Archives for category: Charter Schools

A report by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice finds that charter schools in Boston suspend students at much higher rates than public schools.

“Of the 10 school systems in Massachusetts with the highest out-of-school suspension rates, all but one were charter schools and nearly all of them were in Boston, according to the report, which examined the rates for the 2012-2013 school year. The report was released by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, a nonpartisan legal organization in Boston.”

“Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston was by far the most apt to suspend, subjecting nearly 60 percent of its students to out-of-school suspensions during the 2012-2013 school year. City on a Hill Charter School in Boston came in second with a rate of 41percent; followed by the now-closed Spirit of Knowledge Charter School in Worcester with 27 percent, and UP Academy Boston with 26 percent.”

The charter schools said their suspensions kept their schools safe and orderly.

“The report found that 72 percent of the time charter and traditional schools were punishing students with suspensions for nonviolent, noncriminal, or non-drug-related incidents. Those acts can include violating dress codes, being tardy frequently, or cursing.

“The report also raised concerns about disparities in disciplining students of different demographics. Disabled students were more likely to be disciplined than non-disabled peers, while black and Latino students were at least three times more likely to be disciplined than white and Asian peers.

“About 5 percent of the state’s schools accounted for half of the disciplinary actions in the 2012-2013 school year.”

Edward Johnson, a follower of the collaborative philosophy of W. Edwards Deming, has been an outspoken critic of the top-down, authoritarian methods that ruled the schools of Atlanta under former Superintendent Beverly Hall, whose demands for higher scores produced a massive cheating scandal.

 

Now he is equally critical of the school board’s decision to transition to a charter-like system. Johnson said:

 

“This is Beverly Hall 2.0,” long-time education advocate Ed Johnson told APN, referring to the former Superintendent associated with the APS CRCT cheating scandal.”

 

Johnson was especially critical of the new superintendent, Meria Carstarphen, for promoting charter schools; she was superintendent in Austin before she came to Atlanta. And he expressed regret for encouraging his followers to vote for Cynthia Briscoe Brown, who supported the charter proposal.

 

“My voting and encouraging others to vote to put Cynthia Briscoe Brown on the Atlanta school board has turned out to be a great mistake. So I offer my apology to all I had encouraged to vote for her,” Johnson wrote in an email sent to APS Board Members and stakeholders.
“I had hoped, actually believed, Cynthia would bring a greater measure of intellectual, moral, and ethical maturity to the board than would especially the four Teach for America youngsters on the board. Never was there the thought that Cynthia would go along with the stupidity of turning APS into a Charter System or go along with any effort to undermine APS as a public institution, as a public good,” Johnson wrote.
“APS as a Charter System will do nothing but keep the district stuck in a Beverly Hall kind of status quo, but with a difference. Beverly Hall obviously held scant empathy for the adults in APS. Now, even at this early stage, we see a new superintendent who is pushing that lack of empathy down upon the children, and implicitly blaming the children for the superintendency’s failure to learn to improve the district,” Johnson wrote.
“Now it has become inarguably clear that all the rigmarole APS put into deciding to turn APS into a Charter System amounts to nothing more than Cynthia Briscoe Brown and fellow board members (save perhaps Steven Lee) and the superintendent showing they bring nothing beyond the capacity to maintain the status quo, the real status quo, under a different name. The rigmarole has been a colossal waste of time and money that could have gone into engaging all stakeholders in learning how to improve the current state of APS. But that would have required leadership,” Johnson said in his email.

 

Probably the board is not aware that the New Orleans district is rated #65 of 68 districts in Louisiana.

The Fulton County school board in Georgia voted to end its connection with the last two Gulen charter schools in the state.

 

The Gulen schools, one of the largest chains in the country, are associated with a reclusive Turkish imam who lives in Poconos but leads a major political movement in Turkey. Most or all of its board members are Turkish men.

 

The school board based its decision to not renew “on the serious and recurring concerns regarding governance and transparency that have been documented through various audits and reviews,” the school system said in a press release.

 

The school board’s decision was consistent with the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia’s decision in August 2014 to deny authorization of both schools’ continued operation.

 

“Non-renewal of a charter school is one of the most difficult decisions a school district must make and it’s one that we take seriously and with much care,” said Superintendent Robert Avossa. “After years of opportunities to improve, it has become clear that the governance boards of these schools are either unable or unwilling to be sufficiently transparent in their governance practices to justify their continued funding by taxpayers.”

 

As part of the charter review process, district staff conducts a rigorous cross-functional review of all proposed charter petitions.

 

The published report cited poor governance in both schools that has resulted in the default on a $19 million bond, a self-perpetuating board membership structure that has been dominated by individuals who did not represent the community, a general lack of transparency and associations with individual and organizations now under Federal investigation.

Gary Rubinstein posted a review of Joel Klein’s book by someone who worked in Klein’s Department of Education central offices for many years.

 

I have not read Joel Klein’s book. I have had calls from two reporters asking if what he said about me was true. I asked, what did he say? They said: He claimed that I had turned against “education reform” (e.g., charters, merit pay, school closings, and high-stakes testing) because he refused to give a job to my partner or promote her or fund her program. I answered that I never asked Joel Klein to give a job to my partner; I never asked him to promote her or to fund her program.

 

When Klein arrived in 2002, she was executive director in charge of principal training at the New York City Board of Education. Just about the time Klein started as Chancellor, her program won a competitive federal grant of $3 million as one of the best principal training programs in the nation. My partner had been a teacher for many years, the chairman of social studies at Edward R. Murrow High School, one of the best in the city, and the founder and principal of a small public high school in Manhattan, affiliated with Ted Sizer’s Coalition of Essential Schools and Deborah Meier’s network of small schools.. Chancellor Harold Levy asked her to create a program to help hundreds of new principals. Her program was built around the concepts of collaboration, mutual respect, and mentorship; she recruited some of the city’s best, most experienced principals to exchange regular visits with new principals, and she started a summer institute where the mentor principals taught the new principals whatever they wanted and needed to know. The members of her corps of principal-leaders were called the Distinguished Faculty, and principals were honored to be invited to join the Distinguished Faculty.

 

When Klein arrived, he had a deputy tell Mary he was disbanding her program, appropriating the $3 million federal grant her program had just won, and turning it over to his new Leadership Academy. He selected a businessman from Colorado with no experience in education to direct the Leadership Academy. My partner stayed on at the Leadership Academy for a year; she retired in 2003. It seemed that Klein wanted very few experienced educators in decision-making roles. He preferred young MBAs, businessmen, and management consultants to guide him. He did not respect teachers, principals, or others who had made a career in the school system.

 

Was his treatment of Mary responsible for my change of mind about “education reform”? He flatters himself. I remained on the boards of two conservative think tanks until 2009 (the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Koret Task Force at the Hoover Institution). But at the same time, what I observed in New York City affected my views: the heavy emphasis on testing as the measure of all things; the favoritism showed to charter operators; the explosion of no-bid contracts; the contempt expressed towards parents who wanted to save their schools or wanted class size reduction; the gaming of the system by opening small high schools that were allowed to exclude students with disabilities and English language learners, then boasting about their success; the closing of large high schools that Klein turned into dumping grounds for the students excluded from the small schools; the school report cards based mainly on test scores; the endless reorganizations of the entire system; the exodus of highly-respected principals.

 

Yes, Joel Klein did influence my views, but not because of what he did or did not do to my partner. That is his pettiness and vaingloriousness speaking. He made me realize over a period of years that the business model was wrong for education; that experienced educators had more wisdom than his cadre of management consultants, Sir Michael Barber, McKinsey, and 20-something graduates of business schools; that data-driven decision-making can drive the heart and spirit out of education; and that testing is not a tool for equity but a guarantor of inequity when used to rate schools and students and teachers.

 

I had very little contact with Klein while he was chancellor for eight years. I think we met twice. Our meetings were cordial. I never wrote anything personal or petty about him. He did not reciprocate. I don’t recall the precise year, but about 2005, an emissary from the DOE came to my home to warn me that if I did not stop writing critical articles, I would be “outed.” In 2007, I noticed on several occasions a young man from the DOE press office sitting in the audience and taping my lectures. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was gathering material for a dossier called “Diane Ravitch, Then and Now,” which showed that my views had changed on issues like merit pay. According to a story by Elizabeth Green in the Néw York Sun, the DOE was unable to find a newspaper interested in writing about this revelation. Eventually, a piece appeared in the Néw York Post under the byline of the head of the Néw York City Business Partnership (our version of the Chamber of Commerce), accusing me of being an untrustworthy hypocrite. I promptly responded that I had indeed changed my views after seeing how poorly they worked in reality. By the fall of 2007, I no longer believed that NCLB would achieve its goals; that fall, I wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times called “Get Congress Out of the Classroom.”A month later, I attended a scholarly conference about NCLB in D.C. at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. It was my assignment to summarize a dozen reports from across the nation, all of which said that neither choice nor testing was making a difference. It was already evident to me that NCLB was a failure, and their reports confirmed my awakening. From conversations within those conservative think tanks, I knew that charters were no panacea, and many were failing schools. My change of mind was gradual, not sudden; it was evidence-based, not a fit of pique. Klein’s dictatorial and insensitive style had something to do with it, but not for the reasons he cites.

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

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