was saying, it was important for the story, and in all stories but especially here to talk to "real people." Like Nat says, it validates the data. I don't know if you guys have ever heard of polls that then reflected different outcome. Nothing comes to mind for me, but it is important to make sure that the conclusions you're drawing from the data are actually reflected out and the people that are living this reality on the ground just because, you know, we're sitting at our computer seeing results. You know, we want to make sure it resonates with the community that we're covering. To do that, you actually have to go out into it and talk to people. And something that our editor Chris Davis said yesterday is that stories gave impact when they make you feel something. And the human storytelling we did for failure factories went along way I think in turning that data in these policy decisions into realities that played out for real people, you know, struggling to get their kids, you know, just not even an amazing education but an adequate education. So, it also was important because it lead us on different reporting paths, like Michael said earlier, we hadn't envisioned our story on behavior problems in the schools until we talk to kids and their parents and we're hearing this over and over again, that this was a huge barrier to learning. So that's something that had we just relied on the data. We would not-- we would not have gotten in our stories. So, when we first started trying to find real people, we called churches, we talk to community leaders, we have a group called COQEBS, Concerned Organizations for the Quality Educations of Black Students. We talk to the urban league and everyone had anecdotes, oh yeah I know it ton of families like this, but it wasn't really panning out. And I think the reason is we just needed to get on the ground and do that. We had to called-- call teachers when we wanted teachers for day one, and that was maddening for anyone sitting near me for those few days, because I have this little script where I was leaving voicemails. I went through like hundreds of school board agendas, every meeting for the last few years and I scrolled through looking for any teachers that had resigned or retired from these five schools in the past like three years. We didn't want anyone who had been fired just incase, you know, it was an ax to grind type situation. And I would call them and I would say, "Hi, I'm Lisa Gartner from the Tampa Bay Times. I know this is so out of the blue and I apologize. But, I was wondering if I could ask you, about." And I did this just like a hundred times in a row for like 10 days. And not everyone wanted to talk. But what I think made it successful in the cases that it was was just thinking about the motivations of why people want to talk to you and tell their story. This was, as Michael touched on, an open secret in the community. Nobody, he was sending their kids to the schools thought everything was fine. And I think there was a frustration and, you know, a breaking point, really, where people wanted the story out there. And they, they wanted it to be told. So we talked to teachers who had recently left the schools and some of them who were still there. And we talked on background with teachers who were scared about getting fired over it. But, we also wanted to talk to a lot of kids and their parents. I remember I was out of town for one of our weekly meetings. So when I came back, Cara was like, oh, yeah, we're going to get a hundred kids. So I was like, oh, great. Just like, I think, you're going to do it. It was like cool. So, I'll talk about the process a little bit by looking at some of these kids. So this is Tyree Parker. He was in kindergarten at Maximo Elementary. I met Tyree by going to one of the many wreck centers there in South Saint Pete and standing outside for three hours trying to catch parents as they came to pick up their kids from the aftercare. And it was-- I think, this one was Sanderlin [assumed spelling]. I also went to Campbell Park and Child's Park and said, "Hi," you know, the same of kind of script, but "can I give you a call to talk about your child's education?" And followed up the next day, we talked on the phone if they had a good story and many of them did and had the same story. I mean I talked to a ton of people and I don't think I ever heard anyone say, everything is going great, you know. We could talk, but-- so, yeah. So, I-- that's how I connected with his grandmother Lennis Washington [assumed spelling]. They moved down from Georgia. As we had mentioned earlier, they do have metrics to measure how you're doing in kindergarten. And we were able to get copies of his, even his pre-K report cards that showed he had mastered simple skills that his kindergarten teacher was now saying he like was hopelessly deficient and he was getting kicked and hit and threatened and bullied. He got pushed into a bathroom and knocked down and his pants torn, someone destroyed his teenage mutant ninja turtle hat that his mom had given him. I mean, we spent time with these people and it was heartbreaking at times. I believe that this family, who were desperate to get another school, but can, you know, meetings with the superintendent, and anything you've heard about uninvolved parents, please throw that out the window here. They ended up moving into like a tiny apartment in Largo just to get into an average school for him and he was doing much better. So, that's Tyree again looking a little happier. So, this is Katan Bowden [assumed spelling]. He featured in day one of our story. I found Katan by hanging out at little league practices at Late Vista Park in south Saint Pete. Kid-- parents sitting on the bleachers while their kids played. I ended up talking to a woman who run a preschool for a few years and she remembered Katan as a student who had been, you know, full of potential doing really well, super bright. And by the second or third grade at Fairmount Park Elementary, he was failing every class but PE and Art. So she got me in touch with his family. It took a few calls for us to connect. I think, sometimes, as journalists, we think, well, someone doesn't pick up, they don't want to talk, but a lot of times, these are busy people and you're just interloping in their lives. So, we stuck with it and I was able to talk to her. She prays with her sons everyday before school for their safety and for their success. They lived a block or two, and I think, just a block from Jamerson Elementary, an A rated magnate school, that she's applied to multiple times to try to get her son into but she can't. She keeps losing the lottery. So, instead, Katan has to walk to Fairmount Park Elementary, one of the worst schools in the state, where he was having a miserable time and about to fail his first year of standardized tests. You know, he faced being held back, being transferred to an alternative school. And he was still on a wait list at the time the story ran and he, he never got off it. He, he may have since in this new school year but I know for this, for this year he didn't. And we spend time with these families, you know, we walked to school with them, we got ready with them, you know, we saw what their routines were like. That's, that's me, super tired. Like, I don't really do s7 a.m. I don't know about you guys, but talking to Fairmount Park Elementary with Katan and his mother, Lewanda [assumed spelling]. So this is Naomi Gaines. We talked about how the second day story, the behavior story came out of talking to people and ended up being an unexpected story that we did. There are also story avenues we followed that never came to light of day. We looked up the graduation rates. Pinellas had one of the most horrendous graduation rates for black students in the country, really. But we couldn't, you know, really put together something that fit in with the rest of the package. And that is how our photographer and Cara met Naomi. She was in a credit recovery class at Gibbs High School because she wasn't going to graduate on time, otherwise. So, while we were doing the discipline story, day four, they crunched the data, and they found that the, the most discriminatory school in the county was Gibbs, black and white students who were reprimanded, who got referrals for doing the same things, and black students were punished more harshly and in ways that removed him from, from the classroom as compared to their white classmates. So we were looking into talking to people from Gibbs and we thought, well, we had Naomi's name from that. So I gave her a call and found out that the reason she was in credit recovery was because she had headphones on her desk unplugged and she got a referral for electronic device. No one really believed her that she wasn't using them or listening to anything. She was punished with an alternative bell schedule which is when you go to school at different hours, like in the evening and she had to no way to get there. So she missed it. And when she was begging for a bus pass or another way to get there, they told her no, and she ended up trying to, you know, in trying to meet their punishment, missing like almost two weeks of school and falling really behind and just crying every night, really stressed about that. The last thing I'll say about that is Chris Davis is a tyrant. He's a really good auditor, butt he pushes you to do things and get people and anecdotes that you wouldn't otherwise even think to try to get. So, I walked into his office and immediately regretted it. I think I would just like wanted to say hi, or see how you were doing. He was like, yeah, that section. What if we got a, some white kids from Gibbs saying that they, they get away with things all the time, the black kids don't. I was like, what? Like how am I going to get that? I went back to my desk and was like furiously texting Cara who was out on assignment, like, Chris has lost his damn mind. But, within-- actually an hour or two, we had that quote. I-- like, before I even went out to Gibbs, I like send some Facebook messages to some kids who had graduated the year before and we're at college and it was just like, hey, like is this is something you would talk to me about? And I got this girl on the phone and she's like, yeah, you know, I would walk by administrators to leave, you know, cut school early all the time. And they never stopped me but they would stop black kids. It's like, all right. So, if you don't have someone pushing you like that you might think to not even try to get that. So, that was really helpful in reporting the series, and really took it to the next level. I'm going to stop talking now.
[ Applause ]
>> Tabbye M. Chavous: Good afternoon everyone. I just want to say that I am honored and privileged to have been invited to participate on this panel. I am not one of the award winning journalists, but I think that the issues that they touched upon and that they beautifully illustrated and executed in the series, please read the whole series if you haven't, illuminate things that in my research and action worlds as a faculty member and someone who works with schools, using this, using research that is in, lovely case study in illustrating the multiple forces that affect black youth outcomes and that ones that are often studied in isolation in my field. So we have individuals who are-- So we have individuals who study educational policy and decision making of leaders. Oh, I'm also the-- Can you hear me now?
>> Thank you. There are those who study, you know, teacher educators, there are those who, like me, study youth and sometimes youth and families and how they experienced schooling. There are others who study structural and poverty factors that impact directly and indirectly schooling. And you could see from this portrayal the confluence of factors that come together that worked interactively to affect these black children's outcomes. And they executed the piece in such a complex and multifaceted way that it was impossible to place blame or culpability on one actor or set of actors, which is often the tendency, the teachers, the bad parents, their bad cultures, the students. But at the same time, they really provided clear points for cause, for intervention that either didn't happen, should've happened, has started to happen, still needs to happen, in a way that was really quite accessible. And it also made me geek out as a researcher because I was able to, you know, both address questions, the who is to blame, was a very-- I thought very clear about like what, kind of things where to blame, but it also raised on questions that were not answered, which is what, you know, cool research does, right? I guess that my role is kind of a discussant here is to kind of point to a few themes that are both connected to other research in this area but also that might be connected to the localized context here, in Michigan, as well as national kind of trends that are happening that mirror what was found in the Tampa piece. I want to-- This piece illustrated that once again, you know, our countries attempt to do the experiment of separate but equal just doesn't work. No. Because separate always is accompanied with unequal conditions with regard to resources, with regard to constructions of children themselves and your view of their deservingness, their view-- your view of their humanity. Even when race is not on the table, it's on the table because it's hard to imagine and I literally can't imagine these set of conditions persisting over time, happening with other populations of children and being tolerated this long. And so-- or happening at all and then being tolerated. I would say as a, both the researcher and, and someone who wants to use and does try to use research to work with schools and with children and families, is that this piece also complicated the notion of poverty and what poverty means. If you read the piece but also heard the kind of introduction that it wasn't that the school, you know, had children who were poor in other schools who were performing better, so the indicators of the, to the children's background. But one of the things that the series did highlight was something about the history of the neighborhoods. Like once they went from the strategic bussing to the neighborhood schools, the authors provided an interesting context around the concentrated segregation in that neighborhood that had-- and isolated segregation that had resulted from historical housing discrimination and job discrimination policy. And so the idea of, you know, poverty, meaning, kind of one size fits all, is really a challenge in this piece. There are poor neighborhoods that have organization and stability and access to other recourses, but there can also be poor neighborhoods that have been disenfranchised in such ways that there are higher concentration of stressors that also impact those children, families and then those concentrations come to the school setting. So it really made me think about the way we study poverty and apply poverty in policy. And I mentioned that in the context to this, in this series because when pressed, if the school district level-- and when pressed-- when various policy makers were pressed around providing additional resources to support the school, one response was, well, there are other schools with poor children, too. So we have to kind of distribute those equally when in fact the conditions of poverty in the neighborhood and even in the school were not equal, and so, really thinking about how to apply policy around poverty and resources in an equitable way not just being equal. The other thing that I want to highlight about the piece, which relates to like the work that I do in my scholarship related to how students experience schools, the climate and cultural schools, an implications for their longer term trajectories. And I will say I usually study people at the later end, a lesson in high schoolers. And in Michigan right now, the graduation rates for the black students are about 67% up, and compare it to 83% for white students, 90% for Asian students, about 72% for Latino students. And so you can see how the processes that, you know, were put in place in early in students lives may also play out to affect these longer term outcomes. But one of the things that I think is really striking about what they were able to uncover is the impact of this desegregation or this re-segregation decision on the school climate and context itself. One of the things that we are known for, long periods of time is that the relational context of schooling actually predicts a lot about what children end up doing. How they behave, how they engage, an interest and curiosity. And so, this change actually is a change that relates to an unequal academic experience. So, for instance, does-- do students who feel more connected to schooling to make-- connected to their subject matter or more likely to engage and persist. If we move to a school structure where there is an over reliance on management and behavior and compliance where we have schools where teachers change every few minutes, that the relational context is inhibited, school bonding itself with teachers and with peers in schools actually predict lots of things about school persistence and drop out, and you can't imagine that lots of bonding and connectedness can happen when you have teacher turnover, and when you have teachers who are focusing on management and not creating communities where students are connecting with each other either. The implications are not just for the students, the implications are actually a part of the process that you saw unfold because the literature would also suggest, and these are contextualize small studies and even nationally represented-- representative studies, that students bonding to actors in the school, the teachers and with each other, actually relates to school violence or a decrease in school violence. And so, how can we explain why a school that didn't have these issues came to have these issues that such as dark and such as start rate and such a short period, is that the actual relational context of the school is being affected in ways that then become a self fulfilling prophecy. So students are acting out, in ways that relate to the ways that they have been structured and now allowed to engage with each other or adults and, as was mentioned here, individuals who come into the school because there was a lot of turnover get a history that is always been like that. And so, it's always been like that leads to the attribution, that it's the parents, that it's the children, or that it's the culture of these families that is happening instead of the actual-- despite the parents values for education, despite their efforts to engage their children in a high quality educational space, that they're, actually, the children themselves are being shaped and formed, and influenced by the school structure and the school climate. So, it's not just something that's affecting those individual students but it's also setting a culture in place that's affecting students in subsequent cohorts to come, and it's actually creating a school culture that wasn't there to begin with. One of the things that I wanted to ask the authors and so-- are about this really strategic use of data. So one of the things that I also thought was really, you know, innovative and smart about this piece is that they seem to think about the collection on data, and also the implementation in the rule out and the presentation of data in ways that seem to anticipate different questions that would come up like oh, it's just these kids are differently poor than these other kids. No, we actually collected data to show that these kids demographically did not look different from these other kids even in poor neighborhood spaces. And so, it's something that's going on in the school. Oh. It's something to do with the parents and the like too and so really providing kind of real faces and let the experiences to counter that prevalent perspective that parents don't value education or that-- is engaged. So, you mentioned that a little bit and so I will take advantage of my position here, to place that as a question, as we go to Q&A to ask you about your strategy around the data, the types of data, and then as you discover things going on, like the disciplinary issues and the violence, how you chose to collect data and present those data strategically to your different audiences. And finally I will say because if we're over and I need to let us go to Q&A is that I hope to engage with this audience or this audience will engage with this group and really thinking about how the current approaches to educational reform and maybe the upcoming approaches to educational reform bode well or not well for addressing the types of issues that were highlighted in the piece and in the series. One of the prospects for not continuing to create failure factories or not recreating failure factories in the forms of other public school options in the context of the new potential educational leadership. So, you know, we'd have it like-- they can't talk about politics but I can. So I will stop there, again, to express my gratitude in being able to participate and learn from this panel and this sets of authors and to really learn something about the setting and the set of topics that I had not known before. Thank you.
[ Applause ]
>> Brian Jacob: OK. We're getting some questions correlated, any thoughts on the question that Tabbye laid out?
>> Michael LaForgia: Yeah. No absolutely, it's a great question. And I will tell you that it is-- so the idea, the notion of shooting down the arguments, pinning the blame for this phenomenon that we were seeing on societal reasons or some type of parental non engagement. Annihilating arguments like that became important to us pretty early on in this process because we'd-- not only because we could anticipate them but because we went back through past coverage of this issue and read the letters to the editor and read the APEDS that it followed, and each of them sort of echoed these themes of well, you know, if they read to their kids, we wouldn't be in this mess, et cetera. So we knew pretty early on that we needed to go and completely annihilate that argument. We were pretty methodical in how we went about it. We-- I think pretty early on knew that we wanted to compare our community to other similarly situated communities, so we got on the phone with sociologist at the Florida State University and he helped us design sort of some measures that you would look at if you're going to try to predict how kids would do in school. And so, we did that and found after we pulled this information together from the Census Bureau and American Community Survey, that our county was dead in the middle of the pack when it came to this different measures. But really the nail in the coffin came when Lisa and Nat collaborated to come up with this kindergarten readiness testing. And just to recap what Nat said basically what we did was we analyze these tests scores of tests given to kids as they come in the school to see how ready they were to start school. And what we've found was that black kids in our county came in to school no less prepared than kids in scores of other underprivileged schools across Florida. And it was only after two years in the school system that they started tanking in comparison. So that to us seemed like a pretty clear indicator that it had more to do with the school and the setting that they were in than with the kids themselves.
>> Lisa Gartner: Of course this didn't stop us from getting lots of racist voicemails and emails and other things. People sometimes just believe what they want, which is frustrating, but we did sort of everything we could to inoculate against that.
>> Brian Jacob: OK. Why don't we start with some question from the audience?
>> OK. So, I'm going to combine these two questions because they're kind of similar. Did you experience resistance from school officials who feared that the series will reflect poorly upon them and also kind of coming of with that where the school board members and other administrators honest or did they avoid [inaudible] right?
>> Michael LaForgia: So, yeah they weren't happy with the way that they were depicted in the series. I don't think-- you know what we never heard that we were being unfair to them interestingly, but we weren't unfair to them. We actually bend ever backwards to be fair. One of the things that we do in the course of an investigative project is we reach out to the subjects of our stories early in good faith before we draw in any sort of firm conclusions. And we ask them to explain sort of their take on the world and as they see it and their explanation of the phenomenon that we're looking in to. And that's something that we did with the school board members. We went up to them and said, well, hey before we even brief word one about hey this seems like a pretty serious problem., you guys seem to be kind of remiss in how you've conducted yourselves over the past decade. We ask them we'll take, you know, tell us what you think about this problem. Is there an issue done in south Saint Pete that we could be doing more to address? Have you guys done enough? What is your general take on resegregation, desegregation that type of thing? And we got honest answers from them, so at the end of the day that we presented to them with all of our findings before we publish and gave another opportunity to respond, so.
>> Lisa Gartner: They were very restrictive of access though. They really didn't let us in the schools at all. We had to work around that. We requested multiple times to observe class to see for ourselves, walk the hallway. We we're transparent about why we were looking at this schools because they were so low performing, but they would tell us that we would be a distraction to learning, which always made us laugh when they we're holding like you know Columbus day events and stuff there that was you know taking up the whole day, but yeah.
>> Did you explore the role or lack of the teachers union in Pinellas County and policy development? If so, what conclusions did you draw?
>> Michael LaForgia: That's a great question. So we did. And in fact-- so did we explore the role of the teachers union in any potential capability and turnover at this school and the climate? In fact we did look at that. And there was some blame to be spread around the teachers union. We determined that there was a policy that they had helped hold in place that allowed teachers to be transferred out of the school in the middle of the year, and there were other policies that I'm not remembering right off the top my head right now but they had a hand in sort of keeping in place that led to making it easier for these teachers to turnover.
>> Lisa Gartner: Involuntary transfers.
>> Michael LaForgia: The involuntary transfer policy was one of the most as well, yeah.
>> Brian Jacob: I'll jump in with the question. So one-- I mean Florida was known historically is having a very strong and kind of complex state accountability system. And this was all occurring around the time when the accountability system is in place and then no child left behind. And I wanted to speak about like the state's role or lack of role in intervening in Pinellas and got particularly relevant now that kind of, you know, policy is being kind of pushed back to the states more and more.
>> Michael LaForgia: So that's an interesting question as well for a couple of reasons. So they were you know based on to the result standardized test scores triggers in place in Florida where the state will come in and potentially take over a school after a certain point. Interestingly, the superintendent of our school district in Pinellas County formerly was the chancellor of education at the department-- Florida, Department of Education. And he was responsible for creating a sort of fail safe measure against a total state intervention. And it was called a hybrid model where there would be a little more state involvement. I'll mess it up before I describe the specific right now, but it was a hybrid model that was once step short of having the state fully take over a struggling school. And at least one and possible two of the school are now in that hybrid model. And so, the state has been sort of hanging over the entire situation like the Sword of Damocles, but it hasn't fallen yet because there has been so many opportunities built in to the model.
>> And this question might also be more directed at Tabbye, but I'm sure if you all have something to add, please do. If this is as is an isolated incident that happened in Florida only or has this type of boundary reorganization happen in other states in essence, is this a trend?
>> Tabbye M. Chavous: Well, short answer is, no it's not isolated. And as I think about the State of Michigan sort of Michigan is one of the most segregated state in the country, and so has been a natural experiment in some ways coupled with economics stressors and some spaces. There are examples of the creation of spaces, again, not all poor or impoverished context, you know, will have these outcomes but there are examples of redistricting efforts and zoning. And I think a couple of people that I've seen in here today are actually quite expert on the history of kind of demography in neighborhoods in Michigan that includes discriminatory policies and practices that have concentrated poverty and mobility in spaces and that in ways that have affected schools. And so, we have schools spaces not only in Detroit space, but even in other areas that have student outcomes and changes in student outcome that mirror some of that trends describe in Tampa. I would also say some of the national trends around the impacts of moving toward of trying to address impoverished schools by taking on strong management and overemphasis on management and discipline have also been linked to some of these same outcomes compared to schools that are impoverished spaces that have move toward participatory student respect kind of democratic oriented management approaches which require expertise, which require experience, which again is one of the issues that happens in the schools too that the students-- the teachers are less likely to have that training or leave, you know, before they're actually able to be in a space long enough to implement it effectively. So it's not isolated unfortunately.
>> Another question. And this is I think for the team, but you might have some way in here as well, Tabbye. Michigan has Pre-K programs for high risk students like head start or great start readiness programs, does Pinellas have these and how effective are they?
>> Nathaniel Lash: Do you want to-- the fair test on--
>> Michael LaForgia: Go ahead.
>> Nathaniel Lash: -- the professor we talked about? Yeah. So not an expert in a lot of these, but we're finding-- we actually wouldn't-- when we're coming up with the idea of like let's compare how prepared kids are when they coming in the kindergarten, we actually went to the person who created the program in the first place. And she was telling us, yeah, we have ways to actually improve the scores for kids coming to the poor schools. And we went to Pinellas because we knew the same things that you are noticing and we wanted to kind of bring in the bit of the pilot program. Yeah. So, we had a head start. And do you know why the district kind of just--
>> Michael LaForgia: No. So we spoke to this researcher and she said that she's got this pilot program that has been proven to boost kids reading ability in underperforming schools. What she let slip in an interview with us, and this is breaking news because we haven't reported it yet--
>> Nathaniel Lash: I'm sorry.
>> Michael LaForgia: -- is that Pinellas County had an opportunity to use these programs in these five schools and actually did not allow the program into it. They wanted to direct-- they tried to even direct the program toward B rated schools and some of the predominantly white neighborhoods. The reasons for it were not entirely clear though she felt the researcher I think indicated that it might have had something to do with the board wanting to look like they're distributing resources equally across the district and what not. So anyway we might get at the bottom of that in subsequent stories.
>> OK. Well, staying along the same line, a proposal being discussed in Michigan is to close the worst performing schools 25 out of 38 are in Detroit. Is that what would-- Is that what has been or would be recommended for Pinellas County, the closure of schools?
>> Brian Jacob: I mean, I was actually thinking the same thing. Let me add on one corollary to that question. I mean, there's kind of a comment, somewhat kind of ironic or puzzling to some people like phenomenon where kind of parents and kind of very impoverished, very low performing schools and all of the standard measures kind of-- are resistant to the closure of the school or even kind of wholesale reform. And so, I'm curious if there had been discussions of closure, and if so, how have some of the families responded?
>> Michael LaForgia: So, I have not heard any sort of serious discussion about closing the schools in Pinellas County at this point. I mean we have seen other school districts who have gone about "closing the schools" and then reopening them as sort of a more-- in a more gendered segregated academy, for example, trying different techniques out. But basically though when it comes down to it, these schools have still been to sort of carved out as predominantly black places with a lot of kids who have low income and needs that are not present across the board. And what they're trying to do right now is something that I don't think is ever been done before, which is to sort of by their way out of a problem that has been created over time when another option would be do draw the attendants boundaries in such a way that distributes these kids across other schools. So you know the closure is not on the horizon as far as I know. But they've got big task ahead of them.
>> Brian Jacob: I think we've made time for one more question, we--
>> Brian Jacob: Pick the best one.
>> I know I'm like well, what reforms have resulted from the series?
>> Brian Jacob: Excellent.
>> Lisa Gartner: There have been a lot of things that have come out of the series. And I will name a bunch, but I'll probably forget even more. So, feel free to back me up here.
>> Michael LaForgia: Yeah.
>> Lisa Gartner: At the district level there were a lot policy changes and hires. They hire a turnaround leader with an 8% team to oversee, you know, these five schools. Everyone reinterviewed for their jobs, teachers at these schools got $25,000 bonuses if they qualified for them, which is a reform that the district previously laughed at putting in to place even though districts like DC and Duvall over in Jacksonville have done successfully. They changed. They hired minority achievement officer, someone who focuses on issue specific to the kids in the schools, which is something that also what's happening in other districts that they scuffed at. They changed their discipline policies to limit the number of days that kids could be suspended out of school. They're also exploring and may have already decided to open centers where suspended students go and can receive tutoring and counseling instead of just going home to like play videogames and eat snacks. They-- what else at the district level?
>> Michael LaForgia: They removed the principles at the schools.
>> Lisa Gartner: Oh yeah. They--
>> Michael LaForgia: They removed five of the principals.
>> Lisa Gartner: -- removed all five, which I have mixed feelings about. I mean principal turnover was part of what was contributing to problems at the school not having consistent leadership. But at least one of those principals had been in place for a long time and the school wasn't getting better. At the district and federal level, it was the Department of Education that opened the civil rights investigation in to the school system. Arne Duncan, the secretary of Education and his successor John King came down to Campbell Park Elementary and they spoke there and put a lot of pressure on the superintendent. They called what had been done there education malpractice and a manmade disaster. If you watch sports, you probably like have a crush on Lebron James. Me and Cara, the other education reporter were like, "Oh my god, Arne Duncan." But--
[ Laughter ]
-- So it was an exciting day. And the state also is doing a review looking into the funding model and whether the schools got the extra money they were supposed where Pinellas planted, you know, took away their own funding and then use the federal dollars to fill in the hole. What did I miss? OK. That was a lot of it.
>> Brian Jacob: OK. I like to thank all of our panelists.
[ Applause ]
>> Lynette and-- you can join us for a conversation--
>> Lynette Clemetson: For a conversation. We always want to take these events and use them to spark conversation that goes on beyond the event. So we invite you to stay and talk to your panelists and to the other journalists in the room and to one another about the ideas that this sparked. And thank you for coming.
>> Thank you.
[ Applause ]
- Brian Jacob
- The Livingston Awards
- Lisa Gartner
- Michael LaForgia
- Nathaniel Lash
- Tabbye Chavous
- Pinellas County
- lynette clemetson
- Knight Wallace Fellows
- racial inequality
- Student Achievement
- school integration
- school segregation
- test scores
- Failure Factories
- Tampa Bay Times
- school funding