Archives for category: Closing schools

In a surprise result, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel failed to receive 50% plus one of the vote and was forced into a runoff with Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

Emanuel will go down in history as the mayor who closed 50 public schools in a single day, most enrolling children of color. This action is without precedent in U.S. history.

“With 95.7% of precincts reporting, Emanuel had 45.3% of the vote and Garcia had 33.9%.

“Emanuel, who raised more than his four rivals combined, buried his challengers in $7 million in campaign advertising in his unsuccessful attempt to avoid the runoff.

“He even turned to President Obama, who Emanuel served as White House chief of staff from 2009 to 2010, as his chief surrogate….

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Rahm Emanuel faces runoff in re-election bid

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks to the press after leaving a restaurant where more
CHICAGO — Rahm Emanuel was dealt a tough political blow on Tuesday, after he was forced into a runoff election to hold onto his seat as mayor of the Windy City.

Emanuel, who raised about $15 million for the campaign, finished first in the five candidate field, but fell far short of garnering the 50% plus one vote he needed to win outright and avoid a runoff election. He will now face the second place finisher, Cook County Commissioner, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, on April 7.
With 95.7% of precincts reporting, Emanuel had 45.3% of the vote and Garcia had 33.9%.
“We came a long way, and we have a little bit further to go,” Emanuel said.
Chicago ceased holding partisan primaries in 1995, when it switched to the current election format. It marks the first time that the city will hold a runoff mayoral election.
Emanuel, who raised more than his four rivals combined, buried his challengers in $7 million in campaign advertising in his unsuccessful attempt to avoid the runoff.
.
He even turned to President Obama, who Emanuel served as White House chief of staff from 2009 to 2010, as his chief surrogate….

“Emanuel’s latest television advertisement featured a clip of Obama wrapping Emanuel in a hug at the Pullman event and a sound bite of the president touting the mayor as “making sure that every Chicagoan in every neighborhood gets the fair shot at success that they deserve.”

“But the president’s influence wasn’t able to help Emanuel close the deal.
“We need to upgrade our communities by building more and better schools,” said Tracy McGrady, a college student and part-time construction worker. “Instead, Rahm is closing them.”

“In Chicago’s Bronzville neighborhood, a predominantly African-American neighborhood, Emanuel supporters appeared to be a rare breed.”

This statement was released on Mike Klonsky’s Blog.

Chicago Area Researchers Slam Rahm’s Failed Ed Policies

From Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE)

February 20, 2015

Contacts:
Isabel Nunez, CReATE Coordinator, (312) 421-7819
Mike Klonsky, (312) 420-1335
Brian Schultz, (773) 442-5327
David Stovall, (312) 413-5014

LOCAL EDUCATION RESEARCHERS SLAM MAYOR EMANUEL’S FAILED POLICIES

On the eve of the Chicago mayoral election, Chicagoland Researchers and Advocates for Transformative Education (CReATE), a network of 150 education researchers from universities in the Chicago area, is releasing Chicago School Reform: Myths, Realities, and New Visions (2015).

In response to Mayor Emanuel’s claims of major success for his education policy initiatives, CReATE calls into question major parts of Chicago school reform under Mayor Emanuel’s leadership. CReATE reviews how reforms of the past four years and earlier have impacted Chicago children, families and school communities.

In response to recent policy initiatives, CReATE proposes a series of research supported alternatives to mayoral appointed school boards, school closings, the ever-expanding chartering and privatizing of public schools, as well as the curriculum and teacher evaluation designs and increased high stakes testing being imposed by Common Core State Standards and the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top policies.

The position statement also includes contact information for university-based education researchers who can provide more detailed commentary on specific areas of education policy.

CReATE’s Statement on Chicago School Reform: Myths, Realities, and New Visions is available online at http://www.createchicago.org/

Michael Klonsky here gives us an update on the Chicago mayoral election, which is a week away.

 

Will Rahm get away with his unprecedented closure of 50 public schools to make way for privately managed charter schools?

 

Klonsky quotes an astute observation by Stephanie Simon of Politico.com:

 

If Rahm can get re-elected after fighting the teachers’ union, after closing 50 schools in mostly black communities, by expanding privately managed charter schools, by attacking tenure, and tying teachers’ evaluations to test scores, it will embolden other Democratic mayors to act like Republicans. (Last point was mine, not hers!)

Kiersten Marek writes in Inside Philanthropy that the Gates Foundation seems to be ramping up its interest in the connection between housing and education. The foundation has made a few small investments in this interaction, and it appears to have realized that homelessness and housing instability has a negative impact on educational achievement. One straw in the wind: “The new CEO of the foundation, Susan Desmond-Hellman, recently wrote on the Impatient Optimists blog that a “stable place to call home” is one of the “few things that every child needs to lead a healthy, productive life.” (Along with good schools and a strong community.)…”

 

While the Gates Foundation has long noted the obvious linkages between housing, family stability, and student achievement, it hasn’t done much grantmaking to specifically address that nexus. But that’s changing, and [Gates’ program officer Kollin] Min says the foundation is advancing “partnerships between housing authorities and school districts, to look at the connection between housing stability and educational outcomes.”

 

Min cited McCarver Elementary School in Tacoma, which was recently profiled by the Urban Institute, as an example of the kind of collaboration that the Gates Foundation has created. By enrolling in the McCarver special program, kids and families commit to staying with the same school and receive rental assistance as well as other forms of support. The idea, of course, is that less moving around will allow kids to improve academically—and not only the kids who would otherwise be shuttling around, but also their classmates, who studies show are negatively affected by the disruption of students coming and going.

 

Min says the foundation has seen “positive results” from the partnership between the Tacoma School District and the Tacoma Housing Authority. But he also says this work is still early in the game. “We are just kind of taking baby steps with thinking about these issues.” On the other hand, as Min describes it, all this is hardly rocket science: “We’ve come to the firm point of view that for many children challenged by housing and mobility issues, it really is important to try to bring systems together, and that’s really the only way that we can improve outcomes.”

 

Perhaps the Gates Foundation could become a strong voice taking a stand against school closings, which are needlessly disruptive in the lives of children, families, and communities. The recognition that children are negatively affected by disruption is an important insight. We can hope that these are lessons learned that will change future practice.

 

 

 

 

Gary Rubinstein—high school
math teacher, author, blogger, reformer of TFA–has been writing letters to reformers he knows–and sometimes getting a reply. Now he is writing letters to reformers he doesn’t know and inevitably he must write to Bill Gates.

Gary is civil, polite, and candid. He patiently explains to Bill that the “reforms” he has underwritten have failed. He likens the malfunctions of “reform” to buggy software. He writes as one computer programmer to another.

“Creating a bug-free software package is not something that happens by accident. You don’t just hire a bunch of programmers and have them, unsupervised, write five million lines of spaghetti code, then without even testing it, hit ‘compile’ and ship it out to customers. No. You start with a sound plan and stable architecture. The specifications must be clear and easy to test to see if they are met. Throughout the development lifecycle, components of the product are created and tested. When these components are assembled, there is another round of robust testing to make sure that the components interface with each other properly. Good software design would include a team of experts that will surely, from time to time, disagree about the best way to make the program work. This sort of disagreement is useful since if everybody on the team always agrees, there will be an issue when one person is wrong about something, therefore everyone is wrong about something. What good is a team of ‘Yes Men’? A productive team includes people who disagree. Excluding people who are known computer experts because they are skeptical of the direction the team is taking is not going to result in a robust program. Only after the program passes all the quality review tests and the program is declared to be reasonably bug free can the product be deployed to the customers….

“I spent several years as a debugger in Colorado working on the one-time giant of desktop publishing Quark XPress. I’m hoping that my abilities as a veteran teacher and also as a one time professional debugger will make you willing to listen to me when I say this current version of education reform is in need of some serious debugging. Whatever the original specifications were, maybe to raise test scores in this country?, it isn’t accomplishing that. What it is accomplishing, unfortunately, is making education worse.

“I know that it has already been deployed. But just as buggy computer software can now be updated easily by downloading patches, the ed reform bulldozer you’ve created can also be fixed — but only if you’re willing to accept that it is currently not functional. Modern ed reform is the Windows ME of education. But just as you pretty quickly replaced Windows ME with Windows XP which everyone liked, you can do the same with education reform, I’m certain. Debugging ed reform is not easy. Since it was never properly designed with a plan to ensure quality, you’ve got yourself a bug riddled mess. It was not developed modularly so it is difficult to track down where the most critical bugs are even occurring.”

Gary walks Bill through the flawed assumptions of the “reforms” he has subsidized. They aren’t working.

Gary notes that in 2013 Bill sang the praises of a Colorado school that had adopted the Gates’ approach to teacher evaluation. Gary shows that this very school was experiencing declining test scores and was actually lagging the state.

Gary gives Bill candid advice:

“I do believe that you want your money to go to a good cause. This is admirable. The problem is that most of your money is going to people I’d describe as education hucksters. I’m going to be as blunt as only someone who is not on the payroll can be. In the education game you are what’s known as a ‘fat-cat,’ a ‘mark,’ a sucker.

“You are like the Emperor who was swindled into purchasing non-existent clothes. But that Emperor was brought back to reality when a blunt child said what everyone else what thinking. In ed reform it is blunt experienced teachers who are willing to say the obvious.”

Gary speaks respectfully to Bill but bluntly. I hope Bill reads Gary’s letter. Gary is trying to help him by straight talk.

Peter Greene has done an amazing investigative review of the Boston Consulting Group. What is BCG? Why do reformers in so many cities hire this management consulting firm? What is its connection to the Gates Foundation and Arne Duncan?

Greene writes:

“Word went out today that immediately after Arkansas decided to make Little Rock Schools non-public, the Walton family called a “focus group” meeting “in conjunction with the Boston Consulting Group. This is worse than finding the slender man in the back of your family portrait. For a public school system, this is finding the grim reaper at your front door. And he’s not selling cookies.”

Greene reveals BCG’s business strategies, which are totally inappropriate for education but beloved by reformers.

“Bottom line? Say a little prayer for the formerly public schools of Little Rock, because BCG is in town and they’re sharpening their axe.”

Mike Klonsky reports on a study of Rahm Emanuel’s unprecedented closing of 50 schools in one fell swoop.

Did the children end up in better schools or not?

Rahm’s school superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett says yes. She says:

“…the report “demonstrates that we kept our promises and upheld our commitments to our students and school communities… These results are based on the strategic, thoughtful, coordinated approach we took to managing the transition process.”

But:

“”I think the main takeaway for us, or for me at least, is nearly all the displaced students attended schools that were higher performing than the closed ones. But those schools were not substantially better than the ones that closed,” said Marisa de la Torre, one of the study’s authors.

“The things that keep coming back again and again are these issues of safety and transportation and not enough good options near where the families live.”

Mike asks:

“Are we looking at the same study?”

New Hampshire teacher Shawna Coppola wonders how to define a good school. She explains why the school she teaches in is an excellent school that defies all the current reforms and educates all children to meet their needs, not to raise their scores. The school may be closed because of the cost of renovations; besides, it does not have the cachet of the districts with high scores. This crazy notion that beloved community public schools should be closed is recent in our history, dating only to No Child Left Behind. That now discredited law decreed that schools must be subject to a cascade of sanctions, including closure, if their test scores don’t move towards 100% proficiency in grades 3-8. Never before in our history were public schools closed except for shrinking enrollments or consolidation of facilities—but not for test scores. Many states have adopted A-F grading systems, but those are overly simplistic and they rely too much on standardized test scores. How should we judge a school?

 

Here are Shawna’s thoughts on what makes a good school:

 

Recently a news item came out on our local NH station, WMUR, which listed the top 50 elementary schools in the state of NH. Previous to this, Newsweek had published their 2014 list of America’s Top High Schools. Both times, the district in which I live made the list. Our local high school was listed as the one of the best high schools in America, while our two elementary schools ranked near the top in the state of NH, respectively. You can find Newsweek’s list here (http://www.newsweek.com/high-schools/americas-top-schools-2014) and WMUR’s list here:http://www.wmur.com/news/30456516.

 

Over ten years ago, my husband and I moved to this highly-rated district so that our children could attend the schools here, which we had heard wonderful things about. By most accounts, the schools in the district are “excellent” schools. What people tend to mean by this is that the students in our district perform well on state-wide standardized assessments and on AP exams, graduate from the high school, and tend to matriculate at college immediately following graduation.

 

This used to impress me–at least, it did when I was still a wide-eyed classroom teacher only a few years out of college. With each passing year, however, it impresses me less and less.

 

The reason for this is because over the years, and through my experience as an educator, I have come to understand what it really means to be a school of excellence versus a school that is merely good at playing the game (or is lucky enough to be situated in an involved, highly literate, financially stable community). I do not believe ours is a bad or a poor district–far from it–but is it excellent? Does it deserve its place at the “top?” The short answer for me, as a parent to two students in the district, is…well, no. (I would be happy to elaborate further if you are interested.)

 

Alternatively, I believe that the school I work in now, Rollinsford Grade School, is one of the most excellent schools in which I have ever worked–even ever set foot in. If I were not here, working as a literacy specialist in grades K-6, I likely would not be working anywhere (in public school, that is). We have a long way to go, and can always improve, of course, but in all essence, Rollinsford is my dream school. At Rollinsford, we truly attend to the whole child. The social, emotional, and physical development of our students is just as important, if not more important, as their academic growth. We have worked hard to incorporate a sense of authentic inquiry into everything we–and our students– do. Our students have a voice, and their voice is heard and acted upon. We believe that there are a myriad number of ways that students can–and do–succeed. Each member of the faculty and staff identifies as a learner herself. Each of us goes above and beyond what is expected.

 

And yet, Rollinsford Grade School placed 130th out of 243 NH schools–in the bottom half. When I dug into the methodology used to complete these rankings, I wasn’t surprised to learn that it was highly flawed (you can find my somewhat detailed analysis here: http://mysocalledliteracylife.com/2015/01/04/unique-insight-into-schools-um-no/). Flawed not because of the science used, but because of the factors that were analyzed. Not one factor that went into ranking NH’s elementary schools included the factors that I, and most of my fellow educators, value– classroom pedagogy, school culture, student voice and choice, community outreach, etc. Sure, the rankings included analysis of surveys that were sent out to students, parents, and alumni of each school, but a district only needed 11 completed surveys per district to have its results counted toward the ratings. I’m sure it’s no surprise that the most affluent districts in the state, and the ones most likely to have more highly educated parents, fewer transient families, and less poverty (including the one in which I live), came out on top.

 

And now, with our enrollment decreasing each year and the need for minimal renovations that would bring a 78 year-old building up to code, Rollinsford Grade School is in the position of potentially being shut down, our students shipped off to a mediocre school district in the next town over. My colleagues and I–and many of our parents, whose children thrive here–are heartbroken. Not because we could potentially lose our jobs, but because one of the best schools with some of the most thoughtful, knowledgeable, progressive-minded educators may, someday soon, no longer exist. Because we have worked so hard to honor all of our students, not just those who fit the mold of the “typical” student. Because the children of this community will no longer have an alternative to the traditional, testing-focused, CCSS-centric types of schooling they will get in most other schools.

 

What I often write about–and what I think there needs to be a lot more conversation about, not only within the wider community, but within the world–is what truly makes a school “good” (or even “excellent”). (And is this the same everywhere?) Not for the sake of ranking schools, which is not something I believe does anyone any good, but for the sake of identifying those factors that make a school one in which both teachers and students are happy, safe, and engaged in the joy and the challenge of learning. So that schools that are not excellent can aspire to something–can make positive change toward excellence.

 

I think that in today’s educational culture, it is more important than ever to talk about what truly makes a good school vs. one that is only good at “playing” school. I would love to hear your ideas for how to make this happen.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

 

Best,

Shawna Coppola

Literacy Specialist, Rollinsford Grade School

Rollinsford, NH 03869

Recognizing that Race to the Top may be defunded in the next budget, Peter Greene explains the program’s original purposes, priorities, and policies.

 

Greene calls it a “giant turkey” with its neck on the chopping block and warns that it is too soon to celebrate. It might be saved at the last minute.

 

After surveying its many parts, he concludes:

 

“Yes, when lost in the haze of debate and discussion, sometimes it’s best to go back to the basics. Here it is– exactly what the feds wanted. Good paperwork. A teacher rank and rate system based on student test scores that would drive everything from training. More charters. More school takeovers.

“While the document says that RttT ‘will reward states that have demonstrated success in raising student achievement,’ that’s not really what it rewards. It rewards states for remaking their education systems along the lines demanded by the feds. And though the document promised that the best models would spread their reform ideas across the country, five years later, there are no signs of any such spreading infection. But then, there are no signs that any of these federal ideas about fixing schools has actually improved education for any students in this country.

“If Congress actually manages to shut this mess down, there will be no cause for tears.”

Be sure to read the first comment about the turmoil unleashed by Arne Duncan, and the effect of chaos on students.

This story in the New York Times tells a lot about what happened in New York City during the Bloomberg years (Mayor Bloomberg was elected in 2001, won full control of the school system from the Legislature in 2002, and put his plans into effect in September 2003). Although the city had a term-limits law of two terms, Bloomberg persuaded the NYC City Council to allow him (and themselves) to stay in office for a third term. So, Bloomberg ran the public schools from 2002-2013, when he left office. The signal strategy of his years in office was closing low-performing schools–many of them large comprehensive high schools–and replacing them with small high schools or charter schools, sometimes with three, four, or five schools in the same building, each with its own principal and administrative staff. The small high schools were allowed to exclude students with disabilities and English-language-learners for a set number of years, and of course, they had better results than the big high schools. The big high schools meanwhile became dumping grounds for the students unwanted by the new small schools or the charters.

 

The linked article notes that the Bloomberg administration closed 157 schools–most of them large high schools–and opened 656 schools, including charter schools.

 

The irony of the article is that it features Santiago Taveras, who was the man charged with closing schools. In public hearings, he appeared stonily impassive as students, parents, and teachers pleaded for the life of their school. Taveras is now in charge of DeWitt Clinton, one of the few remaining comprehensive high schools, and he is leading the effort to turnaround the school. His is one of 94 schools selected by the de Blasio administration for extra resources and services, because de Blasio wants to help schools instead of closing them. Taveras led the effort to close schools, now he is part of De Blasio’s effort to rescue them. Flexibility is a good thing.

 

I personally believe that de Blasio is on the right track in trying to give schools the help they need to survive. As the article points out, many of the comprehensive high schools were doomed because they took in the low-performing students that the new high schools excluded. Some of those that were closed–like storied Jamaica High School–had extensive programs for college-bound students, for English-language learners, and for many other students with different interests and needs. But Jamaica High School died, despite the loyalty and efforts of its staff.

 

 

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