Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Finalist for Superintendent Background Research: Jeanice Kerr Swift

Time presses. The school board is on a very fast timeline to make a decision about semi-finalists, and I don't have half the information I would like to have! I will add more as I find out more (at least for the finalists), but for now I'm just going to share a disorganized group of information, take from it what you can. For the finalists we will try to find out more information.

Jeanice Kerr Swift--comes from Colorado Springs, Colorado district. Went to University of Texas-Arlington, University of Colorado, and University of Denver, where her dissertation was titled Realizing School Improvement. I couldn't find a copy of the dissertation, so I have no idea what it says or whether I agree with her. Her background is clearly in curriculum. 

Youtube videos on Jiji Spatial Temporal Math (I'm not clear if these are promotional videos. They were put up by the MIND Research Group, which I think is the owner of ST Math).

On ST Math:


And here she is talking about the Response to Intervention Network:

According to wikipedia, RTI is: 

RTI is a “method of academic intervention used in the United States to provide early, systematic assistance to children who are having difficulty learning. RTI seeks to prevent academic failure through early intervention, frequent progress measurement, and increasingly intensive research-based instructional interventions for children who continue to have difficulty.” One of the “core assumptions” of RTI is that “data should drive decision making.” “The first level of data collected in the RTI process comes from universal school-wide screenings...Screenings usually occur three times per year (fall, winter, and spring), and the data from these assessments help to guide instruction through the three tiers of the RTI process.”
There is a lot of talk in the video (although by teachers, not Dr. Swift) about: data gathering at the school in order to gauge student ability; graphing student progress; and one teacher goes so far as to say “We don’t sit around and discuss the student; we sit around and discuss the student’s data.” (this quote at around 2:20 in the video).

On the positive side, during her interview today she did seem to have an interest in having a diverse array of schools, pointing to successes in the district she is in now, highlighting arts-oriented and Montessori focused schools.

She seems passionate about curriculum and I don't get a strong sense of her budget or communication skills.

Colorado Springs District 11 has nearly 30,000 students, but a declining number of students and a similar funding setup to Michigan's.


  1. To be fair, RTI is a data driven system that is required by law in order to qualify a child for special ed as a child with a learning disability. It's not a bad idea -- you can't say a kid has a disability unless you've tried to help them and it hasn't worked. This is aimed at reducing the vast overidentification of children of color as having LD and cognitive impairments as well as emotional disturbances.

    So we can't blame Swift for RTI being based on data -- that's what it is. We may wish to be cautious about how she sees that use of data because, as you allude to, it's a double edged sword. It's one thing to say "prove to me you've tried before you slap a label on this kid." It's another to reduce the kid to data.

  2. Thank you, that is very helpful. I didn't know what RTI is. I think it's a good thing that she knows something about special education.

  3. For what it's worth, Mind Research is a not-for-profit research organization that develops educational software grounded in basic science of how kids learn and is loosely connected to UC-Irvine. I am impressed by their work.

  4. Anonymous 1 is partially correct. Response to Intervention (RTI) is indeed a very data-centric process and may be used to qualify a student as having a "Specific Learning Disability" under IDEA (Federal law). However, no school district in WISD has implemented RTI with sufficient rigor (meaning data collection and data analysis) to qualify to use RTI for this purpose under Michigan's Special Education regulations.

    Therefore, AAPS is supposed to use an alternative process called "Cross-Battery Analysis" to determine if the student shows "a pattern of strengths and weaknesses" characteristic of a learning disability. However, they have been applying this technique by requiring multiple "normative" weaknesses, meaning performance very far below average, without consideration for the Federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) requirement that each student's performance should be compared to his or her own expected performance, given their cognitive abilities in the relevant area.

    Some AAPS staff members claim that the Achievement Team Process is a different name for RTI. While there is a database available to the whole district with some entries on some students, at all the schools I am familiar with, the AAPS Achievement Team process has not (yet?) been implemented with fidelity to the usual standards of RTI.