Low Scores, High Costs Follow Schlechty

RICHLAND – At the March 12 Richland 2 School Board meeting, Board Member Melissa Anderson spoke passionately in support of the increasingly criticized Schlechty training model that was introduced to Richland 2 three years ago by Superintendent Dr. Katie Brochu shortly after she was hired by the District.

Anderson encouraged every principal and teacher to buy into the Schlechty model of education. She further stated emphatically that she didn’t want to hear any more negative comments about the Schlechty teaching model. The Schlechty model, she said, is the right path for Richland 2. This presentation was followed by a District teacher addressing the Board to express her positive sentiments about Schlechty. Such a public show of support for the Schlechty model is something new at Richland 2 Board meetings.

But not everyone in the District is enamored with the Schlechty model of educating students. Under the Schlechty model, Richland 2’s total professional development costs have soared to over $2 million last year alone. Yet, since Dr. Brochu was hired and introduced the Schlechty philosophy for education, the District’s SAT scores have dropped a total of 71 points — 15 points during each of the first two years and 41 points the third year. Likewise, the District’s PASS scores in elementary and middle schools have also dropped over the same three-year period while the state average has gone up. District officials say the drop in scores is merely a hiccup. But the Schlechty model has made it clear that it dismisses the importance of test scores as a measurement for learning.

As Dr. Brochu introduced the Schlechty model to the District, she also recommended the Evergreen Study to evaluate all areas of the District. Dr. Brochu’s detractors say the Evergreen Study made recommendations in language right out of the Schlechty playbook. The Study came to be seen by some as the public document that conveniently allowed Dr. Brochu to say that rigorous professional development was needed and that the Schlechty model just happened to fit the bill. It met all the criteria of the recommendations made by the Study.

Many in the Richland 2 community are asking why Brochu champions the Schlechty education model when it has been around for 20 years but has been incorporated into less than 1 percent of the school districts in the country. More troubling is that while the Schlechty model has seen limited success in smaller, underperforming districts, it has been considered an expensive failure to educate in other districts, according to newspaper accounts and interviews in school districts where Dr. Brochu has previously, as superintendent, introduced the Schlechty model.

Prior to being hired by Richland 2, Dr. Brochu was Superintendent of the Whitfield County School District near Dalton, Ga. from 2005-2010. She introduced the Schlechty model for educating students to that district, quickly incorporating the Schlechty language: students became the WHO, their studies became the WORK and teachers were the DESIGNERS OF WORK, no longer the holders of knowledge, etc. The superintendent became the LEADER OF LEADERS, the School Board members became the COMMUNITY LIASONS, and the Schlechty way of educating becomes WORKING ON WORK or WOW. According to Schlechty, the work that’s created or designed by the teacher will be so inspiring that the students will engage in learning that subject to great depth on their own. The teacher will no longer ‘teach’ the student, but will be a facilitator of learning.

According to the Dalton County Daily News in Whitfield County, Ga., the Whitfield School Board initially welcomed Dr. Brochu, but test scores failed to rise with the soaring costs of teacher development during her term of employment. Much of the public discontent with Dr. Brochu and the Schlechty model was unleashed during a Whitfield County School Board election during her final year at the district. Dr. Brochu left her post shortly before the election.

As part of Dr. Brochu’s first and only Richland 2 evaluation last fall, the Board asked her to submit two reports. One of those reports was to be a “detailed and itemized report on professional development expenses for the 2011-12 year.” Several Board members reported that such a report was received. However, they were not able or would not produce it, and offered no information from it other than that it was a 50-page report that amounted to about $600,000.

When a reporter for The Voice obtained the report from the District through a Freedom of Information Act request, it turned out to be a 147-page report that was so incomplete as to be of little value in determining actual expenses. It was a listing of numbers and names and charges with no connection. It totaled $2.2 million for one academic year. There were no dates with any of the conference registrations and no dates or connection to any conference for meal/baggage/mileage/car rental expenses. American Express charges were not specified to the attendee and there were no dates. Bank of America charges had no dates or connection to a conference.

When asked directly about the expense report, Board Chairman Bill Fleming said he was fine with it and considered Dr. Brochu’s evaluation successful.

Speak Your Mind