The below book review was written by a Corbett community member who wanted to share their perspective and opinions about Randy Trani’s first book. He has since published a second book. Their interpretation and review of this book is their own. They wish to remain anonymous.
* Please note that the additional information and ONE CORRECTION below ( in red ) was added by myself, Mindy Schmidt. Statements were made online and in the Corbett community by those involved with the “CCA” ( Corbett Community Advocates ) around the 2013 school board election, that I fabricated this book report and intentionally lied about the below error. That is untrue.
This is not my book review and I have never read this book. The CCA Facebook page, and those that support it ( including some on the public school payroll ) seem to enjoy their fake Facebook profiles spreading their “vitriol”. I am sorry if they don’t like this web site. To be fair, I don’t like their lies.
Summary of the book, Fallacies in Education, by Randy K. Trani and Robert K. Irvine
The book is boring, redundant, filled with questionable claims and ‘facts’, pie in the sky ideas, and the book ended with three pages of incorrect proofing and printing making them unreadable. This Dear Reader, (as he refers to his readers) gives Fallacies In Education, copyright 2010, a failing grade. As to the main point: He makes no mention of accreditation or certifications. He is clever in the way he bypasses certain issues. But that’s his book; kinda vague, totally unrealistic at times and pointless overall. His statements and ‘facts’ need to be checked for correctness. He is described in the book as, “One author, Randy Trani, is currently the principal of the Corbett K-12 school. Randy….past Oregon High School Principal of the year as well as a past Oregon Middle Level Association middle school principal of the year.” pg 3
Right off it’s apparent he loves his teachers. In fact, the book is dedicated to them: He writes that all para-professionals, counselors, janitors, food servers/handlers, secretaries, all support personnel and even those who repair the school vehicles should be dismissed to make more room for classrooms and teachers. He advocates using teachers and students to do everything from repair buses, to serve the meals, run IT Services and maintain the buildings.
All done by non-certified employees, he stresses. (He proposes using teachers to do the tasks and teach the kids at the same time.) He wants any funding to be used for teachers, materials, classrooms and the building structure, in that order. He also does not believe in home economics, wood shop, PE or anything else that takes away from the classroom instruction.
He states “,……our target is one teacher to 24 kids, for as many years as possible. Classes larger than 1:24 are simply too big to be effective.” pg 2
He believes schools first duty is education, providing an effective learning environment and teaching academics but states and maintains thru out the book, “adding the job of parent, moral guide, and censor is too much.” pg 21 He also writes, “Every time the legislature or a department of education mandates teaching another topic or class, they fail at the most basic budgeting function.” pg 21
In regards to what he thinks is best for his staff, (I think it’s more about the money he’s making off putting on the development training) he writes: “We do not think the common practice of hiring an outsider to come to a staff development training at the start of the school year is necessarily the best way to develop an effective professional development program in your district.” pg 44 He goes on to say, “you shouldn’t either, unless you want to hire us.”
He spends a lot of writing time complaining about the burdens put upon schools. For example; PE, fine arts, foreign languages, volunteerism and Community activism, internships, vocational education, typing, computer sciences, testing preparation, emergency preparedness, provide social services referrals, intervene in apparent social crisis in families, Provide meals, etc. He sees these things as a drag on learning and part of the ‘common knowledge that gets in the way of excellent learning’. My redundancy in the two paragraphs are necessary to reflect his redundancy on this subject.
He writes, “At one point in time, reading , writing, and arithmetic were a complete curriculum, with the inclusion of science and social studies. Today, schools are expected to do the following: Deportment, PE, fine arts, foreign languages, home economics, volunteerism and community activism, internships, vocational education, typing, computer sciences, testing preparation, provide social services referrals, intervene in apparent social crises in families, provide mental health services, provide health services, support military recruitment, support college recruitment, support other recruiters, provide club activities, provide after school care, provide before school care, provide meals, provide nutritional education”
The four tenants of Trani’s book: The next three issues are repeated so many times (same words, different variations) I want to rip out my eyes.
The constant phrase is, ‘common knowledge gets in the way of excellent schools.’. His biggie is: all schools should be small. No matter what. And he uses Corbett stats to show how correct he is. Third, the author is a true believer in looping continuous program model rather than curriculum-based education. And that’s what he means when he keeps repeating about common knowledge; he believes common knowledge prevents these things. And his fourth; all funding should go to teachers, classrooms and building maintenance. Money spent anywhere else is a darn waste and fails the schools, etc., is his claim.
One of his reasonings for all small schools is because, he claims, (among everything else) it saves money in everything, including salaries. Ironic as we are basically paying for two superintendents in our ‘small school’ system. So much of what he writes and makes up is pie in the sky. His ideas are not realistic. I personally agree that we should experiment more using the continuous progress model. But that’s not anything he ever made up. I remember being in grade school with mixed grades. High school is all mixed grades.
He comes across as an incredibly pompous man who claims singular credit for accomplishments. Nowhere does he give anyone else credit, despite his claim to love his teachers. The amount of back patting for deeds well done and questionable claims regarding Corbett Schools run rampant thru the book. The book is peppered with comments such as these:
“As for parents and their involvement,
unless they are giving money, many administrators and teachers must prefer to be left alone to do their best work, rather than be badgered and “advised” by parents.” pg 28
The above strike through portion of this quote was not correct. This quote comes from a section that starts on page 22, Chapter 2, under the heading:
“MISCONSTRUED ROLES OF PEOPLE OR GROUPS IN SCHOOL“.
* This particular section is on “PARENTS” and it ends with:
“Cynically, many administrators and teachers must prefer to be left alone to do their best work, rather than be badgered and “advised” by parents.” ….It goes on to say: ” If the alternatives are indifference or opposition, indifference must be preferred. At the same time, parents must have appropriate avenues available to them to make constructive contributions to the effort to create an excellent school.”
* Perhaps a Citizen Advisory Group ( CAG ) would be a great first step? CAG are required by the State but not honored by Corbett Superintendents for years. In the September 2013 board meeting the Superintendent mentioned moving forward with this – but nothing else has been mentioned since.
He advises parents/people secure a copy of the school and district budget and understand the funding streams. pg 198
He believes teachers, teacher development and classroom materials must be funded, and everything else is needless. He writes, “support personnel, secretaries, janitorial staff, coaches, cooks and aides form part of the context for any school. These necessary functions bring unique perspectives to the effort and the exact nature of the relationship between a secretary or janitor and the possibility of creating an excellent school is muddled at best. The real truth is that without direct and purposeful involvement, these staff members are likely to be detrimental to the effort.” pg 28
“…… the use of specialists in elementary schools is the harbinger of heinous practices looming in a child’s near middle level future.” pg 13
“…every new attempt at accountability (by federal or state requirements) takes a day away from an existing lesson. pg 21
“perhaps worst of all is that parents typically make up school boards and this can put teachers and parents as antagonists, labor vs management.” pg 24
“parents are well meaning but they are hampered by their uncritical acceptance of the common knowledge discussed thru out this chapter” pg 29
He writes: “We debated back and forth about including extensive research ditatiions and references from schololarly journals. ……….We also figured that since we are sure so many people will want to read this book out loud to their peers, spouses, and at parties that we would make the narrrative flow as smoothly as possible.” pg 14 ( …lol, I did. )
Trani writes, The Six Secrets to an Excellent School: There are actually only five secrets; the sixth is basically a reminder not to do anything that violates the previous five rules of thumb.
Secret no. 1 – Excellent teacher and 24 students.
Secret no. 2 – Excellent teachers stay with their students
Secret no. 3 – Feed the teachers-give them everything they need
Secret no. 4 – Invest lavishly in teachers’ professional development
Secret no. 5 – Focus like a laser on one thing
Secret no. 6 – Don’t do anything to violate the first five secrets
FACT CHECKING NEEDED!!
Lastly, the author is a firm believer in his own accomplishments. He states many reforms he himself has made at Corbett that make it excellent. His claims need to be verified. For example: Regarding the Recovery Act Funding, pg 161, “In fact Randy has restarted Ttitle 1 at his school after a two year hiatus given the increased funding levels” and, he cautions about taking funds that will cause you to endanger your quest for educational excellence.
Funding and Reporting: …..the superintendent and Randy decided to look at ways to reduce admin costs. A hard look at the costs revealed that the district was spending approximately $35,000 in direct costs to comply with federal reporting requirements that came with the $45,000 they received fro the US Government…..A modest and conservative estimate of these costs quickly demonstrated that the district would ultimately save money by not taking the federal dollars. pg 159
“Since Corbett has gone to multi-age education, both the high school and middle school have gained national recognition as being among the best schools in the country. The success of the middle school and high school can be traced directly back to the move to multi-age classrooms. …………
“Looking at Corbett’s steady improvement over the last ten years provides evidence that this method of instruction is better than the old single grade level configuration.”
Food Service: “Our most concrete example comes from Corbett, Or, where the district hired a teacher to oversee food preparation. Students participate in cooking and serving,…..the results have been nothing short of remarkable. At least one teacher put off retirement and cited lunches as a big factor.” It continues on to state that the food service prep team no longer uses packaged or processed food. Also, they do not use a deep fryer for food prep. The district not only saved money, but actually turned a small profit.
The four day school week; helps reduce “should save 20% of the variable costs associated with transportation” “teachers tend to be especially appreciative of the change; as Corbett it has helped reduce the use of substitutes as well as reduce turnover and the associated costs of hiring new staff.” pg 158
“As of this writing, the Corbett Middle School is Oregon’s only “School to Watch” a prestigious designation awarded by the National Forum. Additionally, the Corbett High School has been recognized by Newsweek Magazine as a top ten high school in the nation on the basis of participation by students in Advanced Placement program.” pg3
* MIDDLE SCHOOL TO WATCH PROGRAM ? *
I called this organization about this “prestigious” award…… They do not exist in Oregon anymore. In fact, it was an award that was most likely nominated by our own administrators in Corbett. The person I spoke to said it is a group of administrators that formed the “National Forum” and likely (though I am not certain) Bob Dunton was involved with nominating our school. Oregon is no longer an active participant in this “National Program”. ( The COLLEGE BOARD was/is a sponsor of this awards program. They are the organization that we buy all our AP tests from.) http://www.middlegradesforum.org/index.php/oregon
“The state of Oregon, where we live, large schools funded at a higher level per student than small schools. (is this true?) Why, too, is the drop out rate for large schools higher than for small schools and why do they have more administrators per student?” pg 4
We have two highly paid superintendents in one small district. The state uses the same funding rubric for every school in the state – we just don’t have a lot of ESL, pregnant teens or SPED. Also as to our graduation rate: There is audio available where RT is heard to say that “we will not stop a child from graduating as long as they have convinced their teacher they have tried their best.”
“….we want to highlight the experiences and results of the Corbett School District …Corbett is a small district with around 800 students k-12….high school is one of the most prolific in the state and nation in terms of the students who participate in Advanced Placement …course work. .. in ’04 & ’05, Corbett was one of the top AP schools in Or….. in ’06 ….highest rated or school ever in which……top 1% of the nation, ’07 top 100 in nation, AP rate, ’08, 8th in US, ……tests in ’09 should move corbett on top, if not near top five….
As of 2012/2013 we report about 1168 kids on the main campus. With Springdale/CAPS we show 1270. Our resident ( lives here ) population is about half of that.
Only truly neighborhood school in the top 10 in the country…….The other schools are magnet schools and charter schools, many of which screen students at the door with regard to admittance.” pg 32 (yes, he really did write that)
From Bob Dunton: Not your community school:
“Here is a thought: Corbett Charter School is not your neighborhood school. One profound difference lies in the governance model. In a traditional public school, patrons can, based on where they reside, harangue the local elected board, assert their right to local control in public meetings, threaten recall board members or to lobby against the next construction levy. The Board is directly responsible to the voters.
Charter Schools are different. The Corbett Charter Association appoints the Charter School Board. The association board administers the non-profit organization and its members created Corbett Charter School. They designed the Corbett Charter School. With expert assistance from the Charter School Board members, they secured the start-up grant, applied for the charter, negotiated the charter agreement, staffed the school, all in record time.
It’s important to note the the Corbett Charter Association is a corporation. It conducts business. It is not a democracy. It’s not even a representative democracy. It does its business in whatever way seems best according to its own lights. Those who wish to do business with the Association do so on a strictly voluntary basis. And they may choose to do business elsewhere if there is a better alternative.” [ Bob Dunton’s letter to parents 4/2010 – select here to read the whole letter. ]
…..Was Corbett’s sucess with regard to AP participation a result of exceptional leadership or was some other factor to consider?……superintendent of Corbett schools, Bob Dunton, set the stage for Corbett’s impressive academic achievement……critical to …success…without a cadre of exceptional teachers…. pg 32
In Corbett the annual staff budget for professional development for 33 teachers is approximately $250,000, or 6% of the total operating budget. …..investment ….major expense ….paid marvelous divedends and is cost effective….. pg 33 (whole list of attributes by Corbett teachers)
…..Corbett School actively supported the creation of their extremely over-qualified tachers by instituting one of the most aggressive professional growth programs in the state of Oregon…..Teachers at Corbett found themselves in the strange situation of not being able to take college course work faster than the district would pay for it…….pg 34
We, as a district, reimburse 100% for teachers continuing education. We have sent teachers/principals to go to Canada and Mexico for training/spanish emersion. etc.
…..For three years prior to multi-age instruction, Corbett posted consecutive years of some of the lowest math and reading achievement in the state of Oregon……Corbett now routinely produces some of the top scores in the state of Oregon. Corbett middle and high school are recognized nationally as some of the best schools in the country. pg 35
* 3rd grade reading scores for CSD place us in the bottom 150 in the state of Oregon in 2011: http://corbettpost.com/csd-numbers/
……Administration in Corbett believes that the remarkable success of students in the older grades is a direct result of a commitment to multi-age looping classrooms………. pg 35
…Do not hire a physics teacher, a biology teacher, chemistry teacher; rather hire a science teacher who can teach all three subjects and perhaps even more! ………we recommend that you hire the people who know they can teach it all, and then pay for their professional development so they earn the paper that proclaims they can do it all. In short, send them back to school on your dime. pg 41
One study……’03, found the optimal school size for student academic achievement to be around 760 students. pg 59 To sumarize, the research generally indicates that ….schools should be in the range of 300-900 students…studies show make larger gains in standard achievement…..pg 65
In general, we tend to be suspicious, vice principals, principals in charge of discipline, or other subsets of school operation. Indeed this is a measuring stick for determining when a school is too large. pg 156
Our supposition is that every other part of the education process is subservient to the needs of the teachers. pg 42 An expansive investment in the professional development of your teachers is the 4th secret of creating excellent schools.” pg 43