Archives for category: Charter Schools

Politico reports that Jeb Bush won’t back down on Common Core, choice–vouchers, charters, online charters–and the rest of corporate reform that offers huge opportunities for entrepreneurs. It was his conference, and he offered a line-up of star speakers, including Condoleeza Rice, a newly minted education expert who promotes charters and vouchers, and Amanda Ripley.

Rice apparently doesn’t know that vouchers have produced no academic gains in Milwaukee, Cleveland, or D.C.

“- Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio concluded the conference on Thursday night with a wide-ranging discussion about education reform. Rice said the public school system is in and of itself unequal, and defenders of the “status quo are on the defensive.” Critics of school choice like to say that it’s taking money away from public schools, she said. “Well, what can they do? They can get better,” she said to applause. Wealthier families are already sending their children to private school and disadvantaged families are trapped in failing schools, she said. “We need to give parents that wouldn’t otherwise have the means to send their children to a school system that works for them,” Rice said.

- The national summit continues today with a lineup of guests including OECD Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher, New Mexico state education chief Hanna Skandera, Louisiana Recovery School District Superintendent Patrick Dobard and author Amanda Ripley. The agenda: http://bit.ly/1zDYtjJ Watch live: http://bit.ly/1F4X74r”

Will Bush’s full-throated support of Common Core hurt him in Republican primaries? Will choice mean anything if every school has the same standards and the same tests?

Peter Greene explains why an all-charter district or state will never succeed. Charters, to the extent that they can get higher scores than public schools, do so by selecting the most desirable students, the ones who are least costly to educate. Charters that are open to all, as public schools are, get the same result. Many charters, even when they cherry pick students, nonetheless get low test scores, for various reasons, such as teacher churn, lack of experience among administrators and teachers, prioritizing profit over education, or incompetence

 

Greene looks at the issue of scalability and predicts that it will never happen and in fact has never happened. New Orleans, the closest thing to an all-charter district, is ranked 65th of 68 districts in Louisiana; most of the charters in the Recovery School District are rated by the state as D or F schools.

 

Greene cites the work of Jersey Jazzman, who has shown in numerous posts that the charters in New Jersey do not serve the same demographics as the public schools. It is not surprising that no charter chain has offered to take over an entire school district, because then they would have to educate all the students, including those with disabilities, English language learners, and kids who misbehave in class.

 

Charters have increased racial segregation, and most charters are more segregated than the district in which they are located. Segregation doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The media will cheer a charter with high scores even if it is 100% African American. The scores are all that matter. And the scores go up to the extent that the charter can choose its students and exclude the ones that don’t get high scores.

 

Greene writes:

 

Plenty of folks have always assumed that this was the end game: a private system for the best and the– well, if not brightest, at least the least poor and problematic– and an underfunded remnant of the public system to warehouse the students that the charter system didn’t want.

 

But those folks may have underestimated the greed, ambition and delusions of some charter backers. “Why stop at the icing,” operators say, “when we can have the whole cake?” And chartercrats like Arne Duncan, with dreams of scaleability dancing in their sugarplum heads, may really think that full-scale charter systems can work because A) they don’t understand that most charter “success” is illusory and B) they don’t know why.

 

It’s telling that while chartercrats are cheering on complete charter conversions for cities from York, PA to Memphis, TN, no charter chains have (as far as I know) expressed a desire to have a whole city to themselves. The preferred model is an urban broker like Tennessee’s ASD or the bureaucratic clusterfarfegnugen that is Philadelphia schools– charter operators can jostle for the juiciest slice of the steak and try to leave the gristle for some other poor sucker.

 

This is a terrific article by civil rights attorney Wendy Lecker about the madness of our nation’s obsession with standardized testing.

 

She writes:

 

Last year, President Barack Obama committed hundreds of millions of dollars to brain research, stressing the importance of discovering how people think, learn and remember. Given the priority President Obama places on the brain in scientific research, it is sadly ironic that his education policies ignore what science says is good for children’s brains.

It is well known that play is vital in the early grades. Through play, kindergarteners develop their executive function and deepen their understanding of language. These are the cornerstones of successful reading and learning later on.

At-risk children often arrive at school having heard fewer words than more advantaged children. This deficit puts at-risk children behind others in learning to read. Scientists at Northwestern have recently shown that music training in the early years helps the brain improve speech processing in at-risk children.

Scientists at the University of Illinois have demonstrated that physical activity, coupled with downtime, improves children’s cognitive functions.

Scientists have also shown that diversity makes people more innovative. Being exposed to different disciplines broadens a student’s perspective. More importantly, working with a people from different backgrounds increases creativity and critical thinking.

These proven paths to healthy brain development are blocked by Obama’s education policies, the most pernicious of which is the overemphasis on standardized tests.

Despite paying lip service to the perils of over-testing, our leaders have imposed educational policies ensuring that standardized tests dominate schooling. Though standardized tests are invalid to measure teacher performance, the Obama administration insists that students’ standardized test scores be part of teacher evaluation systems. Both under NCLB and the NCLB waivers, schools are rated by standardized test scores. Often, a high school diploma depends at least in part on these tests. When so much rides on a standardized test scores, tests will drive what is taught and learned.

Just last month, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan declared that yearly standardized testing is essential to monitor children’s progress. Setting aside the fact the new Common Core tests have not been proven to show what children learn, data shows that a child who passes a standardized test one year is overwhelmingly likely to pass the next year. Therefore, yearly standardized testing is unnecessary.

 

She adds:

 

The result? More than 10 years of high-stakes test-based education policy under NCLB and the waivers has narrowed curricula. Schools de-emphasize any subject other than language arts and math. In kindergarten, play has all but been eliminated in favor of direct instruction, and social studies, art, music, science, physical education and other subjects are disappearing. School districts at all grade levels are forced to reduce or eliminate these subjects to pay for implementation of the Common Core and its testing regime. Lansing Michigan last year eliminated art, music and physical education from elementary schools and the state of Ohio is considering the same. Recess has disappeared from many schools. The Obama administration promotes policies that increase school segregation yet have questionable educational value, like school choice. Consequently, school segregation continues to rise.

 

If we don’t end our obsession with picking the right bubble, marking the right box, we will ruin the education of a generation of children.

 

 

There was once an ideal in American education, which held that the community public school would be a place where children of every background would meet, learn together, and learn to live amicably. This ideal was supposed to promote a sense of American citizenship, a realization that regardless of our origins, we are all Americans.

 

That ideal, as we all know, was frequently violated. It was violated by racial segregation, which assigned black and white children to attend different schools. It was violated–and continues to be–by class segregation, in which the children of the affluent live in communities with elegant facilities while the children of the poor attend cinder-block schools lacking the playing fields, the small classes, the arts programs, the foreign language classes, the laboratories, and the beautiful libraries found in the schools of the outer ring of suburbs.

 

And yet the ideal is not dead. There are schools that are racially and economically diverse and that are much admired in their communities. It is important not to forget the ideal, the belief that the common school would bring us together, teach us about what we share as human beings, and teach us the duties and responsibilities of citizenship. The ideal teaches that we are all in the same boat and that we have mutual obligations to one another.

 

Now we live in a time of growing racial and class segregation. Charter schools are facilitating that segregation. Where the media would once look askance at a segregated black or white or Hispanic school, they are now more than willing to celebrate the “success” of segregated schools.

 

Sacramento now has a charter school designed for the children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

 

In their early years in Sacramento, members of the region’s fast-growing population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union clashed with public schools. Children had a hard time communicating with teachers, and parents, many of whom were evangelical Christians, expressed alarm over sex education, Halloween and laws forbidding religious instruction.

 

Today, these families have a public school of their own.

 

The Community Outreach Academy, an elementary school built inside the former McClellan Air Force Base, is open to all students, but its pupils come overwhelmingly from families that emigrated from the former Soviet Union. The children attend Russian language class twice a week. There’s a Russian library that serves parents as well as children. The principal, a Belarussian refugee, frequently appears on Russian radio.

 

School administrators say they don’t teach religion, and they follow state laws on sex education. But they’re cognizant of parents’ sensibilities. Halloween, for instance, is not promoted as a school celebration.

 

The school has high test scores.

 

Community Outreach is also one of California’s most segregated schools. About 98 percent of its 1,231 students are white. No other school in the state with more than 20 students had a higher percentage of white students in 2013, state data show. In a district with 4,800 black students and 12,000 Latino students, Community Outreach Academy enrolled three black students and six Latinos last year.

 

Futures High School, a Gateway school that also serves the area’s Slavic population, is 95 percent white, data show.

 

Charter schools are booming in California; more than 515,000 students attended them last year. And like the Outreach Academy, a growing number are drawing most of their students from a particular ethnic group.

 

During the 2008-09 school year, roughly 34,000 students attended California charter schools in which at least nine of every 10 students belonged to a single ethnic group, according to the state Department of Education. By 2013-14, that number had nearly doubled to 65,000.

 

Let us not forget that the public schools were supposed to make us one nation, not to provide a setting in which each ethnic, racial, and cultural group could self-segregate. That was the meaning of the Brown decision. It seems to have been forgotten.

 
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/education/article3654240.html#storylink=cpy

This essay was written by Horace Meister, a young untenured scholar who cannot use his own name for fear of retribution. Read it and judge it by the evidence.

 

This is what happens when policy is based on ideology, not evidence.

 

He writes:

 

The power and reach of the federal Department of Education (DOE) has grown dramatically since 2009. The DOE has used Race to the Top and the controversial granting of waivers from the legal mandates of No Child Left Behind to force states to implement very specific policies. These policies include increasing the number of charter schools, evaluating teachers through value-added measures, and implementing the Common Core Standards and associated assessments. The DOE has also attempted to improve the “lowest-achieving schools” by closing them, turning them over to private operators, or firing the principal and/or the staff.

 

Unfortunately, not a single one of these policies has any supporting evidence. As a sector charter schools do not have better student outcomes than public schools.[i] Value-added metrics are unreliable measures of teacher quality.[ii] The adoption of standards has no effect on student learning.[iii] The “lowest-achieving schools” are statistically schools that work with a more challenging student body, not schools with failing teachers and principals.[iv]

 

It is bewildering to see an entire department of the federal government taken over by what can only be described as mass hysteria. With no evidence backing their policies, we are left with ideology and the power of special interests as explanations for what is happening. This refusal to use evidence in evaluating educational policies is apparent in the work of Arne Duncan’s chief speechwriter, David Whitman. In 2008 he wrote a book, Sweating the Small Stuff: Inner-City Schools and the New Paternalism.[v] The book profiles six “no excuses” schools and argues that they show the way to a radically improved education system in the United States. But let’s see if the evidence actually supports this claim.

 

The first school profiled in the book is the American Indian Charter School in Oakland, California. Whitman forgot to mention that “half the 6th grade students performing poorly in 2007 had left the school before graduation, and only 39 of the 51 students who started in 2006 completed their middle school years with AIPCS[vi].” He also forgot to mention that “Chavis [the principal] routinely abused his students verbally, humiliating them in front of their classmates, to force them [to] score higher on tests or quit the school altogether… At minimum, Chavis’ schools appear to be nothing more than a rigged system in which mostly high-scoring students apply to get in, are accepted, and then continue to score well on tests.[vii]” Another story noted that “there’s evidence to suggest that the school’s high scores aren’t the result of an unusually high caliber of teaching or organization, but rather the educational equivalent of bringing in ringers… the school appears to be asking parents to submit test scores as part of their student’s applications.[viii]” Strangely enough Whitman claimed on page 80 of his book that the school was “hardly an example of selective recruiting or creaming from the top of the local academic ” It appears that he didn’t dig deep enough.

 

Moving on to the second school profiled in the book– Amistad Academy, an Achievement First school in New Haven, Connecticut. Here is what’s really going on at Amistad “Data show that for nearly one of them [i.e. graduating seniors] who walked across the stage Wednesday, another was “lost” along the way. Students “lost” to Amistad include one senior who withdrew in March to attend adult education…Of the 64 students who entered Amistad High in 2009 as freshmen, plus two who joined the group after freshman year, 25 are graduating this year and heading to college; seven were retained and plan to graduate high school next year; and 34 withdrew from the school.[ix]” Whitman notes (on pages 119-120) that every Achievement First school “is expected to keep student attrition to less than 5 percent a year.” He somehow forgot to mention that Amistad fails to meet this expectation.

 

Another aspect of the Amistad “model” is captured by this parent comment “the middle school is a stressful, mentally abusive, black children being degraded mess! I have never seen a kid get so many DEDUCTIONS, OSS, ISS in my life. If you are so much about kids getting their education, why are you so quick to kick them out of class and/or suspended them?[x]

 

 

The third school profiled is Cristo Ray Jesuit High School in Chicago, Illinois—a school that requires all students to work one full weekday a week to pay off tuition costs. An interview with G.R. Kearney who wrote More Than a Dream: The Cristo Rey Story: How One School’s Vision Is Changing the World noted that “Almost half of the student who enroll in Cristo Rey fail to graduate from Cristo Rey.” To which the Kearney added “Cristo Rey has a fairly rigorous application process, though there is no entrance exam. The school goes to great pains to ensure that the students selected to attend are capable of graduating and attending college. In theory, those students who would be true negative influences are screened out in the application process.[xi]” The interviewer also mentioned that the descriptions of disciplinary issues at the two schools dramatically differ between the two books “Whitman seemed to describe it as a place where discipline problems almost magically ceased to exist while Kearney provides a slightly different picture.” This raises some questions about whether or not Whitman’s descriptions of the schools he profiles mirror reality.

 

We are halfway through the list of schools that Arne Duncan’s chief speechwriter believes should serve as the model for transforming the entire American education system. So far we haven’t seen anything at all compelling. What comes next? The forth school profiled is KIPP Academy in Bronx, New York. Much space in Whitman’s chapter is devoted to describing the orchestra in which every student participates. When describing the school’s academic outcomes Whitman acknowledges (pages 176-78) that KIPP Academy serves students with higher incoming academic performance than the district average, many fewer English Language Learners (who score poorly on standardized exams), and many more female students (who in aggregate do better on standardized exams than male students). He nonetheless insists (page 175) that “the usual demographic suspects fail to explain the superior performance of KIPP students.” It is clear that Whitman has not done his research and neglects to mention lots of relevant data. “On their math tests in the fourth grade (the year before they arrived at KIPP), KIPP students in the Bronx scored well above the average for the district, and on their fourth-grade reading tests they often scored above the average for the entire city.[xii]” “KIPP Academy had one of the highest suspension rates among New York City charter schools.[xiii] Despite Whitman’s claim that “like their peers at comparison schools, KIPP students are likely to live in poverty (page 175)” the data actually show that KIPP schools in New York City have dramatically fewer free lunch students than local public schools.[xiv] KIPP schools in New York City serve many fewer high need special education students.[xv] And KIPP Academy has a 20% cohort attrition rate in middle school.[xvi]

 

Ironically, KIPP schools in New York City have done rather poorly on the policies that Whitman writes speeches for Duncan defending. Reporting on the Common Core test results Politico noted “the highly touted KIPP network also stumbled, with proficiency rates well below the city average for several grades and subjects.[xvii]” KIPP teachers also receive lower value-add scores than teachers at comparable schools.[xviii]

 

The fifth school profiled by Whitman is SEED, a boarding school in Washington D.C. The sky-high attrition rates at this school make it anything but a model for nationwide reforms. One analysis noted that of students who began 7th grade at SEED “most of their cohort was gone by the time graduation rolled around.[xix]” The SEED high school alone has attrition rates of over 50%, although Whitman only acknowledges attrition as an issue in the middle school.[xx] The New York Times describes “The incoming class of 70 students slowly dissipated each year so that by senior year, the remaining students barely filled a gym bleacher. The high attrition made the school’s much-lauded college acceptance rate less impressive: If a class of 70 seventh graders fell to 20 students by the time of graduation, those remaining 20 students were arguably among the best — at least in terms of self-discipline and a willingness to stick it out — of the original class.[xxi]

 

We now come to the final school model, University Park Campus School, in Worcester, Massachusetts. This is the only public school profiled by Whitman and it has a number of interesting characteristics. Unlike the other schools in the book, which focus on lecture-centered pedagogy, University Park Campus School’s focus is on group work. This is more aligned to the teaching style used in schools that serve America’s middle and upper class students than the militaristic methods focused on obedience all too common in “no excuses” schools serving America’s lower class students.

 

Whitman mentions some demographic differences, such as more students coming from “intact families” than the district average. He forgets to mention a lot of others– including half the number of African-American students and three times the number of Asian students as the district average.[xxii] He also forgets to mention that the school serves half as many English Language Learners and half as many special education students as the district average.[xxiii] Whitman claims (page 244) that “its attrition rate is effectively zero” but the data show that the attrition rate is actually 8% a year and five times higher among African-American and Hispanic students than White and Asian students.[xxiv] English Language Learners attrite at a rate 4% higher than the student average.

 

Whitman’s claim (on pages 243-44) that “unlike the two other high schools profiled… University Park has succeeded not only in eliminating the college attendance gap but the achievement test gap as well” is demonstrably false. According to the data the school has a 15% AP exam pass rate, well below the national average.[xxv]

 

So where does this all leave us? It is no fun to debunk the work that schools, principals, and teachers across America are doing. Each and every one of the schools discussed here has dedicated leaders and teachers doing amazing work with students every single day. In the current political climate claims about the performance of some schools are used by our Secretary of Education to bludgeon and demean the rest.[xxvi] That is not OK and the misrepresentations must be addressed. Hopefully, there will be a shift in policies at the federal level to reflect evidence and data.

 

We all want great teachers for every student. So let’s provide the training and on-the-job professional development that teaches teachers how to be great teachers.[xxvii]

 

We all want teachers to be held accountable for doing a great job with students. So let’s increase the use of peer-to-peer observation, feedback, intervention, and dismissal when appropriate.[xxviii]

 

We all want great schools for our students, especially students living in poor neighborhoods. So let’s build community schools that provide wraparound services for students.[xxix] And yes, let’s acknowledge that without addressing underlying issues of poverty, racism, and social inequality in neighborhoods and homes we will never close the achievement gap.

 

We all want our children to have rich and engaging curricula. So let’s ensure that our school districts are providing their schools with such curricula that teachers can modify and adapt for their students.[xxx]

 

We all want to know how are students are doing in school. So let’s let teachers create assessments that make sense for their classes and students. As has been done throughout history teachers will share the assessments and student progress in a transparent fashion with students and parents. A high-quality standardized exam given to a sample of students every other year will suffice to serve as a standardized measuring stick to norm across schools.

 

We all want to know the truth and create an education system that works for all students. So let’s stop perpetuating myths and falsehoods for ideological reasons.[xxxi]

 

 

[i] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/09/24/the-bottom-line-on-charter-school-studies/

[ii] https://www.amstat.org/policy/pdfs/ASA_VAM_Statement.pdf

[iii] http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/pb-options-2-commcore-final.pdf

[iv] http://shankerblog.org/?p=8664

[v] A pdf of the book can be found here http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED502972.pdf

[vi] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Indian_Public_Charter_School

[vii] http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2012/06/18/its-time-to-close-the-american-indian-public-charter-schools

[viii] http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/are-american-indian-public-charter-schools-test-scores-inflated/Content?oid=3233632

[ix] http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/amistad_signing_ceremony/

[x] http://www.greatschools.org/connecticut/new-haven/1440-Amistad-Academy/reviews/ typos have been corrected.

[xi] http://www.edpolicythoughts.com/2009_09_01_archive.html

[xii] http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/26/magazine/26tough.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all&oref=slogin

[xiii] http://school-stories.org/2012/05/pushed-out-charter-schools-contribute-to-the-citys-growing-suspension-rates/

[xiv] http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/zip-it-charters-and-economic-status-by-zip-code-in-ny-and-nj/

[xv] https://dianeravitch.net/2012/12/20/inflated-claims-of-charter-success-in-nyc/

[xvi] http://miracleschools.wikispaces.com/KIPP+Academy+New+York

[xvii] http://www.politico.com/story/2013/08/new-york-fails-common-core-tests-95304_Page2.html

[xviii] http://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/what-do-the-available-data-tell-us-about-nyc-charter-school-teachers-their-jobs/

[xix] http://shankerblog.org/?p=1078

[xx] http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/2011/07/charter-school-attrition-exposes-bs-of.html

[xxi] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/magazine/27Boarding-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

[xxii] http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/student.aspx?orgcode=03480285&orgtypecode=6&leftNavId=300&

[xxiii] http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/profiles/student.aspx?orgcode=03480285&orgtypecode=6&leftNavId=305&

[xxiv] http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/attrition/default.aspx?orgcode=03480285&fycode=2014&orgtypecode=6&

[xxv] http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/massachusetts/districts/worcester-public-schools/university-pk-campus-school-9570/test-scores

[xxvi] http://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/arne-debunkin/

[xxvii] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/magazine/why-do-americans-stink-at-math.html

[xxviii] http://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/spring-2014/one-piece-whole

[xxix] http://www.communityschools.org/assets/1/Page/CCSFullReport.pdf

[xxx] http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2009/10/14-curriculum-whitehurst

[xxxi] http://www.amazon.com/Myths-Threaten-Americas-Public-Schools/dp/0807755249

My friend Deborah Meier tells me she loves this school in Long Beach, California. It is a charter school that fulfills the original vision of what charters were supposed to be: innovative, risk-taking, open to all kinds of kids. That’s what this school is and does, but its test scores are low. The Long Beach school board wants to close it; they should not.

To the members of the Long Beach school board: Save the Néw City School. Let innovation thrive. Let this functioning community live.

This is the letter that Deb Meier forwarded to me:

Dear Dr. Ravitch:

Several hundred low-income kids in Long Beach, CA need your immediate help. Their teachers and parents are desperate.

I have been following your work over many years, in particular the series of letters between you and Debbie Meier – she is a friend of mine whom I met through the North Dakota Study Group. It is for this reason that I dare to write a request, will the full knowledge that I might come off as a bit crazy.

15 years ago, I co-founded the New City School in the center of our city. Long before most had heard of charter schools, we rescued an abandoned hospital building [and later a warehouse] and turned them into learning oases in a blighted community that had long been without a small, loving neighborhood school. Consistent with the original intent of charter school legislation, our school would innovate in a district that has a single-minded focus on Broad-funded test-prep. Our school is fully bilingual – Spanish speakers learn English AND English speaking students of many backgrounds learn to read and write in Spanish too. We feature lots of art, great literature with read-alouds every day in every grade, 2 huge libraries, and music instruction for all students, grades TK-8. Members of our community built the area’s biggest playground AND a 1/3-acre working organic farm, growing fresh fruits and vegetables with our students and their families.

Scholars, including Deborah Meier, Stephen Krashen, and Constance Kamii have visited and worked with our teachers to help them be the best they can be. Students share their accomplishments via quarterly public exhibitions in two languages. We are a neighborhood school that does not prequalify students for enrollment. Parents love the school and would do anything to help it survive.

The problem is that The Long Beach Unified School District cannot stand us because we don’t get high test scores and we won’t stop our teaching and learning practices in order to simply prepare students for exams day in and day out. For years, the LBUSD has threatened our school with closure for refusing to comply with their dystopian view of education as standardized test preparation. Two years ago they nearly closed us down, but we closed our high school and combined our 2 small elementary campuses into one, and kept moving forward. In addition to ideological blindness, LBUSD seems hell-bent on reclaiming the meager per pupil allocation our school manages to live on. We have no corporate sponsors or celebrities hosting galas on our behalf, just working-class parents and highly professional constructivist teachers sacrificing to save a school they love.

As you might imagine, the constant threat of closure distracts us from our mission of educating young people.

This Tuesday, November 18th, the LBUSD is holding ANOTHER hearing to discuss whether or not to renew our charter or close our school. When this happened a few years ago, the school district police ended up dragging parents out of the meeting and turned off their cameras! One parent was hospitalized in the melee.

You have an enormous platform to generate assistance for us. Would you please consider writing a letter of support? I would appreciate it so immensely if you could ask your colleagues and readers to do one of the following:

Send a message of solidarity and support for The New City School – a small community-centered, authentic public school – to the Long Beach Unified School District Board [Diana Craighead, President] and Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser. Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education – 1515 Hughes Way, Long Beach, CA 90810…send letters to info@newcityps.org

Visit the New City Public Schools (Long Beach) Facebook page or the New City Farm Facebook page and leave an encouraging message there – we will collect and send them as well – say why it matters to stand up to relentless testing and “accountability” that discounts parents’ involvement in teaching and learning, as well as their children’s development and interest!

For any support or encouragement you could offer to us, I will be forever in your debt.

Sincerely,

Stephanie nicole Lee
Public school educator since 1990

EduShyster interviews Sarah Lahm, who has been doing investigative reporting about reform monkey business in Minneapolis. She followed the money and asked questions about why some of our narion’s most beloved billionaires were dropping a load of money into a Minneapolis school board race. Out of the goodness of their hearts, to be sure.

EduShyster makes an interesting point: these monied reformers don’t believe in throwing money at schools but they do believe in throwing money at school board races!

One of the questions that we all wonder about is why billionaires are so determined to squash public education. When they see charter school frauds and scandals, does it give them pause? Will they get bored? We can’t let them continue on their path of disruption. If you didn’t win the last election, start organizing now for the next one. Frauds are frauds, and the public will catch on.

The reformers can’t keep railing against the status quo when they ARE the status quo.

This post was distributed by Bill Phillis of the Ohio Equity and Adequacy Coalition.

He writes:

The charter school industry does not exist to “fix” public schools; its ultimate goal is to privatize public education

Public common schools have been and still are the crown jewels of America, in the majority of communities across the country. But a cabal of greedy and ideologically driven people believes that anything done by public agencies and institutions undermines capitalism. These people are putting their desires for money and power above the common good.

Dr. Thomas M. Stephens Professor Emeritus, College of Education and Human Ecology, Ohio State University and Interpersonal Psychological Coach provides the following perspective.

Political operatives who favor Charter Schools have stacked the deck in three critical ways.

First, they hyped the failures of public schools by misrepresenting why public schools are unable to fully meet the educational needs of all their students. They are accomplishing this trick by attributing students’ learning problems primarily to the quality of teaching, while ignoring how family culture and children’s poverty affect teaching and learning. In doing so they fabricate the role that poverty plays as the major factor in student achievement.

This simplification, that teaching is the main reason for students’ school success, has also been widely claimed by teachers and their professional organizations, despite years of research evidence to the contrary. Thus the corollary of that falsehood has become a convenient hammer for enemies of public schools: mediocre teaching is the main reason for students’ failures.

Secondly, they create narrow and flawed metrics and standards that determine what constitutes successful schools. They further game this system by politically changing the metrics and standards so that ultimately fewer and fewer public schools will meet these phony standards. These requirements force public schools to waste precious resources in time and money to meet these figments of what constitutes “successful schools”. This clever deception is designed to phase out public schools like a block of ice that slowly melts away.

Third, they hype results of these “failures” to entice public school parents to get “free quality education” by enrolling their children in charter schools. They use paid advertisements with funds that have been transferred from public school tax receipts for this purpose. All of these machinations are facilitated by “bought” legislators who are indebted to the charter school industry.

These “stolen” public funds are also used to underpay instructional staffs while overpaying the for-profit administrators and their corporate sponsors. Excessive leasing and rental fees are also paid with public money to the same entities that own or are related to the charter schools. All of these actions are the result of elected officials who have sworn to uphold Ohio’s constitution!

Politicians are aided in this chicanery by several federal and state court decisions that have made theft of public school funding legal. These decisions allow corporations to use funds they received from public schools to support political campaigns and travel, lodging and sumptuous meals for politicians whose votes they are buying. All of this is provided with money that had been legally authorized for public education!

Those well-intentioned individuals and organizations who naively believe a public school/charter school collaboration can work for the benefit of our youth and their communities by tweaking current policies and regulations misunderstand the problem we face: the charter school industry does not exist to “fix” public schools; its ultimate goal is to privatize public education.

The single best way to stop this systematic destruction is for public school advocates and their organizations to unite under one umbrella. This coalition must include parent groups as well. Then put both political parties and their minions on notice. Expose their real intentions and help the electorate remove them from office.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215

Andre Agassi was a great tennis star. Although he never finished high school, he decided to open a charter school in Las Vegas. He talked it up as a model for education in America, he predicted that all its graduates would go to four-year colleges, and he downplayed the results, which didn’t live up to the hype. Like the revolving door of principals and teachers, and a host of other problems, such as a cheating scandal and the coach of the cheerleading squad who was charged with prostitution.

But in this society, you can count on journalists to swallow hype and ignore investigation. (For more about Agassi’s charter in Las Vegas, see “Reign of Error,” pp. 170-171.)

So now Agassi is an “education capitalist,” sponsoring charter schools in many cities despite the troubling experiences of his showcase charter.

Agassi has teamed up with a hedge fund, partners who know as little about education as he does:

“But some parents don’t buy the sales pitch.

“It kind of makes my stomach turn,” says Brett Bymaster, a parent in San Jose where the Agassi-Turner fund has been active.

“He’s taken it upon himself to dig into their business model, though one can only dig so far. While they’re building public charter schools, there’s very little disclosure, including what they charge tenants.

“We need to partner with people outside, but I don’t think the solutions to problems in my community are one-percenters getting filthy rich,” he says.

“Bymaster wonders what happens to one of these buildings if the charter has to shut down, and many do. So far, all 39 schools built by the fund are still up and running. A spokesman says if one closed, the building could be rented to another charter operator.

Even among charter school advocates, there is some quiet suspicion of partnering with hedge funds. First, there’s cost. One charter founder said a deal with Agassi was 25 percent above any other option.”

Peter Greene noticed that the CEO of Green Dot Charters, Marco Petruzzi, has started a new blog. This provided Greene with the opportunity to take a look at Green Dot and its leadership. First, he pulled up a three-year-old article about the munificent salaries paid to Green Dot executives. But, really, this can’t be surprising since Petruzzi was formerly a partner at Bain Consulting (Mitt Romney’s old firm), and he didn’t go into education to get a lowly teacher’s salary. After Greene read Petruzzi’s first post, he concluded that he inhabits an alternate universe from real public schools.

 

“Say hello to Marc Petruzzi, CEO of Green Dot Public Schools. Today he made his first blog entry at Green Dot’s Website of Bloggy Goodness.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Green Dot charter chain, I can tell you that it’s one more fine example of the modern charter movement, depending on student skimming, political connections, and the pushing aside of public schools, as well as demonstrating the ways in which a non-profit can be used to generate profits. Petruzzi himself came to the charter world from a partnership at Bain, and makes sure that he himself is well paid for his great-hearted work for the poor. If you want a long, hard look at Green Dot from an insider, try this piece which notes both their liberal use of TFA staffing and their spectacularly bad teacher retention issues. Read here for a discussion of their “issues” with students with special needs.

 

So the fact that he bills himself as the CEO of a “public” school lets us know right off the bat that we have entered some sort of alternate universe. I must be sure to let my superintendent know that she is missing out by not calling herself “CEO” and setting her own ginormous salary.

 

Petruzzi, contemplating his entry into blogland, decides that he will tackle some Big Questions. So let’s see how these Big Questions are answered in Petruzzi’s alternate universe….

 

Can’t we all just get along. Petruzzi thinks we should stop saying that union members only care about their jobs and reformsters only want to make a buck. It is not clear whether he is trying to argue that both those things are true.

 

Aren’t we all “reformers” to some degree? Don’t we all want to improve the system for the benefit of students? Can’t the continuing debate about methodology be one of honesty and mutual respect?

 

These are good questions. Unfortunately, in this universe it certainly appears that the answer to the second question is, “no.” When you’re using political connections to smash public schools and doing your best to turn teaching inside your own schools into a low-paying low-skills temp job, it’s hard to feel the waves of love and respect.

 

I agree that an atmosphere of mutual respect is a good thing, and there are reformsters I actually respect even as I believe they’re wrong about almost anything. But too many reformsters have displayed an attitude of zero respect for teachers from the first moment they showed up on the scene, shouldering aside teachers with accusations that public schools sucked and teachers were the problem. And Green Dot’s record of love and respect for public education and the teachers who woirk there is not great. So pardon me for being standoffish until I have reason not to be.

 

The Challenges of Reform

 

Oh, boy. In the Petruzziverse, reform “has unleashed a wave of innovations that have jolted the current system and forced it to confront some hard truths.” Um, name one. Charters were billed as laboratories of educational innovation, like a scholastic space program. But as yet, we cannot point to a single solitary development, not so much as a jar of Tang, that made the rest of the education world sit up and say, “Wow! Slice us off a piece of that.” Nothing.

 

There have also been, apparently, “talented and passionate individuals,” and I think it’s just as well he didn’t name names. Petruzzi admits that some ideas didn’t pan out (in his universe “some” and “all” are apparently synonyms). And here’s a fun quote: “Some talented individuals have failed to make the announced progress with students.” I bet back at Bain, when corporate bosses of companies they were invested in “failed to make the announced progress,” that was an occasion for laughter and parties.

 

It is a cinch that Peter Greene will not continue to patronize this alternate universe.

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 116,289 other followers