The Wawascene was created by Dr. Mark Stock, former Superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation. Due to its local popularity, Dr. Stock has left the blog site to future Wawasee administrators.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday's Funnies

No Dentist Left Behind

My dentist is great! He sends me reminders so I don't forget checkups. He uses the latest techniques based on research. He never hurts me, and I've got all my teeth. When I ran into him the other day, I was eager to see if he'd heard about the new state program. I knew he'd think it was great.

"Did you hear about the new state program to measure effectiveness of dentists with their young patients?" I said."No," he said. He didn't seem too thrilled. "How will they do that?"

"It's quite simple," I said. "They will just count the number of cavities each patient has at age 10, 14, and 18 and average that to determine a dentist's rating. Dentists will be rated as excellent, good, average, below average, and unsatisfactory. That way parents will know which are the best dentists. The plan will also encourage the less effective dentists to get better," I said.

"Poor dentists who don't improve could lose their licenses to practice.""That's terrible," he said."What? That's not a good attitude," I said. "Don't you think we should try to improve children's dental health in this state?"

"Sure I do," he said, "but that's not a fair way to determine who is practicing good dentistry.""Why not?" I said. "It makes perfect sense to me."

"Well, it's so obvious," he said. "Don't you see that dentists don't all work with the same clientele, and that much depends on things we can't control? For example, I work in a rural area with a high percentage of patients from deprived homes, while some of my colleagues work in upper middle-class neighborhoods. Many of the parents I work with don't bring their children to see me until there is some kind of problem, and I don't get to do much preventive work. Also many of the parents I serve let their kids eat way too much candy from an early age, unlike more educated parents who understand the relationship between sugar and decay.To top it all off, so many of my clients have well water, which is untreated and has no fluoride in it. Do you have any idea how much difference early use of fluoride can make?"

"It sounds like you're making excuses," I said. "I can't believe that you, my dentist, would be so defensive. After all, you do a great job, and you needn't fear a little accountability."

"I am not being defensive!" he said. "My best patients are as good as anyone's, my work is as good as anyone's, but my average cavity count is going to be higher than a lot of other dentists because I chose to work where I am needed most.""Don't' get touchy," I said."Touchy?" he said. His face had turned red, and from the way he was clenching and unclenching his jaws, I was afraid he was going to damage his teeth. "Try furious! In a system like this, I will end up being rated average, below average, or worse. The few educated patients I have who see these ratings may believe this so-called rating is an actual measure of my ability and proficiency as a dentist. They may leave me, and I'll be left with only the neediest patients. And my cavity average score will get even worse. On top of that, how will I attract good dental hygienists and other excellent dentists to my practice if it is labeled below average?"

"I think you are over reacting," I said. "'Complaining, excuse-making and stonewalling won't improve dental health'...I am quoting from a leading member of the DOC," I noted."What's the DOC?" he asked."It's the Dental Oversight Committee," I said, "a group made up of mostly lay persons to make sure dentistry in this state gets improved."

"Spare me," he said, "I can't believe this. Reasonable people won't buy it," he said hopefully.The program sounded reasonable to me, so I asked, "How else would you measure good dentistry?""Come watch me work," he said. "Observe my processes.""That's too complicated, expensive and time-consuming," I said."Cavities are the bottom line, and you can't argue with the bottomline. It's an absolute measure."

"That's what I'm afraid my parents and prospective patients will think. This can't be happening," he said despairingly."Now, now," I said, "don't despair. The state will help you some.""How?" he asked."If you receive a poor rating, they'll send a dentist who is rated excellent to help straighten you out," I said brightly.

"You mean," he said, "they'll send a dentist with a wealthy clientele to show me how to work on severe juvenile dental problems with which I have probably had much more experience? BIG HELP!""There you go again," I said. "You aren't acting professionally at all."

"You don't get it," he said. "Doing this would be like grading schools and teachers on an average score made on a test of children's progress with no regard to influences outside the school, the home, the community served and stuff like that. Why would they do something so unfair to dentists? No one would ever think of doing that to schools.

"I just shook my head sadly, but he had brightened. "I'm going to write my representatives and senators," he said. "I'll use the school analogy. Surely they will see the point."

He walked off with that look of hope mixed with fear and suppressed anger that I, a teacher, see in the mirror so often lately.

forwarded by others from somewhere out in cyberspace

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

It really puts things into perspective!

how the system really works said...

Schools are a monopoly.
Dentistry is not.

In a free market, I can go to whatever dentist I wish.

If a want to go to a dentist that isn't very good but treats a lot of low income patients, I can make that economic choice.

If I want to go to a dentist that has a solid reputation for excellent results but charges more, I can prioritize my spending and do that.

With public schools, I can not even freely choose which school within that district my child can attend.

Until this changes, this is just a Friday Funny.

(But it is neither enlighting or funny.)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry "how the system works" believes his or her choices are so limited. When I analyze the options for my children, I come up with the following:

1. Within about a 20 mile radius from my house are at least 4 private schools that I could choose for my children to attend.

2. I could make the same choice as some of my friends and homeschool my children.

3. I could move a few miles down the road and take my pick of 4 more public schools.

After considering those options, I made my housing decision based on which school I wanted my children to attend. Not only did I choose the school district, I chose the elementary and middle school as well.

Beyond that, if I ever thought that my children were not receiving a quality education, I would move without a moment's hesitation into a school district where they could get the education they deserve.

In reality, while the state has a monopoly on raising taxes to fund public education, there is no entity that forces me to send my children to any specific school. That decision is mine. Thus the responsibility for my children's education belongs squarely in my lap, just like the responsibility for their health, medical care, nutrition, etc.

Anonymous said...

As parents, we also have the choice to send our children to a school outside of the district that we live in, with some tuition fees and charges. If you are willing to pay more to choose your dentist, you can pay more to choose your school.

mindy said...

I am a parent as well as an educator. Before I started working in the school system, I had totally different views on schools and the politics within. Kind of like the way people with no kids are always the first to give parenting advice!!
Having an 'insider view' on the state's practices and expectations versus what I am faced with on a practical level every school day has altered my views drastically. There is just no way a single test, given to a HUGE variety of students with even larger varieties of limitations can possibly be deemed accurate. You never know what each student is facing at home, (and when you do, it breaks your heart)or with their peers, or anything. And to let the results of a test given at one moment in time govern not only the student's future but also the future of his school system is, in my humble opinion, ridiculous.

But the legislators didn't ask me...

Dr. Mark J. Stock said...

Just to clarify one thing. Wawasee Schools allows public school choice within the Wawasee school system. All it requires is the parent to fill out a one page form. I have never denied one unless the other school had overcrowding issues at that grade level. Parents can choose between one of three elementary schools or between two different middle schools. However, due to logistics, parents must provide their own transportation to and from school except for at the middle school level where we DO provide the transportation. With only one high school, we can't provide much choice there.

I have no problem with public school choice - even within different public school districts. I do have questions about private school vouchers or forms of choice that take public tax dollars and send them to private institutions.

what is the solution? said...

There was an editorial by Russ Pulliam about IPS's charter school project in last Sunday's Indy Star. (Mayor stepped into uncharted territory).

I do agree that moving to a different district, home schooling or seeking out a private (or boarding school) are all theoretical alternatives. The reality, however, is often something else.

I for one am not certain about home schooling, and I say this based on experiences I have had with home schooled students in the work place. This topic is closer to the 'nature vs nurture' discussion.

I also agree with Mindy that using one test can not convey the effectivness of an institution as complex as a school corp.

I am aware that parents can apply to have a student attend a different school than their assigned district, and the 'not denied' statement from Dr. Stock is informative.

My first hand knowledge on this matter precedes Dr. Stock by several years, so my frame of reference would seem to be inaccurate. Previous administrations were not so... accomodating.

So at the end of the discussion, we have a publicly financed entity that is resistant to qualitative measurment of effectivness.

School administrators oppose vouchers.
Teachers oppose testing.
A reactive/indifferent public wants to see measurable improvement in school performance.

And while the discussion continues on this local level about whether I'm 'forced' to send my child to a specific school, it appears that Indy has at least taken action to explore the alternatives.

I'll be eager to see the results.

Anonymous said...

The more results oriented among the readers of this blog may want to peruse a couple of recently published studies of comparisons of student performance between students in private schools and students in public schools when test scores are adjusted for race, socioeconomics and other factors.

The most recent study which was done by the National Center for Education Statistics (part of the U.S. Education Department) is entitled "Comparing Private Schools and Public Schools Using Hierarchal Linear Modeling."

The other study, which was released in January of this year is entitled "Charter, Private, Public Schools and Academic Achievement: New Evidence from NAEP Mathematics Data."

The short version comes compliments of the Wall Street Journal (July 15, 2006); "Students in public schools perform just as well as their private school peers when test scores are adjusted for race, socioeconomics and other factors."

A little further into the article we read "The findings confirm a study of the same data, released earlier this year, by researchers at the University of Illinois."

So I guess we can debate dentists, monopolies, newspaper editorials, etc. or we can look at what the research is telling us.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I have to say that we don't oppose testing; however, students should be tested on what they learned using their learning style. How would you like to put together an engine just from written directions or just from verbal instructions or just by watching someone do it for you first when you need a different way to process and show competency? It's ludicrous to think that all students learn the same, but that's what the ISTEP writers are doing. They are testing only students who are visual learners, not taking into consideration aural or kinesthetic learners. Which doctor would you want working on you- the one who can describe the intricacies of heart surgery, or the one who you watched perform heart surgery? We can talk all we want about student performance, but until this concept catches on, we will never have great ISTEP scores because some do not learn just by reading or writing. But they are very bright students who could verbally tell you a great story or actually build the model they are supposed to be writing about. Yes, the expense and time would be great, but aren't our children worth the expense? We need to push for different kinds of ISTEP tests if the government thinks we need testing like this to show competency.

Anonymous said...

I would like to second the previous comment. I was an extremely bright student and scored average on standardized tests, but was above average in all areas and went on to perform quite well in college and graduated with honors from grad school. I continue to be skeptical about weighing the competence of teachers on standardized testing. And, as Mindy said, you never know what a kid is facing at home. Teachers often encounter children who are pawns in their parents divorce, children raising children, homelessness, poverty, etc. How do you expect all of these qualitative factors to weigh in on standardized tests?

mindy said...

amen...and amen to the last two bloggers...why can't the people who make these decisions have this type of common sense?? Does no one realize that these kids are the future of our country? Also..Do we realize that we, as parents and educators, have been given a HUGE responsibility to mold and educate these future leaders and followers??

Anonymous said...

I have never been very good at taking test. Because of this I did not do very well in school. I grew up thinking I wasn't very smart because I always froze during all my test. I would study and know the material but when it came time to take the test I would completely freeze. Because of this I feel I was labeled not only by the educators but even by myself. Thankfully as I got older I realized that I am a very bright person and can learn. I understand that there has to be some way to monitor the learning and I certainly don't have any answers, but I do know that all children should not be labeled by their test scores. I believe that confidence and self esteem are very important in children and if they have this then they are more likely to exceed in school and later in life. We as parents need to instill this in our children as well as teachers.
I do have the greatest respect for our teachers and I know that next to parents they are the most influencial people in our children's lives.
I have 2 children in elementary school. Both are very bright children. One excells in every test he takes and my other doesn't. But because I am with them every day I see that both are very smart children. It worries me that my child that does not test well will be labeled as I was. Especially since she is only a year behind her brother I worry about comparison. I just pray that she always has a teacher that realizes all children are different and see's her strong qualities.