Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Value-disagreements regarding strategies for reducing the achievement gap: a survey

-----------Survey: here---------------

Recently at a work session on redistricting, the ICCSD board of directors agreed, in general, to a timeline for addressing redistricting and its diversity policy by this fall for the 2015-2016 school year. For a report about that work session, see here. The work session seems to have established a reasonable timeline for making decisions so that appropriate adjustments can be made for the 2015-2016 school year, but I was concerned that the board was setting itself up for another stalled effort. As a whole, the board was concerned with the impact that the final maps would have on academic performance, and they suggested that the administration should look at providing new maps without having to adhere strictly to the letter of the diversity policy. That is, the board seemed to indicate that it would tolerate flexibility on the use of islands, the specific numbers involved, and so forth.

But, unfortunately, as a group, the board did not give the administration much direction concerning how it should adjudicate between value-disagreements implicit in the construction of a new map. When will attempts to socioeconomically integrate schools harm rather than help improve, educational outcomes, particularly with regard to the achievement gap between minority or low-income students and those who are not? I realize that the administration will be able to see what the board, as a whole, finds unacceptable, but it is not clear at all whether they have given sufficient information for the administration to use in constructing maps that would satisfy the board's collective goals.

From the evidence available, it seems as if the board simply does not know what could possibly be satisfactory to them as a whole. That's a big problem, and it is a result of a bigger problem about the lack of quality deliberation about values that I've mentioned a few times previously: here and here.

So, I thought it may be helpful for our community to work through some of these value-based disagreements.

With that in mind, I wrote a survey, here, that I am encouraging people to consider and to take. 

The primary value of the survey is not that it will provide data to inform our decision making about these values -- I think that's unlikely -- but the primary value is that it will help us have good conversations about these value disagreements with the goal of eventually reaching a consensus about our value-laden goals. A survey like this would have been much more fruitful for discussion and for research at the community engagement meetings over the Spring semester.

In short, my point is that if we don't know where we are going, then there is no way to determine (a) how to get there, (b) whether we've arrived, or (c) whether a particular strategy is useful for getting us there. 

I think these survey questions would be helpful for the ICCSD board of directors to consider as I think their collective answers would be helpful for giving better direction to the administration as it constructs maps that must, in the end, satisfy at least a majority of them. 

My guess is that it would be more successful than relying on clairvoyance on the part of the administration.

UPDATE: Here are survey results for all respondents: link. Do not expect these results to tell you what our community thinks. The results are not representative of our community, as it only includes a small snap shot of highly motivated people who read my blog or are connected to me through other mediums. As I mentioned above, the primary value of this survey is to find out what you and I believe and to talk about it publicly with others. I hope the results are helpful to that end.


  1. Michael - great idea. Is there a way that we see the results of the survey?

  2. Anon 9:06: Once there are a sufficient number of responses (I don't have a specific number in mind though), I will release that information with lots of caveats about it being unrepresentative of our entire community -- since it likely only get responses from a small subset of highly interested people.

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