Archives for category: Charter Schools

Robert Berkman, a blogger in New York, predicts the closing of the last Success Academy charter school (the Trump School) in 2020.

 

The last student, the last teacher, the last dollar, the last classroom ends in 2020, he says.

 

This was the inevitable result of the election of 2016, he writes.

 

In his blog, “Better Living Through Mathematics,” he uses his sharp wit to eviscerate corporate reform and its enablers.

 

He predicts an uprising through the democratic process in which voters take back their government from corporate interests.

 

It is a fable.

Donald Cohen,  who runs an anti-privatization website (“In the Public Interest”), writes here about the damaging effects that charters in Detroit have had on public schools.

 

According to the corporate reform ideology, competition is supposed to be good for everyone.  Wrong.

 

Emergency managers er shave created a large charter sector to compete with the public schools. But both sectors are struggling.

 

“This sort of competition — a zero-sum game — only helps some students and the management organizations and investors that profit from charter schools. Because charter growth has gone unchecked, DPS is struggling–and for no good reason. Charter schools have not performed better. In 2011, they were graduating 50 percent of their students while traditional public schools were graduating 75 percent. Despite this, Governor Rick Snyder and the state legislature passed a bill that lifted an important limit on the number of charter schools allowed in the state.

 

“Detroit’s schools need to be fixed now. But too much of DPS’s revenue is going to paying high interest rates instead of fixing buildings and paying teachers what they deserve. If charter growth continues unchecked and traditional schools lose more students, it will be even harder for DPS to pay down its debt and afford fixed costs, like buildings, maintenance, and administration.

 

“Wall Street agrees. The credit rating agency Moody’s recently downgraded DPS’s credit rating citing “a growing charter school presence.” Their outlook was bleak: “Absent enrollment and revenue growth, fixed costs will comprise a growing share of the district’s annual financial resources and potentially stress the sufficiency of year-round cash flow.”

 

“While Detroit’s charter schools continue to increase in number, there are some students they’ve avoided. Students with special education needs make up 17 percent of DPS enrollment; but for charter schools, that percentage is 9 percent. This difference further destabilizes DPS, as these students usually have higher costs associated with their education.”

 

 

Eva Moskowitz reacted angrily to the unflattering story in the New York Times about a teacher berating a first-grader. She sent a note to her staff accusing the Néw York Times of having a vendetta against her.

Her email said:

“We must not allow the haters to bully us or stop us from re-imagining public education,” Moskowitz writes.”

She added that if a similar video came from a public school, the Times would have ignored it.

John King is currently Acting Secretary of Education. President Obama will formally nominate him to serve as Secretary. 

King’s autocratic behavior as state commissioner of education spurred a massive parent opt out from state testing. King adamantly supports testing, VAM, Common Core, and charter schools. He taught in a “no excuses” Uncommon Schools charter with one of the highest suspension rates in Massachusetts. 

As commissioner, King defended inBloom, a Gates-funded data-mining project. After other states had withdrawn due to parent protests, King supported inBloom. The state legislature listened to parents and passed a law forcing the state to drop inBloom. After NY’s withdrawal, inBloom collapsed. 

Deborah Gist, the former state superintendent of schools in Rhode Island, has recommended a $920,000 contract for the Boston Consulting Group in Tulsa, where she is now district superintendent. The contract will be funded by “private donors.”

BCG has won similar contracts in other districts. Their reports typically recommend downsizing and privatization.

This is not good news for Tulsa.

The first question that citizens of Tulsa should ask is, what is the education expertise of this business consulting group? When last I looked, Margaret Spellings–who has never run a school district–was its education consultant. Since she is now the new president of the University of North Carolina system, who is running the education business at BCG? Who are the “experts” at BCG who know more than Deborah Gist and the teachers of Tulsa?

The Tulsa school board will be writing a blank check to BCG unless they find out exactly who is giving advice and why Tulsa should want it, even if someone else is paying the bill.

In other districts, when BCG arrives, public education is in danger.

A reader told me that the school board gave him this article to reassure him.

http://mobile.edweek.org/c.jsp?cid=25920011&item=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.edweek.org%2Fv1%2Fblog%2F76%2F%3Fuuid%3D55244&cmp=eml-contshr-shr

The lead author used to be Rick Hess’ assistant at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. None of the three co-authors ever worked in a school, according to their online bios.

What expertise do they have in education?

Here is a switch: Parents at a charter high school in New Orleans suspected massive cheating and hired a law firm to conduct an investigation. They were right. There was massive cheating.

 

 

Landry-Walker High School’s 2013-14 test results were so amazing that some New Orleans education insiders doubted they were valid. More students at Landry-Walker than at Lusher Charter, a selective-admissions school, aced geometry. In biology, the school was fourth-best in the city.

 

Skeptical of the numbers, the school’s parent organization, the Algiers Charter School Association, launched a 16-month investigation — without telling Landry-Walker’s principal — into what some feared could be widespread, teacher-enabled cheating. The association undertook a detailed analysis of student performance, hired outside lawyers and, for the spring 2015 round of testing, placed independent monitors in every single examination room at its flagship school, according to internal documents.

 

When the 2014-15 test results came back, Landry-Walker’s scores fell off a cliff. The percentage of students getting top marks in geometry fell by 51 points.

The New York Times reports today that a former Success Academy teacher videotaped another teacher demeaning and belittling a first-grade student who could not come up with the right response to her question. Other former SA teachers confirmed that children were subject to psychological abuse to force them to conform to the rigid disciplinary rules of the school.

In the video, a first-grade class sits cross-legged in a circle on a brightly colored rug. One of the girls has been asked to explain to the class how she solved a math problem, but she has gotten confused.

She begins to count: “One… two…” Then she pauses and looks at the teacher.

The teacher takes the girl’s paper and rips it in half. “Go to the calm-down chair and sit,” she orders the girl, her voice rising sharply.

“There’s nothing that infuriates me more than when you don’t do what’s on your paper,” she says, as the girl retreats.

The teacher in the video, Charlotte Dial, works at a Success Academy charter school in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. She has been considered so effective that the network promoted her last year to being a model teacher, who helps train her colleagues.

A spokesperson for the charter chain insisted that this was contrary to its rules. The teacher was briefly suspended.

But interviews with 20 current and former Success teachers suggest that while Ms. Dial’s behavior might be extreme, much of it is not uncommon within the network.

Success is known for its students’ high achievement on state tests, and it emphasizes getting — and keeping — scores up. Jessica Reid Sliwerski, 34, worked at Success Academy Harlem 1 and Success Academy Harlem 2 from 2008 to 2011, first as a teacher and then as an assistant principal. She said that, starting in third grade, when children begin taking the state exams, embarrassing or belittling children for work seen as slipshod was a regular occurrence, and in some cases encouraged by network leaders.

“It’s this culture of, ‘If you’ve made them cry, you’ve succeeded in getting your point across,’” she said.

One day, she said, she found herself taking a toy away from a boy who was playing with it in class, and then smashing it underfoot. Shortly after, she resigned.

“I felt sick about the teacher I had become, and I no longer wanted to be part of an organization where adults could so easily demean children under the guise of ‘achievement,’” said Ms. Sliwerski, who subsequently worked as an instructional coach in Department of Education schools.

These complaints sound like they come from a school of the late 19th century. Not the way most parents want their children to be treated. Not the way to prepare for the 21st century, where creativity and independent thinking should be encouraged.

Howard Blume of the Los Angeles Times reports on a controversial decision to grant a renewal to a charter school owned by one of the elected board members, even though the charter division of the school district said its performance was so poor that it did not deserve renewal. The owner of the charter, Ref Rodriguez, recused himself from the vote. As usual, the room was packed with charter students and staff, demanding renewal of a failing school, and they won.

 

There are more charters in Los Angeles than in any other district, and an independent panel of experts recently warned that charter growth could threaten the solvency of L.A. Unified.

 

Most charters are non-union, and charter critics include unions. They say that charters serve fewer students who are more challenging and expensive to educate.

 

Charter advocates include well-heeled foundations and donors, who say continued, rapid charter expansion will improve the education system.
The big charter winner on Tuesday was Partnerships to Uplift Communities, more commonly known as PUC Schools.

 

PUC overcame the opposition of the charter division, which said its standard review showed that, based on academic performance, PUC’s Excel Charter Academy fell far short of deserving a five-year extension.

 

Excel supporters — about 140 packed the board room and waited until well after dark to be heard — put forward other statistics that painted a better picture of the middle school in Lincoln Heights.

 

They also presented testimonials from students, parents, teachers and administrators. Such presentations have become a regular and lengthy ritual when the fate of a charter comes before the school board.

 

 

Meanwhile, the members of United Teachers of Los Angeles voted to increase their union dues to fight the billionaire-funded effort to gobble up more and more public schools and turn them into non-union charters.

 

 

Sarah Angel, a spokesperson for the California Charter School Association, criticized the union for amassing a “war chest” to fight back against the charter invasion. She said the union was being divisive.

 

She said:

 

“UTLA is going to amass the war chest that they feel that they need,” said the California Charter Schools Association’s Sarah Angel. “But I think all of us in public education: moms, dads, teachers, principals, and board members need to be focused on the number one priority which is educating kids and how we do that better, how do we improve outcomes, raise children out of poverty, get them to graduation, college, and career. That needs to be our number one focus, not raising money, not fighting each other.”

 

In other words, don’t fight the charter takeover of public schools. Let them privatize half the district, the entire district. Don’t resist. I recall that when I wrote an op ed for the LA Times supporting public schools, it was the same Sarah Angel who called me “divisive.” It seems the only way to be a uniter is to support Eli Broad’s program of privatization.

 

 

EduShyster has a guest column by a teacher who recently finished teaching at UP Academy in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The UP network has five schools. They are not charter schools, though their authoritarian practices appear to be modeled on “no excuses” charter schools. They are zoned 6-8 public middle schools. The schools get high test scores, and the US Department of Education recently awarded them $4.3 million to replicate. Its disciplinary polices are harsh and unforgiving. While the schools get high test scores, shouldn’t we wait and see what other results follow from such schools before paying taxpayer dollars to get more of them? I would never let my children or grandchildren go to such a soulless school, but that’s just me. In the case of UP academies, parents don’t have a choice.

 

 

I was hired to teach at UP Academy in Lawrence, MA starting in August of 2014. Everyone on staff had a duty and mine was to stand in the girl’s bathroom and make sure that the students were leaving quickly and that they only used two pumps of soap and took two paper towels. If they used more I was supposed to give them a demerit. Everything is timed, and teachers walk around with timers. Kids are timed when they go to the bathroom and when they have their snack so that they aren’t wasting valuable learning time. At orientation, which lasted a month before the start of schools, we spent an entire day on how to pass papers and how to get the students to compete against each other as they did this.
When it comes to math and English, UP Academy is teaching a lot, but there’s no emphasis on anything else. Students get social studies and science for half a year; PE and art are considered *specials* and students only get them for an hour a week. The only time students leave their classrooms is when they’re going to PE, art or lunch. After sitting all day, they have to line up in single file in total silence, not making a single peep, hands behind their backs, everything tucked in—like perfect soldiers. I’d have to transport them to my classroom, giving them merits and demerits along the way.

 

There were fifteen minutes total for the the entire class to go to the bathroom. This was twice a day, in the morning and later in the afternoon. There was an average of 32 kids in the class and when we called their names, they would indicate whether they had to go to the bathroom or not by saying *yes, thank you* or *no, thank you.* You’d start from the top of the list in the morning and those people would go to the bathroom. In the afternoon, names would get called from the bottom up. If students didn’t get called, they couldn’t use the bathroom. Students have two emergency bathroom passes they can use during the semester. If they use them up they get a detention.

 

There is more to read. Frankly, I find this bordering on child abuse. This is the kind of school that superior people design for other people’s children, not their own.

 

 

Dora Taylor, a parent leader in Seattle, has written a post about how the Gates machine has stepped up to protect the state’s fledgling charter schools that are not currently eligible to receive public funding. The highest state court in Washington state ruled that charter schools are not public schools, and of course the Gates team is working the legislature to do an end run around the court’s decision.

 

But as Taylor explains, the Gates team has quietly set up a deal where a small rural school district is paid to supervise the charter schools and keep them alive while Gates and company works the legislature.

 

This is how it went. The Gates Foundation, contacted the Washington Charter Association and had them contact the Mary Walker School District to discuss with the Superintendent, Kevin Jacka, the idea of taking on the charter schools that had opened in the state and placing them under the umbrella of the Alternative Learning Experience program (ALE).

 

The Mary Walker School District is located in Springdale, Washington, which is a rural community in the northeast corner of Washington State. The district consists of eight traditional and Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) schools.

 

The plan was to have the Mary Walker School District provide oversight for the charter schools scattered around the state and receive a percentage of the per student state allocation before sending the money onto the charter school therefore providing tax dollars to the charter schools.

 

According to the contract between the Mary Walker School District and Rainier Prepcharter school, the Mary Walker School District will receive 4% of the per student state allocation of approximately $6,000 per student and the remaining 96% will go to the charter school.

 

You see, when you are the richest man in the country, you don’t give up. You win. Unless the courts and the legislature intervene to protect public education. If Bill Gates wanted to give the charter students an education (there are fewer than 1,000 of them), he could open private schools for them at less cost than he is spending to lobby the state. But he wants to establish the principal that privately managed schools should get public funding, even though the public has nothing to say about how they are run.

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