Archives for the month of: March, 2019

 

NYSUT, The New York State United Teachers, issued a blistering fact check of State Commissioner MaryEllen Elia’s claims about the state tests. 

You have to open it to get the full flavor because NYSUT, not normally outspoken, shreds Elia’s claims.

Elia writes in Orwellian Newspeak about value of the tests.

NYSUT response: Because of the lack of movement by SED on NYSUT’s suggested changes to the testing system, the current tests do not provide any useful information to parents or teachers or any real information on how a district is performing. The results do not accurately predict future student success. In fact, the tests mislabel more than half of the test takers as failing, while more than 80 percent of students go on to graduate from high school. The results of the current tests are not only useless, but also damaging to students.

There are several such exchanges.

Bear in mind that no one but the testing company is allowed to know student responses to questions. So teachers learn NOTHING about the strengths or weaknesses of their students. Teachers, students, and parents get a score but nothing of any diagnostic value.

All students in grades 3-8 should OPT OUT of these pointless tests.

You may not be surprised to learn that gentrification means rising housing costs, as affluent people move into cities and developers demolish or upgrade low-income housing. Nor will you be surprised to learn that gentrification involves the displacement of low-income people. As they moveor leave the city, city leaders want charter schools so that the new middle-class families can separate from “those people.” I would have thought that Chicago led the list of most gentried cities. It has had a massive exodus of black families. But according to the Washington Post, it is D.C. that is the national leader in gentrification.

About 40 percent of the District’s lower-income neighborhoods experienced gentrification between 2000 and 2013, giving the city the greatest “intensity of gentrification” of any in the country, according to a studyreleased Tuesday by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

The District also saw the most African American residents — more than 20,000 — displaced from their neighborhoods during that time, mostly by affluent, white newcomers, researchers said. The District and Philadelphia were most “notable” for displacements of black residents, while Denver and Austin had the most Hispanic residents move. Nationwide, nearly 111,000 African Americans and more than 24,000 Hispanics moved out of gentrifying neighborhoods, the study found.

Sixty-two 62 lower-income census tracts in the District gentrified between 2000 and 2013, putting the city third behind New York and Los Angeles for the highest number of neighborhoods that had transformed. The District ranked first in “intensity of gentrification,” on the basis of the percentage of lower-income neighborhoods that experienced gentrification.

Because of the District’s intensity ranking, “you feel it and you see it,” said Jesse Van Tol, chief executive of the NCRC, a research and advocacy coalition of 600 community organizations that promote economic and racial justice. “It’s the visibility and the pace of it.”

The study defines gentrification as occurring when “an influx of investment and changes to the built environment lead to rising home values, family incomes and educational levels of residents.” It defines “cultural displacement” as instances when “minority areas see a rapid decline in their numbers as affluent, white gentrifiers replace the incumbent residents.”

Researchers examined U.S. census tracts that, in 2000, were in the lower 40th percentile for median home values and household incomes in their metropolitan areas.

Van Tol said gentrification has followed a national move back to cities, particularly among affluent workers. The District drew many during the Great Recession, when the city’s economy and job markets were more stable than others. Meanwhile, the amount of affordable housing has lagged, even amid new residential development.

Many residents can rattle off the D.C. neighborhoods that have undergone rapid economic change, including Petworth, Mount Pleasant, Brookland, and the U and 14th street corridors.

Gentrification can benefit areas because it signals economic investment, Van Tol said. The problem comes, he said, when longtime residents are pushed out as rents and property taxes rise, leaving them unable to benefit from the improvements. Activists also are concerned about the culture that can leave with a neighborhood’s longtime residents. Van Tol recalled the 2015 closing of the popular Jamaican restaurant Sweet Mango Cafe in Petworth and the end of the neighborhood’s annual Caribbean parade.

“I think the loss of these cultural institutions has really changed the identity of neighborhoods in a way that might be unwelcome by the people who have lived there,” Van Tol said.

Van Tol said he was surprised by the finding that gentrification was rare in small and medium cities in the country’s interior. Nationally, the study found, nearly half of all gentrified neighborhoods were in seven cities: the District, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Diego and Chicago.

In an essay accompanying the study, Sabiyha Prince of Empower DC said the city “rolled out the proverbial red carpet” for tens of thousands of new residents in the past five years. But the new dog parks, bike lanes, condominiums and pricey restaurants that followed, she said, are not viewed as improvements by long-term residents, who can feel isolated because of losing neighbors, social networks and local businesses. Prince, an anthropologist, said longtime Washingtonians tell stories of “alienation and vulnerability in the nation’s capital.”

 

This article is the second of three written by Los Angeles Times education reporter Anna Phillips. The first told the story of charter operators who were making millions of dollars opening subpar charters.

This story is about California’s broken system for authorizing charter schools. Small rural districts with small budgets can collect millions by authorizing charters that open outside their district. Charters that have been rejected elsewhere can go shopping for a friendly authorizer who gladly takes a commission of millions and conducts no oversight.

Its a win-win-lose-lose. The rural district gets money, the charter gets authorized. And no one checks on its quality. The only losers are the public schools in districts where the new charters drain away students and resources, and students who sign up for charters of unknown quality and unpredictable sustainability. Here today, gone tomorrow.

“State law allows school districts to charge charters fees that are meant to cover the cost of monitoring the schools, but it does not restrict how districts use the money. As a result, districts have spent charter oversight fees on sports coaches, textbooks and computers for their own schools.”

”When the California Legislature passed the Charter Schools Act in 1992, it was intended to introduce competition into public education as well as an incentive for districts to experiment. There was supposed to be a marketplace of ideas about new ways of teaching and learning. But what has evolved in some parts of the state resembles an actual marketplace in which charter schools can shop for lenient authorizers and school districts can rake in much-needed cash.

”Before he was elected to the school board for Acton-Agua Dulce, Pfalzgraf recalls attending meetings and watching with growing concern as a line of charter operators sought approval to open new schools. He remembers those meetings as breezy, friendly affairs in which the answer was nearly always yes and district officials asked few questions, even of schools known to have been rejected previously by other districts.

“You’re telling people they’re supposed to vet charters. But they also know that if there’s no charter revenue, they don’t have a job,” Pfalzgraf said. “I think staff was looking at this and going, ‘If I recommend no, what’s going to happen to me?’

The district’s income from charter fees has more than doubled in the past five years, surpassing $3 million last school year. Roughly 25% of its operating budget now comes from those fees, according to its current superintendent.

”Students attending the out-of-town charter schools have not always benefited. Last school year, most of the charters Acton-Agua Dulce oversaw posted lower passing rates on state exams than its own district schools. In four of the charters, more than 95% of students failed the math test…”

“Many of the charters approved by small districts are classified as non-classroom-based, meaning their students receive much of their instruction off campus. Schools in that category typically aren’t a threat to district enrollment numbers because they draw from different markets — home-schooled children, students who work full time and others who have dropped out.

”In Shasta County, for example, a one-school district with 35 students and one part-time administrator has approved three non-classroom-based charters.

”In Kern County, a district with about 300 students has authorized five charters — all but one conducts most of its classes online.

”In one small San Diego County district, charter oversight fees made up nearly a third of its operating budget last school year.”

The districts collect about 3% of the charter’s revenue, a hefty sum. It can add on thousands more for fees of various kinds.

This loophole in the law encourages corruption. It is corrupt for a small district to balance its budget by opening a charter in another district, poaching its students without oversight or acccountability.

This is an invitation to small districts to make money by harming other districts.

The law incentivized greed and malfeasance, not educational improvement.

The law must change!

 

NorthJersey.com and USA Today New Jersey are running a five-part series called “Cashing in on Charter Schools, written by reporters Jean Rimbach and Abbott Koloff.

Follow this series if you care about integrity in spending public dollars.

What follows is an excerpt. Open the link to read the story. .

Part one.

NJ taxpayers are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to construct and renovate charter school buildings, but the public doesn’t own them.

School buildings that are paid for with millions of dollars in public money but owned by private groups.

Inflated rents, high interest rates and unexplained costs borne by taxpayers.

And tax dollars used to pay rents that far exceed the debt on some school buildings.

This is the world of charter school real estate in New Jersey.

Where public money can disappear in a maze of intertwined companies.

Where businesses and investors can turn a profit at taxpayer expense.

And where decisions about millions in tax dollars are made privately, with little public input and little to no oversight by multiple state agencies.

More than two decades into the state’s experiment to create charter schools, which were conceived to provide residents with choices and to spur innovation, serious flaws in the design of the system have led to the diversion of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to private companies that control real estate.

Two of the state’s largest charter school operators, KIPP New Jersey and Uncommon Schools, have been permitted by the state to monopolize hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid for public school construction, helping them to create networks of privately owned buildings.

And investors positioned themselves to make millions from taxpayers, including real estate entrepreneurs, developers and a range of lenders….

KIPP New Jersey’s new Newark Collegiate Academy building, located at 229 Littleton Ave., was built with the help of millions of dollars in federal aid.

What that means is that millions of your tax dollars are being siphoned off by private interests to pay for buildings ― often without your knowledge ― that you don’t own.

 

 

The Onion reports on an exciting and innovative concept in the world of charter schools: a school without students! 

“One year into its founding as the purported “bold next step in education reform,” administrators on Monday sang the praises of Forest Gates Academy, a progressive new charter school that practices an innovative philosophy of not admitting any students. “We’ve done something here at Forest Gates that is truly special, combining modern, cutting-edge pedagogical methods with a refreshingly non-pupil-centric approach,” said academy president Diane Blanchard, who claimed that the experimental school boasts state-of-the-art facilities, a diverse and challenging syllabus, absolutely zero students, a world-class library, and the highest faculty-student ratio in the nation. “

The Onion says the charter has received $80 million from the state of Georgia.

It probably also received millions in federal funding as well as from the Walton Family Foundation.

 

California has more charter schools and students than any other state, due to its size and its notoriously weak charter law. Add to that a progressive Governor with a blind spot for charters (Jerry Brown opened two when he was mayor of Oakland) and to a gaggle of billionaires in both parties who favor privatization.

in the new report by the Network for Public Education, Asleep At the Wheel, California was home to a large proportion of phantom charters. An amazing 39% of federally funded charters in California either never opened or closed soon after opening.

A new organization has been founded in California to encourage charter school reform, which can happen only by revising the state charter law.

The organization is “Reform Charter Schools.”

What a difference two California strikes make — Reform Charter Schools started in 2016 when the environment for demanding that charter schools function under the same rules as neighborhood public schools was much more hostile. Some brave activists in Orange County were among the first to call out charter corruption. Now the group has rebooted to spread the message that even ordinary well-run charters defund and depopulate public schools by virtue of their business model.
Reform Charter Schools has developed a place for people to read about and learn what the bills say as they go through the committee process, and a petition calling for strong charter accountability here: http://reformcharterschools.org/.
The site has resources for those who want to launch their own school board resolution to call for a moratorium on charters, and is starting to offer the petition in multiple languages. (The simplified Chinese version to sign is here.) Some pro-public ed grassroots groups have already started meeting with their Assembly representatives.
Californians, go to Reform Charter Schools and get the ball rolling.
=========
Links for all of the above in case they don’t copy over, in the order they appear:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/ReformCharterSchools1505.1508/learning_content/
http://reformcharterschools.org/school-board-charter-moratorium-resolution-templates/
http://reformcharterschools.org/simplified-chinese-strong-charter-school-accountability-with-ab-1505-1508/
http://reformcharterschools.org

An Arizona Teacher left this comment:

“I teach in an AZ public school–title 1 school. The poverty in this school is astonishing. This is my first year teaching in AZ after moving here from another state. I taught almost 20 years in a public school that was also a Title 1 school before moving to AZ. I have a lot of experience teaching in poverty schools. I have never seen anything as dysfunctional and as underfunded as the school I teach in currently. The whole district is in dire straits as it is funneling money away from public schools into charters. The lack of resources in this school is stupefying and confounding. It seems that the people in AZ are automatons and that this “cheating” of public schools is the new-normal. It’s not that people don’t care about education, its just that most people who can leave the poverty schools behind do so without realizing the impact they have. And to be honest, if I had children I don’t know if I would want them to attend one of these public schools. The discipline problems and lack of support for teachers is driving parents and teachers away. Buildings are falling apart. Just today part of the roof caved in at the school library. And then the corruption in the state legislature is driving the drain of resources.”

 

 

 

 

John Merrow noted the intense media attention on the recent college admission scandal, where rich parents found ways to buy higher test scores or pay for guarantees of admissions by pretending they were star athletes or paying off coaches to ask for them to be admitted or hiring a ringer to take the SAT for them.

He offers eight ways to repair the college admissions process.

Here are a few of his recommendations.

1) Elite colleges should stop participating in the annual US News & World Report college rankings process.  Just stop!  Because US News uses a college’s rate of rejection as an important measure of its quality, many colleges have stepped up their efforts to recruit applicants–just so they can turn them down.  After all, the more it turns down, the better US News says it must be.  If Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Princeton, MIT, Stanford et alia just said NO to US News, that would be a step in the right direction.

2) Get rid of the common application.  It’s now too easy for high school students to apply to dozens of colleges with one keystroke, and many kids do just that, particularly if their parents don’t mind paying the fees.  If we want to level the playing field, then colleges should do more reaching out to high schools in low- and moderate-income schools and help students apply.

By the way, the US News frenzy and the common application changed the admission process dramatically between our coverage of Williams in 1986 and Amherst in 2004.  In 1986 prior to the common application, every application was read by at least two members of the committee, and the entire committee met as a whole for days (often arguing passionately about particular candidates). However, by 2004 the flood of applications had forced Amherst to establish a SAT/ACT cutoff point; applicants below a certain number were rejected without a reading.  In 2004 Amherst had what amounted to two committees, which met and admitted and rejected candidates separately.

3) Administer–free of charge–the PSAT to all high school sophomores and juniors, because that test is a good indicator of talent and potential.  It might be an eye-opener for many kids in low income areas, because now many of them don’t even try to apply to “elite” colleges because they feel they don’t or won’t qualify; their PSAT scores might help change their minds.   Always remember that talent is randomly distributed, while test scores are closely related to parental income.  

There are eight in all. Read them and see what you think. Equitable funding of all high schools is another.

A new study of the STAAR tests in Texas finds that the readability levels are far above the grade levels tested.

Professor Susan Szabo and Professor Becky Barton Sinclair of the Texas A&M at Commerce reviewed STAAR tests and report that readability levels were 1-3 years above the grade level tested.

Why is the state giving children tests that are above their grade levels?

Is it trying to fail children so that more public schools will be given low ratings and there will be more opportunities for privatization?

Or is it that the folks in charge of testing are not paying attention or don’t care?

 

 

Today is V-day in Tennessee. The Shelby County Board of Education (Memphis) opposes the plan, accurately protesting that the plan would divert dollars from their already underfunded schools.

Meanwhile, six charter schools in Memphis have made a deal with the Catholic church to lease space, while pledging not to teach anything contrary to Catholic teaching.

”The Compass Community Schools network signed a lease agreement that contains a clause agreeing not to teach anything that goes against the teachings of the Catholic Church….

“But one First Amendment expert said there are several potential conflicts, including standards that address contraception, and that a public school’s mere act of entering into a legal agreement with a religious entity promising to limit its educational offerings for students is unconstitutional.

“The clause could also cause a chilling effect on both students and staff and create complications of oversight of a public school by a religious organization, said Charles Haynes, founding director of the Religious Freedom Center..

“A public school is a public school,” he said. “It may not in any way be entangled with a religious group that in any way limits what it can and cannot teach. That’s clearly unconstitutional.”

“The issue also raises questions about the promised separation between the Catholic Church and the Compass schools, a network created by Catholic leaders to replace a group of closing parochial schools. “