Sunday, February 26, 2017

Charters Schools: Starting a Downward Trend

Watching the charter school movement in the U.S. has certainly been both intriguing and discouraging.

I don't think anyone could have been against charters as they were originated - one or two classrooms in an existing school that were little hotbeds of innovation.  Successes would be sent out to other classrooms and schools and failures duly noted with lessons learned.

But that is not how it has played out.  What is the honest truth about charter schools looks like this:
  • Most of them perform about the same as any given public school, meaning, no better/no worse.
  • The top ones perform very well especially with at-risk kids.  However, some of that performance comes at a cost.  One issue is schools like KIPP are very segregated and use strict discipline (to the point where kids walk in a line from class to class with no talking...ever).  Another issue with high-performing charter schools is the issue of transportation.  Some are able - at a very high cost - to provide transportation but those that don't then find their population skewed to those who can get transportation to the school.  I recall from my visit to Preuss High in San Diego - a top charter school in the country - that they were open to students across San Diego and the costs of transport were becoming a problem.
  • The terrible charters tend to be the ones who close up shop in the middle of the night, leaving parents and districts scrambling.  There continues to be a charter school scandal over money nearly every week (I can say that with confidence because the Network for Public Education is documenting this).  
Despite their growth, charter schools still only serve about 6% of the nation's children.  California, which has the largest number of charter school students, is at about 8% while Washington, D.C. has the largest percentage of charter school students at 42%.

Interesting stats from the National Center for Education Statistics:
Between school years 2003–04 and 2013–14, charter schools experienced changes in their demographic composition similar to those seen at traditional public schools. The percentage of charter school students who were Hispanic increased (from 21 to 30 percent), as did the percentage who were Asian/Pacific Islander (from 3 to 4 percent).
In contrast, the percentage of charter school students who were White decreased from 42 to 35 percent. The percentages decreased for Black (from 32 to 27 percent) and American Indian/Alaska Native (from 2 to 1 percent) charter school students, as well. Data were collected for charter school students of Two or more races beginning in 2009–10. Students of Two or more races accounted for 3 percent of the charter school population in 2013–14. 
Let's look at what the Center on Reinventing Public Education said recently about charter school growth.
A recently released annual update from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools included a surprising fact: a mere 329 charter schools opened across the country in the 2016-2017 school year. In no year since the Alliance began tracking new charter openings has the total number of new schools been so low. Looking back at CRPE’s Hopes, Fears, and Reality series, it appears that it was the early 2000s when we last saw fewer than 350 new charter schools open. When you take closures into consideration, the total additional growth of charter schools last year was just over 100 schools, or nearly 2 percent.
Student enrollment numbers tell a different story. Total charter student enrollment surpassed 3 million this year, a 7 percent increase over last year. This likely reflects existing schools’ addition of grade levels and approach to full capacity.
More aggressive closures don’t explain the slow down. The number of charter school closures over the last five years has held pretty steady. Last spring's number of closures (202) is actually lower than the previous year's high-water mark of 257. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Seattle Schools Update

A couple of items of importance have come up on the district's website as well as the agenda for Wednesday night's Board meeting.

Parents and community members have a week to apply to be on the High School Boundary Task Force.  
Seattle Public Schools is seeking a diverse group of community members to serve on the High School Boundary Task Force, whose purpose is to examine and prepare a set of recommendations regarding Seattle Public Schools high school capacity management and boundary issues.  

The report will include an examination of major capital projects that are affecting high school buildings; an exploration of past, current and possible future high school boundaries.
Open the High School Boundary Task Force Application for family and community membersPDF icon.
Please complete and submit the application by March 3. Applicants will be notified by email, if possible, or by phone by March 10, 2017. 

Please visit our task force webpage for more information.
The district is also holding a meeting for parents of students who may fall into the boundaries of the reopening of Magnolia Elementary School.
An attendance area will have to be established for Magnolia Elementary School to assign students to the new school. This means that the existing boundaries for Catherine Blaine, Coe and Lawton will likely be changed.

Please join SPS Enrollment Planning and the principals of Catherine Blaine, Coe, and Lawton at the upcoming community meeting to learn more about boundary changes and share feedback with district staff. Interpreters will be available.

Magnolia Elementary Community Meetings
Monday, March 13, 2017, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Catharine Blaine K-8, 2550 34th Ave W, Seattle
The Board meets this Wednesday, March 1st, starting at 4:15 pm for its regularly scheduled board meeting Agenda


Friday, February 24, 2017

Friday Open Thread

The U.S. Supreme Court decided this week to hear the case of a student who receives Special Education services to sue for services his parents say he did not receive.  Background here. Basically,
What is the level of educational benefit that school districts must confer on children with disabilities to provide them with the free appropriate public education guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
From local Sped advocate, Mary Kohli Griffin on the case:
It allows the family of a student with a disability to pursue a suit for money damages under the Americans with Disabilities Act when the school districts actions constitute discrimination against the student with a disability and the nature of the suit is not a complaint about the denial of a Free Appropriate Public Education.
Heads up for a great music opportunity, a free summer jazz music camp.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Advanced Learning in Seattle Schools, Part Two

In this thread I want to cover:my thoughts on what I believe AL is to become (and why).

Part Three will cover:
- the Advanced Learning Work Session on Feb. 8th
- the UW Equity Summit on Gifted Education, Feb. 9-10

Here's my groundwork on this topic (and you probably have heard me say this before):

Seattle Schools Open Enrollment Ends Tomorrow

Friday, February 24th is the last day for Open Enrollment.

SPS sent out this tweet today which came as a surprise to me but perhaps I just missed reading this (bold mine):
Open Enrollment ends Fri., Feb. 24, 2017. Forms submitted after Feb. 24 do not receive tiebreaker priorities.
 Upcoming key dates
  • Mon., Apr. 17, 2017: Updated Next Year Assignment Information Available Online
  • Wed., May 31, 2017: School Choice for 2017-18 Ends
  • Thurs., Aug. 31, 2017: Waitlists Dissolve

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Legislative Items of Note

One bill is in Congress and one is in the Legislature.

Genealogy Event at Seattle Public Library

Seattle Public Library is having an genealogy event this Saturday for African-American families at the downtown central library from 1-3 pm.  The event is free and will be a podcast later on.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday Open Thread

Seattle Schools reports on a recent professional development day for substitute teacher around culturally responsive teaching.

From NPR, Will Algorithms Erode Our Decision-Making Skills? Something to consider for you and especially, your children.

Sure, such computer code aims to make our lives easier, but experts cited in a new report by Pew Research Center and Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center are worried that algorithms may also make us lose our ability to make decisions. After all, if the software can do it for us, why should we bother? 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Commenting on the Blog

Dear Readers,

I had mentioned previously that I am very frustrated with this district but that's actually a different issue than what I am bringing up here.

I find it difficult to moderate lately and therein lies the frustration.

Charlie and I have basic guidelines on comments but we try to use our best judgment on what stays and what goes.  It's not easy because:

In Honor of Presidents Day - Thanks, President Jefferson

From Great Big Story:
Founding father, co-author of the Declaration of Independence, third president of the United States. All great achievements. 

But, we should also recognize Thomas Jefferson for bringing macaroni and cheese into our lives. The creamy combo made its way to the U.S. courtesy of Jefferson, who, while visiting France, became enamored of fashionable pasta dishes there. 

Yum! Thanks TJ.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Seventy-Five Years Ago Today; A Day That Also Should Live in Infamy

From Sol's Civic Minute:
Today is the 75th anniversary of the executive order that President Franklin Roosevelt signed three months after Pearl Harbor creating a system of internment camps to which Japanese Americans were sent.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Netflix Allows Classroom Access to 13th

Thanks to Soup for Teachers for this heads up.  From Variety:
Netflix has granted public screening access to Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary “13th” for classrooms, community groups, book clubs, and other educational settings.

The streaming service said Tuesday that there has been a groundswell of interest from elementary school, universities, another other educational institutions asking for permission to screen the film. “13th” — which takes its title from the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery — explores the link between slavery and the modern-day prison system.

“13th” is competing for the best feature documentary Academy Award against “Fire at Sea,” “O.J.: Made in America,” “Life, Animated,” and “I Am Not Your Negro.”