Archives for category: Closing schools

This post is a public apology to Erica Green of the New York Times. She wrote on March 13 that the Centers for Disease Control recommended that schools should close for at least eight weeks. A trusted reader of this blog said that the CDC guidance offered several options, depending on local circumstances. I read the CDC guidance and posted a correction implying that Green had offered the worst case scenario.

Erica Green wrote me directly to complain about my “correction.”

Let me state here publicly and without equivocation that Erica Green was right.

I apologize.

Schools should close for at least eight weeks.

It appears likely, with the virus continuing to spread, that many, most, or all schools will not reopen until September.

No one knows when the disease will subside or be under control.

In the meanwhile, we must all take care of ourselves and our loved ones. Stay home to the extent possible. Wash your hands frequently. Practice social distancing. Be glad we have the telephone, the television, and the Internet to stay in touch with the world and with friends. Send love and gratitude to the healthcare workers and first responders who protect us. This is a time for kindness.

In the fog of the pandemic, it’s hard to keep track of school closings and cancellation of state testing.

In Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly ordered closure of school buildings but schooling will
continue.

CLARIFICATION: Governor Kelly didn’t cancel school for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. She closed school buildings. Schools will be working to implement Continuous Learning plans for all students.
KS Dept of Education @ksdehq

Governor Gavin Newsom said that schools in California are likely to close for what remains of the school year.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03-17/schools-closures-mobilize-meals

“California public schools are likely to be closed for the remainder of the school year in response to the escalating spread of coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday afternoon.

“I don’t want to mislead you,” he said to parents and educators during an afternoon press conference.

“Nearly all school districts in the state, 98.8%, are closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, Newsom said. The state education department is assembling detailed guidelines on how schools can attempt to continue teaching 6.1 million students out of their classrooms in the weeks and months ahead.

“The announcement comes as the Los Angeles school district on Tuesday was ramping up “grab and go” food services to help feed more than half a million children displaced by the closing of schools due to the coronavirus outbreak.”

Governor Laura Kelly of Kansas announced that all schools are closed for the rest of the school year.

Governor closes Kansas schools, puts most state employees on administrative leave

Be prepared to hear about more states doing the same.

No one knows how long the global pandemic will continue, but there’s no end in sight.

I will not post any more notices about school closings, because there are so many of them. Every day brings news of another district or city or state that is closing its public schools in response to the coronavirus, in an effort to reduce exposure to the virus. Some of these closures are limited to a few weeks; some are indefinite. In every case, I hope that district officials have given serious thought to supplying meals to children who depend upon them. As reader Chiara pointed out, the closures remind us of how important our schools are in the lives of children–the social interactions, the opportunity to learn, the library, the clubs, the musical groups, the sports, the peer relationships, access to social services, and exchanges with human teachers. Being online just isn’t enough of a substitute for human relationships.

This story appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles school officials on Friday voted to shut down the nation’s second-largest school system effective Monday, citing concerns over the rapid spread of the coronavirus. The district has about 900 campuses serving more than 670,000 children and adult students.

Schools will be closed for two weeks while the situation is evaluated, said L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner. There will be 40 centers where students and families can receive services, including meals, starting on Wednesday.

The “family resource centers” will be open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will offer childcare and hot meals. The district hopes to have a list of locations soon.

Los Angeles district officials said that they will also offer televised and online lessons in an attempt to help families.

School district employees will continue to be paid, even if not directly involved in working with students.

San Diego Unified School District will also shut down on Monday. Neither district said when schools would reopen.

John Thompson, historian and retired teachers, sees signs of disaster in the policies adopted by Oklahoma’s two biggest cities: Tulsaand Oklahoma City. “reform” (aka Disruption) means closing schools. This is a good time to remind readers that SLAYING GOLIATH, to whic he refers, does not say that Go,oath is dead.it says that Goliath (federal policy, billionaires, Wall Street and other agents of disruption) are brain-dead. They continue to advocate for policies that have failed again and again. They have no expectation of making schools better or improving the lives of children. They exercise power and impose failed ideas because they can. Another point to be drawn from this and other accounts: Wherever there is a Broadie Superintendent, anticipate the hiring of other Broadies and a wave of school closings.

Thompson writes:

What’s up with Oklahoma schools? Whether we’re talking about arming teachers or sextupling funding for Education Savings Accounts (vouchers) for private schools, or the latest charter school malfeasance, the controversies surrounding today’s scandals are grounded in pretty predictable, rightwing politics, as well as the Billionaires Boys Club’s technocracy. But the crises in Tulsa and Oklahoma school system are rooted in education policy and they get less attention.

https://www.ocpathink.org/post/trump-stitt-both-support-tax-credit-scholarships

So, I’ll quickly cover the Oklahoma-grown messes, and then address the most serious threats to public education in our state’s biggest cities. I’ll start, however, by hinting at the common cause of our urban school debacles by citing Diane Ravitch’s Slaying Goliath, and her account of how corporate reformers “admire disruptive innovation, because high-tech businesses do it, so it must be good.”

The online, for-profit Epic charter chain got its fair share of 2019 headlines after an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation affidavit alleged that Epic Charter Schools’ co-founders, David Chaney and Ben Harris, split at least $10 million in profits from 2013 to 2018. They were accused of aggressively recruiting “ghost students” in order to collect $800 per student from a state learning fund for homeschool students.

Epic recently made news when its lawsuit against State Sen. Ron Sharp, for allegedly making false statements against it, was dismissed.

But there was no need to worry about Epic dropping out of the limelight. In January, 2020, the State Education Department (SDE) fined Epic One-on-One virtual charter school $530,000 for excessive administrative spending.

And Epic just provided another nail in the coffin for the claim that charters don’t advance privatization. The Tulsa World explains, “On top of a 10% cut of every dollar of revenue, Epic Charter Schools is paying its for-profit management company millions more in taxpayer dollars every year for school expenditures that are never audited and which Epic claims are shielded from public scrutiny.” So, the World made another open records request.

Epic’s attorney responded, “Once the funds are paid to the management company, the dollars are no longer public funds and, therefore, the records of the expenditures of the learning fund dollars are not subject to the open records statute.”

Despite Epic’s refusal, the World obtained “other records that show the constant shifting of public dollars for the Learning Fund to Epic Youth Services, the private management company that law enforcement investigators say has made millionaires out of school co-founders David Chaney and Ben Harris.” It reports, “These transfers began at a rate of about $120,000 each, 10 to 13 times per year,” and they grew to “$20.3 million for the 2018-19 academic year.”

Not to be outdone, Dove Academy, which is associated with the Gulen charter chain, returned to the headlines. A 2016 audit by the state found that the foundation which manages Dove Charter School collected around $3.182 million more in lease payments for the Dove Science Academy-OKC school site than original purchase cost. Now, the Dove virtual school is being investigated by the OSBI after the SDE accused it of wrongfully obtaining records of 107,000 children who have never enrolled in Dove schools.

https://oklahoman.com/article/5655421/epic-charter-schools-lawsuit-against-sharp-dismissed

In The Know: The ‘Medicaid expansion showdown,’ Epic charter schools fined, and more


https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/education/epic-charter-schools-shielding-million-in-taxpayer-funds-from-public/article_445f6458-c147-5efa-ab29-781c72d64011.html
https://oklahoman.com/article/5655515/oklahoma-department-of-education-reports-dove-to-osbi?&utm_source=SFMC&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%20Oklahoman%20daily%202020-02-22&utm_content=GTDT_OKC&utm_term=022220

Moving from the eye-catching headlines to the policy role of “Goliath,” the decline of the Tulsa public schools has been more gradual. A decade ago, the TPS accepted a Gates Foundation “teacher quality” grant, which was followed by donations from local and national edu-philanthropists. Soon afterwards, Tulsa’s Project Schoolhouse was praised for its community meetings and “creative problem-solving” when closing 14 schools in order to save $7 to 10 million per year.

Back then, the TPS was a better school system than the OKCPS. Last year, however, Oklahoma City borrowed from Tulsa’s methods and language in order to close and consolidate schools to fund “trade-ups” or ways to expand equity.

https://www.publicradiotulsa.org/post/project-school-house-released
https://www.publicradiotulsa.org/post/project-school-house-0

Tulsa had lost 5,000 students and faced a shortfall of over $40 million. The latest headlines have focused on this year’s $20 million in cuts. Schools were closed, janitors lost their jobs, class sizes in elementary schools are to be increased, and the administration reorganized. Since the TPS central office has had 13 Broad Academy graduates, and since patrons have recommended cuts the district’s teacher leadership and central office staff, that plan received more attention than before.

The Hit and Miss of Education Reforms


https://dianeravitch.net/2019/11/10/john-thompson-how-billionaire-reformers-messed-up-the-public-schools-of-tulsa/

Ever since NCLB used school closures as an accountability tool, some reformers have been devoted to that disruptive policy. Mass closures are often seen as praiseworthy examples of running schools in a businesslike manner. And they provide opportunities for major administrative reorganizations. So, it should be no surprise that Superintendent Deborah Gist chose to save $5 million by cutting 90 jobs, but not in a straightforward manner. One would ordinarily think that budget cuts, closures, and staff reductions would be enough of an “extraordinarily difficult” challenge. However, Gist described her plan as a path to “dramatic progress” and “transforming outcomes.”

National readers don’t need to dwell on Gist’s details but they should note the way she summarized a large part of her plan:

Delete 55 district office positions and 124 school support positions; and … create 51 district office, 136 school support and 20 school-embedded positions. The potential changes, if approved by our board, would impact our Information Technology, Innovation and Design, Finance, Bond, Campus Police, Talent Management and Teaching and Learning teams, and, most particularly, our Exceptional Student Support Services team.

https://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/columnists/deborah-gist-school-services-must-evolve-to-help-schools-in/article_b2fe5183-1b18-5a7a-8ecd-d906c47a2578.html

A couple of years ago, as the OKCPS rid itself of a Broad-trained superintendent, our district leaders praised Project Schoolhouse’s community conversations, while noting that Tulsa faced a worse mess than we did. Newly elected OKC board members seemed to understand that they had inherited a crisis created by reformers’ commitment to “transformational change.” They focused on building partnerships to provide trauma-informed and holistic instruction; restore counselors, science, music, and art, while moving away from teach-to-the-test; and started towards wraparound student services.

The OKCPS had been saved by immigration, but as it slowed and charters grew, the district lost 700 students per year. It was widely agreed that some schools needed to be closed.

But in a dramatic surprise, the goal of disruptive transformational change took over. The OKCPS used a school closure process, known as Pathways to Greatness (P2G), to “reinvent” schools. It closed 15 buildings and reorganized most of the rest. Again, national readers will be less interested in the details than the impossible length of the “to do” list that the district adopted.

It was supposed to be a virtue of P2G that it will:

Will impact every student, staff member and family in OKCPS … Our plans would likely include big changes such as new school boundaries, school consolidations or closures, the way grades are structured for Elementary, Middle and High School, as well as school buildings being repurposed to meet other needs in the community.

It also required structural changes in reconfigured buildings, the transfer of teachers to staff-reorganized schools, the reorganization of bus routes and hiring additional drivers by the first week of school. The third task proved impossible and resulted in students waiting for hours at bus stops. The district also chose to add to its list by changing application procedures for magnet schools, and reorganizing administrative services for “creating strategic systems and processes that will bring stronger support and accountability at the school level.”

Responding to the widespread backlash that P2G prompted, Superintendent Sean McDaniel said, “This was radical change that upset the apple cart for thousands of people, so we know that there was and still is heartburn and anxiety, and people are upset,”

McDaniel also summarized the additional changes:

We’re invested in this new ILD structure to allow for that additional instructional support. Our new consistent grade bands will provide support, collaboration opportunities. New feeder patterns will allow our students to stay together longer and feel more connected as they move through high school.

OKCPS acting superintendent: ‘We need to talk about feelings’

This year’s OKCPS to-do list has at least 30 big items


https://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/summer-of-change/Content?oid=6442542

This year’s OKCPS to-do list has at least 30 big items

So, how did P2G turn out?

The disruption almost certainly contributed to an increase in fights and suspensions. The rate of student population decline has doubled. If the district is correct, after P2G, the rate of student loss increased to an average of 1,000 per year over seven years. But the decline could become much worse. A district spokesperson cited research indicating that P2G could follow the pattern in other districts’ reorganizations, possibly resulting in a 10 to 15% drop in student enrollment.

According to the numbers the spokesperson provided, the price tag for such a decline could be about $20 to $30 million in state funding, not including lost federal funds. It would be unclear how much of those costs would be attributable to P2G. But, they would add to $32 million of transition costs which the district acknowledged near the end of P2G FAQ Update in February, 2019.

In other words, the OKCPS followed Tulsa down the path of transformational and disruptive change. Both exemplify the destructive feature which Ravitch documents in Slaying Goliath. My sense is that Goliath chose that path for Tulsa, while the OKCPS is inadvertently stumbling towards that outcome.

In her two previous, ground-breaking books, Ravitch changed the terms of debate over public education. She previously reframed the battle over the “Billionaires Boys Club” which drove “corporate reform,” and “privatization.”

Ravitch once said that her favorite line in my book manuscript was, “Inner-city schools need more disruption like they need another gang war.” (But that was years before editors could have read her full indictment of corporate disruption, and I couldn’t keep the phrase from being deleted.)

Ravitch now characterizes data-driven, choice-driven reformers as “Disrupters.” Across the nation, as well as in Oklahoma, “The most important lesson of the past few decades is that “Reform doesn’t mean reform. It means mass demoralization, chaos, and turmoil. Disruption does not produce better education.”

The second most important lesson for Oklahomans, who had seemed to have beaten back the worst of Goliath, is that we’re like the guy who killed a rattlesnake, but nearly died after being bitten by the decapitated head. In Oklahoma, the future looks much better for most public schools, but the TPS and the OKCPS could become the last casualties of our reform wars.

The complexity of seeking safe and orderly schools

Oklahoma City Public School District announces drop in enrollment


https://www.okcps.org/Page/3746

Leonie Haimson, one of New York City’s leading people-public education advocates, has written a comprehensive appraisal of Mike Bloomberg’s education record as mayor. You will not read a more deeply knowledgeable article anywhere.

In his multimillion dollar ad campaign, Bloomberg presents himself as a champion of children. If you read Haimson’s article, you will see that he was a champion of charter schools. You will also see that he was autocratic, condescending towards parents, and disrespected educators.

Please read it.

About 30 public schools in Broward County may close due to loss of students to charter schools.

The original purpose of charter schools was to collaborate with public schools, not to destroy them. Unfortunately, the charter industry is so well represented in the legislature that they have a distinctive edge over real public schools. The wife of the State Commissiomer of Educatuon Richard Corcoran runs a charter school.

About 30 Broward schools could close, combine with other schools or convert into a new type of facility as the school district looks for ways to deal with nearly half-empty campuses.

Many of these schools are in the southern part of the county, from Hollywood to Pembroke Pines, where thousands of students have left for charter schools. Others are in the Fort Lauderdale area and have struggled with factors such as low student performance, outdated facilities and aging neighborhoods…

Enrollment has dropped about 30,000 in the past 15 years, due mostly to charter schools and to a smaller degree private school vouchers. The demographics also have changed in Broward, where most growth is among adults without school-aged kids….

Broward considers a school to have insufficient enrollment if it has 70% percent or fewer students than it was built to serve. Many of these schools aren’t able to afford an art, music or physical education teacher or a media specialist to run the library. Several didn’t get musical instruments through the $800 million bond because they can’t afford to teach music.

Nearby charter schools are eagerly eying the buildings that might become available.

 

 

Parents, students, and local officials plead with Chancellor Lewis Ferebee:

DO NOT CLOSE WASHINGTON MET!

No student was ever helped by closing schools!

Stop the mayhem.

Stop the pointless disruption!

Support the school, don’t kill it.

Do not pave the way for gentrification and more charter schools.

 

 

This is a very engaging video interview of Tom Ultican, an expert on corporate education reform, explaining the federal takeover of public schools via No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Ultican goes into detail about the corporate assault on public schools in the Dallas Independent School District. He names names, starting with the misguided superintendency of Mike Miles, a Broadie who managed to drive out large numbers of experienced teachers. He identifies the funders of corporate funders, both billionaires and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce.

He gives a concise analysis of the money behind the “portfolio model,” charters, and privatization in Texas and Dallas.