Archives for category: Charter Schools

After writing the previous post about the unimpressive results of the Tennessee Achievement School District, Gary Rubinstein decided to take a closer look at the one school in the ASD that seemed to be making striking test score gains: Brick Church College Prep. He calls his post “Follow the Yellow Brick Load.”

 

The theory of the ASD was that it would take over the state’s lowest performing schools (in the bottom 5%), shake up (or fire the staff), and raise those schools into the top 5% in the state. Without examining the evidence, several states want to copy the ASD.

 

Rubinstein looked more closely at state data. He made a discovery. Brick Church College Prep was taking in higher-performing fifth-graders. The new students at Brick Church were not the same students who had enrolled in the past. They entered with higher test scores. This is called “gaming the system.”

 

Gary concludes:

 

Besides a hard rectangular prism used to build houses, the word ‘Brick’ generally has negative connotations. In basketball it’s when a ball bounces hard off the front rim. A ‘brick’ of cocaine is something you never want to be found in your trunk when you’re pulled over for a traffic violation. And as more and more accurate data about the kinds of lying that reformers do to keep their jobs get uncovered, surely they will start ‘pooping’ bricks.

Gary Rubinstein knows reformers better than most people. He started his career in Teach for America in Houston in the early 1990s and eventually became a career math teacher in New York City. He is one of the most perceptive critics of reform, having started in the early days of the movement.

In this post, he deconstructs the boasts of Kevin Huffman about the Achievement School District in Tennessee. Huffman is now trying to export this model to other states, despite its failure thus far to achieve its goals. Rubinsteinreviews the record of the ASD and finds it mixed at best:

“Just by the numbers, the results are truly mixed. Of the original 6 ASD schools that are currently in their third year under the ASD, two schools have improved, two have stayed about the same, and two have gotten worse.” Some success.

“ASD tries to put all the positive spin they can on their results, but the thing that they try not to mention is that in this past year the ASD got the lowest possible score on their ‘growth’ metric, a 1 out of 5. In Tennessee they take their ‘growth’ scores very seriously. They have been experimenting with this kind of metric for over twenty years and they base school closing decisions on it and also teacher evaluations. So it is hypocritical, though not surprising, that Huffman fails to mention that the ASD, on average, got the lowest possible score on this last year, and instead they focus on the two schools that have shown test score improvements.”

Rubinstein writes:

“There is absolutely no reason why Kevin Huffman should be given the opportunity to pitch his ideas to the Pennsylvania senate or in the media over there. It is like a state trying to improve their economy and asking for guidance from a man who got rich by winning the lottery. Huffman is a person who knows very little about education, but who has been very lucky to get to where he is. He taught first grade for two years, spent a bunch of years working for Teach For America, got appointed as Tennessee education commissioner mainly because of his famous ex-wife, and only managed to keep his job for three years before basically getting run out of town. He has gotten credit for the 4th and 8th grade NAEP gains between 2011 and 2013, but has taken none of the blame for the lack of progress for 12 graders or for the recent drops in the Tennessee State reading test scores. This is a new kind of phenomenon, the edu-celebrity who rises to power, leaves after a few years having accomplished very little, and then making a living as a consultant. Some gig.”

Kevin Huffman, former state education leader in Tennessee, came to Pennslvania to sell the glories of corporate reform as practiced in Tennessee. Peter Greene recounts his claims here.

Huffman wanted particularly to sell the virtues of the Tennessee Achievement School District, which gathers the state’s lowest performing schools into a group, eliminates local control, and converts them to privately managed charters.

As Greene shows, the ASD in Tennessee has been a bust so far.

“So first, strip local school boards and voters of authority over their own schools. Second, allow a mixture of innovation and stripping teachers of job security and pay. The stated plan in Tennessee was that the bottom 5% of schools would move into the top 25% within five years. Doesn’t that all sound great? But hey– how is it working out in Tennessee?

“That depends (surprise) on who is crunching which numbers, but even the state’s own numbers gave the Tennessee ASD the lowest possible score for growth.

“In fact, Huffman forgot to mention the newest “technique” proposed to make ASD schools successful– allow them to recruit students from outside the school’s geographical home base. This is the only turnaround model that really has been successful across the nation– in order to turn a school around, you need to fill it with different students.”

Greene read Huffman’s op-Ed with advice to Pennsylvania

Huffman wrote:

“When I spoke with Pennsylvania state senators last week about school turnaround work, one senator asked me directly, “When you created the Achievement School District, were you worried that it was too risky?” I responded, “The greatest risk would be to do nothing.”

Greene comments:

“Pretending that any senator actually answered that question, the answer is still dumb. Your child is lying on the sidewalk, bleeding and broken after being struck by a car. A guy in a t-shirt runs up with an axe and makes like he’s about to try to lop off your child’s legs. “What the hell are you doing?” you holler, and t-shirt guy replies, “Well, the greatest risk would be to do nothing.”

“Doing Nothing is rarely as great a risk as Doing Something Stupid.

“Achievement School Districts are dumb ideas that offer no educational benefits and run contrary to the foundational principles of democracy in this country. They are literally taxation without representation. Huffman should move on along to his next gig and leave Pennsylvania alone.”

NEWS ADVISORY

IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin
May 26, 2015 312-329-6250

CTU to lead picket before Chicago Board of Education meeting calling for halt to charter school expansion

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has organized a picket line before the Chicago Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, May 27, to highlight the hypocrisy of the district’s insistence on expanding charter operations throughout the city while claiming a $1 billion budget deficit. The financial “crisis” for Chicago Public Schools is the result of the district’s own fiscal irresponsibility—hundreds of millions of dollars mired in scandal, swap deals and failed, privatized outsourcing. By allowing the unchecked growth of charter schools, including some into closed neighborhood school buildings, CPS continues its plan to weaken communities by creating a culture of chaos that the district will use to justify cutting school budgets, closing schools and laying off thousands of CPS educators and education support staff.

Four Points of CPS Charter Hypocrisy

· Lying to the Illinois General Assembly that there would be no charter schools placed into any school building that was part of the mass school closings in 2013. CPS is “selling” the Peabody Elementary School building—closed in 2013—and putting Rowe Charter into that building.

· Expanding charter operations—a Noble Street charter school moving into the Uptown neighborhood; Rowe moving into the Peabody building; a Perspectives charter school moving to 85th & Lafayette—as the district claims a massive budget deficit

· Ignoring community opposition to place a Noble Street charter school into a community that has voiced outrage over the proposal. “They told my mom what she wanted to hear to get me and my brother to go there, but she realized after a few years of struggle, that the school doesn’t live up to its promise,” said a former Noble Street student who is now attending a neighborhood high school in Uptown. Another student added: “Noble schools don’t work with kids to do better—they just kick them out to their neighborhood schools.”

· Rewarding an ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Howard Brookins with the lucrative placement of a Perspectives charter school into the Rev. Charles Jenkins’ Legacy Project development, with no disclosure of how the project is being financed.

WHO:

CTU teachers, community partners and allies

WHAT:

Picket line before the Chicago Board of Education meeting

WHEN:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015, at 6:30 a.m.

WHERE:

Chicago Board of Education
42 W. Madison St.
Chicago

A radical privatization proposal has been inserted into the Wisconsin state budget and approved by the budget-writing committee. The plan initially applies to Milwaukee (where the public schools outperform voucher schools and get similar test scores to charter schools), but it could be extended to Madison, Racine and other “large, racially diverse” school districts. Under the plan, a commissioner would be appointed and have the power to fire all staff, both teachers and administrators, and hand the school off to a private operator to run as a charter or voucher school. In other words, public assets, schools paid for by the community, will be given away to private operators.

Under the plan, an independent commissioner appointed by the county executive would take control of three of the lowest-performing schools in the district after the 2015 school year. Everyone who works at the school would be fired and forced to reapply for their jobs. The commissioner could also convert the schools into private — but non-religious — voucher schools or turn over operation to an independent charter school.

For the first two years, up to three schools could be chosen. After that, five more a year could be added.

Republican supporters of the plan said they wanted something dramatic to turn around chronically failing schools in Milwaukee. The most recent school report card ranked 55 schools within the district as “fails to meet expectations,” the lowest of five rankings.

Some Democratic legislators were outraged:

But Democrats said the plan does nothing to address the root causes of problems in Milwaukee schools, including high poverty, and they argued the Legislature should not interfere in running the city’s schools.

Democratic Sen. Lena Taylor, the only lawmaker from Milwaukee on the Joint Finance Committee, blasted the proposal as part of a history of diverting resources from public schools in Wisconsin’s largest city.

“For years, individuals who sit on this committee and in this building have known that they have been raping the children of MPS,” Taylor said.

The comparison drew a sharp rebuke from Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, one of the plan’s authors.

“I just find that sick,” he said. “That’s actually sick.”

Taylor refused to back down.

“I get it. The word ‘rape’ sounds offensive,” she said. “But when you consider the fact that 15 out of 100 kids can read on grade level while $89 million have been skimmed from the education of kids, and that you don’t invest it in even the crisis areas, who are you fooling?”

Oh, those wild and crazy legislators in North Carolina! What will they dream up next to promote privatization?

 

Here is the latest:

 

As Rob Schofield reports in “Progressive Pulse”:

 

“A lot of people are justifiably outraged at the House budget provision that gives $1 million (and delegates public duties) to the conservative school privatization lobby group, Parents for Educational Freedom of North Carolina (PEFNC). As Rep. Rick Glazier — who tried to amend the budget to shift the money to fund teacher assistants — said yesterday (as reported by Raleigh’s News & Observer):

 

“This is the first time that I believe in the history of the legislature that we’ve done what this is asking. We’re giving $1 million of taxpayers’ money to an entity to then choose the charter schools to fund. … It is not our job to take away public funds and give them to a private entity to make public decisions.”

 

– See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2015/05/22/nc-house-gives-1-million-to-lobby-group-that-pays-e-d-more-than-governor-mccrory/#sthash.PkT2cAHO.dpuf

When the idea of charters was first floated in the late 1980s, advocates offered a simple promise: Give us autonomy, and we will be accountable.

That was then, this is now.

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association estimates that public schools lose $1.3 billion each year to the state’s 177 charters. It filed a “Right to Know” request seeking information about how charters spend public money on such matters as salaries, consultants, advertising, rentals, etc.

A charter spokesman said the PSBA request was “frivolous.” Thus far, not a single charter has responded to the request for financial data.

“We get hammered over spending, but think about charter schools – there’s little if any fiscal accountability,” said Lawrence Feinberg, a Haverford School District board member who heads the Keystone State Education Coalition, a grassroots public education advocacy group made up of school board members and administrators.

“Feinberg cited the state’s largest charter school, the Chester Community Charter School in Delaware County, which has a management contract with a firm headed by wealthy Montgomery County lawyer and political donor Vahan Gureghian.

“You go find out and tell me how much teachers get paid and how much Mr. Gureghian makes in profit,” said Feinberg. He also raised questions over how much charters spend on the ad campaigns that attract students away from traditional public schools.”

Read more at

http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20150523_School_board_group_seeks_charters__data.html#WT6XPfUmfspjz7KZ.99

Peter Greene writes that student protests in Newark have exposed the lie about corporate reform defending civil rights. Thousands of students in Newark, mostly African American, went into the streets to oppose the corporate reform policies of the superintendent Cami Anderson. She was given an assignment by Governor Chris Christie to privatize the public schools of Newark.

The students demand to be heard but no one will listen.

Greene writes:

“As always, the students’ actions were thoughtful, measured and positive. Their message was vocal and clear. Accountability for superintendent Cami Anderson (skewered in one sign as “$cami”). A return to local control. And end to charter takeover of schools that have no need of takeover.

“Imagine you are someone thinking, “I believe that equitable education is the civil rights issue of our era. I believe that students who are not wealthy and not white are not represented and their needs are not respected. I am concerned that without test results, these students will become invisible.”

“Could you possibly have stood in Newark and said, “Boy, I just wish there were some way to find out what black families and students want, or what they think about the direction of education in Newark….

“Reformsters repeatedly claim that they are most concerned about American students like the students of Newark. The students of Newark have given them a chance to put their money where their mouths are, and reformsters have stayed silent. Cami Anderson remains unwilling to so much as talk to the students of Newark, and no leading “reform” voice has stepped up to call her out.

“Newark is a clear and vivid demonstration that reformster talk about civil rights and the importance of hearing and responding to the voices of students and families– it’s all a lie. In walking out, the students of Newark have stood up, not just for their own community and schools, but for students and communities all across the country.”

In 2011, a former graduate student of mine ran an Internet search for the term “failing school.” It was almost never used until the mid-1990s. Then each year, it appeared with greater frequency. After the passage of No Child Left Behind, it become a cliche: Any school with low test scores was “a failing school.” The term “failing school” is especially useful to those who want to close them and turn their building over to charter operators, which may not accept the same students.

 

A reader writes:

 

 

The term “failing schools” is a weapon. I have worked in a public school in the south Bronx for almost 20 years. Our students come from poor, often stressed, families. Many are English Language Learners. Most are socially and academically “behind”. And I love seeing them every day. We LOOK like a failing school when you judge us through the prism of standardized testing, but when my kids win the Thurgood Marshall Junior Mock Trial Competition, or come back to tell me about their college experiences, or stare in wonder at the city in which they live but don’t really know while we take them on field trips, or beg me to continue reading To Kill a Mockingbird or Of Mice and Men instead of turning to test prep material, I KNOW we are not a failing school. Eva Moskowitz has chosen our building for her next conquest, and we’ve been told that no matter what we do, “it’s a done deal”. Need a laugh? The vote is scheduled to take place deep in Chinatown! How many of our parents do you think will be able to show up for that? My kids are not failures, no matter how many times they are told so by the VERY PEOPLE WHO RUN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM IN THIS CITY.

 
It’s humiliating and soul crushing to be a teacher in an inner city school. The people who should be getting accolades for working in such places are beaten down instead. I’ll go to work tomorrow and discuss the symbolism of the objects that Boo Radley leaves in the tree in To Kill a Mockingbird. My kids will ask great questions and make wonderful observations. Many of them will score poorly on the ELA exam in 2 weeks. They, and I, will be labeled failures. It’s so very, very sad.

One question that I have puzzled over again and again is why anyone who really cares about the quality of education would be a proponent of school choice, for example, vouchers for religious schools and charters run as a business. We have an abundance of evidence that these choices don’t usually produce better education. Children from low-performing schools are not being sent with public money to Exeter, Andover, Deerfield Academy, or Sidwell Friends. Instead, they are going to Backwoods Rural Evangelical Church or Mall Academy, which has few certified teachers, no curriculum, and teaches creationism; or they are going to Charter Schools, Inc., where profits matter more than education.

 

This article in Salon by Conor Lynch asserts that the GOP (and I would add, many Democrats who have been bamboozled as well) and corporate America (via ALEC) are complicit in the dumbing down of America. Some candidates, and he singles out Ted Cruz, willingly slander Harvard University (which he attended) as a haven for Communists (and I thought the days of McCarthyism were behind us) and ally themselves in opposition to the scientific evidence about climate change.

 

I have no beef with anyone’s religious beliefs as long as they leave me alone to practice my own religion (or not). But when religion and politics are intermixed, it is not a healthy blend.

 

Lynch writes:

 

Ted Cruz has already made it quite clear that, although he went to Harvard, he is as anti-intellectual as they come; embracing conspiracy theories and comparing the climate change consensus to the theological consensus of the geocentric model during the time of Galileo. Cruz has been adamantly opposed to the entire idea of climate change, and was recently named to be Chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. Aside from promoting the conspiracy theory that Harvard law is a communist organization, he has promoted other conspiracies that are outright loony, like saying that George Soros was leading a global movement to abolish the game of golf.

 

Marco Rubio is also hostile to anything contradicting his faith, including climate change, while the leading contender for Republican nomination, Scott Walker, has taken the fight directly to academia, calling for major cuts in public university funding in Wisconsin that would add up to about $300 million over two years. He also just fired 57employees from Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources this past Earth Day. Predictably, he doesn’t believe climate change is a big issue either, and possibly has the worst record on environment out of all of the candidates.

 

And so the Republican primaries will be full of the usual evangelical type preaching, damning abortion and calling their Democratic contenders “elitist” snobs, while brushing off those so-called “expert” climate scientists and their warnings. But you can only blame the politicians so much. When it comes down to it, this is simply what a big part of the population expects from their leaders — religious buffoons who embrace a paranoid style of politics; where experts and academics are looked down upon as disconnected and deceitful, and where faith in Jesus and the Bible is the ultimate guiding light. Where one is expected to go with their gut rather than their head, and where “professorial” is an insult. Anti-intellectualism is an American tradition, and these new contenders denying scientific facts and calling Harvard a communist institution are simply embracing a populace that individuals like Billy Sunday and Joseph McCarthy once embraced. The alliance of religion and big business has fully incorporated America’s unfortunate anti-intellectualist culture, which has resulted in millions of people voting against their interest because of their own ignorant hostility towards anything that could be deemed elitist. It is a cycle of ignorance and poverty, and it is exactly what the real elites, like billionaire oil men, aim for.

 

The American writer, Issac Asimov, once said, “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” Unfortunately, this thread has continued to this day, and individuals like Ted Cruz and Scott Walker are here to remind us that ignorance can be quite competitive with knowledge, as long as there’s money behind it.

 

Several governors have slashed spending on higher education–such as Douglas Ducey in Arizona, Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana. Why? Do they want to stop young Americans from learning about science and history? In some states, the expansion of charter schools is coupled with the abandonment of teacher credentials. The combination of vouchers to attend religious schools, lowered standards for entry to teaching, and budget cuts for higher education is ominous.

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