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Elevating substandard school performance is not easy. Ironically, factors that least affect student achievement (e.g., tests, technology, money spent) are the factors most often debated. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent to implement the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, yet neither scores in reading nor mathematics improved significantly during the years that followed. Long-term improvement in student performance has never resulted from spending more money, as I previously pointed out (Glenn, 2014).

Researcher John Hattie at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, has identified factors that matter as far as student achievement is concerned (and factors that don’t matter). Regardless of the structure of schools or classes, almost without exception, the presence or use of any factor is positively related to school progress. In other words, if students have a pulse, they learn—regardless of school type, teaching methods, online or
on-campus instruction, and scores of other factors.

Analyzing data collected from 250,000 students, Hattie (2009) used effect size* to measure the influence of almost 200 factors, completing more than 800 meta-analyses. When including all factors, he found an average (mean) effect size of 0.4. Overall, students improved academically regardless of the activity, condition, or instruction; whether they attended small classes, multigrade classes, or single-gender classes; whether grouped based upon age or ability; whether schools used a year-round schedule or the traditional two-semester schedule—or whether enrolled in a public, private, or charter school.

Two factors were found that negatively affected student achievement: retention (–0.16) and student mobility (–0.34). In other words, the majority of students who repeated a grade fell further behind as did students whose families relocated excessively.

Following are selected factors Hattie examined and the corresponding effect size for each factor. The effect size of each of the factors below is less than the effect size of scores of other factors; in other words, many other factors influence student achievement significantly more than any of these factors (click figure to enlarge):



If these factors do not influence student performance, which factors do? Hattie’s principal finding: More than any other factor, teachers matter. Teacher feedback (.73) and teacher-student relationships (.72), for example, are examples of large effect sizes, factors that significantly influence student achievement.

Hattie (2009) stated: “When students were asked about their best teachers, the common attributes were teachers who built relationships with students, teachers who helped students to have different and better strategies or processes to learn the subject, and teachers who demonstrated a willingness to explain material and help students with their work” (p. 108). It is worth noting that researchers have found that students do not associate their best teachers with factors such as requiring students to meet standards, complete homework assignments, pass skills tests, record satisfactory annual yearly progress, or value high course grades.


Cohen, J. (1977). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. New York: Routledge.

Glenn, H. (2014). Common Core: Another stairway to nowhere. See

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. New York: Routledge.

—Hugh Glenn

*Effect size is used to quantify a (standardized) difference between groups. A large effect size of 1.0 (standard deviation) represents approximately one year of growth on a school achievement test. A small effect size (0.2 or 1/5 standard deviation) has been found for charter schools. 

For an explanation of effect size, see

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1965) signed by President Lyndon Johnson was revised seven times, most recently by President George Bush when he approved No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2002). The effect on student performance of NCLB was near zero, so the Obama administration created a new program, Race to the Top, excusing states from fulfilling the goals of NCLB if they agreed to adopt Common Core: assumed educational standards or instructional goals in English and mathematics for all students in all grades. Nevertheless, it is asserted that Common Core is not a national curriculum (Common Core State Standards, 2014a).

StairsTo date, 43 states, including California, have adopted Common Core for use in public schools. It is just as likely, however, that its effect will the same as previously adopted educational programs supported by the federal government to increase student achievement: zero effect.

Despite the spending of billions of dollars by the federal and state governments, reading and math scores of students aged 9, 13, and 17 years on measures such as the National Assessment of Education Progress (2013) have remained almost unchanged for more than 40 years. This figure shows reading scores (1971-2012)—although math scores during the same period are almost a mirror image:

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romero-colorFormer state Senator Gloria Romero, founded of the California Center for Parent Empowerment, published an op-ed in Monday’s OC Register taking aim attempts by the Anaheim Elementary Education Association to muzzle members who are walking for Robert Baeza, the popular former principal of Benito Juarez Elementary and Palm Lane Elementary schools.  Baeza is running for the Anaheim Union High School District Board of Education.

Romero writes:

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher and president of California Teachers Empowerment Network, summarized it succinctly: “Ah, the commissar has spoken from on high!”

The “commissar” is none other than the president of the Anaheim Elementary Education Association, Kristen Fisher, who dispatched an email to dues-paying union members on Oct. 6.

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During the last few days, the Orange County Employees Association has donated $2,135 to the election campaign of Anaheim Union High School District Board of Trustees Al Jabbar, who was appointed to in 2013 to fill a vacancy created by Jordan Brandman’s election to the Anaheim City Council.

Jabbar, a Democrat, ran for the Anaheim City School District Board of Education in 2012 and got smoked. 

There’s nothing surprising about the OCEA donation. Jabbar, who is a county employee, is an OCEA shop steward and a past member of the OCEA Board of Directors and the OCEA Political Action Committee board. He’s one of the first local elected official the OCEA endorsed this year.

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As readers may now, the Anaheim Union High School District has placed a $249 million school bond on the November ballot; from the OCR:

Voters in five cities will decide in November whether to approve a $249 million bond measure aimed at updating 19 aging schools within the Anaheim Union High School District.

The district’s Board of Trustees voted 4-1 Thursday morning to put the measure to voters living within the fourth-largest school district in Orange County, which serves 32,000-plus students from portions of Anaheim, Cypress, Buena Park, La Palma and Stanton.

Consultants Chris Nguyen and Chris Emami of Custom Campaigns are doing the anti-bond campaign, and the Lincoln Club of Orange County is also involved in the effort to defeat the bond. The AUHSD botched its last school bond, wasting millions of dollars. Today, the district is headed by a new superintendent has has never administered a school site, let alone a large, multi-city school district. Neither inspires confidence as to the proper, successful management of a quarter-of-a-billion dollar school bond.

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More retro clipart at the Anaheim Union High School District will consider a report claiming district facilities need $1.2 billion – yes, billion — in improvements.

According to the OC Register:

More than $1.2 billion in safety and classroom upgrades are needed at 19 campuses in the Anaheim Union High School District over the next decade, according to a report that will be considered Thursday by the district’s board of trustees.

If approved, the board’s next step is to decide, on July 10, whether to place a $249 million bond measure onto the November ballot to partially pay for those improvements in a district serving 32,000-plus students from portions of Anaheim, Cypress, Buena Park, La Palma and Stanton.

“We’re looking at basic renovations to keep our students safe, along with giving them classroom tools and modern classrooms so that we can provide them a 21st-century education,” said Al Jabbar, an Anaheim Union board member.

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A group of Anaheim Union High School District parents upset at the sudden and unexplained sacking without cause of Superintendent Elizabeth Novack, have decided to launch a campaign to recall the three AUHSD Trustees Al Jabbar, Katherine Smith and Annemarie Randel-Trejo who voted for the termination, an action opposed by Trustees Brian O’Neal and Anna Piercy.

Lori Diniwddie, one of the parents leading the effort, sent out this e-mail this morning:

We have decided to move forward with the recall of trustee’s Smith, Jabbar and Annemarie Randel-Trejo.  

After last night’s board meeting, I have been overwhelmed with support for the recall.  

This is your chance, I need 10 registered voters to sign the documents to start the recall process. Please let me know if this is something you would be willing to do. 

As well, we have begun a facebook support page, so please go to, , and like and share! 

This financial irresponsibility must end now! 

Lori Dinwiddie

Recalls are difficult.

Former AUHSD Superintendent Elizabeth Novack

Former AUHSD Superintendent Elizabeth Novack

As readers know, the Anaheim Union High School District Board of Trustees recently fired Superintendent Elizabeth Novack for no stated reason (but apparently no one at the district knows how to remove her from the website), and will now have to pay her a full year’s salary and pay the interim superintendent a reported $900 a day while looking for a permanent replacement.

I’ve been looking into the matter (the district PIO never responded to my inquiries) and the picture I am getting is this headhunting expedition was led by Trustee Katherine Smith, who didn’t like that Novack was a strong superintendent. [This is the same Katherine Smith who filed a complaint with the OC District Attorney against Jordan Brandman shortly before the 2012 council election, because she didn’t know why he was using his personal computer in a breakroom during breaks in AUHSD Board of Trustee meetings (Brandman was her board colleague at the time). The complaint came to nothing because there was nothing there, but her conveniently timed complaint allowed the OC GOP, the OCEA and the Tait family to hit Brandman with mailers claiming he was “being criminally investigated by the DA.”]

In any case, Novack’s supporters have been rallying. Here’s an e-mail that went out yesterday regarding tonight’s meeting of the AUHSD Board of Trustees:

AUHSD Stakeholder,

Tomorrow evening [Thursday, December 12] is a rather important meeting for the AUHSD. As many of you now know, Dr. Elizabeth Novack’s contract was terminated without cause. This termination was done at the discretion of the Board of Trustees and was executed swiftly without input of the stakeholders.

Our community has come to appreciate the tremendous efforts of Dr. Novack, and as a product of our district she was a clear example of the potential of an AUHSD education. While it is within the Board of Trustees authority to terminate the superintendent without cause it was done so irresponsibly. With Dr. Novack’s Termination, she will continue to be paid the rest of her salary and will cost the district approximately $250,000.00. As well, the board will need to find a new superintendent, and until a permanent replacement is found they are paying the interim Superintendent $900.00 per day.

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The Anaheim Union High School District’s public information officer has yet to respond to my e-mail and voice mail requesting additional information on the Board’s dismissal of AUHSD Superintendent Elizabeth Novack, but here is the OC Register article on the subject:

The superintendent of Anaheim Union High School District was terminated after three years on the job, prompting the Board of Education on Tuesday to launch a search for a replacement.

Elizabeth Novack will be paid her $245,000 annual salary as compensation, along with health and welfare benefits for a year, according to the terms of her employment contract, set to expire in 2015.

A memo issued Monday afternoon to Anaheim Union employees stated that Novack’s employment was terminated. An interim superintendent was not immediately announced, but the school board is expected to hire an outside firm to help search for Novack’s permanent replacement.

A majority of the school board didn’t like Novack’s management style, said school board member Anna Piercy, who opposed the superintendent’s termination. Piercy declined to say which school board members disapproved of Novack’s performance.

“No manager is going to be liked by everybody, but a majority of the board didn’t feel they could handle having her as superintendent any longer,” Piercy said. “I think she’s done a good job in managing the district and bringing the community together, but some people didn’t like her.”

Novack, a 1971 graduate of Anaheim High School, could not be reached for comment.

School board president Brian O’Neal declined to discuss Novack’s performance. But he did confirm that she was terminated.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Last week, the Anaheim Union High School District held a series of community forums “seeking community input into the boundaries that will be established under the new by-trustee-area method of electing the Board of Trustees” according to an e-mail sent out by the district.”

Earler this year, AUHSD Board decided on a policy of pre-emptive surrender to the possibility of being sued by marauding bands of California Voting Rights Act litigants, and voted to replace its at-large election system with a by-district system. Unlike the City of Anaheim, the AUHSD doesn’t need to hold a city-wide election on the question but can make this switch by a board vote and obtaining a waiver from the state Board of Education (which grants them without hesitation). As the AUSD missive puts it:

The Board’s decision was the culmination of a lengthy process during which a demographer reviewed voting patterns over the past 10 years to determine whether the at-large voting method complied with the California Voting Rights Act.  Under the act, an at-large voting method is not permissible if it impairs the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice as a result of dilution or abridgment. The analysis showed that the at-large voting method did appear to impair the ability of a protected group from electing candidates of its choice. To correct this, the Board modified the election method to a by-trustee-area method to provide greater opportunities for representation of all constituencies within the District.  

The District has drawn up several draft trustee area maps in accordance with these criteria:

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