Sunday, July 12, 2009

Is The Writing On the Wall?

I read the the NY Times. I grew up believing (though never reading until adulthood) that the NY Times was THE national newspaper. I tend to agree, overwhelmingly, with their editorials. So imagine my chagrin? sadness? resignation? over this one (with some confusion added in, to boot) about the direction of education under the Obama administration. The Times sets out two directions they believe the administration should go in.

From the editorial:

"Mr. Duncan has said from the start that he wants the states to transform about 5,000 of the lowest-performing schools, not in a piecemeal fashion but with bold policies that have an impact right away. The argument in favor of a tightly focused effort aimed at these schools is compelling. We now know, for example, that about 12 percent of the nation’s high schools account for half the country’s dropouts generally — and almost three-quarters of minority dropouts. A plan that fixed these schools, raising high school graduation and college-going rates, would pay enormous dividends for the country as a whole.

Mr. Duncan can use his burgeoning discretionary budget to reward states that take the initiative in this area. But Congress could push the reform effort further and faster by granting the education department’s request for two changes in federal education law. The first would be to come up with new federal school improvement money and require the states to focus 40 percent of it on the lowest-performing middle and high schools. The second change would allow the secretary to directly finance charter-school operators that have already produced high-quality schools. "

I totally agree with the first. I have written on this before when this data was first announced. If we know that 12% of the nation's high school account for half the dropouts then as Homer would say, "Doh!". We know where they are so get to it in a big way.

Ah but the second. That second one is full of details and problems. One, the feds directly financing public schools? That's a local control that I doubt many states would go for and it would set up quite the smackdown between the two. Two, define "high quality". Is that definition the rise of test scores? Happier parents? Special education students being equally served in that location? Three, is that "high quality" able to be replicated on a large-scale? Heck, we can't even reproduce TOPS in our own district.

Also from the editorial:

"Mr. Duncan confronted this issue [of the unevenness in quality of charter schools] directly at a charter school alliance meeting held in Washington last month, pointing out that the states needed to do a much better oversight job and that failing charters needed to be swiftly shut down. High-quality charter models like the ones used by the KIPP program have a role to play in the plan, the goal of which is to change the cultures of chronically failing schools. Charter operators could be brought into some schools, but other schools might need to simply force out the current staff and bring in a new one. In other cases, states will need to shut down chronically failing schools and enroll students elsewhere."


Again, the feds say the states should do a better job of oversight. Using whose criteria? I like the idea of closing some schools and bringing in a whole new staff but we haven't even done that here in Seattle despite closing numerous schools. If someone had had some political courage somewhere along the line, AAA may have survived if it had been totally restructured. But this kind of thing may be much easier to say than to do. The last sentence is a mystery - "enroll students elsewhere". Does that mean other public schools including charters?

If the feds are going to get involved in public education on what seems a far-reaching scale, they need to set up the guidelines for charters, they need to outline what is "high quality", they need to explain a timetable for success and how to pull the plug. And, get states on board with the feds doing all this.

I have never said I am against charters. But I am against the piecemeal quality of them which will only divert resources and energy from existing public schools. If the Times or the Obama administration believes this is the way, then I want to see a plan. And right now, public education is largely under local control. How the feds can manage oversight of an expanding charter school nation that they themselves want in the face of states' rights will be interesting. But I don't want our kids to be part of a power struggle or chancey experiment.

29 comments:

gavroche said...

Questions about Arne Duncan & charters also lead us back to questions about the Broad Foundation and its influence on and agenda for Seattle Public Schools.

Broad strongly supports the privatization of public schools via charters and a corporate approach to running school districts.

Duncan is a member of Broad's Board of Directors--as is Seattle School Supt. Goodloe-Johnson.

Duncan apparently will only allocate stimulus money to states or school districts that accept charters.

Seattle has a Broad Foundation superintendent, and a number of "Broad Residents" in the school district's administrative offices. Broad recently awarded $1 million to SPS.

Broad refers to its allocation of financial resources as "venture philanthropy" and says it "expect[s] a return on our investments."

According to a recent (6/15/09) study by CREDO at Stanford University, charter schools do not necessarily perform any better than public schools. In fact, 37 percent perform worse.

So where does this leave Seattle Public Schools?

MathTeacher42 said...

Can I have MORE powerpoints showing me new org charts and new job titles and new job descriptions from MORE highly paid consultants? Of course, none of us should step back and ask...WHAT has private sector or public sector American management accomplished in the last 3 decades?

They've done a FABULOUS job at squeezing more hours out of us working peeons and not paying us for those hours,

they've done a FABULOUS job of paying themselves fabulously while paying us peanuts,

they've done a FABULOUS job of eliminating the family wage job for subsistence jobs, which families have accomadated by working more subsistence jobs,

they've done a FABULOUS job of so terrifying the workforce that those in charge of the unions are most concerned with not rocking the boat, keeping their own jobs, and surely NOT thinking of any new way to work with management or to work against management,

and now a subset is doing a FABULOUS job putting lipstick on a pig, calling it Monique and pretending it is not a pig. (thanks Anne Richards)

I spent 24 minutes poking around web site hades of www.broad yesterday, and I haven't been able to find any concrete ideas which I can implement on the first thursday of school. I told a friend Fri. night that I had looked - the friend said that broad is involved in making the business part of hte school systems work better, not the in-the-classroom stuff. I just found more press releases, links to powerpoints and pdfs, links to more organizations and websites with more powerpoints and pdfs and press releases ... YAWN.

While the results for so many schools are appalling and inexcusable, I'll tell you what charter schools will accomplish - poorly paid 24 year olds failing, and tons of money being hoovered into the powerpoint jockey's 401(k)s and the college funds for THEIR kids.

Too bad our PAID weak union officials are too busy salmon fishing this summer to get ahead of the curve on this stuff - they certainly aren't providing CREDIBLE alternatives which will garner the support of the community against this baloney.

Bob Murphy

SPSMom said...

Seattle has voted down charter schools more than once, so how would MGJ/Broad Folks start charter schools?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, as one who also frequently pointed out the voting down of charters, even I can see this coming. There's only 9 other states that don't have charters. If federal money starts getting attached to charters, it may look more interesting to people.

But many things are lining up to allow those in WA state education who do want charters to have something to point to and say, See? And, the more Broad infiltration there is, well, the more voices there are.

Will it change voters minds? I can't say but I'm just pointing out the overall direction the country seems to be going. Will WA state stand alone and say no?

gavroche said...

SPSMom said...

Seattle has voted down charter schools more than once, so how would MGJ/Broad Folks start charter schools?


SPSMom, here's one theory on how and why Goodloe-Johnson's Broad-trained leadership could lead Seattle to charters, reposted from The Broad Foundation:

Chaos Theory

Another troubling factor in all this is the Broad Foundation's stated objective (or M.O.) of "honing in on" troubled school districts that either are in bankruptcy or have been taken over by the city/mayor.

Neither of these conditions is currently true in Seattle.

In fact, despite a poorly run overstaffed central administrative office (full of Broad Residents, apparently -- which may explain its bloatedness!), Seattle's public schools, by and large, are quite strong, with some nationally recognized schools and programs. Yes, there are weak areas and inequities that should be addressed.

So how does Broad (rhymes with "toad") plan to make its case for a privatized takeover of Seattle Public Schools via charters if our district isn't asking for this?

It would, in theory, need to create an environment that is "ripe" (to use one of Broad's own terms) for charters to move in.

How does it do that?

Looking at all the mind-boggling, reckless, rushed and illogical decisions and changes made by this School District this past year under the leadership of Broad board member and graduate, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, with no clear benefits in sight, one might question this Superintendent's objectives for our District.

Are she and her admin staff (larded with Broadies) genuinely trying to improve Seattle Public Schools, make them strong and desirable for all the kids in the city and lure back the high percentage of private school attendees into the public system?

Will school closures that ignore demographic trends and community needs, teacher layoffs, mindlessly standardizing curricula, implementing a failed math curriculum, weakening alternative and highly capable schools, abolishing fresh cooked meals for middle and high schoolers in favor of central kitchen airplane food -- add up to a stronger, more desirable School District?

Or do these "reforms" create chaos and mistrust and weaken schools and parents' faith in the system, and potentially open the door to a public cry for the city to take over the School District? If so, Mission Accomplished, from the Broad perspective, and the next step would be to present the idea of privately run charters as a "solution."

This, of course, is just a theory -- a "Chaos Theory" if you will.

But it really has been difficult to see how Goodloe-Johnson's erratic, poorly executed "Plan for Excellence," which has disenfranchised parents, has little to no community buy-in, and has elements that seem shrouded in secrecy, is putting our kids and their schools on a positive, stronger path.

(continued on next post)

gavroche said...

Chaos Theory
(continued from previous post)

This is not a new story. There are always those who come from the corporate world who believe that the corporate way to run a business is applicable everywhere.

Well, there's ample evidence that that's just not true.

Our country just finished 8 years under the "leadership" of the first U.S. president with an MBA, and look where that landed us -- in two quagmires overseas and an economy in a tailspin such as we've not seen since the Great Depression.

We now have ample evidence of the for-profit, oversight-free "business models" of the Ken Lays and Bernie Madoffs, Phil Gramms, Kerry Killingers, etc. etc, of the world, and it has left our nation in ruins.

The Broad/Gates-types are the same kind of people who wanted to privatize Social Security. Thank God that didn't happen, for look where everyone's retirement savings would be now.

Above all -- and this is the heart of the matter for me and for many others on this blog I would venture to guess -- our children are not commodities. Their schools are not "enterprises." Their principals are not "CEOs."
Their learning is not a "profit" opportunity. (These are all terms quoted from Broad literature.)

Successful schools are collaborative, creative communities in which parents have a say and teachers are respected, principals are members of the team, and children are the primary focus.

Josh Hayes said...

I certainly can't argue that students should be regarded as commodities, nor does a corporate model for education seem to me to be workable at all.

But let's step past the dark imaginings for a moment and look at how "charter schools" would get a wedge here, where we already have "alternative schools". As far as I can tell, the only difference is a fluid requirement vis a vis union staffing. I can't see any way that SPS can make a case for charters when there is an existing framework for alternative schools.

Sure, I guess one could cackle that they're trying to do away with alternative schools so that they can bring in charters, but that would be, well, savvy on their part. And I just don't think SPS has the brains to do something remotely that patient (since it will take years to do away with alternative schools; can they really wait a decade to push for charters? Nah.). They're just not that smart.

I think.

In the end, I've found that discussing the matter with charter school proponents comes down to this: what can a charter school do that an alternative school can't? They have no answer, and they never will, because the real answer is, a charter can circumvent the union, which is what the whole thing is about from the get-go. It has nothing to do with teaching kids, with raising a generation of eager, happy, energetic learners. It's all about the exercise of power, but if we only keep the faces of the kids, our kids, in our minds' eye, we will eschew that false choice and focus on raising that generation of kids. Charters, shmarters.

gavroche said...

Josh said:
Sure, I guess one could cackle that they're trying to do away with alternative schools so that they can bring in charters, but that would be, well, savvy on their part. And I just don't think SPS has the brains to do something remotely that patient (since it will take years to do away with alternative schools; can they really wait a decade to push for charters? Nah.). They're just not that smart.


Josh, let's take a look at Goodloe-Johnson's tally so far:

Summit alternative K-12 -- CLOSED.

Nova alternative high school -- EVICTED and moved into a seismically unsound building and a potentially incompatible co-housing situation.

AS#1 -- THREATENED, but given a reprieve -- that may only be temporary.

APP at Lowell and Washington (highly capable program) -- SPLIT and potentially weakened.

I'd say Goodloe-Johnson's score against alternative schools in Seattle is pretty significant.

gavroche said...

Melissa said:

(...) And, the more Broad infiltration there is, well, the more voices there are.

Will it change voters minds? I can't say but I'm just pointing out the overall direction the country seems to be going. Will WA state stand alone and say no?


I agree with your first point, Melissa, that if Broad stacks the Seattle Public Schools deck with its own people -- Broad board member Goodloe-Johnson as Seattle School Superintendent and continuous "Broad Residents" on the SPS payroll -- then it will be easier for pro-charter Broad to influence the discussion in Seattle and more significantly perhaps, Olympia.

But I'm not so sure that charters are being embraced everywhere in the nation. In fact, charters are a mixed bag, and there are some seriously negative elements to some of them and disturbing reports about charters from across the country.

Chicago for example (Arne Duncan’s town) has some military charter schools that train kids for a life in the military. I've read that learning to shoot guns is part of the "curriculum" at some point.

In California and elsewhere there have been reports of charter school principals and teachers abusing their power and disciplining children to the point of abuse. (“Charter school principal's 'tough love' controversial” http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20070615/ai_n19310991/ ; “Charter school faces withdrawals over punishment” http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atlanta/stories/2009/03/22/kipp_school_withdrawals.html)

There are reports of charters expelling kids who are in some way problematic, or accepting few or no special ed kids (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/26/AR2009062604138.html) -- all of which affects (rigs) the test scores and "success" rate of these schools.

Most charters are no better -- or are worse -- than public schools. And they do not have the same oversight and accountability that public schools have.

(See the recent and troubling Stanford University CREDO report about charters' success/failure rate.)

And Josh is right that the privatized charter model is also a union-busting one -- anti-teachers union (hence the Broad, KIPP alliance with Teach for America).

(Has anyone else noticed the strange, anti-teacher, anti-experience and anti-union mentality that has emanated from some members of SPS these past few months?)

So why should Seattle accept a model or "reform" for its schools that is a failure -- or at the very least, not better than purely public schools?

What's more, in her Strategic Plan for Seattle, Goodloe-Johnson chose to relocate, split, merge, weaken or close some of the city's best performing or improving schools. What was the logic in that?

Wouldn't the first rule of fixing something be to preserve what isn't broken and then focus instead on what is?

The "Capacity Management Plan" ignored demographic trends, data, and reason to such a degree that it has led to mind-boggling disarray in the District, and has left many people seeing sabotage instead of leadership.

Perhaps it is severe incompetence on the part of the Superintendent and the rubber-stamping School Board. If so, then this is not a very good advertisement for Broad Foundation-trained leadership.

As for the "national trend" argument, obesity and personal debt are national trends too -- does that make them worth replicating?

I say let Seattle be an independent city where parents, teachers, and kids are the stakeholders in our public schools -- not private corporations and their "venture philanthropy" board members/shareholders.

Sahila said...

Harium posted some comments on his blog re Broad - he supports Broad in the District and is grateful for the management help SPS is getting at below cost!

Charlie Mas said...

I think a real case can be made that our alternative schools do what Charters are touted as doing. The one notable difference, of course, is the union workforce and all of the collective bargaining rules that come with that.

But the collective bargaining agreement was able to make an exception for the Flight schools and exceptions can be made for the Alternative schools as well if the District chose to make that a priority.

I have been reading the book on school district reform that the Broad Foundation recommends for school district directors, and I have to tell you that Seattle Public Schools is NOT following that path.

The book clearly calls for the Board to take a lead role in reform - which is NOT happening in Seattle.

The book clearly calls for revolutionary change instead of incremental change - which is NOT happening in Seattle.

Little if any of the goals of the Broad Foundation - much of which is good - can be found in Seattle Public Schools. I can assure you that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is NOT following the Broad script. She is doing all sorts of things that this book specifically warns people to avoid.

I don't know that I would be very afraid that the District is following the Broad Foundation's plan for evil; I am more afraid that the District is not following the common sense steps for good that the Broad Foundation - and any reasonable person - would endorse.

I meet people who fear the federal government, but the federal government can't introduce the metric system or a dollar coin. If you must fear something about them, I suggest you fear the damage they might do through ineptitude more than the damage they might do by malign intent.

TechyMom said...

Off topic, but I recently read I'm Down, a memoir if a white girl growing up in Rainier Valley inth 80's and attending IPP. She lived a lot of the cultural issues around advanced learning that we've talked about here. Interesting read by a first-time local author.

adhoc said...

"what can a charter school do that an alternative school can't?"

I think Josh is right in that access to alternative schools has been the catalyst for us to vote down charters in the past, but I'm not sure I would count on that being the case in the future.

As Gravroche pointed out we now have fewer and weaker alt schools. Weakening and closing alt schools has been a trend since John Stanford whose vision it was to close AS3@Latona and create an International school (AKA JSIS), followed by Olschefski who merged COHO and NOMS, and Raj Manhaus, who threatened to close Summit twice, threatened to close AS1, and tried to move TOPS into a building far to small for it's program. Now we have MGJ who successfully closed Summit, put AS1 on a stay of execution, and moved NOVA.

Even more devastating than closing, merging and moving our alt schools, is that the remaining alt schools are being watered down with standardized curriculum and materials. Alt schools used to have a great deal of autonomy and freedom of material choices. They had their own philosophies, and cultures, and they were unique one of a kind experiences. But with standardized test performance being the number one criteria for success, and a strong move toward standardization, how are alt schools alternative today? They have to use the same materials and follow the same curriculum that every other school does. They use EDM for math, NSF science kits for science, and Writers/Readers Workshop for LA. HS's will use Discovering for math, standardized LA materials (IE every kid reading the same book in the same grade), and now I hear the district is standardizing the SS materials. What is left? How are alternative schools going to be alternative? What will differentiate them from every other school in the district?

If another charter bill comes along, I'm not so sure we will vote it down again. Charters offer schools the autonomy and freedom of curriculum and material choices that they want. They offer self government, and unique experiences. Families who don't like the new "standardized" cookie cutter school model may feel that charters are the only escape for them. And while I don't think Seattle will go for the KIPP or militant type charter schools, I do think they would go for a new Waldorf school (there are about 40 of them nation wide), a high school for the humanities, a high school of law advocacy and human justice, a pre med high school (these are all successful schools in other states).......

That is why I think we are being set up. Why I believe there is some truth in that we are being "ripened" for charters. The district is closing one door in an effort to allow another door to open.

adhoc said...

OK my last post made it look like I thought their was a conspiracy theory on the part of the district to move us toward charter schools, and that is not what I meant. In fact I don't think the district even has a clue that their move toward standardization may drive people toward charters.

Charlie Mas said...

I'll tell you something more.

As I continue to read about the Broad Foundation and their ideas about public education, they appear to me to be opponents of standardization and heavy top-down management.

I would not worry so much about how Seattle Public Schools is following the ideas of the Broad Foundation so much as how Seattle Public Schools is NOT following these precepts.

gavroche said...

I agree, Adhoc. And Charlie, no one (but you!) is calling Broad "evil" -- that's an oversimplification of what Broad is about and what our legitimate misgivings are.

But Broad clearly has an agenda, as is stated in its material, some of it disturbing in its for-profit, "venture" and corporate objectives and expectations/demands ("we expect a return on our investments").

What many of us object to is the covert means by which Broad -- and others -- are operating in this District.

Why, for example, did Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson deny point-blank to a parent that Broad "has anything to do with charters" when clearly it does?

Why did the District hire a Broad-affiliate to conduct Goodloe-Johnson's annual review, without any public acknowledgment of it?

Why did District 36 Representative Reuven Carlyle recently lament at a public meeting that (paraphrase) 'Seattle is not going to get any stimulus money for education unless certain infrastructure is in place.' He didn't mention the word "charters" but that seemed to be what he was pointedly trying not to say.

And why do Carlyle and DeBell (and CPPS, I'm afraid) talk about the virtues of "young" teachers and pit them against "older" teachers, implying that all the former are good, all the latter need to retire?

And why is the "National Council on Teacher Quality" (NCTQ)-- an anti-union holdover from the Bush era -- here in town, involved in the District's contract negotiations with the teachers?

If all of this is on the up and up, why is everyone being so clandestine about it?

We're not talking "evil" here, Charlie, we're talking about dishonesty and secret agendas that the parents and community of SPS are not being asked to weigh in on -- or even told about, in some cases.

We're talking about a lack of accountability, and yes, to use one of the District's most overused and under-applied terms, a lack of transparency.

And if charters or privatization are indeed the goal of some influential people in and around SPS -- the Superintendent, the Broad Residents, or even Bill Gates -- we have every right to question the push for a model of school "reform" that has proven to be WORSE or NO BETTER than what we already have. (See the CREDO report and other articles about problems with charters.)

Oh and I forgot, Goodloe-Johnson also took aim at Center School, another nontraditional/alternative high school. She originally proposed closing it and moving it across town to underenrolled, gang-troubled Rainier Beach H.S. That plan has been "shelved" says DeBell. For now.....

Finally, I was surprised to see that Broad literature touts the importance of offering "choice" in schools. But upon closer look, I don't think that means the kind of choice we currently have in our corporate-free public schools.

In fact, all the aforementioned standardization and weakening and dismantling of alternative schools we have recently experienced in Seattle, and even the New Student Assignment Plan that may force kids to go their neighborhood schools no matter how good or bad they are, leaves less and less "choice" in Seattle.

Again, as has been stated by others on this thread, this stifled environment in Seattle would likely then open the door to charters as the "solution" to this lack of choice.

So the "choice" that Broad supports, I believe, is only that which would be offered by charters.

owlhouse said...

When USA Today prints a story on the short comings of school success and "reform" under Duncan- you can pretty much be assured that things are in fact- worse than reported.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-07-12-chicagoschools13_N.htm

So, we've got new money and new players in education. We don't have much improvement in academic outcome or equity. We won't until we acknowledge and address the larger societal issues that impact student success. If foundations and/or the federal government really want to impact learning, hs completion and college readiness- they'll invest in health care, housing, jobs training, sustainable cities, transportation, nutrition/food...

SPSMom said...

TechyMom, I am just finishing I'm Down. What has struck me about this book is how little things have changed since the 80s in Rainier Valley.

Parents still testing to get out of southend schools into the IPP (now APP) or work to secure scholarships at Catholic schools.

Interesting how these students experience these schools.

Teachermom said...

This link bears repeating:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/26/AR2009062604138.html

I have witnessed this first-hand when working to help a closing charter school in Denver scrape its special ed paperwork together so their kids would have a chance at services at their next school. The district was supposed to provide services, and did not.

Do you think our district has it together enough to not only coordinate its own services, but coordinate with the charter schools as well?

The charter school I worked for also had a "mandatory parental participation" aspect that was not enforced, because they couldn't afford to lose any students/funding by upsetting or inconveniencing parents.

That said, it was a sweet school with lots of heart, closing because another charter was opening up down the road promising more free before and after school care. Most of the parents moved their kids to the new one, so the school had to close. There's your free market school system at work.

I think that we need to have an efficiently running machine at SPS before we can even conceive of having charters come in (which goes against what is being done, using charters to take over failing districts).

Charters can't fix broken public systems, they can only put band-aids on a few parts, and cause a whole other set of problems.

Sad for me to say, because the thought of working at/sending my kids to a school with independent/alternative ideas and less bureaucracy sounds like a dream to me.

Teachermom said...

I read "I'm Down" in two hours. Couldn't put it down.

Teachermom said...

Arne Duncan has never been a teacher or school administrator, just like his predecessor, Spellings. He seems like a nice guy, but he's all theory and politics, IMO.

It seems that his district (when he was "CEO" of Chicago P.S.) spun assessment data to look more positive than it was....this is why being "data-driven" means nothing unless you are "honesty-driven".

Sahila said...

Arne's watch in Chicago is mentioned in Freakonomics, in a section dealing with cheating by teachers to improve standardised test results in poor performing schools...

speducator said...

This is a little off topic, but I wasn't sure where else to put it.

Here's a link from the West Seattle Herald today stating that SPS needs to add more classrooms to Schmitz Park and Lafayette because of increasing enrollment.

Teachermom stated that we need an "efficiently running machine at SPS" before we can take on a hugely ambitious undertaking such as charter schools.

I completely agree. Who were the demographers at SPS that were involved in capacity management?
They've closed Cooper. Will there be enough capacity at West Seattle Elementary and Sanislo to absorb the Cooper students, or will they be adding classrooms to those schools?

Gee, maybe the District will have to open a Charter school to accommodate the enrollment.

Here's the website to the Herald:

http://www.westseattleherald.com/2009/07/12/news/new-classes-added-lafayette

seattle citizen said...

Alternative closures:

Add to the list John Marshall Alternative School (formerly People's School #1) closed in June, 2008

During that round of closures, all the schools closed were elementaries except Marshall.

The reason its important to remember Marshall is that Marshall was a mutt: part "alternative" alternative, part "safety net" alternative.

When the audit comes, the group doing it (what's it called, NCLB?) will be thinking of "safety net" schools when it reviews our alts.

Successful, independent alts are not, probably, the targets of those who would like to throw soem charters into the mix: It's the "safety net" schools. Look at the charters that have been touted as being so sucessful in cities around the country - they all claim to have reached out to "unsuccessful" minorities and the poor, those with "bad" scores (as measured by whatever tests), whereas our alternative schools here in Seattle are, ba all accounts, successful, and they are also supported by active parent/guardians who are on it.

If I were looking for "alts" to be eliminated, I'd be looking at those that are more "safety net" than others: I hate to say it, but TOPS ain't being closed, and AS1 might well be.

On a related note, the NY Times has an article in today's edition about how African Americans are being disproportionately impacted by unemployment in NYC. Why is this related? Because, as we read (also) in the NT Times today (letters section) many believe poverty to be the problem, not bad schools. So more will be poor, and the temptation will be wicked for some n'er-do-wells to do a little profiteering by blaming those crappy "old" union teachers and advocating for "new" teachers sans union, for standardized curriculum, and other edu-speak wonder-cures that address everything except the surrounding poverty.

seattle citizen said...

BTW, has anyone seen anything on waht's going on regarding the "safety net" schools? When Marshall was closed, it was after an "audit," and much was made of the need to reorganize to provide better services: consolidate the various programs, provide case-management to students to keep them in "sending" schools (the ones they get suspended from, etc)...
I wonder what's happening these days at South lake? At Interagency? At Middle College?

hmmmm

Chris said...

I have also been surfing in Broad-land and I've noticed two things. (I can't say this is generalizable to charter-happy philanthropies but I suspect so.)
The first is the lack of data demonstrating positive impact of Broad involvement. There is a bit of really general stuff (e.g. 80% of schools improving in 5 of 6 categories) and given the occurrence of number-cooking incidents (Texas, Chicago) it would really be nice to see more specifics. The vast majority of their press releases tout the (non-educational) background of their people, and that's it.
Second, the Broad has varied approaches to dissemination of its practices, principal training, district executive placement, school board training, and CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS TO SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES. http://www.substancenews.com/content/view/173/81/ We need to watch out for that last one right now.

Dora Taylor, AIA said...

If people like the Broads say that they are able to close the achievement gap, does that mean that they will make sure that every child who comes to school will not be hungry? That every child will have adequate clothing to wear so that they are not cold or embarrassed? That they will make sure that there is someone to greet them when they come home after school? That they will have a parent who is able to help them with their homework?

These are the things that close an achievement gap, not theories written about in glossy brochures that even our superintendent doesn't take seriously. All the tests in the world will still not help a child read if their stomachs are growling.

And how do you close an achievement gap when you throw out the students who don't meet your standards? Those would probably be the same hungry children who couldn't focus on their reading. That's what charter schools do. If you don't fit their ideal of a performing student, that student can and they have been summarily thrown out of those schools.

You care for children, you feed them, clothe them, make sure that they are healthy and have a safe place to play when they are young and they will go as far as they can and brilliantly.

In terms of having an alternative to the traditional public school, we have that already. Those programs need to be supported, not marginalized, threatened or done away with all together as many of our best programs have been in the last year.

If you want efficiencies within SPS, hire a consultant to come in and objectively study from the outside what works and what doesn't work. Don't hire someone who has an agenda. And, a bargain is never a bargain. Paying someone, a green resident at that, at half price isn't gong to get you much. Spend the money and get outside professionals to help devise a more efficient system. Companies and agencies do that all of the time. From personal experience those consultants can truly help a business. I was in a firm that went through that process and there were tremendous results.

What I resent the most is how the Broad has come in through the back door, worked their way into our school system and are basically waiting in anticipation of Arne Duncan waving a fist full of dollars at our state legislature
threatening that they won't get any of that money if they don't vote for charter schools. Look at Maine as an example. At least Maine stood their ground and again voted against charter schools and Arne still seems to be fuming from that experience.

We don't need the Broad, we don't need charter schools. We need honesty and transparency. We need people in place who appreciate not only the importance of education but also have an understanding and appreciation of our communities and what is important to us.

We are not seeing that with the current leadership and all of the reasons that I have heard to keep the Broad here are weak and they "just don't hold water" as my mother would say.

Dora Taylor, AIA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh Hayes said...

Dora, "That Friend speaks my mind."

Well said.