Archives for category: Community Schools

Erin Aubrey Kaplan writes in the Los Angeles Times about a successful public school—Baldwin Hills Elementary—that wants a co-located charter school to leave their space. Kaplan notes that there is a long history of feuding between public schools and charters, but this conflict is a first. The public school has parent and community support for reclaiming its space.

She writes that the fight is forcing a question:

Will the Los Angeles Unified School District find a way to support — even magnify — that rarest of success stories: a high achieving predominantly Black neighborhood school?

For the last seven years, Baldwin Hills Elementary School, a nearly 80-year-old campus in the Crenshaw district, has had to share digs with a charter, New Los Angeles Elementary.

New L.A. has about 200 students; Baldwin Hills twice that, but the neighborhood school’s sense of infringement isn’t just about the comparative sizes of the two student bodies.

BHE features ambitious programs. It houses a gifted magnet and serves as a “community school,” with “wraparound” healthcare and family support services. It’s also a so-called pilot school, which gives it the autonomy to offer unique classes such yoga, chess and orchestra. And it’s a designated STEAM campus — science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. In 2020, the state Department of Education designated Baldwin Hills, where 82% of the student body is Black, a distinguished school.

Not surprisingly, BHE parents and teachers tend to be organized, involved and deeply committed to growing what is regarded as an unqualified school success. To do that, they say, the school needs to get back space that was deemed nonessential and ceded to New L.A.: The charter, they say, must be relocated.

Back in October, members of Neighbors in Action for Baldwin Hills Elementary, a BHE parent-community-teacher coalition, sent a letter to LAUSD outlining their colocation complaints.

Sharing the campus, they wrote, “has greatly diminished the school’s ability to meet students’ social-emotional needs and mental health wellness, and hampered access to the academic programs that the school has been tasked with providing.”

Because of space constraints, Baldwin Hills is out a computer and robotics lab. Orchestra classes have been conducted on the playground blacktop. Students have to eat lunch hurriedly in a time-shared cafeteria. The bathrooms are overcrowded and sometimes unsafe.

In short, Baldwin Hills is an unfolding success story, in spite of colocation. “If we can do this in a stifled environment, imagine what we could do in a regular environment,” says Love Collins, a parent who switched her third-grader from a private school to Baldwin Hills.

The BHE coalition insists the district could find a way within the rules to relocate New L.A. (For it’s part, New L.A. claims to be looking elsewhere for a “permanent” school site.)

Community schools, for example, are supposed to be exempt from colocation, a rule the parents believe should apply at BHE despite the fact that Baldwin Hills wasn’t designated a community school until after New L.A. had moved in.

It’s a point that feels strengthened by recent developments. Two years ago, a new state law, AB 1505, gave school districts — charter school “authorizers” — expanded criteria in deciding whether to deny space to new charters or renew the leases of existing ones.

So far, LAUSD’s response has been underwhelming. Half a dozen district representatives came to Baldwin Hills for a town hall after the October letter, but as a second letter the coalition organizers sent to the district points out, none of their specific complaints or proposed solutions were addressed.

For months, the BHE group has solicited the support — or simply a call-back — from their LAUSD District 1 board member, George McKenna. When he was principal at Washington Prep, McKenna had a well-earned reputation for advocating for students of color and instituting a culture of high expectation. But neither he nor his staff has met with Neighbors in Action for Baldwin Hills Elementary.

“I very much support the parents and programs at Baldwin Hills Elementary, and always have,” McKenna says. “It’s a wonderful school.” What he doesn’t say is anything about the colocation conflict.

But the coalition is not scaling back the pressure for more definitive support.

“All we’re asking district to do is find another place to house [New L.A.], and don’t renew their contract at Baldwin,” says Jacquelyn Walker, a longtime teacher at Baldwin Hills who became its community school coordinator last year.

Underlying the many practical arguments here is a philosophical one: If Black lives truly matter, Baldwin Hills deserves — is, in fact, entitled to — as much space as possible.

With BHE, LAUSD has an organic model of Black success that the district should be nurturing, not stunting. In Walker’s words: “Allow us to thrive, give us the opportunity to do what we can do.”

The stakes for students of color are simply too high to do anything less.

Jeff Bryant writes here about the surprising emergence of Jackson, Mississippi, as a trailblazer for public school reform. Jackson is right now renowned for the failure of its water supply. Jeff also documents years of the state government underfunding its public schools. Racism can be seen is almost every aspect of the relationship between the state and the city. The public schools of Jackson are 95% Black. Under these circumstances, what is happening in the schools is remarkable.

Before it got national headlines about its severe water crisis, Jackson, Mississippi, was much renowned for its potholes. “The amount [sic] of potholes in the city is crazy,” exclaimsthe narrator of “Jackson, Mississippi: The Second Most Dangerous City in America,” a video posted to a popular travel YouTube channel in December 2021. The vlogger continues, “It’s just amazing to me there is a city in America that looks like this. … It’s hard to believe that this is the United States.”

“It is not uncommon to walk through west Jackson and see water flowing out of pipes for weeks,” observed Yoknyam Dabale, a Nigerian immigrant who moved to Jackson, in an op-ed in the Jackson Free Press. “Roads are overrun with potholes and uncleaned gutters.”

“The city says 90 percent of its roads are in poor shape,” television news outlet WLBT reported in 2021. “A Google search pulls up endless complaints, dangerous accidents, and hazardous barricades,” reporter Sharie Nicole wrote. “Local comedians write songs about the potholes; out-of-towners rant about it.”

The steady decay of Jackson’s public infrastructure goes beyond potholes and the water supply.

In 2018, the Mississippi Clarion Ledger reported that Jackson libraries faced a crisis that included “black mold, leaking buildings,” and “chronic flooding issues at two of its main branches.” Jackson libraries have been “suffering from needed repairs,” and some libraries were even facing temporary closure due to lack of money for repairs, according to an August 2022 report in the Northside Sun.

In 2017, the Clarion Ledger, in reporting on the “deteriorating” conditions in the city’s parks and recreation facilities, found a “$1.2 million hole” in the Department of Parks and Recreation budget.

The lack of government investment in Jackson’s public infrastructure, and across the state in general, extends to public schools as well.

Were Jackson schools funded according to state law, the district would receive $11,447,922 more in state funding for the 2022-2023 school year alone, according to the Parents’ Campaign, a parent advocacy group in the state.

Funding for Mississippi students is even worse if they happen to be Black. “Between 1954 and 1960, the state gave Black students more than $297 million less (in 2017 dollars) than white students,” the Sun Herald reported while referring to government data. “And if that number is extended back to 1890, Black students were shortchanged more than $25 billion.”

Jackson Public Schools (JPS) are 95 percent Black, according to the 2019 Better Together Commission (BTC) Findings Report by the nonprofit One Voice. The Better Together Commission is a public-private partnership that included city and state officials, Jackson citizens, and representatives from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a private foundation based in Michigan.

As I reported for the Progressive magazine in 2018, BTC was formed as an alternative to a takeover of the district by the state after an audit by the Mississippi Department of Education found a significant number of state regulatory violations by the district. Fearing state takeover would lead to schools being handed over to charter school management groups—which is what happened in New Orleans, Newark, and other majority-Black school districts—a coalition called Our JPS quickly formed to oppose the takeover and demand an alternative approach to improving the public school system.

One such alternative was to remake schools into community-based centers for providing student- and family-oriented supports and programs designed to address the high levels of poverty, homelessness, and mental and economic trauma in the district.

“We need schools that serve as hubs of the community,” Pam Shaw, a leading spokesperson for Our JPS at the time of writing the article for the Progressive, told me. “Communities should own that space and use it as a launching pad for everything children need.”

Our JPS has since refined that idea into a campaign for the district to adopt what’s become loosely known as community schools. Our JPS defines community schools as “neighborhood schools that partner with families and community organizations to provide well-rounded educational experiences and supports for students’ school success…”

Meanwhile, the idea of community schools has caught on with progressive think tanksteachers’ unionspublic education advocates, and philanthropic groups across the nation. California has provided $3 billion in new state funding for transitioning schools to the approach in 2022, and Maryland has pledged to convert at least one-third of the state’s public schools to community schools.

One philanthropic group advocating for the community schools approach in Jackson is the NEA Foundation, a Washington, D.C., based nonprofit founded by educators.

“We entered this work in Jackson at the invitation of Mississippi educators,” NEA Foundation president and CEO Sara Sneed told Our Schools. “There is enormous community pressure for positive change but also expectations that any effort to include community voice in the process will come with a fight.”

The NEA Foundation’s effort also targets two other communities in school districts in the South—Little Rock, Arkansas, and East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. But Sneed expects their work in Jackson to lead the initiative for spreading the community schools approach throughout the South.

“We want to make community schools a signature issue in Mississippi and believe the effort in Jackson is an opportunity to transform the education experiences of children in the South,” Sneed said.

Please open the link and read the rest of this hopeful post.

Sit down and prepare for a long but very important read. You might conclude that the elected officials of South Carolina–Governor Henry McMasters, Senator Lindsay Graham, Senator Tim Scott, and the State Legislature–don’t give a damn about the children of South Carolina. You might be right.

Seven years ago, Arnold Hillman and his wife Carol retired as educators in Pennsylvania and moved to South Carolina. Instead of taking up golf, they became deeply involved in helping high school students in impoverished schools. Having served as volunteers in the schools, Arnold Hillman quickly realized that South Carolina ignores the needs of its children. There is no real system, he says. Charter schools have been a distraction, not a solution. He concludes that the schools of South Carolina need radical change. What are the chances of a deep Red state acting on his proposals? Sadly, not great. South Carolina has a well established record of tolerating neglect of its children, especially those who are impoverished and Black.

Arnold Hillman can be reached at arnold@scorsweb.org

Arnold Hillman writes:

THE NEED FOR RADICALIZATION IN EDUCATION

It’s time for us to look seriously at completely redoing the education system in South Carolina. As Senator Greg Hembree, Chair of the Senate Education Committee of the South Carolina Assembly told Barnett Berry, “ It is time to stop nibbling around the edges of school reform and the teaching profession.”1

No truer words have been spoken about our present education system. In fact, there really is no system. In the long scheme of things, our present way of doing education is a bunch of pile-ons from the original manufacturing design of Frederick Taylor and his scientific management. 

While Taylor was creating the assembly line process, Ford was dehumanizing it by considering people as cogs in a great machine. If you don’t see any relationship between these two mammoth names in our economic history, go to your local high school and watch when the bells ring and students change classes.

More specifically, South Carolina ranks low on education state rankings that use multiple variables. They are variously ranked from 40thin the nation to 49th. Education Week gives South Carolina a C- for education quality.2 While the Annie Casey Foundation grades education as 43rd in the nation.3

Each year the legislature and the administration in South Carolina claim that we have a new program that will increase test scores and general education standards. According to the numbers, that just is not so. We may introduce the newest panaceas and claim that they will create higher state, federal and NAEP scores, but that does not usually happen.

This is not a single person’s opinion. In this article in the State Newspaper of August 5, 2022, it declares that “ SC has among worst school systems in US, new ranking shows. Here’s why and what’s being done.”

Read more at: https://www.thestate.com/news/state/south-carolina/article264174836.html#storylink=cpy

The problems will continue. The same people will present small ideas that will hold forth for a while. Then these ideas and programs will fade into the distance and new people with other small ideas will approach these problems and fail once more. Take a gander at the history of education in South Carolina over the past 50 or so years.

If what you see in our history disturbs you, then you are on the correct path to starting over again and creating a new way of teaching our children.

WHERE DO WE BEGIN ?

Minnesota passed the first Charter School law in 1991. It was followed by Massachusetts in 1993. The basic tenets of the laws were that these were going to be public schools, with independent management. They were also less restricted by state law and could become examples of innovation.5

Public schools would then have a chance to look at these innovations and use them in the regular public schools. That is not what happened. Charter schools became independent entities, sometimes managed by profit making organizations. Their history of innovation is slim. Furthermore, since they were able to disregard state law in many instances, while regular public schools could not copy any of the alleged innovations.

Here was a panacea that really had no possible way of succeeding for the overwhelming majority of public school children. Once again, here was an idea that would propel education into the 21st century and improve education for our children. It did not work that way.

As almost all of these panaceas fell by the wayside. It is evident that none of them had any chances of succeeding. The ideas that created these programs never seemed to begin with the children. They were always ideas that were promulgated to somehow enter the system and make things right. Few, if any of them, began with the needs of the children.

In any radicalization of education, students need to come first. All other things are just trimmings that come after. What is evident from all of these efforts to improve public education, is that they have no basis in children’s needs. Whether you agree with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs or its revision or not, children have absolute needs when they are in school.5

Proof of these needs has been highlighted recently when mass school shootings have created social and emotional disturbances among children. These children need to feel safe.

We can list children’s needs from pre-school to 12th grade. They will all be familiar to you.

Safe and Stable environment

Proper nutrition

Structure

Sense of belonging

Consistency

Health Care

Emotional Support

Education

There are many more items that could be added to the list. The author has chosen these because of consistent information about South Carolina’s children that appears in public journals and media. Here are some statistics.

One in six (or 178,710) children in South Carolina are food insecure — numbers that are growing due to the pandemic-induced unemployment.

• Over 12,000 students experienced homelessness in 2017-19, and another unidentified 34,000 were estimated to be without a home.

• Over 40 percent of South Carolinians live in childcare deserts — a term used to describe a Census tract of more than 50 children under the age of five where there are no childcare providers.

• In 2019, about 10 percent of the 15,000 children referred to the Department of Juvenile Justice were for status offenses (truancy, curfew violation, etc.) reflecting underlying personal, family, or community problems, not criminal ones.

The simple truth is that many children in our state have few of the basic needs outlined above. This is not just a problem of poor and minority communities. 6

A kindergarten assessment at the beginning of the 2020- 21 school year was modified because of the pandemic. However, the results published by the Westend Corporation, the creator of the assessment, found these numbers statewide:

33% of the 48,000 of the kindergartners tested at the beginning of the year had an Emerging Readiness. This means that they will need significant help to reach readiness.

40% of the children were classified as approaching readiness and would need some kind of intervention.

27% of the children are actually demonstrating readiness.7

During the early days of the pandemic there were contrary opinions about wearing masks and getting vaccinations. Even today cases of Covid variants are spiking in a number of counties in the state, according to the DHEC. The situation is confusing. There is an elected Superintendent of Education who had differing views from those of the administration.

This confusion made life difficult for local decision makers. Who does one listen to, the Governor, the Superintendent of Education or the Department of Health and Environmental Control? Consequently, there was little consistency across the state.

Leadership at the local level became a problem when 32 of the 78 school superintendents turned over from March of 2020 to June of 2022. That is 41%.8 This lack of consistency has propelled many school districts into micro-management by school boards. These kinds of happenings are never a positive event for the children.

If South Carolina has a system of education, it is not apparent. The funding mechanisms for school districts relies on many layers of bureaucratic meddling. As in most states in the union, school districts are governed by local school boards. At the upper levels of the state government, the Governor, or an appointed official, such as a Chief State School Officer actually operates the system.

Leadership at the local level became a problem when 32 of the 78 school superintendents turned over from March of 2020 to June of 2022. That is 41%.8 This lack of consistency has propelled many school districts into micro-management by school boards. These kinds of happenings are never a positive event for the children.If South Carolina has a system of education, it is not apparent. The funding mechanisms for school districts relies on many layers of bureaucratic meddling. As in most states in the union, school districts are governed by local school boards. At the upper levels of the state government, the Governor, or an appointed official, such as a Chief State School Officer actually operates the system.

South Carolina is one of 12 states that elects its chief state school officer. There are pros and cons to this system. In some cases, it can stimulate cooperative action, while in others it stimulates conflict.In South Carolina, there are a number of bureaucratic layers to school governance. At the local level, there are school boards, superintendents of schools, county councils, and something called a legislative committee whose power is ill defined. It is composed of both state senators and state house members. There is also the Education Oversight Committee (EOC). This is the legislators’ way of keeping on eye on education and how it is performing across the state.

                 SO WHAT IS THE CONCLUSION ?

Underneath the edujargon and the political palaver, most folks know that education is not doing well in South Carolina. We will not delveinto higher education. This is a concluding thought from many people. 

Now, who do you blame? We blame everyone and no one. Many good hearted people of all political stripes have tried to fix things. They have not succeeded. The Covid-19 pandemic has pointed out that our system cannot deal with the realities of our current world. We have left our children to the devices of companies who are producing online products. We have left our teachers out there in the universe of online education with no tools at their disposal. They have tried mightily to do their job. It was mostly a futile attempt.

staff reports  |  Results from end-of-year examination scores revealed that South Carolina students are struggling in U.S. history, algebra and biology. More than a third of high school students failed algebra last year and 24% got a “D.” They scored even worse in history and biology with a mean of 65% and 66%, respectively.The culprit: Pandemic-related learning loss, education officials suspect.

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said more work needed to be done to help students recover: “Preparing students to meet college and career-readiness standards must not just be an aspiration in our state,” she said, according to published reports. “It’s a responsibility that all of us must play a role in as we pursue meaningful solutions.16

As we get back to in-person education, the children have been besieged with social and emotional problems. Teachers are not able to handle such things by themselves. It is a gross miscalculation that all children are getting the help that they need. In fact, when they do get help, who is it that provides it ?

We are even further behind than we were in March of 2020. Yet, some school districts still seem to shine. In larger school districts, with many schools, there still seem to be those whodo well. They are singularly in the minority. How can we compare a school district with a median household income of $101,284 with one whose income is $26,074?9

Think of the resources that wealthy parents can provide for their child, compared to a child whose parents are just getting by and have no resources for their child, except for love.

O.K. RADICALS, WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?

We begin with the children and the things that they need. We can look at the above-mentioned items as a beginning. As was said, there are many more things that children need. As they mature through the school and life experiences, their needs change. Do we know enough Piaget to list the things that the children need at particular ages. Notice, I did not say grades. As a noted educator and speaker Sam Clemens once said, “ How do you handle a kindergartner who comes into school carrying a New York Times when you also have a little one who walks in and needs to learn his alphabet?

It all begins at birth, or maybe even before. Without proper health care for expectant moms, the chances of a child having a normal entrance into this world is diminished. South Carolina’s infant mortality rate of 6.5% per 1000 live births is higher than the national average of 5.4% per 1000 live births. Pre-natal medical care is most lacking in rural areas of the state. 

How does one prevent this kind of statistic? There are a number of ways, if the state is of a mind. One way is a massive public campaign aimed at areas with few physicians and few clinics. The need for medical facilities in these places should become a state priority. 

A second, and more accelerated way is for consortia of school districts, local municipalities and hospitals to purchase medical vans. These vans have been in use in many rural and urban areas in the United States. The van could be under the jurisdiction of one of these entities for financial responsibility. The driver would be a staff member of one of these entities. 

Medical personnel could be secured with volunteers, dentists, school psychologists, doctors, nurses, PAs and others. The vans could advertise when they would be in a certain area. Pre-natal exams could be a major function, while children from 0-4 could also be seen by some of these specialists. 

A third method of securing health care for pre and post-natal care is an outreach program that is run by a local school district. The Appleton, Wisconsin School District has created a birth through five program that focuses on entire community resources to help parents in the community.

85% of the foundation for a child’s intellect, personality and skills is formed by age 5. Appleton Area School District’s Birth-Five Outreach offers an inclusive network of family care services, school information, and community support.Birth–Five Outreach builds positive relationships with families by offering connections to many school and community resources early on.11

A fourth possible method is to establish a 0-5 school building, or community building that will have all of the services needed by families with children from 0-5 and pre-natal care. In the early 1980’s such a school was created by the Titusville School District in Northwestern Pennsylvania. 

All of these suggestions are now in effect in the United States of America, but not in South Carolina. These programs are not only helpful to the individual parent and child, but to the community and to the schools that these children will go to.

        SO NOW THEY WALK INTO SCHOOL, OR DO THEY?

If we are going to deal with children where they are at, can we still use the old fashioned age requirement for kindergarten. Not only don’t we want to do that, but maybe we don’t even call the first year of school by that old name. There are things attached to the word, that it may be necessary to use some other word or some other description.

So many of the children that walk through those school doors are at variance with what we consider “ready to learn.” The differences between the children is immense. So what do we do? Here are some programs that could exist in a public school, a vocational school or a technical college.

A. Pre and postnatal care

B. Teenage pregnancy

C. Day Care for community members orschool staff

D. Day Care to programming 0-5

E. On site medical care

F. Training for students to learn day care skills

G. Special education programs for children with disabilities

H. Eldercare

I. Job Placement

J. Home for state reps and congress people

K. Psychological services

There are many definitions of what a school or series of schools might be. The origin of the term, “Community School” comes from Stewart Mott’s vision of the Flint community in Michigan in the mid 1930’s. As the head of General Motors, he was able to fund these programs through his Mott Foundation, which still exists today.

A simple definition of the term Community School comes from the NEA.

Community Schools are built with the understanding that students often come to the classroom with challenges that impact their ability to learn, explore, and develop to their greatest potential.  

Because learning never happens in isolation, community schools focus on what students in the community truly need to succeed—whether it’s free healthy meals, health care, tutoring, mental health counseling, or other tailored services before, during, and after school. 13

In recent times, here in South Carolina, Professor Barnett Berry has coined the term “ Whole Child,” education.14His thesis is that unless we take care of the complete needs of children, they will not achieve their maximum capabilities. He also believes that “Whole Child” education begins at birth. Although teaching, “The Whole Child” was concept from the 1950’s, Berry’s description of the process of “Whole Child Education” is much wider and includes so much more than just teachers in a classroom.

One form of “Community School” has been a building that was open 24 hours a day and accommodated an entire community’s needs. The current administration in Washington has increased funding for these kinds of “community schools.” That is not to say that they do not exist already. Here is an example of a school district that has recognized the problems  their children bring with them to school and has taken action.

https://inthepublicinterest.org/biden-proposes-increasing-funding-for-community-schools-by-15-times-the-current-level/ 12

The federal government has recently sent out a request for proposals with the intent of distributing the funding to school districts across the country to promulgate or expand community schools. The total of 468 million dollars in the federal budget proposal for 2023 expands the program. It will be distributed to schools that provide medical assistance, nutritional assistance, mental health, tutoring, enrichment and violence prevention services. The schools will have to be those who have been involved in these programs for a decade.

SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS HAVE TO DO WITH SOUTH CAROLINA EDUCATION ?

For the most part, South Carolina’s education system does not work for most of its children. The state has tried a number of changes, but to no avail. There is a feeling among educators and those who view the system, that caring for the students is not the priority that it should be.

A good example of this kind of attitude is the recent return of one billion dollars in taxes, rather than using these funds to upgrade education. The needs are so great in many districts.

The establishment of public education in the 19th century was challenged by churches and by religious organizations across the burgeoning country. In some states, religious leaders imposed their religious beliefs upon these new schools. As one example, in a number states, there were no events in schools on Wednesdays afternoons and evenings. Those times were set aside for religious experiences.

In other states, there were established times when students could be released early to go to religious studies in their churches. Certainly, no sporting events were to be held on Sunday. Bibles were distributed to 6th grade students in many schools across the nation.

These were but a few instances of church actions in public schools. Sometime at the end of the 1960’s, groups of right wing religionists and their acolytes met to try and undo public education in its entirety. Now, some 50 years later, that they are succeeding in their efforts. 

There can be no doubt that elite billionaires with a religious bent are moving to destroy public education. The issue of the separation of church and state is dissolving amidst a cacophony of yelps from these right wing relgionists, or faux religionists, that they are being discriminated against. 

It is a apparent that these plans are not only to create a side by side educational system, but to allow students, who they feel are not up to par,to remain in public schools. 

In the prior administration, billions of dollars were distributed to charter school privateers, religious schools, private schools and others. This Paycheck Protection Plan was to be used for businesses that had not been doing well during the Covid 19 pandemic. Interestingly enough, none of these dollars could go to public schools.15

The history of public education both here and in all parts of our land is the history of our success as a country. The forces that continue to try and dissolve public education have no idea what will come next. Here in an essay by Anya Kamenetz, reporter from NPR, explains the history and a possible future of public education.

​​​​END NOTES

“ A Whole Child Policy Analysis,” Barnett Berry, University of South Carolina, SC4Ed P. 4 2022

2. Annie Casey Foundation 2022 Kids Count data book

3 “Map A-F Grades Rating States of School Quality”, Education Week Research 2021

4 “Minnesota is the Birthplace of Charter Public Schools” Minnesota Association of Charter Schools

5 “ Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” Simply Psychology April 2022

6   1 “ A Whole Child Policy Analysis,” Barnett Berry, University of South Carolina, SC4Ed P. 62022

7   Results of Modified Kindergarten Readiness Assessment 2020-21 Westend Corporation 2021

8   “Superintendent Turnover March 2020 to June 2022,”SCORS research Arnold Hillman 2022

9  Median Houshold Income South Carolina School Districts, U.S. Census 2020

10   “Infant Mortality and selected birth Characteristics” South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control 2021

11  https://www.aasd.k12.wi.us/families/birth-five_outreach

12   https://www.mott.org/about/history/

13   NEA statement on Community Schools- https://www.nea.org/student-success/great-public-schools/community-schools

14 “ A Whole Child Policy Analysis,” Barnett Berry, University of South Carolina, SC4Ed P. 4 2022

15  https://wlvr.org/2020/07/some-local-schools-get-paycheck-protection-funding-from-the-federal-government-while-others-dont/#.Yx6FtHbMKM8

16 Staff, StateHouse Report, September 23, 2022

“A Teacher’s Creed,” by Arnold Hillman

David DeMatthews and David S. Knight wrote in the San Antonio Express-News that Governor Greg Abbott’s voucher plan is “a terrible idea,” and they explain why. (Since I don’t have a subscription to the San Antonio Express-News, I am copying their tweet.)

David DeMatthews is an associate professor of educational leadership and policy at The University of Texas at Austin.

David S. Knight is the associate director of the Center for Education Research and Policy Studies and an assistant professor of educational leadership at The University of Texas at El Paso.

To summarize:

1. The vouchers don’t cover the cost of most private schools.

2. The money spent on vouchers will hurt public schools, which most students attend.

3. Budget cuts will force public schools to cut popular programs, like dual language education, STEM programs, and vocational training. These cuts will hit low-income districts the hardest.

4. Private schools that get vouchers are not held to the same standards of accountability as public schools, nor do they provide the same services to students with disabilities.

5. Studies of various voucher programs have consistently shown that they are no better than public schools and often worse.

6. Many voucher programs subsidize affluent students already attending private schools.

7. Texas already has one of the worst funded school systems in the nation, especially for children with disabilities. Vouchers will make it worse.

8. In rural communities, public schools are the hub of the community. They will be harmed by vouchers.

9. Vouchers are a terrible idea for Texas. The state needs well-funded schools staffed by high-quality teachers. Vouchers will undercut that goal.

Tom Ultican has been following the Destroy Pubkic Education movement closely. He is encouraged by the energy behind the community schools movement. But he’s also concerned that the corporate reformers and profiteers might find a way to undermine it or take it over.

He writes:

Community school developments are surging in jurisdictions across the country. Since 2014, more the 300 community schools have been established in New York and this month Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was touting them at an event in Pennsylvania. In May, the California State Board of Education announced $635 million in grants for the development of these schools and in July, California disclosed a $4.1 billion commitment to community schools over the next seven years. However, some critiques are concerned about a lurking vulnerability to profiteering created by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

What are Community Schools?

For decades America has turned a blind eye to the embarrassing reality that in many of our poorest communities the only functioning governmental organization or commercial enterprise is the local public school. No grocery stores, no pharmacies, no police stations, no fire stations, no libraries, no medical offices and so on leaves these communities bereft of services for basic human needs and opportunities for childhood development. Community schools are promoted as a possible remedy for some of this neighborhood damage.

The first priority for being a community school is being a public school that opens its doors to all students in the community…

There has been some encouraging anecdotal evidence from several of the original community schools. In March, Jeff Bryant wrote an article profiling two such schools for the Progressive, but there are also bad harbingers circling these schools. In the same paper from Brookings quoted above, there is a call to scale the “Next Generation Community Schools” nationally. They advocate engaging charter school networks and expanding ArmeriCorps. Brookings also counsels us, “Within the Department of Education, use Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) guidance and regulations to advance a next generation of community schools.”

Brookings was not through promoting a clearly neoliberal agenda for community schools. Their latest paper about them notes,

“There is a significant and growing interest in the community schools strategy among federal, state, and local governments seeking to advance educational and economic opportunities and address historic educational inequities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Building off this momentum and with support from Ballmer Group, four national partners—the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution (CUE), the Children’s Aid National Center for Community Schools (NCCS), the Coalition for Community Schools (CCS) at IEL, and the Learning Policy Institute (LPI)—are collaborating with education practitioners, researchers, and leaders across the country to strengthen the community schools field in a joint project called Community Schools Forward.” (Emphasis added)

Steve Ballmer was Bill Gates financial guy at Microsoft and is the billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers. His Ballmer Group recently gifted $25,000,000 to the City Fund to advance privatization of public education in America. This is the group that funded the supposedly “unbiased” report from Brookings.

John Adam Klyczek is an educator and author of School World Order: The Technocratic Globalization of Corporatized Education. New Politics published his article “Community Schools and the Dangers of Ed Tech Privatization” in their Winter 2021 Journal. Klyczek declares,

“Bottom-up democracy through community schools sounds like a great idea. However, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal legislation funding pre-K-12 schools that replaced “No Child Left Behind,” requires ‘full-service’ community schools to incorporate public-private partnerships that facilitate ‘wrap-around services’ managed by data analytics. Consequently, ESSA incentivizes the corporatization of community schools through ‘surveillance capitalism.”’

He contends that ESSA’s mandate for “full-service” public-private partnerships creates “structured corporatization” paths similar to those in charter schools.

There is more about the perils facing community schools. The corporate data hawks are circling.

In a stunning turn of events, the charter schools affiliated with ultra-conservative Hillsdale College withdrew their applications in three counties. The counties rejected them, but the state charter commission had the power to override the local school boards. The charters stirred controversy in the rural counties, and the president of Hillsdale College made matters worse by insulting teachers.

American Classical Education — a group set up to create a network of charter schools affiliated with Hillsdale College across Tennessee — has withdrawn its applications to open schools in Madison, Montgomery and Rutherford counties.

This follows months of controversy since Gov. Bill Lee announced a “partnership” with the ultraconservative Michigan college during his State of the State Address in January.

ACE’s application had been rejected in all three counties, and they faced a contentious appeal next week before the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission, which could have overruled the local school boards.

“We made this decision because of the limited time to resolve the concerns raised by the commission staff and our concerns that the meeting structure and timing on Oct. 5 will not allow commissioners to hear directly from the community members whose interests lie at the heart of the commission’s work,” board chair Dolores Gresham wrote in a letter delivered Thursday to the commission….

Lee had praised Hillsdale’s “patriotic” approach to education and asked Hillsdale president Larry Arnn to open as many as 100 of the taxpayer-funded schools across the state.

But a NewsChannel 5 investigation had highlighted issues with Hillsdale’s curriculum, including a rewriting of the history of the civil rights movement.

Hidden-camera video also revealed Arnn making derogatory comments about public school teachers coming from “the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges.”

More recently, NewsChannel 5 Investigateshad uncovered video of a Hillsdale College professor, who teaches part of an online course about the civil rights movement, questioning the achievements of famous Black Americans.

Early on, Governor Lee asked Hillsdale to open 100 charters in Tennessee, and Hillsdale College scaled the number back to 50. At the moment, Hillsdale has none. Governor Lee underestimated the close ties between rural communities and their public schools. The people of Tennessee were unwilling to toss aside the teachers they know and the schools that are the hub of their communities.

Please open the link to read the rest of the story. Hillsdale might try again.

C

Filippa Mannerheim is a Swedish high school teacher and a critic of Sweden’s experiment in school privatization.

She writes.

Dear Sweden, let me tell you what a school is.

A school educates and dares and can demand effort. Sweden has forgotten what a school is. High school teacher Filippa Mannerheim gives a lesson to a country that has lost its grip.

Dear Sweden, since you seem to have completely lost your composure, here is a short, educational guide to help you along in your confused state.

Sweden, let me tell you what school is: A school is an academic place for knowledge and learning. A school is the nation’s most important educational institution with the aim of equipping the country’s young citizens with knowledge and abilities, so that they can develop into free and independent individuals, protect the country’s democratic foundations and with knowledge and skills contribute to the country’s continued prosperity – in times of peace as well as in troubled times .

A school is not a joint-stock company with profit as the main incentive. A school is a joint community building. A school has educated, subject-knowledgeable, qualified teachers with high status, good working conditions and great professional freedom. These teachers teach the country’s children in the country’s language.

A school has employed – not hired – resource staff: special teachers, school nurse, study and vocational guidance counselors, IT staff, janitors. A school does not have non-qualified persons behind the chair.

A school gives children who are falling behind extra support from trained special teachers. A school does not hand out digital tools or ineffective adaptations as substandard substitutes for extra support, just because it is cheaper.

A school has appropriate premises: adequately sized classrooms, an auditorium, a sports hall, a music hall, a home economics room with a kitchenette, crafts and lab rooms. A school has adequate equipment for theoretical and practical teaching, such as musical instruments, craft tools, laboratory equipment, teaching aids, working IT equipment and large amounts of fiction in class sets.

A school has a school library with trained librarians who keep an eye on the world, buy books, hold book talks and contribute with unique expertise in fiction and non-fiction, information search and source criticism. A school does not have a repository of some randomly selected books donated by parents and call this a “school library”. A school library is not “access to a public library”.

A school has a large school yard where children can jump rope, jump fence, play football, play marbles, play ghost ball, King and run around. A school yard is not a paved patch outside an apartment building.

A school is an architectural building – a proud landmark – adapted to a unique activity, namely teaching the country’s children. A school is not a bicycle cellar or an industrial premises where students get “theoretical skills” or a gym card at Sats, which is called “sports education” because it is cheaper.

A school is not a private playground for calculating corporate groups and corrupt ex-politicians who want to make a career in business. If you think so, you have seriously misunderstood what school is.

A school sells nothing because knowledge cannot be sold or bought. A school has a canteen that serves a well-planned lunch based on the Swedish Food Agency’s guidelines for a good and nutritious meal. A school does not send teenagers out to buy their daily lunch at a hamburger chain using a food stamp.

A school does not compete with other schools for school fees or easily taught students. A school has no incentive to set satisfaction ratings, as rating is a pressure-free exercise of authority – not a means of competition and a way to fish for new school customers.

A school educates and dares and can demand effort. A school is a community foundation, not a sandwich board for demanding parental customers. A school has an obvious consensus on what knowledge is and how it is taught using methods that rest on a scientific basis.

A school has teachers who conduct well-planned teaching, not teachers who send students home with work that parents are expected to help with in order for the school’s profit to be greater. A school has teachers who see themselves as academics and public servants, not marketers and influencers who hawk vacuum cleaners with the help of their students via Instagram accounts.

A school is an area where politicians strive for cooperation, long-termism, stability and the best interests of the citizens. A school is not allowed to become a bat in national political debates about cap issues or grades from year 4. The word “school” and “lobbyism” are never used in the same sense. A school system without a market is not a “communist government”.

We live in a country that has lost all understanding of what school is. We live in a country where the politicians have let go of the country’s own school system and are selling it off, piece by piece, to international companies.

We live in a country where students and parents get an image that school can be anything, however, anywhere and an image of themselves as school customers instead of parents and students. This is dangerous for the individual but even more dangerous for the nation at large.

Sweden, now you know what school is. What do you do with that knowledge?

By Filippa Mannerheim

Filippa Mannerheim is a high school teacher in Swedish and history, as well as a school debater. She attracted a lot of attention in the winter of 2020 with her open letter to Sweden’s Riksdag politicians on Expressen’s culture page, “Swedish school is a shame – you politicians have failed”.

The Brookings Institution reported on a big increase in federal funding for technical assistance for community schools along with the priorities for funding. Unlike charter schools, community schools operate under the supervision of public school boards; they are not operated or owned by private entrepreneurs; they seek to strengthen public educations, not compete with it or replace it. Unlike the federal Charter Schools Program, which provides $400 million + in start-up funds, the funding for community schools is for technical assistance, not basic costs. The CSP has been riddled by waste, fraud, and abuse, and many federally funded charters never open.

The U.S. Department of Education recently announced a notice inviting applications for the Full-Service Community Schools Program to provide high-quality academic, integrated health and social service, and engagement support for all students. The grant program continues to reflect steady increases in the federal appropriations process from an initial $5 million in fiscal year 2009, to $25 million in 2020, $30 million in 2021, $75 million in 2022, and a proposed substantial increase of $468 million in 2023. The exponential growth in investments signals a consistent interest and confidence in community school strategies as a powerful approach to whole-child educational transformation of schools and communities. Similarly, dedicated state funding opportunities in Maryland, New York, and Californiareflect a growing body of evidence from decades of implementation expertise about how community school strategies—when supported and sustained—can leverage the assets and voices of the full community to support student success.

The Community School Forward national task force welcomes this support of community schools as a strategy to increase youth and community voice, ensure rigorous community-connected instruction, extend learning opportunities and improve school climate, health, and mental health, and college and post-secondary student outcomes. The task force recognizes that while funding is necessary to continue to accelerate the growth of community schools, increasing it alone will not directly result in effective community school partnerships and strategies. High-quality technical assistance must be provided to practitioners. The task force project team developed a national needs assessment to gain a clearer picture of what type of community school technical assistance is needed across the country.

WHAT DOES COMMUNITY SCHOOL TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE ENTAIL?

The Children’s Aid National Center for Community Schools (NCCS) is a practice-based technical assistance provider that has supported the startup, scaling, and sustainability of community school initiatives across the country and internationally, NCCS has seen what happens with (and without) strong and consistent guidance and capacity building. We define technical assistance as the process of building the capacity of community school stakeholders to start, scale, and sustain transformational community schools. Informed by a comprehensive needs and assets assessment and guided by a plan jointly developed with the client, technical assistance includes organizing communities of action, facilitating connections, and providing the relevant tools and skills.

In early 2022, in anticipation of technical assistance needs of new and developing community school practitioners, NCCS—in partnership with the Brookings Institution, the Learning Policy Institute, and the Coalition for Community Schools—conducted an assessment of community school practitioners and experts to gauge emerging needs and best practices in implementing community schools and technical assistance. The findings of our inquiry provide important guidance for the Full-Service Community Schools program and other initiatives focused on expanding and deepening effective community school strategies. In our report, “Community Schools Forward: Technical assistance needs assessment,” we summarize the findings of a national study exploring community school technical assistance needs and assets and recommend that technical assistance providers prioritize:

  • Model clarity for all stakeholders – ensuring all stakeholders have the same conceptual understanding of community schools and their role within the model.
  • Structures and systems for community voices – developing mechanisms that invite democratic processes within a community school.
  • Structures and systems for collaborativeleadership – systems and processes that reinforce distributed leadership and collaborative decisionmaking.
  • Asset-based thinking – cultivating a perspective that focuses on the strengths of the students, families, and community.
  • Sustainability – navigating braided funding and “telling the story” to public and private funders in a way that accurately reflects the work; developing a model or network that is supported by the community and leadership, and not vulnerable to leadership changes.
  • Reimagining systems for equity – reviewing existing school processes and structures to determine if the current approach is meeting all student, family, and community needs. Changing those systems that are not meeting the needs of all stakeholders.
  • Data systems – developing systems for data collection and analysis that capture accurate data that is connected to identified outcomes and is aligned with a logic model.
  • Data culture and continuous improvement – creating a positive and collaborative environment where problems can be identified and solved using data and inquiry.

Additionally in our report, practitioners shared the most impactful strategies that community school decisionmakers and partners can prioritize as part of their developmental process.

Read the full report.

Jeff Bryant, a veteran education journalist, writes here about the exciting promise of community schools as a meaningful reform.

Jeff writes about a parent who was reluctant to send her child to a Title 1 school. But she gave it a try and was delighted when she discovered it was a community school.

He writes:

As the 2022-2023 school year approaches, both her daughters are enrolled in Wheaton Woods, and Allen has had a change of heart about the school.

“I’m grateful now that we gave Wheaton Woods a try. I now feel we have our kids in the best school for them, and I always advocate for the school,” she said.

What helped turn around Allen’s attitude toward Wheaton Woods had much to do with a recent state-mandated Blueprint in Montgomery County and across Maryland to implement an education approach called community schools.

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The Blueprint calls for designating schools that serve highly concentrated populations of impoverished families as “community schools” and providing these schools with extra funding and support.

The extra funding is supposed to be used to hire a health practitioner and a school-based staff person who conducts a needs assessment of the school, and based on that assessment, coordinates and manages a wide range of services—including academic, health, mental, and other services—to help address the negative impact that concentrated poverty often has on children and families.

Nineteen schools in Montgomery County, including Wheaton Woods, have been designated as community schools, according to the district’s website.

Now in its third year of implementing the approach, Wheaton Woods has poured new energy and resources to engage families more deeply in the operations of the school and respond to their needs by providing them with access to new programs and services….

After-school activities are important to Allen’s family because both she and her husband work full time. “Our daily schedules are tight,” she said.

A great deal of the school’s outreach effort is due to the work of Daysi Castro, who serves as the school’s community school coordinator called “liaisons” in Montgomery County.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to offer the services we can now give our families because we are a community school,” Castro told Our Schools.

Many of the services offered by Wheaton Woods are the result of Castro and the school forming partnerships with local nonprofits and county agencies. The Excel Beyond the Bell after-school program Allen mentioned is the result of a partnershipwith a local community organization Action in Montgomery. The school also collaborates with a local charity, the Children’s Opportunity Fund, to bring soccer, art, and Spanish language classes to students, along with the opportunity to participate in school clubs for homework and cooking classes. Other partnerships offer parents driving classes, English language classes, and food safety classes. The Montgomery County Recreation collaborates with Wheaton Woods to offer after-school activities as well

Hello, Democrats! Wake up!

Journalist Jennifer Berkshire and historian Jack Schneider report that voters in school board elections are not falling for rightwing slanders of their public schools and teachers!

Democrats: your best strategy for the fall elections is to campaign aggressively for public schools.

Berkshire and Schneider write that Democrats were panicked by Glenn Youngkin’s election as Governor in Virginia, which they attributed to his attacks on “critical race theory” in the schools and his pandering to far-right fake parents’ groups. Steve Bannon (and Chris Rufo) claimed that the road to a takeover was by seizing control of local school boards and destroying public schools.

Berkshire and Schneider say that their campaign is failing. Even in Trump territory, voters are supporting their public schools and rejecting the crazies.

They write:

As it turns out, GOP candidates running on scorched-earth education platforms have fared quite poorly in school board elections. In places like Georgia, Montana, New Hampshire and New York, voters have rejected culture warriors running for school board, often doing so by wide margins. A recent Ballotpedia review of more than 400 school board contests in Missouri, Oklahoma and Wisconsin found that race, gender and COVID were indeed influential in determining election outcomes, but not in the way one might expect. As they found, candidates who ran in opposition to a “conflict issue” — sexual education curricula, for instance, or a focus on race in the district — were more likely to lose their races.

Cherokee County, Ga., a rural county northwest of Atlanta, offers an instructive example. The county’s schools made national headlines recently after ProPublica reported on a group of white parents protesting the hiring of a Black educator brought on to serve as the first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion officer. Yet voters in the county, which Trump won by nearly 70 percent in 2020, overwhelmingly rejected hardline candidates for school board. A self-proclaimed family values slate, backed by the national 1776 Project PAC, and which ran in opposition to critical race theory and school district equity plans, failed to pick up a single seat.

Voters in Coweta County, Ga., sent a similar message to another slate of candidates endorsed by the 1776 Project. All four challengers were bested by board incumbents in the May primary, while a fifth — a controversial incumbent who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection and claimed that students were being indoctrinated with critical race theory through district-provided Chromebooks — was unseated by a landslide in a runoff election in June.

It isn’t that these deep red countries have suddenly begun to turn blue. Instead, the culture war approach is falling short because Americans have direct experiences that contradict what they’re hearing from candidates.

Please open the link and read the good news for yourself.