Archives for category: Closing schools

The Legacy Prep School in Charlotte, North Carolina, closed its doors at the end of the holidays, leaving parents and students on their own to find a school.

Legacy Prep was a private school that relied on vouchers from the state.

Parents were stunned.

Yes, 100% caught off-guard,” said Jackie Davis, whose son attends Legacy Prep. 

On Friday, she and other parents whose children were enjoying holiday break, received an email from Stacey Rose, the school’s principal, that told them the school would not re-open on January 7th due to funding issues. 

It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that Legacy Preparatory will have to close its doors and cease all operations immediately.  As such, we will not reopen for classes on January 7th (or any time thereafter) as originally planned,” Rose wrote in-part.

“It’s a burden,” Davis said. “I’m thinking I’m in a nightmare, in a dream, and I haven’t woke up from it.”

She now has just days to go through the headache of finding her son a new school to attend so he can stay on track. 

“It’s a shock,” she said. “First thing that crossed my mind was what about I going to do with my son.”

The letter that was sent to parents noted that the school could not stay open due to a lack of funding. 

Our main school investor did not deliver on his promise to provide the additional finances needed to accompany the scholarship funds that are required to run the school through June,” Rose wrote in-part. 

Davis said the private school charges $4,200 per student for the year, the cheapest she could find in the Charlotte-area when she looked for schools to send her son. 

She said she doesn’t want to send her son to CMS because she wants to ensure her son gets the one-on-one attention he needs to succeed. 

The principal offered to place them in an online cybercharter, which provides no personal contact at all.

Keung Hui, a reporter for the “News Observer’ tweeted:

Legacy Prep, which abruptly closed Friday, got $283,500 this year from NC for 135 voucher students. The private school is in same building & led by same principal when Charlotte Learning Academy was there before charter was not renewed in spring. #nced

The school was a charter that was not renewed, then a voucher school that failed.

Thats the market: Instability is a feature, not a bug.

 

Thomas Ultican, the chronicler of the Destroy Public Education movement, writes here about the calculated destruction of the Oakland Public School District, which has suffered at the hands and by the wallets of billionaires.

In 2003, the district had a deficit of $37 million.

The state forced the district to take out a loan of $100 million.

In return, the state took control of the district.

After six years of state control, the district’s deficit increased from $37 million to $89 million.

Unfortunately for Oakland, the billionaire Eli Broad decided to turn the district into his petri dish.

Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown welcomed the state takeover.

The Broadies romped.

A California central coast politician named Jack O’Connell was elected California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2002. He selected Randolph Ward, a Broad Academy graduate, to be Oakland’s state administrator. When O’Connell ran for state superintendent, his largest campaign donors had been Netflix CEO Reed Hastings ($250,000), venture capitalist John Doerr ($205,000), and Eli Broad ($100,000). Brown described the state takeover as a “total win” for Oakland.

The Broadies of Oakland

2003-2017 Broad Academy Graduates and Superintendents of OUSD

Broad Academy graduates are often disparagingly called Broadies.

The OUSD information officer in 2003 was Ken Epstein. He recounts a little of what it was like when Ward became the administrator:

“I remember a school board meeting where Ward and the board were on stage. Each item on the agenda was read aloud, and Ward would say, “passed.” Then the next item was read. In less than an hour, the agenda was completed. At that point, Ward said, “Meeting adjourned” and walked out of the board room and turned out the lights, leaving board members sitting in the dark.”

When Ward arrived in Oakland, the district was in the midst of implementing the Bill Gates sponsored small school initiative which is still causing problems. The recently closed Roots that caused so much discontent in January was one of the Gates small schools. Ward opened 24 of them (250-500 students) which in practice meant taking an existing facility and dividing it into two to five schools. He closed fourteen regularly sized schools.

When Ward arrived in Oakland there were 15 charter schools and when he left for San Diego three years later there were 28 charter schools…

Kimberly Statham, who was a classmate of Ward’s at the Broad Academy, took his place in 2006. The following year a third Broad Graduate, Vincent Mathews took her place.

After a short period of no Broadie in the superintendent’s seat, Antwan Wilson was hired in 2014. Shortly after that, the New York Times reported that the Broad Foundation had granted the district $6 million for staff development and other programs over the last decade. The Broad Center also subsidized the salaries of at least 10 ex-business managers who moved into administrative jobs at the district office.

Kyla Johnson-Trammell, an Oakland resident who and educator with OUSD, was named to replace Antwan Wilson in 2017. When he left to lead the Washington DC’s schools, he left a mess in Oakland. Mother Jones magazine says Wilson saddled the district with a $30 million deficit. They continue, “A state financial risk report from August 2017 concluded that Oakland Unified, under Wilson, had ‘lost control of its spending, allowing school sites and departments to ignore and override board policies by spending beyond their budgets.”’

The preponderance of the problems in OUSD are related to the state takeover, FCMAT and the leadership provided by Broad Academy graduates.

The usual billionaires have selected several of the OUSD board members and showered them with donations from out-of-district and out-of-state.

The fundamental problem is Oakland has a dual education system with 37,000 students in public schools and 15,000 in charter schools. It costs more to operate two systems. Every school district in California that has more than 10% of their students in charter schools has severe financial problems. Oakland has the largest percentage of charter school students in the state with 29% so financial issues are the expectation.

This is an education crisis that was manufactured by the super wealthy and implemented by neoliberal politicians.

 

 

Every blogger who has written about MSNBC’s Public Education Forum expressed gratitude that a big cable network paid attention to our most important democratic institution.

Nancy Bailey is angry about the issues that were ignored, the ones that threaten the future of students, teachers, and public education.

She is also streamed that the program was not on live TV. Public education not important enough for live TV? 50 million children are in public schools. They have parents. Quite an audience to overlook.

Good work, Nancy!

She writes (in part, read it all):

Candidates talked about making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes to help schools, but no one mentioned Bill Gates, the Waltons, Eli Broad, Mark Zuckerberg or any of the corporate reformers who are taking control of public schools.

They didn’t mention Common Core or the failure of the initiatives funded by the Gates Foundation and taxpayers. Nor did they speak about portfolio schools, the latest corporate endeavor to push choice and charters.

No one mentioned using Social Impact Bonds or Pay for Success to profit off of public schools. See: “Wall Street’s new way of making money from public education — and why it’s a problem” by Valerie Strauss.

CEO Tom Steyer mentioned corporate influence towards the end, but it was brief, and no moderator attempted to explore what he said.

Ed-Tech

No one mentioned what might be the biggest threat to public education, the replacement of teachers and brick-and-mortar schools with technology.

Disruption was initially described by Clayton Christensen and Michael Horn in their book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. This is seen as the revolution by those in business and the tech industry and is being played out in online charter schools like Summit and Rocketship. Summit also has an online virtual school.

Many students across the country get school vouchers to be used for substandard online instruction like K12 and Connections Academy.Preschoolers are subjected to unproven Waterford UPSTART.

The candidates might want to review Tultican’s “Ed Tech About Profits NOT Education.”

Wrench in the Gears is another blog good at describing the threat of technology.

Teach for America

Teach for America corps members with little training have taken over classrooms, and they run state departments of education!

Do Democratic candidates have Teach for America corps members as consultants on their campaigns? It’s troubling if they do. They should not be wooing teachers with professional degrees and experience while relying on TFA behind the scenes.

Other insidious reform groups are also about replacing education professionals. Relay Graduate School, The New Teacher Project, New Leaders are a few.

This needs to be addressed, sooner, not later.

Betsy DeVos et al.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy hearing Democratic candidates say they’re going to boot Education Secretary Betsy DeVos out.

But President Obama had individuals from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other corporate reform groups, working in the U.S. Department of Education. Arne Duncan was no friend to teachers or public schools.

So, while applause against DeVos are justifiable, now’s the time to address the role Democrats have played (and continue to play) in corporate school reform.

The fact is, many groups and individuals are working to end public education, who wear Democratic name tags. It’s imperative that Democratic candidates address this.

 

Alan Singer calls out Common Core for the poor showing of US students on PISA. 

Remember all the promises about how Common Core would raise all test scores and close gaps? Nada.

Of course, the deeper issue is that decades of test-and-punish reforms failed, not just Common Core.

it those who pushed these failed policies will not abandon them. They will say—they are saying—that we must double down on failure.

The consensus among governors and policy elites that followed “A Nation at Risk” in 1983 was that common standards, tests, and accountability would lead to high levels of performance (ie, test scores).

They didn’t. They haven’t. They won’t.

Almost four decades later, we can safely say that this theory of reform has failed. Billions of dollars wasted!

Many school districts have had unfortunate experiences with “Broadies,” the graduates of Eli Broad’s management program for future school leaders. The Broad Leadership Academy has sent forth hundreds of would-be superintendents to impose Broad’s top-down management style, his faith in data, and his belief that the best way to reform a public school is to close it and replace it with a privately managed charter school. Broad is one of the major funders of charter schools in the nation. Although he graduated from the public schools of Detroit, he has zero interest in public schools other than as objects for privatization. In my 2010 book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, I referred to the Broad Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the Walton Foundation as the Billionaire Boys Club. Since then, I have discovered that the club has dozens of billionaire members, and a few (think Alice Walton) are Girls, not Boys. All, however, share an animus toward public schools and a passion for privatization of what belongs to the public.

The big news is that Eli Broad has given $100 million to Yale University to administer his efforts to train future leaders of schools. It is not clear where the faculty will come from, since the Broad training program is unaccredited and is led by Broad allies, not academicians or scholars.

Now the graduates will be accredited, but their degree won’t mean much unless the philosophy of the program  changes from its current emphasis on DPE (“Destroy Public Education”) to SPE (“Support Public Education”). That change is hard to imagine. If you want to see the fruits of Broad’s distorted thinking, look no farther than Detroit and Oakland, where Broad-trained leaders encouraged (or imposed in the case of Oakland) massive charter expansion, a goal shared with Betsy DeVos. Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority, whose leadership he selected, collapsed in failure.  Oakland continues to suffer from the disruptive actions of Broadie leaders. His efforts to hand half of the students in Los Angeles over to charter schools have thus far been foiled.

Read Mercedes Schneider’s account of the multiple failures associated with Eli Broad’s agenda. 

Eli Broad is aggressive in using his money and policy agenda to destabilize and disrupt public education.

Here is the press release from the Broad Foundation/Broad Center, with the usual puffery and zero admission of the failed policies (privatization, school closings, high-stakes testing, VAM) that Broad and the graduates of his program have inflicted on American schools over most of the past two decades.

 

The Broad Center Will Become Part of Yale University to Train Future Generations of Public School Leaders

$100 Million Donation from The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation will Fund The Broad Center at the Yale School of Management to Offer Tuition-Free Master’s Degree to Emerging Education Leaders and Advanced Management Training to Superintendents and Senior Leaders in Public School Systems

 

Los Angeles, CA – With a gift of $100 million to Yale University, The Broad Foundation today reaffirms its commitment to public K-12 education and makes possible the launch of a major new initiative of the Yale School of Management focused on strengthening leadership in public education. Building on transformative work by The Broad Center in Los Angeles, the initiative will ensure in perpetuity high-impact programs to advance excellence and equity in education.

 

The Broad Center at Yale SOM will develop research, teaching, and policy initiatives devoted to improving the effectiveness of top leaders in America’s public school systems. The ambitious initiative will leverage Yale SOM’s expertise in delivering rigorous management education to talented professionals in fields that have broad societal impact, while furthering and amplifying the previously independent Broad Center’s mission of ensuring high-quality leadership in public education.

 

“I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished in the last 20 years and I can think of no better future for The Broad Center than Yale University,” said Eli Broad.

 

The gift is the largest ever received by the Yale School of Management and will enable the creation of a master’s degree program for emerging public education leaders and advanced leadership training for top school system executives—successors to The Broad Residency in Urban Education and The Broad Academy, respectively. The Broad Center at Yale SOM will also develop extensive research endeavors aimed at assembling the premier collection of data on public education leadership.

 

“With its mission to educate leaders for business and society, Yale SOM is a natural home for The Broad Center,” said Yale SOM Dean Kerwin Charles. “We have long recognized public education as critical to the health of our communities, and we believe that our distinctive approach to management education and research can have tremendous impact. Our efforts will build on the extraordinary work of The Broad Center team over the past two decades. Indeed, we are impressed by and grateful for what they have done to advance excellence and equity in public education.”

 

The Broad Foundation has learned through its 20 years of investing in public education that schools alone can’t solve for the inequities, indignities, and challenges facing students from underserved communities: Having The Broad Center housed at Yale SOM means all of its programs can be enhanced with input from Yale University’s leading thinkers in management, public health, law, child development, policy, criminal justice and economic development. The center will draw on the experiences and insights of practitioners, including Broad Center alumni and Yale SOM graduates, to help guide and inform its efforts in both teaching and research.

 

“I am honored that The Broad Foundation is entrusting Yale to carry out this important part of Eli and Edye’s philanthropic legacy. Educating leaders who will serve all sectors of society is part of Yale’s mission, so it is fitting that the Yale School of Management is creating a master’s degree program tailored to delivering management and leadership training that meets the unique needs of public education,” said Yale President Peter Salovey. “The school’s dedication to leadership education and cultivation is unmatched. Its track record of producing transformational leaders across a range of fields speaks to the tremendous promise of the new Broad Center at Yale SOM.”

 

The two programs of The Broad Center, The Broad Academy (founded in 2002) and The Broad Residency in Urban Education (founded in 2003), have trained more than 850 education leaders working in over 150 urban school districts, public charter school networks and state education agencies nationwide. More than 150 Broad Center leaders have served as superintendents or chief executives of local and state systems, and over 70 are currently in these roles. Each program has made great strides in building a diverse network of leaders that better represent the students and families they serve.

 

“The Broad Center has been committed to evaluating and evolving its work since it was founded – continuous improvement is in our DNA,” said Becca Bracy Knight, Executive Director of The Broad Center. “Organizational leadership has a direct effect on school quality, which is why The Broad Center has worked for two decades to elevate the field of public education management. We look forward to new opportunities to increase our impact by combining each organization’s unique and complementary strengths in service of our shared mission to improve public education.”

 

The current cohorts of fellows and residents will finish their programs through The Broad Center as currently structured; successor programs run by SOM will begin in 2020.

 

In its 20 years of investing in public education, The Broad Foundation has made grants to transform school governance, improve district operations, grow high-quality charter management organizations, engage in education policy and advocacy, and develop talented leaders, managers and teachers for public school systems.

 

###

 

Jeff Bryant reports here about the recent strike in Oakland. Teachers won concessions from the school board but they were fighting for much more than higher pay. Like their peers in Chicago and other districts, they were striking to fend off the Modern Disruption/Corporate Reform Narrative of failing schools, closing schools, and privatization.

Even after the strike ends, the struggle continues.

He writes:

Teachers and public school advocates in Oakland and elsewhere are showing that strikes don’t end systemic forces undermining public education as much as they signal the next phase in the struggle.

When their recent strike concluded, Oakland teachers had won a salary increase and bonus, more school support staff, a pause on school closures and consolidations, and a resolution from the board president to call on the state to stop the growth of charter schools in the city.

While those were significant accomplishments, the core problem remaining is that policy leaders in the city continue to take actions that “hurt students,” Oakland Education Association president Keith Brown told me in a phone conversation.

“Students continue to experience pain and trauma in our schools due to lack of resources, over-policing, and continuing threats of school closures,” Brown said.

Despite gains from the recent strike, teachers and public education advocates have continued to show up at school board meetings to press their cause.

The coalition recently formed the group Oakland Is Not for Sale, which seeks to extend the moratorium on school closures and consolidations to summer 2022, institute financial transparency in the district, end the district’s policy of expanding charter schools, and redirect money for school police and planned construction of a probation camp for juveniles to pay for a rollout of restorative discipline practices in schools.

The board’s recent announcement to close higher-performing Kaiser Elementary and merge the students and teachers into an under-enrolled and struggling Sankofa Academy raised yet more agitation in the community, especially when news emerged that students from Kaiser would receive an “opportunity ticket” giving them priority to attend schools ahead of neighborhood students not already enrolled in those schools. In other words, the district’s rationale for merging the two campuses for the sake of fiscal efficiency was being undermined by its own proposal to make transferring to Sankofa optional and, thus—as Zach Norris, a parent leader of Kaiser parents resisting the move, told California-based news outlet EdSource—keep Sankofa under-enrolled and thereby also an eventual target for closure.

 

School closings in Oakland are accelerating. These closures disproportionately affect the lives and well-being of black and brown students. They need stability, not disruption and constant churn. Black communities across the nation have suffered disinvestment in their communities because of school closings.


Reply-To:
“Kwesi Chappin, Color Of Change” <info@colorofchange.org>

Tell Acting School Board President Jody London to stop Oakland’s school closures today  

Black students in Oakland classroom

Black kids deserve stability in education.

TAKE ACTION

 

Last Wednesday, under Acting Oakland Unified School Board President Jody London’s watch, parents were physically barred from participating in a school board discussion that has the potential to completely change the trajectories of their children’s futures.1 In spite of escalating protests from teachers and parents, Oakland Unified School District is moving along plans to close up to 24 schools over the next three years.2 The vast majority of these schools, many of which are known for developing culturally competent curriculum and tight-knit relationships with the communities they serve, are located in predominantly Black and Brown neighborhoods in East and West Oakland.

The fight to protect our schools is the fight to protect our communities.

When schools leave our communities, the vital resources they provide our students and their families leave with them. The underinvestment in Black students’ education that Oakland’s school closures represent has been mirrored in nearly every major city in the country. If we do not take action now, the complete disregard Black students are being shown in California will undoubtedly continue to go unchecked across the nation. This is why we are demanding that Acting School Board President Jody London place a moratorium on all school closures in the Oakland Unified School District today.

Will you sign the petition and forward this email to make sure your voice is heard? Add your name here.

From Chicago to D.C. to Philadelphia, the rate of school closures in predominantly Black neighborhoods, especially those with rising rates of gentrification, has jumped dramatically in the past ten years3. Studies show that these closures hit Black students the hardest. While white students are “significantly more likely to transfer to high performing schools,” Black students who get displaced rarely benefit academically or otherwise from their new placements4, widening the achievement gap that the historic Brown v. Education decision to end racial segregation in education once sought to close. For so many of our communities, schools are one of the only institutions that still provide consistent support and resources to both Black children and their families5. Once those schools shut down, Black students get left behind, with no real plan in place to ensure that the new schools they attend have the appropriate resources to guarantee their success or their safety. What happens in the fight for both equity and equality in education in Oakland will set the stage for what’s possible for our communities across the country for years to come. We have to make it our business to support all Black students’ right to a stable education today.

Black kids deserve stability in education. Take action to demand Acting President Jody London place a moratorium on all school closures in the district NOW.  

Systems built without our input will not meet the needs of our communities. Our children should not have to be shuffled out of their own communities for the false promise of a quality education – our fight is for a deeper investment in the schools that they already attend. While the Oakland Unified School District continues to spend well over 6 million dollars a year on hiring police officers at schools who criminalize, traumatize, and harshly punish our children, they refuse to meaningfully invest in the teachers, counselors, and nurses who have been proven to support their growth and potential 6. That isn’t right! Take action today to let President Jody London know that she has a responsibility to invest in the solutions her constituents want, not to ignore their concerns and lock them out of this process. Sign now to demand that Acting President London and the board of directors put a moratorium on all school closures immediately.

Sign now to let Acting President Jody London know we want a moratorium placed on Oakland school closures now. 

Until justice is real,
—Kwesi, Arisha, Shannon, Chad, Dominique, Daniel, Corina, Imani, Quiana, Sadie, Ariana, and the rest of the Color Of Change team

References:

  1. “Oakland school board may close meeting to public after protests,” East Bay Times,November 12, 2019, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/195290?t=11&akid=39141%2E2472185%2EEuJQKB
  2. “Oakland school board’s vote to close schools draws ire from parents, teachers,” Mercury News, September 12, 2019, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/163219?t=13&akid=39141%2E2472185%2EEuJQKB
  3. “School Closings Are Shutting The Doors On Black And Hispanic Students,” ThinkProgress, May 14, 2014, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/163220?t=15&akid=39141%2E2472185%2EEuJQKB
  4. “School Closures Tend to Displace Black, Poor Students With Few Positive Outcomes,” Kinder Institute for Research, August 2, 2016, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/163220?t=17&akid=39141%2E2472185%2EEuJQKB
  5. “Gentrification, School Closings, and Displacement in Chicago,” The American Prospect, March 14, 2019, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/163220?t=19&akid=39141%2E2472185%2EEuJQKB
  6. “From Report Card to Criminal Record,” The Black Organizing Project, Public Counsel, and the ACLU Northern California, August 2013, https://act.colorofchange.org/go/163220?t=21&akid=39141%2E2472185%2EEuJQKB


Color Of Change is building a movement to elevate the voices of Black folks and our allies, and win real social and political change. Help keep our movement strong.

 

Shawgi Tell is a professor of education at Nazareth College in New York.

He points out that “More than 765 Charter Schools Have Closed in Three Years.”

This is what Disrupters refer to as “high-quality seats.” Here today, gone tomorrow.

Currently, about 3.2 million students are enrolled in roughly 7,000 privately-operated charter schools across the country. This represents less than 7% of all students and 7% of all schools in the country.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 765 charter schools closed between 2014-15 and 2016-2017, leaving thousands of families stressed, abandoned, dislocated,and angry. This figure represents more than one out of ten charter schools in the country by today’s numbers. The real closure figure is likely higher. To be sure, more than 3,000 charter schools have closed in under three decades.

The top three reasons privately-operated charter schools close are financial malfeasance, poor academic performance, and low enrollment.

With regard to academic performance, the Washington Post (November 1, 2019) reminds us that:

When you take all charters and all public schools into consideration, students at charters do worse than those at public schools. According to the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, public school students in fourth, eighth and 12th grades outperform charter school students in math, reading and science.

It is also worth recalling that the vast majority of high-performing nations do not have charter schools.

Today, nearly 60% of charter schools are in urban settings where schools tend to be under-funded, over-tested, constantly-shamed, and attended mostly by poor and low-income minority students. Charter school advocates prefer to target urban schools because this is where they can make the most profit given economies of scale and other factors.

While choice” has worked out well for major owners of capital, what good is “choice” when it cannot deliver stable, reliable, high-quality education free of corruption, segregation, and overpaid administrators? How does funneling billions of dollars annually from public schools to unstable privately-operated charter schools that frequently perform poorly help the economy, education, or society? Do pay-the-rich schemes like charter schools advance the national interest?

There is no justification for the existence of privately-operated non-profit and for-profit charter schools. They do not provide a net public benefit. Endless news reports show that charter schools are always mired in scandal and controversy. It is time to stop bashing public education, reject the hype surrounding charter schools, fully fund all public schools, and vest real decision-making power in the hands of the public. The rich must be deprived of their ability to privatize public education with impunity. The content, purpose, and direction of education must not be in the hands of privatizers, neoliberals, and corporate school reformers.

 

Jane Nylund, parent activist in Oakland, wrote the following warning after reading about the ouster of the Disrupters in Denver. Parents and activists and concerned citizens must organize and oust the agents of Disruption:

 

Oakland also must flip 4 board seats next year. The Walton-bought board has recently closed two schools, Roots and Kaiser Elementary, and there is talk of accelerating the “Blueprint process”, which is basically a plan to close and consolidate schools. Oakland’s portfolio model, which was only supposed to close “low performing” schools (nearly all of which were privatized into charters), has now morphed into the Citywide plan, in which no school is safe from the threat of closure. Kaiser was an exemplary model for a popular, well-supported, diverse neighborhood public school that attracted families both within and outside its boundaries. It also supported a significant number of LGBT families. It’s enrollment had been steady for years. Its closure (and planned consolidation with Sankofa, a struggling elementary school several miles away with a freeway in between) means that the beautiful piece of property where Kaiser is located (with SF bay views) will either be sold or handed over to a charter. Kaiser’s closure was a sacrifice, a political pawn in the school closure game, to show that the school board can be “bold” and not just close schools in high-needs neighborhoods. Look at us, we can close anything, and we will! This is the not-so-new normal for OUSD.

John Thompson, historian and recently retired teacher in Oklahoma, assays the damage that corporate reformers and their patrons have inflicted on the public schools of Tulsa. The district is overflowing with Broadies and has Gates money. What could possibly go wrong?

 

The Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) offers an excellent case study in data-driven, market-driven school reform.  Before No Child Left Behind, we in the Oklahoma City Public School System (OKCPS) studied Tulsa’s successes, and it quickly became clear that children entering TPS had advantages that their OKCPS counterparts didn’t have. They had lower poverty rates and, due to enlightened philanthropic leadership, they had higher reading skills. Moreover, philanthropists continued to invest in holistic social services, as well as early education.

By 2010, however, when the Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) accepted a $1.5 million Gates grant, the inherent flaws of the Gates effort were obvious. Back then, I would visit and learn about great work being done on early education and by Johns Hopkins’ experts advising the TPS. I also asked how it would be possible to reconcile investments in those evidence-based efforts and their opposite – the Gates shortcuts.

https://www.gatesfoundation.org/How-We-Work/Quick-Links/Grants-Database/Grants/2010/02/OPP1005881

When I showed a scholar a scattergram on the Tulsa website documenting the extreme gap between the “value-added” of its high and low performing high schools, the Big Data expert responded in a scholarly way.  Understanding that it would be impossible to control for those huge differences, the consultant replied, “Oh, sh__!”

http://static.battelleforkids.org/images/tulsa/vascatterplots_1_and_3_year_avg_final_2-10-12.pdf

So, how well did the Gates grant work in raising teacher quality?

The TPS now has to rely on the trainer of uncertified teachers, the Teacher Corps, which “is one of many recent strategies for finding bodies to put in classrooms.” According to the Tulsa World, “This is necessary because about 30% of the district’s teaching force started working there in the past two years.” That includes 388 emergency certified teachers.

https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/education/in-only-its-second-year-tulsa-public-schools-teacher-corps/article_cd295874-08df-5c0d-8398-cc1f382b6e23.html

As it turned out, the Gates experiment was just one of a series of corporate reform gambles. In addition to promoting charter expansion, the George Kaiser Family Foundation has joined with the Bloomberg and Walton foundations in funding “portfolio management” directors to “absorb the duties of the director of partnership and charter schools,” and “in the future, implement ‘new school models resulting from incubation efforts of the district.’” Worse, in 2015, one of the Chiefs for Change’s most notorious members, Deborah Gist, became the TPS’ superintendent. Before long, Tulsa had 13 central office administrators who were trained in the teach-to-the-test-loving Broad Academy.

https://www.gkff.org/what-we-do/parent-engagement-early-education/prek-12-education/

https://dianeravitch.net/2019/02/26/tulsa-broadie-swarm-alert/

And, how did the Broad-trained administrators do in raising student performance?

In 2017, Sean Reardon’s Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis provided the best estimate of student test score growth from 2009 to 2015. It revealed that Tulsa students entered 3rd grade ahead of their counterparts in Oklahoma City. That is likely due to the great early education efforts led by philanthropists.

From 3rd to 8th grade, however, Tulsa students lost more ground than those in all but six of the nation’s school systems. TPS students gained only 3.8 years of learning over those five years; that was .6 of a year worse than the OKCPS. Neither did 2016 outcomes reflect progress. The updated report shows that TPS scores were .81 grade levels lower than districts with similar socioeconomic status. Its racial and economic achievement gaps were worse, and poor students declined further in comparison to similar districts.

https://cepa.stanford.edu/

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/05/upshot/a-better-way-to-compare-public-schools.html?action=click&contentCollection=The%20Upshot&region=Footer&module=WhatsNext&version=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&moduleDetail=undefined&pgtype=Multimedia

https://nondoc.com/2019/10/19/school-effectiveness-linked-to-diversity/

And the bad news just kept coming.  The State Department of Education’s latest report card assigned an “F” grade to 25 percent more TPS schools than to the more-challenged OKCPS.

https://nondoc.com/2019/03/07/new-school-report-cards-sad-outcomes/

Tulsa Superintendent Deborah Gist responded with an implausible claim that the district’s own assessments are more meaningful, and show more progress. However, benchmarks tend to encourage shallow in-one-ear-ear-and-out the-other teaching and learning. Gist’s statement isn’t proof that this is happening, but it raises the type of question that report cards should lead to.

https://www.tulsaworld.com/news/local/education/no-perfect-system-revamped-grade-cards-are-better-but-don/article_272ad2b5-4525-52ca-aa7f-e81462473c24.html

Part of the answer lies in another reform investment on reading instruction. Tulsa adopted the Common Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) curriculum. Betty Casey, the publisher of Tulsa Kids magazine, began her thoroughly investigated report on the CKLA in Tulsa with an example of the 3rd grade questions that Gist trusts: “Do you think primogeniture is fair? Justify your answer with three supporting reasons.”

Casey quoted a first-grade teacher’s description of a reading lesson:

“You say, ‘I’m going to say one of the vocabulary words, and I’m going to use it in a sentence. If I use it correctly in a sentence, I want you to circle a happy face. If I use it incorrectly, I want you to circle a sad face. The sentence is Personification is when animals act like a person.’”

That lesson is given 10 days after the start of school. “I had kids who wouldn’t circle either one,” the teacher said. “Some cried. I have sped (special education) kids in my room, and they had no idea. That’s wrong. Good grief! These are 6-year-olds!”

https://www.tulsakids.com/is-ckla-the-best-way-to-teach-children-to-read/

So, how is the reading experiment working?

Oklahoma Watch studied federal data and learned that the TPS retained relatively few 3rd graders. But it retained 823 students through kindergarten and second grade!
Education Watch then reported, “Benchmarking itself is not an exact science. … Some kids score poorly because they are having a bad day or they don’t know how to use a computer mouse, which is common with kindergarteners.”

https://oklahomawatch.org/2018/12/14/oklahoma-nearly-tops-nation-in-holding-back-early-grade-students/

Tulsa’s expensive love affair with data may explain its latest crisis.  Tulsa has had a net loss of 5,000 students over the last decade. That means it must cut $20 million next year.

Ms. Casey and  many others suggest that another reason why Tulsa loses teachers and students is that it’s No Nonsense Nurturer classroom management system is a top-down mandate that hurts school cultures.

https://ktul.com/news/local/teachers-speak-on-controversial-no-nonsense-nurturer-program

The TPS held a series of community meetings, but it may not like the message it heard from the community. Two of the top recommendations from the community were: 44% survey-takers “chose to reduce teacher leadership roles …. Reducing the central office was the fourth most popular choice at 43%.”

Gist expressed a different opinion, however. And, in fairness I must add that a massive school closure effort preceded Gist; it was widely praised but as a subsequent post on Oklahoma City reforms will address, it may have contributed to loss of student population. But, Gist’s take of the closures is nothing less than weird. She said that the TPS might be losing students to the suburbs because they have larger schools!

https://www.tulsaworld.com/tps-report-on-community-feedback/pdf_61104782-617b-5b75-876c-cc52dc9fa1a2.html

It sounds to me like Superintendent Gist is grasping at straws. Maybe she is asking the same question that I am: How long will output-driven funders support her expensive and failed policies?