Archives for category: Charter Schools

A reader saw the earlier post about the ruin caused by privatization in Chile and wrote this post about Colombia:

 

 

I live and work in Colombia. The same was tried here. Perhaps Colombia drank the “Chilean miracle” koolaid, or perhaps it’s simply that Colombians tend to think anything that comes from abroad (particularly if its roots are in the US) must be golden. The private system insisted it could and would provide better education than the public schools, so the government provided funding for what we would call charters, but here are really just private schools. Among the results: lots of fraud, lots of tiny primary schools opening and closing in garages, often leaving kids with no chance to get into other schools until the next term…if they were lucky, since private schools don’t have to let them in, and there aren’t enough seats in the public schools any more. Inequality is very high, even though the government includes some aspects of social democracy, like nearly universal health care and a progressive tax policy. (The pension system was privatized too, and that’s been a disaster for most people, but I digress.) I can’t speak to whether inequality is actually greater than before the education reforms, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. Certainly the public schools lost funds, as anyone who had enough money to pay tuition (yes, not only did these schools get government funds, but they were allowed to charge tuition), enrolled and still enroll their kids in “private” schools on the assumption that public schools are the worst possible option, even though public school kids regularly win scholarships to attend public universities of excellent quality.

 

Since I moved here in 2006, scores on international tests like the PISA, have dropped. The sorely underfunded public schools have continued to produce most of the top scorers on the ICFES, a national exam required for university entrance, similar to the SAT or ACT. That wasn’t enough to open the government’s eyes. It was the drop in scores on international tests that finally did it. As a result (YAY!), recently, the government stopped funding the private/charter schools. I don’t know if this means the public system will get more funding – I hope it does, because they need a big infusion. Since I’ve been here, there aren’t enough public schools to provide an education for all the children whose families can’t afford a private one. Now, finally, the push is on to build enough to solve that problem. It’s not like our education policy leaders would have to go far to see what NOT to do: Colombia’s a mere four hour flight from Miami. There are none so blind as those who will not look, much less see.

Why do we refuse to learn from successful nations? The top ten high-performing nations do not test every child every year.

 

Why aren’t we willing to learn from educational disasters in other nations? Take Chile, for example.

 

In this post, two scholars–Alfredo Gaete and Stephanie Jones–explain what happened in Chile when national leaders imposed the free-market ideas of two libertarian economists, Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman.

 

Inspired by the ideas of such neoliberal economists as Hayek and Friedman, the “Chilean experiment” was meant to prove that education can achieve its highest quality when its administration is handed over mainly to the private sector and, therefore, to the forces of the market.

 

 

How did they do this?

 

 

Basically by creating charter schools with a voucher system and a number of mechanisms for ensuring both the competition among them and the profitability of their business. In this scenario, the state has a subsidiary but still important role, namely, to introduce national standards and assess schools by virtue of them (in such a way that national rankings can be produced).

 

 

This accountability job, along with the provision of funding, is almost everything that was left to the Chilean state regarding education, in the hope that competition, marketing, and the like would lead the country to develop the best possible educational system.

 

 

So what happened? Here are some facts after about three decades of the “Chilean experiment” that, chillingly, has also been called the “Chilean Miracle” like the more recent U.S. “New Orleans Miracle.”

 

 

First, there is no clear evidence that students have significantly improved their performance on standardized tests, the preferred measurement used to assess schools within this scenario of the free market.

 
Second, there is now consensus among researchers that both the educational and the socioeconomic gaps have been increased. Chile is now a far more unequal society than it was before the privatization of education – and there is a clear correlation between family income and student achievement according to standardized testing and similar measures.

 
Third, studies have shown that schools serving the more underprivileged students have greater difficulties not only for responding competitively but also for innovating and improving school attractiveness in a way to acquire students and therefore funding.

 
Fourth, many schools are now investing more in marketing strategies than in actually improving their services.

 
Fifth, the accountability culture required by the market has yielded a teach-to-the-test schema that is progressively neglecting the variety and richness of more integral educational practices.

 
Sixth, some researchers believe that all this has negatively affected teachers’ professional autonomy, which in turn has triggered feelings of demoralization, anxiety, and in the end poor teaching practices inside schools and an unattractive profession from the outside.

 
Seventh, a general sense of frustration and dissatisfaction has arisen not only among school communities but actually in the great majority of the population. Indeed, the ‘Penguins Revolution’ – a secondary students’ revolt driven by complaints about the quality and equity of Chilean education – led to the most massive social protest movement in the country during the last 20 years….

 

The ‘Chilean Miracle’ – like the ‘New Orleans Miracle’ – it seems, is not a miracle of student growth, achievement, equity, and high quality education for all. Rather, it is a miracle that a once protected public good was finally exploited as a competitive private market where profit-seeking corporations could receive a greater and greater share of public tax dollars.

 
It is also a miracle that such profit-seeking private companies and corporations, including publishing giants that produce educational materials and tests, have managed to keep the target of accountability on teachers and schools and not on their own backs.

 
Their treasure trove of funding – state and federal tax monies – continues to flow even as their materials, technological innovations, products, services, and tests fail to provide positive results.

 

Why are we allowing philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and the U.S. Department of Education to force us to follow the same path as Chile? Are we powerless? No. Show your displeasure by opting out, speaking out, contacting your elected representatives. Organize demonstrations and protests. Make them notice you. Stop them.

Joshua Leibner writes here about a new HBO television show called “Togetherness,” selling the idea of charter schools as the latest trend for hip white families.

 

They don’t want their children to be in a minority. But they are uncomfortable with the idea of private school. The charter school offers them a chance to avoid “those” children and get a free education and at the same time, think they are on the cutting edge.

 

The show’s creators, Mark and Jay Duplass, are the very talented Hollywood powerhouse titans of smart, artsy films about the white middle class and its obsessions; their work dominates Sundance and they have a four-picture deal with Netflix. The brothers also live in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles School Board District 5, and that’s where they’ve set “Togetherness.” It also happens to be where I live and will send my son to school when he is old enough. Although the show is ostensibly about the marriage and lives of Hollywood sound man Brett and his wife, Michelle, the charter school plotline is enlightening and can be discussed in light of not only LAUSD’s relationship to these characters, but to the nation as a whole.

 

The charter school speech-maker, David Garcia, an aspiring politician, begins with the mantra that has been drummed around the country for the last 20 years: “Our public education system is broken.”
Is it broken in Palos Verdes? In Beverly Hills? In Malibu? Or any of the richer districts that surround L.A.? No, but definitely, apparently, in Eagle Rock.

 

Michelle goes up to David after his speech and says, “My daughter is going to start kindergarten and we’re talking about where is she going to go… what is she going to do… I’m wondering why is there not some community place — somewhere I can put her and feel good with a lot of different people. I don’t want to put her in a private school where she doesn’t get to experience what life is like where we live. I mean why is there not a great place?”

 

The Eagle Rock public schools are obviously not an option for Michelle. Our local elementary schools — Eagle Rock, Rockdale, Dahlia Heights — get conflated into the fictional “Townsend Elementary,” and are clearly not gonna cut it. It goes without saying.

 

Michelle has previously been shown speaking longingly to her husband, who has all but decided to put their kid in private school: “Don’t you want her to be in a different kind of community with kids of different colors and economic backgrounds?

 

That obviously — to these characters and to many real life members of their demographic — isn’t the public schools.

 

But why not? One LAUSD school board member has said pointedly that “maybe it’s time for the district to look in the mirror and figure out what can be done within district schools to make parents less eager to remove their children into charters.”

 

True enough. And maybe it’s time for charter school advocates to look into their own mirror.

 

Is it, could it actually be, the “bird shit” and “five-day-old sloppy joes”? No, because episode 6 demonstrates how hard Michelle is willing to work to find and clean out an old building for the new school. Surely, cleaning up some bird feces at an already functioning facility and agitating for better food — or packing a lunchbox — would have been much easier.

 

Is it because a bloated school bureaucracy is truly causing these parents to be “disenfranchised and lost”? Not really, because when David and Michelle finally make their impassioned plea for a charter to the public school commission in Sacramento, they are met with misty-eyed commissioners and an implied approval.

 

Could it be — gasp! — race, or class? Eagle Rock Elementary School is only 17 percent white, with 57 percent of the kids qualifying for subsidized school lunches.

 

No, no, no, no! the series replies. In the final episode, there is Michelle leading a post-racial bandwagon, driving up to Sacramento to argue their case. Along with David, the show’s sole Latino, there’s a gay Asian political consultant and a black principal who will fight for this charter. They all bond over a car karaoke hit.

 

Wealthy white people, as a rule, control the charter school industry across the country. White people run the billionaire philanthropic foundations that funnel money into charter schools. White people dominate the editorial boards of the major urban papers who sympathize with charter school interests.

 

No surprise that the film-makers have a deal with Netflix. Netflix is owned by Reed Hastings, who sits on the board of KIPP and Rocketship, and who predicted at a California Charters Schools Association that one day there would be no boards of education, only charter schools. Hastings, at last look, was a multimillionaire, but he might be a billionaire.

 

 

 

 

Perhaps some of our readers in Memphis can explain what is going on.

 

YES Prep, the charter chain founded by Chris Barbic, has announced that it is leaving Memphis.

 

Chris Barbic left YES Prep to become the leader of the Tennessee “Achievement School District,” appointed by former state Commissioner Kevin Huffman. The goal of the ASD is to replace low-performing  public schools with high-performing charter schools. Barbic pledged that he would take the state’s lowest-performing public schools (the bottom 5%) and raise their achievement to the top 20% in the state within five years. YES Prep was part of his strategy.

 

YES Prep issued a statement saying that they wanted to proceed grade by grade but the community wanted them to take over entire schools.

 

Barbic expressed disappointment that the charter chain he founded was backing out of Memphis.

 

Is there more to the story? Other states (for example, Georgia) say they too want a statewide “Achievement School District,” just like Tennessee. YES Prep is the fourth charter operator to leave Tennessee. What is going on?

The state-appointed superintendent of the Camden, Néw Jersey, public schools announced that five public schools would be handed over to private charter chains. These schools will receive “significant” renovations to prepare them for the takeover by private managers. Three private organizations–KIPP, Mastery, and Uncommon Schools–have been designated to take over the schools and students.

“”This marks a new beginning for five of Camden’s most-struggling schools,” predicted Paymon Rouhanifard, the district’s state-appointed superintendent. “We hope this will be remembered as the moment we turned the corner.”

“A different view came from Save Our Schools New Jersey, an education-advocacy group. It asserted the schools were being “given” to private operators “to ensure a forced supply of students.”

“The people of Camden had no say in this decision,” said the group, which noted the city district is under state control and does not have an elected school board.

“Current staffers at the five schools would have to interview for new positions with the renaissance schools, Rouhanifard said.”

Read more about the superintendent here and here. Here is Jersey Jazzman’s description of his resume: Teach for America, Goldman Sachs, And a high staff position in the Néw York City’s Department of Education. He was 32 when Governor Chris Christie appointed him.

This is a very funny video. First you see Governor Andrew Cuomo, who plans to enrich the testing industry by testing everyone who works or enrolls in a school. He is a huge supporter of charter schools, having received millions of dollars in campaign funds from charter advocates on Wall Street. Charter students are 3% of the students in New York state.

 

Then you will see two key supporters of charters, both leaders in the New York state senate, which is controlled by Republicans. Neither has any charters in their districts. They represent Long Island, where parents are passionate about their public schools, where the graduation rate is far higher than that of the state, and where the anti-testing movement has a large following. These state senators don’t want charters in their districts, but would be happy to see more charters elsewhere. What is also ironic is that Albany, the state capitol, closed two charter schools just weeks ago for financial and academic failures.

Julian Vasquez Heilig analyzes a new poll about choice. Choice is alluring but what are people concerned about most?

Lack of parental involvement in the schools, class size, too much testing, budget cuts.

What do they think about charters? They don’t object to them so long as
they don’t take funding from their public school. They think charter board meetings should be open to the public. Most want to limit their expansion.

Historian and teacher John Thompson reports on the progress of privatization in Oklahoma.

 

The state naively accepted the Gates compact, which obliged districts to welcome charter schools.

 

Thompson writes:

 

“The previous blockbuster discovery for Oklahoma City and Tulsa schools was S.B. 68, the “under-the-radar” bill to authorize cities to compete with school systems in sponsoring charter schools. The Tulsa World’s Andrea Eger, in “Change in State Law Sought for Tulsa Public Schools Would Allow Outsourcing of Instruction,” reports that another charter bill, H.B. 1691, “has flown largely beneath the public’s radar during a legislative session that has seen high-profile clashes over bills seeking private school vouchers and the expansion of charter schools into rural areas.”

 

“Eger reports that the Tulsa Public School System is moving ahead with plans to locate its three newest charters inside traditional public school facilities. Lunch and bus service would be provided for students. All three contract charters would be run by an out-of-state charter-management organization.

 

“Linda Hampton, the president of the Oklahoma Education Association, opposes H.B. 1691 “[b]ecause the bill is so broad in scope, it could open the door to total privatization of public schools.” She adds, “We also want to be sure we are not turning over our public school students to organizations that are looking to make a profit.”

 

Tulsa’s next superintendent is Deborah Gist, previously state superintendent of Rhode Island and a member of Jeb Bush’s Chiefs for Change.

 

Watch for a full-blown drive for privatization in Oklahoma.

The Néw York Times says Hillary Clinton will be forced to choose between the Wall Street big donors and the teachers’ unions.

The real choice is between Wall Street money on one hand and millions of parents and teachers who are fed up with high-stakes testing and privatization of public schools, on the other.

Then it refers to the Democrats for Education Reform as a “left of center group,” even though its program is indistinguishable from that of Republican governors and it was denounced by the California Democratic Party as a front for corporate interests.

If you live in or near Milwaukee, try to meet and hear these veterans of the Great Néw Orleans Con Job:

On March 26th and 27th you will have a chance to interact with three activist immersed in the fight for public education in New Orleans.

On Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 4:30 p.m. at Milwaukee High School of the Arts (2300 W. Highland Ave.) they will conduct workshops. All are invited.

Friday, March 27, 2015 • 6:00 p.m. at Parklawn Assembly of God (3725 N. Sherman Blvd.) they will participate in a community meeting and panel.

Karran Harper Royal is a New Orleans
public school parent who
cares about real education
reform. She is an advocate
for disabled and challenged
children and an educational
policy consultant.

Dr. Raynard Sanders
has more than 30 years of
experience in teaching,
educational administration,
and economic/community
development. He is a former
New Orleans high school principal.

Dr. Kristen Buras is an
associate professor in
Educational Policy Studies
at Georgia State University
in Atlanta. Buras has spent
the past decade researching
school reform in New Orleans.

See below for leaflets for both events:

Education Conversation 2015

Expert Panel Flyer 2015

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