Archives for the month of: July, 2015

The new superintendent in Palm Beach County was hired from the Fulton County School District in Georgia; Georgia has a law permitting “charter districts.” Superintendent Robert Avossa now wants to try it in Palm Beach County, where parents have been fighting for years to keep the hands of the charter industry out of their county. In his application for the job of Superintendent in PBC (which he assumed in June), he spoke of his passion for public education; there was no indication that he would immediately bring in the privateers, entrepreneurs, and fly-by-night operators whose charters overpopulate the lowest-performing schools in the state.

The Palm Beach Post reported:


Palm Beach County’s schools chief wants permission from state lawmakers to convert the county’s public school system into a “charter school district,” a designation that could let him end-run state rules and drastically reorganize schools’ schedules, class sizes and instruction time.

Superintendent Robert Avossa’s proposal would require approval from state lawmakers and the support of the county’s school board. If granted, he said the extra freedom would allow the county’s traditional public schools to better compete with charter schools, which have more flexibility under state law and are attracting thousands of new students each year.

In light of the fact that the charter industry has already bought control of the state legislature, he is not likely to have much opposition there. The question is whether the local school board is as happy to privatize public schools as Superintendent Avossa is.

In case you want to listen, here is my interview with Sonali Kolhatkar on KPFK Pacific radio about the possible reauthorization of the vile NCLB, which is a failed version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

Here is Bob Schaeffer’s weekly update on the latest news about testing.

As the assessment reform movement monitors Capitol Hill where a congressional conference committee will soon take up the rewrite of “No Child Left Behind,” pressure to cut back testing volume and reduce high-stakes consequences continues to build at the grassroots. Be sure to check out the excellent new public education resources available for your local campaigns listed at the end of the news clips.

National How Changes in the Federal Education Law Might Cut Testing Time
http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/07/22/414905874/how-the-big-new-education-law-could-cut-testing-time
National Still Need to Eliminate Annual Testing Mandate
http://chicago.suntimes.com/opinion/7/71/799513/counterpoint-13

Multiple States Are the PARCC Consortium Exams Toast?
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/state_edwatch/2015/07/parcc_common_core_testing_shifting_strategy_and_landscape.html

California Top Education Official Plans Multi-Dimensional State Accountability System
http://www.dailynews.com/social-affairs/20150722/californias-top-education-official-plans-new-accountability-system-to-rate-schools

Colorado More Students Than Ever Opted Out of Spring Testing
http://co.chalkbeat.org/2015/07/27/after-widespread-test-protests-last-fall-even-fewer-colorado-students-took-spring-tests/#.Vba_SZdLUZx
Colorado Test Scores Don’t Reflect Student Learning or Teacher Commitment
http://gazette.com/letters-scores-dont-reflect-knowledge-dont-need-vigilantes-on-guard/article/1556278

Delaware Opt-Out Supporters Regroup to Overcome Governor’s Veto
http://www.doverpost.com/article/20150722/NEWS/150729951

Florida School Testing is Like an Old Saturday Night Live Skit
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/opinion/columnists/fl-jvcol-oped0724-20150723-column.html

Georgia Superintendent Rolls Back Some State Testing Requirements
http://onlineathens.com/local-news/2015-07-28/georgia-eases-teacher-testing-rules-now

Massachusetts Debate About Three-Year Moratorium on High-Stakes Exams
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/north/2015/07/23/the-argument-should-state-put-three-year-moratorium-high-stakes-testing/RnJxWkdm9aSAKKHcrX3ZtK/story.html

Michigan New State Schools Chief Favors Fewer Tests
http://www.thetimesherald.com/story/news/local/2015/07/23/call-less-student-testing-resounds-local-school-officials/30574303/

Minnesota Scores Delayed After Year of Exam Disruptions
http://www.sctimes.com/story/news/local/2015/07/27/results-schools-mca-exams-delayed/30736637/

Missouri New Exams Causing Unexpected Test Score Reporting Delay
http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/waiting-for-your-child-s-state-test-scores-new-exams/article_e0d9daa4-95e8-5c28-a89e-821865543835.html

New Jersey State Senate Passes Opt-Out Resolution
http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/15/07/26/senate-democrats-craft-nonbinding-resolution-for-parcc-opt-outs/

New York State Ed Chancellor Would “Think Twice” Before Subjecting Child With Severe Disability to State Testing
http://ny.chalkbeat.org/2015/07/20/tisch-id-think-twice-before-opting-into-state-testing-if-i-had-a-special-needs-child/#.Va5vvJdLUZy
New York Chancellor Tish Should be Held Accountable for Testing Abuse of Children With Disabilities
https://dianeravitch.net/2015/07/23/tanis-kilfoyle-regent-tisch-must-be-accountable-for-test-abuse-of-children-with-disabilities/

Pennsylvania Analysis Shows Strong Link Between Poverty and Test Scores
http://republicanherald.com/news/school-analysis-shows-link-between-poverty-academic-performance-in-schuylkill-county-1.1918045
Pennsylvania Testing Mandates Have Narrowed Student Learning
http://lancasteronline.com/opinion/columnists/testing-mandates-have-narrowed-our-children-s-learning/article_9576eed4-315e-11e5-b097-372786251e51.html

Rhode Island Teacher Survey Shows Negative Response to PARCC Tests
https://greatschoolwars.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/riteachers_responses_to_parcc-2.pdf

Texas Local Civil Rights Activists Split Over Standardized Testing
http://www.texasobserver.org/civil-rights-groups-split-over-standardized-testing-opt-out/

Vermont State Leaders Seek Change in Education Testing Standards
http://www.timesargus.com/article/20150723/THISJUSTIN/707239929

Virginia State Seeks Feedback From Parents About School Performance Reports
http://www.roanoke.com/news/state-asks-parents-for-feedback-on-school-performance-reports/article_49d39698-60a7-55c1-bfdf-638e26a9c991.html

George Washington University Joins Rapidly Growing Ranks of Test-Optional Colleges
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/07/27/george-washington-university-applicants-no-longer-need-to-take-admissions-tests/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2015/07/27/bombed-the-sat-or-the-act-here-are-colleges-that-are-test-optional/

Parents Across America Decries Student Abuse From Test-Related Stress
http://parentsacrossamerica.org/paa-position-paper-parents-stand-test-stress/

New Book by “Rog” Lucido — Returning Sanity to the Classroom:Eliminating the Testing Mania
http://www.livingindialogue.com/rog-lucidos-new-book-restoring-sanity-to-the-classroom/

“Education Inc.” Shines Spotlight on Dark Money Beyond Corporate “Reforms”
https://dianeravitch.net/2015/07/27/education-inc-a-stunning-documentary-about-the-dark-money-behind-reform/

“Defies Measurement” Shows How U.S. Is Failing Its Public Schools
http://sandiegofreepress.org/2015/07/how-america-is-failing-its-schools/

Education “Reform” Is Malpractice
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-nelson/education-reform-is-malpr_b_7847910.html

Bob Schaeffer, Public Education Director
FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing

office- (239) 395-6773 fax- (239) 395-6779
mobile- (239) 699-0468
web- http://www.fairtest.org

Mercedes Schneider teaches high school English in Louisiana. She has ten weeks of unpaid vacation. What did she do on her vacation? She wrote a book about school choice. She set herself a goal of 1,000 words a day, and she stuck to it. She has written three books in three years. The first one was a bestiary of corporate reformers called “A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education.” The second was “Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?” A book a year! My first book took seven years. I am impressed.

It has been almost ten years since Hurricane Katrina, and the hype is waxing large. Advocates for privatization and free-market reforms are celebrating the great gains, but skeptics are unconvinced. New Orleans as a model suggests turning all (or almost all) public schools into privately managed charters; firing all the teachers; and banishing the union. Arne Duncan once memorably said that Hurrucane Katrina was the best thing ever to happen to the schools of Néw Orleans: no more public schools! A strange comment from the U.S. Secretary of Education.

The National Education Policy Center recently issued a review of the evidence about Néw Orleans, prepared by Professor Huriya Jabbar and Mark Gooden at the University of Texas.

What they found was contested ground. Advocates claimed dramatic gains. Critics attributed any gains to the large decline in students after the hurricane and changes in the state’s grading standards, as well as a huge influx of federal and philanthropic funds to support the market system.

The authors write:

“Moreover, groups of students, parents, and community members remain skeptical of the reform movement and have raised concerns that the new school system remains inequitable. For example, students and parents have raised concerns with some charter schools that have been unresponsive to students and too harsh in their disciplinary policies. After years of complaints lodged by parents about the treatment of students with special needs in the charter system, including physical and emotional abuse and “counseling out,” the parties settled a lawsuit brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center, acknowledging these grievances and requiring independent monitoring and auditing of charter schools’ special education services. According to news reports, the decentralized, fragmented school system in New Orleans has also been particularly unprepared to serve the growing percentages of English Language Learners in the city.

“Further, within the choice system family income exerts a strong influence. A recent study found that low-income families make schooling decisions differently than affluent families. Low-income families are much more constrained in their choices because of practical considerations such as after-school care and distance, and therefore measured academic outcomes play a smaller role their decisions.”

Some locals complain that the reform leaders are mostly white and that the black community has no role in decisionmaking. In addition, the test score gains have been made mostly by white students.

The authors conclude:

“Ten years after Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent reforms, there remain more questions than answers. Even if the reforms implemented under such a hyper-politicized arrangement show some clear gains in student achievement, as seems to be the case, it is important to attend to the serious equity concerns that remain in the system, and to examine other outcomes, beyond test scores. The preliminary evidence, from a combination of news reports and research studies, suggests that the New Orleans reforms disproportionately benefit more advantaged students, relative to the most at-risk and under-served students. In light of these concerns, there is a need for more research that systematically examines whether the reforms have truly altered the structure of opportunities for students who are low-income, of color, English Language Learners, or have disabilities. Given the additional resources and the unique New Orleans experience, there are also questions about how sustainable and replicable the New Orleans model is, even though many cities are adopting similar reforms.

“It is also important to ask how much local, democratic oversight the public is willing, or should be willing, to trade for somewhat higher test scores. In New Orleans, as well as in many other cities and states seeking to adopt a “recovery” or “portfolio” model, policymakers should ensure that the temporary turnaround measures do not permanently disenfranchise local actors.”

Here are the legislative changes recently enacted in Nevada, designed to implement charters, vouchers, test-based teacher evaluations, merit pay, and almost every other idea in the ALEC bucket list of how-to-create-chaos-in-public-schools-and-encourage-privatization.

This post was written by “Nevada Succeeds,” a corporate reform group.
Friends,

Below my email signature is our weekly Implementation Update; we hope this serves as a useful tool for the community as we continue to monitor the progress made on implementation and regulation of key policies that have come out of the 2015 Legislative Session. Every week, we will adjust the list to put the bills that have undergone recent changes at the top.

In this issue, we have categorized each bill into a one of five main areas of focus which will provide more clarity as to how each piece of legislation relates to the broader agenda.. Below you will see a key highlighting the color that indicates these new groupings:

Blue: Charter
Green: Teacher Pipeline
Red: Targeted Funding
Orange: Private Choice
Purple: Other Education Changes

We are trying to get all of the information right, so if there are any corrections or additions, then please send us an email at seth@nevadasucceeds.org.

Best,

Seth Rau
Policy Director, Nevada Succeeds
P: (702) 483-7096
E: seth@nevadasucceeds.org
Education Savings Accounts (SB 302)

This bill is being regulated by the Treasurer’s Office. There was a hearing earlier today (Friday July 17th) to make two modifications to the rule that requires students to be fully enrolled in a district or charter school for at least 100 days before gaining the ESA. First, they are going to say that even though the program does not begin until January 4, 2016, students who were enrolled in public schools for at least 100 days in the 2014-15 school year and switch to a non-public option for the 2015-16 school year are eligible for the program. Additionally, the proposed regulations would say that a student only needs to take at least one course at a public school for 100 days to become eligible. The proposed regulations were supported by a majority of the speakers aside from the teachers union and Educate Nevada Now.

On Thursday July 9th, the Treasurer’s Office announced that the payment of the ESA will occur in the first week after the end of a quarter. Therefore, the first ESA payments will be at the beginning of April for the first quarter of 2016. In August or September, they will have a broader public hearing discussing reimbursement options (debit cards as in Arizona or expense reports as in Florida) and other regulatory matters. Those additional regulatory matters will have a hearing in August or September.
Teacher Evaluation (AB 447)

The Department of Education and the Teachers and Leaders Council will be working on the rules and regulations around this bill. One aspect of this bill included a tweak to the language, lowering the percentage that student test scores count in a teacher’s evaluation from 50% to 40% since our state and local tests were not yet ready. At the July 23rd State Board of Education meeting, there will be a discussion around the board’s role with this bill. The next TLC meeting is on August 26th and there should be a regulatory workshop scheduled by the Department in the near future.
Read by 3rd Grade (SB 391)

The Department of Education is in charge of setting up these regulations. At the July 23rd State Board of Education meeting, there will be action around creating the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the program’s assessment tool along with guidelines around learning strategists and professional development. It’s unclear if there will be one or multiple approved assessments. Apparently, the Department is going to recommend the use of an adaptive assessment as it will help students prepare for the Smarter Balanced Exams. There is also a regulatory workshop
Collective Bargaining Changes (SB 241)

The largest changes here are to school administrators. The employees who makes over 120K per year are now excluded from the bargaining unit but it’s unclear if they will be able to retain their health care benefits. It’s also unclear when the 5 year at-will cycles will start for each employee. That must be clarified in the coming months. Additionally, this bill ended the evergreen clause, which should favor management in labor negotiations.

While changes resulting from this bill have been seen outside of the education arena, it has become a major issue in CCSD contract negotiations. On Thursday July 16th, CCSD management used this bill as one of the main reasons for not allowing for step and columns increases to occur as scheduled since a new collective bargaining agreement had not been signed. Needless to say, teachers were not exactly pleased with this rationale and protested in large numbers at the July 16th board meeting.
School Construction (SB 119, SB 207)

These bills passed the legislature fairly early in the legislative session allowing for a ten-year bond rollover for school districts with bonding capacity. At this time, CCSD appears to be the only district in the state to take advantage of the program. At the CCSD Bond Oversight Committee meeting on Thursday July 16th, CCSD now says that only 6 schools will open in 2017 and 6 will open in 2018. Now, Rex Bell Elementary School appears to be the only school that will go under a full replacement. That should be ready in 2017.
Data Privacy (SB 463, AB 221)

The districts and the State Charter Authority are designing their data security plans that will need to be approved by the Nevada Department of Education. On Wednesday July 15th, the P20W Council met for the first time in two years and announced that the statewide longitudinal data system will be ready for use by schools, NSHE, DTER, and researchers by the end of the month.
Alternate School Framework (SB 460)

All schools under the State Charter Authority are beginning to update their contracts to reflect the changes coming from this law around closure and possible qualification for an alternate school performance framework. A regulatory hearing on this bill is scheduled for Tuesday September 15th.
Charter Reforms (SB 509)

The Charter Authority issued a new charter application on June 22nd, which requires applicants to file a Letter of Intent by August 14th and a full application by the end of August. The earliest the Authority will award a charter for the 2016-17 school year is in the fall. CMOs will not be able to gain a charter until January 2016 since not all of SB509 goes in effect until then. All schools under the State Charter Authority are beginning to update their contracts to reflect the changes coming from this law.
Non-Citizen Teachers (AB 27)

The Department of Education has begun accepting teacher licensure applications from non-citizens in Clark County. The first applications have been processed successfully.
Zoom Schools (SB 405)

On Thursday July 16th, CCSD approved the following 29 schools to be Zoom Schools in the 2015-16 school year: Arturo Cambeiro, Manuel J. Cortez, Lois Craig, Jack Dailey, Ollie Detwiler, Ruben P. Diaz, Ira J. Earl, Elbert Edwards, Fay Herron, Halle Hewetson, Robert Lunt, Ann Lynch, Reynaldo Martinez, William K. Moore, Paradise Professional Development, Dean Petersen, Vail Pittman, Bertha Ronzone, Lewis E. Rowe, C.P. Squires, Stanford, Myrtle Tate, Twin Lakes, Gene Ward, Rose Warren, and Tom Williams. The following three secondary schools will be Zoom Schools for the 2015-2016 school year: William E. Orr Middle School, Del H. Robison Middle School, and Global Community High School at Morris Hall. Additionally, the Department of Education will be administering the funds for the rural districts and the charter schools. We are still waiting to hear the new Zoom Schools from Washoe County.

At the July 23rd meeting of the State Board of Education, they will discuss recruitment and retention incentives for these schools.
Opportunity Scholarships (AB 165)

The temporary regulations for this program were created at the end of June. Groups such as Students First, the American Federation for Children, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and ourselves advocated for a preference for students whose families are at/or below 185% of the poverty line and for a preference for students currently enrolled in public schools. After much fighting from the private schools in the state, the Department of Education decided to solely make decisions based on the income levels of students. Therefore, the program is pretty much first-come, first-serve. There is a tiebreaker on the day when the scholarship organization runs out of funds to prioritize siblings and students zoned for lower star schools. The scholarship students must take nationally-normed referenced tests to measure student outcomes but are not required (or even expected) to take the Smarter Balanced exams. These temporary regulations were approved on Thursday June 25th. After the program’s first enrollment period, there will be a review in the fall for more permanent regulations.

On July 1st, both scholarships organizations and private schools could begin to sign up for the program. So far, only AAA Scholarships has been approved by the Nevada Department of Education and they are currently raising funds for their organization. 20 private schools have signed up so far as eligible recipients of the funds. Parents should be able to apply to AAA (and possibly other scholarship granting organizations) by early August. The permanent regulations will begin to be drafted at a hearing on Thursday August 13th.
School Performance Plans (AB 30)

There will be a number of updates to the School Performance Plans coming from the Nevada Department of Education with a focus on literacy rates, especially among ELLs.
Charter School Police Officers (AB 321)

We will be tracking if any charter schools enter into policing agreements as a result of this bill.
Expanded Charter School Bonding (AB 351)

We will be tracking if any 3 star charter schools go to the Board of Examiners and are able to get approval for state facility bonds.
Washoe County School Construction Tax Committee (SB 411)

The Washoe County School Board has approved the selection process for committee members. The full committee should be unveiled by Wednesday July 22nd, and they will begin to meet soon afterwards. This committee is tasked with coming up with a possible revenue raising measure for capital projects in Washoe County to be put forward to the voters in 2016.
Great Teaching and Leading Fund (SB 474)

On Tuesday July 7th, the Department of Education released the application for the Great Teaching and Leading Fund for FY16. They announced that $2 million will go towards implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, $1 million for the Nevada Educator Performance Framework, $1 million for teacher recruitment, development, and retention, and $900,000 for leadership development. Eligible applicants include the RPDPs, school districts, charter schools, the Charter School Authority, NSHE, the educator associations and nonprofits. The application window closes on Friday July 31st. The fund winners for FY16 will be announced at the State Board of Education meeting on Thursday September 3rd.
SAGE Commission (AB 421)

It has been announced that the Governor’s Business Roundtable on Education Reform will be combined with the SAGE (Spending and Government Efficiency) Commission. Nevada Succeeds backed that measure during the session. The Department of Education will staff the commission. The members and the first meeting date have yet to be announced.
Multicultural Education (AB 234)

The regulations for this bill will be handled by the Commission on Professional Standards. Their next meeting is on Wednesday July 29th.
Achievement School District (AB 448)

On July 1st, the website for the Achievement School District (ASD) launched. This month, the Department of Education is actively seeking charter management organizations to apply to take over struggling district schools for the 2016-17 school year. The application window closes on Friday July 31st.

A national search firm has been hired to conduct the Executive Director search, and their goal is to hire an ED by the end of September. The initial staff of the ASD will only be an ED, a program officer, and a secretary. All positions will be based in Las Vegas. There will be a rulemaking hearing on Thursday August 27th at the Department of Education.
Victory Schools (SB 432)

Before the end of the session, the state created the list of Victory Schools. Each school must file a letter of intent by August 15th and a full implementation plan for FY16 by September 15th. With the exception of schools in the Turnaround Zone, CCSD is creating a new zone for Victory Schools. At the July 23rd meeting of the State Board of Education, they will discuss recruitment and retention incentives for these schools.
Charter Harbormaster (SB 491)

The Department of Education is expected to issue an RFP for the harbormaster by September 1st. Once the RFP window closes, the Board of Examiners will make a decision on which organization will become the state-funded harbormaster.
Teacher Performance Pay (AB 483)

This bill does not go into effect until the 2016-17 school year. In 2016, the districts will have to submit their plans on how they will comply with the bill to the Department of Education.
New Teacher Bonuses (SB 511)

Each district in the state has already submitted a plan to the Department of Education on how they want to administer the new bonuses. For example, CCSD requested $9.5 million of the available $10 million for FY16 to pay the maximum $5000 bonus to a teacher at every eligible school (behavior schools are not eligible for the program since they do not receive Title I funds-much to the dismay of the districts). CCSD plans to pay the $5000 in 20 segments of $250 over the course of the year. Some districts are paying the entire bonus up front and others are doing half at the beginning of the year and the other half at the end of the year. Due to PERS, all bonuses will be stipends. On July 23rd, the State Board of Education will make a decision on the district allocation.

On the university scholarship side of this bill, funds will not be available for the program until January. There is currently a lack of clarification of exactly who is and who is not eligible for the program due to the start of funding. Programs will apply to the Department of Education for funding and then the program will distribute the funds.
New Nevada Plan (SB 508)

A regulatory hearing on this bill is scheduled for Tuesday August 25th to discuss the Special Education funding weight along with other possible topics. The Department of Education is required to produce an update on base and weighted funding formula over the interim.

A regulatory hearing on this bill is scheduled for Thursday August 27th. In related news, 15 CCEA teachers are sueing CCSD over the changes to post-probationary status and that court case will likely affect this bill.
Teacher Supply Reimbursement (SB 133)

The districts will set up their own systems for teacher supply reimbursement and the Department of Education will send each district and charter school their share of the funds ($5 million over the biennium).
Peer Assistance and Review (SB 332)

The Department of Administration will send $1 million each year of the biennium to CCSD to ensure that the program is funded. We will continue to monitor this program in the Turnaround Zone to ensure that it is effective and a good use of taxpayer money.
CCSD Deconsolidation (AB 394)

In the fall, the Legislative Commission will appoint the 9 members (2 members from each caucus from Clark County along with an additional Republic) of the main Committee that will meet over the course of 2016.

Colorado Chalkbeat reports that the opt out numbers were high in the state, especially for high school students. Only five of the state’s 20 large districts met the federal government’s requirement of a 95% participation rate. The greatest concentration of opt outs was in the 11th grade.

Changes are planned, but test critics don’t think it will make a difference. The biggest source of information and support for opting out was, apparently, students talking to other students.

The PARCC language arts and math tests were given in two sections, one in March and the second at the end of the school year. Many districts reported that opt-out rates were higher for the second set of tests.

High school assessments and the testing schedule both will change in 2016. Juniors won’t be tested in language arts and math, and there will be only a single testing “window” in April.

“I don’t claim to be a prophet, but, yeah, I expected high opt-out percentages,” said Republican Sen. Chris Holbert of Parker, who was heavily involved in legislative testing and opt-out debates. He also suggested high school refusal rates were significantly driven by students. “The awareness and them advocating to each other is more important.”

“Folks have been wondering where those big districts would fall. It’ll be an interesting convers what we do about those big districts with a high rate” of opt outs, said Bill Jaeger, a vice president with the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Jaeger served on the state task force that studied testing before the 2015 legislative session and has followed the issue closely.

As for the variation among districts, Jaeger said, “It’s an interesting finding to me, and there’s a whole host of explanations that I don’t think anyone’s explored.”

Noting testing changes made by both the legislature and the PARCC, Jaeger said, “It will be interesting to see if there is a restoration of confidence in the assessments.”

One testing critic, St. Vrain Superintendent Bob Haddad, doesn’t think that will happen.
“I don’t think it will make a difference,” Haddad said of testing reductions. “I don’t think you’re going to get parents and students back at the table … because there’s no trust” in the state testing system. “CMAS was summarily rejected by our students and parents.”

In the past four years, a philanthropic organization called “Choose to Succeed” in San Antonio raised more than $35 million to attract some of the nation’s highest-test-score-producing charter schools to a city that already had many charter schools. The group brought in Great Hearts and BASIS from Arizona, IDEA, and Carpe Diem, while helping KIPP to expand.

Some of the new charter operators are planting campuses in the well-regarded Northside, North East and Alamo Heights independent school districts, indicating that the initial rationale some expressed for Choose to Succeed — that families needed an alternative to underperforming public schools — has evolved into something broader.Their quality is changing the local education landscape. Their locations and students are changing the local debate over school choice.
Scores of charter schools already operated here when Choose to Succeed went looking for its high performers. It lured four new networks — IDEA, BASIS, Great Hearts and Carpe Diem — and helped the established KIPP to expand.
When classes start next month, those five charter networks will have about 8,500 students, more than the enrollments of some smaller local school districts….

If they grow as planned, almost 40,000 students will be in Choose to Succeed-launched schools a decade from now, more than in 13 of Bexar County’s 16 independent school districts….

Great Hearts is known for a liberal arts curriculum built around “the Great Books.” Before graduation, every student acts in four plays (two of them by Shakespeare), sings in a choir, learns a musical instrument, paints, draws, sculpts and takes Latin, Greek and two years of calculus, among other requirements. High school students participate in two-hour Socratic seminars, and every senior defends a thesis before a faculty panel. Uniforms are blue and white; high school boys wear neckties.
Great Hearts Monte Vista was the network’s first venture out of its based in Phoenix. It opened last year and now teaches grades kindergarten through 10 at leased facilities at Temple Beth-El and Trinity Baptist Church.
Monte Vista is an affluent neighborhood, but the school’s location close to downtown and on bus lines makes it accessible to an economically diverse community, said Roberto Gutierrez, senior vice president of advancement for Great Hearts Texas.
Last year, however, only 14 percent of Great Hearts Monte Vista’s 572 students were considered economically disadvantaged. Hawthorne Academy and Cotton Elementary, nearby San Antonio ISD campuses, have economically disadvantaged rates of 89 and 97 percent, respectively.
The disparity is central to what detractors of Great Hearts claim is its tendency to exclude low-income families. More than half of Arizona’s public school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, but only two of 19 Great Hearts schools in the Phoenix area participated in the National School Lunch Program and received federal Title I funding for at-risk populations.
In five years, the network hopes to have 6,000 students in six schools here. Great Hearts Northern Oaks will open to about 640 students in grades kindergarten through seven.
NEISD Superintendent Brian Gottardy drives by the construction site every day.
“If they’re a public school and they’re using public tax dollars and the North East Independent School District is at 48 percent economically disadvantaged population, then a public charter school located in the heart of our district … should educate a diverse population,” Gottardy said. “They need to educate the masses just like we do.”
Great Hearts picked its Northern Oaks site based on available land and the cost to build a campus for 13 grades with parking and athletic facilities, but future campuses around Loop 410 and downtown will attract people from all parts of the city, Gutierrez said. The network will advertise in Spanish on the South and West sides, he said.
The CEO of Great Hearts Texas, Dan Scoggin, said he knows the impression that opponents have of Great Hearts: prep schools of tie-wearing students discussing Plato and Aristotle.
“There has been this narrative built that the charter school movement is just only exclusively for low-income kids,” Scoggin said. “Great Hearts also serves middle-income families who we feel are deeply underserved because they don’t have access to a college prep education in a public school setting.”
Both low-income and middle-income kids “don’t have options, in many cases,” he said.
When BASIS San Antonio opened in the Medical Center two years ago, it attracted families interested in its rigorous science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum. The network opened BASIS San Antonio North last year near Loop 410, just inside Alamo Heights ISD.
Both schools started with grades five through eight and will become high schools, adding a new grade each year. Students begin Latin in the fifth grade and can choose other languages, including Mandarin, in the seventh. They must rack up at least eight Advanced Placement courses and six AP exams by the end of their junior year.
The network will seek a charter amendment to enroll grades kindergarten through four so it can shift both schools to elementary and middle grades and build a high school between them by 2017, near Castle Hills, said Peter Bezanson, CEO of BASIS’ for-profit management company….

Last year, 10 percent of BASIS San Antonio students were economically disadvantaged, compared with 58 percent at the closest Northside ISD elementary school. At BASIS San Antonio North, 12 percent were economically disadvantaged, compared with 21 percent at Alamo Heights ISD’s Cambridge Elementary.
Brian Woods, superintendent of Northside ISD, and Kevin Brown, the Alamo Heights ISD superintendent, echoed Gottardy’s concerns about charter networks serving relatively affluent populations. Woods said their projected ramp-up could create “further socioeconomic stratification in the city.”
“Schools that receive public funds ought to work to the good of all the kids in the community,” Woods said. “And if you can’t show that you’re doing that, then I’m not sure that you should be eligible to receive public funds.”

Mike Klonsky has known Arne Duncan a long times he notes that Arne is quick to criticize people and institutions that are not accountable. Mike wonders when Arne will be held accountable.

The BATS are strong-willed, courageous teachers who are tired of being kicked around by politicians and their dumb ideas. They are “mad as hell” and they won’t take it anymore.

Last year, after the BATS met with Arne Duncan, one of their leaders, Professor Yohuru Williams had the idea of convening an annual BATS Congress. That Congress recently met in Washington, D.C., had meetings with key legislators, held a sit-in at the office of Senator Bernie Sanders, and picketed the U.S. Department of Education.

“Prior to our two lobbying days, Washington BATs got us off to a great start by participating in a “Coffee with Constituents” session with Sen. Patty Murray. This group led the charge and let the legislators know that the Badass Teachers Association had descended upon “The Hill”. Over the course of the next two days, BATs from 20 states conducted over 61 appointments with their Federal Lawmakers. BATs shuffled from the House building to the Senate building over the course of these two days. Appointments started at 8 a.m. and lasted until 5 p.m.”

They met “The Walking Man” Jesse Turner as he concluded his 400-miles walk to D.C. to join with the other BATS.

They had three busy and productive days. It is valuable to have the BATS go to Washington. Otherwise our elected representatives would hear only from the big campaign contributors who are buying public education and elected officials like Cuomo and Malloy. The BATS made sure that teachers’ concerns were well represented to the decision-makeres on Capitol Hill.

Thank you, BATS.