Archives for category: Closing schools

The NYC public is tired of Mayor Bloomberg’s policies of testing, school closings, and privatization. But for 12 years he has had the constant support of the city’s three major newspapers.

The editorialists have supported and cheered him at every turn.

But WOW, today the Néw York Times has an editorial today that agrees that the critics have a point. Will wonders never cease?!

The other papers regularly insist that any dissent from the mayor’s policies–no matter how ruinous to students they may be–comes from the teachers union or from paid shills for the union. The tabloids are quite certain that parents don’t have brains or ideas of their own.

The irony is that the tabloids continue to lambaste the quality of the schools despite the fact that Mayor Bloomberg has had total control of them for 11 years. If children don’t pass tests, the mayor is accountable. How do citizens hold our billionaire mayor accountable? As he once memorably said, you can always boo him at parades.

Here is an excerpt from the Times’ startling editorial:

“But after 12 years, this mayor’s ideas are due for a counterargument. The critiques the candidates are offering hardly shock the conscience, and their complaints about the Bloomberg administration can be heard from teachers and parents in any school in the city.

“The school system has indeed gone overboard in relying on standardized testing. Tests need to be a means to the end of better instruction, not the pedagogical obsession they have become. Yes, Mr. Bloomberg has shown disdain for consultation, as in his rush to close underperforming schools without the full and meaningful involvement of affected communities.

“The system needs to strengthen neighborhoods’ connection to schools and reconnect with parents who feel shut out. And while charter schools can be a path to excellence, they can also cause problems. Shoehorning them into existing school buildings over local objections can alienate parents and reinforce among students a harmful sense of being separate and unequal.”

Clayton Christiansen loves disruption.

He loves the idea that almost everything familiar to us will die and be replaced by competition.

Many corporate reformers swear by him. They think disruption is creative.

I wish they would get out of our lives and make money selling something other than disruption.

WBEZ, the NPR station in Chicago has been doing outstanding investigative reporting on the Chicago Public Schools. The reporters, Becky Vevea and Linda Lutton, dig for facts and do their own analysis instead of reporting the press releases from CPS.

In this story, they do a fact-check on the city’s plan to close dozens of public schools.

The facts and the claims don’t coincide.

Wouldn’t it be great if every city had investigative journalists like them?

The school district of Buena Vista, Michigan, is out of money. The schools are closed for the year. The district will offer “skills camp” to students.

The state of Michigan, which has a responsibility to provide a free public education to all children, has abandoned the students and their schools. The town and the schools are predominantly poor nd black. The town once thrived but started to die when the automobile industry collapsed. Nw those left behind have been betrayed by Governor Snyder.

The Congressman who represents Buena Vista is upset:

“The students of Buena Vista have a constitutional right to an education and deserve the same educational opportunities as other Michigan children, and that means being in a classroom full-time to complete their school year,” said Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democratic congressman who represents Buena Vista, on Monday. “I do not believe that a voluntary camp amounts to a proper education for the children of Buena Vista.”

Crazy Crawfish here writes a brilliant post about The Great Accountability Scam.

He is writing about Louisiana and the Recovery School District, but what he describes applies with equal force to every “reform” scheme in every state and even to Race to the Top.

What he explains is the destructive and failed theory of action that is the very heart of the corporate reform movement.

It goes like this: use test scores to fire teachers, fire principals, close schools, and shatter communities. Create a swath of destruction that falls hardest on poor children, their families and communities. Cover your tracks by declaring success where none exists.

His prime example in this case is Louisiana’s Recovery School District. It has been recognized in the media as a national model, but it is a failed experiment that has benefited its promoters, not students.

RSD is a prime exemplar of the Great Accountability Scam.

Here are his concluding thoughts (but open and read it all):

“What if all these resources we spent taking over school districts, firing teachers, and displacing children were used instead to improve the schools in which they already reside – dozens of these schools now lay shuttered and vacant statewide while the children are bussed to campuses clear across their communities. This is done to disguise how poorly we’ve served these children while we hope taking their temperature over and over and telling them to “get better” will finally work. What if instead of just testing children and holding them “accountable” we held ourselves accountable as a society and worked to improve their plight? All this testing and test prep is not helping our students catch up, and it may actually be bringing everyone else down as well. In Louisiana to disguise this fact John White has changed the “grading scale” and intends to change it yet again next year and every year we continue to employ him. John White will guarantee the scores go up, for what they’re worth, but our students will eventually tire of teachers just taking their temperatures when they show up for school, and who could blame them?

“Kill the RSD, and hand the schools back over to their communities where they belong. The RSD experiment we’ve forced on our children has failed, and miserably so. Instead of spending all that excess funding on bringing in out of state charters and temporary teachers, train the teachers we have, provide funding for universal pre-kindergarten, afterschool programs, restore music and the arts and provide tutors and recruit mentors from the community for children. There are thousands of people just waiting to help, if the state will back off and return to a support role instead of the tyrant it has become under Paul Pastorek and John White. Teachers are trying, but they can’t tackle this task alone.

“I suppose it comes down to whether you want a solution or simply someone to blame. Bobby Jindal just wants a talking point for his futile presidential aspirations; John White wants to help out-of-state vendors, so they can hook him up for a lifetime of perks and positions once he leaves Louisiana. If you are a citizen of this state, if you care about the students, the children, the teachers, your fellow citizens, our way of life and our future, then you need to kick these guys out and take back our schools. Kill the RSD and rescue our teachers and students before it’s too late.

“It’s about time we held our failing leaders responsible. RSD has been in place for almost 7 years and has mostly all new students, and every year it is vying for worst district in the state with two to three times the resources. In my book that deserves an F- and the creators of it should be held accountable.

Buena Vista schools in Michigan shut down abruptly in the face of a fiscal crisis, even though the teachers in the district offered to work for free.

There is no indication that Governor Rick Snyder will do anything to help the district.

In most states, the state government is responsible to be sure that all children have access to public education. Apparently not in Michigan.

Students are worried that they won’t graduate, won’t have a degree. What will happen to them?

The mostly black, mostly poor district was stranded when the auto industry folded.

A fourth-grade teacher asked a plaintive question:

“It’s truly unbelievable that we cannot educate our children,” she said. “So many people have fought and died in this country for the right for all children to go to school together. We’ve gone backwards in time.”

This just in from the Chicago Teachers Union, which is fighting to preserve public education in that city. The mass closure of 54 public schools is unprecedented in American history.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin

May 9, 2013 312/329-6250

StephanieGadlin@ctulocal1.com

Thousands prepare for a three-day march against school closings as Chicago’s mayor continues his assault on working-class people under the guise of education reform

CHICAGO – As the city braces itself for the largest assault on public education in the country, thousands of parents, students, teachers, clergy, citizens and community leaders are preparing for a “long march” against school closings on May 18, 19 and 20. Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis said the non-violent demonstration is necessary because “we have a mayor who refuses to listen to reason, research and logic,” in his campaign to destroy 54 school communities which will impact about 50,000 children.

The 30-plus mile march is themed, “Our City. Our Schools. Our Voice,” and will include simultaneous routes from the West and South sides of the city. Protestors intend to walk each day past many of the 54 school communities slated for closure and their efforts will culminate in a mass demonstration downtown. It is sponsored by the CTU, the Grassroots Education Movement, SEIU Local 1, Unite Here Local 1 and Chicago PEACE, an interdenominational coalition of clergy leaders from across the city. Donations are pouring in from across the country.

“Despite the testimony of thousands of parents, teachers and people who work and live in the school communities impacted, Rahm Emanuel is dedicated to entering the history books as having destroyed the most public schools in one year than anyone,” Lewis said. “He refuses to listen to independent hearing officers, law enforcement officials, educators, researchers, parents and the students themselves. We have no choice but to use the power of organizing and direct action to engage in what will be a long fight to restore sanity to our school district.”

The march kicks off at 10:00 a.m. on May 18 on the South Side at Jesse Owens Elementary School, 12450 S. State St., and on the near West Side at Jean de Lafayette Elementary School, 2714 W. Augusta Blvd.

“School closings hurt children academically and the mayor’s plan will also put thousands of students’ safety at risk and many public school employees may lose their jobs,” Lewis said. “We must do whatever is necessary to stop this assault on the working class and the poor. Instead of just getting angry we must organize. Tell Emanuel, the Board, the school CEO and their corporate sponsors that this is our city, these are our schools and we will use our voice to fight for justice.”

Independent hearing officers reviewed the Chicago Public Schools’ list of 54 slated closings and have recommended removing 14 from the list saying those schools don’t meet the state standards and are in violation of the law. The mayor’s hand-picked Chicago Board of Education will vote on the issue on Wednesday, May 22. Shortly thereafter, a massive voter registration drive will commence throughout the city.

###

This is an astonishing story.

In 2002, Arne Duncan began his infamous policy of shutting down schools in Chicago with low test scores.

Among the schools he closed was Dodge.

Dodge parents were outraged that their school was handed over to a private turnaround operator, but Duncan assured them it was for the best.

Fast forward to 2008, when President-elect Obama announced that he had picked Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education.

The event was held at Dodge Renaissance Academy, which the President praised as a “perfect example” of a turnaround school, an exemplar of Duncan’s great success.

Sadly, Chicago Public Schools is now closing Dodge Renaissance Academy as a failing school, along with Williams, another of Duncan’s “turnaround” schools.

What do you think this does to the children, the parents, and the community?

When is it okay to say that it is better to help struggling schools than to close them?

You think it can’t happen here?

You think your state is immune?

Read about the war on public education in Texas and think again.

Some part of this radical agenda is being promoted in almost every state.

Yours too.

This comment was written by Bonnie Lesley of “Texas Kids Can’t Wait”:

“I worry a lot whether public schools will continue to exist in some states. Our organization, Texas Kids Cant Wait, has felt overwhelmed at times this legislative session about the sheer number of privatization bills, all either sponsored by Sen. Dan Patrick or by someone close to him. We have been battling a big charter (what is in reality the gateway drug to privatization) expansion bill, a parent-trigger bill, opportunity scholarships, taxpayer savings grants, achievement district, “FamiliesFirstSchools”, home-rule districts, vouchers for kids with disabilities, online course expansion, numerous bills to close public schools and turn them over to private charter companies, and on and on. A friend said it is as if they threw a whole bowl full of spaghetti at the wall, believing something would stick.

Every one of the ALEC bills we have seen introduced in other states has been introduced in Texas this year.

The privatizers have also held hostage the very popular bills such as HB 5 to reduce testing significantly unless their privatization bills advanced, and advance they have. So lots of folks are playing poker with kids’s lives and futures.

What keeps many of us fighting 20 hours a day and digging into our own pockets to fund the work is our understanding that these bills are not the end game. We’ve read the web sites, beginning with Milton Freidman’s epistle on the Cato Institute’s website, that lay out the insidious plan we are seeing played out. We have also read Naomi Klein’s brilliant book, Shock Doctrine.

First, impose ridiculous standards and assessments on every school.

Second, create cut points on the assessments to guarantee high rates of failure. (I was in the room when it was done in the State of Delaware, protesting all the way, but losing).

Third, implement draconian accountability systems designed to close as many schools as possible. Then W took the plan national with NCLB.

Fourth, use the accountability system to undermine the credibility and trust that almost everyone gave to public schools. increase the difficulty of reaching goals annually.

Fifth, de-professionalize educators with alternative certification, merit pay, evaluations tied to test scores, scripted curriculum, attacks on professional organizations, phony research that tries to make the case that credentials and experience don’t matter, etc.

Sixth, start privatization with public funded charters with a promise that they will be laboratories of innovation. Many of us fell for that falsehood. Apply pressure each legislative session to implement more and more of them. Then Arne Duncan did so on steroids.

Seventh, use Madison Avenue messaging to name bills to further trick people into acceptance, if not support, of every conceivable voucher scheme. The big push now as states implement Freidman austerity budgets to create a crisis is to portray vouchers as a cheaper way to “save” schools. The bills that would force local boards to sell off publicly owned facilities for $1 each is also part of the overall scheme not only to destroy our schools, but also to make it fiscally impossible for us to recover them if we ever again elect a sane government. Too, districts had to make cuts in their budgets in precisely the areas that research says matter most: quality teachers, preschool, small classes, interventions for struggling students, and rigorous expectations and curriculum. See our report: http://www.equitycenter.org. Click on book, Money STILL Matters in bottom right corner.

Eighth, totally destroy public education with so-called universal vouchers. They have literally already published the handbook. You can find it numerous places on the web.

Ninth, start eliminating the vouchers and charters, little by little.

And, tenth, totally eliminate the costs of education from local, state, and national budgets, thereby providing another huge transfer of wealth through huge tax cuts to the already-billionaire class.

And then only the wealthy will have schools for their kids.

Aw, you may say. They can’t do that! My response is that yes, they most certainly will unless you and I stop it!”

The teacher who wrote this post reequired anonymity, for obvious reasons:

I am writing to tell you about a situation at my school — Shea High in Pawtucket, RI.

At the start of last year, both Shea and Tolman High (the only two non-charter public high schools in Pawtucket) were told that they had failed to make AYP as per NCLB and would have to undergo transformation. Note that since RI has accepted RttT, last year was the last possible year that this could have happened.

Despite high poverty, transience, ESL population, etc. the only AYP target that Shea had failed to meet was for graduation rate. It had remained stagnant at about 59% for three years, just barely failing to meet the target of 60%.

When the announcement was made last year that we were to undergo transformation, we were told that this would involve at the very least the removal of our principal (a fantastic, very bright, and driven man who had been principal for about ten years and whose leadership was one of the greatest reasons we had managed to make AYP in every other required category). As we had only failed to make AYP by a fraction of a percent, and we knew that a high transience rate contributed greatly to our low graduation rate, teachers and other stakeholders scrambled to locate students who had simply disappeared over the years.

At this point I should interject that under NCLB, RIDE [Rhode Island Department of Education] had been given some leeway in determining how many years a school had to make AYP before transformation was necessary. The decision to limit the number of years to three had been made AFTER our three year stagnation streak had begun. Think of that what you will.

I was one of those teachers scrambling to locate lost students in the hope of finding some who had actually graduated but had been labelled dropouts because the school system had lost track of them. Every student counted as we were only off by a fraction of a percent. I was able to find one, a boy from Ethiopia whose sister had taken an ESL class of mine. The family had moved from Rhode Island to North Dakota and he had graduated from high school there.

In the end, we were able to prove that our graduation rate had actually risen above 60% for one of the three years of stagnation. Unfortunately, RIDE refused to accept this new data, claiming that it was “too late” to take it into consideration (my first thought was to wonder if it would also have been considered “too late” to consider new data if we had been caught cheating, but I digress). Transformation would go ahead as planned. Our principal, Dr. Christopher Lord — an excellent, dedicated administrator with a great reputation in education circles around our small state — was out.

At a recent meeting with our transformation director, I learned that the baseline graduation rate used in our transformation plan was 67%. This seemed very strange to me, as our school was in transformation specifically because its graduation rate was below 60%. At first I had thought that the graduation rate for the third year of stagnation had been altered upwards due in part to the work teachers had done locating missing graduates, and I was livid.

When I asked at the meeting, our transformation director originally indicated that this was the case. However, after further research it seems that the transformation director (who was not in the system last year and could not have remembered the mad scramble for data I mentioned above) may not have fully understood my question.

After consulting several officials and reading the transformation document, I learned that the baseline was 67% because that was the most recent year data was available for — 2011, the year AFTER the three year stagnation. I also learned that the sudden “jump” in graduation rate was due to new methodologies being used downtown which resulted in a more accurate picture of who had actually graduated from high school.

I still have some serious issues with our transformation situation.

First, there is the fact that RIDE’s decision to limit the number of years schools had to raise their graduation rates to three years came sometime in the middle of our three year stagnation. I know that “fair” is a four-letter word, but something doesn’t smell right about this.

Second — why did Pawtucket decide to implement a new, more accurate system for determining graduation rate at the WORST possible time? One year earlier and we would have shown more than adequate growth and been off the hook; one year later and we would have had a much lower baseline graduation rate from which to determine a transformation target. Whoever made this call was either asleep at the wheel or not interested in seeing Shea and Tolman succeed at transformation.

Finally — given our baseline of 67% graduation rate, it was decided that our transformation target should be 78% by 2014-2015 and 80% by 2015-2016. To put this into context, the RI state average graduation rate is currently 77%, and this is almost sure to go down as we implement Gist’s plan to require all students to get a 2 or more on the NECAP in order to graduate. Even if the average graduation rate does NOT go down, it is possible that Shea — one of the poorest and most challenged high schools in the state — will raise its graduation rate to higher than the state average but still fail to hit its transformation target because it doesn’t beat the state average BY ENOUGH.

We have been told, over and over, that if we do not meet the transformation targets then it is likely that we will all be fired and only 50% of us will be hired back. I do not personally believe that Pawtucket or RIDE wants to do this, because if they had wanted to do it they could have done so last year when they chose instead to go with transformation. What I fear will come to pass is that Shea will fail (by design) to meet its transformation targets and teachers will be taken aside and told that Pawtucket and RIDE have agreed to do them a BIG FAVOR — they will be allowed to keep their jobs, but only if some MAJOR concessions are made.

Or maybe they will fire us all and agree to rehire 100% of teachers who will sign a new contract that the union hasn’t been consulted on. Of course these last thoughts are just idle ones, but they do concern me.

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